Contest Voting

Thanks to everyone who entered the latest caption contest with me, Vader, and the Stormtrooper. It’s been a stressful few weeks, and I very much appreciate the laughs.

I meant to open voting up on Saturday, and it completely slipped my mind. I blame the zombie raccoons. But I’ve gone back and picked my favorites, and threw in a few randomly selected wild cards just because. Please vote for as few or as many as you like, and I’ll contact the winner later this week after the voting has died down.

I’m trying to keep the voting in one place, so you’ll need to head over to my LiveJournal to see the finalists and cast your ballot. If you don’t have an LJ account, you can contact me with your vote and I’ll add that into the final tally.

DAW’s Zombie Rabbit Cover of Doom

Yesterday, Mr. Coke Zero himself, John Scalzi, took my publisher to task for the cover of Zombie Raccoons and Killer Bunnies [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy].  Others have offered up alternate covers, or just chimed in about how bad it is.

Disclaimers up front: Zombie Raccoons is the latest DAW anthology.  DAW is my publisher as well.  I was invited to write a story for this one, but the editor decided that my tale (“Mightier than the Sword”) fit better in her other project, Gamer Fantastic.  So I’m hardly unbiased.

This is not my favorite cover from DAW.  It didn’t really work for me, and I was happy to end up in Gamer Fantastic, which had a cover I liked better.

That said, I think the criticism is over the top.  Scalzi says he’s genuinely offended that a major publisher would produce such a thing.  (He also claims it will make blood shoot from your ears, but I’m chalking that one up to hyperbole.)

Is it a bad cover?  The editor loved it.  It certainly stands out, and it’s stirred up more buzz online than any DAW anthology I can remember.  On the other hand, the raccoon’s mouth gave me nightmares, and I find myself wanting to delete the Photoshopped rabbit and raccoon and see what’s behind ’em, which seems to be a totally different piece of art.

I wanted to make a few other points, though.  Starting with the fact that, to my knowledge, DAW is the only major SF/F publisher still putting out a monthly anthology of short fiction.  These aren’t moneymakers; very few short fiction anthologies ever earn out.  But DAW continues to produce them, more reliably and consistenly than most SF/F ‘zines.

Does that excuse a bad cover?  Of course not.  But no publisher gets it right every time.  Sooner or later, no matter how good the publisher, they’re going to have a stinker.  I could fill the rest of this post with examples of bad cover art from Baen, Tor, and the rest.

That’s no excuse either, of course.  It’s not supposed to be.  It’s supposed to be a reminder than nobody’s perfect.  That when you’ve put out thousands of books over the years, you’re not going to hit it out of the park with every one.  It’s easy to sit around online and boast about how you could whip up a better cover in five minutes on Photoshop.  And hey, maybe you could.

Now do it 99 more times.  If you think they’ll all be brilliant, you’re sadly deluded.  Even award-winning artists produce the occasional stinker.

I wasn’t in on the meetings at DAW.  I don’t know what they were going for here.  Maybe the original cover didn’t work, so the bunny and raccoon were an emergency fix at the last minute.  Maybe they wanted to try something different, and they went for the over-the-top kitsch angle.  Maybe the artist backed out at the last second, leaving them only a week to whip something together.  Maybe, like the editor, they just liked this cover and thought it worked for the project.

I’m not saying Scalzi’s out of line in his critique; he’s not.  I like John a lot, and folks have every right to express their distaste.  No cover will work for everyone, and this one does seem to have failed for most.

But to say you’re genuinely offended by that failure?  That bothers me a little.  By all means, hold publishers to a high standard.  But people also say they want publishers to try things that are new or different, and every time you do that you risk failure.  High standards, yes.  Perfection?  I prefer my publisher to be human, thanks.

Bad Book Publicity

I’ll probably be talking about book-release stuff next week when Mermaid’s Madness comes out, which got me thinking about some of the really bad publicity strategies for authors.

I’m not claiming to be perfect.  In the past five years, I’ve tried any number of things to promote my work that make me wince to think about ’em now.  Bad home-printed bookmarks, obnoxious begging for reviews, etc.  But I’ve tried to learn, and I do my best to keep my promotional efforts in check–trying to model them as the occasional commercial break as opposed to an infomercial, if that makes sense?

Anyway, I figured this might be a good time open things up for a discussion of some of the most annoying, ineffective, or downright bizarre promo efforts you’ve seen.  Starting things off with five of my personal favorites:

  • If a bookstore isn’t carrying your work, sneak in and leave a copy on the shelf.  When someone goes to buy it, they’ll be forced to add you to the computer.  Voila!  Now you’re in the system, and sure to sell millions of copies.
  • Stick your book cover on postage stamps!  (This one comes courtesy of Writer Beware.)
  • Run around posting five-star reviews of your own work.  In your own name.  (Yes, I’ve seen this done on multiple occasions.)
  • Spam.  Including e-mail, message boards, blog comments, and so on.  ‘Nuff said.
  • And my all-time favorite, Photoshop yourself into photos of successful authors.  (Related: make up sockpuppet accounts to harass anyone who calls you on it.)

What else have you encountered that makes you cringe?  What bad advice have you come across?  (“You must spend your entire advance on promotional efforts, or your book is DOOMED!”)  What annoys you to the point where you’ll deliberately avoid buying, reading, or even being in the same room with a book?

Thursday Bullets

Not feeling so great this morning. I don’t have time to get sick, dangit! But this means you get the bullet-point blog post today.

• My agent e-mailed me my latest royalties statement, and all three goblin books have earned out their advances!  Can I get a Booya?  To everyone who bought and shared the books, thank you so much!  It looks like Stepsister will likely follow suit, but not until the Reserve Against Returns decreases a bit more.

• The caption contest is still running strong, and there are some seriously entertaining entries already, mostly on the LJ post.

• I donated an autographed copy of The Stepsister Scheme [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy] to an auction to raise money for MSU Safe Place, the local Domestic Violence shelter where I used to work as the male outreach coordinator.  Bidding starts at $15 here and runs through October 9.

 • Since I’ve gotten into the habit of wrapping up these random blog posts with LEGO, have a LEGO Star Wars chess set, courtesy of icgetaway.  Click the picture below for the full photo set.

Polanski Apologists in Translation

I’ve been reading a lot of justifiably angry posts about those who would defend Roman Polanski, who was convicted of raping a 13-year-old thirty years ago.  I did a bit of research, trying to understand the mindset and the concerns of the people arguing against Polanski’s arrest.  What follows are the most common reasons I’ve found, as well as my translation of those reasons.

Polanski is a charming, intelligent man – We should only arrest scary-looking, deranged rapists, preferably the dirty homeless types.  Bonus points if they’re a racial minority.  Arresting “nice guys” forces us to consider that many rapists do appear charming, intelligent … even normal!  This disturbs our simple view of the world and makes us uncomfortable, so please cease at once.

The victim’s mother pushed the child at Polanski – He shouldn’t be blamed because men are helpless to resist a 13-year-old girl.  Remember, rape is always the fault of the women!  If we can’t blame the victim, we’ll blame her mother.  Even when that girl is saying “No,” and trying to get away, men are helpless to control our urges–the male penis forces us to drug and rape the girl.

It was more than 30 years ago – Accountability comes with an expiration date, and if I can avoid taking responsibility for my actions for a certain period of time, I should be absolved of that responsibility.

The victim doesn’t want to put herself or her family through this ordeal anymore* – If I can intimidate my victim enough, I can get away with it!  Note: I have a great deal of sympathy for Polanski’s victim, and I’m torn about this one.  Polanski has been on the run for 32 years.  I’ve read commentary about how hard it’s been for him–he couldn’t even get his Oscar, he poor man.  But what about the survivor?  She’s also lived for 32 years with no closure, and wants to be done with it.  *My research might have fallen short on this point.  See this comment thread for clarification and further discussion.

He didn’t know she was thirteen – All girls should be required to tattoo their ages in a visible location in order to protect men from accidentally raping them.  Also, it would have been perfectly okay for him to drug and rape her if she had been sixteen.

Nobody would even care about this case if Polanski weren’t famous – Who cares about rape anyway?

Sadly, there’s some truth to this last one.  According to RAINN, 1 in 6 women will be raped in her lifetime.  (My sense is that the numbers are even higher.)  Yet only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail.  As a society, we don’t care.  At least, we don’t care enough.

Caption Contest

• Only one week until the official release of The Mermaid’s Madness [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy]!  Eep.  (And if you’ve been thinking about posting a review of Stepsister Scheme, might I humbly suggest that this would be a perfect time?)

• Congrats to Harry Connolly (burger_eater) on the release of his debut novel Child of Fire [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], which comes out today.  Read the first chapter on his web site here, or check out Sherwood Smith’s interview with Connolly.

• Thank you to everyone who offered suggestions yesterday about bleeping out certain parts of my reading.  At this point, I’m thinking either the cardboard speech bubble or a squeaky rubber duck, depending in part on whether or not I can find a suitable duck.

#

Steve Buchheit took one look at the picture below and offered up the following:

“What, no new goblin book this year? You have failed me for the last time, Hines.”

“You are part of the Princess Alliance and a goblin sympathizer. Take him away!”

This has inspired me to run a caption contest.  Keeping it PG-13 or better, post a caption in the comments below no later than Friday, October 2.  On Saturday, I’ll pick my favorites and put them up for a vote.  The winner will receive a signed copy of one of my books — your pick.

Have fun!

Diabetes Details 4: Embarrassing Pump Mishaps

Help please!  I need a small device I can use to make the “bleep” sound of censored swearing.  I’m hoping to do a reading of “The Creature in Your Neighborhood” at my book launch next week, but there’s one scene that wouldn’t be appropriate without the bleeping.  Any ideas on a device that might work?

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I debated whether to share this one, but I decided what the heck.  My ego can take it, and everyone can use a laugh on Monday mornings, right?

My insulin pump is a pager-sized device which contains a plastic vial of insulin.  It sends out a low base dose of insulin, and I can program it to deliver more as needed for meals and adjustments.  That vial is connected to a tube, which goes to a small catheter in the belly (or wherever else you stick it.)

Photo from Minimed (this is not Jim’s belly):

I use the 43″ tubing, which gives me plenty of … um … maneuvering room when changing clothes, etc.  Extra tubing gets tucked in, and life is good about 98% of the time.

Last week I had a 2% night.  I was getting changed for bed, and the tubing got tangled with my pants.  I didn’t realize this until it was too late, and the pants/tubing mess was tugging the catheter and sticker on my belly.

I couldn’t straighten up without ripping the catheter out.  (And there’s a sentence you don’t read every day.)  I tried to yank the pants back up, but they were binding my knees, and I started to fall.

Graceful as ever, I turned the fall into a hop.  My other foot came down square on the edge of the laundry basket, wrenching my little toe.  At this point, some primitive self-preservation instinct in my brain screamed Just surrender to the inevitable before you destroy half the bedroom hopping about like a one-legged kangaroo on an LSD trip!

I fell.  There was an earth-shattering kaboom.  My wife rushed out thinking … okay, I don’t know what she was thinking as she saw me sprawled on the floor, pants at the ankles, rugburn on one knee, still doubled over to protect the pump tubing, and clutching my throbbing toe.  I don’t want to know.  At least she was kind enough not to laugh too hard after she saw I was okay.

Grace?  Dignity?  I used to have these things, once upon a time.

This is the sort of thing they don’t warn you about when they’re teaching you how to use your insulin pump.

Friday Wrapup, with LOL Book

Seanan McGuire (of Rosemary and Rue fame) has drawn a nifty promo piece for The Mermaid’s MadnessClick here to see her pretty little dead ghoul mermaid in all her glory.

• Tomorrow (9/26) from 11 am – 7 pm I’ll be at the Durand Fantasy Expo.  Details available on the Facebook page or on MySpace.  Lots of nifty guests lined up.

• I’ve heard from three separate sources now that Mermaid is on the shelves at some Borders stores.  Woo!  (I’d still call ahead though, just to make sure.)

• Finally, Elizabeth Bear unveiled the cover of her forthcoming book Bone and Jewel Creatures.  I like this cover an awful lot, and decided to express my appreciation in LOL form.  (For newcomers, the entire LOL Book series is available in my LJ archives, if you’re interested.)  Enjoy!

Depression at SF Novelists

I’m off to Durand today for a news interview in preparation for the Fantasy Expo on Saturday.  Today was also my day for blogging at SF Novelists.  So if I’ve set things up properly, you should be able to click on over and read my post about depression as a writer.

Or you can stick around and admire LEGO Wall*E, built by corran-101.  Click the pic for the full set.

Jim C. Hines