Don’t Judge a Book by it’s Cover – Even though we all do

17nc0rmlk0dcejpg.jpgThe old adage takes on a more literal message in the world of books. We may tell people not to judge a book by its cover but we all do it and there’s a good reason for that. More people choose to pick up a book based on its cover design. And this industry is only growing with the rise in self-publishing, indie print houses and e-books.

The book industry is a never ending one. Formats may change from print to digital but the cover remains. Most books are bought via browsing (either online or in a book store) and this means that covers become one of the most important factors in selling a book. Even a bad book can have an intriguing cover. Trends in covers come and go but the attraction of a good cover be it for design or familiarity is still a big driving factor.

Why is a good cover so important?

A recent online survey by thebooksmuggler.com revealed that when asked, readers responded to the question ‘Do covers play a decisive role in your decision to purchase a book?’ 79% of respondents said yes.  And according to the Self Publishing Advisor statistics show that ‘the average person will decide to buy your book within 8 seconds of seeing your cover’.

 Current Cover trends

In the New Yorker article by Tim Kreider he says ‘the covers of most contemporary books all look disturbingly the same, as if inbred’. This statement rings true in most mass market books. It seems publishing houses are relying on a sense of familiarity to create covers.

The rise of John Green’s novels have created a plethora of ‘handwritten’ text on super simple background style covers throughout the YA market. This simple approach to recreating a personal feel through fonts designed to look like the scrawled handwriting of the angst-ridden teen protagonists seems to work. Green’s books are best sellers and other writers are getting their work picked up for these covers.

The popularity of paranormal romance both for adults and YA have also created the trend of red and white images and text on a black cover trend. This is most apparent in the Twilight novels; many readers did pick it up because of the cover of white and red on black. The stark contrasts of these colours draw the eye. This theme can be seen repeated in many books in this genre.

twilightsagabooksSymbolism based covers are also very popular. A single striking image or symbol being the only image has become popular with the Game of Thrones and Hunger Games covers. This also stretches to other genres such as action adventure and crime.

The lone figure cover is slowly working its way back into the fiction area. Be it a man with a gun or a woman in a cloak, this trend did die down but has begun to lay claims in cover design again.

However, with the rise in independent publishing houses and self-publishing, this trend is being bucked. With authors having more control over aspects of their designs, more freedom to hire a cover designer that matches the aesthetic they want for their books, the styles are starting to expand. We are seeing a return to customised artwork both digital and traditional being used and the ability to twist old clichés into modern pieces that stand out from the cookie cutter covers of mainstream publishing.

In the world of nonfiction covers still follow this same trend in mainstream publishing. Plain white covers with simple text and maybe one small, hand drawn image is commonplace or alternatively full photo covers. This trend has been around for quite a while now and for the nonfiction world this will probably remain the same for some times to come.

In the independent world, most nonfiction book covers follow this same formula but this is where we find the subpar covers of people attempting to publish their own works and make their own covers.

Problems in cover design when following trends is that due to the heavy use of stock images (in both traditional and indie publishing) is that without significant artistic reworking we are starting to see similar images showing up on several covers. Without moving from the current trends, and without the use of cover designers willing to artistically render original pieces using said stock images, we run the risk of a market flooded with carbon copy covers.

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 What are the skillsets for cover designers of the future?

For future cover designers to keep pace with industry trends, a combination of artistic and technical skills will be critical. Digital art and photography are two skills at the forefront as to capture the perfect cover, stock images just may not be available, but also a return to traditional art methods could be on the cards. The more versatile a cover designer is the more work they will be able to do as trends change.

A good eye for colour is also important with foundations in traditional art and colour theory. This coupled with having a broad knowledge of what is out there in the industry is going to cement a designer in the cover design world.

Graphic Design and Art classes are a great foundation for the theory and technical aspects of the skillset required, but prior skills in art do certainly broaden the scope of work a person can do.

 The world of cover design is an unmapped piece of territory. With such a broad range of genres available to design for, the future is bright with ideas. For major publishing houses it will most likely depend on what the next best seller is in any given genre. Although with the current trends unlikely to fade quickly we will most likely see more John Green’s and more Twilight’s in the near future.

In the indie and self publishing world we are seeing major changes as more writers are using high concept designs and quality cover designers. This is raising the standard and we are now seeing resurgence in original art and digital imaging being used to create covers that are more specific to the books they are for than the mass market, ‘inbred’ covers of the major publishing houses.

For nonfiction I honestly hope that cover designers will be able to step up in the independent field. The times of homemade covers that look unprofessional needs to end for the self published world to be improved. These ‘homemade’ covers are quite common among the self published nonfiction world as many people are beginning to publish their life stories or self-help manuals on platforms without any form of quality control. I believe that nonfiction covers will mostly stay the same, either very stark covers of text and a small image or the full page colour image we see most commonly on memoirs and cookbooks.

As for the major publishing houses, I can’t see too many changes in the near future although more graphic based covers would be a nice change from the black on white covers and photo montages of late. We are slowly seeing a return to these styles of covers with a feature image dominating the cover, overlaid with text. More colour is being used as well which is a nice change from the tri-colour fare of late. This trend will also open up the cover design market to more artistic cover artists, both digital and traditional styles.

 So should we judge a book by its cover? No but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. We go looking for something that catches our eye and if we believe the major publishing houses we strive to find the familiar. However these trends, as all trends do, will change. A slow but inevitable change and we merely need to wait for the next big thing to tell us where the mimicry will lead. The exciting changes though are in the independent published books and their new faces in the cover design world. It’s definitely a space to watch in the design world for originality.

-By Sabrina Gidley

 

 

 

Author Intro – M A Clarke

Name: Melissa Lord aka M. A. ClarkeImage

Age: 30+

Books published: The Riders’ War – Battle For Today

Books coming soon: The Riders’ War Part 2 – Battle For Tomorrow

Top three authors: Patricia Briggs, Christopher Pike, Anne MacCaffrey

Favourite Colour: red

Favourite animal: dragon

Favourite quote: ‘But why’s the rum gone?’

Top three movies: Sound of Music, While You Were Sleeping, Classic Star Wars Trilogy

Favourite reading genre: fantasy

Favourite Tv show: Doctor Who

If you could be any fictional character, who would you be: there’s a lot to be said for Molly Weasley. She doesn’t live her life in mortal peril (unless you count Fred and George), but deep down she’s as strong and courageous as any hero.

Describe yourself in 30 words or less: an emotionally irregular geek girl, with a consuming crush on a Timelord who has somehow managed to produce a book and a family

Do you have a burning question for Mel? Reply here or visit us at facebook or twitter @ouroborusbooks

Turtles Fight With Honour

People complain about violence in show kids watch. I mean, I can see their point, filling impressionable young minds with the worst of human society. Yet there are shows of undeniable violence that show humanity’s best as well.

Image I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something a friend of mine said. She said that she reads fantasy, and while most people tune out after the word ‘fantasy’ she reads further and has taken from it a code of honour that she lives in her daily life. I grew up watching reruns of the old Batman TV series, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Astro Boy, Star Wars and many more. The ones I’ve listed are all, arguably, violent. Batman, with its biff, bop and zowie, Ninja Turtles kicked butt on a daily basis while Astro had machine guns in his butt, not to mention the guns and swords in Star Wars. Really, what could my mother have been thinking, letting me watch these things?

As a mother myself these days, I come up with a couple of answers of my own. The first is simple. You can’t shield your kids forever. Cotton wool does not protect your kids for long. Eventually, they or the world will rip the cotton wool away and they will be completely exposed to all the nasties the world has to offer. All we can do is teach our kids well, and hope that when they do come face to face with the world, that we have taught them enough. For me, a part of that is exposing kids to what the world is really like, in small doses. Just as you would teach a child to get used to all the household jobs they will need to care for as grownups by teaching them to clean their room. So, on TV, they see that not everyone is nice, and when I go to explain that they need to be careful talking to people they don’t know, they can understand why.

The second reason goes back to what my friend was saying, about shaping your life from ideals set forth in books or shows. She wasn’t referring to violence either. She is not a violent person. All of the shows I mention are violent, but they are primarily hero stories. Yes, the heroes fight, but it is rarely for themselves. They fight to protect those who need protecting – helping those who don’t have their abilities, or their gifts. THAT is the part of these stories that sticks with me, long after the days of play-fighting with my brother in the kitchen. And this is all the more important, because life ISN’T really like that. People don’t always live their lives with honour, look out for one another and try to make their little corner of the world better.

Image While the morning cartoons are playing this morning, I found something I personally thought more disturbing than Ninja Turtles, Ben 10, Young Justice or any of it. What I saw was an ad for a Barbie ‘Glamping’ Trailer… Quick definition for those not in the know ‘glamping’ is ‘glamour camping’ – basically camping with all of the luxuries of home and none of the actual camping bit. I’m not a camper. My idea of roughing it IS a serviced apartment, with a dishwasher and a dryer. All the same, if you’re going to go camping, luxury seems a bit… against the point. That said, why did I find that disturbing? Because I wondered what message that was sending to our kids? That you need stuff to be happy? Following that thought on, Barbie is a worse example to our kids, than a Turtle that was the anthropomorphised through an industrial accident. I’ve already drawn the line at Bratz dolls, because I don’t want my kids to be ‘brats’. Children/teenagers with attitude: It won’t do me or them any favours.

I try, in my small ways, to make the world a better place. I try to teach my kids to be good people. I try to be kind and understanding to those who need it. I spare change to charities, when I can and I nearly always buy a badge for the ANZAC/Remembrance day appeals. I try to recycle. It’s not a lot, but I have my own problems too. I’m not perfect. I try not to expect perfection in others. But most of all, I write about worlds where there are people – some like us, some not so much – who in all different ways, try to make the world better. I continue the tradition of setting ideals in print for others to take on, to try and live by and to pass on. I write, with honour.

~M A Clarke

The Apprehensive Critic

ImageIt’s really hard for me to hate something if everyone else thinks it’s amazing. I feel like I might not be ‘getting’ it, or that I don’t understand it. For example, I had ordered a new graphic novel that had been given 5 out of 5 stars in almost every review it had. The write ups about it had been extremely positive and it appeared in all the horror website lists and so forth. On top of that, it was written and drawn by someone that I’ve admired for a long time.

When it arrived I flipped through it, eager to look at the art and contents inside. It seemed ok. Just a horror story with some splash art. Reading the first few pages, I got confused. It was as if it started in the middle somewhere. I had no idea why the character was where he was, why they were buying this house or why their dog suddenly ran off. The story didn’t progress steadily, like I would have hoped. Instead it staggered into the basement and became a mash of strange flashbacks that never explained enough to fully grasp a hold of what the story was about. The artist/writer tried to give you someone to hate, to give you the person responsible for the horror that you saw, but you never saw him in that light because he was in it for two, maybe three pages. It missed the mark by a very long shot. Also, every panel was splash art, up-close shot of faces and over layered with computer effects. The whole book seemed like it was missing something form the story, and the art was totally over done.

This happens a lot with movies too. I wanted to love Dark Knight Rises, I really did. But it just didn’t hit the mark for me. It was pretentious, over written and skipped a few key elements that needed to be explained a little better. A few people I know also didn’t like it, but then there are those who loved it and I often wonder if they are afraid to hate it, or to say so. I remember seeing Phantom Menace on opening night and walking out thinking ‘did I like that? Am I allowed to say I didn’t.’ When people asked me next day, I said it was great, but I knew perfectly well I didn’t think that. It was heresy to say you didn’t like a Star Wars movie, especially one we waited so long to see.

I’ve been reading the DC comics New 52 run of Batman. Written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Gapullo. Scott Snyder created, amongst others, American Vampire, which was awesome. There was even a short run where he wrote it with Stephen King. Currently Snyder is the big name in the comic writing field. I’d admit it, his writing is easy to read and the story chugs along nicely. Every twist and turn Imageseems to be well thought out and planned a long time in advance, which is what I like from writers. I believe that makes you a good writer. But saying this, issue 11 of Batman, which rounded off the year long story arc and had the big reveal was hugely disappointing. The entire run up to this point had revolved around an ‘underground’ group called the Court of Owls. For a start, I thought was pretty cool having ‘Owl’ vs ‘Bat’, but however, if you google a real bats enemy, you’ll find its main predator is the owl (also the hawk and snakes). So, it kind of left my initial impression in shreds as I felt that if I could find this out in three seconds, there wasn’t much pre-thought into the new Batman villain. Maybe not though? So, back to my point, I’ve picked up issue 11, and the big reveal is about to happen, who is this mysterious Talon that has been kicking Batman’s ass the whole year, turns out ***SPOILERS*** its someone who claims to be Batman’s brother. I wanted to slam the comic closed and throw it out onto the road for the vultures. For me, and this may be because I write a lot and read a lot, this was a stitch up. I felt robbed. This, in my opinion, was an easy go-to. This was the first exit door and was very obvious. But, can I tweet Scott Snyder and tell him? Nope. Too many people praise him and tell him he’s the new king of comic writing. I’m  guessing I’m not the only one who felt robbed of a good twist, but we are few and far between.

Since I’d read issue 11, I’m really not that keen on Scott Snyder’s work. I’ve looked him up on Goodreads and he’s given himself 5 out of 5 stars for every comic he’s ever written. To me that’s a sign of an egomaniac. However, I gave my book (Everdark Realms) 5 out of 5 also, but 80,000 people aren’t reading that every month. I find it hard to be a critic at times in fear of being wrong, even though an opinion can’t be wrong, it does feel that way. If I swap positions and someone is criticizing my work, I get defensive and Imagequite attacking. It’s part of being creative, it makes you vulnerable and overprotective. But saying that, if you’re in the spotlight, like Snyder, maybe negative feedback is what you need from time to time.

Mitchell Tierney

PRAY FOR VILLIANS

ImageOver the last few weeks I’ve received two batman comics in the mail; one was Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and the other was Batman: Cacophony by Kevin Smith and Walt Flanagan. Now, I’ve never been a huge Batman fan, but I was more interested in who wrote these titles than the Dark Knight himself. Alan Moore and Kevin Smith both wrote about the Joker. Although both their ‘Jokers’ had similar qualities, they were written differently. It got me thinking, out of all the villains they could have chosen to write about, why Joker? They could have picked Penguin or Riddler or Poison Ivy or whoever, but both these writers chose the same villain. Why?

ImageLuke Skywalker has Darth Vader, Harry Potter has Voldermort, Optimus Prime has Megatron. With heroes that live up to a high caliber, they have to have an equal and opposite opponent. Penguin is short and can’t really go one on one with Batman by himself. Riddler has riddles? (and not much else). Mr. Freeze has his equipment etc. But the Joker has something the rest really don’t have. He wasn’t born disfigured, but he doesn’t look quite normal. He doesn’t have gadgets or cars or planes. He has the Charles Manson quality that these writers want to write about; an ultimate villain, a completely twisted and deranged psychopath.

Without a major villain, who would Batman fight? Street gangs, shop lifters, muggers. All of these enemies are faceless and pointless. You don’t need a bat-cave and bat-mobile and bat-copter and gadgets to beat off some junkies snatching a handbag. In order to justify a lot of heroes you need the rival to be beyond the normal street crook. All these faceless enemies are used as fodder. Take the Stromtroopers or the Foot Soldiers, they have no character, no back story, nothing. They can be thrown into the meat grinder and no one cares.

With Luke Skywalker, the rebel alliance was created to rise up against the Empire. It makes you want to cheer for the underdog, especially when the villain is a military-type, nazi-esque brigade with countless soldiers and weaponry. The Rebels are dressed almost haphazardly, with no distinct familiarity or recognizable figure head. Now the Empire on the other hand has Darth Vader, who is very recognizable. He’s tall and solid with large shoulders and points a lot. He seems to not even care about his own men, choking one at the table in New Hope. With Vader, the whole idea of the Rebels winning is so farfetched that you believe it’s nearly impossible. If you look at all the Star Wars toys and games and posters, they all have Darth Vader on them, either his whole mask, or full body. He’s recognizable and you’re instantly attracted to walk over and check it out because he’s the ultimate villain.

In The Killing Joke by Allan Moore, Joker broke out of Arkham Asylum and shot Chief Gordon’s daughter (Bat-girl) and put her in a wheelchair. Moore wrote the Joker as a Manson type leader with a band of merry, deformed, individuals that did his bidding. Joker was written as someone pushed to the brink of lunacy that never really came back from it. He wasn’t Batman’s equal in physical strength or mentality, but was so insane that it brought him up higher in the scale of opponents. Joker didn’t care about the law or human life one iota. His clown makeup really drove home the point of his state of mind.

When I write, I try to invent a great villain. Someone who is above the hero, so the hero becomes the underdog. It’s important to show how strong the villain can be, and also to show the hero’s limitations, this way, we, as readers, can compare the two. Who ever thought a moisture-farm boy, who wasn’t even allowed to go see his friends because of his chores to do, would take on a great sith lord, and win?

Heroes and Villains should balance like yin and yang. But Villains rarely get any victory. We don’t hear of villains winning. This may be deliberate to introduce this to children, to let them know the good guys always come out on top, but in the real world…it may be a different story. Maybe that’s why we can’t stand by and let awful things happen, because we can see when a savior is needed. I wrote a short story once, a long time ago (and I’ve forgotten the name) where an old hero is wandering the streets with his Imagecape and boots on, looking for crime. A van pulls up and it’s the old age home coming to get him because he escaped. They tell him that he fought all the crime, and there were no more villains. He’s rejected from society now because he did his job, now everyone lives in peace and no one cares about him. Heroes exist because of villains, and villains exist because of heroes.

Mitchell Tierney

*please note this blog was written before the Aurora Dark Knight Rises shooting. Ouroborus Book Services and all of its writers wish to send our deepest sympathies to those affected.

Think Tank

ImageI normally have a few writing projects on the go at once. As you’ve may have read in my previous blogs I have a book I’ve been working on for about four years, which I have no intent on really ever finishing, but I do get the motivation from time to time to work on it. I have about two or three books that need editing and rewrites and I have to try and submit a blog every two weeks. This is on top of little things I write down as they come to me, normally ideas for short stories to write later or plot twists for books I’m yet to write. But lately, I’ve been busy. I haven’t had time to sit down and write or get up Saturday morning with a coffee and write a blog. I’ve been running around doing things that have a higher priority than writing.

ImageLast night I sat down to write a blog and didn’t have any ideas. I brain stormed for about half an hour and couldn’t come up with one thing. I thought ‘do I have writers block?’ I’ve never had it before and didn’t think I ever would. But what I released was I’d fallen into the trap I had known about since I started writing and Chuck Palahniuk put it best when he wrote ‘You don’t sit on the toilet if you don’t need to shit.’ I was sitting at the computer, with nothing to write, trying to force myself to write, and it just wasn’t happening. In the past, if I didn’t feel like writing, I would edit. If I didn’t feel like editing, I would write a short story, or not write at all. Usual my writing ‘tank’ is full by the weekend and I have enough fuel to just sit down, at any time, and write until it runs dry. With work and other commitments I hadn’t been able to fill this tank, so I was running on empty.

Sometimes it’s hard to switch on the motivation. When I’ve worked on books in the past, and known I had to finish them, it was hard to force myself to sit in the chair and write. I had figured out a trick though. If you don’t feel like writing, reread the last two or three pages you wrote and I almost guarantee that you get instantly motivated. Your brain is transferred back to that point, exactly where you left off and you’ll soon be typing away. That’s why I like to start new books only after my tank is overflowing with motivation and ideas, so when I sit down to start, I can crank out two chapters in an hour or two and get a good start on the book.

A couple of years ago I was writing a book called ‘Raul the Son’ about a race of very old, potato-men like creatures. Raul was the youngest and had to leave the colony to search for the sun. When I was writing it, it became very complex. There was a lot of back story and different clans after different things…then I went on holiday for six weeks. It was already up to about 300 pages, so when I got back I had forgotten all the twists and turns and the sub-plots, not to mention a lot of names of characters and places. I liked that book a lot and would have sent to publishers, but it was too hard to jump back into it, so I just left it. I’ve tried twice to go through it, jotting down all the characters and where the story lines were going, but it was a mess. It needed to be rewritten and edited, badly. So, Raul the Son sits half finished in writers limbo. I have the fuel to finish it, just not the time. I’d written it so long ago that I feel like I had moved on to other projects.

ImageI don’t think writers block is a real issue. The issue is sitting down to write when you have nothing. Maybe the time that books has been sitting idle will draw you back to the keyboard and you’ll sit and stare at it saying ‘come on! Come on!’ and your fingers just won’t move. If you’re halfway through a book, surely you have a vague idea where its headed. I normally know the ending, not in great detail, but enough to write towards it. Think of where your characters are going and what they have to do, or go through to reach the end.

Mitchell Tierney

When Horror Was King

I was going to base this blog on the dwindling horror genre, but because my horror book knowledge is fairly limited, I had to do a little more research before I started talking about it. I knew horror had branched out into sub-genres, but what direction was I supposed to head? If horror literature is almost extinct, how could I possibly write about it? But little did I know, I had just answer my own question.

For research, I went to Dymocks book store in Brisbane city. I had been up there a few times before but couldn’t remember what their horror section looked like. Coming up the escalator I imagined isles of horror. As I rounded the boxes upon boxes of Hunger Games books and wondered through the sci-fi section, which was a full isle, I got to the horror section and couldn’t quite believe what I saw. It was maybe one metre long,  with only four shelves. I thought, ‘no, this can’t be all of it,’ so I walked around the isle to the other side into the fantasy section. That one, small, section was all the horror they had. What happened to the horror section? I went back around and stared at the books, just to see what they had. One and a half shelves were Stephen King, no surprise. Then it went to Dean Koontz, for one whole shelf. More than half their allocated horror space was dedicated to just two authors! The next half was Lovecraft anthologies and short stores. So that left one shelf, one meter long, for all other horror books. I couldn’t believe my eyeballs. I was sure the horror section was bigger when I was a kid and the sci-fi section was smaller. I kneeled down to look at what this last shelf had to offer, as it was the bottom shelf and if you were standing close to the books, you wouldn’t be able to see it at all. They had a few zombie books, one Walking Dead book and a few other horror titles that looked and sounded awful. Is this what horror had become?

Even the second hand book store I used to go to had a small horror section way at the back near the birdcage. This was where the owner used to sit and have his soup for lunch. Even then, that section was dominated by King and Koontz. Way at the front of the store was an equal sized section dedicated to twilight. I was mortified and disgusted, but also motivated.  I went home with the thought, ‘that’s it! I’m bringing horror back!’ For a few years now I’ve wanted to write a strict, down the line, horror book. A book that can’t be confused with paranormal, thriller or fantasy. Back to the root of all evil. I don’t have the time right now to complete a horror book, but I started it anyway, trying to make myself feel better. It’s called Sore Bones and I had made a mental list of all the things I wanted to have in it – a haunted house, a haunted lake with a dark past, creepy locals and the main characters should, at least once, run for their lives with an ending so horrific that it would make you wonder why you stuck with it all the way to the end when you should have slammed it shut and hid it in the bottom of your clothes hamper.

A couple of nights later I happened to be walking past a Blockbuster video and peered in. Their horror section is massive, almost equal to, if not a bit bigger, than comedy. They had all the titles there, all the classics, the sequels and prequels and remakes. The romance section, on the other hand, was small. So, I thought, nodding my head, horror hasn’t gone away, it’s just transferred to movies. Look at Saw, or Scream for example, these might make alright books, but they’re not going to win any awards or stand out as best sellers. But as movies, they clean up. Scream cost 15 million to make and grossed over 161 million. It did have several sequels to follow, which were below average, but they still made a ton of money. Back in 1996 when Scream was made, the only popular romantic movie out were Jane Eyre, and that grossed 5 million. You also had Tin Cup and Bed of Roses, which don’t score very high on IMDB and didn’t make that much money. There really wasn’t much competition and there certainly wasn’t any supernatural fantasy heart throbs yet.

Horror movies, I believe, will be forever strong in the cinema. But the more sequels they make, and the dumber and more embarrassing it gets, the worse it gets for the horror book reputation. People may assume that if you’re a horror movie fan, your only watching it for the blood and guts. I admit, if there is a scene that is practically well done that involves something horrific happening, then I do appreciate good amounts of blood and guts, but books have a different appeal. It’s much harder to make a reader jump when they’re reading a book. You can’t simply film a scare scene where something jumps out, the writer has a lot more ground work to cover.

It’s been a few weeks now since I had that burst of motivation to write Sore Bones and nothing more has been written. What I have found out, or concluded, is that horror is hiding in other genres. A lot of kids books now days are horror, just toned down for their age group. Clive Barker, who wasn’t even in the horror section, but in fantasy, is mostly horror. Harry Potter and Hunger Games have hints of horror. So maybe it isn’t disappearing, but has broken up and merged with other genres. I still pray to the writing gods that horror will come back and be massive again because once King and Koontz are gone, we’ll have a legacy, but nothing new.

Mitchell Tierney

Take a Number and Get in Line

As I was coming up to the end of one book, I was thinking – which book will I write next? And did I actually have one to write? I do, in fact. I have many on the list to write, but it doesn’t work like that. If I count all the books that have some sort of story line, and all the books that have characters and that I’ve started because I was excited and stopped because it wasn’t time, I might have around four or five started books.

I can’t write a book on one idea, I need a few to meld together, and I can’t write a book with only one or two characters, I need a few to get started. This is where most of my books are at. I also can’t get started on writing a new book until it has a name. Weird as that sounds, it’s just something I have to wait for. The next book I was going to write was going to be called The Guardians of Unhow. I was a little sick of writing YA books where the characters travel into a different ‘worlds’ and have to get back. I had just finished one and have another yet to write, so I wanted to stay away from that. Unhow had some characters, a basic plot that could be fleshed out later but not a lot of magnetism that was drawing me to it. Next was a book that didn’t have a name. It was an idea I had a few years ago where kids band together to rid their street of witches. First it was going to be vampires, but as we all are, I’m over vampires for now. I had the characters, a basic setting and story line and it was ready to go, but I couldn’t come up with a cool name for it. I juggled some ideas around, but nothing sounded cool and would stick, so that got pushed to the side. I had started a book which had an awful, ‘for now,’ title of The Travelling Performers. I had decided that its story line and characters would be morphed with Unhow to create one book. So there were about three books floating around and I’m trying to jam them all together in one pot to have enough oomph to start writing. I think I may have been in panic mode.

So I left it alone. I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t have the next book lined up. I’d never taken an intentional week off from writing, unless I was away somewhere and couldn’t get to my computer, or moving, or someone was visiting. It’s like reading, I know what book I’m going to read next, if I have a few, and I do, I’ll start picking one about a week before I finish reading my current one. Should I read JG Bollards Concrete Island? Should I read the new Pratchett or King? What about the Spooks book? But then again, there is that autobiography by Zak Bagans? So many options. I have this mindset where I feel like I have to choose a book I can read fast, so I can get to other books. Which is the same way I’m currently thinking about writing. I have an epic book I know I have to write and it’ll take up a lot of time and energy, and I want it to be right, so I’ll just wait. For what exactly, I don’t know. I guess I’m waiting for the right time, if that exists at all. I had just come off the back of writing Monster Detention, which was about a year, maybe more and about 500 pages long, so I wasn’t ready to write another mammoth book. My next book I gave a 120 page limit, even though I knew this would be too short if it ever went to publication, but I could add to it later. I finished that and started on Everdark Realms Aquillians book II, which has an even shorter page limit. But even though I haven’t written an epic book in a while, I feel like I couldn’t commit to another one just now, so that leaves The Lost Book of the Blood Baron out for the time being.

Nothing was tapping me on the shoulder, like The Magnificent Mr. Harlow, nothing had excited me and I was starting to think maybe I had written too much in the last two years? I did two NaNoWriMo’s and a few other books and the Everdark books. I had written quite a few blogs and a few short stories – maybe my tank was finally running on low. Then this happened…

I was sitting at work, doing a very long data-entry task when two words appeared like a vision in front of my eyes – Elephant Stone. I must have read a word quickly, or got something jumbled up, but it appeared for just a brief moment. I could see its font, the white background and the general look of the book, then the flood gates opened. For nearly three days I wrote notes for this book. Each day I would type them up in the rough draft. I hadn’t been this excited to write something new for a while. It had all the good pieces from the other books that were already established but had nowhere to go.

Although, sometimes I feel like I’m writing for nothing because I spend my time writing and not concentrating on getting my finished manuscripts out there. I think, what’s the point of having ten books on the computer that no one will read? I always hope that each book is slightly better than the one before, in writing, grammar and style, that I grow as a writer one page at a time. But then I think, what if my big break does come and a publisher wants to see my stuff? Or if they ask me what types of books I have, I’ll have a range for them to choose from. I did think once, what if I stop writing? Just lose interest and take up another hobby? I don’t think I could do that now, looking through my files and files of books and stories, I’ve come too far and dug too deep to get out.

Mitchell Tierney

Postmodernism be thy name

I remember studying postmodernism in university and the upmost hatred I had at the idea that there is no such thing as a new idea. But when examined this truth becomes self-evident. There is no such thing as new ideas, merely a new way of looking at or telling the same stories over and over again.

It can be applied to any type of philosophy and industry but one where we see it prevalently is in literature (and film – however this is not a film blog). It is more than a matter of genres these days when we talk about the subject of books. Think about how often you describe a book by using other books as an example.

As much as vampires would be a perfect example of this, I know we seem to harp on about a certain series rather frequently so I’ll choose another course of action.  I have recently finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, as I didn’t want the upcoming movie spoil the imagery I would create for myself first.

The Hunger Games, for those who haven’t read it or seen the previews for the movie is a post apocalyptical, adventure, action, political and emotional thriller focusing on the life of Katniss Everdeen. The story is based around the event of the title, the Hunger Games where 2 children from each district are sent into an arena to battle to the death, the winner being given a life time of so-called luxury on winning. I won’t go into any more detail so I don’t spoil the story for those who are planning on reading it and/or seeing the movies (unless they totally balls them up and only the first one gets made), but when asked what it was about, the first thing that popped in my mind was it was like a cross between Battle Royale and The Long Walk.

Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル Batoru Rowaiaru)is a 1999 Japanese novel written by Koushun Takami, later made into a movie of the same name by Kinji Fukasaku in 2000. Although I haven’t read the book yet, the movie is about a group of school children pitted against each other on an island in a battle of life and death, the winner will be the only one allowed to go free. And although the situation is vaguely similar in the child vs. child battle to the death there is no similarity in characters and story.

The Long Walk is a short story by Stephen King under his pseudonym Richard Bachman. Again child vs. child who battle it out on, as the title suggests, a long walk. Anyone slowing below 4 miles an hour gets 3 warnings, and is then shot dead by the military that run the walk. The winner will get a life of luxury at the end. Although a less aggressive and more psychological version of the theme it still rings true.

If we look further this idea appears again and again. An earlier example is that of The Most Dangerous Game, a short story by Richard Connell, later adapted to film in 1932. A big game hunter ends up stranded on an island with an eccentric man who claims he hunts the most dangerous game. This is when the hunter becomes the hunted as he realises the man hunts humans on his island.

I’m sure there are many more examples of this story throughout literature and history as well, and this is but one example of postmodernism. Think of your favourite book; now think about how you would describe it to someone. Does the description liken it to another book or a film perhaps?

Postmodernism is a bitch but don’t let it discourage you. Sure no ideas are new and maybe even the way you look at it or approach it may have been done but people keep on reading the same stories over and over by different writers in different covers, and will continue doing so, because everyone tells a story slightly different to the next person. And it is the familiarity of theme combined with the spark of imagination needed to find the way to tell it that keeps us opening books and watching films etc etc even if we have seen them dressed in a different cover many times before.

 

~ Sabrina R G Raven

Reinvention Be Thy Name

Many genres have had a reinvention, and it normally only takes one person to hack a new path through the jungle for the rest to follow. Take for example Danny Boyle’s film 28 Days Later,’ I would say he reinvented zombies. These zombies run fast, real fast. They never did that before. With George Romero’s zombies, they were always shuffling, moaning, and stumbling. But these zombies, they sprint like Olympic athletes. Boyle’s zombie flick spawned a whole new generation of zombie movies. It breathed new life into an otherwise dead genre (pun intended). Although, if I went to see a Romero zombie movie and they ran fast, I would be disappointed. Often you need the old as well as the new.

Sometimes the reinvention of a genre goes horribly wrong, take Twilight. Vampires were already cool and not many people changed them. You had Interview with a Vampire and Dracula, all still very decadent and blood thirsty, it’s how vampires had been and how they should have stayed. Look at Fright Night or ‘Salem’s Lot, they can walk among us almost undetected but still pack a punch when it come to sucking blood. Twilight vampires do not. Even Robert DeNiro as Frankenstein had its merits and the new Wolf Man movie wasn’t so bad, but did these movies make as much as Twilight? No. They never branched out from the cliché, they never challenged what had already been paved in stone. Instead of a reinvention, in was a reimagining, and that’s not what I want. Change something that has been done to death and show me, if it sucks, well ok, at least you gave it a go and came up with something new from something old. But if it works, then that particular thing will never be the same again. I suspect with the new sparkly vamps there will be a backlash and we’ll start seeing movies with hardcore vampires again. But there will always be that scar across the Vampire genre now.

Typically, I don’t like fantasy. Not the dungeons and dragons, elves and swords fantasy. For me, it’s just old and dated and only really appeals to hardcore nerds. Now, I know I may have offended some of you by saying that, but hear me out.

When someone told me about Game of Thrones, I was hesitant. I wasn’t into political fantasy with the occasional battle scene and with boring old men with long robes and beards, clasping tomes and dribbling. We (my girlfriend and I) ended up giving it a go, and couldn’t stop watching it. I remember thinking that I must have been under a rock for the last few years and not noticed that Fantasy could be kick ass. I mean, I’ve read Lord of the Rings and I even had that old board game Hero Quest, but that was a long time ago and I haven’t liked Fantasy since, but this was different somehow. I really loved the characters, they were unique and the story lines between the Kings and their rule was intriguing. Some of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking, ‘Jeez, this sort of Fantasy has been out for a long time.’ But I’ve never seen it. I avoided the whole Fantasy isle at the book shop because I just thought it was all relatively the same. I’ve now got three of the Song of Ice and Fire books and plan on reading them later in the year, plus I’ve pre-ordered the graphic novel to read and I also want the sword with the white wolves head on it for my wall.

Tolkien may not have invented many of the species or races he wrote about, but he invented the way we imagine them. As an example, elves are a certain way because that’s how Tolkien wrote about them. Then came the hundreds of copycat books where the Elves and Dwarfs are all the same. Terry Pratchett took this and held a mirror up to them, making a joke out of what they had become, or what was expected of them as ‘Elves’ or ‘Dwarf’s’. JK Rowling then took magic to a new era. I never really thought about the wand before, the last time I checked it was used by lame party magicians to pull rabbits out of their hats. But after watching/reading Harry Potter, I wanted to collect them and know more about them. I liked the way they were made and how they were used.

I’m down for reinvention. I say let’s move forward so things can evolve. Eventually it will come full circle, but we have to do that loop before we can go back to the ‘old school’ versions of things. These versions are what we fell in love with, and we will again, after tasting a few different flavours. If you can write about, for example, ‘Giants’ or ‘Imps’ in a new way, and make them unique, then I say your progressing the fantasy field and giving it that nudge that it needs. Sometimes a push is what’s needed to make something move, but all in all, I only want to read something new and interesting, but kept real. Good luck.

Mitchell Tierney