Award Season is Here!!!!
Shanna's Road Journal / April 18, 2011

Spring and summer are awards season in the book world, with many of the major genre fiction award winners being announced. The finalist lists are a good place to find new-to-you authors who are considered by their peers or fans to be at the top of their genre. The Edgar Awards, honoring the best in the mystery genre, will be announced April 28. You can find the list of nominees by clicking here. The Nebula Award winners are chosen by the members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. They’ll be announced May 21, and the nominees are listed here. The Stoker Awards honor excellence horror fiction. The winners will be announced June 18, and more information can be found here. The Rita Awards for romance fiction are judged by members of Romance Writers of America. Winners will be announced July 1, and a full list of finalists can be found here. The Hugo Awards in science fiction/fantasy are nominated by and voted on by attendees and members of the World Science Fiction Convention. The Hugo finalists will be announced April 24, and the winners will be announced August 20. I’m a voting member this year, so I’ll…

Shanna’s Road Journal | Meet Rachel Caine
Shanna's Road Journal / January 18, 2011

If you learned everything you know about authors from watching TV or movies, you might think we’re all wealthy, that we just send off a manuscript and then get a check in the mail almost instantly, and that we become famous and live like movie stars after publishing one book. Even when you know more about what it’s really like to try to build a publishing career, there’s a lot you may not realize behind the success of a bestselling author. I’ve known Rachel Caine, author of the bestselling Morganville Vampires series and the Weather Warden series, among others, for many years, but I hadn’t realized just how much effort and even failure came before her success until I heard her give a presentation on her career. If you’re thinking about becoming a writer, this story may be scarier than any of her books, but it can also be encouraging because one failure doesn’t mean you’ll never be successful. Her very first novel was a role-playing game tie-in. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” she confessed, but the editor liked her style. She decided to join a writers group, and one member told her she sucked, while another told…

Shanna’s Road Journal | Keeping a Series Fresh!!! More from MileHiCon
Shanna's Road Journal / December 18, 2010

As promised last month, here’s some more scoop from MileHiCon in Denver. Fantasy tends to come in series, and while some series just keep getting better, others drop off. How does an author keep a series going and keep it interesting? Several authors of successful series discussed this at the convention. One issue series authors face is how to bring up recap material to remind readers of what happened in previous books or of anything else they need to remember about how this world works. M.H. Bonham, author of the Swords of Destiny series, said that even in the first novel in a series, characters have a history and a backstory that the author has to deal with. In later books, that backstory may be what happened in the earlier books, but authors can deal with it the way they would any character history or backstory — without an info dump. Carrie Vaughn, author of the Kitty Norville series, said she tries to show the effects of what happened previously without necessarily going into explanations. “To me, the sign of a great book is when you can pick up a later book in the series and be interested enough to…

Shanna’s Road Journal | It’s All About the Cover…Changing Roles, Beautiful Art
Shanna's Road Journal / October 27, 2010

At FenCon last month, one of the more interesting panels I attended was about cover art. I’ve been lucky in the covers for my books, but I’ve done my share of mocking the covers that aren’t so great, as well as the cover trends that get out of control. In fact, my Halloween costume a couple of years ago was a Generic Urban Fantasy Book Cover. A group of artists who have worked on book covers discussed some of the trends in science fiction and fantasy book covers, as well as where book covers may be going in the age of e-books. David Lee Anderson said when he entered the business in the early 80s, most cover art was representative, depicting scenes and characters from the books in a realistic way. “This was what science fiction people expected.” Starting in the late 1990s, the trend shifted to vague representation. John Picacio said these covers are more enigmatic, giving a sense of the spirit of the book rather than literally representing anything from the book. Brad Foster said the more symbolic art is often easier for the artist because it may take going through the entire manuscript to get all the…

ArmadilloCon plus MUST-READ Science Fiction Fantasy Books
Shanna's Road Journal / September 22, 2010

At the end of August, I headed to Austin for ArmadilloCon. One of the must-see panels for book lovers was the annual “What You Should Have Read” panel, which included reviewers, a bookseller and an editor talking about the year’s must-read books. Editor Anne Sowards of Ace and Roc books mentioned some recent or upcoming books from her list. There’s a new series that Anne said is like the work of Jim Butcher. K.A. Stewart‘s A DEVIL IN THE DETAILS is a fun, quick read about a champion who helps people win their souls back after selling them. The publisher is also re-releasing Patricia Briggs‘s first book, MASQUES, which has been out of print for a while. Then in November, the sequel, WOLFSBANE, will be released. This marks a return to traditional fantasy for Briggs, who is currently known for her urban fantasy. One release that really excited Anne was the recent re-release of one of her childhood favorites, ARIEL, by Steven R. Boyett. Its long-awaited sequel, ELEGY BEACH will be released in paperback in October. She called these “gritty and realistic” apocalyptic fantasies. Martin Wagner of SFReviews.net said there were two essential books this year. One was UNDER HEAVEN…

Uncovering Myths and Legends – MythCon
Shanna's Road Journal / July 19, 2010

I recently attended Mythcon 41, which was a real change from the kind of conventions and conferences I usually go to. This was more of an academic conference, sponsored by the Mythopoeic Society. The focus of this organization is on mythopoeic literature, or transformative mythology, which is the incorporation or transformation of mythology into other stories. The society particularly studies the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and other members of the Inklings group at Oxford University. The conference included a variety of academic paper presentations, as well as some panel discussions, and I was invited as a guest author to speak on some of the panels about writing fantasy fiction. The attendees seemed to be a mix of academics, fantasy fiction fans, writers and people who enjoy this topic as a personal interest. I was on one panel with authors A. Lee Martinez (author of DIVINE MISFORTUNE) and Tim Powers (author of THE ANUBIS GATES and THREE DAYS TO NEVER), discussing the topic of whether fantasy fiction should be realistic. The initial response from many of us was “Huh?” because realism and fantasy don’t seem to go together. But as we discussed, we came to the conclusion…

Cover Magic…or the Mystery Behind the Book…
Shanna's Road Journal / June 20, 2010

Of all the things authors get blamed (and sometimes praised) for in their books, the covers are where we have the least control. I’ve had people tell me what I should have the publisher put on my books instead (yeah, I’ll get right on that). I’ve even run into people who assume I draw the covers myself. If authors are lucky, we get asked what ideas we have for the book covers. If we’re really, really lucky, the publishers consider the input we give them. I recently caught up with young adult fantasy authors Holly Black and Sarah Rees Brennan during their book tour, and they shared some fun stories about book cover development. Even as a bestselling author, Holly Black doesn’t get to dictate what goes on her covers, but she did get to attend the photo shoot for her most recent release, White Cat. The cover has a picture of a dangerous-looking man in black leather holding a white cat. Holly said she was surprised to learn that the cat used for the photo shoot wasn’t a “professional” model cat who was accustomed to being in that environment. The cat was the pet of someone who worked at…

Welcome to the eReader…or, I’m not a Luddite, are you?
Shanna's Road Journal / April 17, 2010

Shanna’s Road Journal Shanna Swendson’s Observations … On Line and On the Road It’s 2010, do you have your e-reader yet? The iPad has made its appearance, joining the Kindle, the Sony e-reader, the Nook and a variety of other reading devices. While I’m far from a luddite, I don’t have an e-reader yet, for a variety of reasons. One is price. I don’t generally spend hundreds of dollars easily for much of anything. The other is that I have the kind of luck with technology that means that whatever I buy will turn out to be the equivalent of the Betamax, and it will be discontinued after I have about five books on it. I will likely wait for the next generation of devices to see how things shake out — or until I write a bestseller and can buy lots of fun toys. I generally think about e-readers when I’m packing to go on a trip, as I am today. I can’t travel without at least one book, and for quick trips, I like to pack as little as possible. That means I have to pick just the right book to bring with me, something that will last…