Monday, June 29, 2015

The 5 best things about getting home from vacation

The 5 best things about getting home from vacation:

5. Taking a hot shower after a long plane trip.
4. Seeing home.
3. Sleeping in your own bed.
2. Experiencing the joy your pets show to have you home.
1. Sharing the stories with friends.

More to come.

A coastal city in Taiwan

Friday, June 26, 2015

Foreign edition book covers

 Book cover trends are often different around the world. Sometimes foreign covers are close to American covers, or are the same. Other times, they're quite a bit different.

Some of these Taiwanese covers of American books seem virtually identical. Others have slight differences. 

Genre book covers have different trends in general, though. Check out these Chinese historical romance covers.

Other titles have been changed to have rather different covers.

 And if you drop by the foreign language section, you can find treasures such as The Little Prince written in Chinese, English, and French (in one book) for language learners. That one is pretty cool, if you ask me.

Have you seen the foreign covers of any books you own? How are they different from the version you have?

It's a pretty good reminder, to an author, that when preparing a book for a foreign market, it'll take some research to find the right cover. It's also a reminder that you need to check the nationality of your sources for cover design when you're making your own covers: Is this advice for my market?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Make time for adventure

You know what movies never really quite give you? The real thing. Every writer can tell you that research sometimes can only happen through experience. Things like experiencing traversing a secluded* river in wild countryside can only be truly understood by trying it (*secluded besides the pair of trekkers who caught up and passed us during lunch, or the group that goes every weekend--hey, it was a weekday). Overcoming the danger of a raging river (okay... fairly calm mountain spring) and clambering over unmarked trails (please ignore the experienced guide) while fighting off wild mountain animals (wetsuits are great for not getting leeches) is a powerful experience, and if I ever use it in book, I know I can now describe the experience well. (What? No, of course writers never use "research" as an excuse for a fun adventure).

Glamorous and beautiful
river-trekking photos.
I love books, but no book has ever given me the sound of water pouring rocks, the icy grip of mountain river, the sound of crickets and cicadas and frogs singing around you and birds above. Nothing ever matches the real experience.

It's easy to forget to make time for things outside the normal routine, and yet it's important to do so. A future father-in-law with a taste for extreme sports helps, but you don't have to try anything extreme to enjoy the world. A walk through a beautiful garden, a flower photo shoot, the game Ingress, a hike at a popular hiking trail... anything that gets you outside and into the world.

I joke that adventures are great for research, but the truth is, they're good for the soul and body, too (as long as you're careful and use proper safety equipment). Creativity involves combining real-life experiences with imagination, and the more things you do, the more you get out, the deeper your pool of experience to draw on. And sitting around writing all day... well, it's no secret sitting all day isn't great for you.

And it's fun. That's pretty important, too, because mental health is part of your whole health. The more good times you make time for, the more good memories you have to buoy yourself through the rough patches. Because everyone has times when life just sucks. Make sure you remember to make time for more good moments than bad ones.

River trekking goes on the list of "good" moments for me. What are some of your best adventures?

Friday, June 19, 2015

There's always a reason people read "bad" books

I hear a lot of new authors making scathing commentary on poorly-edited books that have made best-selling lists.

Oddly, while many multi-published authors wince at the names of those books, and might mutter about them to certain groups, or even make jokes about them, few spend a lot of time regaling us with the many flaws of these books. Maybe it's because they're being professional. Maybe it's because they know we've all heard it before.

Or maybe it's because they know that for a book to be wildly successful, it has to have virtues. And whatever those virtues are, they sell well.

There are published books I highly dislike. Books I can't even finish reading.

But I've read a lot of fanfiction in my time, and that's... uh... let's just say quality varies far more than what's on the commercial market. Some was of exception quality and would have made epic storytelling by any judgement. Some was written by talented teens, with lots of promise, and a polish away from professional. Others, well, fanfiction is a great way to get practice writing, and to learn the basics.

I mention fanfiction because of what it taught me: At the end of the day, you don't know what will be popular, but everything that becomes popular, becomes so for a reason. Sometimes the grammar is terrible, but the story's so good I kept reading anyway. Other times, the characters were stereotypical to the point of accidental hilarity, yet the plot was intriguing enough I still wanted to know what would happen.

If you learn the reason is someone keeps reading despite an obvious flaw, you can improve your own writing immensely. So pick up books with obvious flaws and read them. You don't have to like them; you just need to learn what others see in them.

Even a bad photo can have eye-catching features.

The reason people read isn't because they like badness. That's called heckling, not reading. No, people read because something in the story appeals to them. Maybe it's the compelling storyline. Maybe the author has an ability to create emotional connections to characters so compelling it's hard to put the book down, or a love story that intrigues and enraptures to the point that storytelling flaws become unimportant.

Or maybe it's the feeling of power the book gives them. Maybe it's the feeling of vicarious adventure. Maybe it's because the book frees them to acknowledge a side of themselves that everyone tells them to ignore.

Figure out what it is that a "bad" book (otherwise known as a book you dislike) does right, and you'll find a way to make your own writing better.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Tea review: Grape Wulong Tea

 Grape Wulong Tea

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

 loose-leaf, oolong
Flavor aspects

Where I got it


$12.98 / 2 oz
How I brewed it

4 minutes with just-under-boiling, 1.5 tsp in 12-oz mug.
Rebrewing notes


Whether or not you like this tea will entirely depend on whether or not you believe in re-brewing. The flavor is actually fairly good on the first brew: it's a strongly grape-flavored oolong, more grape juice than oolong juice. In fact if you dislike oolong but for some reason want to drink it, this tea is pretty much grape juice tea.

Therein lies the problem with rebrewing. The second brew is a wrung-out version of the first. If you like grape, the first cup is very tasty; I don't know many people who like watery grape juice, though, and that's what the second cup becomes. You still don't taste the oolong, at least I couldn't; it's just a weaker version of the first cup.

So, as an avid re-brewer, this is NOT my favorite cup of tea. While it's a pleasant enough first cup, I can't stand to reuse the leaves without adding more--which kind of negates the purpose of resteeping the leaves in the first place. And to me, oolongs are designed for multiple steepings. I mean, to me that's the main draw, a tea that has wonderful flavor for 4–5 steepings or more. Needless to say, for oolong lovers I do not recommend this tea.

But to someone who is new to tea, or who doesn't love the light flavor of oolong, it's a great choice. It's actually probably a great step between fruity herbal teas and green or black teas in general. If you don't rebrew, it's a fun choice and very refreshing--I bet it would make an excellent iced tea, too, though I haven't tried it. So it does have some points to recommend it. Just don't reuse the leaves.
But it is pretty, and it does smell good.
(Image from Teavana)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fun Friday videos

Fridays should always be this cool.
A couple of fun videos today, since it's Friday and Fridays should be awesome and fun.

First, a Radioactive remix by Lindsay Sterling and Pentatonix:

And if you've ever wondered how everyone else feels about Link's rupee-hunting exploits, well...

Have a great Friday!

Monday, June 8, 2015

People Try Foods and Things; I Laugh

There's something addicting about watching people try new things. Especially foods. If you have a few hours to lose, check out Buzzfeed's People Try series.

Here's a good one to get you started.

Do consider yourself warned: many of these are extremely NSFW, and several I skipped for being a bit too... uh... but all the ones I watched were hilarious.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Publishing Industry News

This week's publishing news and industry blogs post covers 5/22-6/5.

Publishing News

In the UK, the rumor is that Penguin Random House and Amazon UK are having a terms dispute.

JD Salinger has three short stories in the American public domain--which a publisher is packaging and trying to sell to foreign markets. Salinger Literary Trust disputes, and the courts are looking at the impact of individual foreign countries' take on public domain rights as compared to US rights. Since European countries typically have longer life of copyright than American copyrights, but there's an unequally enforced statute that the country of origin's copyright lifespan should be used, the decision could possibly impact the US's take on global public domain policy.

British publishers take on and win against e-book overseas pirate websites.

Industry Blogs

Agent Nephele Tempest posts a group of Friday Writing Links for 5/22 and 5/29.

Agent Janet Reid gives advice and answers questions. She shares an insightful post on writing a great synopsis. Is it okay to mention that you really like the agent/editor you're querying, or is that unwelcome? (Be specific about what you like, but sincere thanks isn't a bad thing.)  You don't like a potential agent's voice or phone mannerisms, despite that they're not rude or particularly bad; is that a legit reason to turn them down? (No. If they've got a good rep and are well-established, the editors who matter are already used to her voice.) Is 6 weeks long enough for an edit and requery? (Not really, a revise and resend takes a lot of work. And not just cleaning up some stray grammar.) How important are websites for queriers? (Not so much for Reid.)

Agent Kristin Nelson offers insight into the Publishers Markplace Deal Lunch subtext: What does each adjective used to describe a deal mean? And what does it mean when no mention is made of an advance?

At BookEnds Literary Agency, a new agent joins the crew. Advice on how to choose what to wear to a conference

Agents at Books and Such Literary Management share some advice. Wendy Lawton explains why sometimes, when an agent is sitting on a manuscript, it might be the smartest move for the author's career. Rachelle Gardner explains 6 factors in deciding which publisher to go with when offered multiple deals.

Author Kristine Kathryn Rusch reflects on John Scalzi's $3.4M deal with a traditional publishing company, and points out to those who criticize that Scalzi did what he felt was right for his own career--publishing isn't a one-size-fits all, after all.

Fiction editor Beth Hill reminds that often cutting big parts of a manuscript actually adds to the story. If a chapter doesn't feel like it fits after revisions, maybe it's time to cut the whole chapter; you book might have changed enough that less has become more for that particular plot bunny.

When it comes to image file types, which should you use? CompanyFolders gives an infographic explaining when to use which, and also explain in detail, breaking down with a description of each type of image and where it comes from/what it's used for.

How popular is Wattpad? Apparently it has, monthly, more than 40 million people using the site. (in math terms, that's p>40,000,000, and yes, I wrote that out because it's a lot of zeros and I like math and maybe it's getting a little too close to my bedtime as I write this post).

What major publishing news have you encountered in the past two weeks?

(The next news post will July 3, so it may be broken into two parts, or longer than usual. Regular news posting schedule will resume afterwards.--See you then!)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Tea Review: Marshmallow Macaron

 Marshmallow Macaron Tea

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea

 loose-leaf, herbal
Flavor aspects

fruity, vanilla
Where I got it


How I brewed it

4 minutes with just-under-boiling, 2 tsp in 12-oz mug.
Rebrewing notes

Have not rebrewed yet
Edit: Took it in this morning and tried a second brew. As with almost all herbals, stick to a single brew. Really weak second time around.

The reason I bought this tea was the scent. It's decadent and rich, and if you head into a Teavana and they waft it at you, you may well drop your credit card into their hands right then and there. Heck, if I didn't think it would attract bugs, it'd be almost as useful as a candy-type potpourri as a tea.

If the flavor is much less amazing, it's mostly because not many non-sugary items can taste that sweet. That's not to say it's bad: it's actually quite tasty. The gist of the flavor is fruity--think tart pineapple-hibiscus with vanilla tones. It brews a nice pink color and a long steeping gives it a strong flavor.

This would be a fantastic tea for a kid's tea party (it's herbal, so no caffeine). I'd vote it high on the list for someone learning to like tea. It's also a nice tea if you're in the mood for something fruity and sweet. Don't drink it if you really expect to taste macarons, or if you think it'll taste like marshmallows, or if you want to drink something that tastes like tea (herbal tea=tisane; thus no tea leaves). Do drink it if you're in the mood for a hot, fruit-flavored beverage that smells like cookies.

(Also, if you at first thought the tea name was misspelled, you are as sadly uneducated about cookies as I was before buying this tea, and we should all devote more time to studying cookies to address this problem.)

Image from Teavana