OCT 1, 2012 — I’ve met many women who don’t read science fiction. They might enjoy supernatural, fantasy or historical romance. But anything with aliens, robots, space ships or lasers, don’t bother to beam them up, Scotty.
Reasons for their dislike include a lack of characters to whom they relate, pervasive misogyny in the genre, absence of emotional depth or romance, too much violence, and too many boring descriptions of aliens, machines and technology.
I’m a woman who likes science fiction, sci-fi, SF, or whatever you want to call it. There are women who write great futuristic stories for Carina Press. And I meet women at science fiction events. Yet, even there, I hear a lot of “I only became interested after watching Firefly with my boyfriend.” Or they don’t read the stuff, they just like steampunk cosplay, anime, RPGs or video games.
Maybe I should keep this to myself, since I’m a science fiction author, but I don’t read a lot of science fiction, either. I’m turning into a fan of steampunk, but steampunk is kind of a weird cross-genre thing that can be science fiction-y … or supernatural, fantasy, romance, historical, horror, mystery, Western and just about anything else.
For the purposes of this question, I’m mainly talking about futuristic lasers-pew pew science fiction.
I grew up with Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Gallactica, Alien, Terminator and Star Trek. As a kid, I read my dad’s Heinlein books and Omni magazines, though I preferred Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes to his Martian Chronicles, and Michael Moorcock to Isaac Asimov, so I guess I had steampunk/supernatural leanings even then. My doctor is the Ninth Doctor and my favorite TV characters are Jayne Cobb, G’kar and Gul Dukat – all from science fiction shows.
Yet, when I settle down with a book, I tend to chose fantasy, romance, classics or non-fiction. With maybe a dash of supernatural. And I spent most of my life writing non-fiction or fantasy. Which is why I’m still a little surprised that my first published novel, Stellarnet Rebel, is science fiction — as is my second, Stellarnet Prince, coming out next month. And I have a third Stellarnet Something WIP. How did that happen? (I’m being sarcastic, but… no, really, how did that happen?)
I’ve had several female readers say, “I don’t usually like science fiction, but I loved Stellarnet Rebel.”
So, here I am wondering what’s up with that — not with my books, specifically, but the genre in general. I’m addressing women, because I have yet to hear a man say, “I don’t like science fiction.” But, if you’re a man, I’d like to hear from you, too.
You tell us: Do you read science fiction – hard, soft, military, cyberpunk, futuristic, apocalyptic, space opera? If not, what turns you off of the genre? And if you do, what are some of your favorite titles and why?
J.L. Hilton is the author of the Stellarnet Series, a regular blogger for Contact-Infinite Futures, and an artist whose work is featured in the books “Steampunk Style Jewelry” and “1000 Steampunk Creations.”
* I know some people use “science fiction” and “sci-fi” interchangeably, while others make a distinction between the two. I’ve also received conflicting information about the abbreviated “SF” — it’s used in place of “science fiction” and also “speculative fiction,” in different circles. I’ve chosen to just use “science fiction” throughout, but you’re welcome to substitute your favorite term, abbreviation or euphemism as you read.
Recently I was reading a writer friend’s manuscript and discussing how it could be stronger. (This is pretty much what writers do when they’re not writing: talking about how to make the writing better. We’re dreadfully boring people.) She’d written an urban fantasy, with a strong heroine – a kick-ass heroine, even – and told the story in the first person, from the heroine’s point of view. The heroine ended up being very much like my friend, only supercharged. She had the same interests, tastes and worldview as the author, but she could ALSO wield magic, defeat monsters, withstand mortal injuries without flinching and still banter with witty turns of phrase.
This could be partly the “Mary Sue”syndrome, where the heroine is everything that is admirable and wonderful, with no discernible flaws. But I think of this as the “avatar” syndrome – like in role playing games, where you build a character that acts for you. Or in the movie, where they could transmit their intelligence to work a powerful, more beautiful version of themselves.
I think it’s very easy for first-person characters to become masks that authors put on. I’ve done it, myself. After all, when you write a story in first-person, the author is looking through that character’s eyes. “The dragon breathed fire, raking me with its claws, but I stabbed it with my sword!” But really, the first person character should be the reader’s avatar. When you read, you want to be the one defeating the dragon, not sitting by while the author does it.
So, I’m curious – have you ever noticed this, as a reader? Does reading ever have that “role-playing” feel? What are the best books that don’t do this?
Jeffe Kennedy took the crooked road to writing, stopping off at neurobiology, religious studies and environmental consulting before her creative writing began appearing in places like Redbook, Puerto del Sol, Wyoming Wildlife, Under the Sun and Aeon. A BDSM novella, Petals and Thorns, came out in 2010, heralding yet another branch of her path, into erotica and romantic fantasy fiction. Since then, erotic shorts in the Blood Currency series—Feeding the Vampire and Hunting the Siren—have come out from Ellora’s Cave. Carina Press is publishing the Facet of Desire series, which includes Sapphire, Platinum and soon, Ruby. Her fantasy romance novel, Rogue’s Pawn, book one in A Covenant of Thorns, came out in July, 2012. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and frequently serves as a guinea pig for a professional acupuncturist.
Long before I heard the word “steampunk,” I knew I loved clock gears, old keys, Art Nouveau, Neo-Victorian costumes, time machines, Michael Moorcock and anything with brass, copper and rivets. But it took me awhile to warm up to contemporary steampunk literature. Carina Press authors such as Robert Appleton, Christine Bell, Cindy Spencer Pape and Seleste deLaney finally turned me into a fan.
Robert mentioned Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when he blogged about The Mysterious Lady Law. Which might explain why I enjoy his books so much. I read quite a bit of Victorian Era literature and some of my favorites include those authors, as well as Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontë, William Thackeray and Elizabeth Gaskell. Since steampunk is based on the Victorian Era, I expect it to have a voice and feel (at least somewhat) akin to the classics of the period.
With anything I read, I want great characters and a compelling plot, of course. But I think world-building is absolutely essential for steampunk. I don’t want to read, as my friend Jill calls it, “find/replace steampunk.” As if the author wrote a generic story, then went through and substituted “dirigible” for “airplane,” “corset” for “dress,” and “steam” for “electric.”
But enough about me. You tell us, how do you like your steampunk? Romantic? Supernatural? Scientific? Do you enjoy elaborate descriptions of fantastical contraptions? Automatons and mad scientists? Explorers and airship pirates? With Victorian morals and conventions, or with modern sensibilities? Are you getting a little bored with gears, goggles and dirigibles, or can’t get enough? Do you want it set in Victorian London, or would you like to read some steampunk set in far-flung locales? What are some of your favorite steampunk stories, and what do you think is missing from the genre?
J.L. Hilton is the author of the Stellarnet Series, including Stellarnet Rebel (January 2012) and the upcoming sequel, Stellarnet Prince (November 2012) published by Carina Press. She is also a jewelry artist whose work is featured in the books “Steampunk Style Jewelry” and “1000 Steampunk Creations.”
Next week I’m going on staycation. In other words, I’m off for ten days (counting weekends and Labor Day) and I’m not going anywhere. No airports, no hotels, no car trips. Just me and my books. Oh, and my closets. I’ve promised myself I’ll clean my closets out. This is…an epic battle. But in the meantime, while I do have a list of books I’ve been saving for my staycation, that doesn’t mean I’m not always looking for more. And since I know a lot of you in my part of the world have gone on vacation and done lots of reading during the summer months, I thought now would be a good time to ask what your favorite summer read was.
Of course, that doesn’t preclude those of you for whom it’s not summer (hi, Aussie friends!) from answering. Because you’ve probably been bundled up at home, getting some reading done while it’s too ugly outside to enjoy the weather.
So you tell us (me): what was your favorite summer read, the book you think other people should be reading too?
Normally on Mondays I’d have a You Tell Us question, but this week we’re doing it a bit different and offering up some information! Our roving Harlequin reporter Amy Wilkins was live tweeting the different Harlequin spotlights. Unfortunately (or fortunately for you guys!) Twitter broke and she had to create a transcript instead. I’m sharing that here, keeping in mind that I spoke for a full hour and shared a lot of information! These are some of the points Amy picked out, but if you’re interested in the full spotlight, you’ll be able to purchase it from the RWA website. I’ve also put up the slideshow on SlideShare for anyone to browse.
If you have any questions about the spotlight, the presentation or Carina Press, please feel free to ask them in the comments here, or if you’d prefer to ask privately, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll respond via email!
Due to technical difficulties (we think RWA broke Twitter ), we couldn’t live tweet the Carina Press Spotlight at RWA on July 26. Instead, here’s a transcript of what we would have tweeted (plus some more we probably couldn’t have said in 140 characters, too! Silver lining J )!
Spotted at the Carina Press spotlight: Shannon Stacey, Ruth A. Casie, editors Rhonda Helms and Mallory Braus and many more!
Carina Press executive editor Angela James has a lot of announcements, but is starting with what Carina Press (CP) is about and how it came to be.
CP is a digital-first imprint of Harlequin. Our first ebooks were published 2 years ago in June.
CP was conceived because of the opportunities for romance and other genres in the digital market. Harlequin staff work on CP because they love it & the books.
There is a lot of variety in Carina Press books and the CP team!
Currently release 2-4 books per week, plus a number of special projects like the Carina Press Editor’s Choice collections, invitation-based anthologies/collections, and a new print project (more about that later!)
Select CP books are also available in audio and print.
CP has a 5-8% acceptance rate for submissions. 8% includes returning authors and agented submissions. The 5% rate reflects unsolicited submissions (aka slush).
Royalty rate is 40% of net receipts from 3rd party retailers and 50% net receipts from CarinaPress.com sales; no advance.
CP ebooks are DRM-free.
We acquire worldwide rights and all rights because Harlequin is a global company and it does use a variety of rights (keep reading for more).
Speed to market from acquisition to release is an advantage with CP and professional covers.
CP publishes a variety of content, most adult fiction genres (just no women’s fiction, inspirational, YA or nonfiction). That includes genres WITHOUT romantic elements!
With Carina Press, authors get editorial support, marketing support, assistance and feedback on marketing plans, cross promotion on Harlequin properties and newsletters, and more. Also have meetings and workshops online and by phone with authors 3-4 times a year where we can share news and authors can ask questions.
As Harlequin authors, CP writers get online author training webinars and videos as well as meet one-on-one with digital team at Harlequin’s Digital Day at RWA on topics like social media training, website reviews, etc. Also webinars on developing author skills like self-editing.
About 30 people work on Carina Press either freelance or as part of Harlequin. Includes 14-16 freelance editors and very low turnover rate.
CP has refined strategy since first books went on sale. For example, narrowed genres CP publishes and reduced number of titles on sale each week from 4-6 to 2-3 so able to focus more attention on each book until CP could grow. We’re now ready to increase to 4 new releases a month so send in those submissions!
CP accepts all heat levels from erotic to sweet romances, plus books without any romantic elements (e.g. mystery, sci fi, fantasy). 15,000 words and up. Will also look at previously published material but particularly looking for a package of backlist titles.
Top genres in print: 1) Contemporary Romance 2) Romantic Suspense 3) Mystery à different because of Harlequin’s Direct to Consumer subscriptions, especially Mystery.
CP has 265 contracted authors, including 30% debut authors. CP is very interested in debut authors because we love their enthusiasm and we want to build their careers.
Key message from Angela: no matter who you publish with, be ready to build your career with a publisher with multiple books. It’s a lot easier to build an author with more than 1 book.
Over 2/3 of authors have multiple books contracts with CP or return for more than 1 contract.
CP books have hit the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists as well as individual retailers’ bestseller lists (e.g. Amazon and Barnes & Noble). CP/Harlequin team works with retailers for promotions.
CP helps build authors with consistent cover design for author branding. Even debut authors with 1 book get individual and group promotions (e.g. targeted ads on blogs and sites for individual authors or specific genre; 99 cent pricing promos this summer).
Now have CP books published in the UK, Italy, Germany, through Harlequin’s international offices. 70% of CP titles are sold in audio from Audible.com. Audible currently picks up about 90% of new releases each month. Other new uses for content include backlist ebook bundles (e.g. Christine d’Abo Long Shots Books 1-3 bundle of first 3 novellas) and new print opportunities.
The Future of Carina Press:
- More targeting of specific genres. E.g. getting great attention on fantasy and fantasy romance. Will have 2 weeks of fantasy in February 2013.
- More special projects like themed collections and continuities.
- Scheduling more connected editorial from individual authors strategically. CP may hold back releasing the first book in a series so can release a book every 6 months or so for a bigger marketing push and suit the authors’ schedule. CP currently has 20-25 series on the go.
- Updated submissions guidelines coming soon!
- Increasing CP marketing support, such as more digital sampling, and even more use of print and foreign rights. Print on Demand is coming (no start date yet) and Harlequin is printing a trade-format anthology of erotic romance novellas by Delphine Dryden, Christine d’Abo and Jodie Griffin in November called The Theory of Attraction. It will be the first print book sold under the Carina Press imprint!
Authors can expect honesty, commitment and insight into the publishing process from CP.
Audience got to vote on the cover for 2 future releases: Lynda Aicher’s first book, an erotic romance called Bonds of Trust. Also voted on the cover for Susanna Frasers’s An Infamous Marriage.
Question from the audience: How do you feel about self-published authors submitting to Carina Press?
Answer from Angela: CP is happy to look at submissions from previously self-pub’d authors but do prefer to see new content (but will always look at it!).
Angela’s personal call for submissions (more here: http://carinapress.com/blog/2011/12/submissions-call-from-angela-james-something-i-rarely-do-anymore/ )—she’s looking for: sports-themed romance, “space westerns” in the vein of Firefly, novel-length (i.e. 70k words or longer) erotic romance, novel-length paranormal romance with a fresh twist. Also looking for new opportunities for serialization.
For info on what other Carina Press editors are looking for, check their bios on the CP Facebook page (www.Facebook.com/CarinaPress) or the Carina Press blog at CarinaPress.com (here: http://carinapress.com/blog/2011/10/carina-press-call-for-submissions/).
Yeah, okay, this might seem like kind of a copout topic but see, it’s like this. This weekend I spent nearly all day Saturday working on 2 powerpoints for RWA next week. And then I spent too many hours packing. So I think I used up all my clever on the powerpoints. Plus, I really want to be sure you know about some of our key things happening at RWA, so you don’t miss us. You want to find me and say hello, right? I hope you will!
Wednesday at 5p-8p is the Literacy signing at the convention center.
Around 20 Carina Press authors will be signing!
Thursday at 9:45a is the Carina Press Spotlight in the Platinum 1 room.
This is one of the powerpoints I’ve spent hours creating and there’s going to be a small ton of info offered in the presentation, along with a fun opportunity for you to help us make some decisions on some cover art!
Thursday at 9:00p is the Harlequin Pajama Party in the Marriott’s Newport Beach room.
Open to all conference attendees, this is a fun party hosted by our community guru, Jayne Hoogenberk. It’s always a great time, a good excuse to wear cute pajamas (but pajamas are not a requirement. Err, I mean, you can wear party clothes. Some type of clothing is a requirement.)
Friday at 9:45a-11:15a is the Harlequin signing.
Carina Press authors Shannon Stacey, Fiona Lowe and Marie Force will be signing along with many other incredible Harlequin authors. Come and check us out!
Friday at 3:15p to 4:15p is the Social Media Mavens panel in Platinum 2
This is the second powerpoint I created. I’ll be leading a top-level discussion on author involvement in social media with my boss Malle Vallik, as well as authors Julie Rowe, Adrienne Giordano and Jaci Burton. We’ll be offering some advanced tips, resources and thoughts on social media.
Saturday at 11:00a-12:00p is the Harlequin PAN session.
I do know that there will be some new Harlequin projects that will be revealed/discussed, including one of great benefit to Harlequin authors, so be sure to attend if you’re a PAN member!
Sooo…you tell us, are you attending #rwa12? Will you be at any of the above functions? What workshops or parties are you most looking forward to at #rwa12?
A few months ago, I came across an article that mentioned this Amazon site, where you can see the most highlighted passages, or books, of all time in the Kindle store. I was reluctantly fascinated by this, because I’m not generally a reader who highlights, especially in fiction. I’m much more likely to do it in non-fiction, so I remember key takeaways. I also turn off the feature that shows you what people have highlighted in the book you’re reading, when you read on a Kindle or Kindle app. Seeing the random underlines has always driven me a bit batty and interrupted the reading experience. Still, I know a lot of readers do highlight, and not just in their digital books, but in print copies as well. I can honestly say the only print books I’ve ever highlighted, or wrote in, were school textbooks. Even nonfiction books I read for pleasure, I didn’t highlight in print copies, but would instead take notes in a journal for later reference.
The whole notion of highlighting in fiction books makes me curious, why do people do it? I know some readers highlight passages they want to mention in the book review. Or maybe a line is one they think is particularly worth sharing? But there must be other reasons for highlighting fiction, and I’m curious to hear them.
You tell us: do you highlight your fiction books? Why (or why not?)
(as an aside, in addition to seeing popular highlights, you can also search for specific books and see what’s being highlighted in them, at the Amazon site.)
Today is my first day back after 10 days away on vacation. And for a little over half of those days, I managed to not check my work email once. This is some kind of record for me, I think, going around 6 days without peeking at work email. I feel like I should get a cookie Instead, what I did get was a wonderful, relaxing vacation with my family. Of course, because we were camping and were with a small army of my extended relatives, there was always something to do or someone to talk to, so I didn’t get as much vacation reading done as I’d wanted. I still have a number of much anticipated books I was “saving” for vacation that I didn’t get to! But I still have some weekends at the beach to look forward to, and I’ll get some reading in then. Still, I’m wondering if I’m the only one who saves books for my vacation?
And since I love book recommendations, you tell us: what’s one book you’ve read the past few months that you think would make excellent vacation reading?
Once again, I was late writing this post, and as I was searching my drafts for inspiration on the next topic, this comment came through my inbox… “That is one of those covers that would make me buy the book without even checking the back cover or anything.” The statement was made of the cover of BY ROYAL COMMAND by Laura Navarre on our Facebook page. I know how that commenter feels. The first time I saw that cover in my inbox and gasped. It took my breath away, it was so beautiful and lush and rich. The perfect cover for a sweeping historical romance!
But though I’ve heard people say that cover art is important in drawing them in to find out more about a book, and that sometimes they do judge a book by its cover if the cover is B.A.D., I’m uncertain if I recall anyone ever saying a cover caused them to buy a book, or might cause them to buy a book, without knowing much else about it.
So I’m curious, you tell us…have you ever bought a book based on the cover art alone? What book was it?
And in case you’re wondering, this is the beautiful cover art that prompted this discussion:
Last week, oh last week, I was in Toronto. And I was in meetings. Hours and hours of meetings, until I thought my brain might spontaneously shut down and then fragment into millions of little pieces from overuse. No one should sit through that many meetings in one week, especially not meetings that require a lot of planning and creative thinking. But I’m happy to say that as we settle into the Harlequin reorganization, and have a team even more focused on Carina Press, our planning was amazing. We have plans and ideas and even still, after nearly 3 years of building, a heck of a lot of enthusiasm. Oh, and did I mention a new editorial assistant for me? Oh yes, the most amazing thing ever, having an assistant. She’s not been there quite long enough for me to see a dramatic effect on my to-do list, since training someone takes 2x longer than doing it yourself, up until the moment you finally realize you can let it go because they’ve got it! But I expect that in the next few weeks, I’ll notice it quite significantly and I’ll be able to focus even more on special projects, rather than admin tasks!
All that said, one of the things we talk about is what we can do to improve as a publisher, for the reader. So during the course of our meetings, someone looks at me and says “hey, why don’t you ask on our blog what readers want from us?” So I am. Perhaps this is the ultimate You Tell Us post, where you get an opportunity to really talk back and tell us what you want from Carina Press, from a publisher in general, from books. What do you wish we’d add to our business, how would you like us to be different, more innovative? Should we do more of something or less of something? Want different access to books, in a different way? Or a different genre? Or no more of a genre?