Month: January 2015

The Americans: Possibly the Best Show on T.V.

A new season of The Americans starts tonight and I couldn’t be more excited. Despite the fact that no one seems to watch it (probably because F/X decided to stream the show with Amazon Prime instead of the much more ubiquitous Netflix), The Americans is quite possibly the best show on T.V. I like to think of it as being a mix between Alias (it’s a spy show with amazingly bad wigs), a period show with great attention to details (a la Mad Men, though The Americans is set in the 1980s), and a straight up action/drama (think: 24, Homeland, etc.). The acting is always good. The story lines are complicated, filled with tension, and almost always emotional. And the concept is fascinating: Two Soviet agents are groomed to pose as an American married couple in order to go deep undercover in the suburbs of Washington, D.C…. and they have two American children who know nothing about mom and dad’s spy games. It’s a brilliant set up!

I think the comparison to Alias highlights what’s best about The Americans. It’s got all the crazy undercover, wig-wearing, secret-identities-in-the-suburbs kinda thing that Alias did so well, but it’s also much more serious, more grounded, and ultimately more political than Alias ever was or ever tried to be. The Americans is as much a show about loyalty, patriotism, marriage, family, country, violence, and government as it is about spies spying. And even though it’s set in the 80s, it’s still dealing with relevant political and moral issues.

Also, did I mention the bad wigs? They’re hilarious.

Season three starts tonight, and I can’t wait.

Ballantine Adult Fantasy and the Wonders of Cover Art

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I love the vintage book cover art from the 1960s and 1970s. My husband and I have an entire box of the Penguin Books classic covers as postcards (and we’ve even framed some and hung them in the house). But I most especially love the science fiction and fantasy cover art from that time. Whenever I stumble onto an older edition of something, I get more excited for the cover art than for the book itself.

So I was delighted to read Charles de Lint’s book reviews in the latest edition of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In his review of William Morris’s The Well at the World’s End, he mentions the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, edited by Lin Carter. I’ll be honest and admit I don’t know much about the publishers of fantasy and science fiction. I know a handful of names that are involved: Tor, DAW, Del Rey, Ace. I even own a couple of Ballantine fantasy books (The Tolkien Reader and The Last Unicorn), but I never paid much attention to the publisher (until now).

Searching for more about the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, I found reviews of the books and the history of the series, but most especially, I found the cover art. I spent my morning just gazing at the artwork. I love interesting cover art. Not just for books, but also music albums, comic books, magazines, anything with a cover. I should probably do another post just about how much influence the Beatles’ cover art had on my childhood. But suffice to say, I don’t need the latest self-publishing guide to tell me how important cover artwork is.

I have purchased books solely because of the cover art, and I’ve skipped over books solely because of the cover art (Case in point: I refuse to buy any other versions of the Chronicles of Narnia except for the ones with the original Pauline Baynes art, or the 1970 Macmillan/Collier versions, i.e.: the ones I stole from my brother to read when I was eight) (Another case in point: When I look through my daily Book Bub ads, I am put off by the cover art on almost every title; a book has to have an extremely strong description to get me to overlook the lame, garish, and often cookie-cutter covers).

The Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series is my cover art crack. Without sounding too “get off my lawn!” about it, I wish that fantasy fiction still featured such surreal and whimsical art. Just looking at these covers has gotten my imagination going and given me ideas for my own fiction.

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I can see where this style of art is perhaps too quirky and too dated to appeal to contemporary readers, but I find it fascinating. At some point, I’m going to have to start looking for a cover artist for The Thirteen Treasures of Britain, and I’m not quite sure what style of cover I have in mind. I wish I could get art that harkens back to the BAF covers, but that’s probably not a very smart business decision.

In the meantime, I can still gaze longingly at these beauties.

So where is my finished rough draft?

Yeah… not done yet. New deadline! January 13. (This is the nice part about being my own publisher…)

But…

I’m probably not gonna make that January 13 deadline either. It’s a busy time for me at work: Midterms. So that means I might have to reschedule this new deadline…

I am apparently the worst at meeting deadlines. The worst part of all is that I don’t feel like I’ve been goofing off (she said as she wrote this not-her-novel blog post). I’ve been doing work for my “real” job, taking care of my family, doing as much limited house cleaning as I can sneak in, eating. There haven’t been a lot of random Lord of the Rings marathons (okay, maybe one…), or binge watching Orange Is the New Black (which is what I was doing last year in January when we had an epic amount of snow/freeze days at my school) (I have been binge watching Comic Book Men, but that’s usually when I’m feeding my infant or playing with her on the floor, so it’s not like that’s interfering with my writing time).

I suppose I need to have more realistic goals. I have to face the fact that I’m not gonna be Johnny and Sean and write a zillion words this year. My original publishing plan for 2015 was to release three full-length novels plus a few short stories. I’m fearing this will not happen. I hate taking it slow; I want to get my stuff out there! But maybe the more realistic goal is to go at the pace my life allows. And my life right now does involve taking care of and raising a human being, so that’s kinda important.

2015: The year I try to live with more realistic goals.

New rough draft deadline: January 20

Name Change

I am under no illusions that I am the only author to use the mythology behind the thirteen treasures of Britain in her stories. I know that there are other books and novels that use the thirteen treasures. However, until my husband mentioned it the other day, I did not know that there is an actual book series called “13 Treasures” (complete with the number 13 instead of the word thirteen in the title).

Clever readers of this blog may have noticed that I have since changed my novel’s title. No longer will I be using the “13 Treasures of Britain” moniker; instead, I have gone slightly more traditional and changed the novel’s title to “The Thirteen Treasures of Britain.” I’m still kinda miffed about this title business; I liked using the number 13 in my title because it had a sort of irreverence about it, and my story is an irreverent take on Arthurian stories and myths. However, I am even less keen on having my book be almost identical in name to the “13 Treasures” series of children’s fiction. I still want to keep the thirteen treasures as part of my title, so I figure the best way to distinguish my book from this other book is to go with the more formal, written-out name of “thirteen treasures.”

It’s not a huge deal, but it is sort of annoying to find out someone else has pretty much used my idea. Thankfully, my “Thirteen Treasures of Britain” story is completely different from this children’s series, so there are no worries on that front.

Maybe I should name my book: “The Thirteen Treasures of Britain (or How Merlin Lost His Beard and Tried to Save the World).” [This is only slightly a joke. But then, I love really long titles for things. Maybe I will change it to this…]

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