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Reading Recommendation: The Book Cover Archive

The Book Cover Archive

So, I am a trained designer. I’d like to think I’m pretty good at it. While most of my focus has shifted away from traditional print design (I work mainly in software these days) I still love what I started doing. Today’s recommendation is born out of my love for design and my desire to be a published author.

‘Reading’ might be a bit of a stretch in this recommendation, but there’s nothing better than checking out some really smartly designed book covers. Luckily for us there’s The Book Cover Archive a collection of book cover designs and designers. I absolutely love the Science Fiction section. Some amazing work that really goes beyond the crap normally seen in speculative fiction cover design. Sharp and thought provoking design work that is well curated.

Well worth a browse.

NaNoWriMo is here

Today is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month or as it’s known by it’s street name “NaNoWriMo” one of my favorite days for the writing world. It’s an awesome event, and I encourage every writer to try to get  on board at least once. I have participated twice (succeeded only once) but I learned a lot.

My brief tips for success:

  • Write Every Day

Seriously. Don’t make deals with yourself. Write. Every. Day. There’s only 30 days and it’s amazing how fast they’ll sprint past you. Buckle down, set aside some time and just write. 1700 words is a lot of words and you’ll need to average that every day to finish. If you tell yourself you can wait or hold off and write extra hard the next day it’ll just become a slippery slope. Sit down. Write.

  • Research, Plan & Take Notes

Bulk loading a lot of your research upfront is a good way for you to get past the Wikipedia articles and into the prose of your manuscript. If you haven’t researched don’t fret, just don’t sweat the small stuff. You have words to put down. Write what is in your head and make a note of it, then you can go back when it’s all over and massage it into place.

  • Get Involved

It can be tough to go it alone. So get involved with the community. Find a NaNoWriMo partner, join a group of writers, meet weekly with some friends and get involved on the NaNoWriMo forums, tweet about it, keep a blog. Keep yourself accountable to someone, anyone. Why? Accountability. When your 25k words in, exhausted and twitchy from too much coffee, and things look bleak… you’ll have someone to encourage you to keep going.

  • Have Fun

This is a given but is still important. Don’t kill yourself over your manuscript. In a lot of ways NaNoWriMo is a perfect way to see how you – as a writer – writes. Maybe 50k words a month IS too much. Maybe 1700 words a day IS impossible. (That’s totally okay.) The important thing is that you’re writing and you’re having fun doing it.

Good luck to all the NaNoWriMo participants, and as I said on twitter, I look forward to someday reading your books!


Busy weekend.

Spent most of today editing The Stars Were Right – editing is a strong word, really it’s more of a sanity check. (Though I have corrected typos jotted i’s and crossed t’s where it needed to happen.) Did some slight readjusting of some terms and names I changed halfway through that I had forgotten about.

Things are going very fast, though I give credit to my overplanning more than my skills. It’s a lot of work, but man has it helped this second pass through the manuscript. Plus, it’s increased my word count by 3k. Amazing how little simple adjustment can add so much.

Oh, and I got some very positive feedback from a beta reader. Can’t beat that.

4 Research Books I Can’t Live Without

Over the last few years I have started gathering a few books that I find myself constantly returning to over, and over, and over again. These rarely remain tucked on a bookshelf, instead they lay next to me at my desk as I write. I carry them with me around the house. They get highlighted, bookmarked, an annotated. They are apart of my toolkit. They are the opening salvo in my arsenal. In all the research material I’ve purchased these books are the four that have been used more times in more manuscripts. I figured since I found them so valuable, other writers might also find them handy:

1. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrases and Fables

This is my go-to tome when I am stuck with prose. Brewer’s is laid out like a dictionary but works more like an encyclopedia. Explaining the origins and histories associated with particular phrases, expressions, historical fables, and even lists of organizations both real and fictional. It’s very handy, especially if I am looking for an obscure term or turn of phrase or if would like to invent something but still keep it rooted in reality. Brewer’s has definitely become the “most used” out of the four I list today.

Brewer’s also happens to work very well alongside  my next and most recent acquisition…

2. Dictionary of Word Origins

I picked this up towards the end of The Stars Were Right and I wish I had it all along, I keep going to it again, and again, and again, wondering if someday it might replace Brewer’s. If you like working in a bit of local flavor as I do, but want to keep words rooted in linguistics having the Dictionary of Word Origins is vital. While not as grand as Brewer’s Dictionary – it tends to remain focused on the word itself – it does a great job exploring a word’s history and it’s evolution.

Now, departing from the english lesson comes something a little different…


3. Carol Rose’s Giants, Monsters & Dragons and Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, & Goblins

If you ever want to create a strange race, a new creature, or challenge your hero with a non-traditional monster I’ll bet you find Carol Rose’s encyclopedias invaluable. There is so much information in the pages of both these books. Detailed information on the history and legends surrounding mythic creatures from all parts of lore. As a westerner it’s very handy to have access to historical creatures that I don’t otherwise know from my childhood. Everything seems to be in these books from Western to African to Eastern cultures all cross referenced and organized in a myriad of ways.

In a similar vein, I also have to recommend…

4. Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols

I love symbolism. Blame my career as a designer and my obsession with Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower series, iconography plays a large role in all my manuscripts. When I picked up The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols from a bargin bin at a defunct bookstore I had no idea how handy it would become. On the surface it’s one of those kids/young adult reference books that happens to lay everything out in easily digestible snippets (including illustrations) – however it is laid out perfectly, from religious iconography to the symbols hidden behind types of vegetation there’s a lot it covers. Plus it’s easy to flip though and organized well making it a great jumping off point for further research.

So that’s it. Those are my four most invaluable books. How about you? What’s in your toolkit? What books do you use the most? Link ’em! Share ’em! I’d love to see other titles writers find as their invaluable resources.