Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author


Scary book covers

Since it’s October, time for some themed posts! So, a top ten list: Disturbing Book Covers. Some of these make me want to pick up the book. Some make me want to back away slowly. I would say that some are good covers because they make you want to pick up the book AND they relate well to what the book is about. Others are utterly dreadful covers because they don’t do either job. So, here we go:

10. 18806240 I would like to read this because of the reviews I’ve seen, but the title combined with the cover are a turn-off for me. I find this a creepy cover even though I am not bothered by insects and routinely capture and release real arthropods that get into the house. I don’t loathe this cover, but I don’t think it does the book any favors, either.

9. 15728764 I sort of like this creepy cover. It makes me want to pick up the book and read the back.

8. 945176 I hate hate hate this cover, which is one of the very worst for “does not fit the book” and also is disturbing and ugly to look at.

7. 326128 If possible, even worst than #8. I love both these books, btw. I just detest these covers.

6. 4748221 I like this creepy clown. It helps that I have no idea what the book is like, so if the cover is inappropriate, I can’t tell. I’ve always liked scary clowns.

5. 12396528 I can’t tell if this is creepy or just peculiar. I read the first book and kinda liked it, but actually I liked it better before the protagonist began to figure out what was going on.

4. 289601 The dead girl cover trend was pretty disturbing, but actually I thought this cover was effective and appropriate for this story, which I really loved. The sequel didn’t work for me, though.

3. 6411849 Spookiest floating person ever.

2. 18298890 This is a very creepy, disturbing cover. Too much so for the book, imo.

1. 7507908 I have always thought this was a masterpiece in the “creepy cover” competition. Never read the book, though I keep kind of wanting to.

What do you think? Do creepy covers turn you off, intrigue you, or can it go either way? Do any of these particularly flip the “back away slowly” switch for you?

Share and Bookmark:
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponBuffer this page

Archon 2015

So, good times at Archon! I caught up with people I knew — Walt Boyes and Joy Ward, for example; they’re dog people as well as writers, so we have that in common.

Plus, Walt and I were both on the Designing Alien Cultures and Species panel and turned out to admire many of the same works — CJC’s Foreigner, “Katherine Addison’s” The Goblin Emperor — I bet between the two of us we got the whole roomful of attendees to buy The Goblin Emperor. Hope so, although it’s always a bit risky to raise expectations sky-high, but still. This was my favorite panel, obviously — I mean, it would be. Of course my emphasis is on how instinct informs culture.

All the panels went well, though, even the Paranormal vs Supernatural panel, where we all agreed that definitions can go in all kinds of different directions. My own feeling is that your personal idiosyncratic definition of “paranormal” can be all very good and precise, but if you get too far away from the types of books that readers are actually shelving under “paranormal”, then it hardly matters how much more precise your definition is — so definitions have to follow usage. Anyway, the panel wandered a bit, which is liable to happen when the title doesn’t impose a clear direction. I met Sarah Jude, whose mystery/horror novel The May Queen Murders is coming out next spring; and Claire Ashgrove, who writes stories involving the Knights Templar, among other things.

Every single panel was well attended. The Harassment panel on Friday night could have turned into either an Airing of Grievances or a political argument, but actually stayed pretty much on topic and also fairly civil. Personally, I hope I never see another panel titled “Harassment and the Female Fan”, as though women are always targets and never offenders, but the actual harassment policy of the convention wasn’t written with that assumption. It was quite interesting to talk to people later about the evolution of Archon’s harassment policy and how that issue has changed over the past few years.

I was hoping for maybe ten or so attendees for the Trends in YA panel, not because the topic isn’t a draw, but because 11:00 AM on Sunday is a tough slot. Actually I would say by the end maybe 20 people were there, not counting panelists, so that was pretty good. Kasey MacKenzie and I were both on that panel, so it was good to catch up with her. Also Deborah Millitello, who I’ve also met before.

Incidentally: Trends in YA. We all agree: paranormal is dead, dystopia is dead, fantasy is okay, horror is okay, SF is up, contemporary is way up, especially if there’s a spy/criminal/con game aspect to the story. We also all agree: gotta be careful writing to a trend, because the market is likely to be utterly saturated with whatever by the time you’re shopping your completed book around. But if you’re flipping a coin between paranormal and contemporary right now, contemporary is the way to go, because most likely that’ll be up for several years yet. I met no fewer than three writers during this small convention who have switched to contemporary because they are having trouble placing paranormal-ish types of stories.

We ALSO all agree, if you write something that’s not marketable right now, wait five years or so, because these things certainly do come and go. If you’re waiting for the market to turn back around toward paranormal, nothing stops you from waiting for that while writing something else in the meantime.

Let me see, let me see. The masquerade was good; I didn’t take any pictures, sorry. My favorite: The Christmas scene. Cutest: possibly The Addams Family, especially Wednesday. The Lego Riddler was hilarious; you see how important it is to keep up with movies? If I hadn’t seen the Lego Movie, I would have been baffled.

Also! Yes, I got a fair bit of work done. That was a major reason I stayed up there rather than driving back and forth: when the convention doesn’t start rolling till ten in the morning, a lark has plenty of time to work on other stuff before leaving the hotel.

Share and Bookmark:
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponBuffer this page

Eight Perceptions of Probability

From Ben Orlin at Math With Bad Drawings, an entertaining look at the highly disparate ways in which different professions look at probability.

I like them all, and two are actually SF-related, so that’s keen. But it’s possible that my favorite is:


That is so, so true. For the media, Everything Must Be A Crisis.

Click through and check out the Millennium Falcon one.

An extra note on probability: I recently had a conversation that went like this (via texting, so I didn’t have to do the math in my head):

Friend: So the x-ray shows six puppies!

Me: Six! Wow, that’s great!

Friend: I really want girls! I hope they’re not all boys!

Me: Well, there’s only about a 1.5% chance they’re all boys.

Friend: What’s the chance of just one girl?

Me: About 9.5%. There’s about a 23% chance there are two girls, and about a 31% chance of three girls. So there’s about a 65% chance of three or more girls.

Friend: Great!

Me: Probability: a way of going wrong with confidence!

There were in fact three girls and three boys in the litter, which was born last Sunday. So I’ll leave you with a row of cute little puppies:

unnamed (10)

The three on the right are the girls. Just like little sausages with noses, at this age. They’ll be just overwhelmingly cute in six weeks, though!

Share and Bookmark:
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponBuffer this page

Wait, you think this is somehow a good idea?

So, if you were on social media last night, I bet you got an earful about this prospective new Yelp-like rating system, Peeple.

It is a system for rating, get this, people. Coworkers, acquaintances, friends, neighbors, anybody whose cell phone you have or can look up. You give people one to five stars, just like you were rating a book on Goodreads.

Here is a Washington Post article by Caitlin Dewey about that:

Everyone you know will be able to rate you on the terrifying ‘Yelp for people’ — whether you want them to or not

It’s a good article — I like how Dewey starts off sounding almost neutral as she describes this proposed new app, and then says:

Unfortunately for the millions of people who could soon find themselves the unwilling subjects — make that objects — of Cordray’s app, her thoughts do not appear to have shed light on certain very critical issues, such as consent and bias and accuracy and the fundamental wrongness of assigning a number value to a person.

To borrow from the technologist and philosopher Jaron Lanier, Peeple is indicative of a sort of technology that values “the information content of the web over individuals;” it’s so obsessed with the perceived magic of crowd-sourced data that it fails to see the harms to ordinary people.

Where to even begin with those harms?

So. Founder of Peeple, Julia Cordray, and Co-founder Nicole McCullough, have no doubt been getting quiiiite the earful about this. One can’t help wondering how hard it would be to find out their cell phone numbers and jump right in using this rating system as soon as it becomes available. Maybe they will change their minds, maybe their capital will dry up at the last minute — they apparently have over $7 million in capital so far — maybe this app won’t actually appear. Which would, obviously, be the best outcome — obvious to everyone but Cordray and McCullough and their backers.

Where once you may have viewed a date or a teacher conference as a private encounter, Peeple transforms it into a radically public performance: Everything you do can be judged, publicized, recorded.

“That’s feedback for you!” Cordray enthuses. “You can really use it to your advantage.”

They say things like this and yet they have backers. Amazing. Astounding. Unbelievable, except there it is, apparently not a hoax. That this will go forward unchanged: I don’t believe that’s possible. That anyone needed a storm of negative reaction to see what a complete disaster the Peeple app would be as proposed . . . I have a hard time believing that, too.

Out of curiosity, has anybody ever proposed such a completely horrible app before in the (admittedly short) history of social media? Because I can’t even imagine.

Share and Bookmark:
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponBuffer this page

When to leave your agent

I should say first: I have no inclination to leave *my* agent. But this post by Nathan Bransford caught my eye:

How to know when to leave your agent

And the primary reason it caught me is: Nathan did not include an important situation I recently heard about from another writer.

Here are Nathan’s “good reasons” for leaving your agent:

1. Your agent has behaved unethically

2. Your agent has gone incommunicado

3. Your gut is telling you it’s time to go

And #3 there is so vague — he discusses it more in the actual post, of course — that it covers the situation I heard about, I guess. But it is *so* vague. Let me explain the particular situation I heard about:

Another writer recently told me that her agent loved her first series, placed it with a good publisher, and everything looked good. But the agent hated the next four different books she wrote and told her they were unsalable, that they were unmarketable, that there was nothing to do but toss each book in the trunk and write something else.

Eventually this writer left that agent. As soon as her latest “unsellable, unmarketable” book started being shipped around, Big Five publishers started making offers for it.

The lesson: Your agent has to believe in your work. Of course it wasn’t the agent’s fault that his taste diverged from this author’s later work. But it sure was unfortunate that he was seeing “unmarketable” when the story was really just not to his taste. It was definitely his choice to decide the books weren’t marketable without trying to market them.

Of course it crushes a writer’s confidence to hear her work is not good enough to even bother sending out — four times! — after writing a debut series that did well. I am perfectly sure it took guts for this author to leave her agent, but it was absolutely the right decision, obviously.

Nathan also includes “bad reasons” to leave your agent, so the whole post may be worth a look. But I thought I’d mention this particular situation because I hadn’t previously heard of this problem coming up between an author and an agent, and so here you go: it can happen, and parting ways was both possible and the right decision.

Share and Bookmark:
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponBuffer this page

I’ve met That Guy, too

Here’s a funny post from Janet Reid about The Guy who has a great idea. He’ll tell you all about it and you can write the book and then you can split the profit!

I know, it’s hard to believe this still happens and there are still people out there who are That Guy, but yes.

However, it has never occurred to me to have this conversation.

Of course, Janet Reid is the agent, not the author — she just happened to be there when an author of hers was approached. And she has that shark reputation to keep up. And she wasn’t actually rude.

Still, I personally have in the past just tried to gently correct That Guy’s view of the universe, and probably that’ll remain my strategy.

Funny post, though.

Share and Bookmark:
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponBuffer this page

Hell is isolation: joining the community can also be a good thing

I don’t know whether Fran Wilde is an introvert or an extrovert or a bit of both, but this guest post at Bibliotropic is in some ways an answer to the earlier post.

What I would Give Up Writing For

Fran Wilde is in the interesting position of coming back to writing after having given it up for practical reasons. This is a post about that. But it is also a post about what a writer can get out of joining writer’s groups — which I never have and most likely never will, so this is a good reminder about what those groups should do:

I was able to pick up my writing again, and stick with it, after giving it up for a long time.

I did that by going to writers’ workshops, finding a community of working writers, and listening — or trying to — when someone complimented my work. I began to get stable ground beneath my feet in a new way. And that was vitally important to picking up my writing again and getting rid of the bad reasons for not writing.

I started writing late-ish in life, but when I started, I got very early support from family and friends (“It was just like reading a real book!”) (Yes, that was exactly the right thing to say.)

For writers who put their writing aside for whatever reason, if they don’t have other early support when they pick it back, I can see how joining writers’ groups could offer that support. Here’s a good post by Holly Lisle about picking a writer’s group that will in fact be supportive and useful.

Share and Bookmark:
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponBuffer this page

Hell is other people: a different kind of diversity

So, reading this article by Michael Godsey at The Atlantic about how modern schools may make life difficult for introverted students made me laugh, but not because it’s funny. Because imagining myself in a classroom where it’s all group work all the time is so laughably horrible.

Near the end of my observations last week, I told two teachers on separate occasions that I’d feel incredibly exhausted at the end of every day if I were a student at that school. To my surprise, both of them responded by immediately laughing and then agreeing. One recalled learning best when arranged in rows, while the other concurred, “I know, right? How exhausting it must be to have another student in your business all day long.”

I never minded the occasional group project, if I could work with people I felt comfortable with (a big if) and if the group work was broken up by quiet independent work. Are all teacher extroverts? Surely introverted teachers would see how they are constantly pushing introverted students out of their preferred learning environment? Oh, wait, the quote above indicates they do see this — and sometimes just let it happen.

I’m glad to be able to look back on plenty of quiet reading and study time at my schools when I was an introverted little kid.

Share and Bookmark:
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponBuffer this page

Archon this weekend —

So, I’ll be going up to Collinsville this weekend for Archon, which is a quite small, comfortable convention I try to make every year. It’s particularly nice because you run into the same people most years and it’s good to catch up.

This year, Jacqueline Carey is the guest of honor — I really liked her Kusiel’s Dart series. Also, Esther Friesner, whose work I also have enjoyed; Glen Cook, whose work I must admit I never got into; and — this is a surprise to me — Harlan Ellison, who scarred me for life with “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream.”

So, I’m sure there will be lots to do. I’m on five panels, some of which strike me as more difficult than others:

1. Friday at 3:00 — How to write UF and paranormal. At first I thought, What do you mean, how do you write UF/Paranormal? Then it occurred to me that there are in fact big questions that anybody needs to have in the back of their mind if starting a UF/Paranormal story: is the world “open” or “closed”? Do you want the magic to be embedded in an alternate history or a secret history or what? Things like that. So, fine, I now think it’s okay as a topic.

2. Friday at 8:00 — Harassment and the female fan. Big topic there. Frankly, I am likely to pull against the topic as listed, since I think it’s quite possible for a woman to be the harasser. But it’s an issue, all right, one brought very much to light over the past couple of years. Good to see cons taking the topic seriously. Though I may turn out to be the only woman there who is all like, “No, this never happens to me. Nope. Not that either.” I seem to have a pretty powerful Go Pester Someone Else aura.

3. Saturday at 11:00 — Creating Alien Species and Cultures. Mmm. My kind of topic.

4. Saturday at 4:00 — Paranormal vs Supernatural. Frankly, I have no idea. Well, no, fine, I have *some* idea how this topic could be approached, even though fundamentally the two terms seem interchangeable to me. I mean, you could approach it from a standpoint that Paranormal means Central Romance and Supernatural means Romance Not Central, or you could approach the topic by declaring that Paranormal is vampires and werewolves and Supernatural means God and the Devil, ghosts and angels. I’m not sure — just have to see how the topic develops on the day.

5. Sunday at 11:00 — Trends in YA. Obviously the best people to address this are agents and editors, but sure, I’m happy to weigh in. After reading about what agents and editors are saying. Though anybody can pretty well tell that a few years ago all kinds of SF was being called “Dystopia” because that was a selling point, whereas now you can’t get an editor to touch anything labeled “Dystopia” with a stick.

Anyway. Lots of good panels to visit — on writing damaged characters, on alternate religions — I wonder if someone will mention Chalion, one of my favorite fantasy religions; or the blessings in Sharon Shinn’s Elemental Blessings series?

I’ll take my laptop with me for the weekend because I think I’ll be staying up there. Gotta work on the revision of The White Road. I started work on it yesterday by cutting 82 pages. I was aiming for 100, but hey, I’ll take 82 to start. Now the difficult work of stitching everything back together …

Share and Bookmark:
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponBuffer this page