Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Why do you let them put those covers on your books?

Marion Zimmer Bradley repeatedly said "a cover is not an illustration; it's a marketing poster for the book." I find myself quoting that a lot recently, as long-time Darkover fans encounter the cover art for Stars of Darkover, which will be published this June, beginning a new series of Darkover anthologies. The most common complaint is that it looks like a gypsy girl gazing into a crystal ball, followed by "that's not what a matrix crystal looks like!" Both comments are perfectly true, and if the cover were intended to be an illustration, they would be valid complaints.

But the object of a book cover is to get a reader first to pick up and then to read the book. The cover is supposed to give someone who doesn't automatically buy every new Darkover book--someone who has never heard of Darkover and has no clue what it is--an idea of what the book is about. This particular book is an anthology of stories set on an alien planet where some people have paranormal abilities and can see and do things ordinary people can't. I think this cover does convey that message, which means it's doing its job. And I hope that it will encourage people who have never read anything set on Darkover to give the world a try.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Remember the Sabbath Day

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work..."
King James Bible, Exodus 20:8-11

Of all the ten commandments, I think this is the one most frequently broken. This year my Lenten reading is Dr. Matthew Sleeth's book 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life. Almost as soon as I started it I realized that my "flexible" schedule had given me a 7-day work week. I have no idea how I failed to notice this before--I had certainly noticed that I was exhausted. Each morning when I woke up, the first thoughts in my mind were "what day is this?" and "what do I have to do today?"

There was a time when it was easy to keep the Sabbath. Chapter 16 of the book of Exodus describes a very simple system: God provides "daily bread" and the Israelites are commanded to gather a one-day supply on the first five days of the week and a two-day supply on the sixth day. They are told that there will not be any bread to be found on the Sabbath, even if they disobey God and go out to search for it. (Of course, some of them just have to go out and make sure this is true.) In that time, people reached the seventh day of the week with their food already in hand and nothing they needed to do.

To say that things are different today is an understatement. Instead of a less than a million people, all located in the same place, we live in a world with more than 7 billion people spread across 24 time zones. There is always someplace where it is day, not to mention someplace where it is tomorrow. It may be the Sabbath where you are, but you can easily reach places where it's not. All you need to do is turn on your computer. And if you're a writer, as soon as you turn on your computer there's work to be done.

It can also be hard to find a day to take off. Sundays are the day that Ann Sharp and I get together to handle the business of the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust, so that doesn't work well for me. I'm trying to take Saturdays off, but at least once a month I have a meeting then, and if I'm attending a convention I'll be working all weekend.

But I'm making a point of having one day each week where the answers to the morning questions are: "What day is this? Sabbath. What do I have to do today? Nothing." It's a wonderful feeling.