Monday, 2 March 2015

Leonard Nimoy: Goodbye My Childhood Hero

This morning I'm listening to Jerry Goldsmith's score for Wrath of Khan, surrounded by various Spock figures and Star Trek memorabilia I've collected over the years. Such is my love for Star Trek.

Like millions of Star Trek fans across the world, I was saddened by the death of Leonard Nimoy on Friday. It seems strange to say I'm mourning for someone I never met, but I am. He was a talented actor, director, poet, and photographer. He was also a caring and compassionate individual, becoming an honourary grandfather to all those who followed him on Twitter. He lived an incredible life and he lived it to the fullest. Just a few days before his death he posted this last tweet:

A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.

Wise words indeed. Our lives are inexorably moving forward, each second never to be repeated. But what shapes and sustains us are our memories, all those past moments adding together to create the person you are and the life you lead today. 

I realised over the weekend I'm also mourning for myself. Spock and Star Trek have been such a major part of my life. As a young child, maybe eight or nine years of age, Star Trek was the first television show I begged to watch. It was so different from anything I'd seen before. Bright colours, starships, aliens, and strange new worlds. Thankfully, my parents gave in to my begging.

While I was fascinated by Kirk and the rest of the crew, and the underlying message of each episode, Spock was my first crush. Not in a sexual way. I'd just never encountered anyone like him before. He was different, and I liked different. Amok Time, where Spock is overcome by the emotions Vulcans work so hard to hide, is probably the episode I remember the clearest from childhood.

It's no coincidence I've had a life-long love for science fiction, and I believe that is soley down to watching Star Trek. While you might argue my genetics influence my choices, it is true that what we are most passionate about as a child stays with us through our entire life. My love for Star Trek and sci-fi has never diminished. 

I have to admit, I didn't have the same feelings of sadness when DeForest Kelley and James Doohan passed away. I think the explanation for this lies in my age. I turned 40 in 2012 and suddenly became much more aware of my mortality. Losing my father in 2013 made this doubly so. So, losing one of my key childhood influences reminds me again that life does end. Nothing remains the same forever.

While I understand the grief his family and friends are now experiencing, Nimoy was fortunate to live a long and happy life. He died in the natural order of things – before his children and grandchildren. He also advocated the notion that what you give to others will be given back many times over; that giving is receiving. So, I want to echo his thoughts. Plant those seeds and make many, many amazing and happy memories. 

Live long and prosper, my friends.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Book Covers for Series - What Works?

When writing a trilogy or series, it's vitally important readers recognise the books are linked. If a reader enjoyed the first book, you want them to notice the other books or when subsequent books are published. This not only helps sales, but also benefits the reader.

There are many different ways to let readers know books are linked - social media, newsletters, blog tours, and book blasts are just a few methods you can use. But there's also an incredibly simple and easy way for your readers to recognise books belong in the same story world - matching book covers. When done right, book covers are a powerful tool for writers.

What do I mean by done right? When the covers from a trilogy or series are instantly recognisable, but are also different. Alex J. Cavanaugh's CassaStar trilogy is a great example.

You can tell from the images used, the colour scheme, and the font, these are books that belong together. At the same time, each is unique and interesting in its own right.

Susan Kaye Quinn's Debt Collector series covers work equally as well.

I've seen covers that belong to a series that are so alike, I can barely tell them apart. The only real difference being the title. I find them boring, and as much as I'd like to say book covers are not the sole reason I choose to read a book, that boredom puts me off looking any further. Of course, should I read the first book in a series and love it, subsequent book covers won't put me off reading more. But if you want to grab my attention in the first place, book covers are one way to do it.

Talking of matching book covers, friend and fellow Untethered Realms member Angela Brown has new covers for her Neo Chronicles series.

I did love the old covers (shown below), but there was nothing to tie the two books together.

Her new covers do. I can tell straightaway these are part of the same series, but also different books. They're also striking in their own right.

What do you think? Do book covers really matter that much? Does having covers that are linked in some way make it easier for readers to discover more of your books? How alike should they be? As always, I'd love to know your thoughts.