Sunday, December 1, 2013

Book Promotion

My book is being featured Monday at The Fussy Librarian, a new website that offers personalized ebook recommendations. You choose from 40 genres and indicate preferences about content and then the computers work their magic. It's pretty cool -- check it out!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book Covers

People say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I say a cover is part of a book. It’s true that its main job is to protect the juicy ideas that lie inside like a blurb covered bit of plate-armor, but it can be so much more.

A cover should make the reader a promise. Inside lies adventure or romance or lots of both. There’s a whole new world beneath this millimeter of glossy paper. You need only to open it (or give it a tap your kindle/iPad).

What it shouldn’t be is boring or forgettable. And, it should never be bad. Whether the book is digital or paper, it serves as a souvenir for the person who reads the book. While the story may be fictitious, peoples’ experience of the book, their memories of the world and characters you created are as real as any other memory. 

This is how people are affected so greatly by books. As George R. R. Martin says, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Are there brilliant books that have horrible covers? Sure, but I don’t like this. For a great story to be wrapped in a boring cover is akin to touching up the final browns on a Rembrandt with a bit of dog shit. It just isn’t right. 

My personal goal as a professional liar is not to serve up an adequately professional book, but rather to create something that will burn off peoples’ faces with its sheer awesomeness. This includes the cover. Your faces have been duly warned.

How to create a face-melting cover.

I have no idea. I could no sooner tell you how to write a great novel. These are things you have to do yourself. If someone is telling you they can teach you these things, they’re probably trying to pinch you for a couple bucks.

Wait, let’s be clear about something. I didn’t draw the cover for Black Redneck vs. Space Zombies. I draw horribly. So, when I say I did it myself, I mean I found someone who could draw and told them exactly what to draw. 

There seems to be some confusion about how covers come into being. Does the artist read the book then draw the cover? Do they read the book and then give you a few sketches to choose from? Does the writer just tell them what to draw?

I guess it could happen in any of these ways, but I’m going to give you my personal opinion on the best way to get the most out of an artist without having them want to jab a fancy pencil into your brain. 
First, don’t ask them to read the book. That’s hours of their time which they should get paid for and, even if they take the time to read the book, do they know it better than the writer? No. They don’t.
Don’t let this be something you push off on someone else because you haven’t done it before. You know everything that happens in the book. You wrote it, so the cover should make your promise as to what follows in the hundred thousand words to come.

You can do this in very detailed descriptions, but this still leaves room for interpretation which can lead to you getting something you didn’t want or the artist having to do unnecessary adjustments. How is this avoided? Through crappy sketches, that’s how.

Ah, here it is. It’s a bit embarrassing (okay, it’s really embarrassing), but this is the original sketch I sent to Brian (that’s the artist).

I didn’t stop there. Since my drawings on the cover of the space zombies looked a bit like people with fish bowls on their heads. I felt the need to provide even more references for Brian to work with. I even sent him pictures of guns that were acceptable and provided a picture of the breed of horse I wanted.

Doing this makes life easy on your artist. He knew exactly what I wanted. He didn’t have to read. He got to do what he did best. Draw the hell out of some monsters.

These references all led to the final product.

As you can see, the difference between my cover and Brian’s is quite a large one, but, by giving him the references, I was able to make it easy on him and he was able to complete my cover quickly because we didn’t have to go back and forth.

It might feel like you’re being bossy, but I think most artist would prefer this to someone who needs a cover but has no idea what they want.

Some Side Notes:

Unless you’re a really good artist, let someone else draw it. This means you’ll probably have to pay someone to do it, and you’re probably going to get what you pay for. is a good place to look for up and coming artist and you can see if their style of art matches what you’re looking for.

That’s it: Now you know sometimes cool covers start with a super-crappy sketch.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

AFT-shadowing, using stuff as character development.

There’s an old story-telling maxim called Chekhov’s Gun that goes if you show a gun on the mantle someone better get shot with it shortly after. This is as good as any maxim and also known as foreshadowing.
Nope, not what I meant by Chekhov's gun.

But, why let the object just hint at what’s to come. Why not let an object tell you about a person’s past and/or character. I call this aft-shadowing, and I’ll explain how it works.

Humans have all sorts of weird tendencies. One of the many is to personalize or even personify objects. We name our cars and other important objects in our lives. We personalize to an excessive amount, and we often don’t give a thought to what this says about us.

If you have this truck you should think about it. Think hard.

Imagine for a moment that you met a young lady who drove a pink Mercedes with a personalized license plat that read “PRINCESS”. You might make assumptions about this young lady and even her past.

If you met a 40 year old man who drove the same car, you might also fill in some of this person’s personal history and lifestyle choices.

Another weird tendency of humans is that they jump to conclusions.

We can take advantage of this tendency to judge and use it like a dirty little trick in our writing.

Quentin Tarantino is one of the masters of this story telling technique.

Who can forget the yellow and pink eyesore from the first Kill Bill that was the Pussy-Wagon?

Any young ladies want to hang out with the man who drives this truck? Me either. We’ve both made assumptions based on an artifact. In this case a very poorly named truck.

Tarantino goes on to use this truck for a bit of humor when his protagonist has to drive this truck. Genius.

This artifact technique can also be used to establish characters who aren’t even in the story. 

Recently, the girlfriend and I were watching The Bling Ring. There’s a scene in which some young people break into Paris Hilton’s house. We see that Ms. Hilton (at least the film version) has her face on multiple pillows.

Even though Ms. Hilton never appears in the film, we all diagnose her with the same thing, clinical narcissism.

Whether we need to do some character development for a character who is not present or we just want to develop a character quickly, this is a great tool and we should use it.

The great thing about aft-shadowing is you let the reader make their own judgments about a character. This is what a great story does. It makes the reader a part of it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dance like nobody is watching, because no one’s watching.

There’s a lot of advice out there on the inter-webs about how to go about becoming a successful writer. Much of this is just common sense. (A writer should write.) Umm, okay. Much of this advice is eye-rolling nonsense. One of the things that make my eyes spin uncontrollably is when these “writing teachers” tell would-be writers to always consider their audience before writing a novel.

Here’s the thing. If you aren’t already a successful author you don’t have an audience. No one is watching you. You have the opportunity to cut loose. You can dance (flail around, twerk it, whatever) like no one is watching, because no one is, not yet anyway. Gasp! You can dare to bring something into the world that YOU want to exist. You can create a world from scratch. You don’t have to paint by the numbers and move around tired, olde troupe characters like elves and dwarves or even dragons.

Unless you really want to. Then by all means go for it. They can even team up and go on a quest. Don’t forget to pick up the chosen one. (I hear he’s working on a farm with his mysterious uncle).

The point I’m trying to make person-who-wants-to-be-a-writer is to write what you want to write because at this point no one cares. If this is your first, second, or even third novel it’s probably all practice anyway (I’m aware of counter examples).

So, don’t let anyone tell you what to write or even in what style. No one really knows what people want to read or what’s going to take off and become a mega-hit, but I’m going to guess the next big thing won’t be a cookie cutter novel. Don’t be in a hurry to follow tradition. Throw off the yoke of the past and make your own way, because no one is any less lost than you.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Europa Report Report.

Europa Report Report. Get it? This is my report on Europa Report.

Hello good readers,

I love all sorts of stories and don't really care how they get in my brain, so I often watch films.

I had heard some buzz on Twitter about Europa Report and since I could watch it on Amazon for less than going to a theatre I thought I would give it a try.

This is one of those movies that I really wanted to like because it's truly science fiction, and you don't get to see much of that in films these days. There's more and more science fantasy and super heroes but less and less actual sciencey movies.

So, I set down with great anticipation to watch the film.

What follows contains Spoilers so if you haven't watched the film yet go do so and come back. Seriously, Spoilers. Here they come.

First, what I didn't like. The film suffers from a very slow first act, painfully slow. We learn about the mission from people who aren't on the mission through the documentary style of the film. They just sit there and recount what happened. Not only is this slow, but it has the added side effect of the viewer spending less time with the crew of the spaceship.

Therefore, when stuff does finally start to pick up, instead of feeling emotion, I just said, "Meh". This is because I really didn't know any of the characters, and if you don't care about the characters it's hard to care about what's happening in general. This disconnect along with some questionable editing is the downfall of the film.

Sounds like I hated it, but I didn't, because the film has two things that save it.

One, it's about something. It's about exploration and the human desire to explore the unknown. This is a great theme and one that should be mined for stories more often.

Second, was the ending. The ending was just satisfying enough to make me feel like I didn't waste my time. I won't spoil it for you too much, but one word, tentacles.

Overall, I suggest this film. It wasn't perfect, but it was solid with good special effects.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Good News, Bad News.

First the good news.

My short story is number 16 on Amazon in the category of Dark Fantasy.

That's really good, right?

Ah, but here's the bad news. In the description, I misspelled psychic as physic, not once, but twice.

I guess I can't even write a short bit of copy without needing an editor. haha.

You should still check out the story, misspelled ads and all.

Free Kindle Story

My story the Obscurantist is up and free on Amazon for a few more days, so please give it a download.

Did I mention it was free.

Thanks again for all the support.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hello my fine reading friends,

Be sure to check out my website.

There's a free story there. It's even illustrated. Did I mention it was free.

To the left there you can see an image from the story. The story is about a young man who lives in a junkyard and makes sculptures out of coke cans...WITH HIS MIND! 

When the junkyard is about to go out of business and him and his dog will be homeless, he has to take drastic action and prove to the world he exist.

Go check out the story and see what happens.

I might have mentioned this but it's free.

If you like it, don't forget that I sell stuff as well.

Please let me know what you think of the story.

About all this Professional Lying.

About all this Professional Lying.
Image from Wikipedia

H.P. Lovecraft (that's him looking so dapper to the left) said every story should have the verisimilitude of a good hoax. I couldn’t agree more. For me a story isn’t good unless part of my brain thinks, “This could happen". People want to be swept away by stories, and it also gives me a clear goal: Tell a convincing lie. This is my mission and why I like to think of myself as a professional liar.

It's also fun to consider that people will actually pay you for just making stuff up.

I lie. You buy.