Monday, April 23, 2012

New Cover Art!

Okay, before you get too excited I have to say that this isn't the cover art for The Tinkerer's Daughter part two. That will be coming soon. Today, what I have is the new artwork for Karma Crossed. When I started updating my artwork a few months back, this title didn't jump to the top of the list. The fact is, I didn't think the original artwork was bad. There were issues with color and brightness, and I suspected that the cover wasn't selling the book to its full potential, but I did feel that it was good enough. At least for a while.

That being said, I did have a few ideas to update the cover and I had been mulling them over for a long time. Recently, I had the opportunity to work on those ideas and this is the result. The new cover is similar in terms of content, but very different otherwise. It's more revealing, more eye-catching, and frankly, more modern. So far, the response to these changes has been very positive. My only complaints are that the cover loses something when it's shrunk, and that's not great when 99% of your sales come from the internet, and also that the font is really cool at full size but a little strange looking when it's shrunk. I still think it's better than the old one in terms of marketability, and I'm curious to see if this change affects sales at all. So, to put it in perspective, I'll post the old cover alongside the new one:

Quite a difference. I think it's an improvement, but I'd certainly welcome differing opinions. Here's a look at the full layout:

I've already uploaded the new version for Kindle and hope to ship the new paper version in the next few days.

Friday, April 13, 2012

On Revising

You may hear writers-including me- frequently complaining about revisions. If you're an author, you've probably been guilty of this, too. It's not hard to see why we view this as such a chore. After all, nobody likes doing a job twice, much less ten or fifteen times. But there's something we authors forget to mention about revising. It's like our dirty little secret:  

Sometimes, revising is fun.

Now before you scoff and roll your eyes, hear me out:

It's true that most writers really like to write. It's the part of the process that wholly involves our imagination. It's when we get to watch our characters doing and saying things for the first time, and when we're most likely to get caught up in the zen of the experience and let our creative impulses take complete control. It's when we're building the story that we've been thinking about for a long time, and watching it come to life on the page. Obviously, this can be a very exciting experience. It can even be addictive. All too quickly, it can be over. Then come the revisions.

Ugh. Days, weeks, maybe even months of poring over the same story and characters, fretting every sentence, hoping and praying that when it's all done it will have the right pace and the energy that we felt when it all began, but that we've somehow lost along the way. At this point, the words on the page seem to blur sometimes. We've seen them so many times that we could repeat them in our sleep. In what world could this task ever be considered exciting? How could it, by any definition, be enjoyable?

Well, for one thing we can take breaks. We don't have to worry about losing track of the story or the characters because they're already on the page. At this point we can leave the story for a day and just think about it: What if this character said or did something else? What if this happened instead? This is the point where a writer can examine a character for ways to make him or her more interesting. Maybe we can add an accent, or personality quirk. Maybe we can move a few chapters around and increase the suspense, or move the story to a more exciting locale. There are thousands of ways to increase tension and improve pacing, and we consider them all.

This is the act of polishing. This is the act of turning a raw marble statue into a shining work of art. This is taking a lyric sheet and rhythm section and transposing it into a full-blow rock anthem. Yes, it can be dull and repetitive, revisiting those same pages over and over again, and yet every sentence we tweak brings new life to the story. At this point, we have an advantage as well. We know the characters . We know the arc of their story because we've lived it, and we can look back and see ways to improve it that we never would have considered at the beginning of the process. We can take those awkward paragraphs and make them shine. We can take that choppy dialogue and make it witty, snappy, or maybe even profound.

Is it work? Sure. Dull and repetitive? Okay. But it's also a whole new layer, a different facet of what we do, and it's an important part of the process. And sometimes, in an odd way it can actually be fun. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's been a crazy couple of weeks, as you may have noticed from my lack of updates. Two weeks ago I finished Tinkerer part 2 and I promptly celebrated my accomplishment with a camping trip from hell. I'm new to "trailer-camping." In the past, I've always gone camping with a backpack and maybe a tent. Now, with a family and frequent long distance travel, I've moved up to the trailer. I've been trying to take small trips here and there to get used to it but I have a lot to learn. Like the fact that KOA apparently charges summer rates in March, despite the fact that the pool is closed, the jacuzzi is broken, pets aren't allowed on the beach, and it's too cold and rainy to use a campfire for anything but smoke signals. Doesn't sound very promising I know, and that's just where the troubles began. I won't bore you with the painful details. Suffice it to say we headed home a day early and considerably lighter in the pocketbook. To their credit, KOA did refund us the payment for the last day. I'm chalking the rest of it up to a learning experience.

Having finished the first draft of TTD 2, I've been trying to catch up on all of the things around the house and the rest of my life that I've been neglecting. I've been working on vehicles, my home, and my aquaponics project with hardly a moment's rest in between. For example: I've been trying to get my truck ready for long distance towing so I purchased a leveling kit to improve steering stability. Of course, I know from experience that many mechanics don't seem to know or care that much about what they do, and you're as likely to go home with new problems as you are to have the original issue repaired (in my experience, they often can't even manage that). So I spent the entire day pulling the front axle, shocks, and springs off my truck in order to install the kit, and then put it all back together. Thankfully, I had some assistance from my teenage son at crucial moments or I might still be working on it. The good news is that it all went together nicely and after a test drive today I can happily say that the handling around town and on narrow back-roads is better than new. I also saved $300 or more in mechanic's fees. 

Meanwhile, I'm happily watching my small backyard vineyard come to life. I pruned for the first time this winter and I replanted many of the clippings, hoping to expand my vineyard over time. A number of them are now in late stages of budding or actually showing leaves (both the established vines and the clippings). Assuming all else falls into place, I should have my first crop next year.

My aquaponics system is now fully functional and we have a good number of plants that are doing quite nicely. The system hasn't stabilized enough for fish yet, but I'm hoping to have them by the end of the month. Ammonia levels are dropping once again and nitrites are rising with the warming weather, so I'm getting very close! If this is all Greek to you, check out the aquaponics links from my previous post.

I don't have much to say on the subject of writing today, but I would like to make a reference to this post by Passive Guy , regarding author marketing and promotion. The post is mostly comments by readers, and many of those comments reflect things I've said recently on this blog. What it boils down to is that most of the time writers spend blogging, tweeting, and spamming is writing time that they've lost forever, and ultimately most of that self-promotion goes ignored. It might even inspire a certain amount of backlash.