Saturday, December 19, 2009

Round One: Up to Speed

As we close out the year in which Splashdown Books was conceived and came into being, I am reminded of the proverb that says: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step." That step has been taken this year, and a few more besides, for which I am grateful. Fred Warren, the first author to come on board, has been great to work with as we prepared and released his first novel, The Muse. We had great fun discussing back and forth on the cover design and promotional materials, as well as the video trailers. The release went as smoothly as we could hope for - and everything came out right!

Losing my Dad in mid-year was a hard blow and took a good three months out of my time. One of my day jobs was reduced from fixed hours to (occasional) contract basis. Being turned out by my landlord has eaten up several weeks, too. But that's life I guess. Let's hope for better in the future.

What's next for Splashdown? I've got a number of great manuscripts in serious consideration, and have begun discussing publication with their authors. There' everything from superheroes to high fantasy in the possibilities. Fred is also hard at work on various new projects. And then, at long last, there's finally time to work at my own novels - you might see one or two of those during the year to come.

And so it has begun. Everything is set up and running; it's only a question of my time and how many books I can prepare and publish. The sky's the limit!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Come Party with Splashdown Books!

Splashdown Books announces its second title, The Muse by Fred Warren. Meet Stan, a wannabe fantasy author struggling with writer's block - until an uncanny solution sweeps him to the head of a ragtag army in an alternate world. Find out more at www.splashdownbooks.com/themuse.

The Muse is now available at all the usual locations. There's going to be a launch party chat with the author and publisher on Sunday November 15th from 7-9pm US Central time - come along to http://tinychat.com/splashdown and join in the fun!

Delightful from start to finish. A story of three friends with writer’s block soon turns into a tale of everyday magic and real danger. Fast-paced chapters, great dialog, a fantastically magical climax, and a soulful inner journey—Warren does a bang-up job of keeping these themes consistent and tight...the result is a heart-warming ending that will have you reminiscing about it for days. A truly impressive debut novel.
~ Kirk Outerbridge, author of Eternity Falls, a Rick Macey Cyberthriller

A breath of fresh air: crisp, sharp and to the point, as creativity becomes a two-edged sword. The Muse is definitely a good first novel—a book to muse about—and a sign that Mr. Warren is an author to watch.
~ Walt Staples, Radio Playwright and author of Crossways comics

The Muse is great fun. Engaging, quirky characters, snappy dialog, unexpected twists, and the thrills and woes of every writer—a story that is quite possibly in itself a cure for writer’s block. A very true-to-spirit yet atypical Christian fantasy.
~ Kasey L. Heinly, Book Reviewer

An excellent read that keeps the focus throughout, with colorful descriptions and smooth dialog to open the imagination. Warren has outdone the norm...definitely a good read for any fantasy buff.
~ “Jesus Puppy,” Book Reviewer

What would you do to fulfill your artistic dreams? The Muse is unique and imaginative, a humorous yet mysterious twist on the journey to success that warns: if the deal is too good to be true, it likely is. I got caught up in the story of love and Divine inspiration, which totally took me by surprise. I loved the idea that you shouldn’t rush creativity, that it takes time to build art that entertains and gets people to think. A well-written delight, The Muse will inspire readers to enjoy their own artistic gifts and the time it takes to create them.
~ Jill Williamson, author of By Darkness Hid

A light-hearted, family-friendly page-turner, my only complaint is that I now have to start the wait for Fred Warren’s next book. The Muse does for writers what Superman did for men wearing tights.
~ T.W. Ambrose, Editor, Digital Dragon Magazine

The Muse is a heart-warming tale of friendship and family that takes an unexpected twist into an otherworldly adventure. This is a story every aspiring novelist can relate to—the struggle for inspiration.
~ Steve Rzasa, author of The Word Reclaimed

This is an engaging, slightly twisted tale of a trio of aspiring speculative fiction authors who do battle with that most dreaded foe—writer’s block. Although this may sound like something to appeal only to authors, that is far from the truth. Fred Warren’s deftly-designed characters and well-developed scenes will draw in a variety of readers and carry them along for the ride. I laughed and cried out loud and found myself wishing for certain denouements, most of which were different than the actual outcomes. Reality and fantasy blur then clear in this kaleidoscope of action.
~ Cathi Hassan, Book Reviewer, Editor at TeenAge Magazine

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Muse is Online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

For your shopping convenience, The Muse is now available for purchase through both Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. The fastest way to find the listing online is to do an “advanced search” by ISBN number 9780986451713.

Or, you can click on the handy links I’ve provided here:

Order The Muse from Amazon.com

Order The Muse from Barnes & Noble

Right now, Amazon is listing the book for $9.95, plus free shipping if your order totals $25 or more. Barnes & Noble is selling it for $8.95 plus shipping.

As always, you can find more information about the book and order directly from the Splashdown Books main webpage.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Muse is Here!

Finally, after about a year of work from conception to publication, the official release date for my novel, The Muse, has arrived!

It will be listed on Amazon.com soon, but in the meantime, there are three ways to get a copy:

1. Order from the Splashdown Books website.

2. Find a local bookstore that has access to the Ingram ipage database (most do), and search for ISBN 978-0-9864517-1-3. They’ll be able to order you a copy.

3. I think this is pretty cool–If you happen to have an Espresso book machine in your neighborhood, you can watch as it manufactures your book in a few minutes. You get the same quality as any other commerical paperback, and you’re on the cutting edge of publishing technology!

So, check it out! Order a copy, and if you enjoy it, tell your friends. We’ll be posting news about the book, interviews, signings, etc, so watch this space for more!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stories to be Featured in Digital Dragon and Every Day Fiction Anthology

If bad news comes in threes, good news for me lately seems to come in twos. I received two nice e-mails last night, the first notifying me that one of my stories (title TBD) will be featured in the December issue of Digital Dragon Magazine. Digital Dragon will also present a review of my novel, The Muse, on November 15, plus an interview with yours truly about the book. Digital Dragon is a new-ish e-zine featuring family-friendly and faith-based fantasy and speculative fiction. It’s also got one of the coolest logos ever.

The second e-mail, from the editors of Every Day Fiction, informed me that one of my flash stories published there in December 2008, “Little Piece of Cloth,” was selected for inclusion in their annual print anthology, due out in January of next year. You can check out (and still order) last year’s here. They’re having a roll-out event for the anthology in Vancouver, BC–I’m not sure if I can muster the shekels necessary to attend, but it gives me an excuse to think about taking a trip to British Columbia.

--Fred--

Monday, October 26, 2009

Interview Online at Building a Novel


Wow, my first interview…Lisa G at Building a Novel grilled me about my writing in general and my upcoming novel, The Muse, in particular. She even tossed me an impromptu writing challenge at the end. Talk about pressure! Anyhow, you can see a picture of my ugly mug and read my semi-coherent answers here.

Only one more week until the official release of The Muse! If you pre-order before November 1st, you’ll get an exclusive bonus e-story thrown in for good measure. Such a deal.
--Fred--

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sticky Situations Unresolved

I believe it was in primary school I was taught that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. This is sadly not always true these days. I've had the bad luck to run into many novels that cannot claim to fulfil the requirements of an ending. They left me stuck in a difficult situation right along with the protagonist, with no hope of getting out unless the author publishes another book someday - which I am however now unlikely to buy.

It seems to me that a lot of publishers are staking their bets on first-time authors who will need at least another book out to get their stories finished. But what happens if that author turns out to be a one-book wonder? What if the publisher goes under or cuts a genre in our world of uncertainties?

I do understand the writer's dilemma. It's happened to me too: plan a novel carefully, with its climax and resolution, then write and write and write until you realise you've written enough words but only reached a mid-point in your plot. When I realised this was the case, I went back and re-did the planning, so that a significant subplot could be introduced and woven in earlier on, finding its resolution at the end of Book One without leaving the reader hanging - even though the story goes on. It seems to me that many authors are not bothering with any attempt at a conclusion. The story just stops, suspended in mid-air, and I feel like throwing it across the room.

The end of a novel, in my humble opinion, is required to provide mainly one thing to its readers: Satisfaction. If it doesn't do that, what's the point?

That's why I always ask for opinions on reader satisfaction when I send out manuscripts for critique. After plot continuity and correct grammar, this is my most important criterion for technical quality as an aspect of planning. It has nothing to do with more inspirational aspects such as description, character, and emotional impact. Your writing style may be amazing, but if you don't resolve at least one of the book's major issues by the time it wraps up, you risk leaving your reader with a sensation of emptiness and unrest. Please, please, please don't do that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NZ SpecFic Blogging Week - Ooh La La!

I have to write something here, because, well, I can't NOT, can I? Even though I only just heard about this a couple of days ago and just today became aware of SpecFicNZ, I'm certain that this is a place where I belong.

It's a long road, this writing of science fiction, and it's been a lonely one - at least in physical terms. The international online community has been my salvation on many occasions - my support network, my reviewers, my fans.

And now, where I'm almost ready to take the leap and begin release of other authors' titles under my imprint, things are starting to get exciting. Just today I had a meeting regarding a nationwide radio advertising campaign for the runup to Christmas. I just have to decide whether to create the 30-second spot myself or leave it to the professionals.

Anyway, this post is mainly for the SpecFicNZ folks who might wander in. Be sure and check out the Splashdown Books homepage now open for pre-orders on our first two books, and the Splashdown Reviews site for sci-fi and fantasy books that have caught my attention. Don't forget you can connect with me on Twitter @gracebridges, and look me up on Facebook and Youtube.

I'm also planning to hold a seminar in late November on the basics of novel structure. So get in touch if you're interested in that. It'll be real cheap and probably held in Glenfield. Fun!

In the meantime, I'm headed off to France in a couple of days, so wish me luck!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pre-orders open for The Muse

Well, here we are. Today I've set up the pre-order facility over at the Splashdown Books homepage, (preview at left) along with a dedicated page for each new release. The addition of shopping cart buttons drives in the fact that this is for real - and very soon, there's going to be real books to show for it. To reward those who buy before release date, we're going to offer a special electronic bonus as incentive. Fred's working on that right now.

In fact, Fred has been nothing but patient as I've gotten more and more frantic this week. Maybe he can't tell from halfway around the world. You see, I'm headed away on another two-month trek (blame that travelbug) and there's been a lot of stuff we needed to get done before that. I'm glad to say it's pretty much all done and in the can. What remains can be done from underway, or rather, en route in the back country of France.

It's been a busy week, all right - but I've loved every minute of it. Seriously, there's nothing I like better than to publish books and sink my teeth into marketing projects. Says she, the career-hopper. Heh.

Here's a video blog I just recorded today, including a bunch of stuff on Splashdown and upcoming projects. Talk to you later!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Best-Laid Plans

Had a nice weekend visiting with my middle son, who is at college in Chicago. Didn’t get any writing done, as is usually the case on these trips, but I put in a lot of think time regarding my writing plans for this fall.

‘Tis the season for NaNoWriMo, the novel-writing extravaganza that launched my first novel, The Muse, and which I intended to devote this year to another book-length project. It’s held annually during November, but that coincides with the release of The Muse, and I’ll be busy then with interviews, blog tours, and other promotional activities.

I discussed this problem with Grace, and she suggested bumping the NaNo writing up a month or two, which sounded like a good idea. The main benefit of doing it at the customary time is the mass networking/cheerleading/commiserating with the many other participants, but I didn’t participate in much of that last time, so I don’t think it’s a huge downside, though connecting with more local writers is one of my objectives for this year. I’ll just have to do that another way.

So, Plan B is now to write on the NaNo schedule (around 2000 words/day, every day) from 13 September to 13 October, which coincides with a work trip to Florida. I’m working day shift this time, so evenings will be free, leaving me little else to do but sit in my hotel room (or Starbuck’s, or on the beach) and write–an ideal situation.

The next problem is deciding which project to write, since I now have two–a science-fiction action/adventure story I’ve been outlining on-and-off all summer, and a sequel to The Muse, for which the idea just hit me a few weeks ago. I’m probably more prepared to start writing the sci-fi story, but a follow-up to my first novel, particularly if it gets a good response, needs to follow quickly, while the characters and their “universe” are fresh in the readers’ minds and in my own.

What to do? Both stories will be fun to write, and I have good reasons for writing either one. I could also try to do both of them. I’ve got another work trip from about 16 October to 7 November, so there’s room for another big push. The only problem with that is I don’t know how much juice I’ll have left in my batteries after putting out a max effort on one novel-length story. There’s also the possibility that whichever story I write first may turn out to be significantly longer than I expect. I may need the extra time to complete it.

Okay, decision time. I’ll plan to work on both stories in the two big blocks of writing time coming up. I’ll start with the sci-fi story, since I’ve laid most of the groundwork already, and that will also give me some more time to get initial feedback on The Muse before starting a sequel that might not happen.

As I did last year, I’ll blog a diary of my experience writing the stories as I go along. I’ll be returning last year’s diary to public access after The Muse debuts in November.

(crossposted from http://frederation.wordpress.com)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reality Check

I got my proof copy of The Muse in the mail a couple of days ago, and the impact of actually having the book in my hands, in very nearly its final form, was remarkable. Suddenly, this nebulous concept of "my book" had mass, and color, and texture.

Even re-reading the story was a different experience. There were still a couple of annoying typos to correct, but what really struck me was a few passages that seemed fine in the electronic copy felt like they needed adjustment in the printed copy. Some words didn't seem to resonate the way they should. Something about leafing through the story page-by-page was different from scrolling through it on a monitor.

The physicality of the book also ended all the comfortable convenience of treating it as something abstract. There it was, and from that point on, I was responsible for marketing it and answerable for what was between the covers. It's one thing to say, "Oh, I'm writing a book," or even, "I wrote a book that's going to be published one of these days," and quite another to have the thing sitting on your coffee table, demanding attention from everyone who passes by, with your name emblazoned across it in big, spooky letters forever identifying you as the one who made it happen.

It's daunting. It's like bringing a child into the world, hoping on the one hand that it will thrive and prosper, while at the same time praying it doesn't become a delinquent and wreak havoc on everyone and everything it touches.

Anyhow, The Muse is still on track to arrive in November. Get ready, world, here it comes!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Muse video trailer

Hey! This is the day I've been waiting for...the unveiling of the trailer movie for The Muse, by Fred Warren.



We are also taking pre-press reviewers right now, so get in touch with me if you're keen to read and help us promote it!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Anatomy of a Book Blurb

Today we worked on the book blurb for the back cover of The Muse. As I chatted to Fred, my friend Connie came online, and because I know she's always got an idea or three up her sleeve, I dragged her into helping us out. Here is what ensued - edited for length and to avoid spoilers.

It's wonderful what an hour and three authors can do!



13:08


Grace has joined
Fred has joined
Connie has joined
Fred: Hi, Connie!
Connie: Hey Fred :)
Grace: Thanks for coming!
Connie: I love a party
13:09
Grace: Current blurb in need of pep:
Stan Marino is a writer with a problem–he can’t find the creative push he needs to fulfill his vision.
One day, the inspiration he’s been seeking finds him, and he thinks his problems are over–but they’re just beginning.
Somebody else is pulling his strings now.
Stan discovers that reality is stranger than he ever imagined, and he, his friends,
and a host of people he’s never met are locked in a life-or-death battle with a vast enemy.


Grace: So far we've agreed that the last line should be:
13:12 Stan has found his muse, but will he survive it?
13:13 I want us to see this as a piece of poetry. Not with rhyme, but with a rhythm that draws the reader in.
Connie: I like that last line :)
Connie:
13:16 Okay, I don't like the first line.
Fred: Stan Marino needs a muse. He's written himself into a corner again.
Connie: Better
Grace:Good tie in to the title.
Connie: He's written himself into a corner. Again.
13:17 Grace: Yeah!
Fred: Nice.
Connie: Better cadence
13:18 Fred: Or we could use ellipses: He's written himself into a corner...again.
Grace: Now the part about inspiration finding him.
13:19
Suddenly seized by an inspiration that invades his life (...)
Connie: What is the inspiration?
Grace: lol that is the question
13:20 Fred?
Connie: The better to help you write my dear...
(snicker)
Fred: Well, there's the inspiration he needs, and the inspiration he thinks he needs, which is the crux of the story.
13:21 Grace: We don't need to delineate those in the blurb though eh?
Fred: No
Connie: No-- but it matters with the direction you point folks in.
So they get thirsty for more.
Fred: A shot of inspiration is all he needs to finish his story.
13:22
Connie: Okay-- that's a great second line.
Grace: Aha!
13:23 Fred: Connie, where have you been these past six months??
Connie: lol
Fred: Oh, great, now I've found a muse. uh oh.
Connie: Ha!
Grace: Ditto.
Lol, etc.
Connie: Promise-- no evil personality :)
13:24 Fred: That's a relief.
Connie: Here's where a question would work well---
For line #3
Grace: As well as the question at the end? Sure, let's try it.
13:25 Connie: If you're going backcover copy.
Grace: Yep.
Connie: You'll have what-- 5? 7 lines?
Grace: Something like that. I'm flexible :)
Connie: So try a question. Then another couple of statements, then your line at the end.
13:27 Fred: A shot of inspiration is all he needs to finish his story...where is he going to find it?
Grace: Finally, it comes. But why is it taking over his life?
Fred: What Stan doesn't know is that his inspiration has found him, and it's about to take over his life.
Grace:
What Stan doesn't know: Inspiration has found him, and it's about to take over his life.
Fred: Yeah that's what I was going for.
13:33 Grace: Now something about the life or death battle
13:35 Grace: Ripped from reality, he must band with friends and strangers in a life-or-death battle with a (insert adjective) enemy.
Unpredictable maybe.
Connie: I like the ripped from reality
13:36 Grace: Does that give away too much?
Connie: Not at all-- I think you need it.
13:37 Grace: "stand" is better than "band"
13:38 Connie: Not knowing the story, I want the 'ripped from reality' to keep reading.
Fred: or, He's been ripped from his reality, thrown into a life-and-death battle with a lethal enemy.
13:39 Grace: Ripped from reality, he must stand with friends and strangers in a life-or-death battle with a powerful and unpredictable enemy.
Fred: eh, not sure if I like "lethal"
Connie: Ripped from reality is a good start to that sentence.
Brings the focus to a shift in the story
Grace: Exactly.Fred: Yeah, that grabs the imagination.
13:40
Connie: Merciless enemy
powerful enemy
Grace: Merciless. That's pretty good. What says Fred?
Fred: ooh, merciless. I like.
13:41 Grace: Ripped from reality, he must stand with friends and strangers in a life-or-death battle with a merciless enemy.
Connie: Okay-- good flow on that one.
Fred: friends and strangers is accurate, but it's bugging meGrace: Me too, a little. I could live with it.
13:42 Connie: Another phrase that's more descriptive?
Connie: Ripped from reality, he must stand in a life-or-death battle with a merciless enemy.
Grace: A motley crew?
Connie: Just drop the phrase
13:43 Fred: I think Connie's close there.
Grace: Yeah. But I think the idea of teamwork is a very powerful one. a la Lord of the Rings book 1
Connie: strangers doesn't imply friends
or teamwork
Grace: ok so strangers is out.
13:44 Connie: Maybe that's why I don't like the phrase.
Grace: they sort of appoint him the leader. Not sure if that's any use.
Connie: AHA!
Grace: (I love it when she does that)Fred: was that a light bulb?Connie: Yes :)
Connie: Ripped from reality, he must lead...
13:45
Fred: aha!Grace: Ooo!
lead a motley crew
Connie: Ripped from reality, he must lead a (something something something) in life or death struggle with a merciless enemy.
Grace: That's it...
13:46 Fred: ragtag army? sounds like Battlestar Galactica
Connie: Motley crew is great- but may have rock group connotations here in the USA
Grace: Ok, if you say so
Fred: She's right
13:47 Grace: Ragtag army's not bad.
Connie: I like ragtag.
Fred: though they're not quite an army
Grace: But are they really ragtag? lol
Fred: ragtag band of lost souls?
13:48 Connie: Band of lost souls-- like the sound of that.
Fred: kill the ragtag
Connie: Ripped from reality, he must lead a band of lost souls in a life or death struggle against a merciless enemy.
Against is two syllables.
13:49 I think one might be better.
Fred: fight with, rather than struggle against?
13:50 Grace: how about a confrontation?
Fred: battle with
Connie: I like battle or struggle-- whichever's most accurate.
Fred: battle is more active
13:51 Grace: Okay, battle it is.
Grace: I think we're done! Thanks so much Connie!
Fred: Thanks for the help, Connie. Wonderful!
Connie: You're welcome--
That was fun!
Grace: Awesome! We'll hire you again
Connie: Lol
later taters.Fred: bye
Connie has left
13:52 Grace: So the complete masterpiece, ta da:

Stan Marino needs a muse. He’s written himself into a corner...again.

A shot of inspiration is all he needs to finish his story...where is he going to find it?

What Stan doesn't know:
Inspiration has found him, and it's about to take over his life.

Ripped from reality, he must lead a band of lost souls in a life-or-death battle with a merciless enemy.

Stan has found his muse, but will he survive it?

13:53 Fred: Ok, that's a lot more gripping than where we began.
Grace: It's the true essence of the tale.
13:54 Fred: I think it works. What do you think?
13:55 Grace: It's awesomeness!
Fred: Or, Awesome Sauce, as I heard somewhere a few days ago.
13:56 Grace: Ha!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Down to the Wire

Autumn is just around the corner, and the production schedule for The Muse is accelerating. That's a good thing. I'd probably fiddle interminably with the story if allowed to do so, but we've agreed on the final draft and the front cover design, and can now proceed to sending an electronic pre-production copy to reviewers. If all goes well, we'll gather positive comments for the back-cover blurb and/or flyleaf and generate some good buzz.

The entire editing and review process has been cordial. Grace has been very patient with me when I've dithered on some small detail or other (cover fonts, for example), and her inputs on the writing have been insightful. She catches problems that I miss, which is, of course, a very good trait in an editor.

At the moment, Grace is finishing up a nifty video trailer for the book, accompanied by Michael Rogers' haunting music. I'm experimenting with some e-book translations of the manuscript--looks like an Adobe pdf version will be a snap, and I'd like to have a Kindle version available as well, but that will take a little more work. I'm also planning blog tours and online interviews for November. Once we have hard copies available, I can start making the rounds of the local independent bookstores to see if they'll be willing to stock the book or maybe even host a signing. There are also the regional SF&F conventions to consider, but I'm thinking it might be better to work in concert with some other Lost Genre Guild writers to provide some larger-scale representation there.

Marketing..brrr. This will be a big stretch for me.

I also need to provide Grace a slightly less-scruffy picture of my ugly mug. That may require a minor miracle.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Favourite Words #3 - Vicariously

Vicariously
Yes, I know it's an adverb. Yup, I know those are bad news. Writers ain't supposed to use them, like, ever. But it does describe one of my aims in reading, writing and publishing. "Living vicariously" is what we do when we enter into an experience not our own. That's what I want to do when I read a book; that's what I want my readers to do. Many people are unable to travel far, and a well-written book can open up entirely new experiences even for those who have seen a lot of the world. Windows to new places, unfamiliar lifestyles, cultures, characters - all of this can have an amazing influence on the life of the beholder.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

My Favourite Words #2 - High-falutin'

High-falutin'
Fancy, snobbish, expensive, refined. Normally used in a derogatory or sarcastic sense. It's a rather American term, perhaps from the South? I'm not sure. I know I always like it when I come across it, as it serves to pinpoint the character who uses it and their attitude. Usually the speaker is a good-humoured, down-to-earth person.

Fact: In New Zealand we would say "poncy" (pronounced pon-see) which is derived from Ponsonby, a coastal suburb in central Auckland, nationally known for its upmarket character and slightly snobbish inhabitants. Apologies to anyone who happens to live there - I have never been able to verify these traits, but that's how we use the word.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My Favourite Words #1

I have seen a lot of lists circulating around the Web - lists of beautiful, or funny, or plain incredible words. But I've yet to see a list that matched even a fraction of my own favourite words so I thought I'd start compiling a collection of my own. Here's a start:

Belligerent.
Aggressive, warlike, argumentative, ready to fight. From Latin "bello" = war. Unfortunately this word is so darn descriptive that it breaks all the writing rules of show-don't-tell by its very existence. But I'll try and get it into a dialogue someday, just you wait.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Final Draft

Well, so much for weekly posting. If I'd kept a running diary of my last couple of months of activity on The Muse, it would have looked something like this:

Week 1: Editing.
Week 2: Editing.
Week 3: Family Crisis.
Week 4: Work Crisis.
...and repeat. Not terribly interesting.

That's not to say the time hasn't been productive. I fixed a lot of annoying little problems, and with the help of my reviewers, identified areas of ambiguity in the story line, inconsistencies in some of the characters, and a couple of spots that didn't do much more than slow the story's pace and needed to be cut down and tightened up.

My biggest fear at this point was running into something that was so screwed up that I would have to do a major rewrite. Fortunately, that didn't happen. There was some clunky dialogue, and a few scenes that weren't focused well enough, and a little-girl character who needed to do a better job of acting her age, but nothing that required extensive meddling with the structure of the story. So, after all the dust has settled, I've got something close to a final draft of the manuscript, though I know we'll be tweaking it all the way to publication.

Now it's back over to Grace, and I'm sure she'll identify some opportunities to tighten up and polish the story even more. In her early feedback, she had some recommendations about strengthening the spiritual element within the story and handling the climactic scene near the end, and I hope I've answered the mail on both those issues.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On cover design

Today I rearranged some of my books on the shelves, and as I did so, I looked over their covers - since I'm working on cover drafts for Fred's book, I want to keep learning what makes a good design. And what makes a bad one, so I can avoid that!

I thought I'd pick a few from my genre collection that I really like, and see if there's anything in common.

The Restorer by Sharon Hinck - I love the textures you can see here in the sky and earth, the realism of the figure, the spooky tower silhouette.

League of Superheroes by Stephen Leon Rice - Nice and dramatic, bold colours on black, a comic-book feel.


Flashpoint by Frank Creed - The print book looks a lot better than this. It's got depth and layers and effects, very atmospheric.



Merlin by Stephen
Lawhead - Going back in time a bit here. Perhaps the most unusual cover concept I've ever seen, used on all the first editions of the Pendragon Cycle. Look at that chiselled face, those misty hills...Mmm.


The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley - Now I'm not convinced about that diagonal cut line, but it does serve to hold the series together. But check out that cityscape, and what's going on in the sky! Very impressive.



Arena by Karen Hancock - An accurate picture of the story inside: a girl going on a journey through a strange world. Clean and bright.


The Legend of the Firefish by George Bryan Polivka - Awesome textures all over, and incidentally also throughout the interior.


A Lever Long Enough by Amy Deardon - Yep, you guessed it, this is time travel. The image of the folks in robes with their laser guns is just too cool.







Now let's look at some of my current attempts for Fred's book.

Here's the font and effects we decided on several weeks ago. That was a whole other story!









Here are the spooky eyes I liked a lot at the beginning of this process.










Now here's the complete concept with our wonderful model on board. It looks okay, but I got to thinking we could do better.









I took one of the glowing eyes, enlarged it, and made it into a spiral. Interesting effect. I quite like it, as long as it doesn't come across as being too simplistic. What do you say?








Seeing as I'm so fond of texture in the examples above, I thought I'd include it in one of the design concepts.









And how about a little bit of colour?




So what do you think? Which cover appeals to you the most, and which would you be most likely to pick up if you saw it somewhere? This is only the first round of designs so it will likely end up a bit different again, but it may develop from one of these.

Friday, April 24, 2009

It Never Rains...

...but it pours. Everything happens at once. After a long lull, waiting for things to come together, it's all happening right about now.

Here you can see my day's work - the new cover for Legendary Space Pilgrims. I also made the back cover, but I'll show you that another time as this one is tooled for the ARC or advance review copy, which makes it a little less spectacular than it will eventually become. Note: I didn't draw the lovely rocketship - that's a contribution by Brian "Clank" Bennett from Shoutlife.

All day I wrestled with the the pixels and paintbrushes, the spraycans and soft edges, the layers and the lettering. When I first got into graphic design, I became aware of the condition I've named "Pixelitis" for lack of a better term. It's something that happens to your eyes when you spend an extended time period staring at grossly-enlarged sections of images in order to edit them in detail. After a few hours, you look up (well, I do!) and discover that you're seeing the real world as it would be in pixels - your eyes are vectoring in on the square building-blocks that would make up the scene around you if it were part of a grainy zoomed-in JPEG of the type you've been staring at so intensely.

In any case I'm still staring at the pixels to write this, so it hasn't hit me just quite yet.

Other than this cover - which I'm very glad is done! - I've prepared the interior for printing, and I'm just waiting for one more ad-swap page for it to be ready. This is a continuing partnership with The Writer's Café Press, in which advertisements for the other company's books appear in the rear pages of each release, among other things. It provides everyone with more exposure, and above all, is just very, very cool.

Oh, and a few more endorsements still need to trickle in before Pilgrims can be released - but I have four in hand and four or five more on the way. In about another month everything will be on hand.

I've also done almost all the work to get my first novel Faith Awakened ready for its second edition. The two books should release around the same time, both in mid-June.

Tuesday promises to be a big day as I've received word that my starring actor for Fred's book trailer is going to be in town. It better not rain - we have to do scenes in the forest, and mud wouldn't be a good look. In any case I have to finalise the costuming and props for both the cover photo shoot and the video department.

Mud, however, may be inevitable. The southern autumn is gaining force and chill. We'll have to take it as it comes...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Inspiration

When one of my stories is published, one of the first questions I get, often from people who know me well, is, "What inspired you to write that?" My first response is to wonder if they really mean, "What possessed you to write that?" but it's a good question, and I don't always have a good answer.

The Muse is all about inspiration--what it means, where it comes from, how it gets lost and found again, and whether it's always a positive thing. The story plays with a lot of my ponderings about inspiration over the past few years.

It started out very simply. I'd been writing a bunch of short stories and wanted to write something longer and more complex. The challenge of doing that was inspiration enough, at the beginning. I had the seed of a story--writers are always talking about "finding their muse," or "listening to their muse." What if muses were more than a metaphor for inspiration, and a struggling writer actually found a muse, but it wasn't benevolent?

That question opened the door for a horde of other questions--who was this writer, why was he struggling, what sort of friends and family did he have, who or what is this evil muse, why is it evil, and what does it want? I had to come up with answers, preferably creative answers, for all these questions and dozens more. Every answer led to more questions. I discovered that the act of asking and answering questions was very inspiring and motivating. It took me to a lot of unexpected places.

As I began filling in details, I found myself drawing from life experiences. The story is in no way autobiographical, but bits and pieces of people, places, and situations from my life from childhood through the present day found their way into the story and provided inspiration, in a broad sense, for characters and settings and conversations.

There was also an aspect of inspiration that was less about ideas and more about simple raw energy--the drive to create. Some of it came from within, but there were many times my batteries were spent and needed recharging. Encouragement and support from friends and family were very important. Sometimes I just needed a change of pace or scenery. Sometimes I had to set the writing aside and do something completely unrelated to writing.

The common element in this constant search for inspiration is that I never had to go far to find it. It was always nearby, whether just around the corner or right in front of my face, and it was often both surprising and embarrassing to find a needed insight in a familiar place that I'd failed to recognize because its familiarity made it seem commonplace and unimportant.

There are muses all around us, if we take the time to look, and listen, and feel, and remember.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Don't Give Up Your Day Job

Writing gets me jazzed, but the "day job" buys the groceries, so I find myself constantly making shifts, adjustments, and compromises to deconflict between the two. You'd think it would be as simple as work daytime, write nighttime, but my job involves both odd hours and travel, so it's hard to get into the steady rhythm that all the writing books advocate. So, it's more catch-as-catch-can. I try to do some kind of writing every day, but I usually have to seize the opportunity as it arises.

For example, I'm in Florida this week (which sounds really fun until you factor in non-stop thundershowers and tornado warnings), and I'm working 12-hour shifts, 8am to 8pm. I take a steno pad with me and write on breaks or when things are slow. I transfer what I have to the computer at night, plus check e-mail, blog, etc. It works out.

It's not so bad for writing short stories, but it's harder to map out an extended period of time to do something that takes more intense focus, like editing/rewrite on The Muse. Fortunately, I'm in a lull right now between feedback from my readers, so I can let that rest for a few days, then attack it again with fresh eyes once I get back home.

The good news is that I think I'm pretty close to a final product. There are a couple of minor tweaks I need to make yet, but barring some catastrophic revelation via my last reader, I think I'm about finished, subject to any adjustments Grace requests.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Moving Right Along

It's been a fun week! Mike came back to us super-quick with his brand-new original track for Fred's video trailer. I've had it playing on repeat a good deal over the last few days and I'm sure this is the perfect soundtrack for what we want to do. In case you haven't heard it yet, go to http://virb.com/michaellrogers and look for "The Muse". My new flatmate Steph (http://www.myspace.com/stephdickinson) has agreed to play the part of Jilly, so all we need now is for Fred to find a Davos lookalike. Oh yes, and I have to procure a princessy cone-hat and sparkly-star wand. Shouldn't be too hard.

After a lot of to and fro I've finally gotten an account open at Lightning Source. This means that I can upload book content as soon as I have it ready, and be publishing it very soon after. How exciting! The first one out is going to be Legendary Space Pilgrims, and many thanks to JesusPuppy for his help with the cover. I'll be redoing the book trailer for that, but you can head over to http://www.shoutlife.com/aloftstudios-clank and have a listen to "Dawnlight" - this is the soundtrack for the Space Pilgrims.

In New Zealand the weekend is almost upon us. I'm taking some time out with my parents in a place far from here (well, not that far, I can see it from my window - but it will take an hour on a car ferry to get there) and I'm taking my writing kit to get moving on Godspeed at last - the sequel to Faith Awakened, which many of you have asked me about. It's coming! I last worked on it in a motel in upstate New York, and that was in early October. A long time ago. I'm looking forward to getting it moving again. I'm really excited about it because it's a storyworld I'm so familiar with I could tell it in my sleep - yet now it unfolds new opportunities and new characters as Naomi ventures from Ireland to America and runs for her life. *rubs hands together* This is going to be good!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

If You Like the Book, You'll Love the Movie

I didn't think about marketing when I was writing The Muse. I was mostly worried about getting my daily quota of words into electrons and having it all make sense in a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Even after Grace decided to publish it, I wasn't thinking much past a card table at the local Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comic convention or the corner bookstore.

I quickly found myself in a world where books are advertised like movies, with interactive websites and theatrical trailers, and one of the first questions Grace asked me was, "How do you want to do the video trailer?"

I had no idea. How do you condense a 50000-or-so-word novel into a two-minute video that will intrigue potential readers without giving away too many details?

Fortunately, Grace had done this before with her own books, so she was able to point me in the right direction, and we're working out the script right now. So far, so good, I'm thinking. I can do this.

Then, she asks me what sort of music I think would be appropriate for the video.

Music? I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer...er, I'm a writer, not a composer! How should I know what music would work for this thing?

As it's turned out, I needn't have worried. Grace found a musician on ShoutLife she thought might be able to do the job, in exchange for some advertising in the book. I listened to a couple of his tracks, and I was hooked. There were themes and motifs in his music that perfectly captured the mood of several scenes in my story, and he was clearly the right man for the job. Even better, today he sent me a preliminary clip of his music for the trailer, and again, it fit perfectly.

Our musician's name is Michael L. Rogers, and you can find samples of his music at http://www.shoutlife.com/mlr and http://virb.com/michaellrogers. You can also purchase some of his older music on iTunes, listed under the name 'Eleon'.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Blast from the Past

Today I found myself thinking back to when I self-published my first book Faith Awakened.

Now a first book will always be a first book, that is, there will always be things I could have done better. However, all things considered, I'm still pretty happy with the result - especially since, as the book of my heart that had been chasing me for 14 years, it was told in a somewhat eclectic manner: alternating first-person narrative from two different characters who initially have nothing to do with each other.

I reckon I only just pulled it off, and I wouldn't do it like that again in a hurry, but it did work for most readers. For many it did more than "just work" - I felt that it connected with people in precisely the way that I had hoped. So it was a very positive experience. My only regret is the one typo I missed.

That book is still in print and available at all the usual online locations - and do check out the Amazon reviews while you're there! The PDF e-book is downloadable for free on my Author/Reader forum, which you can sign up for here.

Anyway, I recalled making a list of actual tasks involved in the process of publishing. Some of these tasks are not immediately obvious, but I believe this list covers most everything that is necessary for publishing a book. So I want to remind myself of these things to make sure they're all included in the Splashdown Books process. They range from the very basic building blocks to the top level of marketing strategy - so here goes:

  • As a young child, I often wondered if people in Heaven could return to an Earth-like life.
  • As a teenager, I played with the idea of making this into a story, but didn't get all that far.
  • At 22 I began to write, first plotting out the chapters.
  • The plot changed a fair bit in the course of writing.
  • I finished the manuscript about five years after beginning. Most of it was completed in the fifth year.
  • After doing my own preliminary edits, I submitted the manuscript to critique groups - one major secular website for sci-fi and fantasy (critters.org) and one smallish Christian fantasy group known as Dan's Killer Crit Group, which later morphed into the Lost Genre Guild. I also sent the file to individual writer friends who'd agreed to look at it.
  • I received around ten complete critiques, where people inserted their comments in the manuscript file. The folk from the secular group were less merciful, but they did help me find some plot holes and fix them, which was very significant to the end result.
  • I printed out the original and all the critiques in very small print and took them to North Africa for a week, where I read them all and scribbled changes into the margins of the original where they needed to be made. I also proofread for spelling errors, went swimming and sightseeing, and read nine books at the beach. One of them was "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Browne and King, and I applied its principles immediately.
  • I made a movie of the whole process http://youtube.com/watch?v=Nxz5ZFnVzfw
  • I did not accept all the advice I was given. Half is probably realistic. [Definite mark of a newbie, in my now-hopefully-wiser opinion!]
  • I came home and made the changes to the file.
  • I met a graphic designer from Spain on Shoutlife. She offered to do my cover image. It was brilliant, and after a little tweaking, we got the proportions and placement right.
  • Using the image, I created front and back covers to the measurements stated by Lulu, and added text using a graphic program - title and author on the front, and a blurb on the back.
  • I used the new image to create a book website at www.faithawakened.com and included a place for reviewers to sign up. I made noise about the new site at Shoutlife, Myspace and various other places.
  • I printed the current manuscript and proofread it again. Sent it to one or two friends who did the same.
  • I formatted the manuscript to 6x9" page size with 1" margins and added page numbers. The text is Garamond 12pt with a line width of 16pt to loosen it up. Each chapter began on the 10th line of a new page.
  • I created 24 chapter head images with the text "Chapter 1" etc, because I wanted to use the same font as on the front cover and Lulu doesn't recognise it (would have changed it to Courier!)
  • I uploaded the cover graphics and the manuscript to Lulu.
  • I ordered around 40 copies and had them sent directly from Lulu to the people who'd agreed to review my book. Most were beginning authors like me, but a few had a larger claim to fame. Being an adoring fan got me a couple of good contacts. A large number of people also received an e-book copy on request.
  • I took a break for a month or two and watched review comments come in. It felt real good. I collected thousands of friends at Shoutlife and tried out all kinds of Internet social networks to meet potential fans. I read POD People by Jeremy Robinson and tightened up some of my strategies as a result.
  • I began to do film book trailers. Not just one. Ten. One serious, nine funny. Look for them at my youtube page.
  • I added 3 pages of the best short comments, an author bio, a title page and a copyright page to the beginning of my manuscript file. At the end I put in a thanks page, website info, and ads received from swap partners who will also put my ads in their books. And of course an ad for my amazing graphic designer!
  • I stuck a great comment from my most famous bestselling reviewer on my front cover, and a handful of others on the back. I changed the author photo to a better one and formatted the back cover to leave room for the barcode Lulu then added.
  • I ordered a copy for me and one for a friend in another country, and we both searched again for typos. We found two or three.
  • I purchased Global Distribution on Lulu. [sigh! If only it were that easy now!]
  • I made final changes, uploaded new files, and approved the book to appear on Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and a few other places.
Of course, some things will be different now, since there will be other authors involved, and I'm using a different printer. Does anyone have anything to add to this?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Editing is Job One

Once Grace and I got the contract hashed out (which required a little research from both of us, but happily, no involvement of dueling lawyers/barristers), I set to work polishing my manuscript of The Muse in detail. I began by making several complete passes through the story myself, looking for any holes or logical disconnects in the plot, inconsistencies in the characters, and mechanical errors--typos, grammar, punctuation, etc.

I also farmed out the manuscript to several outside readers for input. I was fortunate to gather a nice cross-section of folks--young, old, male, female, writers, non-writers, and both fans and non-fans of the genre. Some of the critiques are still in progress, but the feedback they've provided so far has been very helpful. You might think that after going through this story a couple dozen times, I'd be intimately familiar with every letter and be able to recite the entire thing in my sleep, but this process has shown me how easy it is to develop blind spots and how important a fresh set of eyes can be to turning out a quality product.

At the same time, Grace and I discussed concepts for the cover art and a promotional video clip. I hadn't anticipated how tricky the choice of font and color can be. There are so many subconscious flags associated with the shape, size, and color of letters that it's very easy to inadvertently communicate a misleading message about the story. Some fonts are indelibly linked to famous works of literature or particular kinds of stories. For example, there's a font called "Agatha" that was used for a long time on the cover of all the Agatha Christie mysteries. The font is so distinctive, it's almost a trademark for that author.

There are also land mines buried in the video development process. How do you pique a reader's curiosity in under two minutes and summarize the book's theme without giving too much away? Are there actors available to stand in for the book's characters, and do they look and sound right? Will there be background music, and if so, what sort? How can you stage a professional-looking video despite a tight budget?

It's challenging, but it's also a lot of fun. Grace has been very easy to work with, and her creativity, writing experience, and skills in graphic design have kept things moving along briskly.

I plan to post updates about once a week, but I'm hoping this blog will be very interactive, so if you have any questions for Grace or me, fire away, and we'll do our best to answer them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Total Freedom

This work-at-home deal is certainly liberating after all those years in an office. However, I'm finding that I have to give some structure to my days, even though I'm not a structured person at all. Mostly.

Yesterday and today it's worked out quite well as follows:

9am deal with email, check Shoutlife and other networks.
10.30am go bush (there's a lovely forest park just across the road)
11.30am clean pool and swim
12pm lunch
1pm start work: admin, crit, write, design, video, and possibly more networking.

This takes advantage of the afternoon as my best working time, while ensuring I get my exercise in. Days when I go out for errands will be different. Also, right now I'm not pumping out wordcount on any of my own WIPs at present, so when I take that up again I'll be sitting down to that in the mornings as I like to get 3000 words by lunchtime. Other stuff in the afternoon as necessary, and another 2000 in the evening if I'm free.

Anyway, things are churning along at a fine old pace. I've figured out the Lightning Source applications and will be sending off the final forms as soon as I hear back about a returns address for UK bookstores. My thanks to Cynthia of the Writers' Café Press for giving her address to receive my US returns. Returnable books are an advantage for all dealings with brick 'n' mortar stores, so this is something I really want to have. Whether books are ever returned or not, I'm still glad to have returnable books.

After much to-ing and fro-ing (because I'm picky!) I have approved the cover design for Legendary Space Pilgrims, with an awesome rocket drawn by Clank of aloftstudios.co.uk. It's a wonder to see my characters peering out of the screen at me, just how I imagined they'd look!

Fred's contract arrived in the mail from America, and his book cover for "The Muse" is taking shape - after much fruitless searching for a suitable cover model, I found one right under my nose, as it were. We'll be making video trailers with the same actor and I for one can't wait to see the bloopers reel...More on that later, I'm sure!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Taking the Plunge

The contract's signed and in the mail, and Grace has put my ugly mug up on the authors page, so I'm now officially a member of the Splashdown Books team. I'm excited to be here, and honored that Grace has chosen to publish my novel.

A little personal information to start. My name's Fred Warren, and I hail from a little town in eastern Kansas, just south of Fort Leavenworth, where I work for a government contractor that provides computer simulation support for Army training exercises. I've been happily married for nearly 25 years to the world's most enchanting woman, and have three kids--two boys in college, and a teenage girl.

My faith background is Protestant Christian. I grew up in the Foursquare Gospel Church (pentecostal), have spent time in Southern Baptist and Nazarene congregations, and am currently a member of a Nazarene church in Olathe, Kansas.

I've been writing on and off since my college days, and decided a few years ago to get serious about it and start putting stuff out for publication. I've sold several short stories to a variety of online and print magazines, but this is my first novel sale.

You can find a list of my published stories, with links to them, on my writing website, http://frederation.wordpress.com/. If you want to know a little more about my writing style and philosophy, that's a good place to start.

Grace lists me as a writer of "fantasy and spiritual thrillers," and I suppose that's as good a label as any for my novel, The Muse. I think it's got something for everybody--mystery, suspense, humor, adventure, action, horror, romance, and underlying values that affirm faith, family, and loyalty. It's the story of a frustrated author who finds his muse, but the inspiration she provides is nothing like what he expected, and it just might kill him--before he knows it, he's fighting for his soul, against forces beyond imagination.

I encourage you to follow this blog. It's a unique opportunity to observe the progress of a new publisher and a first-time novelist from inception to final product. Grace and I will be providing regular updates on our experiences and will be glad to answer any questions you may have. There will be side-splitting comedy, moments of sheer terror, heart-wrenching despair, and soaring triumphs! Hey, this could be a novel all by itself.