The mutilation, er, metamorphosis of a cover.

So, in the interest of documenting this journey called self publishing, I thought I would share some of the ins and outs of cover making. Yes, I make my own, in a wonderful program called Gimp. This cover is different from the first two I did, way more technical and required me to learn a good bit more about the program. Yes, it had me tearing out my hair just to get it done. I went through more ideas and hours than I normally would spend on something like this, but as this book is going to be a series, I wanted it to be perfect, branded, and made in such a way that I could make the next two sort of add to it. That being said, I will walk through some of my early designs first, so you can get an idea of what this cover went through to get to its current look.

Version 1:

This version sucked for reasons you can probably see. I was doing more sketching with this one than anything else, just trying to get a feel for a cover, and didn’t really have any concrete ideas other than the word ELI, which is an event in the book.

Version 2:

This was better, although I didn’t like any of the fonts I used, and the fire text was, to me, over done. Again, still following the ELI concept, but it kind of throws off the title of the book, and more appears that the book is called “Eli” instead of “The Confessor”.

Version 3:

Still not sure where I was headed. Tried some different stuff, still didn’t really know the program too well either. I do a fair bit of drawing when the mood strikes me, playing with graphics in Gimp is sort of like sketching to me, except I’m more impatient with it. I had no real strong idea of what the book cover should look like, and it didn’t help that I wasn’t finished writing the damn thing in the first place. I was at the in-laws house doing this, taking a break from writing. No, I didn’t procrastinate too much. I promise. No, really.

Version 4:

By this time the book was almost finished, and I was home at long last. I started getting some strong ideas, namely the tunnel, from another scene in the book. I was learning a good bit about the program, but still not satisfied with it. The lay out was more mocked than anything else, I scrapped it because something about it just didn’t feel right.
Version 5:

Flowery huh? As I explored ideas, and just about finished the book, my overall ideas began to get stronger. This cover, at least to me, doesn’t look horrible, but is too passive for the subject matter. I wasn’t too happy with my skills in Gimp at this point, according to my wife I’m a perfectionist, and I wasn’t happy with anything I was coming up with.

Version 6: 

had a pretty strong idea of what I wanted, but for the life of me just couldn’t make it work. If you look closely, there’s a page from a Bible in the bottom, and some words written in color, each color representing the word its coloring. I decided to take a day or so off. Learning a new program is a lot like working out. You stretch the muscles, tear em a bit, then give them a rest so they can rebuild.

Version 7: 

By far the best of the bunch. By the time I got to this point, I was using Gimp like an old (new?) pro, and I’m very happy with this version. That it’s the best of the bunch I know, not because I think it is (although I do), but because my fifty friends on my private Facecrap page tell me it is. And you know we can all trust our friends, right? 🙂 This cover is one of three, and is a departure from what I normally do, in that the second and third covers will be a continuation of this one, so to speak. It still might need some touching up, but overall, I’m happy with the result. And, I had stopped tearing my hair out too, so that’s a good thing.

Well, hope this perhaps gave some insight into what I go through in making a cover. A lot of blood, sweat, tears, and caffeine go into this. While I know I could possibly get better results if I paid a cover artist, or at the very least save myself some headache, for me, doing it all, at least at this point, is part of the process I need to go through, so I can understand just what it takes to do everything.  With this book, I’m also planning on using Amazon’s CreateSpace to do paperback, so I’ll keep you all posted as I go along. Thanks for reading.

The Liebster Award?

Good morning,
Before I launched into my day of slaving over a hot keyboard in search of the right words, I checked my email, and lo! I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Blog Award! Sadly, I’d never heard of it until now, but it sounds prestigious 🙂 Thanks to Nathan over at thewriterscodex.wordpress.com for the nomination. his blog deals with the ins and outs of writing and the writing life, so check him out!

I’m supposed to answer some questions and then nominate some other people, so on with the questions.

  1. What prompted you to start your blog? Well, I’ve actually stopped and started a few blogs, none of which I’ll list here 😛 I never honestly had something that I really wanted to write about, and didn’t feel comfortable with those others. When I started writing full time, having a blog was just an extension of what I do. Plus, it’s a good way to connect with other writers, hear their perspectives on the same things I run into on a daily basis.
  2. What is one life event/decision that you didn’t expect, but made your life what it is today? My marriage. My wife and I met on pure coincidence, a chance meet that might never have happened. She’s been an inspiration to me, as well as the love of my life.
  3. Do you have any regrets in life? If so, are you doing anything to resolve them? It’s easy to have regrets, but sometimes in life, it takes longer to learn what you need to learn. I view all “mistakes” as lessons, and some lessons are harder to learn than others. That being said, I don’t look back and wish I could have done something different. It’s better to look forward, than backward. Take what you’ve learned, and use it to make things better.
  4. What specific tasks are you doing to achieve your goals right now? I have two goals currently: Walk two miles every day for a month, and finish my second novel. I’m five days in on the first one, and I’m 3/4s of the way through my second. It’s called Confessor, and there will be two or three other books in the series. You can check out my other book, The Brotherhood, on Amazon. (click the link on the left. This has been a Shameless Plug ™)
  5. What one thing do you wish people would remember you for after you’re gone?  I’ve actually never given this any thought. When you’re dead, you’re dead. It’s more important for me to look back on my life and see some things I’m maybe a little proud of, than caring how people remember me.
  6. What do you enjoy most in life? Chasing dreams.
  7. If you could make one decision that would change your life forever, what would that decision be? I’ve already made that decision, and it’s changed my life more than I ever thought. That was to not pursue another “job”, and instead, pursue a career in writing.
  8. What is it about books that draws you them? I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. I didn’t have the greatest childhood, and initially reading was a way to avoid the situation. Then it became something I couldn’t go without. I don’t know exactly what draws me to them.
  9. Describe your favorite movie in terms of what makes you love it so much. I don’t really have a favorite movie. A favorite book would be the question, and so I’ll answer that. When I first read Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz, it was the first novel whose ending moved me to write the author and tell him how I felt about it. I’ll always remember that one. It was one of the first books that ever moved me to tears.
  10. Think of a loved one, what one question do you want to ask that person? If I could ask any loved one a question, I’d ask my brother Jeremiah, “How’s heaven?”
  11. What would it take for you to make friends with an old enemy? I don’t have enemies, because it takes more focus and attention to hold grudges than it does to let them go, and I don’t have the time or inclination to devote to the maintenance of enemies.

Well, that’s all I got. As far as nominations go, I’m sorry, I lack the time to list them here. Check out the list of blogs on my page if you want to know what I read, and go see what they’re up to. I only follow blogs that are interesting, and everyone of them is worth an award. Yeah yeah, I know. I suck at this. I will edit this post with a true list just as soon as I can compile it. But time is the fire in which we burn, and I’m already crispy.

For all it’s worth, part 2, and State of Writing Career.

In the spirit of documenting this writing path that’s been chosen for me, here goes: I’ve written the end, and I damn well mean it. The final manuscript came in somewhere between 71k and 72k, my longest written work to date. That means in the last two months I’ve written upwards of 140,000 words. This book, titled CONFESSOR, will be at the very least a trilogy, and there may be more. As I previously mentioned in my last post, this book was a bit more organic than I usually work. Part of that’s because I’m still figuring out exactly how I work, and I’m letting that grow however it does without being a stickler for a regimen that might over time grow stale. My first completed work, as you know, was completed using a semi-detailed outline. Part of that was due, to, that while writing is not new to me, as I’ve been doing it on and off most of my life, finishing work is new to me. Making an outline forced me to get it done.

This second work had less of an outline and more of a pair of book-end ideas. I had the character in mind, and his abilities, and I had a brief ending, which wound up changing when I got there, but only because the book I’d written was significantly different from the idea I’d had for the end.

Within that set of book-end ideas, I tried to allow the characters freedom to move, to do what they would, and in my own mind at least, they took on a life of their own, sometimes doing things that surprised me, and gave me an ending that, once again, I did not expect. It was a fun journey for me, and the days I wrote I sat down with no expectation, but with a curiosity of what would happen next. It was an entirely new experience for me, because, as I said before, I used an outline. What I’m thinking is, maybe I needed an outline to make the first one go. Maybe I needed it so I’d hang on long enough to complete it, to get enough momentum to keep going, to make learning the ins and outs a little less difficult, to keep myself from getting bogged down by the usual feeling that the book won’t be long enough, I don’t have enough ideas, how am I going to make this even book length? Because, I notice, if I have any fear at all of writing, it’s that either A: It won’t be good enough, or B: it won’t be long enough. Having chosen word count as my way of feeling satisfied with my work output, I cling to it as if it were a rope I’ve been thrown, and I’m afraid to let go. For the moment, I probably won’t. Everyone measures work in a certain way. For me, word count. For others, maybe pages, or characters, or maybe some people don’t measure it in any manner at all. Maybe some people are comfortable enough in their madness, they judge it by whether or not the words flow. I however, am stuck in the word count, and there I’m staying.

I wasn’t true to my goal of 4,000 words a day. While that was my goal every day, as usual, life gets in the way. The important thing was to keep writing, and the daily goal helps me do that. Most days, I did that amount. Some days more, some days less. I did, however, walk a lot of miles. In the last month, I’ve probably walked close to sixty miles, doing two miles a day.  I didn’t walk every single day, but I’ve done more walking in the last month than I’ve probably done in the last year prior, so that’s a good thing.

So what’s the state of my writing career? Well, that depends on your point of view. Currently, I feel it’s taking off. No, I’m not rich yet. No, I haven’t made a ton of money, or even enough to pay my bills yet. From what I’ve read, it takes at least three books to get things moving, so I have a few goals in mind that will further this. I thought I’d list them here, as a “my word is my bond” kind of thing. I say it, I’ll do it.

In no particular order:

  • Get at least three books published.  With my second manuscript finished, I’m about half way there, if you count all the editing that will be needed first. Plus, I need a cover for it.
  • When my second book is published, make the first one free for a time period. For this, I don’t have a specific period of time in mind. It will be at least free for a few days, perhaps a week, I will do some more research to decide what will be best for me. I also may lower its price first, again, not forever, but for a time, to see if that changes anything.
  • Publish the first book in paperback. I will most likely use Amazon’s CreateSpace for this. I’ve heard they do good work. While I’d love to have a hardback, paperback is probably easier, and at least it will be in print, even if it’s not a good hardback copy.

Publish a total of 4 books this year, and at least six next year. This might seem like a lot to some people, but the old way of doing one book a year was a standard set by the publishing industry due to print costs, promotion, etc. Doing it myself allows me to write, and publish, at my own pace, and if the way things work, as again I’ve read but have not experienced yet, that the more I have on the market the more I’ll sell, Getting the amount of books I have on the market is paramount.

Before anyone says I’m rushing things, I’ll say it’s possible. But I need goals, and whether these are too lofty or not, I don’t care. I’m not one to feel crushed if I don’t complete one of my goals, but aiming at something keeps me motivated. As the year grinds on, I’ll keep you updated.

I’ve been nominated for a couple of blog awards, which I’m hugely thankful for. I do, however, need to write a post dedicated to them, so I’ll do that next. I’ve got at least three or four more posts in the pipes, so stay tuned.

The End, for all its worth.

As I stated in my past post (at least, I think I did) I’ve been strangely absent. Well, perhaps not strangely. I have, in fact, been hard at work, which is what I should be doing. There are other well known bloggers that rail against spending too much time doing the social media thing, especially for new authors who only have a single book to their name, and so I tend to try to follow in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before, and focus on my work.

 Besides, hanging out being social means I’m not locked in my closet doing the work. (I don’t really work in a closet, but I digress)

I’m coming up on the end of my second novel, entitled Confessor. Immediately after, I will launch into a sequel, that is only partially gelled. Before that, I will apply my somewhat limited creative talent making a cover for it. The cover, depending on what I come up with, will probably take me anywhere from three days to a week to finish it. Meanwhile, the book will (hopefully) be at the editors, getting worked over like a punch-drunk boxer on the ropes. (Sorry. Really bad example. I’m tired.)

I took a little bit different of a path while writing this book. I did my usual sketch of an outline, but a good bit of content deviated from it, which is fine by me. I don’t need to be told every little twist and turn, just a starting point, and sometimes, and ending.  I think this book is infinitely better than my first, although that’s probably just author subjectivity at work.

This book will probably end around 70,000, give or take. it sits at 62,000 some currently. Today was a marathon, I wrote about 5,000 starting at about noon, and working almost non-stop until four. That’s a heavy day for me. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I usually aim for 4k.

I think I stated elsewhere that I’m using a program called Libre Office to format this one as a test. I formerly used Microsoft Office, but as I’m in the process of weeding out all MS products, that one was the first to go. Once I’m sure my formatting works, I’ll post it here for anyone interested. I don’t want to do it yet, in case it doesn’t work, and I’m forced back into MS.

If anyone has questions about the formatting, I’d be glad to answer. Feel free to shoot me an email or comment here. it’s not as hard as “they” would have you believe.

 

 

 

Why I’m grateful.

So I’ve been absent from my blog for awhile, and I’m sure none of you have been wondering what I’ve been up to,except all you spammers that love filling my box with drivel, fun stuff such as “I loved your post. it was very relevant to the situation” or something like that. I love getting those. I almost laugh every time I read one. This isn’t going to be a very long post, just sort of a “hey, I’m not dead” kind of thing.

I’ve been busy. I get up in the morning, walk two miles with my wife, and then try to write my usual 4,000 words. It normally takes me 40 minutes for a two mile walk, sometimes a little less, or a little more depending on how I feel. I’ve been feeling pretty good lately. Walking makes me feel like I’m not so cooped up, like I don’t spend half my day or more in a room in front of a keyboard trying to wring words out of my brain like a wet sponge, and hoping they splash onto the screen in the right order.

At this moment in my life, I am grateful. I’m grateful for a lot of things, some of them might seem strange. I’m grateful that I got fired/laid off from my job, not grateful to the people who did it, but grateful anyway, for the great opportunity I now have, that most people don’t. I’m grateful for my very supportive family, especially my wife, and my father, who have helped me in more ways than I’ll say here.

I’m grateful that I have not had to erase much this time around. Most of the time the words seem right on the page, even after I come back and read them the next day, and I’m grateful, thankful that I’m not having to struggle at the moment, not having to beat my head against the keyboard, or hurl it across the room in frustration because the words won’t come. Writing has become a way of life for me, something I get up and do without needing the boss to flog me. I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn (I do though, because my dogs wake me up), I don’t have to go into a place where I’m not appreciated no matter how much or how little I do.

A little update on my book: It’s currently at 50,000. In a week from now it will be finished and off to the editor.

Mostly I just wanted to say, that I’m still here, still breathing, and I’m grateful for that, too.