Category Archives: Editing

Cover Charge

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(If this sounds like a rehash of an old post, I agree with you because, gosh darn it, I feel like I’ve written a version of this post before, but I couldn’t find it. Oh well. New followers won’t know any different, so apologies to older followers. Here we go!)

Creating art is an art, but there’s the analytical aspect. There’s no point in painting a Mona Lisa or sculpting a Rodin without discipline and a self-imposed system of quality control. For me, the most difficult quality control portion writing a book was not sentence structure or character development but picking out a cover.

I’ve used 99Designs for three or four books. If you’ve never used 99Designs, the premise is straightforward: you start a contest, you outline your needs, you have X number of days to pick a set of covers that will advance to a final round, and then another set of days to pick the finalist. I’ve developed a QC system that might help you in the future:

Communication: You cannot overcommunicate, in my opinion. When you establish the contest, you provide a book outline and some details, and a list of your expectations. As the contest continues and the book cover designers post their covers, you have opportunity to provide feedback. The biggest favor you can do for the designers and for yourself is to be open and candid. Provide sample chapters and links to your web sites (social media, blog, home site) so the designers can see your public thinking.

Rating: You can rate book covers on a system of zero to five stars. For me, I use zero to three stars, reserving zeros and ones for book covers I’m never going to use. Two stars are for book covers I’m not quite sure about, and three stars are for designs that I’m certain or near certain are going to survive to the final round. When designers ask why they received their rating, answer all questions. Don’t be afraid. The designers really want to give you what you want.

Be Realistic: Don’t fall in love with the first submissions (like I always do). You’ll have a lot of great designs by the end of the first round if you have adequately communicated your needs. Be patient and stick to your rating system from the beginning of the contest to the end of the contest.

The Final Cover: I have no idea how to pick up final cover. For my latest contest, I bounced back between three or four designs because they were all great. When I narrowed it down to two designs, I couldn’t decide, so I bought them both. They each have their strengths, and I would have been happy to post either on Amazon. The final decision came down to which cover do I want to see five years from now. (The winner is here, if you’re interested.)

If you have a better methodology, please share. To paraphrase Edmund Gwynn, “Writing is easy. Book covers are hard.” Thank you.

Status Report

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News you can’t use…

Today begins the professional editing of “A Sheriff in Nevada.” Twitter followers know my stomach has butterflies the size of B-52s because I’m flashing back to high school term papers (“Was I even close to the target???”). The edit will take two weeks.

Around that time, Cassidy Carson and I will be jetting off to faraway lands because we’re both in “use it or lose it” situations. Such is our level of dedication to the fine citizens of the Silver State.

Our return home will herald the shaking of bones and such over the keyboard to position ASIN for publication. I hope creating a Kindle copy is easier than it used to be back in the day. (“Tell us another story, Grampa.”)

This all takes us into November and Nanowrimo with this year’s subject being the first of two sequels to ASIN. No, it will not be another Emma Parks book (Hi, Lisa!), but I will do one as soon as I get something that’s worth 70K+ words.

Last word: this Monday’s blog post will be on cochlear implants.

Okay, that’s all for now. Return to your lives, citizens.

Not Gonna Dance

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Hi, it’s me. How y’all doing? Been a while, huh?

I’m resurfacing because I’m about to publish a book, probably in October.

Before you roll your eyes at yet another lame sales pitch, hold your horses. I am not going to do the “indie author sales dance,” period.

I danced hard for my last two books, one published under this name and a risque trash novel under another name. I won’t list the dance steps as y’all have done them yourselves many times (here’s the list). I exhausted myself bopping and popping with the whole social media outreach thing, and with spending more than a few hours trying to engage hundreds of dance partners. I wore out my dance shoes because I believed in my books. I believed in them hard. After all, they’re my e-children. Can you relate?

All that energy and emotion amounted to nothing. No sales, no nothing. No second dances.

I can write 70,000 words, but after that…who knows? Along the way, some kind of night magic is lost. Maybe I’m doing a masculine tango while I should be doing a sensual waltz. The Hustle instead of the Sprinkler. The Watusi instead of the Twist.

So here’s my only two-step: this new book is my best book, but I’m not objective. I believe in my children, flesh and electronic, so sue me.

I will hire a professional orchestra to edit the book and to design the book cover, then I’ll stick the thing out on Amazon. There may be a couple of blog posts and a little Twitter, plus I may make my other books free as a preview.

But the dance card will otherwise be blank. There will be no indie author sales dancing for me, and I’m okay with that.

Y’all take care of yourselves, okay?

[Edit: if you are the owner of this and/or other images on this blog, let me know and I will remove. Thank you!]

Bird Thoughts

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[Hi, everyone. Back from break after touring the best part of the Silver State via Highway 50 and back round Interstate 80. Fun times for this Nevada nerd. Now, time for the writing exercise. If you’re late to the game, I bought a book of writing prompts to kick start my butt back into the game. If you’re interested, these exercises all have the same hashtag (link). As always, my comments at the end are at the end in italics and brackets.]

Bird Thoughts

Think of a specific type of bird, such as a wandering albatross, and write a detailed description of it, including its appearance and its movements, and perhaps even its thoughts.

Argus of the Icari nest watched the human below climb the near-perpendicular shale cliff without rope or support. Even in the near darkness of the dawn, he could see the human was laboring, yet not being as careful as the others before today. He found himself counting the seconds for the man (perhaps women) to put a hand on a loose offshoot of rock. The cliff face was too dangerous to fly by, much less ascent, and he was sure the rock crumble under the weight of the climber. The fall would be sudden, too quick to save itself from the fall to the valley floor below.

Argus hoped for the fall, because if it made the ascent to his station, he would have to kill the human to save his nest’s secrets. Despite his training, he had no taste for murder.

His left wing quivered and he folded the tip to his face, plucking the small ant trying to nest between the feathers. Like those his age, Argus was a speedbird, the youngest of the warrior caste. Their youth and physical fitness made them the swiftest of the nest, able to fly incredible speeds during the hunt. Their wings were developed to the point where they could withstand sharp turns as high speeds, including the turn upwards from the ground after falling a far distance. Continue reading

Jesus Wept

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[Writing exercise time. My comments are italicized and in brackets, as usual.]

“Jesus wept” is the shortest sentence in the Bible, made up of only a noun and a verb. List random nouns and verbs below and see if any fit well together to create a short, impactful, and perfectly crafted sentence.

Armadillos strutted.
Bagpipe blown.
Bidet exploded.
Capon caught.
Chastity given.
Cleaner applied.
Click paused.
Consent given.
Cover blown.
Creditor fumed.
Dagger pierced.
Learning stopped.
Lily opened.
Log fell.
Netbook read.
Premeditation warranted.
Protocol followed.
Respite given.
Road traveled.
Rubbish tossed.
Slippers lost.
Software downloaded.
Sweat beaded.
Wonder felt.

[Okay, I admit I wimped out on this exercise and fell back to cliches. In my defense, I drove 300+ miles today over the most interesting landscape in the world: rural Nevada. Highway 50 is like butter to Nevada nerds. If you want to give me points, the nouns are random (link).]

Historical Juxaposition

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[Today’s writing exercise with three stories. Forgive the typos, as this is off the cuff with little to no editing. My comments are in italics and brackets.]

In the space below each of these three historical events, describe a seemingly mundane, everyday event that might have occurred on the same day, which serves to juxtapose the famous events:

  1. William Shakespeare dies, April 23, 1626.

Riku stirred the warm water over the fire in his family’s small kitchen, waiting for his father to return from the docks and his mother from visiting his aunt in the foothill. Though only ten, he understood the immense responsibility of tending the fire, not overstocking the flame or letting the sparks leave the same stone circle. His father’s father, his soku, still bore the scars on his arm from the Last Great Edo Fire, and his grandfather rarely let a month go by without telling how his mother was consumed.

But Riku was ten years old, and his mind wandered as a child’s mind does, even during important tasks. His eyes saw his hand stirring the water, preparing to add the chai, but his mind was far away. It was not on his small family, his parents or his poor maimed little sister whom he loved more that the moon, nor was it on the upcoming Kanda Matsuri festival, in which his father promised Riku could attend from dawn to dusk. His imaginations passed over even his favorite dream: success in school. It was not unknown for the best students to find a new life above their caste, far from this small Yokosuka apartment.

Had Riku thought of his favorite dream, he would have repeated his silent prayer thanking the gods his family was not burakumin, social outcasts. No matter their efforts, there was no light in the dark days of those untouchables. Continue reading

Unpublished

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I unpublished a book today. I ain’t happy.

Literary history is rift with authors who burned their own works: Whitman, Kafka, Stevenson, Bacon, and so on. The angel who blessed these and others with literary artistry became the devil with a lit match and a fireplace. The reasons are varied: mental health issues, crippling self doubt, the desire to die in anonymity, and so on. I do not include myself with them, other than to say I understand how it feels when the magic disappears, and when a sense of reality finds a home in your gut.

The book in question was my second book, and in my lofty dreams, I wanted to accomplish so much: testify to the strength of love; hold the Church accountable for its sins; solve an ancient mystery; create a sort of James Bond with a collar. The outcome was a gobbled mess of editing errors, underdeveloped characters, and plot holes the size of an Edsel. Amateur Hour in 60,000 words.

Unlamented by most, the book is gone, or it will be once Amazon removes the link from my author page. If I’m going to be a professional writer, then I must have the strength to know when I’ve done wrong and fix my mistakes. Book Number Two was the biggest mistake of my nascent writing career. Through it, I learned a ton of lessons. The good outweighs the bad.

I still ain’t happy.

Road Trip

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Hello, all. I’ve been on a writing sabbatical, a fancy-schmancy way of saying I’ve been busy with Real Life and not touching the keyboard in a fictional way. That’s not 100% true, as 15+K words were written during July’s Camp NanoWriMo, all for a brand-new book. The key-tapping stalled when Real Life came back. My other WIP, completed at 70+K, waits on the virtual shelf to be made publishable.

The two works have little in common save one grace: they’re both placed in rural Nevada. That’s not necessarily a good thing. To some outside the Battle Born borders, our nether regions are filled with under-educated western rednecks trapped in the Nineteenth Century sensibilities. I want to say that particular demographic is firmly the One Percent, a plague found in every state of the Union, but never having been east of Fallon, I don’t know.

Therefore, my two favorite words: Road Trip!

The Bride and I are leaving soon for Eureka, Ely, Elko, Winnemucca, and other parts East via the World’s Loneliest Highway to capture the flavor and nature of the Silver State. We’ll avoid all chains (Holiday Inns, McDonalds, and so on) to see if we can find the true center of rural Nevada. My hope is we’ll return with memories and impressions that I can stick in these two WIPs. Maybe this trip will give readers insight to what has been best part of my home for many decades.

I’ll try to post a travelogue. If you have suggestions for sights and stops, shoot them on over. Appreciate your attention. Thank you.

Out of My Groove

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You ever fall out of love with a work-in-progress, even after 60+K words? That’s my current rut after applying dozens of hours on The Sheriff of Jefferson County. Getting to this point was the usual pantser rodeo, the whirlwind of character and location development on the fly, but the energy is gone now. I’ve no real emotional desire to complete the book, though Maggie and crew will be a series. I’m more fascinated with the sequels than the first book.

It’s not that I didn’t try to get back in the groove: plotted out the previous chapters, did some on-the-fly editing, added the four S’s (sights, sounds, smells, sex), and rewrote a couple of chapters so they flowed better with the rest of the book. Yeah, no love, no luck.

Though they’re no excuse, Real World events jumped onto the dog pile, not the least of which were some health scares, a flooded basement, and the fact that my country’s leadership is bat-shit crazy. I hesitate to mention the RW because writers must be stronger than the distractions around them. I’ve published several books by overcoming reality, and I will publish again.

The best thing to do is to sit my wide butt down in front of the white box and finish the damn book without thinking about the damn book. A vacant brain can be both a good and bad thing in that the book’s destination is below the horizon, therefore I can’t be intimidated by something that doesn’t exist. I might wander off the reservation a little (that being the main plot), but, hey, that’s why we edit.

Have you been challenged by your incomplete works? What did you do to kick start your ass to the finish? Any and all words of wisdom welcomed!

Thirty

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For this one hundred and first blog post, I’m happy to announce the Kindle publication of my latest book, Saturday’s Child, the sequel to Hope Knocks Twice. This next book continues the adventures of Emma Parks, a new hire in a metropolitan Child Protective Services office. Unlike the first boo, SC tells us more about Emma’s turbulent past as she deals with a kidnapping and her family, who are not her advocates for the most part. Perhaps the lone string of sanity in her life is the support and passion from Devon Walsh, homicide detective and ardent lover.

For new followers, this book began back in 2015 as a Christmas present to my bride of thirty-five years, Cassidy Carson. It sat on the shelf for months while she convinced me to clean it up for publication. Fifteen months after my fingers first touched the keyboard, it is available to you for less than a slender dollar at Amazon Kindle. It’s free if you’re a Prime subscriber.

It takes a village to publish a book, and there are so many people to thank, beginning with The Bride, of course. There are those who believe me as a writer, like The Awesome Aunt (the book is dedicated to her) and Laurel at the City of the Trembling Leaves. Empowerment is an amazing motivator. There are the kind and patient editors at Red Adept Editing, and Jarmilla’s beautiful book cover.

Someone already requested the third book in the series, but that will wait until I finish my current work in progress. And it will wait until after a long winter’s nap. I’m weary but also very happy. While it may not be great literature, it’s a book I’m proud of and am pleased to present to you. Thank you for your kind support.

–30–