Status Update: The Next Book, Series Titles, and Distribution

House of Cards has been out for nearly 10 months now and has brought a number of questions my way about when the next book will be available and what direction it will take.

House of Cards wraps up the Legacy of Shadow series in terms of this story and world by laying the groundwork for the events to come.  Despite all the chaos and struggle in both Master of the House and House of Cards, these books are the calm before the storm that Dori has warned of since their beginning.

For those following the books or in a less likely instance, following this blog, what I have coming in terms of a continuation of this story and world will really open up the mystery and mythology of these people and places.  Envy will begin taking direct action, new heroes will rise up to meet her, and the legacy of a past lost in shadows will be dragged into the light.

The next series going forward will be titled, “The Shadow of the Herald” and the tentative title for the next book will be, “The Second War of Sin”.  Familiar faces like Dori and Julian will make brief appearances and characters who played a hand in the previous books like Vavian and Sarai will have more of their past revealed.  A dangerous female protagonist and her companion, a fallen Templar from Britannia will confront Envy on her own terms with a combination of strength and cunning that the old sin may not be prepared for.

Readers will begin to see more of the King’s Realm beyond Seaside, learning of the rigid class structure in the great City State of Britannia as well as the wild and frigid landscape of Keldj where not even the undead can tread the wilderness.

I am very excited to bring this next book forward.  It is currently in editing and following that I will begin sending out queries for publication.  With this next novel being a clean break from the last, I plan to try for a more traditional publication route.  The most common question I had on the previous two books was about paper copies.  I’ve heard the requests and for those interested, it’s my #1 issue this time around.

I hope to start updating the site with some relevant content to the next book in the coming weeks.  I look forward to any feedback or comments you might have.

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Digital Publishing – Notes from the Field

When that first manuscript is complete and you step back from the keyboard to consider what you have created, there comes a point when you have to decide just what you will do with it.  There are a few options, but what we all want to do is have our work seen, in one form or another and that almost always means publishing.

The traditional publishing route is fraught with difficulty and negative experiences that might falsely give the impression that your work is inadequate.  The other side to that coin is self-publishing, which once held the stench of desperation, failure, and misplaced pride in a way that almost no other business venture did.  It was the last avenue for writers who could not break through to publishers or the agents who held the keys to the kingdom of literary recognition.

Let’s not mince any words here; getting your message through to publishers and agents is difficult.  The advice you will hear is varied and at times contradictory on how to even begin.  The changing market for online publication has opened up a host of new opportunities that for some are a more preferable option than the old ways.  If your desire is to go it alone, with some planning and a willingness to let your work speak for you, digital self-publication offers a great deal of flexibility and opportunity.

To begin, I feel like I need to reinforce one key idea here; digital publishing on your own is all about persistence and perhaps a bit of savvy.  Online publication options have changed the publishing landscape in a fundamental way.  Let’s begin with the assumption that you are a capable writer and you have a good story to tell.

What do you have to do in order to succeed now?  You have to be as good as you think you are.  An avenue for your work to be judged by the people who matter most is open to you however, the proof of your work has to stand on its own.  What I would like to do here is set forth the five things I believe are necessary for engaging the world of digital publishing and for helping your work to stand out as something exceptional.  It’s not a path I’ve mastered, like you I am an adventurer in this new untamed wilderness.  Like all other trailbreakers, our survival and success depends on learning from those who have gone before and by sharing the tools of our trade.

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“House of Cards” Now Available on Amazon!

I am happy to announce that the sequel to “Master of the House” is now available for purchase on Amazon.  Download a copy of ”House of Cards” here.

HoC Final CoverJulian’s Syndicate has made a name for itself in the vicious streets of Seaside. They have money, respect, and the favor of the criminal mastermind known as Turnbill.But the winds of change have begun to blow, and Julian’s house of cards is about to come crashing down around him.The rising fortunes of his organization have drawn the attention of Envy, an ancient incarnation of sin who is foretold to bring about the end times.

When Envy gives the people of Seaside a hero of her own making, Julian and his allies must find a way to thwart this false messiah from the shadows before the great City State unwittingly barters its soul for security.

 
You can find my previous book “Master of the House” on Amazon as well.  While they can both be read independently, you’ll only get the full picture of this story arc by reading both books.
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Cover Concepts: Visualizing a Theme

HoC-Rough-Draft-704x1024

If there is one thing I am guilty of in my writing (ok, there are quite a few, but one specifically that I take a small amount of pride in), it is my attempts to tie a number of individual stories into one powerful theme.  I feel that cover art should be the reader’s first opportunity to recognize that theme because quite contrary to popular opinion (and possibly contrary to good sense) we most certainly do judge a book by its cover.  So when I go about sketching my crude designs for a cover I know that not only does the art need to connect with the story, it has to tell the story with a single glance.

The cover for Master of the House essentially ends up being one of those portraits that wealthy families or corporations commission of their important people to denote success. It is a snapshot in time that says, “Look here.  We are powerful and we will be remembered.”  Master of the House is a hard luck story of people overcoming adversity and their own failings even as the world around them descends into very dark times.  The book itself ends with a warning about how bad things will be for them going forward.  In a sense, the cover art, the portrait of those characters is the high water mark for their success amid the criminal empire of Seaside.  It also hopefully begs the question of the reader as to how the guy in the suit gets to be the one with power when surrounded by such obviously dangerous individuals.

Now we come to the sequel, House of Cards and the dire warning left for things to come:

No one, could have foreseen how quickly the delicate house of cards we had built would fall apart.

We were set against a creature whose designs on the world included the death of a God.

We would not escape unscathed.

Now I edited that slightly to avoid any real chance for spoilers, but between that passage and the title of the book, the reader knows things are about to fall apart.  The over arching story and the saga in Seaside in particular use the progression of the Fool in Tarot readings for its symbolism in accordance with growth and struggle.  With that being the case and this book being about a massive reversal of fortunes, I devised a cover scheme that would mimic the traditional callings of the Wheel of Fortune cards in Tarot decks.

Let’s go ahead and look at the first draft layout sent to me by my artist Josh.

HoC Rough Draft

So, the first thing to keep in mind is that this is a draft (a damn good one, but still a draft).  A few things, like the center character image, are only place holders.  Likewise, the character in the lower right corner just ended up disturbing the composition of the piece and was later removed.  Let’s talk about the symbolism for a moment and the not so obvious things.

One thing that I like in particular here, is the complicated steam and gear mechanics in the background.  The technology of this world is rooted in steampunk concepts and tropes, but it is played subtly, as if it is just something to accept.  The steampunk stylings are not the core concept of this world, but because there are some major technological intrusions in this story, I felt that placing the hint of it all there to be seen after the fact was a nice touch.  Especially because the actual wheel of fortune in this instance is a gear.  When the significance of this is revealed late into the book, I think anyone who notices all this will get look back with one of those ‘ah ha’ type moments.

Fortune-JacksonNow, the Wheel of Fortune is the card or event that symbolizes a turning point, the rise and fall of people and forces via events beyond our control.  Depending on the time period, the artist, and the style; the card will always depict a few central characteristics.  A heavenly presence, a central figure in or controlling the wheel (usually Fortuna), and one person rising on the wheel while another falls.

Knowing that this is the story about how things fall apart, there are some ominous tidings already in the cover that an attentive reader will pick up on.  Envy is clearly at the center of the wheel, marking her influence on the events that have transpired or will transpire.  Worse yet, is that the heavenly figure is replaced by a dragon who looms over every thing below, both good and evil.  Yet still through it all, despite his haggard appearance, it is Julian who is rising on the wheel of fate, showing that while things are certainly not good, hope has not yet died.

Of course, that leaves the fate of the character on the other side of the wheel entirely in question.  Someone is falling from grace while Julian is rising out of the fires.  Blame has to fall somewhere for such an occurrence and when your villains are incarnations of sin…we can be sure that the heroes will be held responsible somehow.

tarot-art-nouveau-italiano_MLA-O-89844479_8856So what of style?  The last cover held a very detailed, very oil painting like quality that marked the pomp and circumstance of Julian’s Syndicate.  This cover will diverge from that significantly.  After carefully considering the options and discussing the matter with Josh, we agreed that an art nouveau style was the perfect way to implement the sweeping changes that the picture was to depict.  I’m told that unruly lines and curves denote this style and that fit perfectly into my desire to see a cover that was more or less out of control (and to color outside the lines).

This example of art nouveau to the left captures the colorful movement and lack of crisp boundaries that we’re moving towards with the cover for House of Cards.

Stepping away from the thematic now, I thought it might be fun to give a look into how or why characters look the way they do and the way in which the discussion with your cover artist can influence that look.  For this example, I’m going to use Envy as the character in question.  I like to start general with the description, hitting the important notes and then working from there.  So, this was my initial description of Envy:

EnvyShe should look enticing, sexy even.  My idea is for her to be in a slender green dress that accentuates everything, blonde hair with sharp elven features.

One thing that I really have to point out here, and something that Josh would probably note as well, Envy aside, I have purposely avoided selling these covers to the audience by sleazing up the female cast members.  I really can’t stand the books that sell their story through the image of a female knight baring a midriff or who wears thigh high boots sans pants.  Point being, when I purposely noted that this charcter was meant to be alluring, it is to accentuate the fact that she is a Deadly Sin.

What I got back in regards to Envy’s distinct look was varied and provided a great range of choices.  Let’s look at them now, starting with the ones least fitting and ending with the option I eventually chose.

Envy3e

Let’s call this the “coy tom-boy” look.  To me, this is a very specific kind of appeal that doesn’t exactly hit the legendary beauty or temptation mark.  She is also somewhat more aware and smug than I wanted to show here.  The eyes and expression show off a threat that the heroes might understand, but is too well defined in the context of the story for now.

Envy2d

Here we encounter the same issue as before.  She is too assured, too outwardly dangerous or smug.  The most dangerous thing about this villain is her ability to use your own failings against you.  It is difficult to think that the clever character in the book woudl not immediately recognize this kind of character as dangerous.  In my mind, this was the “Spider Queen” look, very suitable for other ideas, just not right for this one.

Envy1aThis picture here, which I think of as the “Vallejo” look, is a perfect example of how your own discussion or idea can go just a bit too far in one direction despite being exactly what you were looking for.  The larger image of Envy here is enticing and she has that classic fantasy beauty to her.  It’s a great image, but it is also not exactly what I was looking for.  She’s cold and distant despite being attractive.  That being said, I almost went with this one because I am certain that colored in pastels, it would look amazing…

Envy1c

A surprise runner up, yet completely out of contention, I love this “Wild Child” look.  It was not Envy.  I knew that as soon as I saw it, but at the same time, I knew that this look could and should be recaptured for some other characters, likely the Shadow Elves.  She’s not prisitine enough here and there’s too much nature in the hair and gentle eyes.  I would love to use this as a base for other elven characters, especially the heroic ones.  She’s just not evil enough for Envy.

Envy1bAnd now we arrive at the chosen entry to represent Envy on the cover of House of Cards.  This particular look at her really captures the essense of this complex villain and her venomous allure.

This example nails the classic beauty ideal head on.  The slight tilt of her head and focused eyes portray the idea that she is considering her subject but do not betray the dark intent behind those thoughts.  Further, there is an innocence displayed here that in my mind, differs from the previous example with the “Wild Child”.  The innocent glance here is almost practiced, purposeful even.  This is a woman who has learned to destroy people by suggesting it to them as a best course of action, not someone who has to compell or force her victims into ruin.  When I think of dangerous beauty, this is where it takes me.

Thanks for taking a look at the design process and thanks to Josh Beach for allowing me to use some of the draft material in the discussion.  I hope to preview the cover a little bit prior to the book’s release this month.

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One picture, a thousand words, and a few dollars (more?)

In preparing Master of the House for digital publishing, I am beginning to look at what a reasonable price for an e-book would be.  I figure that my potential audience for this sort of thing would be the best place to pose the question.

So, there are a few options for this and a few things to consider.

This particular book is done in two distinct parts.  As a consumer, would you rather…

  1. Pay a small amount, $3 to $5 for Part 1 and then later $5 to $7 for Part 2.
  2. Pay a set amount, like $5 to $6 per portion of the complete work.
  3. Pay upfront for the entire thing at $8-12.

Each option has its merits.

Option #1 allows you to explore the world and perhaps decide that this story is not for you at a low over all cost.  The higher price of Part 2 would compensate for that.

Option #2 allows the buyer to avoid feeling like they were put into a “gotcha” kind of situation.  You’re paying for what you get outright but you may pay a little bit more overall if you decide to stop after Part 1.

Option #3 is more the “support the artist”, “I liked the concept so I’m all in” kind of purchase.  You may end up saving a dollar or two in this instance.

Please leave comments and opinions below.  Thanks!

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Status Update

As of today, my second planned work has surpassed the 30% mark for completion.  I have a tentative title for this book:  Children of the New Potential.  That title may have to change because there’s a real chance it’s too long.  I don’t mind.  One thing that will not be too long is the actual length of this book.  After the initial difficulty I found in getting Master of the House to market, I have carefully plotted the length of my follow up work to ensure it is what those in the industry refer to as a “marketable length”.

I really only quote that because it seems to apply only to first time authors.

Soon enough I’m going to have to open up some new space on this site and begin outlining this new book in the same way that Master of the House is cross referenced.  Tomorrow will mark 21 days since I started working on this second book.  40,000 words in three weeks has left me very tired if I’m honest.  I did not even notice that my pace was moving along this quickly until my buddy told me not to burn myself out. (Hi Rob)

Gotta keep moving while I have the time to do so…

I will be posting a preview section of the new book tomorrow.

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120 Thousand Words or Bust

I never thought the problem facing me would be having too much content.

As I read more about the industry and what it takes to bring a book to market, I find that almost anything written over 120 thousand words is considered to be unmarketable.

With my first efforts coming in at twice that, I am left with some decisions to make.

The first option is to edit the book down, essentially cut it in half.  The second option is to split it into two different books.  The third and final option is to forgo the traditional publishing route and publish to the digital market.

If I’m honest about this and what I’ve written so far, the first option is right out.  The narrative works, the characters grow and are completely realized by the end of the work, and the story leaves nothing unfinished.  Gutting a considered work merely to bring it under an arbitrary standard will play out either by removing characterization or by requiring logic leaps on the part of the reader to get from one point to another.  I’ll have none of that.

Splitting the work down into two separate books is a viable option.  It’s not really the way I had planned for the story to unfold but it could be made to work.  Very close to the mid-point in Master of the House is a point of strong rising conflict and resolution that sets the stage for the final act.  With some reasonable editing and a slightly reworked ending to Chapter 9 of the book, I think this is a possibility.

Digital publishing is a topic I’ve discussed recently.  It’s an area of possibility that becomes more and more appealing the longer I look into these kinds of things.  Setting aside the “Is it good for your career” discussion, I feel that we’re on something of a digital frontier.  It seems that the time is right for embracing a new marketplace.  The way I look at it is like this…When was the last time you went to your home encyclopedias for information?  When was the last time you went to Wikipedia for the same information?  The digital realm  takes a lot of heat from older methods of doing things but when there’s a legitimate platform to work from, the field of possibility opens itself.  If I ever move towards digital publishing it will be to give myself more options, not as a means of retreat.

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Digital Publishing?

One question that has begun to turn over in my mind s that of whether or not to publish in a digital format prior to traditional publishing.

This is something that I can do right now.  My first book is completed and ready to go.  I suppose I need to pull some cover art together if I decide to go this route, but I could have it ready in a matter or two or three weeks.

For those that don’t know, there’s been a stigma associated with any form of self-publishing in the past.  It can prevent an agent or publisher from picking you up later.

Or so I’ve heard.

But there’s a growing number of other voices saying that time has passed.  Publishers have evolved and accepted the digital market and that it’s not a problem any more.  I am going to simply need to make a call on this one day.  Right now, I’m leaning towards putting the book up on Amazon.

I have no doubt at all about the narrative or the prose of the book.  It’s good.  The issue is possibly the length.  At 250k works, it’s twice as long as what I understand publishers will take on for a first time author.  I’d roll my eyes at this, but I have no idea about the validity of such claims.  When I sat down to write the book, I just wrote.  I took the space necessary to tell the story.  There’s not a lot of fluff or cut-able content before you can begin punching holes in the plot.

Digital publishing offers me the opportunity to put the book out there without the over-head costs.  I’ve even considered putting it in the market in two parts.  There’s a very good point at which the book could be split.  It’s a lot to consider honestly.

With so much being made of creating a platform for your work and building a reader base, I can’t help but see the digital publishing format as an option I may look a little more carefully at.

That leaves the question for anyone reading this, what is the break point in terms of cost that you will or will not spend on a digital book?

How many of you even have eReaders or tablet PCs?

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