Tag Archives: science fiction

What’s A Book Without A Cover by D.H. Aire

 

jerusalem-556069_640

I was a closet sci-fi and fantasy writer for over twenty years. I stopped submitting stories in my twenties. The rejections were just too painful. But as the years went by, I couldn’t stop writing and I felt I was too old to care about rejections.

So my success in getting my first novel published caught me by surprise. It’s nice to have a publisher, who hires a cover artist and, if you’re lucky, seeks your approval of the cover. What do you do if you decide to self-publish and your book needs a cover?

My learning experience went something like this: my first book’s publisher asked me for a few sample cover ideas and sample back cover text. The cover that was created was lovely. The next book I published in the series was with a different small press, who asked me if there was a cover artist I’d like to work with.

At that point, I had been going to sci-fi conventions regularly. That helped me network, and a friend graciously sent out an email to three cover artists they knew, one of whom was available. The process at that point was similar. I provided several cover ideas, back cover text, and my book ended up with what I considered to be an excellent cover. The problem was, the looks were dissimilar. In other words, I didn’t feel they “branded” well. I next self-published the next two books in the same series, using the same artist and now had three novels with covers of a similar style. At that point, the sales of the series shot up and it happened to be when my contract was coming up for renewal with my first publisher.

As part of the renewal agreement, I negotiated for my cover artist to re-envision my first cover for the second printing. The publisher and I have been very pleased with the result, which effectively brands the entire series.

Now, I’ve launched a new series, which I was looking to have a signature look. So, I was interested in finding another artist. I tried the networking approach, but the search was not bearing fruit. That’s when I did an online search and checked out 99Designs (an online cover art service). They offer a contest approach. I thought that’s what I was going to do until I spoke with someone who had done a contest for a logo through 99Designs. That contest took up a week of my friend’s life. So, I checked out elance.com, which is now Upwork.com.

I was very specific about my project’s requirements, including my vision for the cover, who my intended market was, text for my cover, back cover text, etc. I posted my cover art project and let people bid. I could check out their portfolios or websites for examples of their work. I had four or five artists who looked like they might be a match.

I selected a European artist, whose price was in keeping with what I have been paying for my covers and her website portfolio was, well, spectacular. Her portfolio offered solid fantasy elements, which was important for my urban fantasy cover. I also was looking for someone who had a good command of English, since I wanted to prevent any misunderstandings about my project. Payment through the site is generally done through an escrow approach. The site takes a cut as the broker (Elance took 9%, Upwork offered to maintain that deal for those who transferred as part of the Elance takeover). Those seeking to freelance often also offer hourly rates for work, too. The site’s service offerings are broad, ranging beyond graphic arts and website design to bookkeeping and other freelance services.

I recently completed the process and I have received just the cover I was hoping for.

The process took a lot of give and take. I also showed the cover to members of my author group on Facebook to get their input and advice. I sought advice from colleagues at work, who told me what they liked and didn’t like, too, which the artist was more than happy to correct. Additionally, when I was trying to figure if the book would look better with the title at the bottom rather than the top, I went to Amazon and checked out other books in the genre to she which look I liked best.

The paperback cover took over a week to get “just right.” But my cover artist showed she’s a professional. I gave her latitude to show me options of what she thought could make the cover better. The point is to get readers to gravitate to my book. I hope they will… and I know that covers and books also change over time, so if it doesn’t “work,” one day I can change it for another edition.

I have spoken with authors over the last few years who have spent more than what I typically spend for cover art. Then again, I know authors who spend far less, cropping photos to create a great and inexpensive cover. Just know, if and when you need a cover artist, there are truly talented people all over the world who will love working with you to bring your book through their art to life.

Seeing my characters there on the cover, that glimpse into my story on an entirely different level is difficult for me to describe. The book, which I will all too soon hold in my hands, featuring those characters who are like family, will hopefully, just hopefully, invite readers who will soon become their friends, too.

***

 

D. H. Aire has walked the ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem and through an escape tunnel of a Crusader fortress that Richard the Lionheart once called home. He’s toured archeological sites that were hundreds, if not thousands of years old… experiences that have found expression in his epic fantasy series with a science fiction twist, Highmage’s Plight and new Hands of the Highmage Series. The seventh and concluding book of his Highmage’s Plight Series, Paradox Lost is being released in 2017.

An Author of eleven fantasy and science fiction novels, including those in the urban fantasy Dare 2 Believe Series and the space opera Terran Catalyst Series, Aire’s short stories appear in a number of anthologies, including in Street Magick: Tales of Urban Fantasy. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Aire resides in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

This article originally appeared at dare2believe.

 

#CHWG Podcast – The Writer’s Platform with Wendy Van Camp

CHWG-podcast (blog)

Writers need a platform to reach their audience. Don’t know where to begin? Podcast #6 of the CHWG Podcast with Wendy Van Camp discusses it. Plus Scifaiku (Science Fiction Haiku). Hosted by J Bryan Jones. Available on YouTube, iTunes, and CHWritersGroup.org now!

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Find Wendy Van Camp
https://nowastedink.com/
Twitter: @wvancamp

Find J Bryan Jones
facebook.com/JBryanJonesWriter
Twitter: @JBryanJones

Generating Science Fiction Stories

Filofax and Notebooks

The act of creativity has been a subject that fascinates me. I have always been a creative woman, I can not stop creating things any more than I can stop breathing. It is a major part of my life and shapes who I am. When the desire to write burst within me in 2010, a single character demanded that I start to write his story. More characters in the story followed and together all these people have become a steampunk science fiction series that I will one day publish. Yet, a single series does not an author make. From time to time, I have been asked to contribute a story to an anthology or a magazine and I found myself frozen, unable to write a word or meet a deadline. I was forced to let these opportunities go without submitting a single word.

Outline The Problem

I became determined to overcome my science fiction writer’s block. While I have published memoir shorts and a regency romance, I consider myself to be a science fiction and fantasy author. I am well versed in the genre having read most of the classics from Robert A. Heinlein, Issac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke, to a range of women science fiction authors such as Vonda McIntyre, Andre Norton, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. This has allowed me to become familiar with the genre tropes and style of the “golden age” of the 1950s and 1960s when science fiction gained its footing in popular culture. Yet, how to generate science fiction ideas for myself eluded me.

My first thought to solve the problem was to listen to other authors in the genre and get an idea of how they developed their ideas. I attended convention panels with Vernon Vinge, Todd McCaffery, Greg Benford, David Brin and other famous authors to glean how they came up with material that gained them Hugo and Nebula awards. Over time, I realized that each of these authors had a system to store ideas for themselves related to science fiction. Every author had a different way of obtaining these core ideas. Some had buddies who worked at JPL or NASA, others were scientists themselves with years of training in their chosen field. They attended science conferences or read journals about the world of technology today, took these raw facts and concepts, pushing the ideas into the future and giving it a literary twist.

The Past Through Tomorrow

Being a collector of fountain pens and notebooks, I had read how people in the past had kept journals known as “commonplace books”. This was a compilation of ideas and information that the author thought relevant. It was popular with the thinkers of 15th century England and eventually became a scholarly tool adopted by major universities. I liked the concept of the commonplace book and wondered if I could apply it to my science fiction idea generating problem.

To find the basic facts to form ideas from, I signed up for free science journals on a variety of subjects. I joined science fiction clubs and listened to what concepts intrigued the readers.

My paper notebook failed.

There is such a barrage of information in the journals, many fields are expanding their knowledge at speeds that make it difficult to keep up with, that copying the information by hand became overwhelming. I switched to using Evernote and set up folders where I could cut and paste various science-based articles that I thought might have a possible idea to base a story on. Using this collation method proved to be easier to maintain and slowly, I began to have folders of possible science-based​ concepts to write about.

Sharpening The Tools

Although I was generating facts to draw on, I was still having trouble generating science fiction stories except for my Opus Magnus. An author friend of mine suggested that instead of writing short stories, I should try poetry. The form was short and wouldn’t take up as much time to write. I had also taken an online writing course put out by the University of Iowa where one of the lessons said that to practice scene building, try writing haiku first. Haiku was about describing a single moment in time, which are the building blocks of stories.

This is where my love of Scifaiku was born. The poems are only three lines long and I can do them in batches. I would start with facts from my commonplace folders in Evernote and then apply an emotion, setting and time to them. It worked. I began to assemble science fiction poems and much to my surprise, people seemed to like them.

In September of 2015, one of my online writing communities held a writing challenge. Write one flash fiction story a day for the entire month. If I did the challenge to the end, I would have thirty flash fictions to show for it. I decided to try. I would focus all my creative energy on writing science fiction or fantasy and see where it led me. As it turned out, writing with a group of authors gave me the support I needed to complete the challenge. Not all the stories I wrote are good enough to submit, but a number of them were good enough to either send out as a flash fiction or to expand into a longer and better story in the future.

I have followed up with doing two more challenges in 2016. For the first time, I have a backlog of science fiction and fantasy stories to draw on. What is more, I seem to be able to create new characters and plots without the strain that I used to feel. This practice has sharpened my skillset.

Last Word

Today, short stories and poetry come to me more easily. I have established a method of generating science fiction stories that works for me. As time passes, my files grow richer with more science-based concepts to draw from. I hope that by outlining my creative process this gives you ideas on how to be more creative in your own writing.

Author Interview: Murray Lindsay

Murray Lindsay is an indy author from Canada.  He writes science fiction with a wild west twist.  Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

murray lindsayMy name is Murray Lindsay and I’m a proud flatlander. Really. Born and raised on the rolling prairies of Saskatchewan, no matter where I have travelled or how long I lived elsewhere, I have returned with relief. My most recent return met with even greater-than-usual revitalization as I met the woman of my dreams and we have recently moved into the perfect (no, really) house.

My mother (a teacher) taught me to read well before school started. What I read is down to my father and grandfather (Mom’s dad). I grew up devouring a back library of Astounding, Analog and hundreds of SF&F books. I recall being confused when visiting other little chums and asking “Where are your books?” and they’d point to a couple on a coffee table.

I am a graphic artist and illustrator by lifelong trade, sometimes in a shop, currently freelancing out my home. Writing has always been fun. Being an author is heady stuff.

When and why did you begin writing?

From pre-school onwards. My parents kept my childhood doodles and explained the tales I made up to go with the drawings. Why? I can only refer to the fact many kids start out drawing and telling stories. The mystery is rather why a scant few of us keep on going while our peers dump their creativity. I have no answer. Perhaps growing up in a house full of books kept my imagination alive.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I’ve considered myself a writer my entire life. I won’t claim to have always been a good writer, but I wrote. I usually received the accolades of high school English teachers. I wrote a piece of fiction for a final essay in my university class on the History of Ancient Greece. I’ve always loved penning letters, trying to make them fun and informative for the recipient. I’ve Game Mastered hundreds of hours of roleplaying games, which were all set on a world of my own creation. The saga has many stanzas.

Only with the publication of “Home on the Strange” did I dare to call myself an “author”.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

“Home on the Strange” is my first published novel. I have this month finished a fully science fiction adventure with the working title “Patient Zero”, involving a take on “where are the aliens?” question that puzzles scientists and nerds alike. Next on the list is to get back to the next “Brewster & Brewster Adventure”. I fancy the twins will have a trilogy before I’m done.

What inspired you to write this book?

I unexpectedly became filled with the urge to write a Western. I wanted to slap a saddle on a horse and go like stink.

After I realized this loco idea was not going away, I started to think on the matter. I found no desire to travel the very well-worn trails of the American Wild West. Which sent me north to the days of the Canadian frontier. The Canadian west was not too “wild”. I did not fancy fancy-stepping around historical events trying to generate an adventure.

The my first love of SF&F came to the rescue. Off to parallel Earths and divergent histories! A wild west in another Earth’s 21st century!

Do you have a specific writing style?

Energetic and adventurous with humour layered in for seasoning. My fans, friends and family flatter me by agreeing I have a “sparkling way with words” and that my dialogue is pretty snappy.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

The final result is a western with a hefty dollop of oddness and SF poured over it. “Home on the Range” became “Home on the Strange”. I web searched and couldn’t find but a couple of books with that title, and nowhere near the part of the book store I’d be in. Feeling it too good to be true, I added “A Brewster & Brewster Adventure” to guarantee avoiding infringements. Not only that, but it gives a vintage ring that suggests sequels.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Honesty being the best policy, I have to say “no”. It’s a tall tale, some far-fetched fiction, a rootin’-tootin’ race for life and limb across the western Canadian prairie. I’m told it’s a fun ride. That being said, there is a definite undercurrent praising loyalty, friendship, blood-is-thicker-than-water and such values.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find
inspiring?

I’d rank perhaps my major influence as Keith Laumer. An underrated, I feel, SF writer of the 1960’s. Life and death challenges abound, but the hero still slips in a wry observation or sarcastic witticism. I think that blend of comedy and crisis results in an excellent creation for the simple reason it mimics life. And what that guy could do with a simile!

After him there ranks a legion. Jerome K. Jerome, Damon Runyon, Poul Anderson, Glenn Cook, and etc.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I can’t claim any literal mentors, other than perhaps the members of my writing groups. Some of those wonderful folk are a couple of spaces further along on this game board than I. But, all their advice and comments have been so useful at assorted times that it’s impossible to single one out.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

In point of fact, I did all the illustrations (cover and inside), design and layout. “Graphic artist” is my day job, you see. I cut myself a helluva deal in negotiating the fees. Used  those skills to lay out and create a proper ePub edition as well.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

For writers, I’ll say my greatest epiphany was when realized that many “Writing Rules” are a matter of taste. It was like seeing parents argue when two favourite authors gave totally contradictory “Rules”. I advise reading many many “How To” books and sources to get a sense of the actual foundation principles. Then pick three of those gurus and follow their teachings. (Of course, I mean award winning, well-regarded, have sold a bushel of books, gurus).

For those going the full publishing route: I feel great sympathy and embarrassment for authors who can not or will not use a professional artist for their covers. Land and sky, but there’s a multitude of wretched covers out there. My advice: if you have no access to a professional, then you should keep the cover as simple as possible.

Don’t think of a basic cover of essentially fonts and colour to be “boring”. It is “neutral”. Better the reader starts Page 1 in a neutral frame of mind than the mocking, sour sneer an amateur cover engenders.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

For my book, and any author’s work, I ask “Tell your friends”. One honest opinion-review from a buddy is easily equal to a hundred “thumbs up” from strangers. And they tell two people and they tell two people…

BnB digital coverMurray Lindsay
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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Sonnet: Cassandra

Cassandra (blog)

Cassandra

In the morning your ship will be sailing
Prepared by your father to whisk you safe
Watch the silicone city understanding
As the people flee the enemy in haste

Now that the last bloody day is dawning
You suffer your secrets within your heart
For none would listen to words of warning
O Cassandra, it is time to depart

Into the fair skies you rocket up
Away from the death you have forseen
In orbit, solar sails prepare to cup
waves of photon energy by machine

Sorry Cassandra, we did not believe
We only saw it as dreams you would weave

Sonnet by Wendy Van Camp
Illustration by Wendy Van Camp

I am known for my scifaiku poetry, but I’ve been experimenting with longer poetry forms lately.  The sonnet is a classic poetry form.