Category Archives: Shieldclads series

Cover Reveal: The Merrimack Event

Okay, so I’m behind on my “Ravencon Panels (I DID do)” series.  I get it.  Maybe I’ll be able to get back to that, soon (hopefully I’ll finish the Ravencon Panels series before my next convention.  Heh).  But, in the meantime, I’ve got something else to discuss:

Today’s blog post is to announce that I FINALLY HAVE A (BLEEP)ING COVER FOR THE MERRIMACK EVENT!

The cover artist mentioned in my last blog post, Joel Christopher Payne, came through for me, providing me with the fantastic piece you see above.

This means that I can finally finish building the book and release it.  Now, I had an outside hope of getting that done by today (which would have made this blog post an announcement that the eBook, at least, had been released, and not merely a cover reveal), but between thunderstorms, a convention I’m scheduled to guest at asking me to pick the panels I want to be on (this will be the subject of its own blog post in a couple weeks; I’m finally listed on their web page), and a few other odds and ends, I haven’t had any time to work on it since I got the cover.  I should be able to get to work on it by tomorrow.  My next Sunday Blog Post (which I’m hoping will be next weekend, but shouldn’t be more than the weekend after that even in a worst case scenario) should be to announce said book release.

I have one last decision to make on the book, however.  Do I make it a wide release, as I have all my other books to date, or do I experiment with a Kindle Select listing (which requires Amazon exclusivity)?  I’m leaning towards setting it up for one round as an Amazon exclusive, just to see what the service is like from the inside (as opposed to my more vicarious observations of other authors’ experiences), but it seems every time I’m about to release a book, I start hearing of bad things happening with Kindle Select.  (Note:  This decision will have NO impact on the print edition, for those five or six of you who prefer to buy my print books).  Regardless of what I decide, it will ONLY be for the one 90 day period, and then (if I haven’t already) I will open it up to the wider release.

Stay tuned.  The book release will be coming here, soon.

So, About that Merrimack Event Cover Art…

I wasn’t planning to do a blog this week, but some news came in that I had to share…

As I said in my last blog (and have talked about on Facebook a time or three over the past couple weeks), I’ve finally found a cover artist for The Merrimack Event. If things go according to plan, the book will FINALLY go out the door once that art is completed. The artist says he’ll get it back to me in August or September, so… soonish?

The artist I hired is not a career cover designer.  Technically, I suppose that applies to all of the artists I’ve hired for covers; even though they’ve all had past experience designing book covers (one of which is on retainer to a small press as their official cover designer), cover design is not their specialty.  In the past, I’ve worked with student artists (for concept designs, not covers), webcomic artists, and an illustrator, but none of them have primarily worked in cover art.  This guy follows that trend, it seems.

So, if you want to be technical, the artist I hired isn’t a cover artist.  But let me tell you what he is:

He started his artistic career at age 20, doing concept art for the Heroes of Might and Magic franchise.

He has been working for Disney since 1996.

He was named a Corel Painter Master in 2016.

He’s done background art for several video games, including some entries of the Mortal Kombat, Silent Hill, and Baldur’s Gate franchises.

He’s worked extensively on the animated Starship Troopers: Roughnecks series.

Oh, and he’s done some artwork for a small franchise — not sure if you know it — called Star Wars.

Now, I’m not sure if you’ll recognize the name of Joel Christopher Payne right away, and “cover artist” hasn’t yet shown up on that list (though he assures me he has done book covers, before), but I think his resumé is good enough to do the cover for The Merrimack Event.  What do you think?

A Few Things to Tide You Over….

Things have just been too busy for my next “Ravencon Panels (I actually DID do)” to be ready even by next week, and I’m over a week late already, so I figured I’d post something a little less labour-intensive to tide any regular readers of this blog over.  I need a longer block of time for those series posts, but I can block out five or ten minutes of time here and there to work on the blog.  If I manage that, I bet I can cover a potpourri of topics that wind up being longer than my average blog series post.

I. To start with, I may have FINALLY found a cover artist for The Merrimack Event.  He gave me some homework to do, first (which has partly been why I’ve been too busy for the blog, lately), but that’s finally complete and things are moving forward. Getting him has been a bit of a coup, given his pedigree. I’m still waiting on some paperwork to be completed before I announce just who it is, however.

II.  I’ve been seeing a lot of odd writer’s or sci-fi\fantasy focused events, lately. Things like An Evening With Neil Gaiman at the Wolf Trap Theater (I was hoping to attend this, but as of when I’m typing this, it doesn’t look like I’ll make it), Dune: The Ballet (seriously? This really exists?), a comicon-style cosplay event at a local bar (which was last week, which is why I haven’t included a link; I missed it), and a Harry Potter for Night for Adults from our local library (we’ll see if I do that).  No real point here — just an observation.

III.  Something that nearly inspired another part in my Weird Research blog post series:  I saw an ad for a booklet, 10 B.S. Medical Tropes that Need to Die TODAY,  on Facebook.  It was free at the time (regularly $0.99), so I picked it up.  It was very informative, and quite useful for certain genre, but it didn’t address my main concern with medicine in stories:  Useful medical treatment in a fantasy setting.  So, if that’s what you’re looking for, I’ve been able to pull a lot of medical research from the following sources:

For medication, I found an easy-to-understand compilation of modern-science studies on the effectiveness of herbs, botanicals, and similar products thanks to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

For surgery or other medical treatment… I suggest that you read the sports pages regularly.  Search through them long enough and you’ll find a lot of discussion of treatments, healing rates, and the long-term effects of various injuries, and it’s all in layman’s terms — you don’t need to learn too much jargon to figure it out.  Of course, if you want something more in-depth, I still note that when it comes to broken bones, separated shoulders, muscle tears, and (increasingly) concussions, it’s the field of sports medicine that is generating the most studies.

IV.  I rarely talk about my novelette, To the Rink of War.  It’s been a big disappointment for me — I originally intended for it to be a series of connected shorts (the first of which being the one I released) that would expand into a larger universe, which I would then start opening up for a multi-author shared-universe anthology.  I have Part I published, and in rough form I also have parts III and IV complete (in need of editing), with V mostly finished and II… well part II needed a complete re-write, but I figured I could get that done well before I was projecting its release.

But that, obviously, never happened.  The initial release of To the Rink of War was disappointing — I had no budget for a cover, and what I was able to cobble together without a budget was underwhelming; it was very short, but at the time of the release the lowest price I could set for it on Amazon ($0.99) was the most popular price point for much larger self-published novels (while that price point still exists, I’ve noticed fewer and fewer indie writers charging that low), so it was no bargain.  And it’s been a while since I published, but I seem to recall I managed to (unintentionally) time its release to the lowest-selling week of the year for me (and several other indie writers of my acquaintance).

The failure taught me several lessons, but I was saddened.  I was really invested in that world.  It had the development of a new sport, Microgravity Hockey.  It had interesting characters (and I do mean characters) like Emperor Norton II (yes, based on the guy I linked to), who may not be quite as crazy as he is letting you believe.  It had a mining asteroid colony setting (sort of like the popular Expanse series, but I like my stories a little less dreary than that).  On the other hand, it was kind of labor intensive to write, requiring me to do things like plot a course between asteroids using Celestia, and then using math in ways I haven’t since my high school days to figure out the actual travel times between the asteroids my characters were inhabiting.

The horrifically poor sales and math-heavy worldbuilding weren’t the only things working against its sequel.  My release schedule was utterly wrecked when first The Kitsune Stratagem was released late, and then The Merrimack Event’s initial “development hell” moment pushed back several of my other books (a small part of the long delay between In Treachery Forged and In Forgery Divided can be attributed to my attempts to get this… situation, if you will, resolved).  Re-writing Part II for a story with such horrifically anemic sales as the Rink of War had seemed like a waste of time better put into getting the rest of my books out there.  It worked fine as a stand-alone (it was initially conceived as such), so if I never got out part II it would be fine.

Lately, though, I’ve been giving thought to reviving the story, revamping Part I and re-tooling parts II-V so that I wound up with something more resembling a novel.  Still thinking of exactly how to do that, but depending how things go with The Merrimack Event’s eventual release (please, let me FINALLY get that thing out the door!) and the completion of In Division Imperiled (Book III of the Law of Swords series) I might be able to find time to look into that some more.  Though I also want to get By Claw and Arrow (the sequel to The Kitsune Stratagem) started, soon, so… we’ll see how things go.

V.  Speaking of In Division Imperiled, I’m thinking of returning its title to “In Division Deceived.”  Or maybe even changing that third word to something else altogether.  For those who weren’t here, or don’t remember the story, the Law of Swords series was conceived as a five book series.  In my efforts to better position my book for a Trad-Pub contract, I revised the outline to make it a four book series.  The title change was a result of the outline change, blending the title of book III and IV together.  Well, now that I’m self-publishing, I’m back to a 5-book outline.

But the outline has also changed significantly, as well, and the titles of the remaining books no longer fit the storylines explored as well as they had under the original outline.  At this point, the only thing I am certain of is that book three will have a three word title beginning with “In Division.”  I’ll see how the final word of the title fits once I’m done writing the darned thing.

VI.  My local library may or may not be hosting an event for local authors in October.  I may or may not be interested in attending, or even participating.  But the library is giving so little information about it (other than that it might be what they’re having this year as a substitute for Indie Author Day) that I have no idea what, exactly, the event is.  Or rather, they’re giving me the when, the where, the who, the how, but not the what or the why.  I may or may not revisit this topic once I know more.  You may or may not be interested.

VII.  I went from binge-watching the Guy Williams-led Zorro (1957) to binge-watching the Richard Greene-led Robin Hood (1955) to binge-watching the Raymond Burr-led Perry Mason (1957).  All of these shows were some I had seen before.  All of these shows were made well before I was born.  Somehow, however, I enjoy re-watching these shows a lot more than the bulk of my more modern favorites.  I don’t know if that’s from a subconscious bias towards the “classics,” or if the TV storytelling of the era just fits my interests more.  Something to ponder.

VIII. The point of a multi-author anthology like Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders is to introduce the existing audiences of each of the contributing writers to the works of all of the other writers.  I don’t know how successful that has been, so far.  On the other hand, it’s also the sort of thing that might have more long-term marketing effects.  Now, any time any of the writers in the anthology have a new release, that author’s new readers — exploring the writer’s other works — will see, and may purchase, the anthology… and be introduced to us other authors, as well.  It would help encourage those introductions, though, if the book had more reviews, so if any of my regular readers are willing to review that book it would be quite helpful.  (mentioning my story in the review would be nice, too)

IX.  I will need to update all of my Kindle eBooks, soon.  Apparently, something was changed in how Kindle interprets eBook files, so most of my scene separations are gone.  I’ll be introducing fleurons to restore those separations, so I’m open to making minor revisions in the files.  If anyone knows of or has found any typos in my books, lately, now is the time to let me know so I can make corrections.

X.  I may have mentioned this a few weeks ago, but I received an invite to be a guest at another convention (I haven’t announced which one, yet, and it feels like such an announcement deserves more prominent placement than as the tenth item of this slot).  I keep hoping for my name to appear on that convention’s website before saying anything, but it hasn’t yet.  It didn’t for the Ravencon convention I was a guest at earlier this year, either, until a couple months after I got the invite.  I guess this is a standard practice?

XI.  (written several days after topic VI, above, but not related to it) My local library had a “minicon” yesterday (Saturday).  It might have been an event that I would have been interested in, but I only found out about it after it was long over.  I keep myself tuned in to the library’s social media pages as much as is reasonable, but this isn’t the first time I’ve missed an event I might have serious interest in; in fact, I’d say it’s the tenth or eleventh… this year.  I wouldn’t even know about the October event from topic VI if I hadn’t queried them about Indie Author Day.  I’ve frequently found my library to be very supportive, but I really have to wonder what I need to do to be kept informed about their events.

XII.  As someone else said they had in the comments section of this article (which inspired this part of the post), I “broke my teeth” in writing with fanfiction.  I stopped posting fanfiction in 2005, but I didn’t entirely stop writing it.  I posted an update to one of my fanfics shortly after publishing my first book, trying to encourage my fanfic audience to seek my professional fiction, but that proved too ineffective to resume my fanfic career (even as a marketing gimmick for my professional fiction).

But I do have quite a bit of fanfiction stored… well, somewhere in my hard drive.  None of it is edited (not all that significant; my fanfiction rarely, if ever, got anything more than a spellcheck in the first place.  I was creating fanfics as a writing exercise, not as an editing exercise, and I never had enough constructive feedback to make effective revisions anyway).  Few, if any of them are finished.  But still, I probably have hundreds of thousands of words worth of various unposted fanfics just sitting there, gathering dust.

That article had me thinking back to those unfinished, long forgotten fanfics, and wondering if I should do something with them.  I considered “filing the serial numbers” off a few of them to try and make them publishable, but I believe my fanfics are too tightly wound into the original source for that to work.  It wouldn’t take much time for me to upload them to fanfiction.net and put them out there for people to read, but I have no intention of finishing any of them, and that might annoy people.

Still thinking about it all.

XIII.  Still undecided about what to do with my old convention calendar.  I thought writers and fans might find it a valuable resource, but it gets little traffic and almost no-one says anything about it.  It takes a great deal of effort to update and maintain, so if no-one’s using it there doesn’t seem to be any point.  Ah, well.

XIV.  And it’s time to post.  Hope you found something here to interest you….

Ravencon Panels (I DID do): Why I DIDN’T Get a Book Launched

This was supposed to be a post on my first Ravencon Panel, “Swords Not Required.”  Those panel posts are going to be very long, however, and for various reasons this was a short week for me.  So, I figured I’d explain some things I didn’t get around to in last weeks post.

I mentioned during most of my panels that I would have had another book (a sci-fi novel) out, but I had to reject the cover art a month ago and therefore it was delayed.  That was… uh, not the full story (to put it mildly), but there was too much to discuss when just introducing myself.  But I can expound on it here, without restriction.

While I did not ask the convention for a book launch space, back around January I was hoping to launch a book at Ravencon.  That book was the long-delayed The Merrimack Event, which I’ve been talking about on this blog for years (literally).  It is a novel that’s actually older than my first-released novel (In Treachery Forged) but has been in the self-publishing version of development hell since before I filed the DBA for Fennec Fox Press.

I approached an editor for it; I checked him out, found I liked his style, negotiated a price for his service, and… he disappeared before signing the contract we’d agreed to.  Vanished off the internet, never responded to any more e-mails, etc.  I hadn’t paid him, nor had he seen the full manuscript, so it’s not like he was stealing from me… he just, well, vanished.

I like having different editors and cover artists for each novel series; I’d not had the time to investigate new editors, and every cover artist I queried with this book in mind (just to see if they were available, not even yet mentioning the project) never gave me any reply at all.

But around January, things were looking up.  It may have been piecemeal using beta readers, it may have been done in fits and starts, it may have partially been edited through a self-editing procedure I would normally never do because it was too labor intensive, but The Merrimack Event had reached a level of “edited” that I felt it was acceptable for release.  There were some minor tweaks that still needed to be done before the book could be built, but those tweaks were the equivalent of running a last spellcheck and fixing a few minor inconsistencies brought about through all the various edits.  The book could be released within days… if I could get cover art.

Then my budget was hit after I broke a tooth (or rather re-broke a tooth that had previously been repaired), and the money for the cover art went away.  I could pull the money from somewhere else, but that would slow one of my other projects.  However!  I had an option.  A professional artist was willing to do the cover for free (well, sort of; no money was to change hands, anyway).  Book covers weren’t their usual medium, but I’ve had success using artists who didn’t specialize in covers in the past.  So I said yes.

Unfortunately, come the start of April, their cover proposal showed up and was unacceptable.  It wasn’t completely hopeless, but you could tell this wasn’t the artist’s usual medium.  I tried working with the artist to maybe get it revised into something acceptable.  While things were getting closer and closer, I could tell the artist was getting frustrated.  I was struggling to get them to make the right changes (I am not an artist, myself; I have enough of an eye that I could see a problem, but I wasn’t sure how to explain that problem so that the artist would understand what I wanted).  I was taking more and more of their time away from the art projects they usually did.  Finally, I decided enough was enough; I pulled the plug and rejected the cover completely.

That’s not the end of the story, though.  There was still a month before the convention.  Both my mother (a professional quilt artist) AND my brother (who, for his first few years of college, studied mechanical design) decided they would make a go at trying to put something together; I might not have been able to get the print book out at that point, but if I could get an acceptable cover by the 25th I could submit the eBook and it would be for sale by the start of the convention.  Both of the cover proposals I received from them had possibilities, but both would need work… just like the first cover option did.  I didn’t want to go through all that again, so I just said “no” to both covers.  I’ve re-established a budget.  I’ll be hiring a professional cover artist… IF I can ever get one to reply to my e-mails, and then the book will (FINALLY) be out.

Incidentally, I had other observations from Ravencon which didn’t fit into last weeks recap:

  1.  I had produced some swag, but most of the other authors had much more than me.
  2. I did not ask for any book signing or reading times (during which an author can sell their book), nor did I rent a table in author alley to sell my books from, but maybe I should have (though I might need to replace my phone to something that will allow the use of a credit card reader, first).
  3. I was a little worried that I didn’t have the ‘pedigree’ to be a guest, but there were a number of guests at Ravencon who had the same sort of writing portfolio I had.
  4. Apparently, the end of April is the wrong time of the year for me to go down to Williamsburg; I have a lot of family in the area, but none of them were able to see me while I was there due to scheduling conflicts.  I like Ravencon, and plan to return, but maybe I should look into other conventions the area as well.
  5. I still need a name for my mascot fennec fox (stuffed animal).  Fortunately, no-one asked me what his name was when I was wearing him on my badge lanyard all weekend.

And… well, that’s it.  I’ll get that first “panel” page out next week, hopefully.  Until then….

Keeping Up With the Joneses…

I am sure people here recall me mentioning “The Merrimack Event” on this blog on occasion. Maybe not — I only bring it up every third or fourth blog post. Some day in the not-so-distant future (as in, between now and Ravencon), I hope to get this book out there.  But it is still in the “needs work” category.

The thing is, “The Merrimack Event” is old.  It’s actually older than In Treachery Forged (well, sort of; I started The Merrimack Event first, then wrote most of In Treachery Forged, then finished The Merrimack Event, then finished In Treachery Forged).

When I decided to turn to self-publishing, I sat back and evaluated everything I’d ever written, seperating it into several categories.  There was the stuff that just needed a polish before it was ready (sadly not that much; there was In Treachery Forged, which was the first book in a novel series, and the Rink of War, which was the only “ready” story one out of a much larger collection of novettes, novellas, and short stories taking place in a shared universe, and Voices — a very short story (just barely above “flash fiction” length) which I still need to find a place for), stories that were looking good but weren’t finished yet (the novel now published and entitled The Kitsune Stratagem, plus a few other things which I’m not discussing yet as I still haven’t worked on them since), and a depressingly long list of things I rejected as unpublishable.

(Yes, that’s right — as a self-publisher, you have to learn to reject your own manuscripts if they aren’t good enough).

Most of the rejections were short stories, barely begun unfinished works, and the like, but there were at least three works which, while not necessarily finished, had already reached full novel length.  The first was a historical fiction entitled “The Little Ring-Giver” about a barbarian mercenary hired by Rome to fight against Attila the Hun; it ended tragically (the hero is killed before the end, so his lover disguises herself and plots to marry Attila and murder him on their wedding night).  It… well, let’s just say it had a silly plot, overly purple prose, and a poor grasp of the “historical” aspects of historical fiction.  The second was a prequel to Oedipus Rex (I may have mentioned this here, before — in High School, I was required to read this play several times; when I was forced to read it one too many times in College, in an act of self defense I decided to do something to make it (a) more interesting and (b) to make sense of Oedipus’ punishment (if it were modern times, I think he could argue the situation the Greek Gods put him in was entrapment of the worst kind).  The problem with this one was I couldn’t decide whether it should be prose or script, and wound up with an awful amalgam of both.  The third novel-length manuscript of my own I rejected was another historical fiction; a highly improbable bit of Naval combat during the Napoleanic wars.  I actually might still write a novel with the same premise of this one, some day, but just about everything else from this book (bad research, bad dialog, purple prose, improbable plot twists,and more) means I’ll have to start over from scratch.

The Merrimack Event was the only significant item of a final category, however — things that were “not publishable yet, but still salvageable.”  It was in… rough shape, and had a lot of dust on it, but there was a lot of promise in it as well.  It had been through three or four revisions already, at the time, and with all of that work into it I was loathe to abandon it entirely.  So, after “In Treachery Forged” was released, I dusted the cobwebs off of The Merrimack Event and started to revise it… again.

It needed a LOT of work just to get it good enough to send to an editor, and it took me almost as long to get it to that point as it would have to write the thing over from the beginning (only for my chosen editor to vanish without a trace before I could get him the manuscript, which is a good part of the reason why it’s not already come out), but in the end I felt the story had been “salvaged.”

Which brings us to the title topic of this post.  The Merrimack Event still needs editing, but at this stage I’d say it is a “publishable” book.  Or, well, it was when I last touched it… but, uh, there’s a problem, as I was reminded earlier this week:  It’s a scifi novel, but some of the scientific tech that was in it has, well, proven not to be so fictional at all.  The book hasn’t “kept up with the Joneses,” so before I can do anything with it I  need to go back into the book, dust off the cobwebs, and “update” it, so that things that either looked unfeasible but weren’t, or which I figured wouldn’t catch on but did, don’t get so emphasized as “new.”

For example, I need to make sure that the engineer doesn’t call touchscreen keyboards a poorly adapted “new” technology (a real example from the book), even though… well, if you’re reading the blog on a Kindle Fire, you’ve probably already got one in your hand.  Back when I first wrote that scene, touch screens seemed a lot more impractical (something which might work, but no-one would favor a touch-screen keyboard over a tactile keyboard).  Obviously, time has proven that my read on that was wrong, but even though the story has been edited many times since it became clear that touchscreens were here to stay that scene has never been changed to reflect reality.  Now, the character discussing it was talking about how his service was being forced to adopt new technologies before the bugs had been worked out, and how he prefered more retro technologies in these cases, but given that this story is supposed to be set hundreds of years in the future one would think that any of the bugs he discussed would have been worked out by then.

I’m not alone in having this difficulty.  During the 2009 Marscon (a good convention, but that year it was at a horrible hotel; I didn’t go back until they changed hotels), author John Ringo (who really would have a worse time of it than me, considering he was writing “near future” science fiction and The Merrimack Event is more distant-future space opera, so the stuff I can write about can be even more off-the-wall) pointed out that there were one billion engineers and scientists on Earth (note: I don’t know if this number is even close to accurate, but the point stands even if it’s a lot less), and there’s only one of him trying to stay ahead of them all.

And Authors are not alone in this...
And Authors are not alone in this…

This is a fixable issue, and will be corrected before the book goes out the door… but the next time you read a science fiction book, and something fairly everyday is discussed as impractical or impossible, remember that technology can advance in unpredictable ways, and unexpectedly fast.  And that the technological prediction might have been made longer ago than you might realize….

Status Report

With Thanksgiving (and a lot of chores), I didn’t quite finish everything I intended for the blog post I had planned for this week (the “Merrimack Event”‘s back-of-the-book blurb). In its place, I figured I would do a status report for all the things I’ve told you I was going to be doing.

First of all, I’ve applied to be a guest at a few conventions. I haven’t heard back from any of them, yet, but I haven’t been rejected yet, either. I’m hopeful.

In Forgery Divided is still with the editor and cover artist. I haven’t recieved any information from my cover artist recently, but my editor says he’s through most of it, but there were a couple “problem areas” he’s devoting more attention to. I’m as tired of these delays as I’m sure my readers are, but I can’t put it out without a cover or any editing.

Over the last week, I’ve started approaching some more potential cover artists to get estimates for “The Merrimack Event.” Haven’t heard back from any of them, yet, but that’s no surprise in this timeframe. I’ve identified four editors to try and vet, but I have yet to approach any of them.

The Back-of-the-Book Blurb for “The Merrimack Event” should be posted next week, but I’ve got new ideas going from there. I’ve been cleaning out my office desk as I prepare to move my new computer from it’s temporary set-up to its permanent home. Found some fun things I could take pictures of (maybe. I hate taking pictures of any kind) and talk about here on the blog, including badges for well over a dozen conventions I’ve attended in the past — all from 2009 or earlier. And I’ve started a fun little research project I may discuss here, as well, even though it’s research for a story I probably won’t be writing for years.

A belated Happy Thanksgiving. And I’m giving you guys even more thanks for reading this blog. (I might be even more thankful if a few of you commented now and then when I was asking you guys for comments, but I’ll take what I can get).