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Month: April 2014

New short stories for a science fiction collection

Posted in Adaptability, Artwork, Monsters, Monsters, And More, Science Fiction, Short Story, The Visitor, The Visitor, And More, There's a Sword for That, and Your Every Wish

Over the next year or so I will be writing a dozen stories or more for a science fiction collection called There's a Sword for That. It will feature bladed weapons, one per story, in unusual contexts, tied together by the shop that houses (and sells them) aboard a space station

The first story is Buntel Mayit, a tale of an ancient and famous keris (kris) cursed by the shaman/smith who was its first victim. Far in the future, it is still seeking revenge on dynastic opportunists. Captain Frans Krajenbrink, Keris Mpu Gandring, and the freighter Ken Arok out of New Java have a fateful encounter with an ambitious alien.

Each story will go through the submission process for magazines before being published by Perkunas Press, so it will be a while before you can read them. I'll keep everyone posted as soon as any story becomes available in either magazine or Perkunas Press versions.

Meanwhile, here's a look at the very first draft sketch for the cover of the collection, featuring the sword shop, from artist Jake Bullock who provided the cover for The Affinities of Magic.
Initial draft sketch - no sword

Bears and birdfeeders

Posted in A Writer's Desk

Southviewcabin1We have a family tradition, here at the cabin, of feeding the birds, in the wintertime and well into the spring. The main room downstairs, built into the hillside, houses the fireplace, kitchen, and all the comfortable chairs. From there we can gaze out through large windows at the birdfeeders, swaying gently on a pole, sheltered by the trees. You can see the red one in the picture, and we added another pole-hung feeder this year. Each pole holds the feeder about five feet from the ground.

The black bears also have a family tradition. Each year, in spring, while other food sources are still scarce and they haven't been awake very long, they drop by looking for a good hit of sunflower seeds and flint corn. And if the humans are in residence, they generally find it.

My father-in-law lived in the cabin for about ten years. Each year he would report on the annual raid. If you think squirrels at the bird feeders are a nuisance, you should try black bear. Sometimes they would bend the pole down so they could get at the feeder more easily.

Bird feederSo, this morning we glance out of the window, and the hanging feeder is not only down, it's demolished, disassembled into various parts. I laughed smugly at the news, secure in the knowledge that the other two feeders I put up this year (very like this picture), that were suspended from a beam extending out from the bottom of the second story porch in front of the cabin, were intact. Until I turned my head to check that assumption.

Those feeders were not only pulled down from their beam, and separated from their top components, they were missing altogether. Unless that bear had a buddy or a duffle bag, I don't see how it could have carried them both off.

Meanwhile, my desk looks out of that same window on the second floor that you can see in the top picture. I am surrounded by indignant cardinals, sparrows, nuthatches, finches, woodpeckers (suet was included), junkos, jays, and noisy chickadees, all looking for their breakfast and demanding a better level of service.

How do they do it? Perhaps you'll find this link illuminating…

I imagine it was something like this. The dogs slept through it all.

If you want to keep score, see Human vs Bear, part 2.


Finding and working with a cover artist

Posted in Just for Writers

(A shortened version of this post was published earlier here.)

A little less than two years ago I started writing my first fantasy novel. It has since grown into a series (The Hounds of Annwn) with four novels, five short stories, and a story collection, and I’m not done with it yet. I found a prolific Russian surrealist artist on the stockphoto sites whose work I admired, and I’ve used her images for all the covers (I have a minor level of competence in Photoshop, enough to design layout, fonts, and framing.) You can see those covers here.

I’m starting a new fantasy series now (The Affinities of Magic) and I know I’m not going to find a similar artist for the covers off the stockphoto sites, so this time I decided to commission cover art. It’s been a fun learning experience, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Starting up the learning curve

Like everyone, I started by asking for recommendations, and I sure got a lot of them. Unfortunately, almost none of them were in my genre (Fantasy), and there’s little that an excellent artist who specializes in photorealistic Romance shots can do to help me.

GENRE is the first and most important consideration. The purpose of a good cover is to (1) help the reader understand at a glance what genre the book is in, and (2) make the reader want to find out more (that’s where “quality” comes into play).
You need to know what the rules of covers for your genre are, so that you can signal appropriately to your potential readers. First step? Look at what other books in your genre look like. (See the above picture of a bunch of Fantasy books from Amazon – I added one of my older books as a comparison for legibility of Authorname. Click on this image or any other to see a bigger version.)

Fantasy as a genre tends toward illustrated covers instead of photo montage, though the ubiquity of stock photos is causing more photo-based covers to be created. One way to scream “Fantasy” is to use an illustration.

Pre-made covers and stock photo sites are therefore not good places to look for this genre, though suitable for others. I wanted an illustrator, and I was going to have to go it alone, learning as I went along. And I had a budget to consider…