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Category: Artwork

A quick look at the news — writing and publishing

Posted in Artwork, and Publishing

Cartoon of a busy writerI haven't been able to produce much in the way of blogging for the last couple of months because I've been buried in writing and publishing work (and that's the way it should be).

Writing

On the writing front, I'm just about done with the Fragments of Lightning, the second book of The Affinities of Magic. The webpages will be updated when the final scene is written and I have time to do the book description, images, and so forth. I plan on writing the third book, and starting the fourth before I begin releasing them in quick succession, starting circa December/January.

Publishing

As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm also beginning to publish the works of some colleagues of mine and tooling up as a small publisher. This means, in several cases, the creation of new imprints, since the works aren't necessarily appropriate for Perkunas Press, not being fantasy or science fiction. Last fall saw the first release for Bent Twig Books, a memoir My Bipolar Life.

Right now, I'm working simultaneously on publishing two works. One is a bit of Christian visionary fiction for Sound the Trumpet Press, called Comes a Redeemer, by Tolkien scholar Jared Lobdell. And the other is a work by the great naturalist writer, Steve Bodio for Behind the Ranges Press — his first novel, Tiger Country.

In each case, these three works are the first for their imprints, so there's very little information for the imprints and, in the latter two cases, the book pages are under construction pending release. But you can take a look at the draft covers (mockups), and there will be more to tell you as each book is published, in August and September.
Image of 2 draft book covers

Agar Art

Posted in Artwork, and The Affinities of Magic

Image of bacteria on a Petri dishMy new series, The Affinities of Magic, has a microbiological basis for magic.

What that means in practice is that I have to describe cultivating bacteria on an equivalent of Petri dishes as part of the contextual background for the novels.

That's a matter of diluting your source multiple times and scraping streaks across your dish, and other ordinary conventions of basic bacterial cultivation.

And then this comes along…

The American Society for Microbiologists hosted the first bacteria art competition called ‘Agar Art.’

Image of bacteria in Petri dishOf course, there's more than one way to cultivate bacteria.

Like the Horsehead Nebula? I especially enjoy the obligatory Hokusai and van Gogh homages.

Check out the full set of a dozen intricate “paintings”.

Image of bacteria in Petri dish

Image of bacteria in Petri dishes

Cover reveal – Structures of Earth

Posted in Artwork, and Structures of Earth

Alas, all good things must come to an end. My cover artist of the last couple of years, Jake Bullock, got a full-time job (good for him) and is prohibited from doing freelance projects (bad for me). The good news is that I had just finished The Chained Adept series, but I already had a cover from him for book 1 of The Affinities of Magic series. So I had to start over again for that.

Happily, I've partnered with a new cover artist from Poland, Michal Wojtasik.

His audition blew me away. I only asked for a simple sketch of the scene I had in mind, and look what I got, a day later.

Needless to say, he buried his competitors.

He's completed the cover for Structures of Earth and is working on the one for book 2, Fragments of Lightning. I'll be writing book 4 before I release the first 3 books in the series, one right after another, to try and build up some momentum for the new series.

Every story needs its own world

Posted in Artwork, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Setting, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

Every story needs its own world and, if you're writing fantasy or scifi, that world has to be built.

I started Structures of Earth not quite two years ago, then put it on pause to write the Chained Adept series first (see background). At the time, I had a vivid image of the river town where the action was happening — the capital city for the country in which the story is set, rather the way London functions for England.

But where was that country, and what place in what world did it occupy?

One thing I learned from The Chained Adept — it's fun (and not too hard) to build a world map for a series and much better to do it at the start rather than to try and retrofit one after most of the story is done. That way, the “real world” constraints can ground the story and drive some of the plot logistics issues.

The world of The Affinities of Magic is a new world, and it needs its own maps. I took Fractal Terrains 3 out for a spin last night and started seeding the world settings until I found one I liked.

The world of The Affinities of Magic

Here's what that globe looks like if you unroll it, with a pointer showing where my temperate northern hemisphere initial city is located. (I haven't designated any national/imperial boundaries yet.)

One thing is already clear — there will be large differences between the cultures on the inner sea and those with access by water to the rest of the world. That inner sea may be 4200 miles wide, but it's still a restricted body of water, warm equatorial water, and the ecosystem in and around it will be unique.

See? That's something I didn't know before I generated this map. Hadn't even thought about it.

Cover Reveal – On a Crooked Track

Posted in Artwork, On a Crooked Track, and The Chained Adept

20161016-on-a-crooked-track5-frontHere's the final draft of the cover art for the fourth and final book of The Chained Adept series. There will still be some tinkering with the position of the author name for consistency with the other covers, but my cover artist Jake Bullock is done with the illustration.

I thought you might be interested in how this sort of thing evolved.

The scene I wanted to illustrate was Penrys returning to Tavnastok in Ellech. The famous Collegium lies across the river, but her passage is barred by some of her old colleagues.

See how it looks with the other three books in thumbnail, compared to other fantasy covers (click to enlarge). This is the acid test for legibility.

thumbnails-on-background-draft2

We began with three sketches to sort out the composition.

Bookmarks, business cards, and other stationary

Posted in Artwork, and Just for Writers

2 x 6 Bookmark-VerticalWhenever we send someone a book directly, or sell one at an event, we have an opportunity to include other things. Most commonly, these are bookmarks, which we also distribute wherever we can.

Business cards are also very useful to carry when you're meeting people, or standing around at a convention.

What are they good for? How can we make them maximally effective?
 

Why bookmarks?

Bookmarks are the stand-alone representations of your books. They're popular as leave-behinds in bookstores or at group events, and are the obvious choice for inserts into your books when you sell directly (via online ordering or at trade shows/events).

There is debate about whether all bookstores want them, but many do. If you're not sure, ask.

What's the goal of a bookmark? To interest someone in buying another book. You can't list all your books on a bookmark, as though it were a mini-catalogue. That may seem plausible when you only have one or two books, but it defeats the purpose of seducing the reader with well-designed, professional information.

Instead, set up one bookmark for each series or important stand-alone book. Remember, when you start a series, you may not know how many books there will be, or what their names are. I created the bookmark above (using cover art from the first book) before I wrote a fourth entry and a story collection.

Focus on the first book of the series, name as many of the other books as you can without muddying up the image, and refer to “… and more” after that point. If you create a new bookmark for each series, you can be inventive about including a bookmark for series 2 in a book sale for series 1 to encourage cross-sales. Whenever you have any reason to mail something to someone, include a bookmark and a business card.

And since you may write faster than you use up a print run of bookmarks, future-proof them by using only digital contact information bits, not physical ones. I've moved since I made that bookmark, and I expect to move again before I run out of them.

Why business cards?

businesscard-300dpi-rgbLet's be blunt. If you're in business and you don't have business cards, how do you expect to support a professional impression? A business card is a courtesy to a potential buyer or colleague or vendor. It keeps them from having to write down your contact information themselves.

Better yet, it's another opportunity to sell your product and seduce potential buyers.

Setting up for an author event

Posted in Artwork, Book Signings, and Events

banner-1_7x3-foot-rgbOn October 9, I'll be one of several authors at the Foxburg Free Library in western PA, with a table for presenting my books.

For the first time, I've had to make the effort to get the full panoply of gear necessary for such a thing. This includes, but is not limited to: display stands for books, tablecloth, business cards, bookmarks, newsletter signup sheets, promo pens, a cash box, receipt books, and (of course) books to sell. Not to mention a gear bag to carry things in. Tape, clamps,… you name it. Everything except lamps, table, chairs, and tent.

Naturally I had some of this already, but now I'm treating it seriously.

Here's the banner. Click on it for the full effect (it's 3 feet long).