29 July 2010

Cover art (Updated)

One of the big challenges of being an indie author is having to deal with the entire creative process when you don't necessarily have the skills.

Take art for example. I consider it quite an accomplishment when I'm able to draw a stick figure that looks vaguely human. I just don't 'do' visual art, and it shows in the existing Self Arrest cover. The goal for this  cover was to convey a sense of impending doom, hence the distressed red bio-hazard symbol plopped on a black background. Plus, more importantly, it was possible with the tools I had at hand.

But I've never liked it. It doesn't catch the eye the way I had hoped. It's boring - and I didn't write an exciting thriller only to wrap it in a boring cover.

So this brings me to the present...

Over the past several weeks I've been slogging through a revision-fest with my next novel, and in doing so, I started to consider what the cover should look like. This process led me to a really cool website called shutterstock.com, which has literally gazillions of stock images that can be licensed for a very reasonable fee, and used in all sorts of applications, including books.


The next step in the decision to redo the Self Arrest cover was my discovery of a tool called Inkscape, which is an open source clone of Adobe Illustrator. I played with it for a few hours this morning and my mind was set.

I can do this.

Now I have the tools (Inkscape) and good stock art to use as a starting point. Next up is a professional professional-looking cover. Stay tuned.


Here's a sample of the redesigned Self Arrest cover:

20 July 2010

New blurb for Self Arrest

I am preparing to update the self arrest "blurb." It has come to my attention that the existing blurb doesn't say very much.
So, that said - here's the new one:

Over fifty million people died when the H1N1 Spanish Flu swept the globe in 1918. The virus attacked the young and healthy, dealing a crippling blow to a world still reeling from the horrors of the First World War. It wormed its way into communities both large and small, killing mercilessly, before abruptly vanishing without a trace in the summer of 1920.
That was then.
In 2005, scientists completed sequencing the genetic code of the Spanish Flu. The following year, they infected monkeys with a reanimated strain of the very same virus.
The monkeys exhibited classic symptoms of the 1918 Spanish Flu. And then they died.
This is now.
Gage Mercer has it all, a beautiful fiancee, a promising career, and a lifestyle that he loves. But when his estranged friend Matt suddenly reappears in his life, everything begins to unravel. Soon, he is drawn into a plot to release a highly engineered strain of the Spanish Flu on an unsuspecting population, and he is forced to reexamine everything he holds true in a desparate bid to prevent the next great pandemic.
This is the future.

13 July 2010

Fabricant de Saucisses

English Translation: Sausage Maker

There's an old saying that goes "Politics and Sausage: It's best not to see either being made."

As a writer, I often feel like a fabricant de saucisses. Actually, I feel like this pretty much all of the time.

You see, making sausage involves taking bits of leftover meat - sometimes of questionable quality - adding spices, and then forming the whole concoction into a cylinder, which is then sold to the public. It isn't until you drop the sausage into a hot frying pan and the aroma of cooking meat rises to your nose, and your mouth starts to water, that you are able to truly appreciate the sum of the parts.

Writing, meanwhile, involves taking stray thoughts and random life experiences - sometimes of questionable quality themselves - adding characters, plot, and dialog, and then crafting the entire mess into a story that people will want to read.

Sometimes a story is born from a single, momentary event; an event so insignificant in the grand scheme of life, that if one were not tuned in to it, it would pass by and be gone forever. A great example of this is the genesis of Self Arrest. 

Several years ago, I was snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park with my wife, hiking up a long trail that led to a beautiful frozen alpine lake. About halfway up the trail, a loud roar suddenly filled the canyon. Looking up, I saw that an airplane had entered the canyon, and it appeared to be cruising just over the stunted treetops. My first thought was: what if it crashes? What do we do?

Fortunately, I didn't have to answer that question. The plane wasn't nearly as low as it looked, and twenty seconds later, it disappeared over the mountains and was gone forever.

But the question stuck with me. So much so that I ended up writing an entire novel around it. And like sausage, the messy part was the addition of characters, plot, and dialog that allowed me to explore the idea of a small plane crash in the mountains.

And it doesn't end there. I seem to have an endless supply of these questions and observations. More, in fact, than I have time to explore them. This is my biggest challenge at the moment - deciding which ideas deserve the effort to become full-fledged stories and which ones should languish. 

That is the dilema of this fabricant de saucisses.

11 July 2010

Price drop on the print version of Self Arrest and Smashwords sale

You can now get Self Arrest in print for only $10.50. This is two dollars off the original price!

Also - during the month of July, Self Arrest is 50% off at Smashwords.com. Just enter coupon code SWS50 at checkout to get your discount!

In writing news, I currently have three books in the pipeline. The first two are thrillers (one political and one techno) and the third is the first installment in a zombie trilogy. After finishing the first draft of the zombie novel (still untitled, of course), I had the wild thought that Self Arrest could be read as a sort of prequel, the idea being that the reanimated Spanish Flu in Self Arrest triggers a zombie uprising. It's an interesting concept and one that I may explore a bit as I work through the editing process.

Finally - in case you've been living in a cave for the past few weeks, the price on the Amazon Kindle has dropped to $189. This is huge. This device has revolutionized the way I read as well as the manner in which I intend to publish a good chunk of my writing. If you haven't tried one yet, borrow one from a friend. I've also heard good things about the Barnes & Noble Nook, but haven't had the chance to play with one yet.