Cover issues

I’m thinking of putting my oldest book, Castle Falcon, up on Kindle to see what happens.

I’ve figured out the formatting.  With Adobe InDesign (almost a must for any self-publishing effort), there’s a Kindle plug-in that deals with most of the .mobi problems.  I already have a working test version on my own Kindle.

I’ll need a Kindle cover illustration, though.  A Kindle cover is basically the signature of your book on Amazon, so it has to stick out.  My original CG cover for my Lulu gift books is interesting, but a bit cryptic (draft artwork shown without text):

Cover 1

The stained glass is in the story. The little orange creatures are in the story too, but since I invented them the average person wouldn’t have any idea what they are. I tuned them up to look more “buglike.” In my first Lulu cover they looked more like weird jellybeans.

So based on this illustration, what genre is this?  Horror?  SF?  A documentary on exterminators? This is a cover where you really need to look at the description to figure out what’s going on, and while that was okay for a Lulu gift book, it’s not so good for something you’re actually tossing out there to the public.

I had an idea to add something that immediately says “fantasy.” This is a more recent draft:

Cover 2

Bingo.  Now it’s a fantasy.  A bit of a plot spoiler, but I think it will grab the eye better.  My wife (also my prime beta reader) likes it.

Driving and writing in fog

Found on Neil Gaiman’s journal:

It’s a weird thing, writing.

Sometimes you can look out across what you’re writing, and it’s like looking out over a landscape on a glorious, clear summer’s day. You can see every leaf on every tree, and hear the birdsong, and you know where you’ll be going on your walk.

And that’s wonderful.

Sometimes it’s like driving through fog. You can’t really see where you’re going. You have just enough of the road in front of you to know that you’re probably still on the road, and if you drive slowly and keep your headlamps lowered you’ll still get where you were going.

And that’s hard while you’re doing it, but satisfying at the end of a day like that, where you look down and you got 1500 words that didn’t exist in that order down on paper, half of what you’d get on a good day, and you drove slowly, but you drove.

And sometimes you come out of the fog into clarity, and you can see just what you’re doing and where you’re going, and you couldn’t see or know any of that five minutes before.

And that’s magic.

That’s pretty much it, isn’t it?

You could do worse than bookmark Gaiman’s blog.  Now that’s a writer.

Roger Mantis

This is the second book I’ve finished, a middle-grade fantasy, currently being shopped around to agents.

Here’s the basic pitch:

Roger McGillicutty, 12, wakes up one Saturday morning and finds out he has unexpectedly transformed into a five-foot praying mantis.  His parents seem to be coping with it fairly well, and his dog Lou is okay with it, but how will the rest of the town of Highland Falls handle it?  Roger has school on Monday, the carnival’s coming to town next week, and his Little League team is playing their biggest rival Centerville next Saturday.  Being a giant bug could seriously cramp his style!

Roger Mantis takes off from the famous beginning lines of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and then flies in an entirely different direction.  Roger’s problems with his town and his classmates are similar to the ones encountered by the hero of the movie “Teen Wolf,” with some echoes of the popular Animorphs series.  Behind the adventures and the humor is a story about accepting who you are–your talents and limitations–and learning how to make the most of it.

Castle Falcon excerpt

EDIT:  This is my “Writer’s Voice” entry.


Katie, 14, and her brother Zach, 12, have spent their whole lives in the vast and ancient stone fortress called Castle Falcon, located somewhere in the present-day American northwest.  Their loving but enigmatic father, driven by secret fears, rarely allows them to leave the safety of the Castle.  He has even sealed many of the doors inside the Castle itself against their curiosity.

Katie and Zach, constantly testing the boundaries of their enormous gilded cage, finally crack open the sealed doors.  They aren’t ready for what they find:  living hearts in jars, people turned to stone, and a cage containing something terrible and invisible.

All that is before they discover a buried gateway to a dark and demon-filled hell, and the strange creature that guards it…

Along with the Castle, the book has secret caves, a few wizards, an evil demon in disguise, a spaceship, talismans, a dragon, a sea monster, a giant spider, a talking lizard, an alien princess from a lost kingdom, a number of small faeries, a healthy dollop of Cthulhu mythos, a touch of gourmet cooking, a really big gun, lethal teddy bears, a fart joke, and one (1) gratuitous mooning of an authority figure.  There is no specific mention of a kitchen sink, but there is a utility sink that has an important role.

The theme is families facing challenges together, young people learning self-reliance, and fathers learning to let them go.  This is wrapped in humor, mystery, a cast of unusual characters, and episodic adventures building to a climax that is literally explosive.

*   *   *

Once upon a time, there was an immense castle crouched near the base of a range of low, heavily-wooded mountains.

This was no elegant fairy-tale castle with flag-topped towers spiking into the sky. It was vast and sprawling, with massive turreted outer walls built of gigantic blocks of roughly-hewn stone, black with the patina of centuries and crusted with moss and lichens. Within those walls the castle’s grounds were covered with mansions, halls, outbuildings and scattered ruins, laid out in a maze with no pattern or architectural consistency. Inside these buildings were hundreds of rooms of all shapes and sizes. There were dark catacombs, airy parlors, hidden chambers, attics, quiet cloisters and expansive courtyards open to the sky. There were corridors and passages beyond counting, soaring stone buttresses, and worn slate roofs with brooding and broken gargoyles perched on their edges.

Two children had lived in this castle all their lives, and they loved their ancient home even more than they loved video games.

Katie Falcon and her brother Zach simply called it “the Castle.” In nearby Monte Vista, an isolated small town in the American Northwest, people called it “Castle Falcon” when they were talking to tourists but sometimes called it “The Wizard’s Place” when they were quietly talking to each other.

It was the first really warm day of spring. Katie, who was almost fourteen and eager to be sixteen, had kicked off her tennis shoes and was curled up in a nest of pillows on the cushioned platform of the big bay window in her room.

Here I am

This blog was opened primarily to enter a contest that required a blog.  Ironically, I didn’t make the limited entry count. (Edit:  At least until the third try!)

Now it’s here, so I suppose I should check the place out.  At least the interface is familiar–it’s the same as the blog/forum where I often hang out.

This is mostly a placeholder right now.  At some point, I might get into it more.  Certainly if I ever develop a “platform” in writing, some of it would be here.

I’ll fiddle with the theme a bit, too.