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Red Litten World arrives October 6th, 2015

On October 6th, It’s Time To Return To Lovat

“…legend said that it had come from a mysterious inner realm beneath the red-litten world—a black realm of peculiar-sensed beings which had no light at all, but which had great civilisations and mighty gods…”

H. P. Lovecraft & Zealia Bishop, The Mound

The sharp scent of ash lingers in the air, the city’s cold streets feel deserted, and the revolver rides heavy in the pocket of our hero. In the distance, a jazz band warbles through an ancient tune from a crackly radio speaker. You can feel the tension on the wind, it sparks across your skin like static. But, the wait is nearly over. On Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 you’ll be able to join Caravan Master Waldo Bell in my next book, The Bell Forging Cycle, Book III: Red Litten World.

As I promised yesterday, you can check out a free sample chapter right now! Read it over at the official website: redlittenworld.com (which is the best reading experience, IMO) or you can read it right here on my blog. I hope you enjoy it. The goal with the Bell Forging Cycle’s prologues has always been to treat them like the cold open of a television show. Set things up, get the plot moving and hint at what’s to come. As you can probably tell from Red Litten World’s prologue, things for Wal are going to get very interesting.

While I’m very excited to share the sample chapter with you, there’s more. As of today, Red Litten World is currently available for pre-order for Kindle users! Really! Just click here and you can preorder the Kindle edition for $5.99 and it will automagically appear on you device launch day.

There’s a lot more to come. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be revealing a bunch of fun little things. Check back often, add Red Litten World to your to-read list on Goodreads, and please tell your friends!

It’s high time we to return to Lovat.

The Stars Were Right Print Proof

It’s Been A Good Week

I started this blog to document my journey as I began writing. I’ve have always wanted it to be as candid and honest as possible. So I have made sure to share ups and downs, highs and lows. I have talked about my fear. I have talked about rejection. I have shared my successes. I want to let others out there know they’re not alone, we all struggle through this creative process. Through it all I have trudged forward, writing my strange little novels, and working to create the best books I can.

Well, something pretty amazing happened Monday, and to stay on theme I wanted to share it with everyone here. A few weeks ago I was able to secure a 99¢ promotion with Book Bub—a daily deal promotional site for ebooks. That promotion launched on Monday, and well… I sold a lot of books. A lot. I have nearly doubled my readership and as a result The Stars Were Right took off and began flying up the charts.

Then this happened:

The Stars Were Right hanging next to Hugh Howey's WoolYep, that’s my book sitting next to Hugh Howey’s Wool on Amazon’s Best Sellers in Science Fiction Adventures list. It also ranked pretty high on a few other lists:

The Numbers Were Right
By Monday’s end I was feeling pretty overwhelmed, and excited, and flattered, and humbled. It’s incredible that so many folks took a chance on me and my book. I didn’t expect this. Sure, I expected a few sales, but nothing of this magnitude. Since this was a promotion it stuck around for about a day before slowly settling back down, but I had to share even my momentary rise with you.

I really look forward to hearing from all my new readers. I hope you thoroughly enjoy meeting Wal, exploring Lovat, and discovering just a small sliver of The Territories. Feel free to drop me a line at any time and let me know what you thought. There’s a lot more to come in The Bell Forging Cycle and I am glad to have more of you join me on this crazy adventure!

Old Broken Road Coming Soon!

Old Broken Road Is Out!

It has arrived. The wait is finally over. It’s October 14th. That means you can get your copy of Old Broken Road today! Yay! The trade paperback is available for purchase from the links below:

• Amazon • Barnes & Noble • My Store •

Barnes & Noble should have paperbacks soon. If you’d rather get Old Broken Road as an eBook you can download it from any of the following stores:

• Kindle • Kobo • iBooks • GooglePlay • My Store •

Make sure to mark Old Broken Road as the book you’re reading on Goodreads. If you’re tweeting about it or posting about the book on Facebook I’ve been using the hashtag #OldBrokenRoad. Don’t forget to tell your friends! Word of mouth is the best way for others to discover my books and allow me to keep writing.

Thanks everyone for your support. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts. I hope everyone enjoys it!

Friday Link Pack 08/08/2014

Elliot Alfredius' Three Blades

It’s Friday! That mean it’s time to share a few interesting links I have found throughout the week. Some of these I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Let me know!

Writing:

On Writing Fantasy
So what is fantasy for? What good is it? I am in the thick of writing a fantasy myself. So this post from Dave Farland on the importance of fantasy and fable really resonated with me.

Do Not Despise These Small Beginnings
Loved this piece from composer Royal Teague on creation and the creative struggle. Very much worth a read.

The Two Most Powerful Behaviors Of Successful Writers
San Francisco writing coach Lauren Sapala discusses two behaviors—focus and boundaries—used by writers to get things done. Invaluable advice, both are tough to master but critical for success.

The Persistent Stigma Of Self-Publishing
Janice Hardy explores the stigma surrounding self-published works.

London’s Book Benches Highlight The Capital’s Great Literary Works
I thought these benches built in the shape of books were too charming not to share. My favorite has to be the Ian Fleming one. What’s yours?

Thug Note’s Covers At The Mountains of Madness
On Sunday I shared this excellent synopsis and analysis from Sparky Sweets, PhD. If you haven’t been exposed to Thug Notes, I’d encourage you to give it a watch. It’s not only educational it’s also quite entertaining.

Art:

Elliot Alfredius’ Three Blades
There something incredibly charming about this illustration series (featured above.) Each piece shows a different set of three sword-swinging warriors, from battle hardened barbarians to highfalutin aristocrats even wandering vagabonds. If you loves these as much as I do the good news is Alfredius has collected these pieces as a book! Sadly, there is bad news: it’s out of stock until September. I eagerly await the next edition.

How Do I Become A Full Time Illustrator
I debated putting this in the Writing category or here. Illustrator Ray Frenden shares his advice on how to succeed at art. I think this same advice could apply to writers or any creative. Good stuff. Also, go buy his pizza shirt.

Beautiful Architectural Alphabet Engravings Should Be Built For Real
Typography and architecture have a lot in common. So it’s no surprise that Italian artist Antonio Basoli created these beautiful drawings combining the two.

Random:

Octopus broods eggs for over four years—longer than any known animal
Pretty crazy story from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute about one devoted cephalopodic mother.

Photographic Inventories of British Soldiers’ Kits From 1066 to 2014
I really like it when someone takes the time to do this. Seeing the evolution of something throughout the years is always a fascination. It’s amazing to see the amount of stuff a soldier carries into battle these days.

Pepper and Salt — Hunter S. Thompson: Huevos Rancheros
So, Pepper and Salt might be my new favorite blog. As the author Nicole says, it’s: “Part historical discussion, part food and recipe blog, part literary fangirl-ing, Paper and Salt attempts to recreate and reinterpret the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays, and fiction.” This article, tackles Hunter S. Thompson’s love of Huevos Rancheros. I know what I am making for breakfast tomorrow.

Lovecraft Story of the Week:

The Phantom ‘Rickshaw by Rudyard Kipling
Okay, so it’s not a Lovecraft story. However, I highly encourage you to check out this tale, when you’re done, make sure you head over to the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast at HPPodcraft.com and check this months free episode (which I sponsored.) Chris Lackey and Chad Fifer are great hosts and really enjoyable to listen to as they analyze and analyze and discuss of some of weird fictions greatest stories. Very much worth a subscription.

Farewell Gif of the Week:

My spirit animal.

Friday Link Pack 03/14/14

Lovecraft sketch shows the author's vision for Mountains of Madness

It’s time to share a few interesting links I have found throughout the week. Some of these I mention on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Let me know!

Writing:

What Is Your Definition Of Success? How Do You Measure It?
Good article about recognizing our achievements and enjoying our successes in writing while exploring common measurements writers set for themselves.

Self Publishing Is Going to Just Get Bigger, Embrace It
This has been making the rounds but should be posted here as well. Martyn Daniels’ article examines the direction of the self publishing industry. (Spoiler: It’s only getting bigger.)

Need A Writing Coach?
My friend Lauren Sapala is accepting new clients. Lauren is amazing, encouraging, and gives honest feedback. If you have been spinning your wheels for a while or are starting fresh I’d encouraging you to reach out to her.

Art:

Lovecraft sketch shows the author’s vision for Mountains of Madness
A fascinating sketch that shows Lovecraft’s own vision of his monstrosities. I rarely wish I lived on the East Coast, but this is one of those things I’d be ALL about if I was nearby.

The Terrifying Paintings of Zdzisław Beksiński
Kari-Lise sent me this a while ago, but the site went down and it’s only recently showed back up. The surrealist paintings of Zdzisław Beksiński can be seen as strange and terrifying but there is also something engaging in them as well. Can’t look away.

Time in Motion
Beautiful animated gifs that show a single landscape with a constant shimmer of time. Just go watch them.

Random:

Top 10 Most Overlooked Mysteries in History
I am like old man internet. So it’s rare I see lists like this and come away surprised, but suffice to say there’s a lot of fascinating and inspiring stuff I wasn’t aware existed! Very cool.

Submarine Cable Map
The true map of the internet.

If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel
A very effective site showing the scale of our solar system. It’s amazing how quickly the first four planets zoom past, and then…

Lovecraft Story of the Week:

Cool Air
If the cold bothers you then this is the Lovecraft story for you.

Farewell Gif of the Week:

"So this happened..."

Building A Better Book Cover

Let’s Talk About Your Book Cover.
Along with being a writer I am also a designer. I’ve been designing for 15 years now, having done everything from posters, logos, email campaigns, web sites, before eventually settling into user experience design. I mention my pedigree such as it is, only because I want to talk about some concerns I have over design advice  given to indie authors who are diving into self-publishing.

There seems to be a great many folks out there who claim you can make a well designed book cover with a cheap stock photo and a bit of text. I have seen these articles pop up on blogs all over. Every single time I just get frustrated. Why? Well, frankly… they’re totally wrong.

A Short Design Lesson

A well designed cover is so much more. It’s clever. It’s engaging. It’s attractive. It’s enticing. Chip Kidd—arguably one of the best cover designers in the world today—is quoted as saying:

“A book cover is a distillation.
It is a haiku of the story.”

The primary essence of a haiku is the Japanese word きる or kiru, which means to cut or slice. In a good haiku everything is removed but the perfect words to formulate the perfect line. A good book cover should also strive for that same perfection. Just like a haiku, it should reduce thousands and thousands of your words into a few simple elements. These elements should work together to do one thing: engage the viewer.

Staying simple is key. One of my favorite sayings comes from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who said:

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

What does that mean? Let’s take a look at one of my favorite covers from last year, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch:

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

There is so much going yet it’s so simple and clever. Excess distraction has been stripped away and it still oozes intrigue. The choice of hand lettering. The tear and the peeling back of the paper to reveal the titular goldfinch. It’s compelling. It’s engaging. It’s clever. It leaves the viewer wanting to know more. It makes me want to read the book.

Often stock photography tends to be the most cliché take on a subject. Cleverness rarely comes from cliché. To get past the cliché I think you need to go beyond visual imagery, sure…a piece of stock photography might show up, and yes a typeface choice will be a part of the final design, but just slapping together a few things that are “close enough” won’t do your story justice. A good cover goes beyond all of that, it becomes that perfect line.

Creating A Better Cover

Okay, my lesson on book cover design theory is over. You want to make a simple engaging cover. So how do you go about doing that? I get that not everyone is a designer. So what can you do as a writer to really make your book cover stand out and look professional? Here’s a few suggestions.

If you are willing to spend some money:
  • Hire a designer
    Seriously. A designer will help your final work look it’s best. Make sure you have them read your book and approach you with a few concepts. If you have a few ideas throw them out there, but be willing to bend a little. It’s their job to distill your story down into that perfect haiku, that is what they are good at, let them be good at their job.
If you are going in alone:
  • Study well-designed covers
    There are numerous resources out there for you to browse award winning covers. One fantastic place to start is The Book Cover Archive, a site I have mentioned before. But there are other collections all over the web. Use them as a resource, see what works and learn to recognize what doesn’t.
  • Learn from the masters
    Chip Kidd had a great TED talk I suggest you go watch. There are also a ton of books out there as well with instructions on how to get started.
  • Sketch out ideas
    Sit down and start sketching out ideas. You don’t have to be a good artist. Just get a feel for what you want. Does it involve people? Does it need to even have a photograph? Is there something representational you could use instead?
  • Get messy
    Look back at The Goldfinch‘s cover. A lovely (and I believe in the public domain) painting by Carel Fabritius. Some paper. Some rough handwriting. It’s all laid out and photographed. It looks great. Don’t be afraid to try some weird crafty things to capture that cover you want for your book.

A Few Final Thoughts

So does the cover even matter? Some would say in our post-bookstore eBook-flooded-world a cover isn’t anything more than a thumbnail—if even that. Some would say the interior is what matters and cover design is a waste of time. Both stances are probably right on some level and sure, a well designed cover means nothing if your book isn’t up to snuff, and yes a cover is rarely seen in an eBook but I don’t think those are good arguments for bad cover design.

If you can put in a little effort into making your book look that much more professional thus making it more appealing to readers…why wouldn’t you? Quality sells. People look at covers before they buy a book (yes, even with eBooks.) There’s a reason why folks like Chip Kidd, David Pelham, and Barbara Dewilde can make careers designing some of the most iconic and recognizable covers on the market. It’s the same reason why people are drawn to smartly designed book covers, and why readers remember their favorites.

Imagery resonates. You have spent all this time writing a pretty amazing book. Spend a bit more time and give it a pretty amazing cover.