Final Covers & Blurb

There’s an old image of an iceberg that’s been floating around for a while that likens writing to ‘bergs. Of course, as everyone knows, most of the iceberg is underwater; hence the saying “tip of the iceberg”. The gist of the image is what people finally read is only a small portion of the whole process of writing the book, editing it, rewriting, more editing, beta reads, more editing, formatting, cover design, the hated blurb work, blah, blah, blah, blah. Blah.

My take on it is, sure, the final product is only the tip of the iceberg, but each part can be fun in its own way. Except writing blurbs; that just sucks.

Writing can be a slog sometimes, but I generally enjoy creating and telling stories. Editing can really be a slog, but it’s nice to go back and read what you’ve written and make it shinier. Formatting and cover design have always thrilled me, too. But, maybe I’m just weird that way.

Greetings From Sunny Aluna – the book I’ve been Tweeting snippets from for the better part of a year now – is almost done. It’s been written, re-written, edited, read, re-written, designed, and blurbed. All that’s left is to add my thank yous to all the people that helped out and do the formatting. Then it’s out the door and onto the marketing phase while I restart work on dysRupt.

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a book. I’ve heard people talk about how hard it can be when a book is over and they really got into it. Lord knows I’ve been there many a time, myself. Now, imagine being neck deep in that book for months and being done with it. It’s both terrifying and a relief. But it’s also sad to see it end because it’s almost like losing friends to moves or dropping your kid off at college – you know it has to happen and it’s for the best, but it still hurts.

That said, Greetings will likely be available sometime this week, depending on when I get off my ass and hit publish. For those of who’ve been wondering what the heck the book is about (other than badassery; that’s a given), here are the final print and digital covers, as well as the blurb.

Keep your eyes peeled for the buy link, which should be along soon.

Blurb:

Alunans say The Beast is a myth, a tale told by criminals to their kids about what can happen if they get too far out of line. Almost no one knows who The Beast is and the few who do refuse to talk for fear of repercussions.
Now The Beast has upped the ante and is seeking out a young boy from Earth with magic unlike anything else on Aluna.
In The Beast’s way is an alcoholic ex-cop, a famed Wushu master, and a young woman sent by a dragon. Together, they’ll navigate a city run by crime to find out who The Beast is and put a stop to him.
Unfortunately, they’re about to find out the war never ended.

Print Cover:

Digital Cover:

Book Covers – Transmute

Transmute is almost ready to fly. I’ve got a couple beta readers still flipping through things, but the main text is done. In the interim, I’ve been tweaking the eBook cover and working on the print cover. The print cover is, of course, far more time-consuming. After some back and forth with the good people at Indie Author Support & Discussion, I think they’re pretty much done.

What do you think?

transmutecomicr1mincolor

Here’s the eBook version, which has slightly different dimensions than the print version.

transmutecomiccovercs2

And the print version, complete with blurb.

So Close I Can Almost Touch It

The first cut of Transmute – the 3rd book in the Henchmen series – is almost done. I guess I’m kind of unique in that my revisions and edits usually add more text, most people remove words when they edit. I add them. This is probably because I have this nasty habit of writing all over the place. I get bored with one section and move to another one, then I find the stuff I did in the new section needs some more explanation in earlier sections. So, it’s sitting at about 70k and will likely tip the scales at 80k before it’s finally done.

Coming to the end of a book is never exactly easy. When I finished Henchmen, I kind of wandered around for a while wondering what to do with myself and where my adventurous friends got off to. Turns out they were still there, lurking in my subconscious like a bunch of muggers.

To tell the truth, I didn’t exactly have any further plans for Eve and the gang when I was done with Henchmen. Spoiler alert: they won. Of course, I couldn’t let that go and knew there had to be something else going on. That something else turned into Arise and it was in Arise that I finally introduced the main enemy of the series. Transmute leaves the gang in a bad space and the final book will ultimately end the saga. I still haven’t decided how it will end, but the pieces are finally in place for that last book to go a bunch of different directions.

There will also be one last Saxton story before Transmute hits. The Saxton stories give us a look at the bad guy of Henchmen and Arise and how he comes to grips with the world. They also add hints about the main antagonist of Transmute and whatever follows it, so if you haven’t read them, give ’em a shot. At the very least a lot of stuff gets blowed up real good and there are a couple awesome car chases.

All that said, I’ve never been big on cover reveals, so here’s the tentative cover for Transmute. If that image of Eve looking like a bad ass doesn’t get you interested, you might want to check your pulse and make sure you’re still alive.

Transmute cover ©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

Transmute cover
©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

But wait! There’s more! Here’s a couple other ideas I’d been experimenting with, but ultimately discarded.

Transmute cover ©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

Transmute cover
©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

Transmute cover ©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

Transmute cover
©2016, Eric Lahti. Illustration by sababa66

Drop me a line, let me know what you think.

Ah, Refreshing!

The Clock Man‘s gotten dinged a couple times by readers who felt it could have easily been expanded to a full-length novel. Doubtless, it would have been possible; the story clocked in at 34k words, after all. It’s hardly a short story at that length and is leaning heavily toward novel area.

For those of you unfamiliar with what constitutes a short story versus what constitutes a novel let me assure you that there are rules. No one completely agrees on those rules, but there are rules. I tend to follow the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s regulations for its Nebula award categories.

  • Short Story – Under 7,500 words
  • Novelette – 7,500 to 17,500 words
  • Novella – 17,500 words to 40,000 words
  • Novel – Over 40,000 words

Based on their rules, The Clock Man is heading toward the top end of the Novella category. Could I have eked out another 6k words in that story? Sure. Would I have published it as a stand-alone novel at 40,001 words? Probably not. You see, there’s an expectation of length among readers and, no matter what SFFWA thinks, most people consider a novel to start at about 60k-70k words. In case you’re wondering, the total word count of all eight stories in The Clock Man is about 110k.

To put those numbers into pages, the general rule of thumb is 250-300 words to a page. Obviously, this is variable based on page dimensions and type size and text density. Heck, even the typeface can change the word/page count, but 250-300 words per page is the industry standard. That means a 60k word book would be around 240-ish pages and a 70k word book bout would be around 280-ish pages. A 40k novel would only be 160 or so pages. Most readers want the longer books, so I would have had to add around 30k words to that story to put it in the realm of what’s commonly accepted as a novel.

Adding 26k-36k words to The Clock Man wouldn’t have made it any better and would probably have damaged the tale with unnecessary bloat. In my opinion, it was exactly as long as it needed to be. It told the tale of Crow and Chan and set things up for what will become a full-length novel tentatively titled Greetings From Sunny Aluna.

It’s funny; I’ve got the title picked out for a book I haven’t even started writing yet, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out a title for Henchmen 3 and that sucker’s about half written now. BTW, trust me, Henchmen 3 is going to be epic. It’ll tell the tale of Steven coming to grips with being a god and continue with the bad guys from Arise and even loop in some of the missing bits from Henchmen.

H3nchm3nComicAd1

But I digress. This post was supposed to be about a refresh on the look and feel of The Clock Man, not how awesome Henchmen 3 (of 4, in case you’re wondering) is going to be.

It’s going to be awesome, though.

So, anyway. I was working on a new Twitter ad for The Clock Man and something about that ad just freakin’ clicked. The ad in question is at the top of this post. I can’t exactly explain what I liked about it, but I just had to see how it would look as a book cover. A bit of tweaking later and I came up with the first cut and posted on IASD‘s Facebook group page. A few people and I went back and forth and the next thing I know, I’ve got this:

ClockManR2

Like I said: something about it just clicked. The original is on my Facebook author page if you ever want to see it. The end result is I accidentally redesigned the cover for The Clock Man. It’s not that I was disappointed with the original cover, I still like it. But, let’s face facts here, that new cover POPS like a mofo. Does it capture the feel of the book – or even the story? Kind of. But this is a collection of stories that are only somewhat interconnected so it’s difficult to pick a single image to capture the theme.

In a way, the dragon works as well as anything else.

Now, the technical notes:

The background was hand built in Inkscape. The image is from Vectorstock (drawn by pathique). The font is Akashi. The whole piece was assembled in Inkscape and I used GIMP to do some final modifications like resizing to keep the edges clean.

I find graphic design to be a good way to relax in a way that writing isn’t. I guess it uses a different part of my brain. If you ever find yourself with some free time and an idea, try it out. You might just create something cool.

Just as a side note, I do custom cover design. Drop me a line if you’re interested.

Have you ever redesigned one of your covers because you were bored?

Episodic Saxton

We’ve been watching the X-Files recently. The old-school, classic X-Files that were so wonderful until the ongoing plot really started to drag things down because it didn’t really ever get resolved. Then Mulder left and it just wasn’t the X-Files anymore.

But the early stories were the shit. An underlying, long-term plot about alien invasion? Weekly monsters including voodoo and devil worshippers and that thing that stalked people over the early Internet? Hell, yeah. Sign me up.

The-X-Files-T-1920x1080_v2

Admit it, you just started humming the theme song.

The thing that was so brilliant about it was how some stories featured stand-along pieces and others covered an over-arching exploration of the aliens. It kept you coming back for years. The fact that the characters were interesting and the acting was good just flat-out made it a good show.

Now, I’ve never written for a TV show, so I don’t really know the process, but I have written books. It takes me close to a year to get a full novel written, edited, formatted, and out the door. That’s kind of a long time and a full-length novel isn’t exactly the best medium for handling smaller stories and one larger story.

Enter Saxton. I’ve blogged about this idea before, and I’ve been Tweeting snippets of Saxton here and there while I work on it. The idea was to make better use of Kindle Unlimited – Amazon’s all you can read plan – while making shorter tales that each told a complete story and helped evolve the overarching story. I won’t give away the overarching story line here, but I will tell you the first edition is almost ready to go.

With a bit of luck (and no small amount of marketing), this process will help keep up interest in my work without having to hurry novels along, introduce my writing to people who don’t necessarily want a full-length novel (or find the politics and religion of the Henchmen series to be a turn-off), and it lets me stretch a bit so I don’t get writer’s block while working on H3nchm3n and dysRUPT.

They won’t be short stories, either. The first entry is almost 20k words now, well into novella territory. For those who don’t have Kindle Unlimited, each entry will be 99¢. Depending on the results, I may compile the whole lot into a single bulk book at the end of the year.

Saxton: Uneasy Allies should be ready by or before April 1 (yay! my birthday). After that, expect a new Saxton story every other month. Mystery, magic, secret societies, and monsters will all converge in the end to create an epic tale of good versus evil and one man’s changing view of exactly what constitutes good and evil. I’ll get blurbs and stuff up shortly, but I would like to show off the tentative cover art.

Saxton1

Cover Reveal – Hell Becomes Her by R.A. McCandless

Hell Becomes Her, the latest book in R.A. McCandless’ Flames of Perdition series,
releases Thursday, November 19th.  Here’s what all the fuss is
about:
Angels should be a human’s worst nightmare. Del didn’t think there
was anything worse than angels, or their fallen kin, demons. She and her
partner Marrin helped to keep the world safe from the horrors of escaped demons
for generations. But when Del’s daughter is kidnapped by a shadowy group, Del
will find that the world is even more dangerous than she suspected.
There are worse things than angels and demons.
 
Release Thursday, November 19th
Excerpt
The doors slid back exactly as they were supposed to, and Del pointed both her SIGs
through the opening. She knew it was wrong. Two hands on one gun with a
straight-thumbs hold was the correct way to give proper support to aim and
shoot quickly and consistently. Hollywood liked to show action heroes shooting
from the hip, or blasting away without aiming and taking down a room full of
bad guys, whose best response was to fire impotently at the ceiling or
comically into other bad guys. It was all so much useless eye candy. A gun in
each hand gave support to neither and made it impossible to sight. She’d need
independent use of each of her eyes, like a chameleon, to train the guns on
different targets at the same time.
Del knew it was wrong, but it looked damned impressive from the receiving end.
“Hold your fire!” a voice commanded from outside the elevator. “Hold your fire!”
Del wasn’t certain if the order was for her, the two ranks of Ljosalfar soldiers in their
body armor who surrounded the elevator, or both. Either way, holes weren’t
being punched into her favorite skin and that was a good thing. She might still
die, riddled with bullets and spitting blood, but not yet. Not yet.
She unwrapped and wrapped her fingers on her SIGs, and smiled.
“Hello boys,” Del said. “Who wants some?”
“Hold your fire!” Alfred Waru said again.
“Alfred, you cunning bastard,” Del purred. “Come on in and give me a hug. I’ve solved almost
all your problems. There’s only one left.”
“I’d rather you put down your weapons,” Alfred replied. Del homed in on his voice from
behind the second rank of soldiers, but couldn’t make him out through all the
helmets. “We’ve locked the elevator. The doors won’t close, and the car won’t
move. Let’s talk about this.”
“Talk about what?” Del said and laughed. “How you lied to your people?  How you
betrayed and murdered your own?  How you’ve doomed them through your
schemes and plots?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hell Becomes Her releases Thursday, November 19th 2015

 

Stay Tuned…

I’ll be doing a cover reveal for R.A. McCandless’s new novel Hell Becomes Her right here on October 19th, 2015.  It’s an exciting time and the very first cover reveal I’ve been involved in.

After that excitement has died down, I’ve got another treat: the first bit of Henchmen 3.

Make sure your seat belts are fastened, tray tables locked, and your seats are in the full upright position: it’s gonna be a Hell of a ride.

Now, to celebrate the tough women of fiction, enjoy a picture.  Have a great weekend.

1440984931807

Cover and Plot for Henchmen 2

First off, the actual title is Henchmen: Arise.  It refers to the changes in the power structure in the Henchmen world.  You’ll just have to read the story to get the details.

My old graphic design teacher used to tell us if we had to explain a graphic we had failed in the design, so I’ll forgo any explanation other than the technical description and some of the inspiration for it.  Everyone can decide for themselves if the cover “works,” so to speak.

Early this year, I stumbled across a series of comics called “God is Dead.”  The premise was interesting; the gods came back to Earth.  All of them.  And when they came back they started tearing the place up and, of course, immediately fighting among themselves.  The whole series is kind of an indictment on how we envision our gods and what we expect from them.  It’s seriously a good series and Hickman, as usual, writes some good stuff.  What caught my eye about it, though, was the minimalist cover art.  Most comics have extremely dynamic covers, filled with action and promises of an exceptionally engaging story.  “God is Dead” had some of those as well – remember the days of comics having a single, titular covers are gone – but the minimalist imagery is what caught my eye.

God is Dead #1.  You can find the entire series here: http://www.comicvine.com/god-is-dead/4050-67042/

God is Dead #1. You can find the entire series here: http://www.comicvine.com/god-is-dead/4050-67042/

Now, I’ve never been a spectacular designer, but I always liked bold, clean images; they’re easier for the eye to come to grips with.  You can look at a good, clean design and be able to easily process it.  Sure, there may be subtle nuances that you only get after examining it for a while, but the baseline meaning should be immediately obvious.

Book cover design should work essentially the same way as any other type of graphic design.  Grab the eye and convey a message.  There may be more text on a book cover, but the image should stand out in some kind of meaningful way.  Remember, the first thing a reader is going to see is the cover.  If the cover is crap, you’ll never get the reader to read the blurb, which is the second layer of book promotion.

The first few iteration of the cover for Henchmen were crap.  In fact, the one I first published with was crap.  The second edit I published with was crap.  I like the third one, though.  I don’t think it’s crap.  You can check the history of the covers on my website, if you’re curious.  The final one is up there, too.  The real early designs, like first gen black and white stuff obviously looked pretty lame, but I’m still thinking of getting a Henchlife tattoo.  Just a bit of cleaning up and I think it would look pretty cool.

The minimalist design that I liked so much with “God is Dead” was first explored in the Henchmen Awaken short; a story that two or three people have read and enjoyed.  It’s stark, but it works.  I took that philosophy and expanded the color palate for the Arise cover and wound up with a couple of covers that looked like they belonged together.  Unfortunately, that left a turd in the punch bowl in the form the original story, so its cover had to be altered.  So, here’s your interesting but useless bit of trivia for the day, Henchmen was the first book, but the current cover was actually designed after all the others.

So it goes and so it goes.

The “God is Dead” series used a logo and text to establish a theme and then switched the icon and colors to reflect each new issue.  I never could figure out what kind of an icon to use for a dream, short of a dream catcher (which is kind of overplayed in my opinion), so I opted to continue using my Dreamer silhouette and switch out the background art.  It’s kind of the same thing if you don’t think about it.

All the covers were done in a couple of remarkable open-source image tools: Inkscape and GIMP.  If you ever have need of a vector illustration program, it’s hard to go wrong with Inkscape and GIMP is a great photo editing tool.  Think of them as free version of Illustrator and Photoshop respectively.

So, without further ramblings about graphic design theory, here’s the new cover.

HenchmenAriseCover

I’m still quite a fair piece away from actually publishing the book, so any input is certainly welcome.

Now, as for the plot:

It starts off six months after the events of the first book.  Congress is pretty much gone (and no one really mourned their passing), D.C. is now the nightmarish home of the God of Dreams, and the group from the first book has scattered to the winds.  In releasing the Dreamer from his cage, Eve’s little group managed to piss off the gods, who have given her a choice: kill Steven as a proof of loyalty, or kill the Dreamer.  She opts for the hard path and, with some extrahuman help (and hindrance), the team gets back together to find a way to assassinate a god who can move through dreams.

From a quiet morning in Hesperus, CO to the climactic conclusion in Dulce, NM, Arise is a non-stop thrill ride filled with minions, gods, gun fights, Nazis, and monsters.  In the end, blood will spill, a god will fall, and a hero will arise.

(obviously, I’m still working on the blurb.  I’ll let ya’ll know when it’s published)