Confessions of a Digital Novelist

Archive for February, 2012

Suicide is a Tax Write-Off Now Available on Kindle and Lulu

by on Feb.27, 2012, under Digital Publishing, Tools of the Trade

As a dry run to prepare for the publication of Evermore: Call of the Nocturne as well as a way to promote it, I have made one of my short stories, Suicide is a Tax Write-Off, available for download on the Kindle Store and on Lulu.com. While my goal was to give away the short story for free, the Kindle Store mandates a minimum price of $0.99. However, the short story is free on Lulu and will also be free on the iBookstore when it passes through the approval process. Much to my surprise, the publication process with both Lulu and Kindle was easier than I thought. All I needed was:

  1. The .epub version of the manuscript.
  2. An ISBN
  3. A short description of the book

That’s it really. It took less than a couple of hours to set everything up and the book was on the store within a couple of hours. I had plenty of time to play around creating my Kindle Author page, although that made me realize that I need to get a better picture of myself. The process to get it on the iBookstore (via Lulu) takes a little bit longer because it needs to be reviewed by both Apple and Lulu. In short, the process was short, easy to understand and easy to do. I can’t wait to repeat the process with Evermore: Call of the Nocturne. Anyway, I hope that you all like the short story and that it wets your appetite for more. I’ll have more posts soon walking you through the publication process. Have a great night.

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Progression of Evermore Cover Art

by on Feb.21, 2012, under Books, Digital Publishing, Tools of the Trade

In order to help E:COTN set itself apart on digital bookstores, I’ve hired an illustrator to draw the cover art for the novel. Thankfully, Jordan Knoll, who did the cover design for Suicide is a Tax Write-Off, recommended Kevin Bae from Toronto. His highly expressionistic art-work seemed to be a pretty good fit for Evermore’s imagined world.

So after some preliminary discussions, he started working on short form bookmarks while we worked out the contract details. After a short period of time, he sent me his first two ideas.

The first image on the left is Blue who, while not the protagonist, is nonetheless the most iconic character in the book. This first image is a simple profile shot of the character with shadow on the left slightly concealing her scar. My biggest concern with this image was that the scar was not nearly grotesque enough and a simple profile shot isn’t enough to catch a prospective readers attention. We needed more.

The second image on the right goes in a completely different direction. Highlighting three different areas of Evermore in the spheres and the three distinct parts of Blue’s subconscious (id, ego, super-ego), the second image was interesting but we both found that it was too complicated and abstract. A reader looking at it would have no idea what the novel is about or its major themes.

With my feedback and further discussions, Kevin came back with a third image.

Kevin found the geometric dimensions of Market Square to be quite fascinating, so he devised its structure in more detail. At the bottom left of the image you will find his idea of what the cover page would look. Much simplified, the cover illustration sets out an interesting outline and draws the eye. However, it is still a little too abstract. At this point, the reader is not going to know anything about Evermore. Thus, he will be unable to discern that the geometric shapes are supposed to represent a meta-physical place inside the virtual world.

Kevin went back to the drawing board and completed a fourth image that you can see on the left. The image is profile shot of Blue but her face is disintegrating into polygons. I found that I loved this idea as soon as it was suggested. It’s simple, focuses on the most interesting features of a major character and it symbolizes powerful one of the major themes of the novel: the loss of self in a virtual world. Her face falling into polygons represented how Blue was slowing losing her mind inside the virtual world of Evermore. I loved the idea. It seemed to say so much while showing so little.

However, this is where we also got off track. When Kevin asked if I loved the tessellations, I thought that he was referring to the polygons and said yes. In case you’re wondering, polygons are single-side geometric shapes that are used to create three dimensional models, tessellations are images that mirror one another. They are completely different yet I didn’t seem to notice until the next image, seen on the right, arrived.

As you can see, the fifth image is getting more detailed. Blue is looking over her shoulder to something menacing approaching. The skin detail is extraordinary yet I didn’t like the calligraphy blocking the rest of her body or the tessellations. Kevin stated that the calligraphy was a stand-in for her hair and duster jacket. That was fine but the tessellations were a sticking point.

We arranged a phone meeting which gave us a chance to get on the same page about what we were looking for visually. It was probably something that we should have done earlier in that it made it far easier and quicker to get across my ideas. It also gave me a chance to give Kevin the short five-minute version of the story (as there’s not enough time for him to read the manuscript) so he would have a better idea about what happens and the visual themes that he could take advantage. It was also here that I decided to expand our contract so that Kevin would create both the front and back page of the cover. I felt that since I had spent so much time and energy on this novel, I might as well get both front and back covers created just in case I decided to offer a print version sometime in the future. Kevin was excited as this would give me more space with which to work.

Kevin’s next image was much closer to what I was looking for. The image is startling. The use of colour and light is gloomy yet provocative. The main imagery is in place with only the details to work out. As you can see, the main image of the Blue disintegrates into pieces that continue on to the back cover. Great design. The only real problem that I had with it was that the facial expression. Blue looked like she was about to fall asleep where normally she would wear a continually expression of repressed rage.

Kevin kept at it and produced the seventh image that you can see on the left. You can definitely see the physical features of Blue coming together. Her menace is there but not yet apparent as it is still an earlier image. The colour contrast is interesting and I love the beam of Blue light on the backside of the cover. The only problem that I had was that the polygons have become pyramids. This gave me an opportunity to touch base with Kevin to make sure that we were on the same page. I wanted single-side polygons because their synthetic nature highlights the virtual world that is tearing Blue apart.

With that in mind, Kevin kept working and produced image number eight on the right. The minute I saw it, I know that he had nailed the facial expression of Blue. This is exactly how she would like if her mind was being pulled to pieces. She would be pissed, looking for somebody to hurt. We were definitely getting closer. For the last couple of images, Kevin had been working on having her mind disintegrate first into key objects from the virtual world of Evermore before they disintegrated further into simple polygons. You can see this idea beginning to come into fruition here. My only person is that polygons are a little flat. At the end, the polygons should look like they’re spinning in empty space.

Following my feedback, Kevin went and created the ninth image, which you can see on the left. While still early, you can definitely see the structure coming together. It has that great whoosh of light going off to the left, the facial expression is maintained and the polygons, while still flat, look appropriately synthetic. Kevin also added red lighting on the right to replace her anger and yellow lighting on the left. At this point, the basic structure of the is complete. Now Kevin will find-tune it with my feedback, make a connected design for the back cover, and start adding in the fine details.

At this point, the cover art is well on its way and in very capable hands. I am really excited about how it’s going and I hope you all really like it. As Kevin creates new versions, I’ll upload them to the website so you can check them out. All in all, it’s been a really cool process to go through with Kevin and I can wait to see how it turns out. For the serious self-publisher, I would highly recommend it. In a new world where anybody can publish, you have to look for every edge to stand apart. Cover art is a great place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s a Wrap! Evermore: Call of the Nocturne is Finally Complete!

by on Feb.15, 2012, under Digital Publishing, Personal, Writing

After eight years, more than eight drafts, thousands of hours of my life, and three computers later, I have finally finished the manuscript for Evermore: Call of the Nocturne. My god, that took far longer than I ever expected it to. When I started back in 2004 (and this is not considering pre-production planning), I thought that it might take me three or four years. When I finished the first draft by 2007 or 2008, I thought I was nearly done. When I started this blog in 2010, my goal was to publish it that year. Obviously, that was not to be.

That said, the time was not wasted. During that four-year period, I had two professional edits done on my text. A developmental edit by Erin Stropes and a line edit by Amelia Bennett. The suggestions made by those two led to immense improvements in the manuscript. I owe them both a debt of gratitude for their contributions. E:COTN is a much better novel now then it was before their help. Still, it was four years!

Having reached the end of the road, I admit that my feelings are a little bittersweet. On one hand, I feel relief for having finally completed it. One the other hand, I feel a little bit lost. Completing this novel has been one of the driving forces of my life and now that it’s over, I feel like I’ve lost a little bit of the purpose of my life. I have been thinking about this novel constantly for the last eight years, thinking up new plot elements, developing characters, and filling holes and inconsistencies. Now that’s it’s done, I no longer have to obsess about it. I’m also somewhat overwhelmed but the length of time I’ve been working on it. I’ve been working on E:COTN for about a quarter of my life. With its completion, a significant chapter of my life has closed. It will be a time in my life that I will always miss.

In an ironic twist, I started to watch Martin Scorcese’s The Aviator to relax after completing the novel. At the beginning, the protagonist Howard Hughes four years and almost every cent who had on a movie called “Hell’s Angels”. His level of obsession with the project was absurd. He bought or loaned every plan he could find, used no fewer than 26 cameras, and then reshot the film twice: once because he wanted to get clouds into the shots and a second time because he wanted to add sound! It was insane and yet, while I watched, I understood completely. When you commit so much of your life to a project, it can be really difficult to let go. You want to make it perfect, but perfect is impossible. At some point you have to let it go, warts and all.

Howard Hughes couldn’t let it go and I’ve difficulty letting go of Evermore. As I came closer and closer to the end, I became more reluctant to finish. I was always finding something that needed to be improved or worked on. But at some point, I came to the conclusion that the novel was about as good as I could ever make. It was time to let it go. I had fixed all the plot holes I could find, I addressed every concern raised by my editors, it was done.

There’s still more work to do, of course. I still have to get the cover art drawn and arranged, I have to register the copyright and buy an ISBN. I’ll need to prepare the epub file, test it and upload it to iBookstore and the Kindle store. I’ll probably give the manuscript one more read to be sure but the bulk of the work is done.

I’ll also have more time to write on my blog. I’ve been so busy trying to finish E:COTN that I’ve neglected my blog at a very exciting time for self-publishing. We have new services arising, more direct access to iBookstore and an exciting new tool called iBooks Author that I’m dying to play with. I’ll keep all of you posted on all of these developments and keep you appraised of E:COTN’s release date as we approach.

Thank you again for your patience. I hope that when it is finally published, you will enjoy reading Evermore: Call of the Nocturne as I did writing it.

 

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