90001 words and ready

Last month I held my breath and input the information to change the name of my first novel. I was changing a few other things at the same time, like of the cover (of course) and how I present my name. For all my worry, the experience went remarkably well.

Now, I’m ready to do it again. Shape of Secrets is as done, double checked, and triple checked as it is going to get. I’m into formatting and prepping mode, with the hope of submitting all formats on Sunday the 17th, getting approval Monday the 18th.

The initial word count was 125,665. This new slim version comes it at exactly 90,001 words. I think that’s really cool for a book that used to be called y1.

Bitchy Editor is Back

I wanted to tweak my book One of One before I re-released it with a new title and cover. Last summer I gave it a gentle read, cutting more than I expected. Afterwards, I worried I had messed with the continuity, and this fall I decided I best do a quick second pass, just to make sure everything still flowed.

Hmm …. I don’t know what happened to the gentle reader, but when I started on it the second time through, I met my new alter ego. I’ve come to call her Bitchy Editor. She stepped out of my subconscious and sunk her teeth into my first book with a blood-thirsty zeal.

I wanted fast assurance that my text flowed well. She decided to look at every sentence and demand to know what it was doing in my book. Why does this matter? Who cares about this? Why is that in here?

The result was a better book. Maybe a little less charming here and there, but readers will never miss those cute detours I once took.

One of One is now ready for its January 17 release, and I’ve moved on to the same process with Shape of Secrets. Its gentle read happened last fall, and a few days ago Bitchy Editor took over. She’s got all sorts of problems with this book. Why doesn’t anyone here ever use a contraction when they speak? Nobody uses big words like that? What does that even mean?

She’s having a good time, I think. To be honest, it’s hard to tell. Shape of Secrets is taking shape, however, in new and better ways. I’ve set the release date for Monday February 18 and I hope to be ready to thrown this, my second creation, out into the world then with a joyful scream.

Almost my new cover

I love where Deranged Doctor Design is going with this cover. What do you think? I’m having such fun re-birthing my second novel. The newly named and highly edited new version will be out in mid-February and I can’t wait.

Curious to see the first two versions? Here’s the first proposal.

I liked it, but wanted more orange, and more of a sense of the tropics. Also, Zane’s shape-altering abilities force him to forego facial hair in the book, so Zane had to change. Finally, much as I like the lasso of fire, as I called it, on the first book, I didn’t want to commit to having it on all six covers. So here is the second version.

I liked everything about this one but Zane, or more specifically Zane’s head. I could tell we were getting close, though, and we were.

y1 will die

What prompts an author to kill her own book?

On January 1, 2019 my second novel is scheduled to die. I admit the prospect makes me sad. This book, with its fiery sunset-themed cover, has been part of my life for a while.

I finished it in early 2012, and released it on Kindle September 2012. Shape shifter Zane and his unique crime solving skills were a source of pride and joy.

As with my first book, x0, I’ve never totaled up the exact sales, because it’s not easy to separate a sale from a give-away. I’m pretty sure I’ve been paid for at least three hundred copies, and have gifted at least as many more. I’d hoped for more sales, of course, but every time a stranger liked my book and let me know, it delighted me. No regrets.

Times change. Sales of y1 have gone from small to nearly zero.

A few months ago, I attended a conference of science fiction writers, and signed up for a mentor. It may have been one of my more useful decisions. This guy pointed out that I could still have a marketable product in this particular story, but I needed a more genre-appropriate cover, a much better title, and an updated and aggressive marketing plan.

I can change the title of my book? Apparently I can. I do need a new ISBN number (no problem). I also need to acknowledge to the new reader what has been done (just in case he or she is one of the 600 humans who already read this story.)

And …. I need to kill y1. That is, I must take it off the market completely. No electronic versions for sale, although those who have it obviously always will. No new paperbacks printed and sold, although nothing can prevent current owners from reselling their copies on Amazon and elsewhere.

Over the years, I’ve eliminated all the hyperlinks in the book, and the text that went with them. I’ve made corrections and done minor clean-up. Why not. But I’ve refrained from doing anything major.

Because this will be a new book, I have the chance to do some serious editing. So I have. The original y1 came in at just under 125,000 words. The leaner new version is under 103,000. I’ve broken the chapters into smaller chunks. I’ve given more attention to point of view. I’ve taken the techniques I’ve learned over the past six years, at conferences, from other writers, and simply from practicing my craft for hours every week, and I’ve done my best to fold those learnings into telling my story better.

I’m pleased with the result.

So while y1 will soon cease to exist, it will give birth to a new and better novel. I’ll be blogging all about it soon

Be Yourself? Which self?

“Just be yourself.” I’ve been given that suggestion hundreds of times, and it was particularly unwelcome coming from my waitress who I suspected had indulged in a few too many free shots at the bar.

In a way, it was my own fault. I’d broken one of my cardinal rules and shared a piece of personal information with this complete stranger. Once she knew I was apprehensive about meeting my fellow diners, she proceeded to offer a steady stream of unwanted advice until they arrived. This morning I’m still miffed that my oblivious husband tipped her 20%.

But bad restaurant experiences aside, that is a horrible piece of advice. Pretty much anything you do or say is yourself. Some sides of you are more likeable, or more fully developed, or more integrated into the whole you, but if it is coming out of your mouth without an intent to lie, it is you.

The problem is that we are all complex creatures. I have a squeamish side that gets nauseous at little things. I also have a this-is-an-emergency side that steps in and deals with the grossest of injuries if need be. I’m not faking either one. I’m not a simple person, and neither are you.

So when people tell me to be myself, my answer is “which self?” I’ve got at least dozen different genuine responses in my head to anything you have to say. Some may lead to a budding friendship, others to hostility. Over time you might get to know most of those sides of me, but which one do I let you see first?

This dilemma of defining the real me has recently spilled over into my writing, or more accurately into the marketing of my books. I love my book titles and my book covers. They are the real me. However, I’ve been told by those I respect that neither titles nor covers are helping me sell books.

After quite a bit of reflection, I’ve decided that being effective is also the real me. I’m practical and I like to achieve my goals. My goal is to find more readers. So, the real me is renaming my books and has sought out a professional to provide covers that will be a lot more like the one shown here. (It is for someone elses book about an appearance changer.)

What will those new names be? I’m having a lot of fun deciding on them. What will the new covers really look like? I can’t wait to find out. I’ll be sharing some of both here over the next few months, and if all goes according to plan a new crime novel about a gay genius who can change his appearance will be released in early January 2019.

The real me can’t wait.

 

Designing your own book cover, part 2

After my first book was published, I figured that because I had helped design one good-looking book cover, I could easily do another. As I started the second draft of y1, I returned to Shutterstock thinking that this one was going to be easy. I mean, the action takes place in the South Pacific, with much of the plot occurring on a sailboat at sunset. Oh and it involves a chameleon and a fire-dancer. This was going to be like putting puppies and kittens on a book cover. I couldn’t go wrong.

It is true, the world is full of wonderful orange images of boats and setting suns, and I had no trouble finding several. My first pass is shown to the right, and it was better than my first try with the previous book. But the lone chameleon didn’t look right to me, so I got the bright idea to use two chameleons, so that this book would sort of mirror the two ladies on the cover of x0.  Now, my chameleons were having a staring contest.

It was time to contact the graphics people at Mother Spider, and see if the same magic could be performed on this cover that had happened with my first book, xo. I explained to Jennifer, the owner of Mother Spider, that the novel was about the grown-up adventures of a boy who had once taught himself to shift his appearance while watching his pet chameleon. I had to have the boat, the sunset, the fire-dancing imagery, at least one chameleon and an orange cover.

“We’ll see,” was all she said.

I was surprised and mostly delighted when she sent back this idea. It hadn’t occurred to me to try to get Zane, my shape-shifting main character, on the front of the book, but I liked the idea. Never mind that for most of the novel Zane is in his twenties, and never attempts to look like a chameleon. It captures the spirit of the story.

But, unlike the revision done for x0, I didn’t like everything about it. Maybe I was getting picky, or maybe my own sense of how these six covers were going to come together was growing. I wanted the font to match the first novel, and I didn’t like the way she had tamed my fire-dancing background behind the title of the book. I also didn’t like the weird white strip that ran across Zane’s face and stuck out of his right ear or the funky stuff on the left side of his neck. Like I said, I was getting picky.

Jennifer fixed the font, the fire and the neck, but was at a loss as to how to easily fix the half-morphed Zane. Furthermore, she let me know gently that those three revisions took more time than I was paying for and there were understandable limits on how long she was willing to dink around until I was satisfied. Fair enough.

I was lucky that while Mother Spider was going to put its stamp on my cover, Jennifer was willing to make this a collaborative effort. My real life job (making geological maps of the subsurface) involves a lot of computer graphics, too. I didn’t start with much knowledge of book covers, but I sure knew how to manipulate a digital image.

So I took Jennifer’s half-morphed Zane and blew him up big on my screen. I had a free program called “Paint” on my laptop and I played with the image until I liked it. The differences might seem subtle to someone else, but I enjoyed making the improvements and was happier with the result. Jennifer graciously put my revised Zane-without-the-white-stripe into her cover, and y1 was published as shown above September 2012.

I learned a few things from this. One is that I am going to care more about how my cover looks than anyone else, and as a self-published author I need to be satisfied with the end result. Another was that while I do benefit from professional help with my book covers, I also need the skills and tools to make the sorts of subtle modifications that I cannot afford to pay someone else to do. That means I need to work with someone who doesn’t mind my staying actively involved in the art.

I recently removed the many live links from the electronic versions of y1, as they have become too difficult to maintain. I had to redo the cover, calling it “a novel” instead of “an interactive novel.” While I was at it, I went ahead and fixed Zane’s chameleon eye, which had had always bothered me. My minor improvement is shown above.

The ability to modify a stock image has turned out to be quite useful. I’m now working on the cover for book six, and struggled to find a my new character Violeta. She’s a forty year old telepathic Argentine, and nothing came close. I selected an image of a native American teenager, which I morphed until I liked it. Several of the steps in my process are shown below.

 

 

(For more on this topic see Designing your own book cover, part 1 and Designing your own book cover, part three)

A better word than joy?

I knew from the beginning that my second novel would be centered around the theme of joy. My first novel was all about our connection to others; I wanted this one to celebrate the authenticity of being oneself.

Because I’m the kind of person who gets carried away with an idea, I decided to center the action around the place on the globe that was exactly opposite of Nigeria, where my my first novel took place. Turns out that location is just south of the equator, smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This fact might have discouraged someone else, I but I was determined to introduce this symbolism of opposites into my already half-developed plot. So I delved deeper and discovered the island nation of Kiribati, and began to write a novel that encompassed a swath of the sea.

Just as “peace” seemed an inadequate word to describe x0, “joy” barely touched the surface of my overarching theme for y1. What I wanted was a word that meant

the sheer exhilaration that can only be found when a person is true to who they are.

We do need a word for that.

The book was orange in my head. Orange for sunsets over the Pacific and orange for crazy-strong exuberance and for all that glows. This had to be a book about the fire within.

I already knew that later in the series I would write a book that was blue, and it would be about the virtues that tug us in the other direction. I’m still struggling to find a single word that encapsulates the theme of my blue book, but I know that it is about something important, too.

(For more thoughts on words we need, see A better word than loyalty?, A better word than peace?,  A better word than hope? and A better word than courage?)