Depreciation of Appreciation

I was lying in bed the other night, and happened to start thinking about my six hours in A&E not long ago. I was thinking about how absolutely awful that light-headed, sick feeling is, and found myself thinking about it so much that it started to actually manifest.

So, of course, I stopped thinking about it and immediately felt better.

In turn, that got me thinking – when I should have been sleeping – about how much you appreciate things right after being unwell. Think, for example, about the last time, as we’ve all experienced, that you were lying in bed and started to feel sick. You eventually have to get up and run to the bathroom to throw up. It feels quite unpleasant, but usually, the moment you’ve thrown up, you feel better again. You go back to bed. And that bed you take for granted the rest of the time has never felt more comfortable.

I lay there attempting to feel like that. Yes, playing Assassin’s Creed had annoyed me, then I’d got annoyed at myself for going to bed so late, there’s no heating and the house isn’t insulated so it’s cold, blah blah blah. But I was lying in my nice, comfortable bed, listening to a gentle breeze against the window, the ticking of my clock. My health is fine, I was getting up in the morning and going into an office filled with friends, and there’d be lots of laughing and joking, and so on.

So it wasn’t difficult to find myself appreciating in that same way you do in the minutes, hours, or sometimes days after being unwell.

Then I fell asleep. Then I woke up the next morning and forgot all about it and went around as normal.

So why is it that when things are bad, we can appreciate the time when they get better, or think longingly about when they were, but when things are good – or even just ok – nothing is good enough? And it seems that, as time goes on and we have more and more, we appreciate less and less.

Wouldn’t we all feel a lot better about ourselves, each other and our situations if we just appreciated things?

LEAP!

My friends at Uproar Comics have today released the very first issue of their brand new sci-fi comic, Leap.

LeapDay

Leap is ‘A space-faring neo-science fiction epic that explores the light of the human experience within the vast unending darkness of the universe’. It follows the story of the spacecraft Vanguard and its crew, as they chart the galaxy. Their mission is to map the stars so that humanity can some day follow, collecting new resources and if need be, find a new home.

This issue – Issue Zero – has the crew landing on their first planet, over eighty years after leaving Earth. What they find is aliens, adventure and the first sparks of truth.

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy under the crafty pretence of helping edit (evil laugh), and I enjoyed it. I don’t read comics and I’m not all that keen on them in general (I’ve read a grand total of four famous and popular graphic novels and rolled my eyes and shook my head all the way through all but one of them), but I found myself watching the page count as I neared the end of Leap, and hoping some kind of PDF magic would keep it going into the next issue. It did not. So, suffice to say I will be buying issue two and beyond.

The artwork is one of the biggest issues I have with comics and graphic novels. Usually I find it god-awful-looking, frankly. But no so with Leap. It’s full, vivid colour, painted over 3D models. It’s clear, unique and interesting to look at. And I’ve seen refinements to some of those 3D models, so future issues are going to look even better.

So, in short, buy it. Here. Now. Also watch the trailer and sample some pages.

Leap

Anatomy of a Book Cover

As usual, a slightly misleading title. I’m not going to share my theories of what makes the perfect book cover. I’m going to share my process of getting a book cover. Because I don’t have anything better to do.

Step Uno

The first thing I do is think what I want the cover to be. Quite an obvious step.

Shadow of the Wraith, Kindle coverPaperback cover

For Shadow of the Wraith, I decided I wanted a stark space scene, with the almost-titular ship looming over a planet featured at the end of the book. I later decided that I wanted a different cover for the e-book version (I don’t really remember why). I decided that one should be slightly more informative, so I decided that it should show the ship heading towards an Earth-like planet (Orion), having just cut straight through another ship. I thought/hoped that would give an idea of the threat before people even read the blurb.

Temple of the Sixth Cover

For Temple of the Sixth, I wanted an image of the titular character (the Sixth) standing at the mouth of her ‘temple’, seemingly oblivious of the predatory animals stalking her. She had to be looking out at an eclipse. From within, a thin stream of blood was to trickle out. The first part was a scene from the start of the book, and the blood and eclipse were references to the supposed End of Days omens that start appearing halfway through the book. The blood stream ended up looking more like a crack in the ground though.

Kira

For Kira, the cover seemed obvious to me. The ‘camera’, as it were, was to be looking down a street in the city. Cold, dark, scary. The end of the street was to open into a stark desert, with nothing in sight. In between the two, I wanted Kira, as though stuck between two worlds, both equally unwelcoming. She had to be looking out towards the desert, where her future was. But it’s bleak, empty, nothing on the horizon. Above, the sky was to be dark and stormy.

WW

Wyrd Worlds is a sci-fi and fantasy anthology by several authors. To be completely honest, I wasn’t fond of any of the covers other authors were putting forward, so I created my own. It’s very difficult to put together something that portrays both sci-fi and fantasy at the same time, and I think the others were trying to hard to accomplish that, so I decided on something that didn’t try. Something fairly plain that also clearly showed that it was an anthology. The books putter-togetherer created a poll and mine was voted the cover to be used.

Finished

Acts of Violence was different to all the others. I had to work at it! For the others, the cover presented itself to me easily, but for AoV I couldn’t decide. I had a few ideas, mostly comprising rain and darkness. Eventually I decided on a scene from the book. I thought that having the main character, Jack Mason, sitting in a diner, staring across the road at a club, gun on the table, would convey some sense of what the book contained. It would be the small, subtle things that would make the difference.

Step Zwei

Now, my second step is simply emailing the artist to see if he’s available to do the cover. But I had to find the artist first.

For Shadow of the Wraith, that wasn’t too hard. I did the cover myself. Then I decided to have a different one for the e-book, so I had to find a proper artist. My first (and only) stop was deviantART. deviantART is full of artists of all kinds and degrees of skill. There are amateur photographers all the way through to professional oil painters selling their work for thousands. Quite a lot of concept artists for games and films have their work on there.

First, I trawled through page after page of art to find artists whose work I liked. Then I would send them a message to ask if they were interested in doing a commission, and if so how much they would charge. Most said no, or were too expensive.

Secondly, I went to the forums, where there is a specific section set aside for advertising your project to find an artist. I got a number of responses there, including one from Mark Williams. I told him some more about what I wanted, and he thought he could do it and quoted me a good price for it.

Since it was the first time, I wrote up a brief contract to specify what work was being done and how much I was to pay him and who had what rights and so on. I don’t do that any more, but it’s probably a good idea the first time you work with someone.

Kira came next, and Mark was unable to complete it, so a friend of a friend (Cui Yuan) did the cover for me. His style is just right for what I want in my covers, so I stuck with him for Temple of the Sixth too. He was unable to do Acts of Violence, so I went back to Mark for that. The picture of Juni was drawn by Mark too, as an apology for having to stop halfway through doing Kira’s cover.

Steppe The Third

Now comes the tricky bit: working with the artist. Artists are fond of doing their own thing, and it can be difficult to get them to do your thing! You have to find a balance between cementing the important parts of the cover, and leaving the artist to their creativity and freedom with the rest.

The first thing I do is put together a very rough and ridiculous looking example of the basic layout. Thankfully, I’ve deleted those from my computer, so I can’t show you. Then I write as detailed a description as I can, including quotes from the book/s if it’s a scene, or involves a character.

By Cui Yuan

By Cui Yuan

Next, the artist does up a rough example of his own, to show me what his vision of the cover is. Sometimes, I draw a little bit over it to show what changes I want. Then it’s a process of more and more alterations and slightly more detailed previews until the whole layout and ‘camera’ angle and sizes and so on are correct.

The artist then puts in full detail and colours and shadows. Then it’s a matter of going back and forth to sort out little details.

Step Chetyri

Once we are both happy that the artist has finished, he sends me the full-size image (and I pay). Then I make my own little alterations to it. These may range from simply inserting the title and my name, to changing colours and the like. I have not yet employed the services of someone who can create the title and its font for me. So far, basic and fairly plain fonts have suited the covers well enough.

And that’s about it. Below, I’ll post some images from the process of each cover (though I don’t seem to have the process images from the e-book version of SOTW).

I always recommend against people doing their own covers (mildly hypocritical), as I have yet to see more than a handful of covers that the author has done themselves that are actually decent. People DO judge books by their covers, and it will always be the first thing they see of the book. It needs to look professional. Searching the internet for some stock images and shoving them together in MS Paint will not achieve this. That’s not to say that getting a good artist will result in a good, professional cover. Book cover design is an art in itself, in a way. But I’ve also seen a good deal of covers created by so-called professional cover designers that aren’t much better than those stock image ones I mentioned. So you simply have to shop about and make sure you see plenty of previous work by the person.

Hopefully this was helpful, or at least vaguely interesting.

Shadow of the Wraith – Me (E-book version by Mark Williams)

My first idea for SOTW

My first idea for SOTW


Second try

Second try


Hardback Cover

Hardback Cover


Paperback Cover

Paperback Cover

Temple of the Sixth – Cui Yuan

Cui Yuan, Coloured Update

Cui Yuan, Coloured Update


Coloured and Shaded

Coloured and Shaded


Final Version

Final Version

Kira – Cui Yuan

Cui Yuan, WIP 1

Cui Yuan, WIP 1


Yuan's Final Version

Yuan’s Final Version


My Final Version

My Final Version

Wyrd Worlds – Me

Original Idea

Original Idea


Wyrd Worlds Final

Wyrd Worlds Final

Acts of Violence – Mark Williams

I started this one myself before I knew the title. It was more to waste some time than a realistic effort to make a cover.

Rough Attempt 1

Rough Attempt 1


Rough Attempt 2

Rough Attempt 2


Rough Attempt 3

Rough Attempt 3


Rough Attempt 4

Rough Attempt 4

Then I contacted a professional.

Mark Williams, First Sketch

Mark Williams, First Sketch


First Update

First Update


Mark's Finished Version

Mark’s Finished Version


My Finished Version

My Finished Version

Acts of Violence

As you may have gathered from the counter on the right ending its countdown, and from me saying several times, Acts of Violence is now available!

Acts of Violence is a semi-noir (though beta readers have stated there’s nothing semi about it) thriller. It is, strictly speaking, sci-fi as well, but there’s little enough of that for people with no inclination towards sci-fi to still enjoy it. Basically, it happens to be set in the same universe as the NEXUS series (though not a part of that series), but in a very low-tech, poor colony town so strongly fueled by crime that even the incessant rain can’t douse it.

Links:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Smashwords (all e-formats)

Within the next week or so, Smashwords will also distribute to retailers such as iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Waterstones, etc. But there’s no need to wait, as Smashwords itself has the book in nearly every conceivable format!

Finished

My name’s Jack Mason. I made a mistake. Took home the wrong girl. Now she’s dead. Cut up. And they’re telling me I did it.

It’s the same cop that tried to take me down ten years ago. Now he’s coming at me hard. And he’s not the only one. Cole Webster, the city’s crime lord, thinks I stole from him. Broke me out of custody just to ask me about it. Then I killed his son. Now he really wants me.

Add to this equation a government agent, and I’m a real popular guy right now. Pretty much everyone I meet wants me dead, lawfully or otherwise. There’s nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. I’ve got till morning to uncover Webster’s trafficking operation and take the heat off me. And all I’ve got to go on is a pissed off homeless girl with a thirst for revenge.

Guess it could be worse. Can’t quite figure how.

Artificial Absolutes – BBB

This time, because the sequel has recently been released, I’m posting two in one! So here’s the first:

Artificial Absolutes

By

Mary Fan

AA_MaryF

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Release Date: February 25, 2013

Genre: Science Fiction (Space Opera/Cyberpunk/New Adult)

I have been reading this for the past few months (I am a very slow reader, and haven’t had much chances to read). I’d hoped to be able to write a review of it, but I’m only about halfway through. So far, though, I am enjoying it. It’s far from the typical know-everything hero travelling the galaxy, and apart from anything else, this helps makes action scenes far more tense. She has no training to fall back on; no experience. I’m looking forward to continuing when I get the chance, and I already have the sequel, Synthetic Illusions, ready for when I do.

Blurb:

Jane Colt is just another recent college grad working as an Interstellar Confederation office drone—until the day she witnesses her best friend, Adam, kidnapped by a mysterious criminal. An extensive cover-up thwarts her efforts to report the crime, shaking her trust in the authorities. Only her older brother, Devin, believes her account.

Devin hopes to leave behind his violent past and find peace in a marriage to the woman he loves. That hope shatters when he discovers a shocking secret that causes him to be framed for murder.

With little more than a cocky attitude, Jane leaves everything she knows to flee with Devin, racing throughthe most lawless corners of the galaxy as she searches for Adam and proof of her brother’s innocence. Her journey uncovers truths about both of them, leading her to wonder just how much she doesn’t know about the people she loves.

Purchase Links:

E-Book

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

iTunes

Paperback

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Reviews:

“I’d have to say this book combines some of the best robotic AI, like Asimov… It is unlike anything I’ve read before on this subject.”
- James M. Butler, author of the “New Dawn” sci-fi series

“…Engaging characters and a story with conflicts and struggles that are universal to all humans across time…”
- BigAl, reviewer for BigAl’s Books and Pals

“A cracking tale of fights and escapes and conspiracies, set in a wonderfully and intricately evoked future world. The story rattles along at a fine pace, twisting and turning its way to and fro across the galaxy.”
- Mark Roman, author of “The Ultimate Inferior Beings”

“One hell of a sci-fi ride… The mystery in this story was incredible and really kept me at the edge of my seat… It really goes beyond the some other sci-fi reads.”
- Diana, reviewer for Offbeat Vagabond

“Artificial Absolutes is much more thanspaceships and robots… It is a timeless exploration of the complexity of family dynamics, the conflicts between faith and non-belief, and what truly defines a human being.”
- Julie H. Hughs, reviewer for Random Musingsof a Curious Mind

Synthetic Illusions

By

Mary Fan

Illusion is the only reality.

SI_MaryF

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Release Date: January 4, 2014

Genre: Science Fiction (Space Opera/Cyberpunk/New Adult)

Blurb:

Jane’s new career as a composer is a dream come true, but her blossoming relationship with Adam is marred by his terrifying nightmares. When Jane receives a warning that a shadowy agency is targeting Adam’s seminary school, she rescues him in the nick of time, but the only way she can protect him from such a powerful enemy is to run.

In a shocking betrayal, her brother wasn’t the one who warned her about the attack on Adam. Instead, Devin was leading it. As Jane struggles to keep one step ahead of Devin, Adam’s exhaustion gives way to horror: His nightmares have begun to touch the real world.

Jane can’t abandon Adam to a fate worse than death, and far more than Adam’s life hangs in the balance. As Jane pushes further into the dark unknown, she must challenge everything she once believed in, and she faces the most wrenching decision of her life: choosing between the two people she loves most.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK and US

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

About the Author

Mary

Mary Fan lives in New Jersey, where she is currently working in financial marketing. She has also resided in North Carolina, Hong Kong, and Beijing, China. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy.

Mary has a B.A. in Music, specializing in composition, from Princeton University and enjoys writing songs as much as writing stories. She also enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things—she’ll try almost anything once.

Author Links:

Website

Blog

Facebook (author page)

Facebook (book page)

Twitter

Tumblr

Goodreads

Pinterest

YouTube

Other Works From Mary Fan:

Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil (Perhaps one of the best titles I’ve ever seen, and immediately screams ‘best seller’)

Publisher: Glass House Press

Release Date: Summer 2014

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Dystopia

Part dystopia and part high fantasy, Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil is the first book in a YA series that follows a spirited teen’s efforts to overthrow an evil government while battling supernatural beasts.

Long ago, the evil Lord of the Underworld ravaged the Earth. The Enchanters, magical guardians of the Earth, defeated him, but his monsters lingered. Nearly a century later, the Enchanters have turned the former United States into the totalitarian Triumvirate, where non-magical humans, known as Norms, are treated as second class citizens.

Flynn, a Norm boy, was ten years old when he witnessed his mother’s death at the hands of an undead giant. No one would tell him where the giant had come from or what his mother had been doing that night. After six years of wondering, he finally finds a clue and is determined to uncover the truth – whatever the consequences. His journey takes an unexpected turn when he accidentally commits an act considered terrorism by the Triumvirate. He soon finds himself hunted not only by the government, but also by supernatural monsters and a man with power over the undead. Rescued by underground rebels, he is enticed by their vision of a better world and joins their revolution. But as he struggles to reconcile what he sees with what they tell him, he starts to realize that the rebellion is not everything it seems.

The Firedragon

Publisher: Glass House Press

Release Date: 2014

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Dystopia (Novella)

Before she fought the Triumvirate with Flynn, Aurelia “the Firedragon” Sun the star Cadet at the Academy of Supernatural Defense. This is her story.

Almost a hundred years ago, the Enchanters defeated the Lord of the Underworld in one of the most fearsome wars the world had ever seen. The public thinks that this victory means the people are safe. But they’re wrong. The supernatural beasts the Lord unleashed remain on the earth, multiplying and ravaging what’s left of civilization. As long as these monsters exist, mankind will be in danger. And though the government, ruled by the magic-wielding Enchanters, seeks to protect their people, they are too few in number. They need the Defenders – a special class of non-magical humans – to fight the monsters. The Defenders are an elite force, and mankind’s only hope against the horrors that live beyond their gates.

Fourteen-year-old Aurelia “the Firedragon” Sun has been training since she could walk to become a Defender, and her extraordinary combat skills have earned the attention of the powerful government. In fact, she’s been tapped to represent her nation in an international monster-fighting competition, which pits champions from across the globe against creatures of the Underworld in a violent spectacle. If she wins, she will become a full-fledged member of the Defender force.

But as Aurelia moves deeper into the competition, she realizes that all is not as it appears. There’s something sinister behind the competition, something that could change the way she sees everything … and the Enchanters, it seems, are not the heroes she thought. Aurelia begins to ask questions. But before she can discover the truth, she is pitted against the most dangerous monster in the competition – one that will take her life if it can.

Bullet In The Rain

That was my first thought for the title of my next book, a semi-noir(ish) thriller. Then there were other possibilities, mostly comprised of rain and darkness and bullets. There are a fair number of bullets, though, and a lot of rain, so I decided on something a little more relevant to the story: Acts of Violence.

Acts of Violence is science fiction, set in the same universe as the NEXUS series. Unlike that series, though, it would pretty safely fit under Hard Sci-Fi. Also unlike the series, AoV is not New Adult. With plenty of swearing and violence, this is aimed at an adult audience. With some hard work, and a little bit of luck, it will be released later this very month!

Mary Fan (a name you’ll have heard many times on this blog) recently hosted a cover reveal for Acts of Violence. Now that it is safely revealed, I can post it here too, with the (current) blurb:

Finished

My name’s Jack Mason. I made a mistake. Took home the wrong girl. Now she’s dead. Cut up. And they’re telling me I did it.

It’s the same cop that tried to take me down ten years ago. Now he’s coming at me hard. And he’s not the only one. Cole Webster, the city’s crime lord, thinks I stole from him. Broke me out of custody just to ask me about it. Then I killed his son. Now he really wants me.

Add to this equation a government agent, and I’m a real popular guy right now. Pretty much everyone I meet wants me dead, lawfully or otherwise. There’s nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. I’ve got till morning to uncover Webster’s trafficking operation and take the heat off me. And all I’ve got to go on is a pissed off homeless girl with a thirst for revenge.

Guess it could be worse. Can’t quite figure how.

New Year, New…Year

Yes, funnily enough the transition from 2013 to 2014, AKA Tuesday to Wednesday, has not heralded some transcendental change or indeed a sudden desire to lose weight, or gain weight, or eat more celery and less pig, or take more risks or less risks. It means we’re that much closer to machines taking over the world and sparking a giant zombie spider uprising and that someone stole my heating oil. Or we used too much and it ran out. I’m unsure. Also that I’m posting my first blog post for a while.

I’m going to pretend that you care, and tell you how my Christmas was. It was fine, thank you. I ate mince pies and bread sticks and custard and chocolate and juices and stollen. In various combinations. And I watched Person of Interest, Arrow, Agents of SHIELD, Terminator, and the world spin around me every five minutes due to being unwell. My New Year’s day was the same, minus much of the chocolate and mince pies, and some of the spinning.

On a more interesting note, this should be the month in which my thriller will be published. As it is quite short compared to my previous novels, I don’t intend to put it out in paperback form at the moment. I don’t think I could keep the price low enough for a 71k word book (the last two were 128k and 98k respectively). So it will only be available in all e-formats. I will be revealing the cover soon.

I have a fleck of gold paint on my jumper and I don’t know why.

There are also stirrings in the Wyrd Worlds 2 direction, but that won’t be until later in the year, if it happens. Also later in the year, I hope to have the third book of NEXUS finished, but I intend to work on that and something entirely different simultaneously once my thriller is out, so I can’t be sure.

Enjoy 2014, and if you win a lot of money give it to me, because I want it.