Days of Winter Guardians

I have left it so long since the last blog post that the whole layout of this New Post screen has changed. But anyway, it’s time to update the world on my goings on and allow you to unbate your breath.

The main, important things are that I have now finished my second short story featuring Kira. It is tentatively entitled ‘Kira Part 2’. Or ‘Horizon’. It will be first published in the sequel to last year’s anthology: ‘Wyrd Worlds II’. The exact date isn’t known just yet, but it will likely be as soon as this September! So I should probably get started on the cover.

The second important thing is that I’ve been writing a number of blog articles for Uproar Comics, hence why I’m even more quiet than usual here. I’ve been writing about a range of subjects, from the usual films, TV and games, to extraterrestrial life and the Mariana Trench. If you’re interested, which…why would you NOT be, they can all be found here.

And now for the all-important film update! I’ve watched several films in the past couple of months, some of them crap and some of them good.

Captain America 2: Winter Solder is good. Very good. Damn good. I think it’s tied for second place in my list of best Marvel films with Guardians of the Galaxy. The Avengers is better, I think. The only downside is that I guessed the big twist before the film was even released.

Guardians of the Galaxy is also good. Very good. I should probably say damn good, too, because it’s tied with Captain Freedom. It’s not the typical Marvel film, yet ties in with the Marvel universe well. I expected it to be pretty bad purely, simply, because of Chris Pratt. He seemed from the trailers to be an incredibly irritating…prat. But, in fact, he was pretty decent. Personally, I think Nathan Fillion would actually have been better in the role, but it doesn’t matter. It was damn good. And very funny.

X-Men: Days of Future Past was…actually a bit of a let down. Probably mostly because of how much people raved about it, and claimed it was the best Marvel film yet. It isn’t. There are several better ones in my opinion, including at least two previous X-Men films. But it was pretty good. Wolverine was in it, so that was good. But it didn’t feel like a superhero film at all. It was mostly talking, and shouting, and running around. The scenes in the future seem to be there more because they realised how boring the main film was in terms of action, so stuck them in there to keep people interested. And Quicksilver was pointless. But, good acting and a decent enough story. I’m not entirely sure what to think of it, so it’s just as well I’m not giving it a star rating.

Machete Kills. Surprisingly entertaining and amusing.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 was terrible. The worst Marvel film yet, perhaps. Not quite as bad as I’ve heard people say, but terrible. Electro, or whatever his name was, was a complete joke of a villain. Foxx played him well, but the character himself was just ridiculous. I can’t even be bothered to explain why. Plus, spoilers. The conclusion of the relationship with Gwen Stacy wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was ruined by the stupid ending.

So, that’s that. Look out for Kira in Wyrd Worlds II next month. Probably.

Conundrum

Conundrum Cover

Conundrum is a Steampulp Fantasy graphic novel filled with mystery and suspense that will make you question: Who is God? Coming from the Derry, Northern Ireland, -based Uproar Comics, creators of the award-winning Zombies Hi. I have the benefit of being able to sit and listen to said creators talk about the graphic novel and get (over)excited about where it’s going and what’s going to happen, etc., so I can say for sure this is going to be particularly good (and I don’t generally read comics or graphic novels!).

Synopsis

Wonders and Curiosities are the height of entertainment and fashion before the turn of the 20th century where a great man, Professor Wilde, debuts Wildes’ Wondrous World’s Fair to the public with great acclaim. With new technological, cultural, and natural discoveries available to everyone, the world’s advancement exceeded expectations in all forms. With the greatest minds working on new and greater concepts, the world has become a fascinating place. With high-powered steam and the young electricity, no one ever thought we would need anything else. Over the next few decades there were no wars and all nations were working together for the prosperity of all. Then, after only weeks, an experimental atomic power station exploded with a thundering fire. No one could have survived it- and yet one man walked from the blazing fires unharmed. Some of the people believed him to be a god on Earth, an Übermensch, and he becomes widely revered when he exhibits strange supernatural abilities. No one could have anticipated this- except an elusive killer dubbed Zener, a mysterious stranger hell-bent on murdering anyone who stands in his way. But why?

A preview of issue 1 is live on the website, and there’s already a trailer:

Conundrum is coming this very Autumn! So…buy it. And pre-order it. But not in that order.

To keep up to date with Uproarious goings on, follow them on Facebook, Twitter and, of course, their website.

Conundrum Banner

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 Cover

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.

Wyrd Worlds Cover

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.

Acts of Violence Cover

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.

Temple of the Sixth Rough Draft

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

Wyrd Worlds Anthology

Rather abruptly, I am a part of a science fiction and fantasy anthology called Wyrd Worlds and published by WyrdStar.

Wyrd Worlds Cover

A collaboration of twelve authors, Wyrd Worlds contains science fiction and fantasy short stories ranging from two or three thousand words to thirteen and a bit thousand words. Some are straight sci fi and fantasy, and some fall uder their various sub-genres (mine is steampunk). So, in order (I think):

TALES OF ERANA: THE BLUE PHIAL by Alexandra Butcher

THE QRIM CHIEFTAIN by Stan Morris

ANTIMATTER ME by Steph Bennion

EXPLAIN THAT TO A MARTIAN by Gary Weston

THE IMAGINARY INVASION by Ubiquitous Bubba

THE GUNS OF NAPOLEON by Peter Lean

CAUSALITY by Neil Shooter

NECROMANCER by Emma Faragher

KIRA by Ross Harrison (Me!)

IN THE LAP OF THE GODS by Steph Bennion

MONDAY IMPS by Alexandra Butcher

SEPARATE WARS ON THE SAME STREET by Josh Karaczewski

MESRIN STATION by L. L. Watkin

HALF-BLOOD by Barbara G. Tarn

Wyrd Worlds is available, absolutely FREE, from Smashwords in all e-formats. It will soon be in the premium catalogue as well, which means it will be available from a host of other vendors, such as Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.

Healer’s Touch – BBB

Healer’s Touch

By

Deb E Howell

‘For Llew to heal, something must die’

Healer's Touch Cover

Healer’s Touch

BLURB:

Llew, a young pickpocket who lives as a boy on the streets of a wild-west mining town, finds her real problems begin when she survives the gallows. Forced to run, she persuades a group of fighters escorting a young girl to her wedding to let her travel with them across the badlands. On the journey Llew faces hostile tribesmen, desperate bandits and, the enmity of her own companions should they find out who and what she is: a girl, a fugitive, and a feared Healer. One of the fighters, Jonas, possesses superhuman prowess as a warrior, and carries the knife able to ‘kill the unkillable’; the knife that can kill Llew. Despite being of races at war for centuries, they are drawn to one another.

During the journey, they encounter Braph the magician, Jonas’ half-brother and potential nemesis. He pursues them as they journey across the sea to the continent of Phyos and at the moment Llew finally feels safe, he abducts her. He begins to take what is most precious to him: her blood.

Healer’s Touch is a mesmerising mix of fantasy, steampunk and Wild West adventure – and even a dash of romance!

EXCERPT:

“Llew!”

He gathered her to him. So alive moments earlier, now limp. All he could see was blood. It covered her hands, soaked her shirt and pooled on the ground. He clasped her chin, turning her to him. The touch sent a tingle through his fingers even as more blood gushed from her open throat and he jerked his hand away, letting her head fall back. His eye was drawn by movement in the grass. One of Llew’s hands had fallen to the ground and the grass around it was dying in an ever increasing circle.

Jonas swallowed down his revulsion and dumped her unceremoniously on the ground, jumping to his feet. In a daze, he reclaimed his knives from the corpses, taking them to the water’s edge to clean with vigorous sweeps of his fingers down the blades. He berated himself for even toying with the idea of getting involved with her. What did he really know about her? He knew her name. And now he knew all he needed to know.

He wiped the half-clean blades on his thigh, sheathed them in his vest and drew the big knife at his hip. He cradled it in his hands, watching the moonlight fly off as he tilted it back and forth. There was one purpose to this knife’s existence: to kill the unkillable. And there was no safer time to make an attempt on the life of an Aenuk than when they were already half dead.

Jonas turned from the water. The meadow was now like a hayfield. Each blade of grass, each leaf of clover, each dandelion had given its all to provide but a tiny fraction of the energy – jin, as it was known in Turhmos – needed to bring a person back from near-death.

She lay unconscious, but her breathing was steady now. He had limited time to act. He crouched beside her, knife hovering over her back right where her heart should be, assuming Aenuks had a heart. But this was Llewella. She wasn’t like the Aenuks he had faced on the Turhmos killing fields. She wasn’t trained to fight, to continue to fight, and to take the enemy with her when she faced final death. She was merely a girl doing what she had to do to survive.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Deb E Howell

Deb E was born in New Zealand’s North Island, but her parents corrected that within months, moving south to Dunedin and staying there. Childhood nights were spent falling asleep to cover versions of Cliff Richard and the Shadows and other Rock ’n Roll classics played by her father’s band, and days were spent dancing to 45 LPs. Many of her first writing experiences were copying down song lyrics. She graduated to scientific reports when she studied a fungus in the Zoology department of the University of Otago, trading all traces of popularity for usefulness… then traded both for fiction.

Deb lives in Dunedin, New Zealand with her family and a menagerie of pets.

LINKS:

Purchase Links:

Smashwords (ISBN – 978-1-909845-08-4): £2.99/$4.99

Kindle UK / Kindle US (ASIN – 978-1-909845-07-7): £2.99/$4.99

Paperback (ISBN – 978-1-909845-06-0): £9.99/$18.99

Please note that both the ePub format (the Smashwords link) and the paperback are available from other outlets too. Just do a web search for the ISBNs to find them.

Deb E Howell:

Website/Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Free and Half Price

For the whole of July, all three of my works will be reduced in price on Smashwords. Shadow of the Wraith and Temple of the Sixth will both be 50% off, and Kira will be completely FREE! Yes, that warrants both capital letters and an exclamation mark.

It tells you on the website, but use the code SSW50 at checkout for the two novels, and SSW25 for Kira. And of course, I’d appreciate any reviews!

http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ShadowOfOsiris

Shadow of the Wraith, Kindle coverTemple of the Sixth CoverKira Cover

Paperbacks Everywhere!

Well, not quite everywhere. Just two places, actually. I have finished the brain-aching set up with a new printer, which means I can now offer Shadow of the Wraith for the low low price of £7.99/$12.10!

Temple of the Sixth will follow at some point when my bank account has recovered from the print set up (and when I’ve determined if my bank is going to collapse or not).

For now, I’m prompted by the new availability to make a quick post detailing exactly where my various works can be found (or at least, where I’ve found that they can be found – I keep coming across more).

Shadow of the Wraith

Shadow of the Wraith Paperback cover

Paperback:

Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, WHSMith. It can also be found in the Coleraine branch of Waterstones.

The paperback’s ISBN number is 9780957592902. Any book shop should be able to order it for you with that.

E-Book:

Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, WHSmith, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords (multiple e-formats). Apple also sells it through iTunes.

Hardback:

Lulu. This is a special edition hardback, including some artwork and a sample of Temple of the Sixth. This sample hasn’t been altered since I published, and so is a little different to what is actually in Temple of the Sixth. I’m not sure how long I will keep this edition available.

Temple of the Sixth

Temple of the Sixth Cover

Paperback:

Amazon UK, Amazon US

E-Book:

Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, WHSmith, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords (multiple e-formats). Apple also sells it through iTunes, but at the moment I’m having trouble with them so it’s not there.

Kira

Kira Cover

E-Book:

Amazon UK, Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, WHSmith, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords (multiple e-formats). Apple also sells it through iTunes