Not my new cover, but I’m still having fun ….

Wahoo! I just got the first draft of the new cover for Twists of time.  I do love the work done by these fine people at Deranged Doctor Design. Yes this cover is cool. Yes this will need some tweaking. But go ahead and take a peak, and then I’ll share the input I sent back. If the past is any indication of the future, I expect something closer to the mark sometime tomorrow or the next day.

Things I love (and don’t want changed):
1. Mayan ruins in background
2. Model you found for Xuhu
3. The yellowish clouds, and feeling of sun behind clouds
4. The way the title color works with the rest of the cover
 
Things I’m okay with either keeping or with changing:
1. Model you found for Alex
 
Things that have to be fixed:
1. Relative height. Xuha is on the short side. Alex is a former college basketball player. I assume images can be shrunk or squeezed to achieve this effect?
2. Hair — Alex is described throughout the book as a sandy blonde. I’m fine with you lightening his hair and making him taller if you can, or with finding a taller, blonder guy
 
Things I’d like to have fixed:
1. Much less blue or better yet no blue sky on cover. More clouds instead.
2. Yellower clouds, at least at edges.
3. The circle of light around them looks too much like the first cover. Can we do something more unique? Maybe it somehow involves a twist? (It’s fine if it doesn’t …..)

Fun With Covers

When I was advised last summer to get new, genre appropriate covers for the books in my 46. Ascending collection, I had two objections to the idea (besides the obvious ones of time and money.) The first was that I love my original covers. The other was that my stories wouldn’t adapt well to the sorts of covers everyone else uses.

Well, I’ve redone two of the six so far, and I’ve got four things to report.

1. Yes, it does take some time and effort to convey to a designer what you want and to work with them to achieve that end

2. Yes, it does take some money as well.

3. Yes, my old covers were pretty and I’ll always like them.

4. No, the fine professionals I’m working with seem to have had no trouble at all, as far as I can tell, coming up with covers for the first two books that are a) great to look at, b) look like covers for the kinds of books I write and c) capture enough about the story to make sense and not be misleading.

 

Above is the original cover for the first book in the collection, originally called x0 and now called One of One, followed by the designers first proposal and the final version. For context, here’s the description of the story as it appears on the back cover. I think they did a great job.

A young Nigerian telepath faces a crisis. After Somadina’s sister is forced into a frightening marriage, Somadina cannot find her sibling or even her thoughts. She seeks another telepath to help. What she finds is Lola, a busy Texan scientist who has ignored the disturbing phenomenon in her mind for decades, and has no intention of embracing this nonsense now. Yet these two have more in common than they know, and a powerful link will be forged. Once Somadina discovers her sister is a pawn in a dangerous political game, the stakes rise for everyone, including an ancient organization of telepaths compelled to intervene. Both women are stronger than they realize, and they have ignited the wrath of a fanatic willing to kill anyone to alter his nation’s future.

Here is the original cover for the second book in the collection, originally called y1and now called Shape of Secrets, followed by the designers first proposal and the final version. For context, here’s the description of the story as it appears on the back cover. Once again, I think they did a great job.

Zane wants to be himself. He’s gotten a degree in neuroscience to figure out how he can alter his appearance the way he does.  Unfortunately, that degree lands him in the sales department of Penthes Pharmaceuticals, and the more he learns about the company’s dark secrets the more uncomfortable he becomes. Good thing he has always excelled at blending in. Then upper management discovers him and life gets complicated. A sales junket in the South Pacific introduces him to love. It also leaves him dealing with an unsolved murder, an unsavory boot camp manager, and serious repercussions from the fact that not everyone at Penthes likes him, or wants him to knows the mysteries the company has worked so hard to keep hidden. Even in paradise, it will take all of unique his talents to keep from turning into the next murder victim.

Twists of Time will be the next book to get its new cover, sometime in mid-January.  I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

z2 will die

What prompts an author to kill her own book?

In early 2019 my third novel is scheduled to die. I admit the prospect makes me sad. This book, with its sunny yellow cover, has been part of my life for a while.

I finished it in late 2012, and released it on Kindle on my husband’s birthday in January of 2013. Physics teacher turned superhero Alex Zeitman remains one of my favorite creations.

As with my first two books, x0 and y1, 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 two 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 z2 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 professional writer 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 400 humans who already read this story.)

And …. I need to kill z2. 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 z2 came in at almost 132,000 words. I’m not sure what the leaner new version will be, but I’m targeting under 110,000. I’m in the process of breaking the chapters into smaller chunks. I’m giving more attention to point of view. I’m taking 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’m doing my best to fold those learnings into telling my story better.

It is still a work in progress, but so far I’m pleased with the result.

So while z2 will soon cease to exist, it will give birth to a new and better novel. I’ll be blogging all about it here soon,

One Thing a Day

I promised myself I’d find one thing a day I’d learned while I enjoyed a four-week trip around the USA. I called it my rules of the road, and it kept me paying attention to the important things, and sometimes the little things, that shaped my days.

I’m not sure there are any profound revelations on the list, but in aggregate, I get a few messages.

Curious? Here’s the list.

Rules of the Road (Daily learnings from a 28 day road trip)

#1. Make sure everything is well organized so you don’t have to look for things and can see if you are leaving something behind.
#2. Forgive yourself when you break rule number one and leave something important behind.
#3. If it doesn’t sound good to you, don’t order it. Don’t eat it. Don’t drink it. No matter how much your sister likes it, or how much you like your sister. Just don’t.
#4. Bloom where you are planted, even if it’s only for a day.
#5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
#6. No saying I should have. You didn’t.
#7. It’s okay if some travels make you sad. Cry.
#8: Get off the road once in awhile.
#9. When all else fails, turn to another human for help.
#10. Always bring an onion.
#11. Avoid unnecessary trouble, no matter how much that asshole deserves it.
#12. When you’re cranky, focus on something else.
#13. Don’t let a little dust stop you from doing what you want to do.
#14. Don’t let a day determine how your evening will go.
#15. Stop pretending to be meaner or more miserable than you are, just to make meaner and more miserable people like you.
#16. What rules? What road?
#17. If you get interrupted by a parade, laugh.
#18. It doesn’t have to make sense, at least not if you’re a human being.
#19. When you cross the border into another reality, cross it.
#20. Pee when you have to, you don’t know what’s around the next bend.
#21. Allow way more time than you think you need.
#22. Stop when you’re exhausted. Treat this like it’s Rule #1.
#23. They live in their reality and you live in yours. Remember this insight.
#24. When something makes no sense at all, go ahead and read the directions.
#25. Never back up more than you have to.
#26. Avoid extremely difficult days. If you can’t, do your best to see there is comfort waiting for you at the end of that day.
#27. If you didn’t learn anything special today, it’s okay. Don’t worry about it.
#28. Be grateful to have made the journey. Be grateful to have made it home.

Day 28. Grateful

This last day of my journey is going to be two days, as we opt to let some of the long drive spill over into tomorrow. It’s okay, I’m going to consider this a journey of 28 days anyway.

The final stretch is a trip through the deep south; our slightly longer route determined by the need to pick up my husband’s car at an airport in South Carolina.

We end up spending the night in town in which the only open restaurant is a fast food chicken place, and the only open grocery store is whatever they sell at the bait shop attached to the local gas station. We patch together a meal from what’s in our car.

The TV at our place has no reception, but we find something to watch in the collection of old VHS movies that are provided.  (The Client, with Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. It’s not bad and it speeds the evening along.)

The next day, as I finally drive up the road to my own house, my last rule of the road, #28, is clear. Be grateful to have made the journey. Be grateful to have made it home.

I’ve been listening to my playlist of “25 songs with home in the title” ever since I dropped my husband off to get his car. When the list is done, Gabrielle Aplin’s Home is the one I play twice. Make that three times.

I don’t see the video until after I’m in the house and finishing this blog. It has such a creepy start that I almost don’t post it, but I watch it a few more times and it wins me over. Besides, so much of the country she travels through looks like where I’ve just been.

I could swear I passed the guy in the yellow truck at least once in my travels. In fact, I might have stayed at his Airbnb. Or maybe I saw him at Burning Man. At any rate, the video resonates with my journey, and her song leaves me smiling … because I’m finally home.

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful

 

Day 23. What’s Your Reality?

I’ve spent several days at Burning Man, which I think we can all agree is a world unto itself. Now that I’m back in what burners call the default world, I seem to be hyper aware of the fact that none of us live in quite the same reality as each other.

We choose different forms of entertainment, and of news. We spend time with different sorts of people. We treat our bodies differently with our food, our rest and our recreation. Our surroundings, which we have some ability to choose, vary radically. It may be amazing that any of us agree as much as we do.

The point is really brought home today when I go visit my husband’s brother and his wife at their ranch. I admire these two a great deal. Years ago they made a choice to live off of the grid, growing or raising most of their own food, hauling in their own water, generating their own solar power. Their food is pure, their bodies work hard.

The vision has morphed somewhat, allowing more modernization and convenience, but they still live a harsh and solitary life in a stunning location. Today’s big news is that they have found a way to have hot running water. They’ve both just taken their first shower at home at the turn of a knob since they began this life about a decade ago. They are quite pleased.

For all that I find their place beautiful, and their choices admirable, I realize that I’m glad I don’t live their life. I enjoy hot showers and baths, among many other creature comforts.

Then I realize, I don’t have to be them, any more than they have to be me. I choose my reality, more or less, just as they’ve chosen theirs.

Isn’t that nice?

But as we visit with each other, it’s helpful to remember that we communicate across a membrane; they in their world and me in mine. While it may be less obvious once I’m back in the town where I live, I vow to remember this insight. Rule 23. It’s a good one for the road and off.

As to the odds of each of us getting to end up in the reality that truly suits us? I think Jimmy Cliff had it all figured out years ago …

 

Day 22. Stop, or Else …

I should have reconsidered my plan to follow-up 6 nights camping at Burning Man with two long days of driving. Last night I woke up twice in the night thinking the place was filling up with dust. An inch or more of the flaky grey coating on everything gave the room the look of something out of a horror movie, until I turned on the lights and saw there was no dust at all.

The second time it happened I knew I needed a little more decompression time.

Luckily, we are staying for three nights at this pretty Airbnb in Trinidad Colorado where we have our own 2nd floor apartment and garden below. The mountain view is more lush than Nevada, although I’m not sure what isn’t. We are not going anywhere today; relatives will come to see us.

But I wake up with no appetite for visiting or making food, and decide that doing qigong out in the garden will make a world of difference. Qigong is a form of moving meditation that involves breathing and simple exercises designed to improve ones personal energy flow. I’m sure mine could use some improving.

Only I forget to take my shoes down with me, and the garden is filled with small sharp rocks. I don’t want to go back up and get them, so I walk along the flagstone lining the little pond, trying to get over to the concrete patio.

It seems a simple thing, but one of the flagstone is unattached. It topples right off when I step on it and, although the fall is only a foot or two, I land hard.

My right toe has been sliced open and is bleeding pretty good, and my left knee throbs and is swelling fast.

“What the hell is the matter with me?” I mutter at myself.

Then I know. I’m exhausted, mentally and physically. I’ve failed to stop and rest, like I should have, which has just become rule of the road #22 and maybe should have been rule #1.

My body and mind have conspired together to get me to do something stupid so that I will ….. just ….. stop.

“Okay, I’ve stopped,” I yell in irritation, wrapping a tissue from my pocket around my toe. Soon I’ll be bandaging it up, and sitting with my other leg elevated under an ice pack.

Aren’t we humans funny creatures? We go and go and often don’t bother to stop and listen to our own needs.

Aren’t we humans lucky creatures? We’re made to find a way to take care of ourselves. Sometimes we do it the easy way. Other times, we need to make a mistake.

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful