If you’re a member of my newsletter, then you’ve already heard that I’ve been busy getting interviewed for a number of different blogs.
Well one of those blogs is over at the “Authors Talk About It” site run by the amazing Rob and Janelle Alex. This husband and wife team are pod-casters, marketers and branding experts, with years of experience behind them. They host book competitions, offer editing assistance, book critiques, and help indie authors to shape their bios.
I had the pleasure of being selected for a featured author interview. I had a lot of fun sitting down and going through these questions. Some of them were the kind of questions you see on almost all author interviews, but others really made me stop and think. Go check it out!
Hey folks… I have my first sci-fi book release coming up on July 26th, and would love to get some support for the HeadTalker and Thunderclap campaigns…
Here’s what it’s all about:
“Evaline Transcendent” is a massively updated version of the story that appeared in “Across the Karman Line” a couple of years ago. Not only have I gone back through to make sure the editing is top notch, but I’ve reinstated parts of the story that I had to cut because of the word count limits I originally had.
I’ve added almost another 5,000 words to the original length of the story, and I think it’s a much stronger story as a result, because it really brings Evaline’s mission into perspective.
How HeadTalker & Thunderclap Work
People create advertising campaigns for their books/services/projects/fundraisers
They then set a minimum number of backers for the campaign, and a deadline
They then try to rally support for the campaign by asking people to back it
By supporting the campaign, each backer pledges to allow a message to be placed in their social media feeds advertising the book/service/project/fundraiser
No money changes hands
Here’s Where I Ask For Your Help
I have two campaigns setup, that I’m asking for support on. Here’s some reasons you consider for backing the project:
You really love a good sci-fi story
You know some friends who’ve thought of colonizing other worlds
You’ve read the original story and want to see what’s new
You want to see humanity out among the stars
And here’s the links (feel free to share them with others)
For my birthday last year, I gave myself one of the weirdest presents someone can give themselves.
I published my first self-published book, “Under A Hunter’s Moon”. I so desperately wanted to get the release right that I went on a desperate hunt for a cheap cover artist, and put together my advertising. At this point, a family matter came up, that meant I had to go out of state and I’d either have to cancel my book launch, or push it back.
I went online to the writer communities to get some advice on which route to take, and was amazed by the responses I got.
Fellow Indie Writers To The Rescue
Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know that I belong to several online writer groups, and have done, since before “Under A Hunter’s Moon” was first released, as part of an anthology.
But, you might not know just how generous indie authors can be to one another.
My request for advice turned into a flurry of discussions, and out of those I got sent a cover image for “Under A Hunter’s Moon” by a paranormal romance author I’ve beta read for.
I also received a lot of advice on doing a ‘low-maintenance’ release, which would get the book launched on Amazon, and advertised on a few author blogs, newsletters, and more. Along with the advice came offers to host posts related to the launch, and promises to share the information.
I Can’t Thank My Fellow Indie Writers Enough…
I was speechless. As thanks to those involved in the launch, I sent out a few copies of the book, and set the price to free for the weekend of my birthday. It did reasonably well, but wasn’t a huge seller.
And Now We’re A Year On…
I’m planning to start ramping up the rate at which I release books, and that means being able to get book covers in place for the stories I’ve already completed.
You probably already saw last week’s “Anatomy of a Cover” post, on how I created the cover for “Evaline Trascendent”. That cover design came about, because I got a lot of feedback from fellow indie authors. I posted a draft image on several groups, and asked for comments.
Not only did I get a much better book cover as a result, but I got several ideas on how to make more of my own covers for planned releases.
But it wasn’t the new releases that concerned me, it was the lack of reviews for “Under A Hunter’s Moon”.
So, I thought I’d try something….
I touched base with some of the author groups, and asked for volunteers to read, review, and provide feedback on “Under A Hunter’s Moon”. And several volunteers stepped forward.
And Huge Thanks To Rebekah Jonesy…
I sent a free copy of “Under A Hunter’s Moon” to Rebekah Jonesy, among others, and she read it in a single sitting.
Then on Facebook chat, Rebekah sent me her feedback, which included some corrections that had somehow been missed by me, my wife, two editors, and everyone else who’d read the story.
And So It’s Time For The “Anniversary Update”
Along with the corrections from Rebekah, I decided to go ahead and update the cover too.
There were several reasons for this, but mostly, it’s so that I can use whatever images I want on future covers, and have features that unite the series.
This is not going to be my usual Midweek Mumbles ramblings. Instead I’m going to do something a little different, and give you a behind-the-scenes look at some of the steps involved in creating my first book cover design.
How I Made My Last Cover
When I published “Under A Hunter’s Moon”, I had a lot of help with the cover design. Ariel Marie was kind enough to Photoshop the components for me, and all I did was do the type-setting for the text.
What Makes This Time Different?
The cover for “Evaline Transcendent” is a much more interesting journey, because it’s a science fiction story, and there are very few stock photos that could be tweaked to work for what I had in mind.
I wanted to invoke the sci-fi genre right from the start, so setting the cover in one of the ship’s corridor was always part of my plan. The representation of the main character, Evaline, was a more difficult decision for a number of reasons:
This is re-release of a story that was originally published in an anthology.
Since that release, I’ve been interested in updating it with ideas that didn’t make the original draft.
I also wanted to represent Evaline in some way, but in the original story she was only a disembodied voice.
To give her more presence that meant either putting an image on a computer screen, or creating a holographic presence, which was not originally in the story.
Was There A Way To Do What I Wanted?
After looking at some ideas for cover designs, I decided to go with a sci-fi corridor with a holographic figure to represent Evaline herself.
Having previously used 3D software, specifically Daz3D,I was already familiar with what was possible with the right tools at my disposal. I did a search through the database of 3D models available, and found a sci-fi corridor that looked matched my list of requirements. Then I took the base female figure and a basic pose and put her into the scene.
After some tweaking, I clothed her in a skin-tight outfit, which had sections I could hide, and then bought a shader that allowed me to turn the textures into holograms.
Once the image was rendered, I transferred it into Canva and overlaid it on a background color, before adding the title and author text.
And here was the first attempt, but there were several issues…
The text fonts didn’t match up very well
The pose was a little problematic, and too ‘sexy’ for my tastes
The presence of the background frame didn’t mesh well the current trends in sci-fi cover designs
I wasn’t keen on the colors or the outfit
Because of the 3d models, outfits, and tricks I’d used to build this particular hologram I didn’t have a lot of control over how it rendered
I also didn’t have any way to adjust the placement of the figure within the final image
So I Sought Help From Fellow Authors..
I approached some authors I’ve worked with in the past, so I could get some ideas of ways we could try and fix the issues. And once I got some feedback, I dove deeper into to capabilities of the 3D software, and online forums, in the hopes of figuring out the solutions. And here’s the result…
I think you’ll agree this is a much better cover. It was created in several steps…
Setup the scene, with the figure in place, posed, and clothed in single color clothing.
Light the entire scene.
Render the corridor background, with the lighting effects already in place.
Hide the figure and clothing.
Render the corridor background.
Remove the corridor and place the figure against a black background.
Set all the clothing colors to solid black, and render the visible flesh areas and hair
Set the figure and hair to black
Add a digital opacity layer to clothing and set the colors
Render just the clothing
Import the individual layers into GIMP2 for editing.
Oh, and just between us… “Evaline Transcendent” will soon be available in the Kindle store… Once I’ve gone through some final edits, and finalized my revisions to the original story. There are aspects of the original story I wasn’t happy with, and plot points I wanted to update.
First of all, sorry this post is late, but I’m sure you’ll appreciate the reason why, after reading the post itself.
Sandi and I just got back from a three day trip to the Kenai Peninsula, where we took a one-day cruise out of Seward. We’d booked this trip a couple of months ago, because we heard this time of year was a good time to see Humpback Whales. Now, we’d not seen these magnificent creatures on previous cruises, because of the time of year we’d traveled.
With this trip being a late wedding anniversary, and early birthday present to ourselves, we set off with high hopes of seeing at least some of the wildlife. We were particularly interested in seeing the Humpbacks, because people had told us that they’d seen them from the Sealife Center which lies on the shores of Resurrection Bay.
So, instead of my usual ramblings, here’s some highlights from our trip…
June 12th 2017
Alaska Wildlife Conversation Center
Sandi and I have been down to Seward previously, but this was the first time we’d heard about the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. It lies on the same stretch of highway as the turn off for Portage Glacier, and if it hadn’t been for a couple of people mentioning it, we’d probably not have even spotted the signs from the highway.
I have to say that this was a fantastic start to our wildlife viewing, with playful brown bears, porcupines, moose, reindeer, wood bison, sleepy wolves, a black bear cub, and a pair of resident raptors. Almost all of the animals housed at the center are orphaned or injured in the wild, and are being treated or rehabilitated.
Unfortunately, some of the animals are too injured to be released back into the wild, and have become permanent residents. One of the finest examples of this is Adonis, a Bald Eagle who has been at the center since he was shot and had to have one entire wing amputated.
This amazing hotel is listed as an historic building, and as you approach it on foot, you can see why. The exterior of the hotel, and the theater next door speak to the age of the buildings, and the hotel interior continues this theme.
As you walk into the office, to book in, there is a huge wooden counter space, with a mirror behind it. Old lamps light the room, and a well-loved piano sits in one corner between the windows. Danny greeted us at the check in desk, with a smile, and walked us through the process of checking in, and even gave us the option of upgrading from a room with a shared bathroom to a double room with an amazing view over the town and Resurrection Bay.
Of course, we decided to upgrade, and the room was more than worth what we paid. A comfortable bed, connecting door to the second bedroom, and a view that I can’t even begin to describe. The fact that we were in the heart of town, and a stones throw from the heritage center, sealife center, and a great restaurant that made great pizza was a huge bonus.
Sure we had a couple of small problems, but Danny was more than happy to take care of them, and even took care to do so while we were out. This consideration made us feel appreciated, and we’ll definitely be looking to check in with them again on our next trip, especially in light of Danny’s local knowledge.
Before we left, Danny had already established that we love history, and brought out pages from the old check-in ledgers to show us. As I was flipping through the pages, we talked a little about the town, and some of the hotel’s history. But what really blew me away was when he offered to let us keep one of the pages, and allowed us to take one that had Sandi’s birthday. It shows that Danny cares not only about his hotel, and the history, but it’s guests too.
The hotel could use an influx of cash, because there are aspects of the hotel that need attention. It would be a shame to see this hotel fall into disrepair, because it is an awesome place to stay, and almost everything in town is within walking distance.
Alaska Sealife Center – Seward Alaska (population about 2,500)
This is one of the gems of Seward, especially for anyone who loves to see animals up close. The staff were very friendly, and knowledgeable about the animals in their care, as well as passionate about their favorites.
While it was fun being able to see the fish, corals, and other sea creatures up close, the highlights were definitely the sea otters, sea lion, and aviary. There is nothing like seeing a massive sea lion just the other side of the glass, to give you an idea of how huge these creatures are.
Once we reached the aviary, I was expecting to be watching the birds from behind netting, or glass… But instead was greeted by a gull flying right over our heads. And this wasn’t even the closest we got… Sitting right up on the lip of the glass walls were a variety of birds that we were to see on the marine cruise the next day. Not one of them was more than seemed afraid to be close to us, or the other visitors, but we were in the presence of two staff members the birds were very familiar with.
This was our second visit to the center, and it never fails to deliver on it’s promise of being fun, interactive and educational.
Major Marine had a good selection of tour options, and this is one of the longest tours offered, leaving the docks at 10am, and arriving back around 5:30pm. But there isn’t a single moment of the trip that isn’t filled with amazing landscapes, or animal sightings.
During the course of the trip we pulled in close to three glaciers, and saw more wildlife than I could ever have expected. To do this day justice, here’s some numbers:
A Tally Of Our Sightings (not including sea birds)
10:00 – Departure
10:15 – Sea Otters (2)
10:45 – Mountain Goats (3)
10:55 – Humpback Whales (2 – not that I actually managed to see them on this occasion)
11:05 – Humpback Whales (2)
11:10 – Bald Eagles (2)
14:15 – Harbor Seals (38 – approximately, because I lost count)
15:25 – Bald Eagles (2)
15:30 – Humpback Whales (1)
15:45 – Stellar Sealions(2)
16:00 – Stellar Sealions (47 approximately, including some disagreement between bulls)
16:20 – Orcas (6)
17:30 – Returned to Port
A Summary Of The Tour
I can’t thank Captian Josh, the crew of the Glacier Express, or Ranger Deanna enough for an enjoyable cruise. Throughout the entire time they were very informative and attentive to the passengers. It was very obvious that these folks are passionate about what they do, and that they love doing it.
Sandi and I learned a lot about the area, the wildlife, and the history from the commentaries, and chats we had with the crew. At no time did the ship feel cramped, because the decks were open plan, with tables and assigned seating, and vast windows that provided spectacular 360 degree views.
For me, it’s this last factor that proved important, because there were times when I was able to spot something from inside, while taking a break from the chill of being out on outdoor decks. Of course that was enough to send me or Sandi back out into the cold, for photograph or video opportunities.
Even when we got back to port, the staff at the booking offices were exceptional, and it was very clear that they love passing on viewing tips, and their passion.
We had a lazy morning, and checked out of the Van Gilder with plans no more exciting than getting back home, doing some shopping, and doing a couple of loads of laundry. Then Thursday it’ll be time to return to work, with the adventure behind us.
Between social media, email and online searches, I get around the internet a lot. And sometimes I come across a search engine, or social media platform that proves far more addictive an useful than I originally expected.
Pinterest is just such a platform, and in the short time I’ve been on there it has become very addictive. But I’ve also been able to turn it into a way of storing articles and images for later, turning it into a research tool too.
What is Pinterest?
According to Pinterest’s own user guide:
Pinterest is a visual bookmarking tool that helps you discover and save creative ideas.
These bookmarks are organized on boards, which allows you to sort your pins into topics. As you use Pinterest more it will start to learn the types of images, posts, or videos that will interest you, based on what you have already bookmarked.
What makes it so addicting?
You can add new pins and new boards at any time, which makes it a very flexible tool for research, but because Pinterest will present you with a lot of suggestions for pinning.
Now, I have a lot of personal interests, and of course, I added those first of all. Then, when I realized that Pinterest users were pinning things from all over the internet, I added topics for my story research too. And that’s when things went a little crazy.
Within a week, I found myself checking back in several times a day, and tagging tens of pins at a time, posting them to my boards so I could check them out later. And I seriously intend to do that some day, especially as a lot of what I have been pinning is potential idea generators for my books.
In conjunction with my recent announcement of the reboot of my newsletter, thought I’d offer as many ways to reach out to my potential audience as possible.
Until now, I’ve fed information, blog posts and more to my personal Facebook page, but it’s time to move beyond that, and do something a little more professional. Which means, I’ve put together a brand new author page.
I’m not sure, at his point, how much the page will get used, or updated, but I want to leave my options open. But here’s where you can find it, so you can keep an eye on it…
(Oh, and you can search for it, reference it, or message me there using @TimothyBatesonUrbanFantasy)