Getting close on the cover

I’m getting pretty close on the cover. At this point, I have all the texture work done, but I’m getting some weird artifacts in the mesh when I enable bump maps. To heck with it — I can fix those in Photoshop by merging the two selectively. Anyway, here are the two versions. (The artifacts aren’t so noticeable at this scale.)

Anyway, the formatting is almost done, and I’m really trying hard to get it all out the door by this coming Friday the 12th. It’s close enough to feel it, so I’m actually giving the date. We’ll see if I actually hit it.

Still kicking and notions of a walking podcast

calendarpagesAnother hectic month has gone by, and yes, I’m still alive and making progress. Drafts are done and edits are coming along. I even have full copy edits for one thing. If all goes well, I’ll have two novels out by the end of the year along with being included in a Christmas themed anthology.

Right now the part that’s most behind schedule is the art for the covers, but it’s progressing. Right now, Beneath the Sky is getting a brand new cover, and I’m searching for the artist to do the Father Chessman series and another to do the Herald of Pittsburgh series. In a pinch, I could to the next Father Chessman cover myself, but I’d like to put a pro on it. As much as I want to start painting again, I haven’t rendered or painted in a year or two, so I’m too rusty to do a good job, especially on a deadline.

Ironically, as tight as time is, I’m actually contemplating starting a podcast. It would not be a high production value show with interviews, etc. It would be much more in the vein of Nathan Lowell’s “Talking on my Morning Walk” podcast. Specifically, I’m trying to get on the treadmill more often and for longer, but an “hour-long” episode on Netflix is only about 42 minutes, and that doesn’t even get me to two miles. I’m aiming for three miles, three to six times a week. I figure I might just empty out my brain in audio form for that last mile or so.

Like I said, it won’t be high-quality intellectual exploration, but it’ll be something, hopefully centered around stuff that I’m working on. Of course, I’m sure I’ll also be talking about the show I just watched as well as everything else going on in my life, but I’ll try to keep it from being a narcissistic tour de force. I actually have about all the equipment I’d need for it (Zoom H4n and a headset). I just need to make the time to get back on the darned thing and keep walking. That’s probably my main reason for doing it is that it’s another reason for me to get back on the track towards better health, and it sort of lets me blog more regularly without taking time away from Getting Stuff Out The Door. (Yes, that’s capitalized around here these days.)

I don’t know what I’m going to call it, but my working title – as in I just came up with it a minute ago – is “The Third Mile”. With some luck, I’ll have an episode ready to go later this week, but I’ll probably spin off a separate blog for it so as to not clutter this one up with them. And yes, for the one or two people who might actually want to listen to it, I’ll be sure to post a link back over here somewhere.

Ships of My Fathers is off to the Copyeditor

Last week, I handed my next novel off to the copyeditor. If all goes according to schedule, she’ll have it wrapped up by the end of March, and I’ll be able to release it around the start of May.

BeneathSky_Chessman_ParallelShips of My Fathers is the first of a five-book series set in the same universe as Beneath the Sky, though it’s neither sequel nor prequel. In truth, it happens in parallel to Beneath the Sky and touches on one or two minor characters from that book, most notably Father Chessman and the Yoshido pirate syndicate. Chessman is not the central character, by far, but in search of a good-sounding tagline, this might very well end up being known as the Father Chessman Saga. I’ll say more about it as the release approaches, but until now I suppose it’s been nothing more than a title to everyone but my beta readers.

BloodOnThePageHanding it off to my copyeditor is a strange milestone for me because it marks the beginning of the hurry-up-and-wait stage. I still consider copyediting to be part of my polish process, but until I get those edits back, there’s very little for me to do. That sudden inactivity comes on the heels of a major push to reach that point, so in some ways I’m still hearing my writing-brakes squeal.

When I started the year, I set a schedule that called for an “editing” deadline in late January, but when February 1st rolled around, I was nowhere close to being done. Knowing that much of the rest of the schedule would be out of my hands (copyedits, bake time at printers and retailers, shipping time for galley proofs, etc.), I realized that if I missed my end-of-February deadline, there was no hope of catching up. So I doubled my efforts and did three different editing passes in February:

  1. I finished the story edits, incorporating the beta feedback. The book grew about 5000 words along the way.
  2. I did a word-crafting pass, beefing up my word choices, slaying weak adverbs, adding more colorful metaphors, and just getting rid of really annoying filler words like “just” and “really”.
  3. Then I did my own copyedit pass and found some truly awful errors that had amazingly slipped past every one of my own reads as well as those of my beta readers.

In the end, I missed my deadline by two days, passing it off near midnight on March 1st rather than my original February 27th goal. It now stands at about 85,000 words, and I think I’ve read it beginning to end at least four times. At this point, I’m strangely ambivalent about it. In some ways I’m sick of it, but in other ways, I’m reveling in it. This one bit towards the end still makes me tear up, even after that many readings. So, either I’m incredibly narcissistic, or the book is pretty good… though I suppose both could be true.

So now I’m edging into the publishing process, even as the polishing process is wrapping up. I’ll be doing a rough cut of the print formatting so that I can get an approximate page count. This is necessary to calculate the spine width, and I need that to correctly size the wraparound cover. I have a pretty good idea of what I want to do with it, image and text-wise, but I’m still toying around with fonts and such. I also need to think forward to the next four books and their likely covers, so that the series will have a more unified look.

And I’m also starting to think about other projects. I’m going to revise the cover of Beneath the Sky and get back to the edits on Hell Bent. Hopefully I’ll be handing that over to my beta readers about the same time I get my copyedits back on Ships of My Fathers. And then I need to start thinking about drafting a new novel from scratch, quite possibly the sequel to Hell Bent, tentatively titled Stone Killer.

Painting Practice

painterpractice_brunetteNot much to say on writing today, other than the fact that I’ve just missed the first milestone for my stretch goals for this year.  I’m not giving up on it just yet, though, since that schedule had some slack built in.

painterpractice_sadreaderHowever, I have been doing some artwork.

painterpractice_redhoodIn preparation for doing more covers this year, I figured it was time to practice my art skills again.  I’ve done a lot of work in 3D rendering before, but even at my best, I was still hitting that uncanny valley in about half of my work.  After talking it over with an artist friend, he suggested I work with Corel Painter instead.

painterpractice_nportmanPainter lets you work from a reference photograph, doing your brushwork on a transparent layer over the original image.  The idea being that you can start with some source material and give it a more painted appearance, and theoretically, a painted look will back me out of the uncanny valley.

painterpractice_blueprofileSo, I’ve been practicing, and I’m posting eight of my results here.  Four are from photographs, and four are from my renders.  Of course, I can easily tell which are which since I know which ones are mine, but I also know a bit of what I’m looking for.

painterpractice_rebeccaStill, I’m hoping they’ll be less obvious than before.  The idea, I suppose, is that I’ll eventually do my covers either based on my own renders, stock photography, or some mix of the two and then repaint the cover to give a more unified appearance.

painterpractice_butterflyfaceEither that, or I’ll simply throw in the towel and start hiring it out.

painterpractice_sandraoh