Category Archives: Published Ebooks

This denotes ebooks I’ve published or are getting ready to publish. Serves primarily as my official information center for readers who want to know more about my current and upcoming ebooks.

The Writing Workflow for Plotters, Pantsers, and Whomever Sits Between Them

Writing a novel is no straightforward process, in spite of what the “experts” may say.

Okay, the experts, whoever they are, make no actual claim that writing a novel is straightforward, though the pantsers (like me) will argue that it comes pretty close, given that we start at the beginning and drive toward the ending, discovering as much as we can along the way (hardly straightforward, even though the momentum is almost always forward). In reality, of course, writing a novel takes planning, dedication, and follow-through, with a heavy dose of insanity—I mean organization—and reaching its proper ending will require seeing it at both the big picture level and the micro-scenic level. In short, writing a novel means you gotta have some foresight. There’s no way around that.

But I didn’t always have a problem with that.

For years, I would just open a document in Microsoft Word, crank out a chapter in a day or two (or sometimes a week if I let it get too large), and move on to the next one, making sure to save it in a folder dedicated to the novel. Once I’d finish the last chapter (usually six weeks to a year later, depending on the novel), I’d read what I have, take notes on what I like and what I don’t, and then move on to the next revision. Then somewhere along the line I’d decide that something doesn’t work, at which point I’d start adding, moving, or removing scenes, relabeling my documents to something better reflective of its current state, and make such an atrocious mess of my work that nothing would make sense anymore, yet I’d somehow bring it back together, and then I’d shelve it for a few years until somebody would ask me if I’ve written anything lately, to which I’d say no, then go back and see if I actually like that old novel that I blew up in the rewrites now, because, hey, somebody reminded me that I should really finish what I started because, hey, I’m not exactly starting on anything new. At that point, I’d take note of the scenes I like, try to rethink the ones I don’t, and then shelve the thing yet again for another few years because now I have no idea where to begin fixing it.

(Okay, I’m referring specifically to my first thriller, Panhandler Underground, which I wrote in 2005 but put on the shelf until a time I could make sense of the main character’s profession. Fortunately, I’ve ordered my copy of the Occupation Thesaurus, out now, and should receive it in the mail soon, so maybe I can finally sort this dude out and get his story back on its proper track.)

Nowadays, I find that organizing a novel is as difficult as writing it, especially when I go back and try to repair the damage I’ve already done to an existing novel, so coming up with a plan to make sense of it all is necessary. But merely going back through all of my Microsoft Word documents and trying to remember where everything is supposed to go is madness when my memory is so bad that I often read a story I like, check the author to see if he’s got anything else I might enjoy, and discover my own name on the front cover. (Okay, this doesn’t happen with my published titles, but it definitely happens with old stories I find in my documents folder. The fact that my name is on it is the only proof I have that I wrote it because I don’t remember a thing about it.) Because this is no way to work, I’ve decided it’s time to implement a new system for organization.

This is where I’ve decided to integrate multiple resources into my writing workflow, each one dedicated to a particular function within the writing process, and each one designed to keep me on track.

For the record, I just put together a video about this, which you can watch for more information, but the short version is this:

  1. If I’m writing a novel from scratch or nuking a story that no longer works in favor of starting over, then I’ll want to begin conceptualizing with the Snowflake Method and using the software dedicated to the Snowflake Method, Snowflake Pro, to accomplish this goal. This will allow me to develop the idea and move it through all ten steps toward a fully-fledged outline.
Writing Workflow Slide 1
Snowflake Pro in Action
  1. Next, I’ll want to develop the flowchart and additional character and/or scene details (like setting or items) that Snowflake Pro doesn’t visualize for an alternative way to see the story from a bird’s eye view. I can use Plottr or Campfire Pro (or Plot Factory or some other story planning software) to create the visual map, as well as fill in the additional details that Snowflake Pro doesn’t cover. If I use actual maps (created with Campaign Cartographer 3+, for example), then I’ll want to use a program like Campfire Pro to tie my maps to their descriptions. Using these programs, I can create the world and backstory I need to understand my characters and their motivations better, as well as to keep track of the nitpicky items in their lives that I’ll want to remember and quickly access at some point.
Writing Workflow Slide 2
Outline Tool in Plottr
Writing Workflow Slide 2a
Character Builder in Plottr
  1. Once I have a clue what the story is about, then I can start writing my scenes in Microsoft Word. Or, if I’m revising an existing story, I can write whichever scenes are still missing.
Writing Workflow Slide 3
Writing the Scene in Microsoft Word

Note: If I’m revising a novel, which is my case for The Computer Nerd, I probably won’t use the first two development steps unless I need to go for a complete rewrite, which is currently my case for The Fallen Footwear. The exception would be if I wanted to create an outline or summary or synopsis of an existing novel for verification of its integrity or for various marketing purposes. I would also map an existing novel if I know I’m going to write a sequel, as having a snapshot of the previous story would be immensely helpful in developing a new chapter for its characters, because, you know, my memory sucks.

  1. Once I’ve written my scenes, I can move them into Scrivener, where I can then write notecard summaries and provide status labels to help me determine whether the scene is in its proper location and achieving its proper goal. From the notecard view, I can make a more informed judgment about whether the existing work is, in fact, working.
Writing Workflow Slide 4
Creating the Novel’s Assembly (or Repair) in Scrivener

So, that’s the current workflow I’m using to either write or revise my novels. Are you a writer? What’s your workflow? Let me know in the comments below.

New Book Cover Designs Coming Soon

Anyone who scrolls through the archives here will likely see a common theme: I like to update my preexisting books to the point of nausea, perhaps more than I like starting new ones. I’m sure this is frustrating for any reader who’s already read all of my books half a dozen times and just wants to see something fresh for a change (though my sales reports suggest those readers don’t yet exist), but one important element of becoming an author worth reading is to have a backlog of titles worth reading, and I want to make sure that my books are right for their target audiences, covering each detail from story, to content, to metadata, and so on.

This often means going back to the beginning and fixing each title’s cover design.

Now, I don’t have a lot of experience with cover design. Previewing the media galleries for each of my book pages (which you can check out via the side menu to your right) will show you that my early designs are actually pretty awful. But you’ll also see that I’ve done a lot of studying and a lot of practice, and the result has led me to creating some covers that I’m quite happy with. Most recently, you can see my coming of age stories, Gutter Child and When Cellphones Make Us Crazy, have evolved from this:

To this:

While it’s possible that I can still do better, I think these show that I’m finding my way to betterment pretty well.

Part of this gradual design evolution is thanks to me upgrading my graphics software. For years I was running off of PaintShop Pro only. While I think it’s sufficient for performing a simple graphics design task, I also think it’s limited. As I’ve gradually increased my graphics access to PaintShop Pro 2020, Painter 2019, Luminar 3, and GRFX Studio (included with my PaintShop Pro Deluxe purchase), however–all part of a photo design back I got at Humble Bundle last year–I’ve been able to accomplish more tricks and techniques to give my cover designs more pop, as you can see if you look at my gallery of covers for Lightstorm. But they still lacked some of the core elements I’ve most wanted to fix, including my title typography.

Enter Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer.

Thanks to Serif developing a suite of Adobe-wreckers that rival PhotoShop, Illustrator, and InDesign, called Photo, Designer, and Publisher respectively, all for a low one-time fee, I’ve been able to finally design book covers worthy of the stories they keep. I’ve already updated several of these covers to titles I no longer plan to update (again, check the side panel). But there are still a few more that I’m rewriting that will debut with new covers sometime this year or next.

In case you haven’t seen these updates on Facebook already, here are those updated covers (to the right of their older covers for comparison):

If you click on the images to the right corresponding to these titles, you can get more information. In most cases, these updated stories will drastically differ from their current versions.

What still remains? Basically The Fountain of Truth.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this preview, and that you’ll keep an eye on this blog for when these stories are finally updated.

Also, you should check out Serif’s Affinity products if you haven’t already. They’re the best software purchases I’ve made in the last year, and they’re gaining popularity–probably because they’re awesome products built by an awesome software company that appears to value its customers.

Cover Image: Pixabay

Publishing with Google Play Books

This week, I’ve uploaded a five-part series about getting your e-book onto Google Play Books. I’ve used my e-book Shell Out as an example. I cover how to prepare an EPUB, a basic but pleasant PDF, and a fancy PDF that makes eyes happy, as well as cover how to get the book onto Google and what the results will look like once it’s online.

Here is the series and episode summary, along with resource links and action checklists. Enjoy.

Series Description:

Now that Google Play Books has reopened its service to all independent publishers, it’s a good idea to publish your books there and expand your audience reach. But how do you do that? This five-part series will walk you through the basic steps to get up and running.

Google Play Books Partner Center

Part 1: Using Calibre to Prepare Your Google Play Books E-Book

(Video Link)

Episode Description:

Google Play Books requires at least one of two formats to get your e-book online and available for consumption: EPUB and PDF. It recommends you upload both. Part 1 of the “Publishing with Google Play Books Series” covers the basics for getting an EPUB ready for the service, using a free EPUB creation tool, Calibre.

Note: This episode covers the simplest method for getting an EPUB built on Calibre and ready for Google Play Books. You’ll need to learn CSS and HTML to develop a more specialized or attractive EPUB file, which this video will not cover. I’ve listed two great resources below to help you take these basics to the professional-level.

Resources:

Calibre Web Page

Calibre User Manual

The Book Designer Guest Writer, David Kudler

The eBook Design and Development Guide by Paul Salvette

Checklist:

  1. Convert source document to DOCX format.
  2. Check and fix broken bookmarks.
  3. Delete drop caps unless you know how to format them properly for EPUB.
  4. Optional: Convert Small Caps to All Caps to ensure all e-readers show compatible formatting (but don’t do this for section headings—just words that characters “see”).
  5. Download Calibre (See Resources for Web link).
  6. Create blank EPUB file.
  7. Fill in title, author name, and whatever else you think is important.
  8. Select proper JPEG image for cover.
  9. Check document conversion attributes.
  10. Check EPUB file type (2 or 3).
  11. Verify table of contents.
  12. Validate external links.
  13. Open file in e-reader to check conversion state (“Click to Path”).
  14. Upload to Google Play Books if happy with results; fix HTML, CSS, or content errors if not.

Part 2: Quick but Effective PDF Formatting for Google Play Books

(Video Link)

Episode Description:

Google Play Books requires at least one of two formats to get your e-book online and available for consumption: EPUB and PDF. It recommends you upload both. Part 2 of the “Publishing with Google Play Books Series” covers the basics of formatting a PDF for the service, using Microsoft Word.

Note: This episode covers the simplest effective method for getting a stylish PDF ready for Google Play Books. For a more complex but ultimately more rewarding result, come back for Part 4 when I talk about a program designed for better formatting.

Resources:

Drinking Café Latte at 1pm Article: “The Art of Hyphenation”

Checklist:

If Presentation Doesn’t Matter:

  1. Create or access source document in Microsoft Word.
  2. Export to PDF (from “File” tab).
  3. Upload to Google Play Books.

If Presentation Does Matter:

  1. Create or access source document in Microsoft Word.
  2. Change layout size and margins to paperback page style (5″ x 8″; 5.5″ x 8.5″; 6″ x 9″).
  3. Reposition headers, footers, and indents to half their normal distances.
  4. Insert blank page at start of book.
  5. Upload cover image to front page and resize and center to fit.
  6. Add cover image bookmark.
  7. Check all bookmarks and hyperlinks for accuracy.
  8. Check other special formatting like small caps and drop caps.
  9. Fix justification and hyphenation.
  10. Create section break between front matter and body text and anywhere that header or footer content should differ.
  11. Set page numbers in the body text section and use special rules for proper counting and display.
  12. Make sure cover and title pages don’t have page numbers showing.
  13. Export to PDF (from “File” tab).
  14. Upload to Google Play Books.

Part 3: Getting the Book onto Google Play Books

(Video Link)

Episode Description:

Once your books are properly formatted, it’s time to upload them to Google Play Books. This video will show you how to prepare your book’s page and get it onto the service.

Resources:

Reedsy Blog Article: “How to Publish on Google Play Books in 2020”

Checklist:

  1. Register a partner account with Google Play Books (consult the Reedsy Blog article in the resources section on how to do this).
  2. Go to Book Catalog section to add a new book or access a book you want to edit.
  3. Once inside the book editing page, fill in the fields on all four tabs of the Book Info section.
  4. Use the same description as you have on the other publication sites to maintain consistency. Use bold text and italics to enhance its presentation. Use paragraph breaks to indicate new paragraphs.
  5. Remember to set the release dates: publication is for today; on sale is whenever buyers have access (good for preorders). Set the on sale date far enough in the future to give ARC readers time to read.
  6. Consult PDF version for accurate page count, or divide word count by 250 and round to nearest whole number if you’re not sure.
  7. Use as many genres as the book may occupy, especially since Google doesn’t allow for manual keywords.
  8. List all essential contributors. The author is the main contributor. Coauthors and illustrators are also essential. Editors are essential for curated materials.
  9. Fill in sample size and publisher information, if applicable.
  10. Go to Content section.
  11. Upload EPUB, PDF, and JPEG files.
  12. Go to PRICING section.
  13. Set desired price point. Set worldwide options.
  14. Return to Content section. Check conversion status. Fix errors if any appear.
  15. Provide ARC and beta reader Google emails in the content reviewer section, if any.
  16. Verify all results in the Summary section.

Part 4: Using Affinity Publisher to Create a Stunning PDF for Google Play Books

(Video Link)

Episode Description:

Creating a simple PDF for Google Play Books is fine. But wouldn’t you rather give your readers something that actually looks nice? In this video, we use Affinity Publisher to create a more sophisticated PDF than the one we made in Part 2.

Note 1: Affinity products are cheaper, non-subscription based alternatives to Adobe products. Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher are equivalent to Adobe PhotoShop, Illustrator, and InDesign respectively.

Note 2: All Affinity products are on sale for 50% off until June 20, 2020. Get all three (Photo, Designer, and Publisher) if you want to maximize your development. There is also a 90-day trial period in place until June 20 if you aren’t sure you want to just plop the money down straightaway.

Resources:

Affinity Publisher:

Affinity Revolution:

Checklist:

  1. Visit Affinity Web page (link in resources section).
  2. Try or buy Affinity Publisher ($50 normally; $25 until June 20, 2020)
  3. Optional: Try or buy Affinity’s other apps, Photo and Designer.
  4. Check out Affinity’s tutorials on YouTube.
  5. Learn the difference between Pages and Master Pages.
  6. Learn how to use the inspector panels.
  7. Remember to use layers for complex work.
  8. Remember to link content pages through connecting arrows.
  9. Export as PDF when finished with layout.

Part 5: Reviewing the Product Page for Your New Google Play Books E-Book

(Video Link)

Episode Description:

Now that your new book is uploaded to Google Play Books and approved for sale, let’s check it out and see what the customer will see.

This episode also compares analytics between Google Play Books, Amazon KDP, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital, so you get a bonus part-within-a-part for watching this episode. Congratulations.

Resources:

Books2Read:

Checklist:

  1. Go to Book Catalog section.
  2. Click on book cover.
  3. Go to Summary section.
  4. Click on “Google Play” or “Google Books” link to visit each respective book page.
  5. Explore each page.
  6. View or Buy book to add to library.
  7. Visit “My Books” tab to check the contents of your book (if purchased).
  8. Click on ellipses to access content within book.
  9. Select date range and parameters for analytics information.
  10. Open spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to view statistics.
  11. Upload a new book and restart the process.

Thanks for reading. Leave a comment with your e-book information if you’ve published on Google.

Update to “My Books” Page

Just a quick maintenance note:

I’ve updated the “My Books” page with a comprehensive list of not only all of my existing book tiles and brief status descriptions for each one, but also of all of my planned future books.

This is truly the one-stop shop for information on all of my present and upcoming titles. It it’s not on this page, there’s no news on it.

Remember to click the tab, not the drop-down selections, to access the page. Or, you can just click the link here.

If you have any questions, leave a comment below.

November 2019 Update

In the month of Blade Runner (look it up), I’ve spent every day adding new content to my NaNoWriMo 2019 project, Washed Up: A Pirate Adventure. That was my entire month. Every day. Writing. Lots of writing. Lots and lots of writing, especially on the 22nd.

In a moment, I’ll share with you the results of that marathon, but first let me tell you that I predicted in October that I would be posting my November update late. Was that prediction by design? Not really, but I do find it fitting that I’m combining a monthly update with a Friday update. Also, it would be difficult to post a November update that is focused almost entirely on NaNoWriMo without recording the last day’s progress. So, waiting until now makes more sense. Plus, it’s Friday.

Also before I show you how NaNoWriMo went, I wanted to say that I did spend one evening working on Snow in Miami, bringing me close to the end of the first draft. I’m almost there. Though, it should be noted by now that I won’t have it publishable until next year. Sorry! But I want to get this one right.

Speaking of getting it right, I think I’ve figured out a new plan for my series of Christmas fables, originally conceptualized as The 12 Fables of Christmas (plus three more). Snow in Miami (the second in the series) features a storyteller character named Douglas McCray, who is essentially the lower class stepfather version of Grandpa from The Princess Bride, who gets his lazy points of view across to his family through a series of self-serving parables, but who must then endure one parable from a family member (or other) as a counterargument to his argument and ultimately a source of change for him and his way of thinking. I’m considering repurposing The Fountain of Truth as the first part of the “McCray Parables.” The idea came to me while I was driving home from Barnes & Noble a few minutes ago, but I think it’s a great idea. I’d have to make a new cover for it (and add a new story to give the current three a reason for existing), but I’m up to the challenge. I even have an idea: Douglas McCray may be justifying a decision he makes at his job during the holidays through his use of allegory. It could work. The downside is that now I’ll have to add him to all five of my planned holiday fable books.

Yes, I said five. More on that in the future.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) 2019

So, like I said at the top, I participated in NaNoWriMo 2019 by starting on Washed Up: A Pirate Adventure, the first book in my new pirate trilogy tentatively called WTF Pirate Adventure. Because I’ve raced through it with minimal research, I can safely say that it’s a mess. But it has potential, and that potential will hopefully spawn a successful series of at least three books. I used my new NaNoWriMo Scrivener template to write it, and now I need to transfer everything I wrote to a new document where I can finish it. I’ll do that today.

Regarding the story itself, I made it to just shy of the midpoint when the NaNoWriMo event ended, but I’ll definitely need to do a lot of editing for any of this to work well. It’s got some bloat at the moment. Bloat and a boat.

But it also has some entertaining moments. And that’s what we want when all is said and done. Right?

So, with that all said, here are the results of my NaNoWriMo participation, taken directly from my Scrivener “Tracking Elements” section. As you can see, I wrote quite a bit this month.

Day 1:

  • -Target Word Count: 2,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,414 words
  • -Total Word Count: 2,414 words

Day 2:

  • -Target Word Count: 2,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,000 words
  • -Total Word Count:  4,414 words

Day 3:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,121 words
  • -Total Word Count: 5,535 words

Day 4:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,701 words
  • -Total Word Count: 7,236 words

Day 5:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,529 words
  • -Total Word Count: 8,765 words

Day 6:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,060 words
  • -Total Word Count: 10,825 words

Day 7:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,050 words
  • -Total Word Count: 11,875 words

Day 8:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 830 words
  • -Total Word Count: 12,705 words

Day 9:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,801 words
  • -Total Word Count: 14,506 words

Day 10:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,667 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,611 words
  • -Total Word Count: 17,117 words

Day 11:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,667 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,822 words
  • -Total Word Count: 18,939 words

Day 12:

  • -Target Word Count: 200 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 201 words
  • -Total Word Count: 19,140 words

Day 13:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 604 words
  • -Total Word Count: 19,744 words

Day 14:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,036 words
  • -Total Word Count: 20,780 words

Day 15:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,667 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,264 words
  • -Total Word Count: 23,044 words

Day 16:

  • -Target Word Count: 2,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,746 words
  • -Total Word Count: 25,790 words

Day 17:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 539 words
  • -Total Word Count: 26,329 words

Day 18:

  • -Target Word Count: 2,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,884 words
  • -Total Word Count: 29,213 words

Day 19:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,667 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,830 words
  • -Total Word Count: 31,043 words

Day 20:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 735 words
  • -Total Word Count: 31,778 words

Day 21:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 2,758 words
  • -Total Word Count: 34,536 words

Day 22:

  • -Target Word Count: 3,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 7,625 words
  • -Total Word Count: 42,161 words

Day 23:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,397 words
  • -Total Word Count: 43,558 words

Day 24:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,111 words
  • -Total Word Count: 44,669 words

Day 25:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,327 words
  • -Total Word Count: 45,996 words

Day 26:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,667 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 3,302 words
  • -Total Word Count: 49,298 words

Day 27:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,524 words
  • -Total Word Count: 50,882 words

Day 28:

  • -Target Word Count: 500 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,277 words
  • -Total Word Count: 52,099 words

Day 29:

  • -Target Word Count: 1,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 1,178 words
  • -Total Word Count: 53,277 words

Day 30:

  • -Target Word Count: 3,000 words
  • -Actual Word Count: 4,238 words
  • -Total Word Count: 57,515 words

If you want to glimpse the story and the first eight days of my NaNoWriMo experience, please be sure to check out my YouTube channel for the NaNoWriMo 2019 playlist.

What I’m Reading

November hasn’t been just about NaNoWriMo. I’ve also started reading the classic Treasure Island to remind myself what pirate literature looks like (and because I’ve never read it, and I really need to read more classic literature). I have an old paperback version that was printed in the 1960s (part of my grandfather’s collection), but my go-to site for researching pirates, The Pirate King, has a faithful reproduction of the story, complete with parchment background. It’s pretty nice. (It also has better copyediting than the version I’m reading.)

I also finished reading Lee Child’s One Shot (Jack Reacher #9), which is the book that the first Tom Cruise movie adapts, and Christopher Moore’s Noir, who I’ve never read before but wanted to for some time (of his books that aren’t about the supernatural), and found both books quite entertaining. If you’re looking for a great book this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with Jack Reacher or Noir. Though, you also can’t go wrong with my favorite from 2018, Stuart Turton’s The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I loved that debut as much as I did Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One (2011). See all of the name-dropping I’m doing?

Finally, I’ve picked two new books on the writing craft: Fight Write and Compass of Character (the latter of which I’ve just bought today). I don’t spend much time discussing the books on craft that I’ve read, but it’s often been my intention to start one of these days. At some point, I’d like to write a series on the best writing books I’ve read. Let me know if you’re interested.

So, that’s November (and the first week of December). Hope yours went well. Stay tuned for the next update, coming in a few weeks.

Cover Image: Pixabay

Fun with Cover Design Using PaintShop Pro 2020, Corel Painter 2019, and GRFX Studio Corel Edition on My Ebook “Lightstorm”

This weekend, as the title implies, I ran my concept cover for Lightstorm through another round of edits, this time by employing the services of a few new programs that I picked up in the Painter: Create with Confidence Bundle over at Humble Bundle (available until Wednesday at 1pm EST).

The bundle, which includes a number of designer products, including PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate, Corel Painter 2019, and Pinnacle Studio 23 Ultimate, cost me just $25. Individually, I would’ve spent over $250 for them, maybe much more, and finding the bundle was perfect timing, as my copy of Paintshop Pro 2019 (normal edition) kept bugging me to upgrade to 2020 for just $47.99 (a 70% discount!), which I was planning to do anyway until I found the bundle, but now I don’t have to, though doing so would’ve meant I would also get a video editor program, VideoStudio Pro 2019 (noticeably absent from the bundle, but hopefully Pinnacle Studio will work just fine), which probably would’ve been nice. But I ended up getting a lot more for a lot less, and I’m typically fine with that.

So, just to give a little backstory, I released Lightstorm in September 2015 with this cover (created with my old copy of PaintShop Pro 9, which is probably 14 iterations of PaintShop Pro ago):

lightstorm cover (title 4)
Lightstorm Cover Image

As you can see, it isn’t very good. I needed to upgrade it, but I didn’t have any software that would be particularly useful for the job.

Then last year I found another photography bundle at Humble Bundle that included PaintShop Pro 2019, and I thought, Yeah, I’ll buy that for a dollar! I think I actually paid $25 for that bundle, (a dollar would’ve gotten me just the cheap stuff) and I got a load of decent software for designers that I haven’t really used yet outside of PaintShop Pro 2019. I plan to use them eventually. Maybe.

A few months after getting that bundle and practicing my cover design on other covers, particularly Eleven Miles from Home, by locating free stock photos and manipulating and combining them for effect, I decided it was time to upgrade Lightstorm. This is what I made:

lightstorm new background 8

And when I wasn’t fully satisfied with that version, I kept toying with it until I got this:

lightstorm new background 10a

So, that’s the version I have online at the moment. I thought it was pretty good. But I still had my doubts. Compared to the original, it’s a masterpiece. But compared to other book covers, it’s meh. I figured I could do better, but I didn’t know how if all I had at my disposal was PaintShop Pro 2019 and other painting programs I hadn’t actually used yet but probably should’ve looked into. Oops.

So, then came along the Painter Bundle, and now I’ve got programs that can do more than simply adjust the visuals of an already assembled composite photo (I used four different images and a lot of blurring to make the above image). With Corel Painter, I was able to add particles, including glow brushes, make my title font (Vallen) much better detailed, and I ended up with this:

lightstorm new background 12.png

Now it’s looking more thematic, but I admit I wasn’t fully satisfied. As much as I liked the new particle effects, I worried they were cluttering the image too much.

So, I doubled-down and opened up GRFX Studio Corel Edition (included with PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate) and added a bunch of light flares:

lightstorm new background 13a.png

So, that’s the state of Lightstorm‘s cover and what I did this weekend with my new design programs. Just to recap, I went from this:

lightstorm cover (title 4)
Lightstorm Cover Image

to this:

lightstorm new background 13a

I’m sure PhotoShop and a proper graphics designer would’ve made this cover even better, but as I say on this blog from time to time, I’m not rich, and while that remains true, I won’t throw money at high-priced subscription software or someone I can’t afford.

For the resources and skills that I have, I think I did pretty well. What do you think? Can you do better? Hopefully the answer is yes. Comment below if you have an opinion!

The Audiovisual Book Experience, an Experiment

Today on YouTube, I launched the beginning of what could become my next big feature: “The Audiovisual Book Experience.” The premise behind it is that people don’t read anymore, but they do listen. At least, that’s what I’ve heard from people who listen exclusively to audiobooks and podcasts and can’t be bothered with an actual book or blog post. I think these same people watch YouTube videos on occasion.

I confess that I don’t get it. And, I do think the information is a little suspect. Of course people still read. I’m a person, and I read! I read books and blogs. I also write both. If you’re reading this blog, then you’re a reader, too. Already, you’re proving them wrong.

But, I also see the point they make. The people who prefer audio text to visual text are the people who are too busy to sit down with a good book; they probably spend more time looking through their windshields, making sure they don’t hit something or someone than they do staring at the pages of a paperback or the screen of an e-reader. Of course, they still stare at their phones for some reason, on the road and off. But it makes you wonder: Has no one told them they can read a book on their phone? What else are they going to do at a red light?

Okay, they shouldn’t read a book while driving. Point made. Audiobooks are much better for that. And they’re also much better for running. I’ve tried reading a book while running a few times. It’s definitely too shaky to concentrate. An audiobook would’ve been nicer for that scenario. If these people are so active that they can’t even spend a few minutes in bed with a good book, then perhaps the audio version is necessary.

But what of the people who want both, the reading and the listening experience? Haven’t we all started our reading lives by reading with an adult, where the adult reads out loud while we follow along and try to understand each word? Would it be so odd if we were to read along with someone else again, but as adults?

Maybe. Probably. But we’re going to try it anyway!

And that’s the point of the Audiovisual Book Experience, to allow YouTube users to read a book while someone else narrates it to them. That way, if they need to, they can do other things while the book is “playing.” Or, if they’d rather follow along, they can see each word in its book form. This gives each reader the option of reading the book however he or she wants. For free!

Is it a good idea? I don’t know. That’s why it’s an experiment. But, if it does generate interest, I’ll likely do another. If not, then I’ll commit my time and energy to something else.

I do wonder, though, how other authors with better voices than mine could make use of an audiovisual book experience. It might be worth it for them to give it a try for their own books.

That said, I’m launching my own experience with Amusement, a short story about a businessman who must confront the corporate entity responsible for the faulty product that ruined his life.

The overview video has already launched. The introduction and legal information video will launch at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Monday, September 23, 2019), and “Part 1: Professionalism” will launch immediately after, at 1:15 p.m., both Eastern Standard Time. Each additional episode will launch on consecutive days at 1 p.m. until next Sunday when the final episode, “Part 7: Crash,” airs.

The entire audiovisual book will be curated into a playlist that you can run at your leisure.

If you decide to check it out, please let me know what you think, either here or on YouTube. Hope you’ll enjoy it.

Now Incorporating Draft2Digital and the Books2Read Platform

Remember when I had exciting news last week about my various book updates? Well, now I have even more exciting news to share with you!

And when I say exciting, I mean exciting for book nerds! The rest of you probably won’t care that much.

A few nights ago, I began porting my recently updated e-books to the Draft2Digital platform. For those who don’t know Draft2Digital, it’s a distribution platform like Smashwords, but much nicer looking and reaches a few international markets that Smashwords doesn’t yet reach, specifically !ndigo (Canada), Angus & Robertson (Australia), and Mondadori Store (Italy). Pretty much all of Rakuten Kobo’s international partners. It also connects to subscription services 24 Symbols and Playster, but as of this writing, these platforms have not yet received my books. Soon. Hopefully. Maybe.

I’ve spent a couple of evenings modifying and uploading six of my current e-books to the Draft2Digital platform, and the result is that these e-book versions are the most attractive yet.

Draft2Digital Amusement InteriorDraft2Digital Waterfall Junction Interior

Now, I haven’t yet ported them to the usual retailers (Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo) because they’re already opted-in through Smashwords, and to get them connected through Draft2Digital, I’d have to opt them out first, which could mess up their rankings (especially since they’d be listed under a new ISBN). Not sure I want to go through all of that, so for now, this update is limited to the newer storefronts. But I may test the new format with my next release (Snow in Miami).

But, that’s not even the best news. The best news is that my books now use the Books2Read platform to connect readers to all relevant storefronts. That means one link can take you to a hub where all active storefronts are listed.

Check out the link to Eleven Miles from Home for an example.

Books2Read also has a sign-up option for readers to receive notifications every time I submit a new release. It’s a mailing list without all of the fluff! Now you don’t have to miss a single story! (And why would you even want to?) If you haven’t yet used Books2Read, as an author or a reader, you’re missing out. It’s really convenient.

Oh, and if you check out my new Draft2Digital author page, you can also see which books are in the system. See how nice it looks? Yep, it’s a booty! Er, beauty.

It’s also worth noting that I’ve updated the description pages for each of these books right here on Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm. The description pages now include the abovementioned universal links and relevant descriptive information including genre, literary style, characters, settings, store descriptions, formats, copyrights, book reading stats, prices, media galleries, and links to Wattpad samples and Goodreads reviews. If you’re still not sure whether you want to read these books, hopefully the new description pages will make your decision easier.

The books that currently apply the new format are Amusement, Eleven Miles from Home, The Fountain of Truth, Gutter Child, Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge, and When Cellphones Make Us Crazy. During the month of August (and maybe September), I’ll be working on getting Cards in the Cloak, Shell Out, and The Fallen Footwear up to speed. Subscribe to the Draft2Digital email alerts to find out when they’re live.

And that’s all for now. Hope you like the changes!

You did notice, right?

Cover Image: Pixabay

 

End of July 2019 Update: Book Stuff!

Welcome back.

In today’s episode of Drinking Café Latte at 1pm in the evening, we discuss books. Specifically, we discuss updated books. My updated books. Specifically.

Yes, my books are updated. Not all of them. But some.

Perhaps you’ve read them?

If not, now’s a good time to start. I’ve got free books and cheap books and funny books and happy books and, well, okay, my inventory is limited, so I don’t have much more than that. But what I have is great…if you’re the kind of person who finds books like mine great. Hopefully you are. There is, of course, one way to find out.

Over on the right, you may have seen a long column of strange photos with words on them. Those are book covers. Book covers for my books. Some of them have been updated. Not all of them. But some. Just click on the title(s) you want to find out more about them. Once on the respective book page, you’ll be shown how to download them (or buy them if you’re feeling generous). Again, they’re over there. —>

But, enough sales talk! You didn’t come here for that.

Actually, I don’t know why you’ve come here. But I’m glad you did!

Anyway, here are the updates.

The Updates:

Amusement and Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge have been given the revision and “Readers’ Group Discussion Questions” section treatment. They also have new page descriptions and, in the case of Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge, a new cover.

waterfall junction new base title 3b
Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge cover

I’ve also updated the interior formatting for the above mentioned books, as well as for Eleven Miles from Home, Gutter Child, When Cellphones Make Us Crazy, and The Fountain of Truth. Amazon does the best job showing off the new formatting, for the record.

amusment tablet example.png
Amusement tablet interior

It should also be noted that Eleven Miles from Home and The Fountain of Truth have undergone slight cover modifications, even though neither one has gotten an actual new cover. Eleven Miles from Home in particular is now more genre-appropriate. We’ll see if that increases its downloads at all.

Sales and Price Changes:

For those of you who missed my announcement at the beginning of the month, Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One, Gutter Child, and When Cellphones Make Us Crazy are available for free on Smashwords until midnight EST, July 31st. On a related note, Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two is 50% off (or $3.99) also until July 31st. Don’t miss out.

I’m also temporarily lowering the prices for Gutter Child and When Cellphones Make Us Crazy to $.99 beginning on August 1st (Cellpones has already been lowered on Amazon), so if you don’t get them at Smashwords during the sale, I’d get them at Amazon as soon as possible. I don’t yet know how long I’ll keep them priced this low, so act soon.

Keywords and Categories:

Two years ago, I purchased a copy of KDP Rocket to help me categorize my books more effectively. I hadn’t really used it much since I was stocking up on resources without doing much with those resources. I’d dabbled with it a little, to see how effective it is at tracking the success potential for keywords. It seemed fine, but it had flaws.

Recently, the program was upgraded to 2.0 and renamed “Publisher Rocket.” With its newest update, it now does a better job tracking all of the various scores and statistics that it was built to track, and its user-interface is much cleaner. In short, I’ve been using it the last couple of weeks to recategorize the abovementioned books. Hopefully, as I continue to tweak and tool the books’ metadata, I’ll be able to figure out how to get each book in front of more readers.

Why should you care about that? Well, 1.) Publisher Rocket is a great program to use for market research if you’re an indie author, and if you’re an indie author, you’ll want to know about it. But also 2.) the more readers I have, the more I’ll stick to writing books and the less I’ll stick to playing video games. That means more books for you. You are reading them, right?

Upcoming Updates:

So, that’s the state of what’s going on right now. Sometime in the next week or two, I’ll also, hopefully, be adding an audio version of Amusement to my YouTube channel, which you can follow along with as I post each chapter right here on Drinking Café Latte at 1pm at the same time!

Lastly, I’ll be working on improved versions of Cards and the Cloak, The Fallen Footwear, and Shell Out as we move into the fall season, and I’ll be including the “Readers’ Group Discussion Questions” for them also. I also, hopefully, will get Snow in Miami finished in the coming weeks. I know I’ve been promising that one for much too long. Have you already forgotten that you’re waiting for it?

Super Smashwords Summer Sale (2019 Edition)

Aloha, hola, and hello. Happy July and summer sale to all.

Happy summer sale?

Yep, happy summer sale. Happy Super Smashwords Summer Sale, 2019 Edition.

???

Okay, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Fair enough. Today marks the beginning of the Smashwords Summer Winter Sale (it’s winter in the deep, deep south), and the sale will continue until the end of the month. It’s the time of year in which you can get a host of trashy novels for free or cheap. It’s also a good time to get some of my usually-priced-above-free books for the lower price of actually free.

These books include Cannonball City, Gutter Child, and When Cellphones Make Us Crazy.

You can also get Superheroes Anonymous for 50% off.

So, if you’ve spent the last three years sitting on the fence trying to decide whether to get these, maybe it’s time to say your butt is tired and get off the fence!

Please remember to leave a review when you’re done reading.

P.S. If you read one of my books for free and decide they’re worth a little bit more than free, please check out my Amazon page where you can find all* of the same titles for $.99 or more.

*“All” doesn’t include Cannonball City or Superheroes Anonymous.

Note: Gutter Child has a very slight revision to its first chapter to lighten some of the foreshadowing. This should now be the definitive version. I’ll be posting an audio version of Chapter 1 on YouTube very soon. Subscribe to receive official announcements.