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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Anashivalia Illustration for "Sophistan Children of Earth"

Here is the Anashivalia (the fairy queen) for the back cover ‪#‎illustration‬ of the "Sophistan Children of Earth". My plans say that in the back cover illustration, 7 year old Stefan will be sitting at her feet reaching up for the wand and crying. We'll have to see how things develop. I'll probably take a break and get back to writing on the book. The book is a ‪#‎scifi‬/‪#‎fantasy‬ written in a ‪#‎literary‬ ‪#‎fiction‬ style. It will be my first attempt to write in that style. I always like big challenges. Like trying to #illustrate the characters in my books.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Launching Children of Sophista Publishing Company

Launching a new #publishing company, even if you want to just publish books you have written, is a very difficult affair. Isn't that self-publishing? Well, not really.

In self-publishing, you use a number of vendors of over-priced services to create your book and make your book visible to the world. The services that you use have no interest in your success. They want large amounts of money upfront because they don't expect to see you around for very long. Mostly it's an ego game between ego's and ego strokers. You are promised mass exposure. You are promised the mythical "distribution". Amazon will promise to put your book on your their site (10,000 books below the top listings). 

Some people have found a way to make a bit of money doing the self-publishing dance. My favorite is the author that claims they left traditional publishing to make a fortune in self-publishing. That's a cool way to do it. The author lets the traditional publishing pay to promote them a bit to get some limited name recognition. Then you self-publish and claim you did it all. You claim the publisher never did anything for you. The secret story behind that is that most readers reached by the traditional publisher never said a word and probably never bought a book. That's the way advertising works. Mostly the publisher spends lots of money and sees no results. But do that for a decade or two and people will recognizes their brand. The cumulative years of hard work advertising, finding the channels that work, and then not only targeting those channels but pressing the flesh with those that influence those channels finally pays off. So if you are a traditionally published writer gone independent, whether or not you want to admit it, the PR helped you start above zero. It tagged you as someone worth reading---that and lots of blogs where you tell people that you built your following from zero using your impressive skills.

Another way to make some money self-publishing is to learn to avoid the ripoff services and to practice writing a lot. Eventually a lot of small sales can add up to a meaningful amount of money. Practicing by writing large quantities can improve your writing enough to where people want to read you. The weight of your enormous volume of written material promotes add credence that you might be someone worth reading. If you get skillful at gaming the Amazon sales system, you can almost make a living, if you call that living.

Or you can publish your stuff for real. It just requires lots of time and money. More than you can possibly imagine, if you are just starting out. One of the expenses you will likely pay first is learning how to write. It is possible that you were born with most of the talent of a good writer. But not likely. You go to school or you pay someone really good to repeatedly edit your stuff. In some ways, it is about the same price. Then you can play the crap-shoot  agent, publisher game and perhaps get your stuff out there. It probably won't sell initially and the publisher will likely pocket most of the money on your early novels. Everything, but the quality of your writing will be beyond your control.

Or you can take control, become the real publisher, and be a real publisher of your books (and possibly other people's books if you get good enough). You can let humiliation shape your career. Of all the businesses you could choose to go into, publishing is one the crapiest legitimate businesses. Any bozo can be taught like a monkey how to program and can make more money. Come to Silicon Valley and you can learn how much money it is really possible to make (you can also learn how outrageously expensive the cost of living can be). Write earnestly for years and get professionals, not writer friends, to edit your writing repeatedly ($$$). Learn (and continue to learn everyday) the nuts and bolts of the of the publishing industry (most of it involves raising large sums of money and losing large sums of money when you screw-up and you will screw-up).  Learn about logistics, crowdsource funding, and about how the bookstore/publisher relationship was forged during the Great Depression (starvation economics). Learn how to sell (a product which is less appealing than a fancy cup of coffee).

I, having been forged in Silicon Valley, where long death marches on projects with low probabilities of success are the status quo, have chosen the "become a publisher route" as my impossible challenge. In choosing this route, I have had to think about things in a strategic way which the writer side of me finds very uncomfortable. I've spent about 8 years writing. Though I meant to sell books, I have given away huge volumes of actual print books. And I have received considerable feedback. I have been screwed by countless self-publishing service companies, promoters... I have called up my scientific side to analyze the bleak economics of publishing to find out how people really make money in this business. And now I have a strategy. For one thing, pure science fiction has very few readers and the publishing business only makes meaningful money in large volumes of low margin items. Think about that for a minute. For anyone wondering what all that means, I suggest reading the blog of the founder of Baen, a successful science fiction publisher. If you think about the implications of what he actually says, it's pretty depressing. I tend to write stuff with lots of embedded philosophy, so it is even more so.

What I am doing is this: I am taking my genre novels (science fiction/fantasy) and rewriting them into a #literary #fiction style. Rather than laying out a cool plot with lots of deep philosophical thoughts and saying "Look at my cool book", I am rewriting them into a character focussed novel, where the characters' lives, personalities, and thoughts play a very important role. I also illustrate these new novels myself, not with with wonderfully expansive gee-whizz, detail scifi drawings but with simple #illustrations involving the characters that highlight an emotion of the character described in the book (I'm not good enough to do gee-whiz scifi-scapes anyway). I am set up to write, illustrate, and layout for publication, print books.  I have done the basic initial financial plumbing for a business.

I have two books in the pipe right now: "Sophistan Children of Earth" and "The Owl from Oblivion". Currently, a version of "The Owl from Oblivion" has been self-published. This version has one professional edit. I need to raise money to get it at least two more edits. Before publishing, I usually do three professional edits but "The Owl from Oblivion" is such a different book that has such a strong emotional impact, I decided to put out an early version to get a little feedback and understand how it affects people. Now I would like to take what I have learned in addition to folding in changes inflicted on the series by the "Sophistan Children of Earth" #book, and put the changes into "The Owl from Oblivion", increasing its impact even more. There are two more pools of money I will need to raise: a pool to do a mass offset printing run of the book to get it down to the price bookstores like and another pool to plumb the business for orders from and promotions directly to bookstores. There is software that basically links me as a publisher in the book ordering network, manages the inventory and logistics of the books, and keeps track of who needs to pay, etc.

#Bookstores not #Amazon are a central part of my new strategy. Why? It's simple: I am writing deeply thoughtful, long books which a reader will want to spend a long time with. They are not fast reads. No one can tell if they want to read such a book from a quick read of a blurb on an Amazon page. They need to pick up the book and flip through it to get to know it. This will not be a cheap Kindle read but a hardcover. Before someone forks out a larger amount of money, I think they should get to know the book first, like a friend. 

Maybe this will be a challenge I can meet and maybe it won't. All I can do is give it my best effort and learn from my mistakes. In the process, maybe I will make books that readers will remember for the rest of their lives. If you want to contribute, look for my #crowdsource campaigns, contribute, and win some neat #rewards!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Updated Cover for the "Sophistan Children of Earth"

I thought I was done with the cover I illustrated for my new book but I couldn't resist messing around with it. So now I have added a bit of "sparkle" to it.

#illustration #scifi #fantasy #HarryPotter #magic #literary #fiction #gifted 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cover for "Sophistan Children of Earth"

I've been working on the #cover for the "Sophistan Children of Earth" which I am currently writing. I always like working on the cover early because doing the artwork really helps me focus in my writing and work out the focus of the novel. I've a very visual person which is sort of an ironic trait for an author. The blood dripping of the word "Earth" lets you know that this will be a rather intense novel. Children just want to be children but having extraordinary talents can get in the way. Especially when some on Earth become jealous or fearful of them and want to take apart these children to find out where those talents come from.

Let me know if you think seeing this cover in a bookstore would encourage you to pick up the book and give it a look!

#scifi #fantasy #literary #fiction #HarryPotter #gifted #illustration

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Sophistan Children of Earth

"The Sophistan Children of Earth" will be the title of the rewrite of ‪#‎book‬ #1. Here is the book ‪#‎blurb‬ for the new book:
Why, Mom and Dad, didn’t you tell me… Even the ants hate my blood as the bullies pound me. The others say I have to be a super-child—a warrior. My love, Amy, will grow up, having someone else’s children—having mine would kill her from the inside; I am immortal. Stefan, shunned by his mom, beaten by criminals—his power is frightening. His older girlfriend protects us from black-op crazies, hostile aliens… everyone wants us dead. Sometimes I wish they would succeed. My young friend, Ty, wields the power of secret aliens; his magic wand is his life’s core. Why does the incorporeal Sophistan1, seventy-three light-years away, care about us? We are the first Children of Sophista to emerge. I hope the future ones know some good games.
Since this book is written in a ‪#‎literary‬ ‪#‎fiction‬ style, it delves into each of the characters lives in a lot more detail than the original book. The reader gets a strong feeling of how it feels to be one of these supernatural kids from the kid's point of view.

This book is considerably more #intense and #dark than other books containing children. Other children recognize the how odd these kids are and they torment and bully them. Adults try to make these children compliant to their every wish by trying to crush their free spirits. The governments and rulers of present day Earth recognize that the power these children possess means that they could one day rule Earth and are thus a threat to their power structure. In some cases, they try to kill the children while they are still vulnerable. There are a few adults who wish to help and protect them. Some of them wish to manipulate them for their own reasons while others work covertly, not wanting to become targets themselves. As you can see, this setup can lead to numerous intense situations with children in roles a reader may not be accustomed to seeing them in.

The original book was written along the lines of being traditional genre fiction so that it depends on the actual plot events themselves to provide the tension. The genre fiction was also written with a limit to the intensity and issues so that it wouldn't shock sensitive younger readers. The new rewrite goes wherever it has to and has no such limitations. It is frighteningly realistic and adults are not portrayed universally on the children's side. Some adults unabashedly want the kids dead and as it can develop in a literary novel, it comes through  forcefully and powerfully. As you might imagine, the children have emotional problems and frustrations dealing with all of this. For them they were simply born as children and while they are extremely brilliant, emotionally in many ways, they are still just children wanting to have fun. And yet there are the adults on their side that want these kids to survive and so they and other experienced children of power must toughen these sensitive souls so they can survive the roles they were thrust into not by their choice but simply by fate. The new children must defend and earn their right to survive.

#‎scifi‬ ‪#‎fantasy‬ ‪#‎HarryPotter

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Excerpt from Rewrite of Book #1: Ms. Loveless

Ms. Loveless, school administrator, explains to Jenny, six-year-old Stefan's nanny how they have made Jenny's job easier:

Ms. Loveless points through the glass. “We have made great progress with Stefan. When we started with Stefan, he would squeal and thump books that frustrated him. Eventually he would yell, “Die!” and throw the book into the corner trashcan across the room. If a book was too basic for him, he would do the same thing. Now, we make him write a paper explaining why the book is bad and quietly place the book in the center stack. The left stack are books he has completed successfully. We never let that stack get too big. When Stefan’s imagination starts to run away, I slip a few rejected high school math texts into his reading stack on the right. It’s a cheap way to get him to write since there are lots of them laying around. He is a much more compliant child now.”

Jenny shakes with repressed anger. She realizes that she cannot intervene since she is just the nanny. To do otherwise might blow her cover.

“So you see, Jenny, we have made your job a bit easier by civilizing Stefan. We see this kind of child quite a lot from parents that indulge their children too much, though never before to the degree that Stefan exemplifies. His mother has told me that his father indulges him with science books that are too hard for a child his age in an effort to make Stefan believe he is a genius.”

“Isn’t he?”

“I see he has fooled you too. No, he actually requires an inordinate amount of help compared to what a child is entitled to. We were able to make him compliant when we pointed out how the other children were suffering because he was taking too much of the teacher’s time. Thank goodness he is an overly empathetic child.”