Art and More Art

After entirely too much time, I’ve finally finished my second foray into the world of sci fi. That is to say I’ve finally finished the first draft, so now I can stop worrying about what is going to happen and start worrying if things happened the way I intended. There is a long list of notes I left for myself in the text about retroactively changing details or making sure different timings work out, but this process tends to go a heck of a lot quicker than the initial writing, so with any luck you folks should see a brand new book before too long. More importantly, I got the finished version of the cover of the book, so those of you who have been waiting to see it, feast your eyes.

Karter and the funk!

That is Karter. He’s a little thinner than most people pictured him, but I’m thrilled with how it came out. If you’ve read the first book, you ought to recognize the furry little guy on the cover as a funk. One of them plays a very large role in this book. (See? I’ve been taking notes. ‘Make sure you get the artist to draw a picture of the cute character.’) Also, on the subject of artwork, I got my first piece of fan art sent to me. You can check it out on my artwork page, at the bottom. It is notable not only because it is the first time a fan has sent me art, but it is the first artistic depiction of Myn. (Okay, technically the second, but once again, let’s not split hairs.) She’s even holding the helmet she spends so much time chewing on!

Now that the good news is out of the way, I’ve got a more irritating announcement to make. Based on a few emails and comments I received, it seems like Amazon might have had a hiccup a few weeks back and distributed an obsolete edition of the book The Book of Deacon with some typos that I had fixed months ago. It is exceptionally difficult for me to know if this is the case, but I plan to take corrective action. Once I release Unstable Prototypes, I’m going to start working on getting the books in the trilogy The Book of Deacon Trilogy formatted for print-on-demand. (Enough people have expressed interest in print editions that I decided it was probably worth the effort.) That will involve reading through it yet again, then uploading a fresh version of each book prior to sending it off to the printers, so an updated version of book 1 and book 2 The Book of Deacon and The Great Convergence should each go up in the next two months. Book 3 The Battle of Verril will probably be later this year.

I guess that about covers recent happenings. Until the next big event, thanks for reading!

UPDATE: I realized that in the original post I switched from talking about the science fiction books to the Book of Deacon Trilogy without indicating it, which was darn confusing, so I made an update to clarify. That’s what I get for writing an update on my commute to work.

2011 Year In Review, And New Art

Happy New Year, everyone! I’ve got one major piece of news, but before I get to it, I just want to talk about some of the more entertaining things I learned as 2011 went out with a bang.

First, I’d like to thank everyone for their recent interest on the site. I’ve seen a huge uptick in traffic, comments, and email, and it has led to some really interesting discussions. That said, more than a few of you have included spoilers in your comments. I don’t want to tell anyone what they can or can’t discuss, but many people visiting the site and reading the threads of discussion haven’t finished the trilogy. I’ll be working on an update to the site that will allow me to conceal any spoilers without eliminating the full comment, but in the meantime here are a few guidelines to help everyone get the most out of the books. If you have a comment or question that might reveal a plot point, I’d appreciate it if you would either email me directly or warn at the beginning of the comment that spoilers follow. Alternately, feel free to join the forum. I’m sure we can rig up a “spoiler zone” for discussions between people who have read all there is to read.

I’ve also been checking out the search terms that hit my site, and there are a few that are really intriguing. First, I’ve seen the term “the book of deacon movie” come up more than once. Thanks for the vote of confidence, whoever you are! There has been absolutely no talk of such things, naturally, but it feels good to know there is interest. (Unless this is another instance of me misinterpreting facts, which I am known to do.) I’ve also seen a few hits looking for Jade Book 2. I hadn’t planned on a sequel to that story, though I never rule anything out completely, but there are at least two characters who appear in that book that do have a place in books I plan to write soon. I’ve seen a few permutations of searches including the books and “wiki.” To my knowledge, The Book of Deacon does not have a wiki or wikipedia entry, but the internet is an extremely transitory place, so by the time you are reading this, who knows what might have happened? Along the same lines, I’ve seen a lot of searches looking for specific characters, or simply “characters” in general. I imagine I could put together a characters page. If I did, what would you folks like to see on it? Descriptions? Pictures? Just let me know and I’ll see what I can do. I live to serve.

Finally, and most importantly, I heard back from good old Nick Deligaris about the latest cover. Those of you who follow me on twitter (@jrlallo) have already seen the nearly complete version of the cover for Bypass Gemini, but I’ve now got my hands on the completely complete version. Check it out.

Hang on tight to that case, Lex!

That’s actually scaled down from the size he gave it to me. In the words of a friend of mine, “Somehow, he has managed to make me more interested in Bypass Gemini after I’ve already read it. How is that possible, exactly?” If any of you have read Bypass Gemini, what do you think? This leaves just one cover to go, the cover for the Bypass Gemini sequel, tentatively named “Unstable Prototypes.” I can’t wait!

UPDATE: Upon reviewing my post, which has got “Year In Review” in the title, I find that I didn’t actually do any reviewing of the year, so let’s fix that, shall we?

At the beginning of 2011, I had published Books 1 and two of the trilogy, and Jade. I had sold somewhere on the order of two dozen books, in total, and wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the prospects of my success. On May 16th, I had published the final entry in the trilogy, and my first Sci Fi book, and having made The Book of Deacon free, I’d started to see some decent interest in my books. My total sales and downloads were in the hundreds, and I’d finally earned enough to get my first check, for $10.78! The next day, Amazon agreed to make The Book of Deacon free. Two weeks later I had given away 18,000+ copies, and was starting to see some fairly positive reviews. I found my way to the top ten of free fantasy ebooks on Amazon not once but twice! Though I hesitate to give dollar figures regarding earnings, I will say this: In the month of December, thanks to some cutbacks they’ve made with my schedule at my day job coupled with massive holiday sales, this little hobby managed to earn more money than my actual career.

Now it is the beginning of 2012. At this moment, I have given away well over 60,000 copies of book 1 on Amazon.com alone, and I’ve had reviews by (among others) Pure Textuality (Book 1 and Book 2), Ebook Apothecary (Book 1), Mel Chesley (Book 1), Best O’ Books (now seemingly defunct),  as well as a guest post and an interview. I’ve had hundreds of ratings and dozens of customer reviews on every site from Apple to Kobo. Some were bad, many were excellent. I found and hired a spectacular artist. My books have been read, re-read, edited, re-edited, and in at least one case, professionally edited. I spiffed up my social presence with a nicer site layout and a forum, and I’ve attempted to improve my Facebook and twitter usage as well. In short, I officially graduated (according to my own informal metrics) from “phoney baloney indie author” to “indie author.” Next step? “Professional indie author.” This is all thanks to you out there, so I bow to you, my readers. Hopefully I can continue to produce things you will enjoy reading in the year ahead. And, as always, thanks for reading.

Merry Merry, Happy Happy (And A New Review)

Hi Everybody. Now that the chaos of Christmas has died down a bit, I would like to take this chance to wish all of you a happy holiday season. We hosted the annual get together at our house this year, and aside from a cauliflower-related explosion, things went off without a hitch. The month isn’t quite over yet, but unless there is a flurry of returns, I can safely say that December has been my best month to date for downloads and sales. I’ve already heard from some people who read my book on their brand new eReaders. (You people are quick readers, might I say.) My thanks to all of you who picked up The Book of Deacon and were inspired to visit this site as a result. I trust you enjoyed the story.

Aside from the strong sales, a few days ago I heard from a fellow author named Mel Chesley. Unlike me, she is fortunate enough to have been picked up by an actual factual publisher, so my congratulations to her. She was writing to let me know that she’d picked up the first book of the trilogy and took the time to write a review. You can find it here. I heartily recommend you head over and check it out, and while you’re at it, check out the rest of what she’s got to offer. It is quite a clever and interesting blog, and one that I look forward to reading as part of my regular rotation.

As always, I’ll leave you with an update. Sci Fi book 2 is just about finished. Hopefully I’ll be starting the climax tonight, then it is just a stone’s throw to the ending and a read through to catch as many errors as possible and tie up the loose ends. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that I can get this thing done and out of the way soon. I’m itching to start a new project.

Thanks for reading!

More Inexplicable Success

Hello once again! It has been a while since last I spoke to you good folks, and the meantime has not been wholly uneventful, so I figured I would give you an update on what’s been going on in my literary life.

First and foremost, not long ago Pure Textuality put out a call for authors willing to write a guest post on the blog. Considering all of the help and coverage I’ve gotten from them, I figured it was the least I could do to offer to lend a hand. My post, called Icing on the Cake: The Value of Good Artwork, went up a few days ago. Check it out, if you’re interested.

Speaking of artwork, you’ll have to wait a bit longer to see fresh artwork for my science fiction books. The great thing about getting art done by a truly talented artist is that you get really excellent work. The less great thing is that truly talented artists are in extremely high demand, so sometimes patience is in order. As I’ve said, though, I haven’t even finished WRITING the second science fiction book, so I wouldn’t have any use for the covers for a month or two at least.

On the subject of the science fiction book, I’m pulling up on 130,000 words, and the end can’t be more than a few chapters away, so it looks like this thing is going to be roughly the length of one of the Book of Deacon entries, rather than the marginally shorter first installment. I’m just about to start working on the climax. The bad news, though, is that after a few weeks of relatively low workload in my real life, things are about to get intense for a few weeks. Aside from the holidays, which are sure to take an enjoyable but sizable chunk of my time, I am also going to be the only man on-site for my department in my day job. That’s going to mean very long workdays and very little free time, so not much writing. I’ll try to get the last of the book at least written by the end of the year, but editing and revising will probably stretch into 2012. I’m beginning to see why being an author is supposed to be a full time job.

Finally, there is the reason for the title of this post. A few months ago, something that I’ve referred to as “The Amazon Sales Anomaly” started. This was what I assumed would be a short-lived spike in downloads and sales on Amazon.com. It has not turned out to be short-lived, which is an unexpected but very welcome surprise, since it has allowed me to afford all of this lovely new art, editing, and other extravagances. Well, about a week ago my free book had one really good day, then this past Thursday it had another, except this time it didn’t stop. At just seventeen days into the month I’ve already earned nearly double the number of free downloads as I’ve been averaging over the last three months. Your guess is as good as mine as to why this happened. The best theory I’ve heard has to do with the fact that Amazon has been selling roughly one million new kindles a WEEK. That would certainly lead to a spike in free book downloads. The result, though, is that I’m back in the top 100 free eBooks on Amazon, at least for now, and have even made the top 10 free fantasy eBooks. If you are visiting this site after picking up and reading my book this month, first of all, thanks for reading! Second, I hope you enjoyed it, and third, I’d love to hear what led you to my book, so we can shed some light on this happy little mystery. You can drop me a line via email on my contact page, via the comments section below, or in my spiffy forum. (By the way, someone joined with the username Needlehawk, which is an obscure creature from book 2. The fact that someone would pick a name from my book, let alone such a minor one, is ridiculously rewarding to me for reasons I can’t fully explain.)

Until next time, thanks for reading, and if I don’t post again before then, happy holidays!

 

Sci Fi home stretch, and other little stuff

Much as I enjoy having that gorgeous image of Jade and Halfax as the first thing that greets you on this page, it has been a while since I last provided you good folks with an update on my various projects. Here’s what’s been going on.

For those of us in the States, Thanksgiving weekend just passed, so I have been a bit busy with visiting family, eating vast quantities of delicious food, and decorating my house for Christmas. This translates into very little writing, I’m afraid. I’m not sure why, but this Sci Fi sequel is taking me forever to get it out of my head. (Lousy real world, always taking time away from my daydreams.) I would say that I’m two action scenes, a climax, and a resolution away from plot completion, so I’m very close. My artist should be contacting me soon to work out the details of the new cover for Bypass Gemini, as well as the cover for this new Sci Fi book. The naming poll for the sequel is still up, and largely ignored, in my forum here. You’ve probably got a week or two more to influence my decision, or offer alternatives, so feel free to weigh in.

I’ve also been keeping tabs on the search terms that have been hitting this site. It seems there are a few people out there looking to read The Great Convergence online for free, or offline for free, or in any other way for free. I’m glad I piqued your interest enough to inspire you to seek out the next chapter in the series. If you like, you can always read the first half of Book 2 (or any other book I’ve written) for free on Smashwords.com. I don’t have any plans to make Books 2 and 3 free any time soon, though I have been known to toss a coupon code out every now and then, so there is always hope, I suppose. There is also the chance that you can find someone out there with a torrent – another word that has been showing up in searches to the site. I understand that there is someone out there who created a torrent for the first book, which is extremely confusing, since it doesn’t cost anything and has no DRM, so you could just get it legitimately for the same price and less hassle, but to each their own, I guess.

I’ve been getting some really great fan mail recently. (It is only recently that I’ve been able to begin using the term fan mail, rather than “emails about my books.” The concept of having fans strange and frightening.) I’ve gotten some great pictures of landscapes and other inspirational sights, and many very kind words of encouragement and support. Thanks to everybody who has dropped me a line, though I’ve already thanked you personally with a reply, and for anyone else with questions or comments, you can either comment below, or visit my Contact page for more direct methods of communicating.

Until then, back to work, I suppose. Thanks for reading.

Jade Gets a Cover

Oh man. Have I mentioned how much I love getting artwork done for my books? A few weeks ago I managed to finagle some more time on Nick Deligaris’ calendar, and after a few emails back and forth, this was the result.

Hi, I'm Jade. Have you met my buddy Hal?

Seriously. I gave him words, and he gave me THAT! Click the picture and bask in the details. I’ve been staring at it for more than an hour, and I’m still noticing little touches. (I mean, the scar actually goes BEHIND some of his scales!) One or two more additions, basically just the title and author credit, and this masterpiece will be ready to adorn my lowly short story, Jade. That won’t be for a month or two, though. I will wait until all of my covers are complete before I do any updates. Until then, my thanks as always to Nick, for his fabulous work. What do you folks think?

Looking for Feedback Once Again

Hi everyone.

I just got through talking to my artist about the cover for Jade, and I must say, I am extremely excited. Finally, a dragon makes it to the cover! (Okay, some of the more eagle eyed readers out there will point out that it is technically the second time a dragon has made it to the cover, but let’s not split hairs.) The cover is paid for, and the first sketches should be ready before long. The anticipation is killing me.

This is part of a second big marketing push for me, and will it will coincide with the eventual release of the SciFi sequel. This, unfortunately, means that I’ll have to actually finish the SciFi sequel. There is some good news and some bad news in that regard. The good news is that, at over a hundred thousand words, the book is just about ready to be wrapped up. The bad news is that the wrap up process is probably at least another twenty thousand words. Then comes the oh-so-important proofreading process, which will have to happen at least three times. Then comes the potential revisions, then the proofreading of the revisions… Writing takes a while, what can I say? So don’t hold your breath for a quick arrival. There is one part of the process that you can help out with, though. I’m terrible with names, and though I think I’ve found a title that I’m happy with, I’ve decided to test out the poll function in our recently added forum. You can find it here. Feel free to share your opinion, though to vote or post, you’ll have to register with the site or the forum.

Since SciFi 2 has taken so very long, I am looking to do a few shorter stories next. Naturally they will be back to the Deacon setting. They will expand and explore a few of the most characters we’ve already met. Ideas are already being batted around for books focused on Lain and Ivy, but I’m curious what characters you good folks would like to see. Any thoughts?

While I’m on the subject of feedback, I should take this opportunity to ask for your thoughts on something else. I believe I’ve asked this before, but is there anything else that you would like to see on this site, or available from this site? Site features, merchandise, more frequent updates? It has been suggested that posters based on the covers would be well received, but like virtually every other part of this prolonged literary experiment, I have no idea where to start with something like that, and I don’t want to dig into it if there is no interest. Toward the end of this month I’ve got a few mandatory “we don’t want to pay you, so please don’t come to work” days from my day job, so I’ll have a few extra hours to spend on either the books, the side stuff associated with the books, or sleep.

If you have any thoughts on the many questions I’ve asked in this post, feel free to leave a comment, post in the forum, or shoot me an email. I look forward to your replies. Until then, thanks for reading.

More New Covers On The Way

Hi, everybody!

Just to give you a little glimpse into how I make purchasing decisions regarding the books, here’s how it works. As I’ve said, I try to invest every dollar I earn from the books back into them, trying to make them better. Now that I’ve had experience with commissioning artwork and hiring editors, I know roughly how to estimate how much money I’ll need for the next piece of work I want to get done. That means, once I decide I want something, I set an earnings threshold, and once I hit it I contact the appropriate people and get things moving. Well, the threshold for fancy new covers rolled over earlier this week, so I sent out an email to Nick, and it looks like he’s available! Neat!

The books that will be getting new covers are Jade, Bypass Gemini, and the Bypass Gemini Sequel. As always, I’ll let you guys get a look at the covers as they are finished, but I won’t be pushing them as updates until much later. It is worth pointing out that, if I want a finished cover for the second book in the Sci Fi series, I’ll have to finally choose a name. I’m bad at that. Not only that, but I’ll have to give a name to the Sci Fi series as a whole! I have absolutely no ideas for that. If you are one of the few people who has read Bypass Gemini and you have an idea for what a series of similar novels should be called, feel free to leave a comment or shoot an email my way.

So, now that the cover money is spent, what do I start saving for next? Well, since I’m trying to stick with one editor, and she’ll be working on Book 2 of the trilogy for a while, I won’t need the money for an edit on book 3 any time soon. (That said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have it squirreled away in preparation for her availability.) Unfortunately, I’m fresh out of books that need covers, too. That means that I’ll probably try to price some of the side stuff that people have been after me for, like a map. We’ll see.

Before I go, I would also like to acknowledge what is probably the most intensely negative review I’ve ever received. I know I’ve linked to my blog reviews, and spoken about reader reviews both good and bad before. This one bears special mention. I try to take all of my reviews seriously, but this one takes the cake in terms of raw negativity. Unfortunately, since it is on the Barnes and Noble page for Book 1 of the Trilogy, I can’t seem to direct link to it, so here it is, recorded for posterity.

Dont bother. One star for effort.

Your characters are week, hollow and completely boring. There is no story line. Fantacy is not your thing. Write a math text book. Maybe come up with a character who doesnt pass out and sleep and whine for most of your long useless waste of paper. This is the worst book I have ever forced myself to finish, while waiting for something to happen. I wont be looking for a sequil to nothing. Sorry, I never ever expected to feel obligated to write a reveiw like this one.

– nmetcalf63

Most of the time reading a review that pans my book is painful for me, and I try to find ways to address the problems mentioned. This person disliked my book on such a fundamental level, the best I can do is thank her for taking the time to finish the book despite her dislike. At least I was able to make her feel obligated to share her thoughts about it. It is good to know I made an impact.

That’s all, at least until the first picture shows up. Thanks for reading.

 

 

An Interview (and Other Things I Never Could Have Predicted)

For those of you who follow Pure Textuality, this will not come as a surprise. (For those of you who do not follow Pure Textuality, for shame! Head on over to the site or twitter feed this instant!) My first honest-to-goodness interview has just gone up! I’ve been asked questions before, but they have always been in the form of a canned questionnaire that didn’t really have anything to do with me specifically. PT took the time to think up some really excellent questions, and I answered them to the best of my ability. I would like to thank Jena Gregoire for giving me this opportunity to share my own thoughts on my writing, and for the added honor of being the very first interview on her site! Please give it a read and let us know what you think.

In other news, I’ve been gathering up the info available from comments, reviews, and searches, and there are a few things I have been able to determine. First – and a friend of mine is enjoying a great big ‘I told you so’ about this – it seems like there are quite a few of you out there that would like to see a map of the book’s setting. I’ve got a few scribbled maps that I worked off of, but the thought of having a professionally illustrated one made hadn’t occurred to me until well after I had been published. Doing a map that is anything resembling accurate or useful is a fairly sizable task, but I’ll start talking to artists and try taking some notes and see what I can do in the weeks and months ahead.

There have also been a few more suggestions that finding my books in paperback would be nice. I poked my nose into the necessary procedures, and I’m a little reluctant to move forward with that right now. It should be clear at this point that I’m not the kind of guy who gets things right the first time, or even the third or fourth, and having a print book made does not provide much room for error. I’ll have to talk to my artist and do a phenomenal amount of tweaking on the manuscript before I’m willing to take the plunge there.

Speaking of my artist, in about a week I’ll probably be sending Nick an email to start talking about new covers for Jade, Bypass Gemini, and the as yet unnamed Bypass Gemini Sequel. Anyone who has read either Jade or Bypass Gemini is welcome to share their thoughts on what they would like to see on the covers. You can leave a comment, or perhaps start a thread in my brand new forum. I’ve also seen more than a few searches hoping to find a picture of everybody’s favorite baby dragon, Myn. Depending on what my finances and Nick’s schedule look like, I might, might, ask him to draw up a picture of the little beast. If you would like to see that, let me know. You’ll find I’m highly susceptible to peer pressure in this area. (If your comments start drifting into spoiler territory, make sure to warn people, or better yet, move the discussion into the forum.)

That’s about it for now. Thanks for reading.