Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Official Logo Revealed!

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working my ass off trying to come up with a logo to grace the front cover of my book .  Inspiration seemed few and far between.  None of my original ideas could convey the sheer EPICNESS of what I was going for.  All hope had slowly faded away…

Until suddenly, an epiphany struck.  I furiously poured my mouse clicks and key taps over this idea and watched it grow from good to outstanding in only a few short hours.  So, I present to all of you, the official Agent M: Project Mabus logo.  And I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. 

With that, I’m spent.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Writing a novel is much more than putting words on a page (as any and every writer can attest to).  There is an inherent subtlety to the craft that we sometimes overlook, especially in the early parts of our careers.  Once you’ve got a rhythm going, it’s hard to change gear let alone derail.  However, in the great journey that is the review and revision process, there is one thing we cannot afford to miss.  And that is Forgetting to Answer Questions.

The Agent M series as a whole was created to have a constant and continually intrigue.  I wanted to keep the reader’s on their toes while leaving certain elements hidden and others hidden in plain sight.  Along that path I had to keep reminding myself that Agent M: Project Mabus has to be a standalone story in and of itself.  There were some questions my test readers asked that I could easily answer and realized that they belonged in the context of the story.  Of course, there were a few others that I left out for the sole purpose of driving the series forward.  And therein lies the challenge.

Thankfully, in the eight years it took to get Project Mabus on paper, I had plenty of time to develop and shape the world of the Agent M series.  With that in mind, I could easily look at the story and determine which questions I needed to answer and which ones could be answered later.  I firmly believe that readers are more likely to give a series a chance that has a conclusive ending to the first story then to end on a cliffhanger.

Sure, some of you may be thinking that a cliffhanger ending will result in quick/easy sales of the sequel.  As much as I’d love to believe it, I know that isn’t the case.  Giving the readers your best efforts in a single story should be your primary goal.  Think about it like this.  Would you rather enjoy a 3-course meal or just the appetizer?  The answer of course depends on how hungry you are at any given point in time but logic is still the same.

A question you might pose to challenge me would be “but what if my story is too long? It’ll need a sequel or two in order to wrap everything up.”  Going back to the food analogy, is it better to spread out the meal in longer segments or give the diner everything they want in a single seating?  Sometimes it works.  My brother nearly flipped his shit when he found out how Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring ended but it still made sense.  As a self-published, and therefore un-tested author, it is harder to sell a big, drawn out meal than it is a quick fulfilling one.  The key here is not just to whet the appetite of your readers but to also get them to come back and dine again.

Nothing’s worse than having to pay for an unappetizing and unfulfilling appetizer only to be told the main course and desert will make up for it.  Do yourself a favor and give it your all with one story.  At least that way you will easily find the issues with your work rather than hiding behind the excuse of “but the sequel will make the story as a whole better!”

This little nugget of insight is brought to you by the letters FTAQ.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover… Unless it ROCKS!

I toiled for many a night trying to think about the perfect image that would grace the cover of Agent M: Project Mabus.  The old saying listed in my title should have told me to know better but as someone with a Master’s degree in Marketing, it’s not that simple. An independent author makes their first impressions with a uniquely designed and bold cover.  As thousands upon thousands of visitors to Amazon’s Kindle site peruse the various choices, I’ll only have one shot to capture their attention.

There were plenty of suggestions being thrown my way as far as book cover artist were concerned.  After viewing a number of these highly qualified and talented individuals I never felt the spark from their work that would bring the Agent M series to life.  We’re not talking about a few slaps of paint, maybe some techno images dancing on the front.  This is the beginning of the end!  The cover has to not only prepare people for it but also let them know where they will be journeying along the way.

In my quest to find the perfect cover, I have enlisted the help of the great fantasy artist David Sondered.  His works can be seen in the books of great wargaming companies such as Fantasy Flight Games and Faction Wars.  I found him via the popular wargaming forum Dakka Dakka and knew this would be the man that will create the perfect cover for my book.

Perfection, on the other hand, does not come cheap.  I fully expected to pay a king’s ransom (for an indie author’s salary anyways) to commission an illustration from David.  What I was quoted came in much lower than I imagined.  I completely jumped at the offer at that point.  David is a phenomenal artist that I fully believe will do my characters justice on the front cover.  We spent weeks discussing the integral design, shape, and overall look of the cover itself.  He is just amazing to work with and will gladly adhere and go with any and all details you submit.  The mark of a true professional.

Just this morning I received a handful of sketches he submitted.  Some were right on point and others he used some artistic leeway on.  I have to admit, at first, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted.  After seeing some of these sketches, I am currently in a state of conflict.  The choice is made even more difficult coupled by what is at stake.  Some authors have the luxury of selling their books just by name only.  Others might be referenced from friends and/or family.  An indie author has everything riding on that front cover in the hopes that someone will just give it a click and inquire further.

I trust that David will do a fantastic job.  His previous work stands on its own.  The rest is all up to me.  I can’t take this for granted.  Some authors don’t even get this far.  My book is just months away from hitting store shelves.  After everything I’ve given up to make it here, I won’t be defeated by a marketing decision.  Even as doubt rears its ugly head, I’m still confident that my story is good enough to sit on store shelves with some of the big boys.  Their covers don’t need to make an impact to sell the story.  Mine has everything riding on it hoping that someone out there is willing to give it a chance.

The risk is great but the rewards make it more than worth it.  Will Agent M: Project Mabus be a successful novel?  I can’t predict the future but I know for certain the cover will turn plenty of heads.  That’s one advantage I have over my fellow indie writers.  I know how to attract attention.  Some writers rely on the help of their publishers to do so.  My advantage comes from a solid education.  While the cover may not be enough to sell the book outright, it may steal a few more glances than normal.  And if only one of those extra clicks purchases my book then it would have made all of the effort worth it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Battling Writer's Block

If there’s one disease, one sickness, one plague (if you will) that haunts every writer at some point or another it’s definitely writer’s block.  Sure you’ve got thousands of great ideas swimming in your head.  The plot is being molded nicely and characters are coming to life in the very facets of your imagination.  Yet, as soon as your fingers hit the keys (or pencil if that stuff is still going on), instantly you freeze.  Not a single word comes out.  You begin to doubt yourself soon after.  “Maybe the story isn’t good enough” or “It sounds way better in my head”.  Fear not friends.  I will share with you my tips and tricks that will help you get over your writer’s block dilemma.

To say that I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with writer’s block would be a bit of an understatement.  The 8 years it took me to bring Agent M: Project Mabus to life is a testament to that.  Like many of the problems we deal with everyday we have to start at the source.

1)                  What causes writer’s block?
-          The answer to this one is tricky because everyone will have a different response.  One of my biggest issues is scope.  The initial idea of the Agent M series was going to be short and sweet.  No more than 2-3 books in total but as I started developing ideas I began shaping and inevitably changing the world I’ve created before I ever started writing it.  As these ideas kept flowing, I put the writing the book on the backburner while the story developed a life of its own.

Some of you may be like me and find yourselves lost in the world.  Others might be still trying to figure out what to do with that badass antagonist they just created.  The sad thing is, there is no veritable solution I can give you to explain the cause of your writer’s block.  There could be a number of reasons (as I’ve explained above) that is stopping you from putting words on the page.  Your first goal is to pinpoint the source.  Once you’ve done that, it’s time to move on.

2)                  Set goals for yourself
-          This is something that is easy to do but hard to maintain.  Your main goal is simple; finish your work (whatever it may be). But that shouldn’t be your FIRST goal to attain.  Start slow.  This is a process after all.  Try and set small and easily attainable goals as you work your way towards the main one.  For the first week, why not start by writing detailed character biographies.  Then move on to a chapter synopsis.  Then a full novel synopsis.  Think of things that you can do to help motivate yourself to continue writing.

The methodology with this exercise is to get you excited about what you want to write.  If you get ten lines into the main character’s biography and start to hate what you see this is a perfect chance for you to revise and flesh out any and all details.

3)                  Stick to your goals, Get rid of bad habits
-          I know this should go without saying but in all actuality, it’s easy to say you’re going to do something then to actually go out and do it. You need to focus not only your time but your life into completing your goals.  Some of the very things you love could be causing a distraction that deprives the world of your work.

Allow me to regale you with a tale.  Before I buckled down and started writing, I was consumed by the furious grasp known as World of Warcraft.  I joined the online sensation in 2008 at the behest of some friends and was glued to it for the following 2 years.  Late in 2010, I decided that this is not something I wished to continue and made a precedence to give up this hobby in order to pursue my dreams of publishing this story.

I’m not going to say that was easy.  It took a great level of sacrifice to leave all of the great friends I’ve met online and the wonderful world I’ve been following since Warcraft: Orcs and Humans first graced store shelves.   But that’s the kind of commitment it takes.

One last major tip to help you achieve your goals is simple: MOTIVATION.  Give yourself a reason to want to complete your goals.  Have a friend help you out if need be.  Let’s say there’s a really big movie premiering this weekend that you’ve been dying to see.  Instead of venturing to the theatre outright, make that your next reward for completing a goal.  The key here is honor.  Of course you could just say “screw it” and see the film without doing anything.  Instead of shrugging off your goals look at it in a different way.  Ask yourself “How am I ever going to trust myself to do anything if I can’t even keep my own promises?”

4)      Never give up
-          This last one seems kind of preachy and in a way it is.  The difference between writer’s block and quitting is whether or not you choose to continue.  Believe me, in the 8 years between conceptualization and actualization, I never thought of myself as having writer’s block.  I quit.  Plain and simple.  I put the idea away and tried to pretend it never existed because I believed my writing skills couldn’t do this story justice.  And I’m sure a lot of you feel the same way about your own work.  But the difference between me then and me now is the determination I have, the sacrifices I made, and the goals I set for myself to see this project through to the very end.

It’s never too late to start but it’s always too early to throw in the towel.  If one idea you have didn’t pan through then take what you’ve learned from that concept and move it on to a new one.  A forgotten story is only a true failure if you didn’t learn from your previous mistakes.  Writing is an organic and growing process.  Even some of the greats today wish they could rewrite some of their more favored books.  They didn’t give up either.  The ball’s in your court.

Well, I hope this was an insightful and inspiring read.  If you’re still stuck after reading all of this don’t fret.  Writer’s block isn’t a rare disease.  We all get hit with it at one point or another.  In all truthfulness, it’s not really the writing part that gets most people stumped, it’s the motivation.  Achieving your goals is a great feeling but may not be as rewarding as some other activities that offer immediate pleasure.  No one is going to stand over you 24/7 and force you to write.  That’s a decision you have to make on your own and see to it until the very end.

Most importantly, remember to have fun while you’re doing it.  If it feels like work, then it probably is and no one is going to want to read a story that has the flavor text of a math book.  In the end, if you put the same passion in developing your ideas as you do writing them then I’m sure you’ll do just fine.  All of us hit speed bumps once and a while but still keep moving forward.  Pass the bumps, avoid the walls and cruise along with the rest of us.  It’s a truly magnificent ride.