Cover for Monsters, Movies, and Mayhem

The cover is out for the Monsters, Movies, and Mayhem anthology I’m in!

Cover for Monsters, Movies & Mayhem, showing a film strip.  Writers include Jonathan Maberry, Fran Wilde, and David Gerrold

When I saw this, I was like, “Holy Cow! I’m in anthology with David Gerrold and Jonathan Maberry!”

This book will be out in July, 2020.

Diversity of Opinion

One of the things I find frustrating about the writing world is that certain writing gurus are revered.  You can’t ask questions, or for that matter be different.

Panel of writers from the opening session.
So many writers I couldn’t get them all in one shot.

I’ve always craved learning more about writing.  I grew up reading books on writing and didn’t realize there was much more beyond what they said.  But as I grew as a writer, I realized the books said the same thing.  They were also decidedly lacking because they all said the same thing.

In fact, because of how I grew up, the more someone says, “This is the way to do it,” my reaction is, “What’s the other side?”  It makes me want to explore other areas rather than the bucket the people are trying to drive me to.

This last week, I went to the Superstars Writing Seminar 2020, an annual writing conference focused primarily on the business side of writing.  It’s a lot of writers with different experiences coming together to give everyone what they’ve learned. 

Not all it is the same.  Some of it disagrees with what the others are saying.

I like that.  I can take what works for me, but I can also hear the different opinions without people lecturing me that I’m not following the “program.”

These are some of the panels and workshops I went to:

  • Writing Fight and Action Scenes (from Craft Fest) – from Jonathan Maberry in case you want to study his action scenes.  Action scenes are not just about documenting the action.  There’s a lot more than plays into it, even long after the action scene has ended.
  • Protagonist and Antagonist (from Craft Fest) – From Jim Butcher.  I was writing things to do in the project I’m working on now. Quote from the workshop:  “There are no mistakes when you write—just happy accidents.”
  • Lots of Eggs in Lots of Baskets – from Dan Wells.  This was on income streams, but covered more writing-related streams like plays, creating settings for games, foreign rights.  Takeaway:  Even if it doesn’t pay much, it’s still money I didn’t have before.

Finally, one of the things I walked away with was that I’m going to try writing Middle-Grade books.  So it should be interesting!

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Anatomy of a Book Cover: Golden Lies

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I recently finished my mystery, Golden Lies (Al Travelers’ Mystery Book #1).  The book presented special challenges for building a cover:

  • It’s set in the 1940s
  • It’s not noir

I wanted to make sure that the cover itself conveyed the historical aspect of the story.  That way, readers who wanted historical would be able to tell that from the cover.

The typical image is a man in a fedora.  That type of hat is a tag for the 1940s. Historical trivia: By the late 1940s, younger men were starting to ask why they should cover up their hair.  Some started to go hatless.

So I ended up making this cover several months ago:

Cover for Golden Lies...Man racing up stairs in shadows.
Golden LIes Cover 1

At the time, I was fussing because it was hard finding contrasting colors in the image to sample.  The blue came from a spot on the wall by his leg.  I accidentally rotated the image, liked the effect, and that’s what’s in the cover.

When I was doing my final cycling pass on the story, I revisited the color…and went “Ack!”

It had looked fine when I created it.  Now it looked really wrong for the book.

So I went hunting for images again.  I searched “1940s” only again.  Most of the images were:

  • Black and white
  • Gangsters
  • Noir

But I found one of a woman that satisfied what I was looking for.  The yellow text is from the wall, and the red text is from the dress.  I had to play around with the eyedropper tool to get different variations of the same shade. 

Golden Lies Cover: Woman in red standing next to window.
Golden Lies Cover 2

The cover is made using Adobe Photoshop elements (a pared-down version of PhotoShop) that works nicely for creating eBook covers.

Meanwhile, I expect to change the cover and the title for Giant Robots.

Intrusion of the Real World

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I finished my mystery last Saturday.  It’s a mystery set in Hollywood in the 1940s.  It was surprisingly hard for me to do because I had to think about what I wanted to show in terms of the crime itself. 

I’ve been reading mysteries since I was a kid, starting with Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Kim Aldrich.  A favorite writer I always went back for also was Phyllis A. Whitney.  She wrote gothic mysteries. 

In those stories, there were a few moderately scary scenes where the culprit tried to stop the heroine.  Pushed down the stairs, chased into the sea, knocked out by the villain.  Just enough to say that this character was taking more risks than the rest of us.

I also read action-adventure thrillers. 

Not crime thrillers.

Crime thrillers tend to be a lot more violent. 

I also can’t always trust the writer not to go overboard.  Those are the books where the criminal (not the culprit) kills the pet to be evil.  Or he kills a character I’ve gotten attached to, on the page, the violent act described in detail.  Or the violence gets worse as the book progresses.

(Writing Nerd still remembers a book that did a particularly violent and lethal act to a character I liked.  Done with that book.  Done with that writer.)

The difference?  It lets the real world intrude in a place where I’m trying to escape from it.  It’s not hard for me to read a newspaper and find a violent crime.  Or surf Facebook and find someone posting a story with a horrific image.

Everyone’s so mired in the horror that they can’t escape from it into fiction or film.  Yet, they think they’re being trendy by being “gritty.”

Perhaps it’s like always finding fault with what we read, until all we see is what’s wrong.  A terribly negative way to think.


Carolyn Stein on “A Matter of Taste.”  This sparked a discussion on Star Trek on Facebook, which lead to a discussion on types of violence in stories.

Editorial Calendar for Publishing and Inventory Control

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As I write this, it’s 23 out and feels like 14.  I can hear the wind howling between the buildings.  A bundled-up woman and a little white dog with a sweater are out walking.  Despite the cold, that dog is still checking every telephone pole!  Good time to be inside doing writing and administrative tasks like my book and story inventory.

I’ll admit it—I’ve gone from productivity system to productivity system, trying to figure out what works for me.  Part of that is my crazy day job—think getting hit with a fire extinguisher all day and trying to fit a tornado through a keyhole.

Most systems are surprisingly complex, sometimes with the author’s own self-imposed complexity.  Some are outdated.  Try getting hit with a fire extinguisher all day and prioritize by A, B, C.  Does. Not. Work.

I tried Trello as a test run for work.  It does better if you have projects.  Which meant it wasn’t going to be useful for work.  I don’t have any projects.

But I decided to revisit it, since I’m working towards publishing a book a month.  Plus I have short stories on tap to be e-published, as well as cover refreshes. I’ve previously had the inventory in a spreadsheet, but after there are so many entries, it gets cumbersome real fast and lose stories on the list.

This is from Trello’s Editorial Calendar template.  Trello is like a storyboard.  You can create different lists (i.e., Ready for Publishing) and drag the cards with the story from list to list.

Trello board display showing 5 lists: Writing, Editing, Making Graphics, Ready for Publishing, and Published.
Click on image to see it better

Each card has a place for comments (mostly for collaborating with teams, but useful for making quick notes), a checklist, and the ability to add attachments.  So I made the cards look spiffy with my covers.

This is my checklist, not a template from the calendar.  This one’s for Golden Lies, which is at the copy editor’s (there’s a comment below the screenshot where I noted the date I sent it).

Click on image to see it better.

Text from the list:

  • Write book
  • Copy editing
  • Create ebook cover
  • Format to ebook
  • Write blurb
  • Create keywords
  • Publish to D2D
  • Publish to Amazon
  • Publish to Smashwords
  • Publish to Publishdrive
  • Publish to BundleRabbit
  • Publish to Website

Since Golden Lies’ release is dependent on the copy editor schedule, doing all this helped me identify one omnibus I could publish in February if that schedule gets thrown off.

Golden Lies Log One cover: spaceship orbiting a planet, stars and more planets in background.

Story as a pinball machine

This week, once I decided I was going to stop striving for novel-length, I looked at my mystery, changed one line at the end of a chapter and realized I was in the climax.  It’s amazing how what seemed like a simple goal became so distracting!

(It’ll be in the 30K range).

What then ensued was a cycling pass over the story.  I actually like cycling.  It’s evolved over time for me.

Cycling is a pantser tool that’s rather difficult to explain.  Writers hear it as “revising as you write,” but it’s not revision.  If you write a story too thin, you add more; if you write too much, you take something out.  That’s the core of cycling.  It can be setting, and that’s most commonly done with cycling because it’s both easy to put too much in or leave too much out. Revision is more like going through, finding fault (sometimes erroneously), and then correcting it.

The change of the one line triggered a round of cycling for the entire story.  I knew who the villain was and the story needed some additions to sneak him in.

And I’ve needed my Thinking Cat for some of these.  Cats are good at that (when they aren’t knocking stuff off).  A lot of the additions were more story.  Most of them were a sentence or two, maybe a paragraph at the longest. 

Except for three scenes.  Those ran into my weak area with time.  They have to be in the story because the story is about Hollywood and the victim is an actress.

Golden Retriever Muse put the scenes in much later in the story.  But the scenes kept nagging at Golden Retriever Muse: “We’re in the wrong place.  We’re in the wrong place.”  Like that commercial where all the insurance people come out of the cornfield.

Writing Nerd does not think sequentially—my brain is more like a pinball machine.  It does not like sequence.  At all.  When I dial a phone number sometimes, I know what the number is, I look at the numbers, and my brain’s going “I don’t like the order.  I must change it!”  Maybe there’s a cat up there, whacking at the pinballs.

To figure out where the scenes were actually supposed to go, I had to do a full cycle through the story.  The place was obvious once I did.

Fixing it…


It was early in the story, so I had to change scene numbers.  Brain.  Pinball.  Bzzzz! And this was all about getting the numbers numbered right.  Without goofing them up.

So it was move one scene into place, renumber it and all the ones that followed.  Then repeat on all the scenes and shift them forward in their chapter folders (this is Scrivener for Windows).  Then move the next scene and repeat, and the third, same thing.

Golden Retriever Muse is wagging her floofy tail now. 

New Book: Last Stand

Last Stand is the fourth book in the GALCOM Universe series. Lots of action and I get to blow things up in the story. Here’s what’s it’s about:

A routine planetary office call turns deadly for Colonel Eric Graul of the S.C. Kangjun.

Lysian slavers monitor the new space station construction.  Planning an attack?

Spies lurk in the shadows.  Who can Graul trust?

But things about to get worse for Graul…much worse.  His courage challenged as the fate of the galaxy lies in balance.  A page-turning, action-packed story of survival.

It’s up on all the usual places, which you can find on Books2Read.