Okay, if there was ever any doubt I am mad, as in insane, these past few months should put those doubts to rest. I knew my production had been down the last year or so. I was still putting out books, but not at the rate I wanted to. So, when this year began, I decided to make a few changes to my routine to see if that changed. It took about six weeks for the changes to really kick in. When they did, everything changed and I swear Myrtle the Evil Muse turned more evil than ever. How so? Starting mid-February, the real work on Nocturnal Revelations began. A month ago, the book went live on Amazon, all 120k words of it. This morning, Battle Flight, a prequel to Vengeance from Ashes, went live. That book is more than 50k words. To say my brain is fried is putting it mildly.
So, what is Battle Flight?
It’s a book I hadn’t initially planned to write. But, as the Honor and Duty series progressed, I realized I needed more than the three short stories I’d written as background information. So I took the short stories, which came in around 30k words total, and expanded them, tying them together into a short novel. That meant not just rewriting the shorts, but adding new information to them, filling in the gaps and adding character development that help explain not only who Ashlyn Shaw is, but also who members of the supporting cast are. In other words, explaining what makes them tick.
It did present a question I had to consider long and hard. Did I want to add in the mission that is alluded to in Vengeance from Ashes? That mission set up everything that happens in VfA and the subsequent books. I decided no.
The simple answer is I’m still working the details of that story out in my head.
The next simple answer is I am not sure if I will ever write that mission in any detail.
But that wasn’t the only issue I had to consider in the road to publication. I sent Battle Flight to more beta readers than I usually do. I wanted to make sure I was giving readers value for their money, especially those who had already bought one or more of the short stories. Their responses reassured me I’d made the right decision.
Then came the other issues authors deal with. Promo–which I fell down on because, like I said, brain fried. Conversion and setting the book up on Amazon. Pulling together an excerpt from the book and posting in on ACX to see if I can get someone interested in doing the narration for me. Setting up for both e-book and print release.
And that is where I ran into a major problem, specifically with the print version.
As you know, Sarah has been doing my covers for some time. I love the covers Sarah does and I loved the cover she put together for this book before she left town. The problem? While it looked great as an e-book cover, it failed in print. I tried tweaking it, but it just didn’t work.
That left me with a problem. I could go ahead and release the e-book with the cover she did and wait for her to get home and have time to redo the cover. Then I could update the e-book files and go through the print set-up. The problem is I don’t tend to go back and do the print version if I fail to release it at or near the e-book release date. I move on to the next project and forget.
Yes, yes, I know. I shouldn’t forget but I’m a writer. I’d rather write than deal with the daily business end of the business.
Part of my new writing regimen is to make sure print is released as close to digital publication as possible. So, I made a very difficult and scary decision–I’d change the cover and pray. So i went diving into various image sites to find something that cued the genre and looked right for the book. I found an image I like, did my best to match the fonts for the title and author name and went with it. The physical proof arrives today. If it looks all right, the print version will go live in a day or two. All that’s left to do is for me to click the “approve” button.
But this made me think about the complaints I hear about so many books, both indie and traditionally published. Covers suck. Often, when those complaints are voiced, the authors look at the complainers and wonder what planet they’re from. Why? Because they’ve seen the digital file and that cover looks great. Or at least looks more than good enough.
The problem with accepting it based only on digital output is that monitors vary in how they display colors. You need to see the cover up close and personal, and in a print version, to know if it really works. Short of that, you need to look at it in more than the thumbnail you see on the Amazon product page.
Open the e-book up on your tablet, the larger the screen, the better. What does it look like? Does it cue the genre? Is the title and your name legible? Are the various elements properly merged and softened/shaded so the cover looks like one image and not several put together? Is the image eye-catching?
Now go to Amazon and find a book in that series or one similar to it. Look at the “customers who bought this also bought” section. Take a good look at the covers. You want your cover to stand out but not to be so different it doesn’t look like it belongs to the same genre or sub-genre. Remember, the cover and fonts used on it are the first clue your reader has of what genre the book falls into.
When I did that, I realized what the issue was with the original cover, the cover I loved. While it firmly had the “feel” of the other covers in the series due to the character figure on the cover and the font, the background image didn’t. It was too subtle, the colors too muted. It read more fantasy than science fiction. Even though the character held a gun in one hand, it was lost in the background. In short, it didn’t cue the right genre and sub-genre.
And I hadn’t seen it.
So, the cover was changed. I hope it works. I know the font work could be better, which is one of the reasons why I’ve waited to give the files my final approval for the print version. So, fingers crossed, it will look all right when it arrives later this morning.
In the meantime, here’s a short snippet from Battle Flight. (This is from my working file, not the final version. So there may be some spelling or grammar errors that were caught in final edits.) Also, this is not the beginning of the book.)
Ashlyn dropped onto the decksole from the shuttle and forced her knees not to buckle. Never before had she felt so tired, or as mentally numb, as she did just then. Nor had she wanted a shower quite so badly. After spending almost three days in battle armor, she hated to think of what she’d smell like when she finally peeled out of it. At least she’d made it back from this last mission, something she hadn’t been too sure about a few hours earlier.
She straightened and turned, watching as the others exited the shuttle. With the exception of Talbot and several others, they all moved as if they were barely able to stand. Exhaustion dragged at them, just as it did her. But they’d made it back, which was more than she could say for Private Terri Alasky who fell in their final push to secure the Helios. At least Alasky was their only death, no thanks to Mumby.
Bile rose in Ashlyn’s throat and she swallowed against it. Then she blinked back the tears burning in her eyes to see the stretcher bearing Alasky’s body being guided off the shuttle. Her mouth firmed as she glanced around, looking for Mumby, the supposed squad leader for the cluster-fuck that had been this last mission. Instead of being there to escort their fallen team member, Mumby had disappeared as soon as she disembarked.
Ashlyn signaled the stretcher bearers to stop. The moment she did, the almost mutinous expression on the face of the medic at the front of the stretcher eased. She dipped her head slightly in acknowledgement and drew a deep breath.
“Form up!” she ordered. “Two lines.”
The sounds of boots striking the decksole as not only the squad but everyone in that part of the shuttle bay obeying her order filled the air. In less than a minute, a proper escort line had formed. Ashlyn strode to the head of the line and carefully eyed every man and woman between her and the flag draped stretcher.
Boots scraped across the deck. Heels clicked. Hands snapped up in a salute. Ashlyn executed a parade-ground-perfect left face and marched to her place in line. Once she had, the stretcher team moved forward, their boots sounding in unison as they carried their burden toward the lifts.
Ashlyn held everyone at attention until the lift doors shut behind the stretcher team. Then she stepped forward and glanced down the double row. Marines and Naval personnel stared straight ahead, expressions grim. Even those from the mission who needed to report to the Med Bay remained. All except Mumby. Something she knew wasn’t lost on any of them.