Rebranding 1 – Covers

Lots of self-published authors offer different advice on what it takes to succeed. But there are three things they all agree on:

  1. Have great cover art
  2. Have a great editor
  3. Have a great blurb

I’m going to focus on #1 in this post. When I originally published IMPERIUM back in 2011, I knew I was going to hire a cover artist. I have no artistic abilities at all, and anything I tried to create myself would undoubtedly look like it had been drawn by a drunken chimp using MS Paint. So I hired an artist and thought, cool, #1 on the list is taken care of. The artist I hired did a good job and I was happy.

Problem is, I missed one critical bit of info related to Having Great Cover Art. Namely, your great cover art needs to fit in your genre. It sounds obvious, and I’m embarrassed to say this didn’t occur to me until much later. The original cover art for the Caulborn series looks much more like historical fantasy, or epic fantasy, but not urban fantasy. I’ve been told that some readers thought my work was miscategorized as urban fantasy because of the artwork. Other readers told me they didn’t realize these books were all part of the same series, because there weren’t common elements across them.

This was not the fault of the artist. This was my fault for not doing my homework. If I had, I could have had him retool the original cover back then. It took several years for this realization to dawn, but once it did I enlisted a new cover artist (as my old one went out of business) to develop a new set of covers for the Caulborn series. Check ’em out:

Imperium Promo

Promise Promo     Sync Promo

These covers were done by the talented folks over at StreetLight Graphics and are much more in line with the covers you’d see on a book by Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne, or Illona Andrews. So they fit the genre. Also notice the consistent use of the title font and Caulborn insignia. In short, these new covers are in-line with what readers expect a UF cover to look like, and it’s obvious they’re part of a series.

So, lessons learned:

  1. Your cover needs to fit with the genre you’re writing
  2. If you’re writing a series, there need to be common elements to tie the books together
  3. Even if you make a mistake, it’s never too late to fix it

In the next post on the series, I’ll talk about working with an editor.

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Meet Doc Graystone

I’m proud to announce my newest series, the Doc Graystone Adventures. Each novelette follows the adventures of Dr. Grant Graystone, gentleman necromancer. Set in the early 1930’s, these stories were inspired by the old pulp novels from the early 20th century. So if you enjoy nonstop action and witty banter, come along on an adventure with the Doc as he delivers two-fisted necromantic justice to all manner of paranormal foes. You can check out a sample of the first novelette, Red Runes, here.

You can pre-order Red Runes from Amazon here. Use the sidebar on this page to sign up for my newsletter for when this thrilling adventure is available!

Red Runes

Caulborn Book 2 Revealed

Caulborn 2, PROMISE, is at the editor now and is on track for publication in June. I’m proud to share the cover and blurb.

 

Promise Cover

When gods fail to keep their promises there’s hell to pay. Literally. After a slip of the tongue, godling Vincent Corinthos is obligated to keep his partner, Megan, “fine” forever. Enter the Keepers, who fulfill promises for a fee. Vincent agrees to their bargain, but will Megan be the one who pays the price?

 

Thoughts on “The Time of the Doctor”

I really wanted to enjoy The Time of the Doctor, I did. Unfortunately, like many others, I didn’t. To be completely blunt, I found the story laborious and unsatisfying.

Now, if you haven’t seen the episode yet, I’m going to quote River Song – “Spoilers”

Here we are at Trenzalore at last, and we’ve got every single adversary the Doctor has faced. Daleks, Cybermen, Soltarans, you name it. This has the makings of an epic battle, which we’ve seen the aftermath of in an earlier episode. In that episode, the entire planet of Trenzalore was one gigantic graveyard and stood completely in ruin. In this, the episode where we’ll see how that horrific battle got underway, all the baddies are scared to make the first move.

For several hundred years.

Yes, that’s right, there’s a several hundred year standoff where the Doctor ages while his enemies orbit the planet biting their nails. We do have a handful of scenes where there are covert attacks, but the grand, Peter Jackson-scale battle never comes. At the end, Matt Smith is essentially an old man shaking his fist at the sky yelling at the Daleks to get off his lawn.

Meantime, there’s a signal that’s been broadcast from the planet which no one can translate. This signal, which all species are innately afraid of, is finally translated as “Doctor Who?” This is the question that must be answered on the fields of Trenzalore. The Doctor investigates and finds a crack in the universe, like what he encountered when traveling with Amy Pond. We’re told that the Time Lords are broadcasting the signal from the other side of that crack, and if the Doctor says his name into it, then they’ll know it’s safe for them to come through back into our universe.

So, if I’m understanding this correctly, the only way for the Time Lords, the people who invented gravity, to know that it’s safe to come back to the universe is to rely on some guy standing at the door and whispering his name. That’s weak. Essentially, we can assume that the Doctor’s name, which has been one of the great mysteries of the show since its inception, is Swordfish.

What’s even more asinine is that we’re expected to believe that the Time Lords are just sitting on the other side of that crack for hundreds of years doing nothing but asking “Doctor Who?” over and over again. I’d hate to be the Time Lord intern who got tasked with that job.

And then there’s the thirteenth regeneration issue. We know that Matt Smith is the last of the “official” regenerations. We know that it’s possible for Time Lords to be given additional lives, but it feels cheap how Smith is just given regeneration energy because his companion whispers into the crack. A companion who’s had no contact with the Time Lords, a companion who doesn’t make a particularly rousing speech, a companion with no street cred on Gallifrey basically says “Please?” and the Time Lords say “Oh, okay” and send regeneration energy into the rift, which somehow also manages to seal the rift itself and, I’m assuming, stops the signal.

This makes no sense. The Time Lords didn’t get the positive identification they were looking for (Doctor Who? was never answered), but they’ll blindly send regeneration energy into another universe? C’mon, they’re smarter than that.

So, as you can tell I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, and I’ve been trying to set things right, to justify this episode. What I finally came up with is this – this episode should’ve taken place on the other side of the rift.

Bear with me – During the final episode of David Tennantt’s arc, we see the Lord President of the Time Lords locked in combat with the Master. And from what we saw in the Day of the Doctor, those events are happening concurrently with the 13 Doctors turning Gallifrey into a planetary Polaroid shot. So let’s suppose that the Master has somehow assumed control of the Council of Time Lords and needed to ensure that the Doctor wouldn’t interfere. So he sent out that signal, knowing it would cause the Doctor to show up, but that he’d wind up in the mother of all stalemates with everyone he’d ever cheesed off. That gives the Master time to take full control of Gallifrey. And as for the regeneration energy? The Master wouldn’t want the Doctor to come to Gallifrey and mess up his fun, so let’s say he used regeneration energy to seal the rift, and if the excess wound up giving the Doctor life #13, well, that’s a small price to pay.

It’s not going to get me a job at the BBC anytime soon, but it helps me remedy what I watched the other night.

I guess the reason I’m so frustrated with this whole episode is that Matt Smith’s Doctor deserved a better send off than this. The 8th Doctor regenerated in a dramatic moment, making a decision to become a warrior. The War Doctor regenerated when his time was finally done and the need for a warrior had passed. The 9th Doctor regenerated protecting Rose, and the 10th Doctor regenerated saving Donna’s grandfather. It feels like Smith’s Doctor got cheated out of something; he deserved to go out with a bang.

Meantime, I am excited to see what Peter Capaldi brings to the role. I’m not thrilled with his first line being that he didn’t like the color of his kidneys, but I’m going to do my best to keep an open mind.

Vampires in Early New England

I recently finished reading a book called The Vampire Hunter’s Guide to New England. Now with a name like that, you’d expect sort of a Fodor’s Guide, something that would tell you which churches in Massachusetts stock the strongest holy water, what New Hampshire farms grow the best garlic and which forests in Maine you should carve your wooden stakes from. However, the title’s a bit of a misnomer. Instead, the book is actually a collection of real-world Yankee undead encounters from the 17 & 1800’s.

Title aside (and I’m not one to talk, after all, I titled one of my stories Krampusnacht – just rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?) the book is quite good. It recounts eight cases of “vampirism” in early New England. The interesting theme is that all these “vampires” were actually cases of tuberculosis. In almost all cases, a member of the family died of TB, and then when another member of the family took ill, the father figure of the family assumed the first family member had come back and was feeding off the living.

There were a couple of things about this that struck me as strange. For starters, there was never any mention of the trademark puncture wounds on a victim’s neck. I’m not sure when that made it into mainstream vampiric lore, but apparently in the 1700’s vampires drained your energy without leaving marks. No holes in your neck, no sensitivity to sunlight; you just wasted away. The way to tell if someone had become a vampire was to dig them up and check if there was still blood in the suspect’s heart. If there was, you were supposed to burn the heart, which would kill the vampire. If there wasn’t, well, I guess you’d have a bunch of relieved townspeople.

Unless you lived in Connecticut.

There was one account from 1850 in Connecticut where a man referred to as “J.B.” died of TB and then his brothers took sick 8 years later. Apparently there’s no statute of limitations on when a family member can come back as a vamp because folks starting saying J.B. had returned and was feeding on his family. They dug him up, and discovered (to everyone’s surprise but mine) he had decomposed completely into a skeleton. This didn’t convince the townsfolk. Not having a heart to burn, the townsfolk dealt with this “vampire” by rearranging his bones so they formed a skull and crossbones pattern, which was supposed to stop J.B. from rising again.

Maybe I missed it, but I’ve never seen or heard of a vampire story where the vamp starts out as a skeleton, spontaneously regenerates his flesh, leaves the grave, feeds off his family, and then returns to his coffin and promptly withers back to skeletal form. Never let it be said that people from Connecticut are weak in their convictions, but apparently this skele-vampire can only be stopped by jumbling his bones about because obviously he’s not smart enough to rearrange them.

At any rate, I’d suggest picking up this book if you’re interested in early New England vampire stories. You can find it on Amazon really cheap here.