Sunday 4 July 2021

Where I'm At


Hell's Gate

Does it look gloomy? That's just me practicing some photo manipulation. It's actually a photo I took of a cemetery gate in Wales some years ago. I just added the rain and dark skies. But Hell's Gate will be the title of the next novel, though it won't be a gothic urban fantasy. I just needed some art for the article and I haven't perfected any sci-fi pics yet. And I'm quite pleased with what I'm learning with Photoshop.

But in case you missed the last post, the next novel will be military science fiction, and the first of a new series. And it's been hard going. It's now July and I thought I would have finished the first draft by now, but it's taking longer than I realized. I remember when I wrote Solar Storm that I thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew: Following the story from three different points of view, with detailed geographical locations that spanned half the world. Plus I spent a long time agonizing over how exactly Rick would make it home. From the Middle East! Yeah, that took some figuring out. I gave myself that problem. I mean, I could have placed him in Florida. Kept wondering if I should change it. The final result was epic, but I often wondered what the hell I was doing, and why I was making it hard for myself. But that's the way it goes. Sometimes you write the story, and sometimes the story writes you. Or itself. I don't know. But if you want to try something different, you have to learn to catch curveballs. And not complain when they smack you in the face.

So here I am again, dodging demonic pitchers. Hell's Gate not only features multiple POVs, but the world it operates in has to be created from scratch: The landscapes, moons, star systems, weapons, starships, creative physics, political and domestic backdrops ... it takes time, and I'm not done yet. It's going to take a lot of editing to make sure it all works in sync.

I also need to do the artwork for the cover. Now, if I was smart, I'd pay a professional to do that for me. I am smart, but I'm also broke, and good sci-fi covers cost a lot. They're also harder to do than the post-apocalypse covers I'm used to - you can't just take stock art of some location with people and add a color filter. That's why I'm taking a crash course in photo manipulation and digital art. I want the next cover to be absolutely amazing. Because the last cover for Into Darkness was not.

The Into Darkness cover has been bugging me for a long time. I got ambitious, and learned some new techniques, but I completely forgot about making it genre appropriate. This is very important in book publishing, and I knew this, so I've got no excuse. I got neck-deep into the details of the art itself and ended up with a cover that gives readers the impression of being a dark horror novel, rather than an EMP Post-apocalyptic thriller. I poured my heart into that work, then felt deflated when, after putting it out and taking a deep sigh of relief, I took a step back and looked at what I really had.

Into Darkness hasn't sold as well as the preceding works, and I'm not sure if it was the cover, or the concept that moved away from the tried-and-tested 'Going Home' theme. I don't have any regrets about the story itself, but I guess rewards don't always follow risk. Or it could be the cover. It still bugs me. Once I've published my next work, I will revisit that cover, plus the Undead UK covers that now look a little dated. I can do better than that.

What else is there? Oh yes, the Audio books have been a disaster. That hasn't been my fault, but a disaster it remains. I mentioned that the narrator (or rather, the producer for the narrator) for Solar Storm refused to narrate the next book in the series. In fact, they simply disappeared and didn't answer any further inquiries. They had headhunted me for the first book, which flattered me as I hadn't even been considering an audio book, but clearly didn't make as much money as they'd hoped. So they bailed. A smart business decision perhaps, but it felt like a stab in the back. So I auditioned for a new narrator, who worked on the next two books. Unfortunately, after many, many delays and postponements, the narrator pulled out of doing the last book in the series, citing personal reasons. I don't know. I can't seem to catch a break when it comes to audio books, and I wish I'd never gotten into it. I now have a series of four books, with only the first three having audio versions, and it's all taken so long that nobody's really waiting for the fourth anymore. It's going to be difficult to convince a narrator to do the last book of a series, which traditionally sells the least, and I don't have any money to compensate them with incentives, so I'm kind of stuck now and I don't know where to go with it. To be honest, I've given up. It looks unprofessional, but it's a mess I can't easily get out of.

Funnily enough, when I auditioned the last narrator, I had them in mind for Into Darkness, being the perfect voice for a southern gal. Considering how poor the sales have been, maybe it was better they didn't stick with me. Takes a lot of effort with little reward to do an audio production.

Bit like writing, really.

So that's where I'm at. Picking myself up and starting over. I haven't given up, and there are many more projects to follow, but I have had to digest some hard lessons about this business, and I need to figure out a sustainable way of working, and get better at making covers. I took a couple of wrong turns but I'm slowly getting back on track. If I had to make a prediction, I'd say the next book could be out in September. But, honestly, take everything I say with a pinch of salt, because I have no idea really. I can only try my best. But it will be epic, I promise you that.

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