Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Island Trader

Another painting of the Pela, once again with an eventual cover in mind. I wasn't all that crazy about the last one, and there may well be several more after this one. This piece is more in my impressionist style than the last. I made no attempt at realism. What we're looking at is a small island trader with its sails spread to take advantage of the air currents. I think we're probably looking at the underside of the hull, but then again, maybe not. I guess it doesn't matter. There are several small islands in the middle distance and larger ones, blue in the distance.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Among the Islands

I painted this piece with the idea of using part of it as the cover for The Lost Star's Sea. I will probably paint more pictures of the Pela to see if I can improve on this one. I did take a picture of this last night inside and without a flash that came out very yellow. I just played around with it anyway in Gimp and came up with this very pulpy version of the cover:

It gives you an idea of how the bigger painting can be used for the cover. I applied my favorite filter in Gimp, "cartoon" to get the sharper, dark outlines and just faded the painting behind the title box rather than make a solid title box. Still, as I said, this is just playing around -- and the bird is still in the bush as far as the book goes. However, I'm 8,000 words into the last section, so progress is being made. (Knock on wood.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 2017 Progress Report

I'm happy to report that work on The Lost Star's Sea is progressing nicely. I finished the first draft of penultimate episode, Windvera, on the 24 Jan. and it's second draft on the 31 Jan. I'm fairly happy with the section. At least I'm happy I have something. Hopefully when I return to it for the third draft in May or June I'll still find that I'll have little to do. I've now started writing the concluding episode, The Dragon Kings, which will wrap up not only The Lost Star's Sea, but the adventures and misadventures of Wil Litang. I'm budgeting six weeks for this section just to be on the safe side, since I want to make sure I've tied up all the loose threads that I can while making it as entertaining and as satisfying as possible, especially since it will be more like the conclusion of a “Who done it” mystery rather than the explosive climax of a thriller. I've got its broad outline well in hand, and have started going over the scenes in my head forming them and trying to put them into their proper place so that everything gets covered, flows smoothly, and is not tedious. I day dream up dozens of variations for every scene – and go over them dozens of times before I write them. And then when I do try to set them down in words, they usually come out differently again – so that I have to rewrite parts of scenes, over and over to get them as true as I can. It is not an efficient process, but a lot of the fun is in thinking about scenes and viewing them over and over from different angles. And then, when I have the words, going over and over them to make them sound good, and clever.

As things stand now, in the mid-March to early April time frame, I should be set to put the final polish on three sections, now probably a year old from first draft, and start the proof-reading process. I don't expect that to take too long on my part, though getting them through the first proof-read will take a week or so each, and then I'll send them out, one at a time every 2-3 weeks to my beta and early readers. Assuming all goes well, we're looking at a July – August release date. If all goes well.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Yes Another New Cover

It's that time again. Time for a new cover for The Bright Black Sea. I've been wanting a more "space opera-ish" cover for some time. I was thinking of having one ready for the release of its companion volume, but that won't be to late summer -- and only if all goes well -- and I really didn't want to wait that long. So this is it. For now. I pulled some 50 old paperback books off my book shelves -- back when they painted paint on paper book covers -- to see how they handled metal and such. However, this type of work isn't my strong suit, and it shows. This is probably not the last cover. I was using thick acrylics for this, and generally illustrators use opaque watercolors for painted illustrations. I might try using liquid acrylics on paper which should allow me to get more details in -- if I can actually draw extra details. Draftsmanship and patience are not my strong suit. We'll see. In the meanwhile, we have a picture of the Lost Star and an Omni-V jump fighter during the extended battle on the way to Boscone. Collect them all!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Beta Readers

The long march to complete The Lost Star's Sea, the companion volume to The Bright Black Sea and conclusion of Wil Litang's adventures is nearing its completion. I'm hoping that by the end of February I will have reached the end, in first draft. Like The Bright Black Sea, and perhaps even more so, this story is episodic, which is to say, its a series of fairly self-contained stories in chronological order. The first episode is the Castaways story that I release last summer. There will be seven more which I am planning to send out one at a time to any beta readers interested in reading them. Castaways is done, and at the moment, the next three episodes are just about ready to be proofread, I need to go over them one last time for a final bit of polishing – hopefully minor. The next two episodes are a bit rougher, in 2nd or 3rd draft mode. With any luck, they'll need only one more draft and then a final polishing. I'm halfway through writing the penultimate episode now, and may even have a 2nd draft of it done by the end of this month. Which leaves only the last episode to write in February/March. I know what I want to do in the last episode so I am looking forward to writing it, so that I'm fairly confident that I'll have a good 2nd/ 3rd version of it done by the end of March. All of which is to say, that I'm hoping to start sending out, episode by episode, versions ready for my volunteer beta readers to go over in April (2017).

I'd like the nearly final version of this book read by volunteers who would give me feedback on the typos they encounter, and the questions or any criticism they wish to offer on the stories. Hopefully by doing this I will avoid the mistakes of my first novels, and will eliminate as many typos as possible. However, like all my books, I plan to release The Lost Star's Sea as a free book, so that I don't even have a free ebook copy to offer to any volunteer proofreader/beta reader. I have only my heartfelt thanks and “editorial mention” in the book itself naming and thanking any proofreaders/beta readers who help make the book better. In the unlikely event that I go to print with any of my books, I would send signed copies to all the beta readers who contribute to this book. But, as I said, this is unlikely, and should not be taken into account when volunteering.

The flip side of this is that because I have nothing to offer but thanks, and will be releasing the book for free, I would be glad to send out these sections to anyone interested in reading the not-yet-final, and slightly rough version with no strings attached. You can simply sign up to receive a copy with no obligation at all to contribute anything in return. They can simply be considered advanced copies.

I will have my in-house proof reader, my dear wife, read through each section before I send it out. I am very prolific with typos and very blind to them, so that I believe she corrected hundreds of typos before I sent Castaways out to my volunteer beta readers – who found perhaps 50 or so more typos and suggested so points to clear up. Which is to say that these sections should be close to publication quality, but may well still have a significant number of typos. They might also have formatting errors, since I will be doing a simple down and dirty epub conversion if you choose to receive the stories as an epub (for reading on you ipad or non-kindle ebook reader or app). (Smashwords and Amazon do their own conversions.) I will also offer it as a PDF for reading on a computer/ tablet as well.

If you think you would like to be a volunteer proofreader, beta reader, or just read an advanced copy of the story, episode by episode over the course of a few months, Send me an email at and I will put your name on the list. (I will only use this list for this purpose. My marketing effort consists of pretty much doing nothing.) I will send out an email when the first section is ready for to be sent out, so that you will have a chance to confirm that you want to receive it – if all goes well, some time in April. You need not commit to anything, and can decide what, if anything you want to contribute after you receive the section.

If you have any questions, just drop me a line. I will provide more details closer to the time when I will be sending out the advanced copies.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January 2017 Progress Report

I met my December goal by finishing the first draft of the short episode entitled "The Floating Jungle" by the 12th of December. Which was a good thing since the flu knocked me off my feet for a week and the holidays prevented any further writing. After Christmas I went back and re-wrote large sections of it to try to bring it up to snuff.

The first draft is always the hardest, since you are pushing into the unknown. I generally try to get down what happens and as much dialog as possible, but it's rough and often just sketched in. In the second and third drafts I find that I often have to re-write whole sections to not only make them sound better, but make more sense as well. I hate plot holes, and try my best to see that everything flows naturally. The characters can make mistakes and miscalculations, but not to such a degree that it is out of character. You have to make the plot fit the characters, not the characters to the plot. Then, hopefully, after the third (or fourth) draft, I convert it to an epub and read the it on my iPad, which is much more like reading it as a book than on the computer screen. I highlight words and sentences that  need a little work. That done, it's off to my volunteer proof readers.

I'm hoping that The Floating Jungle will be an easy third draft and I can put it in the queue to be read on the iPad. I've started the next to last section, "Long Street, Windvera" with the hope of having a first or second draft done by the end of the month. This was the problem section for quite a while as I did not have a plot for it. I do now, though it is a more modest one than I originally envisioned.

In February I should start writing the rip-roaring conclusion to the Lost Star's Sea and the whole Litang saga. Actually, I don't think it will be all that rip-roaring. Some danger and mystery, to be sure, but I'm looking to wrap up as many loose ends as possible with as much humor as I can bring to the story. There are a lot of loose ends to tie up, and I think I can have a lot of fun tying them up. I already know the last line of the book.

Of course, these last two sections are birds in the bush, and the last two I've written are probably a ways from being good enough, so nothing is certain. I'm hoping to wrap things and release the book up by late summer 2017. Truthfully, I'll be very glad to wrap it up. Right now writing seems to be a lot like work. And I do this for a "hobby", so work is the last thing I want to do. Writing a 300K word sequel to a 300K+ novel is not something I'd want to do again. Indeed, as of right now, I have no plans to write another book. That may change, but then again, it may not.

So that's were things stand at the moment. I'm getting my 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours of writing in every day, so we're making progress. And if you keep doing that, eventually you reach the end. That, anyway, is what I tell myself every morning. (Though once I start writing time flies. It's just getting up and going over to the computer to start the process that takes and effort.)

Friday, December 2, 2016

December Progress Report

November has come and gone. Did you get your 50K word novel written?

I certainly wrote 50K words, but deleted half of them. However, I'm happy to report that I still ended up with 27,000 fairly decent words and that having written so many of them over several times, I ended up with a pretty solid second draft of new episode in The Lost Star's Sea saga. (I hope.) I'm glad to have it a'stern. It wasn't an easy piece to write. I wanted a brisk, lighthearted, fast action episode, and it didn't work like that. After half a million words, you can't make your characters do what you'd like. They have to be who they are. I felt that I had to force myself to get through it. Hopefully that doesn't show.

I've now started on the next episode. I'm hoping this one will be the lighthearted adventure I wanted to write – a short, simple adventure – say 15K words. Since I know what I want to do, with any luck, I should have it done by the end of December, even with all the holiday comings and going.

After this one there are only two more episodes that remain to be written.

For the penultimate one I want a fairly long picturesque travel piece across a large island with relatively primitive civilization, sort of like traveling 200 to 300 years ago through many parts of the world. I have the locale well pictured in my mind along with an idea for a new character I'd like to write about, but I currently have no story line to go with the journey – which is a problem. I can't just do a travelogue of wonders – there has to be some sort of plot, with dangers to faced (or avoided if Litang has his way) and something worthwhile to win, during that journey. I have one idea, but I'm not sure how it can, or if it can be fleshed out yet. The good thing is that I have a month to think about it (while I walk in circles around my basement, since it's now too cold to go out on my bike). Worst come to worst, I could probably just skip this episode entirely, since it doesn't include anything relevant to the main thrust of the story and move on to the concluding episode – which I have well in hand. Or I could buy some time and write the last episode before the travel one.

I'm happy with the way the story wraps up, especially since the plot I decided on for this volume made it rather hard to tie both volumes together. Luckily, I found a plausible way to tie up a lot of the loose ends from The Bright Black Sea, and some explanations of the mysteries of the Pela I tossed in this story along the way for "color" as well – back when they were still mysteries to me.

My goal is to have everything done in first/second draft by the end of March. Including the Castaways story I've already released, I currently have some 207K words written in pretty close to final form, and the last three episodes should add 100K more words (or more, given how I write) so The Lost Star's Sea should be a fitting companion volume to The Bright Black Sea. If all goes as planned. We'll see.

If anyone is interested in reading the next to final draft of these stories to provide volunteer feed back, proof reading, or just an early read, send me an email and I will put you on the list. There's no obligation to do anything since the book will be released for free, so I can't even offer you a free book.