Books By C. LItka

Books By C. LItka

Friday, June 24, 2022

The Making of The Girl on the Kerb -- Part 1


Even though the publication date of The Girl on the Kerb is likely many months off – think 2023 – I thought I might as well start a series entitled “The Making of The Girl on the Kerb” detailing how I managed to write another story. Which believe me, was far from a sure thing a year ago, or for that matter, even as late as the beginning of this year. Every story I write is my last story until it isn’t.

I probably have talked about my writing process in previous posts, though I can’t be bothered to go back and see. In any event, in discussing how this story came about, I will no doubt go into much greater detail as to how stories come to me, how they fail, and how they sometimes succeed. So on with the show.

The Girl on the Kerb is a Frankenstein of a story. It draws its plot and framework from at least three of my abandoned story ideas, one of which dates back to 2016, with a story entitled, Rust in the Dust. I wrote just under 4,000 words on that story before eventually abandoning it.

So how did Rust in the Dust and The Girl on the Kerb come to be? Usually all my stories start with a mood a feeling or a picture in my head. After that, I think about the characters I want to write about, and only then, do I try to develop a story with them and a workable plot. In all the various versions of this story idea, and there were several without names, the mood I began with was the mood of living in the summer of either 1914, 1939 or 1940 in England. Which is to say on the eve of a looming war, with the contrast of a sun soaked summer vs the black clouds of some unimaginable war on the horizon, impossible to entirely ignore. The story then would be set in summer, with some sort of conflict looming. I’ve read a fair number of books on that era, and especially 1940, with one that stands out; a diary written during that time: A Boy in the Blitz by Colin Perry. Plus I have a shelf of books and photo books from England of that time period, all of which have created in my mind a certain sense of place and time for that era – though probably not an authentic one, unless one goes with reincarnation…

So I had a time period and a mood I wanted to use to create a story. But…

Despite my desire to write a story set in a time like that, to write a story I first have to live the story in my head. I have to mentally “write” it without words – thinking about the story and its scenes off and on throughout the day and night, whenever I’m awake – usually for several months – before I even start to put words to it. And to be honest, I really don’t care to entertain such a dark and moody story in my head for that long. since the line between my life and my imagination is pretty thin. I didn’t care to have that imagined threat and gloom seeping into my real life. Still, some sort of light theme on that premise has continued to attract me, and to some extent, it plays a minor role in The Girl on the Kerb.

Next, because I don’t care to do detailed historical research, the idea of placing a story in 1914, 39 or 40 isn’t something I’d care to tackle. The other great downside to historical fiction is that you know how it turns out, unless you’re doing alternative history, in which case, why not just make up your own world and save yourself all that historical research? That, anyway, is my feeling on that subject.

I did, however, want to set this story on our Earth, and in Europe, to be precise. So I had to set it in the far future so that I could remake the world to suit my purposes. In the case of Rust in the Dust, after the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano, and an ice age. In short, in the distant future. While I did include the supervolcano eruption in The Girl on the Kerb, I skipped the subsequent ice age, or at least made it a minor one.

I really don’t like writing George Jetson SF futures. I like writing early to mid-20th stories – without having to do the research and fit it into known history. So, for that reason, I have a very advanced SF type civilization collapse, and then set the story a couple of thousand years after that collapse. In this way I can have a modern civilization chugging along in which to set the story, while using the collapsed advanced civilization as a source of mystery and potential conflict with the simple “What if?” some sort of working technology from that advanced civilization is dug up, and it was possibly being put to some use by someone in a way that would change the balance of power in Europe or the world.

That was the premise of Rust in the Dust, and I use a variation of this premise in The Girl on the Kerb. However, I never finished Rust in the Dust, and have finished The Girl on the Kerb, which suggest that I found ways to overcome the roadblocks that prevented me from finishing Dust. I did so by rummaging through my junk yard of other failed stories written after Dust, and grafted ideas from two other unfinished stories into the basic premise of a long peace threatened by an ambitious ruler with, perhaps, access to ancient technology. But before we get to that, I think I will explain why I abandoned Rust in the Dust in its first chapter.

But we’ll save that for next week.

Friday, June 17, 2022

The Girl on the Kerb


I am always happy to report that I have finished writing a new book, and today I'm happy to report that I've finished the final draft of my 2023/24 novel, The Girl on the Kerb.*

*Edit: I changed it's working title from The Road to EuraEast to The Road to Eura -- and now  to The Girl on the Kerb. I predict that in a future post I will tell you why.

The Girl on the Kerb is a stand alone novel that mixes the flavors of the future with those of the past.

The future is a distant one – a resource depleted Earth after the catastrophic collapse of its solar system spanning civilization. The past is the mid-20th century level society that survived this collapse. This society is governed by the Code, an all encompassing set of regulations designed to ensure that the leftovers of the Solar Age will last for the eons to come.

The inciting incident is the crash of what appears to be a Solar Age aircraft. Its wreckage is removed within hours and the story suppressed. The administrators of the EuraCentre and EuraNorthwest regions see the hand of the Duchess of Fauconcourt, the Administrator General of EuraEast, in the incident. She has long campaigned to alter the Code – one way or another – to allow greater use of resources for an eventual return to a new Solar Age. Her changes to the Code denied, does this aircraft point to her other way? Two amateur agents are dispatched to EuraEast to find out.

Henri Hardy is an analytical engineer knowledgeable about Solar Age technology, currently employed as a low level clerk in EuraNorthwest’s Ministry of Innovation. By night he writes adventure stories set in the Solar Age, i.e. historical fiction.

Jean Murat, the Countess Montbleu, is an economist in the EuraCentre’s Ministry of Commerce. She has, for years, been collecting economic data on EuraEast in an effort to decipher the Duchess’ ultimate plans. By night she runs with a wealthy and rather scandalous social circle.

The novel relates the story of their mission to the east, which quickly goes south.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am going to shop this novel around to agents and publishers, hence the earliest publication date being sometime next year, whether self-published or traditionally published. While I have no illusions about the likelihood of this story being picked up by an agent or publisher, I think the process  is worth the effort, if only to see what, if any, feedback I receive on my work.

 As it turns out, the British science fiction publishers, Gollannz just happens to have a rare one month long window this June when they are accepting non-agented manuscripts, so I will be tossing The Girl on the Kerb over their transom very shortly.* Just like old times. There will be 1,000-1,500 manuscripts tossed as well, so I do not expect to hear anything for 6 to 12 months. But it is a start.

In the meanwhile, my wife will do her proofreading on the manuscript, and then it will be sent out to my volunteer beta readers who also will proofread it and offer their comments and suggestions. If you care to volunteer to be a beta reader, just email me.

I will talk more about this story in future blog posts. 

UPDATE: I did submit it, though I used The Road to Eura title for that submission, as The Girl on the Kerb was a later change.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

The New Covers

I am quite happy with the look of the new covers, as a whole. I like the uniformity of design. I might tweak one or two, but as a whole, they work for me. My cover philosophy is informed by the limits of my talents, which is to say, I'm not an illustrator, I'm a landscape painter, more or less in the impressionist school of painting. The closer I get to realism, the more amateur my paintings look. So I simply look to suggest the mood of the story, and little more.

The artwork for A Summer in Amber and Some Day Days remain unchanged. Like all my paperback book designs, they feature art that wraps around cover, though in these cases I simply reposition the cover art.

The cover art is a return to the art I used for my first cover back in 2015, though I've tweaked the colors.

This is a new cover for the Lost Star's Sea. It uses detail from a painting in a series I had painted using the floating islands motif before I had written The Lost Star's Sea.

Again, this is the same artwork as the previous version, though I have cut back on the "cartoon" effect that adds black outlines to brush strokes. The back cover is the same painting flipped.

This is a brand new cover for Sailing to Redoubt. This is a scene that I painted on the imaginary island of Lil Lon, which is a locale in the story, so that unlike the last version, there is a direct connection between the cover and the story -- though I chose to go with this piece because I wanted lots of color. I flipped the picture so as to use the it to wrap around the cover as a single painting.

Nothing changed for this cover, except that I have the art wrapping around, using the same piece, flipped again.

No paper version of this novella. This might be the cover I tweak, since I don't like how the title box covers the old grain silos. I would have to make the art smaller so that the silos were not covered up., That, however, would mean extending it in several directions digitally, as the original art work is not wide or tall enough to shrink on its own. A project for an idle hour.

I'm reusing paintings I did years ago for this and its sequel covers. I did a series of painting more or less inspired by old Cape Cod and the stories of Joseph Lincoln. The prime locale in this story, and its first sequel are also inspired by old Cape Cod -- a seaside resort community. And being rather cozy mysteries, a pastoral landscape painting sort of works. It is better than the old one, which was on the low end of good enough to any port in a storm quality.

Another landscape with a seacoast. Again, just for mood. I considered flipping the art so that the front cover had a little more to offer, but I sort of like the lonely look of it.

This instalment of the series is set on a different planet. One that I was going for a Gothic feel to it. This painting is not really all that spooky, but it does have shadows, and goes more or less with the set.

Just added the new title box to this cover.

And as a bonus, here is the current front cover of the story I am working on. It will no doubt change.

All in all, the project kept me busy for a week, and I'm glad to say, I'm happy with the results.

Friday, June 3, 2022

New Covers... Again?


The new paperback spines

Yes, again. Why? Well, why not? I had a week with no writing scheduled, and nothing better to do.

Actually, there is a reason why I had to made new covers. And that is that I wanted to make my trade paperback books a little smaller than what they are now, at 6x 9” which Amazon said was the most popular. Maybe, but I suspect not for fiction. At any rate, I don’t have many trade paperbacks, but they are all smaller. And I’m told that the cool kids don’t have glossy covers, as well… So I thought I’d update my paperback books, because, well, why not?

The inciting incident for this project is the merger of Smashwords with Draft2Digital. Draft2Digital has their own print on demand service, and I thought that I would re-release my paperback versions with them, with an idea of seeing if I could get them into SF bookshops. Amazon is not popular with bookshops, so that getting books from other source might help get my books into the shops. It’s a summer/long term project.

Of course, changing the book size from 6x9” to 8.25x8” means that every book has to be entirely re-worked. However the process is the same for all, so it made sense to automate the process as much as possible. I found that I could simply change the page size and margins in the existing file, rather than start fresh. However, for some reason the six to eight title pages did not change size with the text pages and had to be changed in a separate operation, which was a hassle for some of the books. For some of the books I had to change the font size for the text to either fit or look appropriate. And I had to go through every book to format chapters and make sure everything worked. Once that was all done, and I had page counts, I could go to Amazon and determine the size of cover I would need – the front and back covers are the same, but the width of the spine changes with the page count, so that the cover template is different for each book. Once I recorded this data for all ten books, I created a blank template for each book, a blank spine for each book, and then a standard title box and back cover info box that I had decided I would use across the board.

With these new covers, I am returning to the style of covers I had until to a couple of years ago. Which is to say, a cover with the title and author’s name in a box over the cover art. However, whereas in those old covers, the box size and shaped changed from title to title, this time around, the title box will be standardized across all my books.

My inspiration for this style of cover comes from a series of English mysteries “British Library Crime Classics” published by Poisoned Pen Press. Below are several samples of the covers. (Actually a lot of samples, because I love these covers.) While I really like the travel/train poster style of art that a lot of them sport, I also like the understated simplicity of the cover design as well. So that is the style I adopted.

I also took the opportunity to change some of the cover art. Sailing to Redoubt gets a more colorful cover, a painting of mine of the little Tropic Sea island of Lil Lon. The Secrets of Valsummer House looses the rather static picture of Valsummer House, and gets a very minimalist treatment seaside painting. The Lost Star’s Sea has a simpler floating boat design. The Bright Black Sea sees the return of its first artwork with the color reworked. And the existing artwork that remains on the other books get re-worked as well. There is at least one book whose cover I would like to change, so we’ll see if I can either find an old work of mine or paint a new one for it.

Since this is, as I said, a summer project, I won’t be changing the covers right away. I’ll give myself time to come back to them and make sure I like them before changing the ebook covers to match the paper ones. And I am waiting on the Smashwords, Draft2Digital merger to access their print on demand service, for the paper books. Though I might switch over the Amazon books as well, Why not?

So to tease the new cover design, below is a sample of the new The Secrets of Valsummer House paperback cover.