Adventures in Self-Publishing : Cover Stories

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It’ll do

I am not a visual person by any stretch of the imagination.

When I was in college studying computer science back in the 90’s, people would occasionally ask me if I could make websites for them.  The conversation would go something like this:

Person: “Can you make a website for me?”
Me: “Yeah, I can code one, but it’s going to look like a computer guy made it.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s going to look terrible.”
So yeah, I didn’t make any websites.

Given that I’m self-aware of my lack of design sense, I don’t know what possessed me to make my own book covers when I started self-publishing short story collections.  It comes even more perplexing considering that I knew artists that could do quality artwork.  Ego may have had something to do with it; the notion of doing everything on my own.  Maybe I didn’t want to pay for art at the time.  Whatever the reason, I figured some text on a solid color background would be good enough.  I did three covers like that, and it honestly only worked for The Rules of Tech Support.

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A picture! Yay!

I like to think I made the most of my limited skills with my Nine to Five Lives ‘clock face,’ but that may have been too clever for its own good considering its low sales (it’s free now!).

At that point I figured it was time to get some actual artwork done.  My friend Damon Cone provided some artwork for Con Fluff 1, which I used to make a faux ‘con badge.’  I thought about making similar ones as promotional items for the book.  That never happened, but it remains an interesting idea for future use.  The character on the cover is me, which seems a little conceited, but at the same time, why the heck not?

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SO PRETTY

I commissioned an artist friend who goes by Padunk for Con Fluff 2 and she knocked it out of the park.  She was also kind enough to put the title text on the artwork, which made it look really nice.  Future volumes have also featured artwork, and with the exception of The Rules of Tech Support, most of my collections featuring my early awful covers have been put off-sale, though you can still see them here.

While I have been happy with all of the artwork (Faeries, Fantasies, and Furries is another favorite) there are a few that need a do-over:  As the first book in the series, I don’t want to pull Seven Super-Short Sci-Fi Stories, but it does need a facelift.  Funny Animals, Funny People kind-of works, but I have a better concept in mind I’d like to see for it.  I took the easy way out with Fuzzy Words by plastering a picture into the middle of a (wait for it) solid colored background.

I’ve since commissioned new cover art for the printed version of Fuzzy Words from an artist named TinyBunner.  After spending the day arguing with CreateSpace I think everything is ready to go for printed copies.  I’m very excited at the prospect of having an actual printed book, but that’s a post for another day.

Some Neat Stuff I Saw at HavenCon 2016

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Con loot!

Instead of my usual ‘things I noticed’ list, I’m going to take a different approach with this post-convention blog post. At every convention, I see lots of neat artwork from independent artists. Sometimes there are independent game studios showing their wares, and they will often have some pretty cool demos to check out.

This past weekend I attended HavenCon in Austin, Texas. HavenCon bills itself as “the first geek and gaming convention in Texas to focus on the LGBTQIA and Ally communities,” and indeed there was a variety of things to see and do.

So without any further ado:

I purchased some nice X Files-themed prints from Megan Kluck featuring artwork similar to this.  Her art can be found at tasteslikekeys.tumblr.com

This print from Robby Cook will be hanging in my home soon.  His wonderful artwork and mash-ups can be found at robbycook.com

I bought a zine from Bis Thornton (bisthebox.com) and E. S. Mahoney named “Singularity: Contraption” that contained some neat stories about robotics.

“Redemption,” a comic written and drawn by Veronica Kathryn, is the story of a girl who’s trying to make up for the fact that she ENDED THE WORLD.  Oops.  It can be read at redemption.smackjeeves.com and her artwork can be found at bobo-kitty.deviantart.com

There were a few indie game developers there with some neat games, such as Black Ice, a funky Tron-inspired first person shooter with RPG elements by Garrett Cooper.  Finji knocked my socks off with a turn-based survival game called Overland, which is currently in development.

I had an enjoyable weekend at HavenCon, made even more so by these folks and their wonderful work!  I hope you check them out, and thanks for reading!

Working My Way To the Top (of the page)

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Bottom, bottom, bottom…

I forget which short story collection I was working on and discussing with a friend, but he posed an interesting question as we were chatting:

Why is your name always at the bottom of your covers?  Shouldn’t it be on the top?

While I may not completely produce my own covers anymore (for the better, as you can likely tell) I do place the text atop the artwork.  The decision to de-emphasize myself was a conscious one and I did it for a very simple reason:

Nobody knows who I am.

It’s a harsh thing to admit, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If I put “Eduardo Soliz” on the top of a cover, a potential reader might think that the book is about a guy with that name, or they might even think it’s in Spanish.  Either way, my name (right now, at least) is not a very big selling point.

Stephen King and James Patterson and those guys, yeah, they can put their names up top because people will recognize then as authors who’s work they enjoy so they’ll be more inclined to pick up a book with their name on top and buy it.

Someday, I’ll be ‘big enough’ to have the nerve to put my name at the top of the page, but until then, I’ll have to play second fiddle to the books themselves.

Then again, maybe that’s how it should be!

Unwritten Anger

As I mentioned previously, I tend to carry a chip on writingmy shoulder at work, which can increase or decrease in size depending on the derp that is being thrown my way by customers, coworkers, and the company I work for.  I recently had an instance where working on a story during my lunch hour improved my mood and I felt happy throughout the remainder of the day.

It happened again.  I got worked up into a lather one morning thanks to a coworker who couldn’t follow simple directions.  I reached the point where I had to walk away from my desk because I wanted to hit something or someone.  Lunch couldn’t come too soon because doggone it, I needed a break.

I returned to my desk and lunchtime soon arrived without incident.  I tapped away on my tablet, looking for some mental respite from the day.  I had earbuds on and was listening to music in an attempt to blot out the office noise.  As is often the custom, I opened my ‘To Do’ directory and scrolled down the list of unfinished short stories, blog posts, podcast scripts, and book drafts for something to work on.  I opened up the short story that I had started before.  The words flew from my fingertips and I had a completed first draft by the time lunch was through.  As was the case before, I felt better after the fact.

It then occurred to me that I hadn’t written any fiction in quite a few days; I had been spending them formatting “Fuzzy Words” for publication and recording and editing podcasts.  I started to wonder: was I more easily upset because I hadn’t worked on any stories in a while?  Have I gone from ‘I like to write’ to ‘I need to write?”

Earth-Mine

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When I started writing fiction, I didn’t give much thought into linking my short stories together or having them take place in a shared universe.  As time went on, I did find myself putting some of them into a few distinct worlds:

“Earth Prime” is our home-sweet-dimension, and given that the majority of my stories involve some combination of furries, super-science, and fantasy, I don’t know that many of them actually take place here.   I do have a few sci-fi stories that take place ‘twenty minutes into the future,’ that is, near enough for us to relate to them (I hope!).

“Earth-F” is a parallel version of our world inhabited by furries.  These stories tend to be humorous and I like to ‘Hanna-Barbera’ the names in those stories.  For example, in a story that took place in a television studio, an older character referred to old-time TV stars such as “Mewcille Ball” and “Droopy Sales.”  I know, I know!

On “Earth H-minus” mankind has destroyed itself in what becomes known as the “Final War” and after their intelligence has been increased due to increased mutations, the furries eventually inherit the Earth.  One as-yet unpublished story takes places in a period where humans and furries coexist, though not harmoniously.  Society is eventually rebuilt by the furries but I haven’t quite hammered out the predator/prey relationship rules yet or if the humans were completely eradicated.  Yeah, its not exactly a happy place.

The ‘Enchanted Forest’ stories obviously happen in a fantasy world, but I haven’t done much there (like come up with a clever name) though it has been established that magic does have limits.  For now, anyway.

I should probably sit down and figure out just where all my stories fit, because inevitably some reader out there is going to try to ‘connect the dots’ and completely screw it up.  Well, assuming I haven’t already!  😀

Click here if you’d like to read some of those stories!