Google+ Followers

Saturday, October 14, 2017

My Table at Sac Con: The Power of Selling Your Book In Person

A vendor table at a comic book convention with two stacks of books, a fake skull and a Jack 'O Lantern candy bucket.
Credit: The Blogger

I would have been happy if people stopped to simply flip through my books at my vendor table at Sac Comic-Con last Sunday. Since that was my first vendor table at a convention, I really didn’t expect to sell anything. I sold five copies of my books!

The first sale was actually early on in the convention—within the first 10 minutes of opening! A father with his three kids stopped to look. I started giving my pitch for each book and, before I could finish, he said he would take one copy of each: The Fool’s Illusion and “CircaSixty Years Dead”. Later in the day, two more people made purchases at different times each. I also traded copies with the fellow author whose table was right next to mine, Jay Norry, for two books from his Zombie Zero series . We suggested doing reviews for each other’s books once we read them. I’ll leave reviews at Amazon for sure but may have fuller ones here. However, I may not be to do anything until the beginning of the new year because, as I told Jay, I’ve been quite behind on my reading. I’ll try to hustle it up a bit, though; I’m always too ready for the next read!

A handmade author sign on a vendor table.
I wasn't able to have a banner made so I made this. Good enough for a first vendor table.
Photo Credit: The Blogger

So I was really delighted when my books sold. However, I keep in mind that displaying your books for sale at live events isn’t so much about selling them than about promoting them and engaging with the community. The goal should be to start conversations with people who show the least bit of interest in your work. Talking to people about not only your own but other authors’ work in a genre you share interest in makes you known both as an author and a fellow reader. As long as you have plenty of swag with you, including business cards, that identify your social media presence then your book promotion can go a long ways. I also think what helped was providing free Halloween candy for the kids (and adults if they wanted). Many of the people who showed interest in what I was selling had their kids with them, who I can’t sell to or allow to look at the books since they contain mature content, but having candy present for them shows a sense of community on the vendor’s part.

A section of a vendor table displaying books, book marks, business cards and skull prop.
Credit: The Blogger

So presenting your work at special events, especially those like Sac Comic-Con where your target audience is at, in my case the sci fi/fantasy crowd, is primarily about two things: 1) Making your author presence known in the community; and 2) Bonding through conversation over similar interests that relate to the subject matter of your books. If the sales don’t come at the event, they will eventually come sometime down the line. The more people who know about your work, the more chance that they’ll tell others about it.

I want to thank all those who purchased books at my table and I hope they enjoy the reads. I also encourage them to leave honest reviews at the books’ Amazon pages since that will help me improve stories for the future. I also want to thank Jay Norry for the great conversations we had about our work and con experiences and for coming up with the idea to trade each others’ books. I hope to see you again at a future con, Jay!

Next time I’ll try to have some Halloween content here.

Until then . . .   

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Author's Appearance At Sac Comic-Con

I'm not leaving much of a post here this weekend because I've been busy all day preparing for my vendor table for Sac Comic-Con. The convention is tomorrow from 10 AM to 6 PM. You can read more about it at my Facebook page. This will be my first convention that I've had a table at, so don't be surprised if I seem a little rusty. I hope to see you there. My booth number is B25; I'll have a name sign up. If you can't make it, then . . .

Until next time . . .

Cartoon: A one-eyed alien points to an alien wearing a "fish bowl" helmet.

Monday, October 2, 2017

One Last Revision On My Business Card Before Sac Con

Last week was really busy, so I apologise for posting late again. But I wanted to show you a major alteration I made to my business card (besides the contact info I added). Last post I showed the card bearing the name of my imprint which is “Far Out Phantastic Press”. Or at least that was the name. After doing some research, I discovered that to put that name on a business card may require me to register it with my home city or county and that would cost more than what I am willing to spend right now on promoting my work. Here in California, at least, you can use your personal name as for a sole entrepreneurship and not have to register it. So, for the time being at least, I had to replace my imprint name with my personal name on the card. So here is the revised version:

A business card with the image of a skull.
Credit: Steven Rose Jr.

As you can see everything else on my business card has pretty much stayed the same. Now I just have to have prints of it made by the end of the week because I will need them for Sunday which is when I will have my table of books for sale, The Fool’s Illusion and “CircaSixty Years Dead”. So if you happen to be in the Sacramento area and have not bought your copy of one or the other then you can come to Sac Con where I will be on Sunday and purchase your copy (or copies there) and save on the shipping you would have to pay if you ordered it through Amazon. I may even have one of the two books discounted there and maybe even free Halloween candy! If nothing else, then just come and say “hi” and talk about anything—the con, your favourite books (whether mine or other authors), favourite movies or TV shows, favourite comics, etc. So maybe I’ll see you there. If not, then . . .

Until next time . . .  

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trying to Get Ahead of the Goal: Imprint Logo

Last time I said I would try to have the designs of the imprint logo and name for my business card here. Although I completed my minimum goal for the week, I was hoping to have the whole card done by today. I guess I'm just trying to get ahead of myself so as not to get behind. But if we as self-publishing artists and writers can make it to our minimum goal within a self-determined time frame then that's what really matters. However, I'm trying to complete the card and so put the contact information on it by next week. I may be attending a convention that weekend and I want to have copies available for distribution. But here is what I've completed so far. (I apologise for the card image blending in with the blog's background due to matching colours, but I didn't have time to seek out a way of creating a lighter background for the display. I'll try to have that the next time when I have the full card done. . .  If I have it done.)

A business card logo consisting of a skull image.
Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.

So, as you can see, I haven't gotten ahead with the card but I got a head on the card. The head being the image of the skull, of course, which I showed separately last post.

Until next post . . .

Saturday, September 16, 2017

What a Brand Icon Should Do for an Imprint

It’s been a long but far out fantastic day today. I attended two sci fi-related events: a Doctor Who celebration at the Sacramento Central Library and then, after that, a steampunk tiki party at The Jungle Bird in midtown. I’m much more atom punk than I am steampunk but both are retro punk and tikis became a very heavy pop cultural icon during the atomic era (mostly the early half of the 1960s). And I just dig tikis! I got a collection of them—figurines, cups, etc.—in my house. So, as I said, it was a long day and so I really didn’t get much of a chance to work on my writing with the exception of this blog post and some marketing of my books, The Fool’s Illusion (which turns 4 years old this month!) and “Circa Sixty Years Dead”

Part of marketing one’s work involves branding that work. I’m not a business man and so, frankly, I hate the word “branding” which is a big buzz term in today’s age of the startup and freelance revolutions. However, branding is probably more important now than ever. A self-published author’s brand should be about as identifying to the author as his/her writing style. It should identify that author as well as the author’s work. Doing this can go a long way in communicating to the world the existence of that work. So, as I’ve mentioned in several posts during the summer, I’ve been putting together a logo for my imprint. Although I’m still working on the lettering for the imprint name, which is “Far Out Phantastic Press”—a slight variation of this blog’s name, as you can see—I’ve completed the icon:

A skull with an eye-ball staring out of the left socket.
Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.

It will also serve as the “O” in the word “Out” of the imprint name. But the skull, in the way I’ve drawn and painted it here, along with the imprint name will identify my work not just for the dark fiction it tends to be but also for the many elements of ‘60s and ‘70s pop culture that tend to make up my writing even though not all my stories necessarily take place in those time periods. The style of this skull icon depicts those eras with its simplicity, its pale green colour and the eye-ball staring out from the one socket. The manner this skull is depicted in not only identifies my love for ‘60s and ‘70s pop culture but also for skulls in general. I love skulls and skeletons like I do tikis, only a tiki icon wouldn’t depict my horror fiction as efficiently as a skull would. I don’t write Hawaiian horror enough to use a tiki as my imprint icon. However, that’s not to say that I never will write that kind of horror.

Next time, I’ll try to have the full logo, both image and imprint name, completed and posted here.

Until then . . . !

Monday, September 11, 2017

Wandering Through the Dark Carnival Sci fi/Fantasy Bookstore

Front entryway of a bookstore with a dragon figure on top of the business sign.
Photo Credit: The Blogger

I’m sorry I missed posting Labor Day weekend and for running late with this past weekend’s post. Saturday I was out in town for most of the day and last weekend I was in Berkeley visiting a friend who I hadn’t seen in over five years. I had been planning a San Francisco day trip all summer but it didn’t quite work out so I had to settle for Berkeley which is a bit closer to Sacramento. One reason I had originally wanted to go to San Francisco was to check out a science fiction/fantasy bookstore there called Borderlands. I’ve bought books from them in the past but only at conventions. I heard they carry all the sci fi and fantasy books you can ever find there. However, Berkeley has an alternative to that book store: Dark Carnival.

Dark Carnival is a used-book store that specialises in science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery. It fronts Claremont Avenue accompanied by a cat-size, brown dragon figure laying on top of the wood-looking business sign that hangs over the entryway. As I was walking up to the store, the owner was outside inflating his two approximately, 30-foot “Cheshire” grinning black cats for the store’s Halloween promotion.

Entryway to a bookstore with an inflatable black cat standing in front.
One of the two inflatable "Cheshire" black cats in front of the Dark Carnival bookstore.
Photo Credit: The Blogger

Inside, Halloween supplies, such as styrofoam mini pumpkins with ghoulish faces and witch figures, were on display seemingly at random points of the store rather than in a designated seasonal section. Although Dark Carnival’s main inventory, books, is well organised much of it is piled onto the floor due to lack of shelf space but this aspect of “messiness” is often a good one for any book lover. An overload of books tells any avid reader that the store will likely have what he/she is looking for. That’s not to say that Dark Carnival is a magical book shop that will have any specific title or edition of book you want regardless of the two floors the store consists of. Regardless of the fact that the amount of merchandise can overwhelm a customer’s search. But the shelves are labeled with letter tags signifying the initial letter of authors’ last names which help a lot.

I was looking for vintage paperbacks, ideally John Campbell’s work which seems to be very hard to find even in new editions. When I wasn’t finding anything by him I asked the owner if Campbell’s stuff would be anywhere else in the store other than under the C’s in the main shelves and he said it wasn’t likely. So I thanked him and walked over to the Stephen King section hoping to find an original paperback edition of Carry (one of his horror novels I haven’t read yet) but as large as the collection of King was I didn’t see any there. Interestingly though, I saw a literary critical anthology of his work. Like this book, non-fiction material related to the genres can be found throughout the store, many of which are shelved in the sections of their respective fiction authors. For example, if they pertain to a particular author such as King or Lovecraft, they will be shelved along with the author’s fiction. This makes sense, since most people who are going to care about literary criticism of an author are going to love that author’s works.

While I was looking through the King section, the owner came up to me with an anthology of sci fi authors which one of the stories was Campbell’s “Who Goes There?”, the novella that The Thing movies were based on. That is a story I’ve been intending to read as soon as I could get my hands on a Campbell book of short fiction. So I took the anthology to hold onto in case I decided to buy it, but it had many other authors’ stories who I wasn’t as familiar with and the book was quite high in price (I don’t remember how much, but it was pretty close to 20 bucks) so I was probably going to turn it down. Then he came back to me a little later and put two other books containing Campbell’s stories into my hand. One of these two was a hardback complete works collection of Campbell’s stories. It was called A New Dawn: The Complete Don A. Stuart Stories. Don A. Stuart was the pen name Campbell used while he was writing science fiction and before he went on to edit Astounding Science Fiction magazine. And being a complete works collection, it included “Who Goes There?”. So it shows you how dedicated the staff at this store is to finding the books you’re looking for. I’m sure the owner found these three books in places I would never have thought to look. So I bought the copy of New Dawn.

I went on to look through the Lovecraft section. Not finding anything I was that interested in at the time, as far as his fiction goes, I did find a few works by the author Simon about the Necronomiconthe legendary book of the dead referred to many times in Lovecraft’s fiction and that formed the basis for his Cthullu mythos. I was hoping to find a copy of the Necronomicon itself, but didn’t see it there so bought Simon’s Dead Names: A Dark History of the Necronomicon instead.

Besides books, Dark Carnival also carries vintage magazines related to the speculative genres both pro and amatuer. You can also find novelties such as alien dashboard wobblers. And if this place isn’t enough for the sci fi/fantasy nerd, only two stores down is the Escapist comic book store also owned by Dark Carnival’s owner. Unfortunately, I only had time to look briefly through it and so didn’t purchase anything there. Maybe the next time.

Next post I’ll have more about my imprint logo thats icon I am just finishing up on. I may even have a photo of it by then.

Do you know of any other good bookstores that specialize in science fiction and fantasy, used or new? Feel free to list your responses in the box below.

Until next time . . .  

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Celebrating the Summer of the Loving Dead

Abstract skulls, flowers and candy.

This summer has been a 50th anniversary for the Summer of Love but it’s also been a summer of the loving dead. The latter began with my work on the “Circa Sixty Years Dead” paperback edition and it has continued with this weekend’s Zombie Walk here in Sacramento.

Sacramento Zombie Walk and Carnival of the Dead

Today was the 17th annual Zombie Walk for Sacramento. But I only attended the pre-Zombie Walk Carnival of the Dead, yet hardly even that. There were a lot of neat games and booths there, not to mention costumes of the living dead. However, it was so damn hot on this 104-degree fahrenheit Saturday afternoon/early evening that I didn’t stay for much more than an hour. I’m surprised the heat didn’t do a further job on the zombies’ already rotted skin and flesh! But the event was a knock-out and, though I wasn’t there for it, the actual walk really turned out to be a knock-out! The undead really gave it to the alt-right and they didn’t even have to be in San Francisco to do it. Check out the video coverage on it at Sacramento Zombie Walk’sFacebook page. It's the post that reads "Oh no protesters at the Zombie Walk!"

Summer of ‘Circa Sixty Years Dead’

All summer I’ve been working on the paperback edition of my short horror story, “Circa Sixty Years Dead” and finally, just last week, I got the final version of it out. As I said last time, I improved the book cover but now I’ve seen the proof of that improvement with my “proof” copy that came in the mail earlier this week. So, it’s now confirmed that the excessive pixelation of the title’s lettering and of the goddess statue are gone, and that nasty line that ran along the left edge is also out.

Like I said, for much of the summer I’ve been working on the paperback edition and it’s seemed to be a process of trial and error but one that has paid off. The process included writing the back cover summary, trying different file formats for the manuscript, releasing the book only to find out the cover was greatly flawed, and re-releasing it with the corrected cover. It’s been a long, trying process but also a worthwhile learning experience. That’s what self-publishing is all about, trying different things to see what works and what doesn’t. Kind of like writing itself, isn’t it?

Well, because I had goofed on the book cover the first time and only found out this past week with hardcopy proof that the second shot at it worked, I am still offering the paperback version for the low price of $3.89. In this way I will celebrate both the paperback release of “Circa” and this Summer of the Loving Dead all the way through the end of the month. So if you haven’t bought your copy yet then do it now because the end is almost here!

Next week: more about my imprint logo and maybe more writing tips and a mini book review.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, August 20, 2017

‘Circa’ Now With an Improved Book Cover; Imprint Logo; Joe Hill

While we still have some daylight this weekend before the solar eclipse, let me show you my past week in writing, viewing and even drawing. These include advice from son of Stephen King, author Joe Hill and the improved book cover for the paperback version of “Circa Sixty Years Dead”.

Joe Hill Interview on You Tube

This afternoon, after watching my Saturday morning (vintage) cartoons on YouTube (actually one was a live-action kids sci fi series from the seventies, Space Academy ), I watched an interview with NOS4A2 author Joe Hill. He had a lot of interesting things to say about his writing and useful techniques he uses for it. One of those techniques I’d like to try with my own stories, which helps both story and character development. That technique, he says, is taking a character from a larger work in progress and writing a separate, shorter story around it just for the sake of developing the character. That’s a technique that I can definitely use since I often struggle trying to write the first draft of a story due to not knowing my characters well enough yet. For these and many other great topics Joe discusses, check out the interview below.

Sketching An Imprint Logo

Whether a self-published author realises it or not, he or she is a publishing business. But to make this more official and known to others, that author needs publicised business promotional materials such as a business card. A self-publisher may be a small business but a business nevertheless. There is a term for small publishing companies and that is “imprint”. “Imprint” actually refers to the subsidiary of a large publishing house, but it has been used interchangeably for self-published authors. Lately, I’ve been drawing concept sketches for the logo for my imprint, which I’m strongly planning on calling “Far Out Phantastic Press”. That is, if I can fit all that on the business card.

One of the implications of graphic design is having to consider the space of the surface or medium you want to put the content on and whether it will fit without sacrificing important details. For example, originally I wanted to angle the lettering of the imprint name in order to give the effect that it was stretching back into space so it would reflect the literal meaning of “Far Out” (See first concept sketch below). However, I discovered it would not be practical in a small amount of space such as on a business card since the first two words of the imprint name would be too hard to read. So I decided to run the logo across the surface in a frontal position. Now I need to see if that can be done without having to make the lettering too tiny and therefore illegible. Here are a couple of concept sketches.

A concept sketch of part of an imprint logo with a skull for the brand icon at an angled position.
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

A concept sketch of an imprint logo with a skull as the brand image (frontal position).
Credit: Steven Arellano Rose, Jr.

Revised Book Cover for ‘Circa Sixty Years’ Paperback

“CircaSixty Years Dead” paperback edition is now available with its improved cover. However, I only ordered my “proof” copy of it a couple days ago so I cannot say how improved the graphics are. But because I used the tools suggested by Kindle Direct Publishing to make the recommendedchanges, I’m expecting some significant improvement. You can purchase a copy now, [link] still only $3.89, or you can wait until yours truly makes the full test of the product and therefore receives his copy to tell you how it really turned out. That is, if Monday’s solar eclipse doesn’t turn out to be a bad omen causing the postal carriers to lose course in the dark. Because the poor cover of the first release of the paperback was at least partly my fault, I will leave the price at $3.89 through next weekend, maybe even through that following Monday. By then the solar eclipse will have been long done and so I should have received the print copy in the mail to tell you how it turned out.

I’ll have more about “Circa Sixty Years Dead” paperback edition and the name and image in my imprint logo next post.

Until then . . .  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Tools Not to Miss if You Self-Publish a Paperback

If you happen to not have purchased the paperback copy of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” then no worries. You may be better off waiting a few days and I’ll leave it at its initial low price of $3.89 a little longer. The reason I’m saying this is because, as I promised you last post, I purchased a copy myself as kind of a proof (or author’s) copy. It turned out to be a proof alright. A proof that it didn’t come out the way I intended it to. I confess much of this was due to myself missing overlooking certain tools on Kindle Direct Publishing’s cover creator program.

If you happened to have bought a copy of the paperback version of “Circa” you probably noticed a long, ugly, gray line running along the left edge of the front cover. Not only that, but the lettering of the title and the image under it were pixelated. “Circa” is not a cyberpunk story, so the pixelated edges won’t work for customers. I apologise if you bought it like that.

A pixelated, retro video game-style monster.

The problem is that the previewer in the book cover creator is not a precise image of what the product will look like in actuality and therefore in print. But as I said last post, we would take the risk together and I definitely took that risk. So we both wasted $3.89. But it’s not a total waste. We paid to see how well the book would turn out, and if you read it I sure hope the story at least turned out way the hell better than the cover did and that you got some of your money’s worth. So what you can do is, if you haven’t done so yet, leave a review on “Circa”’s Amazon page  and I’m perfectly fine with you saying the book cover sucks if you really think it does, because it does.

In the meantime, ever since I received my “proof” a couple days ago in the mail, I have been doing all I can to improve the cover. I confess there were some tools on the cover creator that I had somehow missed and using them could have prevented this screw up. If you happen to be planning to self-publish a paperback, espcially through Kindle Direct, take this as a warning not to miss any of these tools. One of these was a “3-D” view mode which allows you to manipulate the position of the image of the book so you can see front, back and spine.

Another tool was one that scales the image on the book cover. Kindle Direct strongly recommends all images are a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch). Using this tool, if you scale the image to a low enough or high enough percentage it will likely get rid of the pixelation and any blurriness the image may show when it comes out in print. In my case I had to scale the cover’s image down to about 23.-something (I can’t remember the exact percentage) in order to get it to the 300 minimum dpi. Once I did that, I relaunched the book and so hopefully it will be available in its improved form for purchase in the next day or two. And, because Kindle Direct doesn’t offer free or even discounted proofs, I will purchase another copy for myself once the improved form is available.

I’ll let you know more what happens with the relaunch of “Circa”’s paperback edition next time. Also next time, I’ll have news on the logo I’ve been working on for my self-publishing imprint. In the mean time, for you fellow self-publishing writers out there, have you tried KindleDirect Publishing’s paperback publishing tool yet? If so, what have your experiences been with it?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, August 5, 2017

‘Circa Sixty Years Dead’ Now In Paperback!

Well, finally it’s here! “Circa Sixty Years Dead” is now in paperback format. If you’re like me, and prefer to read books in their physical forms instead of on a screen where you can’t even feel the pages that you are reading or where you can’t even put it on your (physical, not virtual) bookshelf to show your guests that you’ve read it, then now you can have the full literary experience of “Circa”. 

To celebrate its print release, I’m offering the paperback edition of my short fiction story at a low price. After all the challenges and frustrations of navigating through self-publishing technology, it feels great to see that your book is available for purchase, let alone that it has been published—self-published at that. So I’m selling the print edition for the low price of $3.89! But this bargain won’t last long, so if you are interested in purchasing a copy or, better yet, several copies then head on over to Amazon now. In fact, as part of this celebration, I’m going to get a little narcissistic and take advantage of my own offer. Yes, I am going to purchase a copy myself!

Okay, part of the reason for doing that is that the Kindle Direct Publishing service does not offer author’s copies at a discount, unlike Create Space (which Amazon also owns) who I had self-published The Fool’sIllusion through a few years ago. If they did, then I’d probably only have to pay the same price as I would the e-book version which is 99 cents. So, we can take advantage of this offer together then!

If you do purchase and read “Circa”, please leave a review saying what you liked or didn’t like about it. Those reviews help us authors learn what we can do better in our next work to please you the readers and make our stories worth your time and money. If you are just tuning in for the first time here at the Fantastic Site, then take a look at the synopsis below to find out what “Circa Sixty Years Dead” is all about!

A book cover depicting a six-armed goddess statue with a decayed face.
Now Available in Print at Amazon!

Dr. John Jacobs is a young, eccentric archaeologist on an expedition in the Chinese-Indian border region. But then he sees a centuries-old statue of a goddess uncovered by a neighboring expedition. All he wants is to take a picture of it to forever capture its beauty. He could easily do it if it weren’t for those rigid, international regulations—regulations he is willing to go against. But Jacobs will soon find out that his own lust for the colossal artifact will result in a consequence more terrifying than any earthly penalty.

If you like Saturday matinee archaeological adventure or late night horror movies about cursed tombs and the undead, then you will like this tale by Steven Arellano Rose.

(From the back cover of “Circa Sixty Years Dead”, paperback edition)

Until next time . . .


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Book-to-TV Series Sci Fi; PDF and Self-Publishing

A robot warrior and a cat-like creature overlook a misty landscape.

The last couple days in publishing my work have both been great and frustrating.

My Latest Article On Sci Fi/Fantasy Books and TV

I said a while back that I sold an article to an online science fiction/fantasy magazine called BuzzyMag but that it may be a while before they actually publish it. Well the wait is over! The article is now live. “It’s alive! It’s alive!” (as Dr. Frankenstein in Universal’s Frankenstein shouts.) It covers one of the newest trends in sci fi and fantasy television: TV series based on books in the two genres. With TV shows like The Expanse, American Gods and The Man In the High Castle, that are all based on best-selling or award-winning books, there are many more TV shows such as these to come in the near-future. I discuss those as well as past and current shows based on novels in my article entitled “TheTop 10 SF/F TV Series Based On Books” at BuzzyMag. Feel free to leave any comments either there or here.

“Circa” Print Edition Update: Resubmitting the Manuscript as a PDF File

Speaking about publishing, an indie author like myself doesn’t really know or remember how tough self-publishing is until they are actually doing it. Yesterday when I was trying to submit my manuscript for the print edition of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” to Kindle Direct Publishing’s beta paperback publishing program, I was going through a series of file types to get the manuscript to lay out correctly. None of them worked. Amazon suggests submitting manuscripts in PDF formatted files because is more compatible to the publishing program. I had been considering making a PDF version of my manuscript since yesterday afternoon when I started having the submission problems but didn’t have a PDF converter. Or I thought I didn’t.

I tried searching the internet for a free converter that was recommended by articles in well-known tech magazines such as Wired and PC Mag. Well, it was just this afternoon that I was looking at an article at that suggested Libre Office. I’ve been using Libre Office for typing my stories for the last year or so, ever since Microsoft stopped providing its own Office package with Windows. However, I didn’t know that it had a PDF converter or editing tool until I glanced through that article. I looked on the file menu of the Writer software of my copy of Libre Office and, sure enough, there was an option to convert files to PDF that was labeled “Export as PDF”! I clicked on that with the odt (open document format) file of my manuscript open and it created a PDF copy. Now to see if Kindle’s paperback publishing program will accept the file even if it’s been created by an open source program like Libre. Microsoft Word has seemed to be the standard for everything for the last 20 years.

I’ll update you next time and let you know how the PDF file of my manuscript submission worked out. If next week’s post’s headline reads something like “’Circa Sixty Years’ Print Edition Now Available” then that means it worked out.

Until next time . . .  

Saturday, July 22, 2017

‘Valerian’ and San Diego Comic Con ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Promos

I’m submitting my complete file for the print edition of “Circa Sixty Years Dead” early next week. Hopefully it will be available for purchase by Wednesday. I’ll post an update for the release on my Facebook page and definitely here next week. As busy as a weekend it has been, I’m squeesing in some time for a summer sci fi flick—Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.


I’m always looking for the Star Wars-type blockbuster each summer and it looks like Valerian could be it. In fact, according to TheHollywood Reporter, it even borrows from Star Wars. However, according to the bulk of critics, it hasn’t been much of a blockbuster on this weekend of its release. But it’s definitely blockbuster-like yet with its own style and vision from its director, Luc Besson, who also directed The Fifth Element back in the ‘90s and look what became of that. It became a cult classic, and hopefully this movie will too. The reason I say that is because the majority of our nation’s population seems to only want to see what mass consumerism demands and so what the majority of people are willing to pay money for. They say “Screw the director’s vision!” This is how Hollywood works, unfortunately. Because of that, a good many films of unique style and vision have been turned down.

Europe’s movie industry has traditionally not been like that, this movie having grown out of France like the comic book series it originates from. Surprise! Not even a European surreal style film can get away from the comic book movie craze of the past 10 years. But I’ll see this new release on the big screen over a Guardians of the Galaxy new release anytime. Yet, hopefully it will stand well on its own while staying faithful to the comic. Not that I’ve read the comic. But if the movie’s really good I may pick up an anthology of reprints of the comic series and read it. If it’s really bad, then I’ll still read the comic because it will probably be better than the movie. Here’s a good article that compares the two. 

Blade Runner 2049 Promos

San Diego Comic Con (which I have not attended any yet) has been doing a lot of promotion of the upcoming Blade Runner sequel, which continues the adventures of Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) and a new generation’s hero, K (Ryan Gosling), who takes the spotlight in this film. The movie is a sequel to the 1982 original that’s based on Philip K. Dick’s book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. I read two interesting articles on the con’s promotion of the movie: one about a VR/ live-performance combo tease, the other about a timeline graph that shows the events between thefirst film and the upcoming one (which is due to release in October). Check them out!

That’s what’s happening this weekend. Next weekend will be two cons which I may or may not go to both but will attend one of them for sure. I’ll talk about that more then along with other topics in sci fi/fantasy reading, writing and viewing.

Do you think Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is destined to become a cult classic like The Fifth Element?

Do you think the sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner will be good even though it won’t be based directly on Philip K. Dick’s novel (since the novel itself never had a sequel)?

Until next time . . .

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Wizard World Con Report, Part II: More Writing Tips!

Two posts ago I gave a report of two panels that I attended at Wizard World Comic Con in Sacramento. [link] I highlighted the fiction writing advice given at these panels. One of the panels was about the Satan myth in the dark fiction genre and the term for the genre itself. I said that author Richard Kadrey talked about his Satan character in the Lucifer comic book series and that he talked some more about it in his villain creation panel later that same day. That panel is included here in part two of the report of the writing panels I attended. I had also said that the report would be divided into three posts, but it looks like I can complete it in two, so this is the final part.

Three members of a disco band playing in a concert.
A "Disco Revolution" band that I watched before attending my first panel on Saturday, Day 2 of Wizard World Comic Con in Sacramento. These guys are really heavy in keeping one of the earliest forms of electronica alive!
Photo Credit: the blogger

Day 2, Part II

So after the “Modern Mythology” panel, and getting lunch at the nearby 7-11 because I wasn’t going to pay nearly 10 bucks for one slice of pizza at the convention center, I attended the 2 P.M. panel entitled “Villains: Creating the Perfect Antagonist”. The panelists consisted of authors Genese Davis, Tricia Stirling (not sure if there’s any relation to Bruce Stirling), Maureen O’Leary, Eric Kieron Davis, and Richard Kadrey. This was a great discussion of what goes into a well-rounded villiain in fiction, whether prose, comic book, TV, Movies or games. One key suggestion that was given was when you create a villain for your story you should make them look natural and therefore realistic. Along with that idea, the villain should be hateful to the reader yet pitiful to some extent and so he or she should be made sympathetic to the reader.

Much of the talk about the complexity of a villainous character came when Genese asked Richard about his Lucifer character in his Lucifer comic book series. Richard’s response was that he didn’t consider Lucifer as a villain because he is a complex character. He pointed out examples of how the devil has shown good qualities (even though they may have been for evil ends) both in his comic series and in other depictions of him, including the Old Testament. In response to this, Ms. Stirling said that the more complex the villain is, the scarier he/she is. She said, “When they’ve lost everything, they have nothing to lose so they can do anything.” This means that the extent to which they do evil can be unpredictable and utmost destructive to others. Even so, as Genese said, the writer must give the villain’s side of the story (which to the villain him-/herself, they are not a villain). But going back to the good qualities the well-rounded villain has, you can see examples of how scary such a character can be. Look at Psycho, for example: the killer comes across as a very ordinary, hospitable young man. Yet when anger shows up even at a small scale when one of his guests asks about the insanity of his mother, we know something is not quite right with him.

Another great piece of advice the panelists gave was to think about the “villains” in our own lives while creating our antagonists. We’ve all encountered the “worst” of people in our lives such as unreasonable and unmerciful supervisors, corrupt cops or biased high school teachers. And so knowing the qualities of real-life people such as these can help us create the villains for our fiction. Erik Davis said that modern fears such as ones caused by war, disease, the vastness and mysteriousness of space, and overpopulation help to create a villain. Fears such as these often stem from the belief in a limitation of resources and from death and so leads to villains becoming obsessed with these fears.

The next writing panel I attended was at 4 PM and was called “Finding Time and Motivation to Write”. It was led by Genese Davis, Catherine Banks, Becky Chambers and Kelley York. They discussed how to make the time to write during our busy schedules. I got more notes from the motivation part of the panel than the time part. Some of the advice offered was breaking down your writing goal(s) into smaller or “sprint” goals (as one of the panelists called them). Doing this helps schedule your writing more easily as well as keeping on top of it.

One of the motivation techniques was one that concerned location. Genese suggested that to get yourself excited about your story you can write in a different location than you normally would. For example, if you normally write at home and feel like you’re losing the motivation to write, then work on your writing in a coffee shop on certain days. It was also mentioned that one cause of losing motivation to write is fear of the project not working out and what other people will think of it. It was discussed that this fear must be overcome or your going to lose interest in writing.

Other suggestions for motivation was to surround yourself with plenty of resources that would inspire you to write such as art or photos in your genre. With internet you can almost always find these. I commented on this by saying to everyone that what has helped me is reading bios or, better yet, autobiographies of authors or watching documentaries, interviews and talks by your favourite authors. You can find plenty of these on YouTube if you just put in the name of the author in the search box.

Another great motivator someone brought up was, what they called, an “award system”. It works something like this: set a goal to write so many words and then award yourself when you reach it. For a higher number of words, make the award bigger. For example, tell yourself if you write 500 words in one day then you’ll play ten minutes of your favourite video game; if you reach 1000 words in a day, you’ll spend a half hour playing that game, and so on.

But one of the most important motivators was stressed by Ms. Davis at the end of the panel and that was networking. Networking is an important motivator because it can be wearing and even discouraging to always handle our writing by ourselves. When we talk to each other either in person or online about our writing projects and give each other advice and ask for help, it takes the load off us a lot more than if we handled all aspects of our writing alone. It makes it much easier or at least manageable in handling our writing projects.

Also, I believe someone said that networking does include blogs. All writers, especially self-publishing ones like myself, should have a blog as well as visit other writers’ blogs and discuss what works for them and what doesn’t. Also leave comments on other writers’ blogs. So if you feel your lacking a writers network, you can start involving yourself in one right now and here! Leave a comment about the post. To help you get started, some questions you can answer are ones such as: of the above writing advice, which one do you find most helpful? What motivates you most to write? When you don’t feel motivated then what do you do to motivate yourself? Leave your answers in the box below.

Day 3

On Sunday of the con, I didn’t attend any writers panels, but I did attend a panel called “How to Build a Geek Brand”. However, I won’t go into it a lot because this was more of a marketing panel than a writing one but it helps in promoting your work. Just a couple of highlights were how to name your brand and how to finance it (which Patreon and Kickstarter were suggested platforms for)

The panels at Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento were mostly aimed at comic book writers and artists. But the above panels I mentioned can work both for prose fiction writers as well as comic book writers. That’s because both mediums are forms of storytelling and when writing is behind the storytelling the basic elements are all the same: clarity, connecting the writing to your readers, and keeping yourself motivated in your writing.

Next week, I’ll return to discussing the status of my seemingly never-ending writing projects.

Until then . . .

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Cover Reveal: 'Circa Sixty Years Dead' Front and Back

I know, I said last week that I would have part two of the Wizard World Comic Con report here. But the last few days have been hectic with time sensitive book promotion projects and getting the pad (house) ready for family coming from out of town that I haven't been able to finish writing the report. And to make matters worse, I haven't released the print edition of Circa Sixty Years Dead. Liar, liar pants on fire me! Actually, there's a good excuse for delaying the latter: I thought it would be a good idea to so a cover reveal for the back cover summary, which I did finish as I said I would last post, and give you the opportunity to give your opinion of it before I release the book. Your comments about how well the summary itself works will be greatly appreciated, but I'm also open to any feedback about the overall appearance of the back cover. In order to see the cover's details more clearly, simply click on the image.

I'll have the rest of the con report with more writing advice here next week.

Until then . . .

Book cover, front and back, with a six-armed goddess statue on the front and summary on the back.
Front and back cover for Circa Sixty Years Dead, print edition (simply click the image to see the details better)
Credit: Steven Rose, Jr.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Wizard World Con Report, Part I

A backdrop with the Wizard World Comic Con Logo and the silhouette of a city.
Credit: Wizard World

I apologise for missing last week’s post. I was busy with a special writing project that was due any day and so I didn’t have time to post anything except to my Facebook page. You can visit my Facebook page for any updates in between blog posts. 

I promised you a fuller report of Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento in my last post and so that’s what I have here for you today. However, I don’t have enough time to go over all three days of the con in one post, so I’m going to break up the coverage into three parts. The con offered a lot of great events such as cosplays and panels on comic book creation, including art and writing. I’m not a costumer but I just dug seeing the people who are and that go way, way out with their apparel! And that’s a great thing. To see what I mean, check out the photos in my last post if you haven’t done so yet. 

But my favourite part about sci fi and fantasy conventions is talking to the other artists and writers as well as attending their panels. Panels by experienced writers and artists don’t only give you great tips for your own work or insight about what goes into your favourite comic book series or novel series, but they also give you motivation to create and read more. And even though this convention emphasised comic creators, many of the creativity panels--especially the ones on writing--work for fiction in any medium whether it be comics, prose books, TV, movies or even video games. So here’s the more detailed highlights of Wizard World Comic Con Sacramento that was held at the convention center in downtown Sacramento, June 17 through 19.

Day 1 of Wizard World

I don’t have a lot to say about day one, since I was only at the convention for a couple hours and only attended one panel and it wasn’t even the whole thing. I went there that late, hot Friday afternoon mostly to pick up my admission wrist band and check out the refreshing air conditioned dealers room which was almost the size of the Golden 1 Center arena. Dealer booths covered at least a good three quarters of it.

So after I looked around at some art and talked to a couple comic book creator friends at their booth, I sat down at the panel that was going at the Creative Stage set up their in the dealers room. The panel was called “From Beginning to End: The Art of Plot”. There were at least three panelists there. The main one was comic book creator Victor Dandridge and one of the others was novelist Todd Gallowglas. I did not take notes on this panel, because I was only there for about ten minutes, but I do remember Todd saying something like that one of the things he does to motivate himself to write and finish his books is that he puts his empty wallet in front of him at his work space and that reminds him of the bills he has to pay. And another panelist said that, for him, there’s no such thing as writer’s block and that it’s only a fear of writing. If I remember correctly, he said that the easiest way to handle it is to write anything no matter how much of crap it is. Whatever, I believe this approach to writer’s block and have heard of it from other pro writers. Just write the rough draft and complete it; there will be plenty of time for revision and even re-creation later.

Day 2

As far as Saturday’s writing panels I attended go, the first one was called “Modern Mythology, Classic Horror and the Devil Incarnate”. The main panelist was Richard Kadrey, writer of the comic book series Lucifer, which was no wonder they named the panel the way they did. But much of this talk discussed the dark genres such as horror and dark fantasy although Kadrey said he does not like the word “dark” because it’s a relative term and that he doesn’t like being labeled as a dark genre author. This is a problem that many writers have when their books have been published and marketed, especially famous authors because they tend to be looked at only for the genres they mostly write in. I don’t plan to limit myself to writing dark fiction or science fiction for the rest of my life, even though they’re my favourite genres and I’ll regularly write in them. But because I like literature that is dark, especially supernatural fiction, the word “dark genre” doesn’t bother me in the least.

The problem one of the other panelists, author Genese Davis, had with the genre label of “dark” was that it scares people away from buying, reading or watching things in that category. But my belief is that if it scares those people away, then that’s not our target audience and that’s probably a category of fiction not for them. That is why we classify fiction into genres. Personally, I want to know what I’m purchasing or checking out before I spend my money or time reading the book. I do read outside the speculative genre, but when I want to read in it I want to know where to find it in a book store or library.

Kadrey went on to give a really great writing tip. That tip was to that when we write to go into the project with as much ignorance as possible for better creativity. I believe what he meant by this was that if you write with as little conceived notion as possible about how you want your story to turn out, it will more likely come out as a unique piece. It goes along with my personal philosophy about writing, especially fiction writing, which is that it is a journey. It’s a trip that you take into a conceived time and space, into a setting of a sort, where you don’t know what you will come across or how you will get to the end. Approaching fiction writing in this way helps you to develop your story in directions other writers haven’t taken before and it makes it more enjoyable for you as the writer. I mean, who wants to take a trip knowing ahead of time exactly every detail they are going to see? That would be boring and unenriching.

The panel also discussed mythology in today’s pop literature, TV and movies. Richard talked about his approach to his Greek god characters in his novel, Sandman Slim. He said that every Greek deity “is a jerk” and that this makes their characters ambivalent and he wants to keep the continuity in that trait between his stories. This is why the Greek deities continue being popular in today’s story-telling because, unlike many of the other deities of mythology, they are flawed and very human-like. The difference between them and humans is that the gods are immortal and they have powers that exceed the strength of humans.

As far as the Satan character goes, Kadrey mostly talked about how the devil is depicted in his own work which is as a hero, particularly in Lucifer. So the version of his Satan derives, as he explained, from Milton’s in Paradise Lost. He discussed the Satan/Lucifer character more in his other panel I attended that day, which I will talk about in the next post.

“Circa Sixty Years Dead” Update

I just finished the back cover summary for the print edition of “Circa”. I’m going to add it to the back cover in the template and will submit the book for publication during the week. Hopefully it will be available for purchase by the next post.

Until then . . .