Kickstarter Update #7: Art

You can also view this update on Kickstarter.

Covers sell books. Despite what everyone always says about “not judging a book by its cover,” the fact is that a good cover makes a huge difference on how likely a book is to sell. This can be especially true of ebooks, since the cover is the first (and perhaps only) thing a reader will see on the online store. A good synopsis and 5-star reviews help too, but most readers won’t see those things until they click on the book cover in order to see more information.

I’m not a skilled artist at all, which is why I’m hiring a professional for my book covers. I’ve seen some poorly made covers made by self-published authors, and the quality difference is obvious, even to an untrained eye. This self-publishing venture is a business, For any business to succeed, it takes the investment of a lot of time and money. The investments are going to be well worth it in the long run, though.

I’ve already made contact with the artist I’m going to hire to do the cover for “Radiance.” I had looked over several different artists, but there was one in particular whose art I just absolutely adored. I knew the moment I saw the samples on the artist’s website (which included book covers that had been made for other authors) that this person was the perfect choice for me. We’ve already discussed the style and the themes that are going to be portrayed in the cover art. I’m very excited about the ideas we’ve discussed, and I can’t wait to see the first mockups as the process goes on. Based on the schedule and timeline we discussed, the cover isn’t expected to be complete until after the kickstarter is over (which works out perfectly for having the funds available to pay the artist’s fees). I’ll probably send out a preview of the cover when it’s ready before the ebook itself is published, though since the rest of the book is complete I should be able to upload it for sale as soon as the art is ready.

Of course, I don’t know the exact fee for the art yet, since it’ll depend on the artist’s time and expenses. So I hope you’ll continue to help spread the word and help me rally more support for this project. The project is very nearly at the minimum $200 goal, but it will be a big help if it can surpass that.

Thank you for all your help.

Kickstarter Update #6: Poetry

You can also view this update on Kickstarter.

I don’t often see poetry included in works of fiction. “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” contained some poems and songs, but they’re the sort of thing that doesn’t seem to be included often. Part of the reason is surely because poetry and fiction are very different writing styles. Comparing the two is like comparing singing to playing a musical instrument; both are forms of music, but the skills required for each are very different.

Before beginning work on the “Arcana Revived” series, I didn’t work with poetry often. I have studied it in college, and worked on it over the years, but it wasn’t a focal point of my work. The main reason I started working with poetry again is because Gabriella Palladino, the main protagonist of “Manifestation,” is a poet. Writing her character frequently put me in a poet’s mind frame, and I began writing poems from her perspective. Over time, I wrote a large number of poems that are all written as if Gabby were the one writing them. They were inspired by the events in her life, including the development of magic throughout the course of the novel.

The poetry collection included for most backer levels, “The Poetry of Gabriella Palladino,” contains poems that were inspired by mystical and tragic events. As a result, the poems have magical elements and supernatural themes. The sample poem I linked to, “Shadow,” is a good example of the supernatural themes in the poems. In that poem, Gabby’s shadow seems to come to life and speak to her. While this is metaphorical, not literal, it hints at the supernatural nature of the world Gabby is living in.

The poetry collection is almost 4000 words (40 pages in Word, double spaced). I hope those of you who selected a rewards package that includes the poetry collection will enjoy it, and see it as a good value for your contribution.

Thank you for your continued support. I’d appreciate if you’d continue to spread the word and let others know about this project. I’ve nearly hit my minimum goal after only a week, but the more people who see the project, the better chance there is of reaching the higher goals. A few tweets can go a long way.

Kickstarter Update #5: Sharing the Spotlight

As I mentioned in an earlier update, there are a lot of characters planned and developed for the “Arcana Revived” series. The issue with writing a novel sometimes is that you can’t tell the “whole” story. There is a main plot, and the events in the novel should always be relevant to that main plot.

With traditional publication, this usually leads to a lot of undeveloped potential in a novel’s world. We only get a very brief glimpse of Tom Bombadillo, Chase Brandstone, or any Weasley not named Ron. There just isn’t enough room for a lot of these interesting characters once they’ve served their purpose in the plot. As a result, they tend to disappear, and only sporadically surface again if they’re even seen again at all. Some book series (such as the Wheel of Time or the Xanth series) run long enough that a lot of the minor characters get plenty of development, but in most cases, the second string gets sidelined.

In some cases, spinoff series will end up focusing on the fascinating, but ultimately ignored characters that we see in a book series. My solution, however, is different. Rather than let these characters get sidelined, I’m writing short stories like “Radiance” to develop these secondary characters and tell their stories. This is something that I haven’t really seen before in traditional publications, unless there are enough stories together to make a compilation. I will probably release a compilation in the future after I’ve published enough stories, but to begin with I’m going to release them as singles. Ebooks are a good way to do this; I doubt many traditional publishers would want to print and distribute single stories from their authors, since it just wouldn’t be practical. With Ebooks, however, the game has changed. Anyone in the world can download a short story to their ereader with ease.

I also think it’ll be a good business plan. Writing, revising, and publishing a novel is a long and hard process. At best, I might be able to produce a novel once every year or two. Short stories, however, are easier to produce. I can release several each year, and that will give my fans (once I have some) something new of mine to read on a regular basis. It’ll keep them from forgetting me in the time between novel releases.

And in the long run, every short story I release will be one more product I have for sale. The more I have to sell, the more I have to offer my readers, and the more chance there is that I’ll be able to make my living off my writing.

I hope I’ll continue to gain more support in making this business plan become a reality.

Kickstarter Update #4: Goals to be Vanquished

First, I’d like to start this update by saying that today was an AMAZING day with AWESOME people showing their support. Four new backers today made astonishingly generous contributions, pushing me well over the halfway mark towards the base goal of the project. Here’s a look at the progress so far (see graph below). The blue line shows the progress day by day, up to today’s amazing leap in backers. The red line is a rough projection, showing that if progress continues the way it has been, my first goal of $200 will be reached before the end of August.

That goal? That goal is weak. It waits to be vanquished. That goal is like Frodo carrying the One Ring to Rivendell; he thought his adventure was over and he could pass the ring off to someone else, but the journey had just been begun. There’s plenty of time left to march this Kickstarter right into Mordor (though hopefully no one will lose any fingers in the process).

I’m working hard every day to spread the work about this project to as many people as possible. I can’t do it alone, though. I need the help of awesome people like you. You want to see that goal vanquished as much as I do, right? Then I hope you’ll help spread the word. Even if you don’t want to back the project yourself, it could make a huge difference if you send out a tweet and let your friends know about it. Tell your friends that you need their help demolishing a goal. Tell them it needs to be destroyed. I’m serious. Use an epic word in your tweet: vanquish, demolish, destroy, conquer, overthrow. Tell someone it’s their job to be triumphant and victorious over this puny goal. Because there’s bigger goals out there, and we can’t march up to face the next one until this one is obliterated.

Thank you for your help. I hope you’ll continue to lend me your support. This has been a great week, and I’ve never felt more confident about my writing career than I do now.

Kickstarter_Graph_8-24-13 2

Kickstarter Update #3: Developing Strong Characters

You can also read this update on Kickstarter.

Characters are the backbone of any good story. Most writers I know will tell you that a good character makes the story practically write itself; the story lives and thrives on the character’s actions, decisions, and troubles. Developing a strong character is probably one of the most important steps in any piece of writing. You can have an interesting plot, be it a war, a mystery, or a global disaster, and lose the interest of your readers if they don’t care about the people who are involved in the fighting, who are solving the mystery, or who are surviving after the disaster.

I’ve come to believe that it helps a great deal to develop the character in advance, before the story begins. That’s how it happened with my series. The two main protagonists, Gabby and Tock, were originally written in dozens of short stories long before I began work on “Manifestation.” When I started the novel, it was like “rebooting” them; I started their lives over from the beginning, with an idea of where I would take these characters and how they would develop along the way. It made a big difference, since I already knew how they would react to certain events in their lives, and it was just a matter of getting the new story developed until those events occurred.

Interesting characters are a big part of the reason I’m also developing this series to include a number of short stories. “Radiance” is, on one level, about magic returning to the world. On a deeper level, however, it’s about exploring the character of Maria, the story’s protagonist. While a short story can only delve so much into the life of a character, there were many ways in which Maria’s character directly influenced the story’s outcome. The decision she makes at the end of the story shows what she values most in life, and she uses her new-found magic to protect that which she values.

I won’t say more about Maria’s life and decisions since I don’t want to spoil the story. The point, however, is that her emotions and her decisions as a character are what makes “Radiance” the story that it is. I’m planning on having Maria return in later parts of the series, and it makes a big difference knowing what her history and her motivations are. From that perspective, “Radiance” is somewhat like a prologue or origin story, showing us where Maria comes from and what set her on her path. This is also why I have so many other short stories planned. There are a lot more characters in the “Arcana Revived” series than just Gabby and Tock; those two just steal the spotlight since they’re the main characters of the novels. Some of the short stories I’m planning are based on characters that are minor parts of the novels, but have deep enough backgrounds to deserve their own chance to shine. Giving each one their own short story on the side gives the reader a glimpse into that character’s life in a way the novels can’t.

Hopefully this project, getting “Radiance” self-published, will be just the first of many projects that let me share the lives of these characters with everyone who wants to read about them.

Kickstarter Update #2: Creating the World

Once again, I’m re-posting this update here, which was originally posted on my Kickstarter. If what you see piques your interest, I hope you’ll consider looking at the Kickstarter and becoming a backer.

—————————————-

First, I’d like to once again thank my new backers. Your support is greatly appreciated! I also noticed that a few of the newest backers aren’t people I previously knew, and instead must have stumbled across this project on Kickstarter. I’m happy to know that even people that don’t know me personally have taken an interest in this project. That tells me that there is an audience out there that goes beyond my friends and colleagues.

Though of course, if you’d like to get to know me, feel free to follow me on Twitter @cantrelljason.

—————————————–

I mentioned in the last update that the concepts for the “Arcana Revived” series started on a collaborative writing and roleplaying site. I’ve also seen many other sites and some urban fantasy stories that follow a similar theme to the one I started on. The concept was a post-apocalyptic world, where magic, dragons, vampires, and so on had returned. I’ve studied a number of such settings, and there seem to be some general themes to them:

1. A setting where supernatural things have always existed, but are kept hidden from the public (Buffy, Heroes, Harry Potter, and many vampire stories work this way, where normal people or “muggles” have no idea about the supernatural things that exist just out of sight).

2. A setting where supernatural things have always existed, and USED to be hidden, but are now out in plain sight (True Blood, X-Men (at least in the movies, where mutants have existed for years but only recently went public)).

3. A setting where supernatural things have existed in hiding or were sealed away, until an apocalypse or other event set them free (The Mummy (where they unseal the Mummy’s tomb and set him free), and quite a few video games).

4. A setting where we see supernatural things being created for the first time ever (Peter Parker bitten by a radioactive spider to become Spiderman, and similar techniques used in most superhero movies).

I thought about all of these possibilities, and realized most of them have been done again and again. I wanted to do something different (while understanding that nothing is 100% different, but you can still put a new spin on things). I didn’t like the idea of a world where magic has always existed in secret, because that inevitably leads to the existence of a secret society that has kept this knowledge secret for centuries. Whether it be the vampire coven keeping their existence hidden from the world, the wizards keeping things hidden from muggles, or superheroes hiding their secret identities, there are always large groups of people who know all about the magic/mutations/supernatural powers and just somehow keep them hidden from the world. This strikes me as unrealistic; it would take a massive conspiracy on many levels to keep such a thing hidden, and that trope falls apart if you analyze it too closely.

Instead, I went with a different concept. There is no secret society of wizards, no sealed evil in a can waiting to be released, and no single superhero with a unique power created in a way that can’t be duplicated.

In my world, magic is based on belief. Centuries ago, magic existed because people believed in it. Their belief was the fuel that generated magical energy and made magic possible. As science advanced and these beliefs were disregarded as superstition, magic began to fade from the world. People who believed in magic were considered fools (just as, in real life, many people who believe in ghosts or alien contact are treated as gullible, uneducated people who believe things other people would call nonsense). Since belief causes magic to exist, believing that it DOESN’T exist actually suppresses it. If you have a power, and you believe it will work, but there are a dozen people watching you who believe it won’t work, their anti-belief overpowers your belief, and your magic fails.

Thus, magic ceased to exist in this world because the majority of people in the world didn’t truly believe it was possible.

At least, until an event happens that changes all of that.

I’ll share some more behind-the-scenes info in the next update. Until then, thank you for your support, and please tell your friends about this project!

(You can also view this update on Kickstarter.)

Kickstarter Update #1: Some Background

I posted this update to my Radiance Kickstarter, but I’m reposting it here with the hopes of generating as much interest as possible. I hope you’ll consider taking a look at the fundraiser. Any support is greatly appreciated.

———————-

First, I’d like to give a very huge thanks to my first two backers, one of whom is a professor of mine from Rowan University (Trivia tidbit: he’s the one who taught me video editing, without which I wouldn’t have known how to make my kickstarter video (even though this video was very simple and straightforward compared to projects I’ve done in the past)).

Second, I thought I would take this time to share some more information about the background of the “Arcana Revived” series. I’ve been working on the first main novel for the series, “Manifestation,” for almost a year now. The background goes further back than that, however.

I first began developing the ideas for this series back in 2011. They began on a collaborative writing and roleplaying website, where multiple writers come to create joint stories where each person contributes a page at a time. The setting of the site was an urban fantasy environment, and that’s what first sparked the idea of writing urban fantasy (instead of medieval fantasy, as I had written in the past).

I developed the two main characters of “Manifestation,” Gabriella Palladino and Tock Zipporah, while writing on that site. I eventually decided that I wanted to expand my writing into something larger, since the collaborative site didn’t allow massive world-changing stories (since those would affect every other writer on the site; everyone had to keep the events they wrote small-scale to keep things open for the other writers). I had ideas that could go far beyond just two characters’ lives, so I started writing my own story so that I could develop something much grander.

I began building a world of my own, one where everything is based on belief. Belief plays a central role to the plot lines of both the novel “Manifestation” and the short story “Radiance.” Belief is what gives magic its power.

I’ll share some more details about this project in future updates. I hope it interests you enough to encourage you to support it. Thank you.

Kickstarter Project for the Short Story “Radiance”

Last week, I posted about the secret project I’ve been working on. It’s now live, and I hope you’ll go take a look at it:

I’m running a Kickstarter pledge drive for my new self-publishing career.

The link to the Kickstarter has a full explanation of the project details, but here are the basics. I’ve decided that “Manifestation,” and all other books in the “Arcana Revived” series are going to be self-published. I’ve been doing a LOT of research into self-publishing lately, and while it’s sure to be a major challenge, I’m confident that I can pull it off. However, there are some challenges that I need to deal with.

The first challenge is paying for cover art. I have a particular artist I’m interested in hiring, but before I can hire her, I need to be able to afford to pay her. Considering that I’m also living alone, paying rent, and covering tuition costs for my grad school education at Rowan, putting out the money for cover art ($200 minimum, maybe more, for a single piece of art) is an expense I can’t really afford. Especially since I don’t know how long it will take for book sales to be high enough to turn a profit after putting out the money in advance.

Therefore, I’m holding a Kickstarter fundraiser with the hopes of raising the money to pay for the cover art (and, hopefully, other expenses like a professional editor). I’m hoping to self-publish multiple works. So far, the “Arcana Revived” series is a minimum of three novels (Manifestation, Contamination, and Collapse). There are also multiple short stories I’ve written and plan to publish along with it (Radiance, Man of Faith, Soldier of Light, and a few others, possibly including revised and expanded versions of Crying and Maternal Instincts, the flash fiction stories I posted online). The first ebook I’m planning to release is for the short story “Radiance,” since it’s the one I’ve put the most work into so far (It’s been through five revisions and two critiques, and is polished to as perfect as I can get it). I’m planning to release “Radiance” as a sort of preview for the events in my world, before “Manifestation” is ready.

But I’m not just asking for donations; if you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, here’s how it works: Backers pledge a certain amount of money, and in exchange, they get rewards. The Kickstarter page itself details the specific rewards I’m offering, but I’ll give a basic summary here. For a $1 pledge (which is also going to be the ebook price for the “Radiance” short story), you get a copy of the ebook. It’s basically like preordering. The ebook contains the 3000 word short story, and a poem written from the perspective of Gabby Palladino, the main protagonist of “Manifestation.” For higher pledge amounts, you can also receive a special thanks credit in the ebook, and an additional PDF of Gabby Palladino’s poems. I’m also offering professional critiques, so if you pledge a certain amount, I will proofread/critique a work of yours for you. Then I’m offering ghostwriting services; for different pledge amounts, you can buy a story that I will write according to your specifications. You tell me what you want to see, and I write it for you. After it’s done, you own the story, and you can sell it, publish it, or whatever.

That’s basically it. My hope is to raise enough money to at least buy the first cover art, for “Radiance.” I’m also hoping to raise enough for the other books in the series, but I’m focusing on one goal at a time. I hope you’ll help me launch my self-publishing career (and you’ll get cool rewards in the process!). Please take a look, and forward it to your friends if you think any of them would be interested.

I’ll be posting regular updates, both here and on the Kickstarter page, as the drive continues over the next 30 days. Thank you.

Going with the Ideas as they Come

They look more alike when it’s just a 25×25 avatar.

Yesterday, I was talking to my friend, the lovely and talented J. Elizabeth Hill. (I’m not sure what the “J” stands for, since she always has it abbreviated. I think it might be “Julie.” But I always call her “Owl,” because the cover to her book, Bound (which you should totally go buy and read), looks like a horned owl to me:

But I digress.)

Owl and I were talking, and we somehow got on the subject of angels. I’m not really sure how, but this type of conversation is normal for us. While we were talking, I started thinking about an old character of mine, Minori Tsujino. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, the characters Gabriella Palladino and Tock Zipporah were both originally written on collaborative writing and roleplaying sites. Minori was another character I wrote on the same site Gabby and Tock started on. She was rather unique, and I always enjoyed writing her.

Back when I first started this blog, I intended to have a wider variety of characters than just Gabby, Tock, and Dr. Caldwell. What ended up happening was that these characters basically took over, and I found myself with so much to write about them that I never had time to develop the other character ideas I’d started with. The story didn’t “need” the other characters I’d thought up, and I eventually discarded most of them since I never really developed them beyond a basic concept.

Minori, however, was well developed long before all of this. She predates Tock, even. I struggled for awhile trying to think of how to fit her into the world of “Manifestation.” It’s a bit complicated, since Minori is an angel. Specifically, the Angel of Truth, Mithriel. Her concept is loosely based (read: I took a lot of creative interpretation) on the Angel of Truth from Christian mythology. The original setting I developed these characters on had a storyline where many angels had “fallen” from heaven (literally), and were trapped on Earth. That concept, however, doesn’t really fit with the mythology I’m developing for “Manifestation.” As a result, I wasn’t quite sure how my angel would fit into this world.

My chat with Owl yesterday made a few ideas click into place. As a result, I figured out a perfect way for Minori to fit into the world of “Manifestation,” in a way that matches perfectly with the concepts of magic I’ve already developed. Everything is based on belief. Belief, in fact, is a core theme to “Manifestation,” and one which is crucial to the storyline and how magic works in this world. I was able to tie the concept of belief, with regards to how magic works in my world, to the concept of religious belief, with regards to things like God and angels.

I won’t say any more, since further detail might lead to spoilers. But suffice to say, once I’d come up with these ideas, I had to sit down and write them out. The result is a new early chapter for the second book in the series, “Contamination.” It introduces Minori in a way that connects quite beautifully with the events surrounding Gabby and Tock.

Because of this, Minori is going to become a major character in the series. My mind has been buzzing already with the possibilities. None of this fits with the story structure I’ve had in mind so far, at least, not without a lot of adjustments. But the ideas I’m coming up with are beautiful and I’m totally running with them. They don’t require me to change or discard any of my previous ideas; I just need to make some room for this new branch of the storyline to fit into place.

I don’t have any idea what the end result will be. But I’m still going to go with it anyway. People familiar with the “Plotter or Pantser” philosophy will know what I’m talking about. If you aren’t familiar with these terms, a Plotter is someone who plans out every step of a story in advance. A Panster is someone who just writes as they go, and lets the story take them where they will.

I’m sort of half and half. I have a basic outline for the next two books in this series. I know certain key events that HAVE to take place, and I’m building up to them with how I’m guiding the story. However, I’m also taking certain things by the seat of my pants, since my current plans didn’t account for adding an angel as a main character.

Everyone has their own methods, but I definitely recommend going with ideas as they come. It doesn’t mean you need to discard your outlines or stop plotting things out in advance. But it does mean that your plots don’t need to be fixed in place. Things can be fluid; nothing is “canon” until the day the book hits the shelves.

And remember, if it doesn’t work out the way you like, you can always revise.

Secret Project

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed me recently tweeting about a #SecretProject. Well, I’m here to say… that it’s still a secret.

But it won’t be much longer.

I’ve been working on this project for the last few weeks. Some parts of it I actually started months ago, but there were critiques and revisions that had to be done, and then I set it aside for a time while I got the rest of the pieces in place. Now that they are in place, I’m working on finalizing revisions and getting ready for things to happen.

I’m being intentionally vague, but that’s just how it is. However, rest assured that everything will be revealed in time. Most likely next week (if there are no unexpected delays).

There’s not much else to say in this post, since there’s not much more I can say without saying too much. But I hope you’ll check back soon in order to see some exciting news (at least, I’m excited about it, though that doesn’t mean you have to be).

Until next time, folks.