Erm, no. Not to be confused with The Face of Boe from Doctor Who.
I just sent off a mockup of the cover for BARRON’S LAST STAND to cover artist extraordinaire, Tomomi Ink, (a.k.a. author TK Toppin,) as well as the elements I used. She is going to be putting everything together for me and adding that magical flash of brilliance that she does to make my book covers “epic” (as my readers have called them.)
Bo’s eyes appeared on the cover of SOVRAN’S PAWN and Blade was shown in silhouette on HERO’S END. (Or it could have been Bo’s father, or her uncle Royce — jussayin’.) BARRON’S LAST STAND will show an actual, recognizable female face and…well…you’re just going to have to wait for the rest. I am really loving what I sent to her. I cannot wait to see what she does with it because she’s brilliant, you know.
And in other news:
Several short stories are currently making the rounds among my beta readers. I hope to have a collection of short Bo and Blade adventures ready to go very soon which I hope will tide readers over until BARRON’S LAST STAND is finished and polished up.
Editor par excellence, Laurel Kriegler has talked me into making preliminary notes for a series on the ill-fated love story of Bhruic Barron and Marissa Kiara – Bo’s parents. There is a lot about their story that has never been revealed beyond my copious backstory notes and I think Laurel developed a little crush on The Barron while editing HERO’S END.
But wait, there’s more!
Fans of Blade (and let’s face it, we are legion,) will be happy to know that the first of THE MERCENARY ADVENTURES OF BLADE DEVON: ARCANA DOUBLE CROSS is still simmering on the stove top. The first draft is complete, as is the back cover blurb, and I am also toying with cover ideas.
And while BARRON’S LAST STAND may be the end of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES, it is by no means the end of Bo and Blade’s story. I’ve also started working on notes for the as-yet-unnamed series that follows.
“What do you do?”
“I’m an author.”
“Oh? Who is your publisher?”
I wrestled long and hard with myself about going the self-publishing route. I’ve been in the business a long time (since 1987) and it was hard for me to get past the self-pubbed stigma. Personally, I couldn’t shake the reminder of “Vanity Press” publishers that were the bane of the writer’s existence back in the day.
For the low cost of around $3,000 way back when, you could send your manuscript to a publisher (printer really) who would slap a lame cover on and send you back a slick-looking, but completely amateur product. There was a certain type of person who did that. They were considered by the reputably published as no-talent, wannabe hacks who couldn’t get published any other way.
Vanity press publishing was the kiss of death to any hope of having a “REAL” writer’s career. If you mentioned in a cover letter to a publisher that you’d self-published previously, I’m pretty sure they would laugh cruelly and toss your submission — unread — into the return pile, if not the circular file, depending on whether you’d included a return SASE, (that’s Self-Addressed, Stamped Envelope for you whipper-snappers.)
It was a brutal industry with high and demanding standards. I got out of the publishing industry in 1999 and threw myself headlong into my television career out of financial necessity. I knew I could rely on a steady paycheck in television. Freelance writing can be an iffy proposition, especially when you’d rather devote your full attention to fiction and not articles about dogs, apartment living, and dating. So I only wrote to supplement my paycheck on occasion.
In the time I was out of publishing, Amazon rose from a novelty online bookseller to the mega-giant of publishing that it is today.
“E-books will never take off,” I said. “They’re a passing fad. People who read love physical books, not to mention the screens are hard on the eyes.”
I’ve never been good with investments either. Self-publishing surged and I resisted. Several friends encouraged me to look into it. I used to brag that I’d been rejected by some of the finest publishing houses in the industry, which is true. Del Rey, Avon, Tor, Ballantine have all rejected my early manuscripts. (Re-reading them now, I can’t blame them.) I stubbornly clung to my old-school ways. Self-published means you’re not a “REAL” writer and you can’t get published any other way.
Ten years rolled on. I was content to remain in retirement from publishing. I’d married and was raising a family at long last. One day, a friend emailed me one of those fun chain letters in which the sender has answered a bunch of questions and spammed their friends with them and now it’s your turn to replace their answers with your own and spam your own friends. One of her answers lit a spark inside me.
“I wish I could meet Darien Roarke for the first time all over again…”
Outside of my local RWA chapter and the slush pile readers, only a precious handful of friends had ever read any of my fiction. She was my biggest and most devoted fan. I had a manuscript she hadn’t read, so I sent it to her. I hadn’t touched it in ten years. She gave me the kick in the butt I needed, and I started rewriting with an eye towards publishing once again.
I looked into e-publishers and small houses figuring I’d be most likely to find acceptance there. Angela James of Harlequin’s Carina Press put out a submission call, so I put my rewrites aside and took the backstory notes and knocked out a novella to send to her. I never sent it. During the process of writing, I did a lot of research into small press e-publishers, and finally, into self-publishing itself. What I learned changed my perspective completely.
Ultimately, I chose to self-publish the novella which became SOVRAN’S PAWN because:
It offered me more creative control over my brand,
I wouldn’t feel pressured to compromise my core values to satisfy a publisher
Looking at the smaller publishers from a publisher’s perspective (I edited and published a lifestyle magazine in my youth) I knew that if my sales didn’t meet their expectations, I could be dropped like a hot rock. Nothing personal, it is the ONLY way they could make their numbers work. High turnover is the only way to quickly build a back catalog and visible presence among customers. Keep what sells well and drop what doesn’t pay the bills. Never mind the fact the burden for marketing and networking was squarely on the author’s shoulders and not the publisher’s. I also knew that no publisher would believe in my series as much as I did, and wouldn’t feel as driven to market it. And lastly,
The quality of editing in far too many of the smaller press e-books that I was reading would NEVER have made it over the transom let alone out the door back in the day. Having aspired to being published by the lofty, “big” houses with their exacting standards, I wouldn’t allow my name to be associated with a publisher who turned out less than quality work. If there are editing errors in my books, they are solely MY responsibility, but I can promise my readers that I have done everything possible to turn out the best quality product it is within my ability to produce. I couldn’t guarantee the same from some of the smaller e-publishers whose books I was reading.
If I hadn’t had so much experience in the industry already under my belt, I may not have opted to go the self-publishing route. As it was, I knew what was involved before I started. I had done the writing, editing, layout, design, art, and marketing before. I couldn’t see where a small press or digital first publisher could do anything for me that I couldn’t do for myself. I knew that I could turn out a product that was at least as good as any digital first publisher, if not better than most.
I’m old school. Quality and integrity are of paramount importance. I want readers to know that if they pick up a book with JC Cassels’ name on it, I am providing them with the best book it is within my power to produce, technically as well as creatively. Smaller press e-publishers couldn’t guarantee that, not from the quality of products that I’ve seen out there.
For me, the biggest learning curve was unlearning everything I knew about traditional publishing. It’s not the same industry it was back in the late 80’s. On one hand, that’s good for authors who write outside the mainstream. On the other, the ease of self-publishing has relegated some damn fine authors to a different kind of slush pile in which they vie for readers rather than publishing contracts.
Ultimately, I believe a quality product will find its niche in the marketplace. The current environment means authors, self-pubbed or otherwise, just have to work harder to get the attention of readers slogging through the virtual slush pile on Amazon. This means to succeed, you can’t skimp on editing or packaging. The longer you can hang in there, and the more quality books you can get OUT in front of readers, the more likely you are to survive, self-pubbed or otherwise.
So when I’m asked who my publisher is, and I answer that I am my own publisher, I do so proudly. I bring nearly thirty years experience in the publishing industry, several awards for excellence in writing and editing, and a reputation for high standards and a quality product. It doesn’t get more professional or reputable than that.
Oh, and as for my friend, the book she was referring to in her email is ARCANA DOUBLE CROSS in which I introduced Darien Roarke as the gambling alias of the one and only Blade Devon. It is a much darker, grittier story and more of a “James Bond in space” than a romantic adventure. As for the manuscript I sent her to read, the backstory notes for that became SOVRAN’S PAWN and HERO’S END. The “new” manuscript I sent to her is still being rewritten and will be released under the title it has always had: BARRON’S LAST STAND.
…finds me hard at work on the third installment of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES – BARRON’S LAST STAND. Still no release date set, but I’ve started thinking about cover art. Here are a few mockups, complete with the swirly watermark which won’t be in the final cover. I’m not yet ready to sit down with Tomomi Ink (a.k.a TK Toppin) and hash out a final cover, but this gives me an idea of the direction I may want to go with it. If anyone has any preferences please say so in the comments.
Also working on a joint project with another author specializing in a completely different genre. This project would be a complete departure from my comfort zone and will be published under a pseudonym.
On a more familiar front, I’m also working on a Space Opera/SF Romance from my archives that has popped up on my blog before: THE LOST DOMINA.
And lastly, I’m preparing to offer HERO’S END as a paperback once again. Stay tuned for more on that front as it develops.
Dog Star Books, the science fiction imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press, is revealing another cover today. Thanks to managing editor, Heidi Ruby Miller, you can be among the first to see the cover for July 2013 release A ODD MEN OUT, a Steam Punk/Alternative History novel by Matt Betts. This edgy cover is by artist Bradley Sharp.
Coming July 2013
Fighting for survival in a post-Civil War America overrun by zombies, Cyrus and Lucinda join a military group called the Odd Men Out, and together they face a terrorist army from the North in a showdown over a weapon of enormous power.
The Civil War went on far longer than anyone expected, prompting the North and South to call a truce to fight their common enemy: The Chewers – dead men come to life to attack the living. As a result, a peacekeeping force called the Office of Military Operations is created to watch over the tenuous peace.
Cyrus Joseph Spencer didn’t fight in the war and couldn’t care less about the United Nations of America that resulted from it. His main concern is making money and protecting his crew from all manner of danger. To escape a horrible tragedy, Cyrus and one of his wards, Lucinda, board a U.N. dirigible for safety. They quickly discover their situation has not improved as the U.N. team is chasing a group of rogue soldiers in hopes of stopping them from obtaining a terrible weapon.
They also have to contend with a larger threat – Drago del Vapore – a giant lizard attacking the West Coast and wreaking havoc on everything it encounters. As the two sides face off against each other and the huge beast, Cyrus feels more and more like an Odd Man Out and finds it harder and harder to stay out of the fight.
Dog Star Books, the science fiction imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press, is revealing another cover today. Thanks to managing editor, Heidi Ruby Miller, you can be among the first to see the cover for Summer 2013 release A MIRACLE OF RARE DESIGN, an Anthropological Science Fiction novel by Mike Resnick. This edgy cover is by artist Bradley Sharp. Pretty cool, huh?
Coming Summer 2013
The best way to learn about an alien species is not only to live among them, but to become them in both physical form and function, but could a human really learn to think like an alien, and at what cost to his humanity?
Journalist and adventurer Xavier William Lennox becomes obsessed with the rituals of the Fireflies, an alien culture of gold-skinned inhabitants living on the planet Medina. When he gets too close to their mysterious society, he’s captured, tortured, and banished for his curiosity, but vows to learn what it is that the aliens are so desperate to hide, even if it means becoming one of them.
But his curiosity doesn’t end with the Fireflies. As opportunities arise to study more alien races, Lennox undergoes a series of cosmetic surgeries so that he can blend in with their cultures. But each time his humanity is stretched until he faces his biggest challenge—trying to return to the ordinary life of a man who has experienced the universe in ways he was never meant to.
Raw Dog Screaming Press recently introduced their new science fiction line, called Dog Star Books. This is relevant to me because friend and author extraordinaire Heidi Ruby Miller has been tapped for their managing editor. You may remember me gushing over Heidi’s brilliant AMBASADORA series of books. With Heidi at the helm, I look forward to great things from Dog Star Books, whose mission statement promises oodles of sf adventure in their catalog.
Heidi asked me to take part in unveiling the first cover from DSB’s 2013 cyberpunk release COG by K. Ceres Wright. This edgy cover is by artist Bradley Sharp. Pretty cool, huh?
In a futuristic world
where personalities can be downloaded at will,
who’s a girl to trust?