A Symmetrical Strategy

Writing is a novel is super-duper easy. Oh wait, I got my words wrong. Writing a blog post is a breeze. No, that’s not even true. Okay, forget writing for a moment. The other night I was reading a bedtime story to my 5-year-old daughter when I was suddenly struck by the amount of cross-hatching in the illustrations. At first glance, the drawings of a little boy and his bear were fairly simple. I’d read the book several times to her and never paid much attention to the artwork, but for some reason that night I focused in on the cross-hatching, which is the technique for creating shaded areas in a drawing through the use of repeating lines. The length and spacing of the lines determine the amount of shade perceived by the eye at a distance. This drawing of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a straightforward example.

Shakespeare probably just winged it: no planning, no plotting, and no rewrites. Riiiight…

The little bear in the story got lost one night when he was picked up in a swooping owl’s claws. The drawings of the moon, the owl and the bear in the nighttime sky were filled with cross-hatching far finer and subtler than in the Globe illustration here. I stopped reading for a few seconds and marvelled at the amount of time it must have taken the artist to produce such an effect. I thought to myself, I could never, ever have the patience to sit there and draw line after line with no margin for error. Then my daughter elbowed me with an impatient “Daddy!” and I boomeranged back from my reverie, acutely aware that parents aren’t supposed to space out in the middle of a bedtime story.

What does all this have to do with writing a novel? It’s all about the work involved. I sometimes forget that stringing together a bunch of words, then painstakingly going back over them and replacing some of them or changing their order is just as daunting for non-writers as creating a complex illustration would be for me. It’s hard. It’s often kind of annoying. And sometimes you get stuck. (Quick joke: part of my next novel is set in Paris and I’m worried that I might suffer from writer’s bloc.)

What does all this have to do with me writing a novel? Well, I promised I would publish the sequel to Silent Symmetry in “late 2013”. Now I realize that my writing strategy was wrong and I’m going to have to break that promise. Fortunately for my reputation, authors are notorious for breaking promises; we literally make things up that aren’t true for a living.

I don’t mind allowing readers a peak behind the creative curtain, so here’s my new writing and publication strategy for books two and three of the Embodied trilogy. Instead of planning, writing and rewriting book two, Starley’s Rust, then spending the time and effort it takes to publish and market it properly before embarking on the creation of book three, I’m going to plan and write books two and three back-to-back, then rewrite, publish and market book two. Once that is on the Kindles and iPads of a bunch of readers, I’ll rewrite, publish and market book three. This will allow me to more effectively control both the overall flow of the story and each book’s release date. This doesn’t just help me, it will also, crucially, give my readers a more fulfilling experience because, a) the books should be better; and b) readers of book two won’t have to wait nearly as long to read the conclusion of the trilogy.

So what we’re really dealing with here is some delayed gratification. Fortunately, I’m not illustrating my books too, or the delay would be far, far longer than the gratification!

Photo credit: Futurilla / Foter / CC BY-NC

Silent Symmetry’s final Amazon KDP Select free promo

Tomorrow marks the 180th day since Silent Symmetry was published on Amazon. In that time I’ve used eight of the ten KDP Select free days allowed by Amazon to get the book into the hands of about 6,000 targeted readers. As I wrote somewhere else, for an unknown novel by an unknown author, this is the equivalent of major radio airplay. Is it translating into sales? Slowly but surely. And as the first book in the Embodied trilogy, I’m looking at the long-term picture in terms of building an audience.


Summer sounds of Silent Symmetry

I’m using the last two free days today and tomorrow, so we’ll see how many new readers will come on board. I’ve also taken the first steps towards publishing Silent Symmetry for Apple iPads and iPhones, and for the Nook, Sony and Kobo ereaders (I have to wait till at least Thursday to publish according to the KDP Select agreement) so I’m excited to be able to get the book into the hands of a bunch of people who might have been missed so far.

It’s all about the readers. And the ereaders…

Photo credit: Brandon Christopher Warren / Foter / CC BY-NC

Self-published genre fiction takes off in Britain

News today from the UK that self-published titles now account for 20% of ebooks sold in certain genres: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/11/self-published-ebooks-20-per-cent-genre.

A typical publishing industry genre fiction gatekeeper.

Interestingly the counter argument from a publisher quoted in the article refers to the industry acting as a gatekeeper, which I discussed (with myself, as most bloggers do!) in a previous post here. The thing is, the gatekeeper issue is getting fuzzier. Mainstream publishers routinely pour their marketing budgets into celeb-penned books and name-brand authors, while websites that act as gatekeepers for self-published books gain more traction with every passing month. Maybe it’s because they’re truly independent?

Photo credit: info@djophoto.com / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

The New Sense is a new ebook

I hereby announce the soft launch of The New Sense, my contemporary fiction novel in the form of a blog by a young woman named Sara who is trying to find (and discover the mysterious true identity of) the father of her unborn child.

Right now, The New Sense is available on Amazon in Kindle format, but of course you can download the free Kindle software for iPad, iPhone and PC if you don’t have a Kindle.

Click here or on the cover below to read a free sample on Amazon.

But shhhh… it’s a soft launch.

The New Sense cover_72dpi

Random noises about Silent Symmetry

The totally incredible cover for Silent Symmetry was finished last week, and the first book in my Embodied trilogy is now available on Amazon. Many, many thanks to Alex Nereuta for again doing an amazing job with the cover design. It actually makes me want to read the book, and I already know what happens! Judge for yourselves:

Book 1 of the Embodied trilogy - design by Alex Nereuta.

Book 1 of the Embodied trilogy – design by Alex Nereuta.

What’s Silent Symmetry about, you ask? Well, I’ve cooked up a blurb, and here it is, fresh out of the blurb oven:

Silent Symmetry
a mystery-fantasy love story

Book 1 of the EMBODIED trilogy

The Embodied glide through the busy streets of New York, uttering barely a sound.

Their eerie beauty comes from their perfect symmetry. Male, female, old, young… their faces are always absolutely symmetrical. Are they flawless humans, the epitome of evolution? Are they a genetically modified super-race? Are they extra-terrestrials? Once prep school student Kari Marriner becomes aware of their existence, she is driven to find the answer and finds herself ensnared in a web that reaches further than she could possibly have imagined.

Kari’s earliest memory is her father’s death in a car crash back in small-town Wisconsin. Now, 12 years later, her mother has been hired by a pseudo-religious organization in Manhattan called the Temple of Truth (a.k.a. the ToT). At Chelsea Prep, Kari develops a crush on classmate Cruz. But when she realizes that Noon, another attractive guy at school, is involved with the ToT, her curiosity gets the better of her.

Kari stumbles upon a secret tunnel leading from her apartment to another in the building, where an ancient book holds images she can scarcely believe, and a cavernous room contains… something inexplicable. As Kari pieces together the incredible evidence, she discovers that the ToT is run by other-worldly beings called The Embodied who influence human behavior and have established a global long-term human breeding program. But why? And what is her role in all this?

Just as she starts wondering whether the love she feels for Cruz is genuine or if her emotions are being controlled by The Embodied, her mother is kidnapped and Kari has to figure out who is human, who is Embodied, and who she can count on to help rescue her mother.

Silent Symmetry is the exciting first novel in JB Dutton’s EMBODIED trilogy. The second instalment, Starley’s Rust, will be published in late 2013.

Silent Symmetry is available on Amazon exclusively until mid-April, but if you’re dying to read it and don’t own a Kindle, fear not – you can download free Kindle reader software for your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android phone or toilet*.

Of course if you’re in Canada or Britain you’ll want to download it from Amazon.ca or Amazon.co.uk. As you can see from the blurb, Silent Symmetry is set in the U.S., so if you’re offended by American spellings and vocabulary, please read it sitting next to a cuspidor for spitting into every few sentences.


*Kindle toilets only available in Japan.

New baby (aged 4-8)

In the midst of putting out my YA novel Silent Symmetry and editing the manuscript of my contemporary novel The New Sense, I’ve also been planning a third ebook release: The Christmas Bat, an illustrated children’s book for 4-8 year-olds (and their mothers who typically buy these books). The title character is a bat called Barry who isn’t into Halloween like his brothers and sisters because he doesn’t like scaring people. So he decides to get involved with Santa and make kids happy at Christmastime. But then things start to go wrong…


They can be cute. Honest!

I wrote The Christmas Bat about 5 years ago for my little boy Sacha, and even though he’s now a much bigger boy, he still loves the story. So much so that he thinks other kids would like it too. Now that I’ve figured out how to self-publish ebooks, publishing this one shouldn’t be a huge effort. Except that it needs pictures. And my drawing ability isn’t much better than the 4-8 year-olds that the book is intended for.

To cross this hurdle I had a meeting yesterday with a young illustrator called Tatiana who is not only extremely talented, but also has a style that is influenced by the Soviet cartoons she watched in her native Ukraine as a child. This is great because the illustrations for a children’s book ideally should be as memorable, engaging and fun as possible. They need to reflect the feel of the story, but also capture and bring its characters to life. Tatiana’s essentially foreign esthetic will help make The Christmas Bat stand out from the crowd.

Judging by the preliminary sketches I saw yesterday, Tatiana will be more than capable of giving Barry and the other characters in The Christmas Bat their own personalities. I’m really excited to see what she does next. It’s one thing to picture what the characters you have created on the page look and act like, but quite another to see them take shape from someone else’s imagination.  Our goal is to make The Christmas Bat available for Kindle Fire, iPad and other colour devices in time for the 2013 Holiday Season. And the best thing about the project is that it’s great fun!

Oh, and have you ever wondered how Santa delivers presents to houses that don’t have chimneys for him to climb down? Read The Christmas Bat when it’s published and you’ll find out the surprising answer!

Photo credit: onkel_wart (thomas lieser) / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Finally, Apple!

I don’t know if it used Apple Maps to get there, but it took over three weeks for my short story collection Life is Good to make it down the pipeline from Smashwords to the Apple iBookstore.  So I’ve learned a valuable ePublishing lesson: what you can do in a day on Amazon takes almost a month with Apple!

Life is Good cover

I’ll probably put up some permanent links to all the purchase channels on the blog homepage, but in the meantime here are the links for readers with iPhones and iPads:

United Kingdom: http://itunes.apple.com/uk/book/isbn9781476066547

USA: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/isbn9781476066547

Canada: http://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/isbn9781476066547

Of course, like all authors, I receive higher royalties when readers buy through Smashwords, so here’s the book’s link on the Smashwords site: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/219236

I made 78¢!

My fiendish plan to publish a pseudonymous eBook short story as a technical test for my upcoming collection and YA novel has been successful beyond my wildest dreams! Someone actually bought it for 99¢! And I made 78¢ of that! I’m rich!! Mwahahahahah!!!

Beyond the incredible wealth I have accumulated, I’m glad I did the test, because it showed: a) I can code an eBook correctly using Smashwords, b) there are subtle differences between how the final product looks on a Kindle and iPad, and c) an interesting cover and blurb really incite curiosity (and in this case obviously led to someone reading the 30% free sample and buying the whole story).

Speaking of covers, I had a meeting this week with my publisher Chris Trudeau and cover designer Alex Nereuta, who presented us various mock-ups. Alex came up with a fantastic concept that manages to perfectly encapsulate the story and theme of The New Sense while adding a feeling of mystery and drama, plus two eggs sunny side up. Okay, not the eggs. Not only is it going to be a great cover, it inspired ideas (and a lively creative discussion) for a promo video. Any Adobe After Effects students out there who would like a chance to work on a cool project for peanuts? Or, if you are such a person and have a peanut allergy, the chance to work on a cool project for a pint of Guinness or maybe even two?