World Building Wednesday: Cover Art

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Hey Space Cadets, how are you doing today?  Things are good here, the interview with The Dead Robots Society Podcast went well.  As soon as I know when it’s going to go live, I’ll spread the word.  I tried not to sound like too much of an idiot, but you’ll have to be the judge of that.  And on the writing front, I’m half way done with my short story for the Four Horsemen Anthology.  I’ve also started the outline process for book four, which we’re tentatively titling Maternal Vengeance.  I don’t know the date book three, Operation Breakout, will go live but I’ll keep everyone posted.

 

Now, on to today’s World Builder Wednesday!  Today we talk about cover designs!  I’m no expert, and I’m actually colorblind, so this is a hard one for me.  My friends Corey and MLS Weech are actually much better at this part, so you should check them out if you want an expert opinion on the topic!  To my way of thinking, there are several steps you have in picking the cover for your next best seller, and I’m sure I’m missing a few. So rather than tell you this is the way, let me just say that this was my way. That’s right, the Burger King of cover designs.

 

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The first step in picking out a cover was to figure out my genre, since I know each genre and subgenre have their own idiosyncrasies.  Once I knew where my book would fall in the pantheon of fictional greatness, it was a simple matter of looking at other well received covers in that genre.  I found out what expectations they created, trying to get a general feel for my own design.  This step is the most dangerous, as you could spend hours drooling over art and lose yourself so completely that your wife and kids send out the hounds and form a search party.  Be warned, never browse covers alone!  Seriously, that’s my PSA for the day!!  Don’t do it, you’ve been warned!

 

Once I knew what I wanted, overall, I started to figure out designs for my own book.  How could I come up with a cover for my own book that fit within this niche?  You want to do two things; show your reader what type of book they’re getting, and not create false expectations of your own book. You don’t want pictures of spaceships on your novel if they’re planet bound.  Nor would your cover have some half naked beefcake if you’re writing lesbian erotica.  The cover HAS to show the potential reader what they’re likely to find inside.  For me, this meant considering the overall theme of the book and scenes from within it.  How you choose to go about it is largely dependent on the book you write, but you have to have a starting point for any potential artist you hire.

 

After you pick the general idea you want for this masterpiece, you begin the second most dangerous part; browsing the portfolios of cover artists.  This is another phase that can suck you in, and still your soul.  You could lose days, weeks, maybe even years rousing the artistic awesomeness of the various cover designers out there.  Don’t be that guy, be disciplined and direct.  After all, you have to get this done an expedited manner so you can write the next great American novel there’s always more books to write, so you can’t afford to get sucked into the outer trappings.  I was lucky for this stage, I had another author, Chris Kennedy, lend me his cover designer.  He made it easy by serving as the middleman, but I know this will always be the case and don’t need to learn to stand on my own.  My advice, at least for finding good cover artists, is to start searching now so when you’re ready you just have to reach out.  And find several you like, as you never know when they’ll be available.

 

Just to show you an example of my process for my pending short story, “No Marine Left Behind.”  This story tells Sashala’s journey during Phase Guinshrike of Tim C. Taylor’s Renegade Legion, into Lance’s world in Fortress Beta City.  For this story, I told the artist to give me space Marine’s in bad assed power armor.  I wanted them to be in some burning woods after a shuttle dropped them off, and I wanted the dying Beta City in the background.  This is the progression of the art in question.  Hopefully this helps clear up my muddy explanation of the process!  If not, least you get pretty pictures!!

 

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Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry! 

brown_bess

JR

 

–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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World Building Wednesday: Technology Creation

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Hey Space Cadets, I hope everyone is doing great and voted in my friends Clash of the Covers contest!  I’m still working on the Four Horsemen Anthology and hit a bit of a time snag.  Try not to shudder, but I had to do something disgusting and unpleasant…. I filed my taxes today.  I know, I cried too, there’s no shame in it!  As for the next novel in the Sleeping Legion Series, well I’ll start outlining that this month and writing it as well. I will keep you posted on the progress as I try to bump up my production speeds!  Pulp glory here I come!

 

Now, on to my World Building Wednesday topic!!  Onward I say!  Today we talk about how I figure out the technology of my futuristic worlds.  Let’s start with your restrictions, which is especially important if you’re writing in someone else’s sandbox.  In Boss Man’s universe there is no such thing as FTL because science doesn’t think it is viable at the moment.  That doesn’t mean it is impossible, but because of the perceived improbability of this method, he decided against using it.  Other limitations imposed on your technological development might come from your subgenre; is it space opera, military science fiction or hard science fiction.

 

A famous example of how this played out would be from Star Trek, where they got around the limitations of science as we know it by using warp drive.  This used Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity.  He speculated that the speed of light in a vacuum will be the same from any frame of reference moving at a constant speed. I won’t go all technical (Translation, I don’t know all of it), but basically it showed that FLT wasn’t possible.  However, he speculated that you could instead bend space-time to traverse long distances in an expedited manner.  Then Mexican physicist, and SciFy Nerd, Miquel Alcubierre theorized it might actually possible, without violating the theories of his predecessors.  Way back in the dark ages of 1994!  I mean, they didn’t even have Facebook back then.  Or Myspace, for us old timers in attendance!  If you want to know more, click the links at the bottom of this post.

 

When I write science fiction in my own universe I plan on running with the theory Dr. Alcubierre gave us and traveling faster than light, if not in fact, then in deed.  So, now that you’ve considered your own limitations you need a starting point.  I tend to look at science and technology as we know it and then postulate where it might go in the distant future.  This is mostly guess work, lots of technical research and some good ole fashioned SWAG!  Not that kind of swag, but a scientific wild arse guess!  Okay, quasi scientific in my case but work with me here!  This does require you to know your world so you can have the end points, since the starting points would be today. 

 

How do I stay abreast, well I follow several science blogs that break it down for you Barney Style.  I’ll work on collating it for you as soon as I can.  Another way I use is to pick the brain of my father-in-law, a trained biologist and my dad who’s a mechanic who understands machines.  Then I made friends with people way smarter than I, and let them prevent me from looking like an idiot.  Well, more of an idiot than normal!

 

To recap, basically I do some research to know the limitations I’m starting with and then I guess where things might go in the future.  But that’s how I do it, what is your process?

 

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!  

brown_bess

JR

 

 

 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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Faster-Than-Light (FTL) Travel

Interstellar Travel

Warp Drive

When Covers Clash

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Hey Space Cadets, today I wanted to bring you a guest post by my friend.  Author MLS Weech is running a contest to judge book covers, and you could vote too!  He’ll share the origins of this contest and tell you more about what goes into it.  All you book nerds out there will love it, so pop on over and look!  Without further ado, here’s Matt!

 


 

Before I get started, I’d like to thank J.R. for letting me do a guest post. I hoped my book cover of the month brackets would be well received, but I had no idea that it’d be so widely viewed. I’m really thrilled, and I’m glad J.R. was so interested he asked me to do a guest post on his blog.  It’s always an honor when someone asks me to share some thoughts. 

 

I took some time thinking about how to approach this, and I decided I wanted to go a little more in depth with how this started, and how I find the entries for the brackets.

 

In 2012, I started my last tour of duty in the Navy as an instructor at the Defense Information School.  In the Navy, it’s not enough for us to have one skill. Instead, we work to master all the major communications skill sets. When I arrived there as an instructor, I had to brush up on all my abilities. One thing I’ve always loved was design.  Now, before anyone who’s met me blasts this post, I am speaking about my affection for the art, not my ability or desire to do it. I found out that my skills in photography gave me a LOT of talent in the field of editing design. I’ve also been able to work with award winning artists for the last few years, and I picked up a thing or two. I’ve been an instructor there ever since. I’ve been called on to judge contests for the school and the Navy as a whole.

 

Since I’ve been teaching, I’ve developed a habit. You see, it’s weird, but I have this strange reputation at the school. I’m uncompromising and a bit crass.  Even I can admit that. I want the best from my students. That makes me feel bad some times, and I wanted an opportunity to simply give credit to work I thought stood out for some reason. So what I started doing was going to Navy.mil to look at the work my students do. If you have the time, please stop by. There are some amazing images and stories there. It’s essentially like an associated press for the world, but only for Navy information.  Anyway, I go there when I have a few minutes or I need a break. I view 10 pages of images, and I share the images I like on my FB page (my alter ego’s page, not my author one).  When I share it, I talk about why the image stood out. I’ve even noticed a few others following my example. The idea is I want my students (and the world) to know how proud I am of them. As a teacher, it’s my job to push them to where they can be.  Once they leave the school, I’m free to be every bit as proud of them as I want to be.

 

One day, I was on Amazon. Believe it or not, I was checking to see how J.R.’s book, The Legion Awakes was doing in terms of its ranking. I was just tooling around and saw a cover that I thought was awesome.  So, I threw the image on my author page and called it my Book Cover of the Day. (That was The Gender Secret in case you’re curious.)

 

I kept it going and I wondered, What should I do when I finish all these images?  I’ve been aware of Brackify for a while, so I sent them an email, and they were wonderful!

 

I spend a good portion of my day looking at visual products and critiquing them.  I like providing examples of covers that stand out for one reason or another. So my goal is to highlight great covers for great books. I even took it one step further by buying the book that won so I can do a review on it. This way, readers know that sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, and THEN see if the content of the story holds up.

 

To top that off, if I can, I try to get a hold of the artist and interview them. So this has organically become a fascinating tool to talk about great art and where it comes from. Maybe it can even help authors connect with outstanding designers for future products.

 

So that’s the story on how a whim turned into a project. I’m thrilled with how December went, and I look forward to January’s Bracket, which goes live Feb. 1.  I’m already halfway through the month of February.   This probably means my scheme to do a book cover of the year bracket is sure to happen.

 

Thanks again J.R. for the chance to post on your blog. If anyone has any questions about what I look for or how I set up the bracket, just let me know in the comments below.

 

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 


 

Thank you for reading my good friend MLS Weech’s post, and please check him out here. Also, mark your calendars for February 1st, 2017 so you can vote in this awesome contest.  An idea so epic — I wish I thought of it!

 

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

 

 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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WARRIOR WEEKEND INTERVIEW SERIES: MLS WEECH

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Hello Space Cadets!  First, I wanted to thank everyone who helped make this writing dream a reality.  Seriously, it’s a blast to think so many people (like anyone NOT related to me) are reading what I write.  It has been a thrill to be able to show my sons that you don’t have to let your injuries and disabilities set you back.  I realize that my injuries pale in comparison to others but for kids who don’t understand that level of granularity, the point is simplified for them.  So again, my humble thanks.

 

Another update, I recently submitted a short story to the Roswell Anthology that was and will be the foundation to the Odera Chronicles.  I’ll have more information about that as the time comes but there is more in the works for me after I finish The Sleeping Legion Series.

 

Now, onto todays topic.  I wanted to introduce you to an author from my WARRIOR WEEKEND INTERVIEW SERIES.  This will be the debut post in my Warrior Weekend Series, and I’m thrilled that it’s with someone I consider a friend.  Matthew is an awesome guy, and a veteran of the Naval Combat Cameraman Corps.  Meh, I probably got the specific title wrong but I’m a grunt… what’d you expect?

 

So let’s get into M.L.S. Weech!  He was born in August 1979 in Rapid City, South Dakota.  He fell in love with fantasy and science fiction at an early age.  His love of writing quickly followed when he tried to write a sequel to his favorite movie.  He clearly didn’t know what copyright infringement was.  Weech can’t remember a time when he wasn’t working on some sort of project from that day forward.  He went on to write for a junior high school (mostly called middle school now) project.  The only way his freshman English teacher could get him to settle down was to let him start writing a book.  He completed what he calls his ‘first manuscript’ when he was 17.  He got a ton of feedback that was honest, helpful, and not much fun to listen to.  Instead of quitting, he simply wrote another, and then another.

 

Weech fell in love with reading in high school, despite some of the horrible texts that are often foisted upon our unsuspecting youth the day he was introduced to Timothy Zahn and the Star Wars novels.  Clearly this wasn’t an assigned bore-fests!  Then Weech was handed Anne McCaffrey, Robert Jordan, Dean Koontz, Brandon Sanderson and so many more.  He went from reading to complete homework to reading more than three books a month.  Everyone loves an over achiever, right?

 

M.L.S. Weech then joined the U.S. Navy as a journalist in 2005.  He served on aircraft carriers and destroyers.  He served in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan.  When he wasn’t taking pictures, or writing features or news stories, he was writing fiction.  Photojournalism was a hobby he enjoyed getting paid for, but writing fiction has been and remains his true dream.  He’s completed six manuscripts and is already planning a seventh.  He took his third project to Archway Publishing, who helped him turn his life-long dream into a reality.

 

Now that you’ve heard me blather on about him, all man-crushing…. Let’s get to the questions!

 

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Without further ado, let’s get this interview cranking!

 

Tell me a little about your military service?

 

I joined the Navy back in 2005 to be a journalist.  I wanted to tell stories – wanted to write every day.  Once I got out in the military, I started having more and more fun.  I deployed on a ship, and I served on two combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.  The first six years were honestly a blur for me.  Everything was such a combination of work and wonderful experience.  I was a part of history.  I was a member of the first team of Sailors to operate as a sea operation attachment assigned to a strike group.  It’s complicated, but basically when the strike group (a bunch of ships that work together) needed a team of MCs, my team went to supplement their media department.  I had the honor to document the funeral of Carl Brashear.  It was just so humbling to see someone who was such a great part of American history be put to rest.  I saw the transition of power in Iraq and Afghanistan.  My last tour in the military was as an instructor for those who do the same work I did.  I loved it so much that I left the military to keep doing it.  (Also, there was this book I wrote…)

 

How do you feel that your military service has influenced your writing?

 

For starters, because my job in the military was writing, it made me a better author.  I learned about the craft of writing, and I improved my basic mechanical skills.  But more so is the inspiration my service has had.  Most of my books have some sort of military aspect.  I often describe Caught as Wes Craven meets Tom Clancy.  I’ve seen a lot through my career, good and bad.  It created a foundational background for my writing.  This inspirational part of my life is most evident in my science fiction saga Perception of War.  The short story Sojourn in Despair is the first thing from that series readers will see.  Seeing combat makes one truly consider its ramifications.  Perception of War investigates those ramifications on an epic scale.

 

Do you think your military service, and more specifically your training, adds to the realism in your books?  If so, how?

 

Absolutely!  If I’m being honest, I don’t watch military movies or TV shows.  They simply infuriate me.  I’m also bothered by something I’ll call the impact of combat.  Sure, in fiction, readers expect characters to be able to inflict and take more punishment than the “real” world, but sometimes it just gets ridiculous.  Being in the military also gave me the opportunity to travel.  I’ve seen so many amazing places, and I’ve used them in my writing.  There’s no substitution for experience.

 

When did you start pursuing your writing more seriously?

 

I “went pro” when I was 17.  That’s when I started dedicating a minimum of an hour a day, every day to writing.  That was in 1997.  I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing,” and it challenged me.  I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  After reading that book, I chose to take that dream seriously.

 

Of all your work, which was your favorite to write?

 

That’s a tough question.  I’ll have to answer Images of Truth, the first full-length novel in the Perception of War saga.  It’s a long way out from publishing, but I’m drafting it now, and it’s amazing.  I can honestly say every book I write I enjoy writing more than those that came before it.  I think The Journals of Bob Drifter is probably closest to my heart.  It’s my first published book, so it means a lot to me, but I’m always excited to start my next project.

 

How many of your characters were inspired by your military service?

 

It would be far easier to name the characters that weren’t inspired by the military.  Caught is covered in Close Quarters Combat.  I’ve already mentioned Perception of War.  The military is a major part of my life, so it’s only reasonable that it has a dominant presence in my work.

 

How many of the scenes you wrote were inspired from your service?

 

Just like with my characters, a lot of the scenes and settings are straight out of my own military experiences.  The cool thing is it’s not just the awesome combat scenes.  One thing people don’t talk about a lot is that we veterans are masters of “playfulness.”  Sure, we fight and sacrifice, but man, I don’t think you can find a better group of people.  Those scenes, scenes of brotherhood and camaraderie are equally prevalent in my work.

 

Do you feel like your writing has served any therapeutic value for you?  Has it helped you process your experiences?

 

Writing is cathartic for me.  Sometimes I’m not even aware I’m dealing with something until I’m writing about it.  I think a professional has to eventually step out of themselves and focus on the story, but I’ll never deny that a lot of my work touches on things that matter to me.  Writing has allowed me to explore issues and come to terms with situations that were frankly hard to face at times.  I’d recommend writing to anyone, even if it’s just to find a positive outlet for times when life deals you a bad hand.

 

If you could serve with any of your characters, who would it be and why?

 

I’d absolutely serve with Dom from Caught.  You’ll see a LOT more of him in Caught’s sequel.  He’s so easy going and frankly awesome.  He’s a dedicated individual too.  There’s a lot of characters I’d like to hang out with or more, but Dom would be first on the “serve with” list.  Honestly, I’d just want to go to the range with him.  Plus, if I were a combat photographer serving with his unit, I’d pretty much be the safest journalist ever.  Sal is probably a BETTER soldier, but he wouldn’t be as much fun to hang out with after the operation.

 

If you would want to avoid serving with any of your characters, who would it be and why?

 

I’d have to say that it’s only degrees of less fun to serve with.  Steve would be hard to serve with.  He’s so demanding of his people.  There are a few other characters I wouldn’t want to serve with, but that would reveal some spoilers.

 

What are you currently working on?

 

I have a few things in the works, but my writing time is mostly divided between revising Sojourn in Despair and finishing Images of Truth.  These are both from my science fiction series Perception of War.  A lot of my projects are different from each other.  This series gives me sort of a “home base” to work with.  Perception of War is a series about a galactic war based on a blend between the War on Terror and World War II.

 

How can people find you?

  1. Amazon
  2. Facebook
  3. Twitter
  4. Website
  5. E-Mail: mlsweech@gmail.com

 

If this convinced you to find out more, look up M.L.S. Weech.  I hope you all had a great time getting to know about Matt.  Don’t be afraid to say hello here or on Matt’s website.  If they don’t respond quick enough, glitter bomb them!  Mwahahaha!!  Or, you can do something even worse… give their number to a telemarketer!!!

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen grabs taken by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.

Snow Day

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Hey Space Cadets, today I wanted to show you some of what I did today when I should’ve been working!!  I beg your forgiveness, but snow is such a rare occurrence!  Tomorrow will be an exciting blog, where I give you my first Warrior Weekend Interview of author MLS Weech!

 

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Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!  

brown_bess

 JR

 

 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section, or are photo’s taken by JR Handley.