Talk Tuesday: What Is Your Dream Place To Live? House Hunters?

My wife looked at me the other day and said “A boy from the Bronx shouldn’t end up in this house.” The one to the right we’re currently renting.

To the left is the view of the Intracoastal from a house we rented years ago. I started counting how many places I’ve lived one day and it go confusing. Not just in locales, but also in various apartments, houses in the same locale. The Army can do that to you. But even after the Army, my wife and I have this bug where after 3 years we’re ready to move. She was an Army brat, born in Ft Leonard Wood, spent time in Berlin (was there for Kennedy’s speech), school in Monterey at Ft Ord, etc etc. After West Point, I lived a number of places. Also, in Special Forces, we traveled a lot– my first year in Group I was gone around 340 days. When you’re deployed for six months or so, that’s kind of living somewhere. But none of those places are ones I’d want to go back to.

We like watching those house hunters shows. Not only because they show you interesting places– we were watching Bordeaux, France yesterday– but you can tell a lot by the couple right away. No need for long therapy sessions.  You can see the relationship right there. You can tell who makes the decision. Who is willing to compromise what they want, etc. etc.

I know there are people who are living in the same place they were born. I was talking to an older lady down the street the other day and she told me her grand-daughter was going to the same elementary school she did. I was born in the Bronx and was out of there when I was 17 and don’t have much desire to go back. Living in Manhattan would be different, but way too busy for me now.

As a writer, I’ve been extremely fortunate in being able to live wherever. I could complain and say when you can choose anywhere, it’s hard, but that, as Cool Gus would say, is whiny. I can’t say I’ve lived any place I didn’t like, although Ft Bragg isn’t a tourist destination.

So where would you like to live? No practical concerns like job or cost, just being able to live there?

Writing Wednesday: Plot III. Narrative Structure

There is a template for story. Actually, there are many. I give one example here. Do you have to follow it? No. Should you understand it as a craftsperson writer? Yes.

Remember, we can only break rules if we know them first. The trend that I’m seeing, is less and less emphasis on a narrative, linear flow to story. But we have to remember the reader who has been programmed for story a certain way.

Cool Gus Says: 12 Years In History

These are times, places, people, etc that Cool Gus finds interesting. He hopes you do too!

We’ll have one every Saturday. Also, in the future, Cool Gus will start telling his own stories, but more on that later.

Cool Gus says history is pretty cool. Not as cool as bacon. Or chasing a ball. Or a nap. Or bacon. But still . . .

Talk Tuesday: What Book Cover Really Stands Out In Your Memory?

I saw this cover in the New York Public Library one day while meandering. I spent a lot of my childhood in the library. For some reason it called out to me. I pulled it off the shelf and was immediately sucked in:  In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit. It’s pretty amazing that this Tolkein guy managed to compress three movies into one book!

I was thrilled when I saw there were three more books!

Another book cover that comes to mind is Hyperion. I was in Davis-Kidd in Nashville, meandering, and saw this mass market paperback. Something about it– the creature I learned was the Shrike– the imagery. I made an impulse buy and have since read all the books in the Dan Simmons’ series. So many great ideas in the Hyperion universe. I also like the story of how Dan Simmons was “discovered” by Harlan Ellison at a workshop.

I saw an announcement last year where Syfy is making Hyperion into a mini-series but have heard nothing more. I’d say with the success of The Expanse and the ability of CGI now, it should be a lock.

What book cover stands out for you?

Cool Gus says: Why did people move those big stones and put them in a circle at Stonehenge?

People do the strangest things. Dogs tend to just watch and sigh, and then take a nap.

Gus often naps near my desk while I work.

Cool Gus could understand moving those stones if bacon was the reward. Piece of cake. Well, wait. Cake?

But otherwise? Why did they do that?

Since Cool Gus is an English Labrador (with the big head full of big thoughts) he’s heard some Dog Tails about why humans moved those stones.

Here are some:

Talk Tuesday: What TV Show Had The Most Ridiculous Premise, Yet Succeeded?

Gilligan’s Island comes to mind right away. Talk about limiting your story options.

Trivia– Mister Howell was the voice of Mister Magoo. And Mrs. Howell only agreed to do the pilot because it was being filmed in Hawaii. She, too, thought the premise wouldn’t work.

How did they manage to keep coming up with stories with just seven characters stuck on an island? And they didn’t seem to be suffering too much there. That boat sure carried a lot in it. And of course, it birth the “Ginger or Mary Ann?” BTW, Racquel Welch also auditioned for that role. Which is kind of hard to believe. And polls consistently go: Mary Ann.

Then there are some others. Bosom Buddies. Yes, Tom Hanks was in it. Seriously– people believed they were women?

The Greatest American Hero didn’t make much sense but the theme song was a hit.

There’s always The Flying Nun. Didn’t her neck hurt?

Notice I’m not covering any recent TV, but there have been some really terrible ideas put out there. Time will tell what succeeds.

Got any to add?

Should eBook covers be the same as print covers?

I don’t think so.

We’re used to print covers, the standard 2 to 3 ratio, and for the cover to stand alone, hopefully facing out in a book store (although that only happens for the big-name authors—or after an author visits a book store and turns their own books out—come on, you do it; you know you do).

I’ve been going through my covers and updating them. The vast majority of my sales are eBook. My print sales are also via an electronic platforms, so the covers are viewed the same way, on screen, in thumbnail.

Besides the thumbnail aspect, here is something else that is different:

A print cover for hardcover has information inside, on the cover flap and some on the back.

A trade or mass market paperback has information on the back.

An eBook cover has information next to it on the screen. So the two are connected.

The bottom line is that a cover must invite the reader to want to know more. For a physical book, that means picking it up, looking at the flap or back copy. Reading the first few pages (some sick individuals read the last few).

For an eBook the goal is to get them to stay on the page and shift over and read the information that is there. Or to read inside the book, and only the first pages, which requires them to click on the cover—which also enlarges it.

I’ve been researching and there are a lot of good ideas out there.

For series, have some similarity. So I’ve done that.

Have a central image that grabs.

The cover should give the reader an idea what genre the book is. The cover should also give the reader an idea what the book is about. This one is hard, especially when you have a book that isn’t easily defined. My Atlantis books were hard for Berkley books and they’ve been hard for me in terms of cover.

They say don’t use a white background, but I like the way the Shadow Warriors book pop.

I’ve added blurbs to some of my books from legitimate reviews. While hard to read, they become clear if the cover is expanded. One goal in this day of hundreds of thousands of eBooks being uploaded yearly, is to get readers to know that your book is professional. This means using my Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, etc review blurbs. Of course, do readers care?

I use the classic NY Times Bestseller, but also, in some cases sales numbers, especially if they’ve gone into 7 figures such as the Area 51 and Atlantis series. In some other cases I’ve added my overall sales, saying Over 4 Million Sold, although I think I’m over 5 now—just haven’t crunched the numbers. Essentially an attempt to distinguish the books.

I’ve used some effects from Affinity Designer. In particular, I’ve used ‘emboss’ to give a 3D effect on some of the covers. In some ways it makes the cover look more like a button on the screen than a flat cover. I don’t know if that attracts or is a turn off to the reader.

Do contrasts. Things that don’t belong together. How does a crystal skull connect to Custer’s Last Stand? How does an Osprey over Pickett’s charge go together? The answer is in the stories, but I also have the concern on these two that in thumbnail there are too crowded. Thinking about it.

All of this will take time to tell if it has any effect. I’ll give it a couple of months and compare sales figures.

As important, my next phase is a complete do-over of Key Words and Categories. I need to research this area and then go through all 71 (or more) books.

Then, of course, when in doubt, use a dog. Especially a dog as distinguished as Cool Gus. After all, he’s more popular than I am.