Cover Art

I had hoped to be ready for a February 10th release, that being the main character’s birthday.  But I’m not going to make that date.  End of February or early March is now the goal.

But work is being done.  Three of the five Backer Booklet sections are awaiting revisions.  Renaissance Calling will be ready for the publishers later this week. And, I’m proud to announce, I have cover art.

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Almost there!

-Michael

Closing up 2016 and into 2017

Hard to believe the year is almost over, and a new one about to christmas-iconbeing. As I’m closing up 2016, and looking forward into 2017, I take a moment to consider both.

From 2016

In terms of writing, I didn’t get a whole lot done.  Sure, I finished the rough draft of a fantasy novel, which is great, I’m glad to have another one under my belt, but I did little other writing.

I spent most of this year working towards publishing;  I went through a number of artists trying to get artwork done;  I worked with an editor to get Renaissance Calling finalized.

I spent a lot of time getting a plan in place for when the project is done and Renaissance Calling gets published.  Learning the who to go to for what seemed daunting, but you cut through enough advertising you can find what you’re looking for.

I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign.  That was a bit nerve wracking, but I got it done.

I commissioned and artist for cover artwork.  A few rounds of back and forth later, I’ve got a cover (which I will be releasing soon).

And now I’m close to being done with my first book.

For 2017

I have a number of goals for 2017.

For starters, I plan to finish the publishing process and get Renaissance Calling to print.

Second, I plan to finish the rough draft for Templar Scholar, Book 2 of the Renaissance Army Series.  A decent start is already underway, awaiting the arrival of characters created by the backers.

Third, I want to finish the rough draft of the fantasy trilogy.  Book one is done, and the other two are outlined.  I want to get the three books done so I can make sure all three line up before I get the first one ready for publication.

I don’t want to set too many goals for 2017, but I want to stay focused.  Ideally, I’ll publish two books in 2018.  Now, I know that’s a large amount of work (now more than ever) but I think I can do it.  I’m already writing more efficiently: now that I know how much changes between rough and final drafts, I’m not so focused on getting the rough draft ‘just right’.

So as I close up 2016 and look into 2017, I want to thank you for reading this and supporting me, and I hope you have a great new years.

Keep on writing!

-Michael

A different type of writing

Right now, I’m going through a bit of a rough writing spot.  I fulfill a requirement for my Kickstarter, I need to write a number of segments of mechanical (think social studies) styled articles. Which, let me tell you, is a different type of writing.

As a reward in my crowdfunding campaign, backers are slated to receive the ‘Backer Booklet’, a small book that rounds out the world of Renaissance Calling.  The topics chosen for the book were selected by four polls run during the campaign, and they all turned out to be pretty similar in their scope:

  • From State to Kingdom: History of Minnesota
  • Life in Walker County: How the Protagonist grew up
  • The Kingdom of North Mississippi: The setting of the story
  • Countries of Atlantic America: A survey of foreign powers

Some of them could easily be Wikipedia articles, and the rest could be found in some scholastic journal.   All world building.

It may sound easy, since you’re not writing with dramatic prose or worrying about ‘show don’t tell’, but I’m not coming up with sixty pages of mundane facts.  ‘Life in Walker County’ is not a counting of population and agricultural production. It is a look into the life of the main character, explaining the world she grew up in.  It needs to be interesting and informative.

One easy assist it to add in graphics. I’ve got maps and flags planned, and I’m leaning towards commissioning a few pieces of artwork to round it all out.  That definitely goes a long way to keeping it interesting.  But it can’t save a book where the writing is too mechanical.

At the moment, what I’m working on is getting the information down, so I have a good starting place.  It will be dry, sure, but I can worry about crafting the words later, once I know what the data is.

I can tell you this, though.  I’m looking forward to getting back to some good, old fashioned fiction writing.

-Michael

5 Lessons from my Kickstarter

Running a Kickstarter campaign was an odd experience.  37 days of watching the backer numbers go up, punctuated by the occasional busy day of emails, postings and tweets.

There’s no reason to go through every aspect of my campaign, since many campaigns are so similar in many of their aspects.  So instead, I will go through 5 things I learned that I think people should keep in mind for their own campaigns.

1 – START THE PAGE RIGHT AWAY

As soon as you know you want to run the campaign, start the campaign page.  No one can see it until you publish, but you can start building it right away.

Once you have it started, you can preview the page, and really begin getting into what you need to make it better.  From the text you will re-write sixteen times to how many picture you’ll want to flesh it out, having it there to check and revise is invaluable.

2 – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE GOOD ARTWORK

Imagery is really important in a Kickstarter campaign.  One of my turn-offs for campaigns I look at is having only a few or poor quality images.

This is one area where some campaigns have a natural advantage: movies, games and graphic novelists have lots of artwork lying around, while novelists and musicians usually don’t.

Get some good artwork.  Pictures of yourself working could work, but don’t be afraid to commission some artwork. I did that through fiverr, and ended up with three great pieces of art that really helped the campaign.

3 – WATCH YOUR REWARD LEVELS

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4 – IS THAT REWARD ACTUALLY A REWARD?

For a while I had 12 reward levels.  $1/$5/$10/$15/$20/$25/$30/$50/$75/$100/$250/$500.  The idea was to try to get the maximum amount I could from any one backer.

The problem was making rewards that actually sounded like rewards.  For a while, my reward levels included things like mugs, t-shirts and posters.   Things that a lot of people might toss into a bin somewhere and later donate to Goodwill.  Stuff that I would have to pay for if the campaign funded.  And if I was going to pay for them, I didn’t want them to be stuffed into the Goodwill box six weeks after delivery.

The point is, having a $75 reward level that doesn’t offer anything of value is a useless level.  You need to find a balance between rewards and levels.

At some point I reset my rewards and worked out exactly what I could do that would be a real reward, I came up with eight levels worth of rewards.  I cut four levels out by shifting my view from Quantity to Quality.

Like No. 2, this is something that novel campaign might have some issues with, since artists can offer sketches and movies can offer clips, but I think it still stands regardless of what your campaign is about.  Avoid the garage sale fodder.  Focus on the item.  Let that draw people to the reward level.

5 – CONSIDER A COLD START

My official launch was a Thursday, but I actually launched two days earlier.  This was for two reasons:

  • I wanted to focus on the personal emails to family and friends without the loud launch releases a lot of people recommended, and
  • I wanted to have a quiet time to get used to how the campaign ran, to deal with any hiccups that might occur.

After two days I was more comfortable with the Kickstarter system, and when I did the loud launch, it already had a sizable number of pledges to give it some inertia.  I think it helped get a few pledges in to see someone was already backing it.

I don’t know if I will run another campaign in the future.  For now, I’m just working on wrapping up this one.  But it’s always an option.

If any of you have any thoughts on Kickstarter campaigns, let me know.

Keep on writing!

Michael

Kickstarting Renaissance Calling

The campaign to bring Renaissance Calling to print is live and going strong.

I’ve got some great rewards lined up.  Copies of the book, a backer’s box, even a chance to put your own character in the next book.

Take a look and remember to pledge early.  Even if it’s a dollar, it gets you access to Backer Polls and updates.

I’m excited by this and I hope you’ll join me in this endeavor.

-Michael

Chocolatier of the Moon Part 1

Memoirs of Pierre du Coco, Chocolatier of the Moon

Part 1: The Embassy

It was October of 1896 when I returned to Paris.  I had been in London for the celebrations in honor of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.  I was there at the invitation of the Greater Scottish Dessert Club, which was holding a challenge amongst the skilled artisans to see who might create the greatest dessert to compliment that most Scottish of dishes, the haggis.

It was quite the competition, I tell you.  Sir Willard Bakesworth, that Englishman who foiled me at the 1892 Boston Bakeoff, put together a good Cranachan dish, but I made a clootie dumpling with mixed fruits and a rum dressing that was so good, the Scottish judges were dancing on the table, an act that made every patron run for their sanity, Scottish dress being what it is.

But I digress.

I returned to my apartment with a heavy purse, and found a heavy stack of correspondence.  Some of it was of a personal nature, some from friends and former patrons, but of course there were the bills.  Creditors are a persistent bunch, and I tightened my grip on my purse, knowing that all too soon it would be lighter.

At the bottom of the pile, I noticed a silver envelope.  It was of a much different style than all the others, and I immediately opened it.  Inside was a fine invitation, also in silver.  Eagerly, I read it.

M. du Coco

I represent Queen Selene III, Monarch of the Moon.  At her request, I am interviewing Earthlings for potential positions.  Your name has come up.  Please respond to our embassy with a calendar of when you are available for an interview.

Sincerely,

Ambassador Lene

Well, I must admit, I was quite astonished.  True, no one could be unaware of the opening of diplomatic relations between the countries of the Earth and its natural satellite, but I was unaware that there was a full embassy here in Paris.  Just one of those things a chocolatier will fail to notice.

I responded and the next morning took a cab over to the Lunar Embassy.  I was at first disappointed in the building, as it was no different than any other embassy, but it occurred to me that the building was rented, and therefor has stood for some time before the diplomacy began.  It was the people inside that were unique.

Now, I must pause to ask you if you, my reader, have ever seen a Moonling?  If you have, then by all means skip ahead, but for those who have not, try to understand that they are simultaneously calmingly familiar and hauntingly strange.  By the first, I mean that they are human in overall appearance, with two arms, two hands, a single head with two ears and two eyes.  One mouth, ten fingers.  As varied in height and weight as we are.  By strange, I mean that their limbs are always scrawny, regardless of the thickness of their torso.  Their noses are flat and wide, to the point of almost being indecent.  And their skin, though always some hue of gray, may glow, depending on the phase of the moon currently in the sky above Earth.  As we were in a full moon, the Moonlings proved to be very bright that day.

But I digress.

The guards at the front gate were Earthmen, of some local regiment.  The guards at the doorway were Moolings, in black uniforms with gems sewn as to resemble a star field.   Their crescent spears blocked my path until I presented the invitation, and I was lead inside.

As the building was originally constructed for Earthlings, the interior was of a usual design.  The artwork that adorned the walls was fascinating.  The Moonlings, it appeared, had their own constellations worked out in the night’s sky.  On the walls hung artwork representing those constellations, with the stars emphasized so that one might find them in the sky.  I looked at one such painting, of a three armed Moonling fighting off a large jade rabbit, and wondered a moment on the story.  But then I was ushered in to see the Ambassador, and had to put such thoughts on hold.

Ambassador Lene was a nice man, a Moonling of course, but one who spoke without much of an accent.  I had heard, and here confirmed, that Moonlings are quite the capable linguists, and most are capable of speaking dozens of languages as readily as most men learn songs.

‘I will come to the point,’ Lene said after several minutes of pleasantries.  ‘Queen Selene has entrusted me to find for her court a Chocolatier, someone who can bring such art to her table.  After some inquiries, I believe you are the best choice for such a position.

I will admit, I was shocked.  I had not expected such an offer.  I was both excited and nervous.

I was excited, of course, for any royal position to be offered to me.  Chocolatiers make much effort to obtain Royal positions by use of samples, to such an extent that most royal courts never lack for exquisite chocolate.  At most, I could have realistically hoped for a patron.  But an actual Royal position, on the Moon!  Of all the chocolatiers of Earth!  I admit,  I was quite ready to brag about that to Sir Bakesworth.

But I was also nervous.  Transit to the Moon from Earth was accomplished by use of a large, elastic sheet suspended between a number of mountains in the Swiss alps.  One jumped, higher and higher, until the body reached sufficient height for the gravity of the Moon to take over and pull one into a rough and often undignified landing.

The nervousness must have shown more strongly on my face, for Ambassador Lene smiled.  ‘Oh, do not worry, Monsieur du Coco.  After the incident with the Prince of Lichtenstein, we were forced to consider new alternatives.’

If the reader is unaware, the Prince of Lichtenstein, on a visit to the Moon, faltered on what should have been his final jump and, instead of rising up and falling to the Moon, instead became stuck in the equilibrium between bodies.  He was there for several hours before a properly padded Swede bounced into him and forced him to his destination.

But I digress.

I smiled at the Ambassador, knowing now that I would not have to jump, but then I frowned.  ‘I do hope you are not referring to the American cannon,’ I said cautiously.

Ambassador Lene laughed.  ‘No, I do not.  We considered many alternatives, and though the cannon was quite interesting – and how American to think of a giant cannon for transport – we went with another alternative.’

‘European, at least?’ I asked hopefully.

‘German, in fact.’

‘Oh,’ I said.  ‘I guess that counts.’

We discussed the particulars, and I left quite satisfied.  My bills would soon be all paid, and I packed my belongings and chocolates, ready for an adventure.  I took a final walk along the river, drank at my favorite café, and sent off one final telegram at Sir Bakesworth, bragging about my station.  I was quite happy, I admit.

And the next day, I boarded the train.

Let’s do this!

ImpImaIconA lot happening this month, and all of it leads to publishing.

Started my publishing company, Impending Imagination.  Took me a lot of time (and many searched on thesaurus.com) to find a name that I liked.

Made my Facebook Author Page, so my personal and professional pages are now separate.

And moving into the final steps of beginning my Kickstarter campaign.  A little behind schedule, but I’m working towards it.

What does all this mean? PUBLISHING!

These steps are not just ‘the next ones’.  They signify a shift into my publishing years, from an enthusiastic hobby to an active business.  Every day, I have to do something, otherwise I’m letting myself down.

This is the starting line of what comes next.

As part of this, I’ve added message boards on the website, and loaded up wallpapers for download.

Probably some kinks to work out, but I’m eager to get going.

So, let’s do this!

A Writing Vacation

As a vacation this year, I spent a week at a cabin in the woods.

No, this was not some Unabomber shack with a hamster-wheel for generating electricity.  It was a nice cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin, complete with running water, electricity, and better cell reception than my apartment just outside of Saint Paul (thank you, Verizon).  It is the family cabin of a man who has been my friend since kindergarten, and they were kind enough to let me use it.

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Now, it may not be as exciting as traveling Civil War Battlefields or foreign countries, but it was just what I needed.  Time to read, write, and just reset.

FOOD

I was excited to grill out.  I’ve never done it by myself, having lived in apartments for all of my adult life.  I grilled out the first three nights, trying corn (did not turn out well), brats, salmon, chicken, and pork chops.   I even mixed vegetables, coated in oil and season, wrapped in aluminum foil, and grilled those.  Turned out pretty decent.

Non-grilling was mostly sandwiches, eggs for breakfast, toast with jam or various fruits for snacks.

Meal soundtracks provided by ‘Welcome to Night Vale.’

READING

I was halfway through Mockingjay when I got there, finished it by day two.  Lovely reading on a porch, though some areas better than others depending on the location of the sun.

Go through two graphic novels: The Dark Knights Returns, which I’d realized I had read before when I was much younger, and the White Donkey, a serious story about a Marine who goes to Iraq and back.  Both were good reads.

I also read through Atlas Shrugged for the second time.  No, I’m not a philosophical follower of Ayn Rand, but I think she is a terrific writer, and I wanted to see if I could understand a few things that did not make as much sense the first time.  And, truth be told, I did understand a bit more.  But not greatly.  I still spent some time researching specific questions afterwards.  Also, still couldn’t make it through the 75 page speech.

DRAWING

The reason I don’t draw much at home is lack of a drawing space, which is why I’m making a concerted effort to keep my dining room table clear.

I brought up a couple of drawing books I own (including one that thinks Delta Force uses giant swords).  Did a couple of practice drawings that turned out better than I thought they would, but by no means am I going to start hiring out my skills.  But I did get some drawings done, and that counts for something.

Need to work on faces.  And arms.  And….yeah.

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WRITING

This was the main reason I went out there.

I wanted to finish a second book.  Not the sequel to the book I’m trying to publish, but the first in a fantasy trilogy.  I was about a third of the way through with it, but I hadn’t taken the time to sit down and get it done.  This was my chance.

I spent some time outlining, readjusting this or that, trying to get through three or four chapters a day.  I wasn’t sure I could actually finish it, but I thought I could come within striking distance.  The only annoyance was that I was using a laptop keyboard, and I’m use to ergonomics for most of my typing.

Tuesday night was the big change.  It was the only night where I had problems sleeping because of heat and humidity, so I spent the night writing.  I think I finished six chapters before I crawled into bed at three in the morning.

Wednesday I managed to slam home the rest of the book, even with a forced break when my laptop overheated.  Typed so much my hand cramped up for a few days.  But I got it finished. 50,000 word rough draft, but it counts.

THURSDAY

Yes, this day gets its own entry, because it was a very informative day.

When I was preparing for the week, my friend mentioned the cabin had a TV and Blu-ray player.  Now, I’m a technophile, but I was looking forward to getting away from the videos games and computers and distractions, which is why I spent a week in the woods instead of sitting on my couch playing video games.

Anyway, with the book wrapped up, I decided to watch something.  I had brought my Blu-ray collection of HBO’s Rome, and started watching it.

Immediately I felt like I had gone back into some cocoon.  Watched Wednesday, and continued Thursday.   All Thursday I didn’t read or write, didn’t try drawing, just zoned out.

I’d known for a while how much more I get done when the TV is not on at home, but going from five days of ‘got this done’ and ‘got that done’, to ‘I should do something after this episode’ was like jumping from a sauna into a snow bank, only the end result was less ‘exhilarating’ and more ‘frustrating’.

It made me realize just how toxic my apartment atmosphere is, and not because the building sucks or anything, but because I get too distracted by the giant TV to write, or draw, or clean, or host.  Yes, I enjoy the TV when I’m watching a movie or playing a video game, but I don’t need to turn it on every day, especially not when I’m going to watch something I’ve seen a dozen times before.  It’s been something I’ve been working on since I got back.

AND I’M BACK

I returned with a second book roughly written and a desire to keep moving on my writing career.  And all the work that leads up to that.