The third and final book in The Blooddaughter Trilogy is now available for Kindle. The paperback is also now available.
One of the most difficult things to do when writing stories that take place in the present is to avoid too many pop-culture references. When writing about times in history it adds a little depth to involve people from history. When writing in the present, we can’t do that because people don’t like to have their lives fictionalized without their permission.
We have to be careful how often we reference things that are very popular now, like television shows. They might seem like a way to create a common bond with the reading audience, but sometimes our audience might absolutely hate something in pop culture our characters like and this can turn off a reader’s interest. And readers don’t really like it when they feel something went over their head, so if we do use a pop-culture reference, make sure it’s something the audience will get or miss entirely.
In “Blood Reprisal”, I make a ‘Friends’ pop-reference that is a little oblique. However, I don’t mention the show directly. I like to think I used it like a double-entendre in a kids’ movie – something people who know will get and something people who don’t won’t actually realize they missed something.
Since my vampire stories take place almost entirely during the nighttime hours (duh, it’s vampires) I spend a lot of time with my characters in bars and clubs. So there is a lot of music in the atmosphere. Trying to avoid pop-references means I can’t use a lot of actual band names. I have to come up with new ones. Naming bands is hard. Finding a good name that isn’t already being used by someone is harder. No one wants to make an unintentional pop-culture reference. But, I have three that I’ve come to like: Skeledudes as a Grateful dead cover band, Dire Monotony as a goth rock band and Jalapeno Pop as a band that does instrumental covers of bubblegum pop songs.
And as much as I’d like to mock the teenybopper vampmances out there, I can’t outright disdain the sparkly vampires in my stories. I do gently mock the genre of vampire books that are really just erotica for women in the first chapter of the first book of The Blooddaughter Trilogy. I do this by having two fans of the book talk about a new vampire book. It seems cheesy, talking about vampire writing in my own vampire book, but that particular book in a book (think play in a play) actually is important to parts of the plot of “Second Blood”.
Then there is Pop-History. Taking real history and using popular myths around that real history. All vampire books do this if they mention Vlad Dracula. Elizabeth Bathory is a very major player in The Blooddaughter Trilogy. I also rib on Alex Dumas with my Milady DeWinter character in “Blood Huntress”. No, I did not take every Femme Fatale from history (and historical fiction) and make them into a vampire in my fictional history. Lucrezia Borgia barely makes an appearance in the Trilogy. The only other Historical figures I use are Artemis and Virginia Dare (though I don’t think I ever call that last one by name. Okay, so I name drop a dozen or so more – sometimes making the historical figure a vampire, other times outright mocking the use of historical figures as vampires.
Most avid readers will get the Vlad Dracula and Dumas references. Vampire fans will almost always get the Elizabeth Bathory references and the Lucrezia Borgia ones. Everyone gets the Artemis reference. I try to stick to a historicaly verifiable version of my fictionalized historical characters. Dracula was a bad, evil man. So was Countess Bathory, but she got better. With these guys, I had to try very hard to create characters that would act like readers would expect if they knew the character’s history and/or myth. At the same time, I had to make them unique characters to my stories. Okay, so not so much with Dracula. His part in my books is so minor it’s non-existent. Like pop-references, historical references have to be obvious or so obscure, a reader won’t want to stop and look it up on wikipedia. If they do, if I did my job right, they will see the actual history as just more of the story presented in my books — an added depth to my novel.
I’m on a very short high horse here. I don’t think any of my covers are works of genius. I do think they are good and in some cases great, but none are truly awesome.
I don’t like when works of fiction use photographs as cover art.
I think it’s lazy and cheap. It lowers my hopes of the work being well written.
Fiction covers should be works of art such as paintings and not stock photography. That’s not to say photography is not art. Photography is an art form and there are artists whose medium is photography and these artists create art through selective angles, lighting and subject matter and often Photoshop. Very few photographs can create a feel that a work of fiction is going to be good fiction. For the sake of simplicity, when I mention art from here out, I am talking about drawings and paintings, be they physical or digital.
Photographs have a lot of detail. Our eyes notice the detail. I think this is not the idea of a book cover. A book cover should convey a short, simple message about the book. Art, no matter how detailed, does not have the level of detail of a photograph. A painting will always convey something of the artist’s perception of the subject matter in the way it focuses on some details to the omission of others.
The worst part of using photographs for cover art is that the pictures are so often just stock photographs taken from Flickr. They are not even designed to be that book’s cover. Sometimes the author actually uses some Photoshop to focus the photograph. Usually, they just extract the people from the background and paste them over some other blurred photograph. I see quite a few of these in an author promotion group I joined. The author promotion page sounded like a good idea until I really thought about it. As near as I can tell everyone on that page is an author and no one is actually reading the books the other authors are promoting.
Nine out of ten of the covers of these books are lazy photograph repurposing junk.
There are ways to use a photograph as a book cover. The first thing a fiction cover needs of a photograph including people is a clear view of a character’s eyes. People stop to notice eyes. Actually every animal will stop to notice eyes. It’s instinct. Of course, the independent authors, no matter how talented they are in story craft, are rarely good at selecting photographs as covers. Since romance/erotica is so popular these days, most of the pictures show a man, either shirtless or with a loose shirt, embracing a woman whose clothes are falling to the wind. Often they are kissing.
This is not a good way to sell a book. We are raised to be embarrassed by other people’s acts of affection. We have an ingrained behavior to look away. A voyeuristic person will then look back, usually out of the corner of their eye, but most of us won’t. And those that look back will then spend too much time examining picture on the cover.
And that stock photography is generic. It’s not made to be the cover of that book and often its painfully obvious. I swear one trilogy I saw was the same stock photograph flipped with one of the books featuring someone pasted in front of the old picture. Photoshop is remarkably easy to use and so hard to use well. Ask my wife who thinks I’m a Photoshop expert. I’m not. I just understand how to manipulate color.
My high horse is short because of the cover I use for ‘Of Maia’s Mist’. That is a photograph I purchased the rights to from a photographer. It replaced a hand-drawn colored pencil sketch I had drawn myself. That photograph was a submission for that call for art because the photographer thought the picture would represent the character of a ‘nature girl’ well and it does.
Every other book cover I have out there right now is computer generated art made by me. The cover for Sheillene is the laziest of those since I clearly use a 3D character animation program and the background is a stock painting. But every other cover is exactly what it should be. Ok, so ‘The Nightstone’ cover kind of sucks, but the book kind of sucks so it’s a good cover for that book. The book is only published to give a little more history to the world in ‘Of Maia’s Mist’ which does not suck.
The vampire trilogy covers are also computer generated. ‘Second Blood’s cover was a digital painting using a stock photo model. The other two books from that series are heavily Photoshopped lips generated by the same 3d Character animation program I used for Sheillene. As simple as they look, the cover for ‘Blood Huntress’ took four or five hours and the cover for ‘Blood Reprisal’ took me over twelve hours. Most of that time was working with a digital paintbrush to adjust the colors and clean up some of the shapes. Still, the covers tell you what to expect from the book. Book One is a vampire feeling alone in a new world. Book two has her identifying her relationships with others. Book three has her in a struggle against an “angel”. Spoiler, those are air quotes too.
But that’s just my covers. I am also writing a role playing game manual. The expectation of the potential audience for that book is one work of art for every other page. The book is a hundred and fifty pages long. I spent most of the last two years finding and commissioning art for that book. It took a huge investment in time and a bit of an investment in money. I use a lot of stock art because I don’t have a budget. I did collect about a hundred works of art and used just over half of those because I found a place to marry them to in the book. A few of the works were commissioned for specific pages. I still had to resort to doing a few drawings myself.
Painting and drawings only look simpler than photographs. Any of the three, when done by an artist, will convey a complex message most of us won’t be able to put into words. And the people that can put them into words are just being pretentious. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but that’s an understatement. The trick with a book cover is to have the cover art represent the book. To do that, it should be created for the book. There are good photographs out there that make excellent covers, even for fiction. These cannot be found in stock piles. They must be commissioned to be for that book. It’s so obvious when they are. The thing is, a good commissioned photograph isn’t any cheaper than a good hand or computer drawn/painted cover. Low end professional cover art costs $300-$500. My budget means I have to hire amateurs. Good Amateurs are hard to find. Chances are, if they are really good, they go pro.
Anyone looking for a great amateur cover artist should look up Gabrielle Ragusi on Deviantart.com. She didn’t break my bank for the work I commissioned from her for that role playing manual. No, deviant art is not about deviant art. It’s just an art (all kinds from painting to photographs to handcrafts) website. I have a page there, too. My “art” needs the air quotes.
That’s the first book of the trilogy. I know, in hindsight it’s a confusing name for a first book.
I obviously have not been blogging much. Honestly in a few months I haven’t blogged at all. I don’t use the blog as a diary, so daily boring stuff never makes it in here.
I have not been doing daily boring stuff. I can honestly say the reason I haven’t been blogging is that I haven’t had time.
I have too many hobbies. Writing is not one of them. Writing is who I am. I just don’t get paid much to write, so it looks like a hobby from the outside observer. I have been writing quite a bit. I am have just published the last book of my Blooddaughter Trilogy. I have three or four other active writing projects.
I am also closing in on publishing in print my roleplaying game setting. It’s more work than I thought it would be. Adding pictures to a book is not simple. Adding pictures with a license to actually distribute the book, for money, is exceptionally difficult when my budget is pocket change.
And I still have my forge and still work on knifemaking, though I haven’t actually hit much glowing metal with a hammer in a few months, but it’s been damned cold outside. And an 1800 degree forge really isn’t enough to heat the great outdoors. When it got warmer, I did go back out to the forge and promptly overworked some tendons in my arm. Right now my elbow hurts if I grip something like a hammer tightly.
And I still have my other dabblings in art and trying to learn music, which would be easier if I didn’t have other hobbies demanding my time.
And hobbies are not the only thing demanding my time. My family has been growing in unnatural ways. Somewhere in the last year, my wife and I took up foster parenting. So our house got another bedroom and lost a breakfast nook and the bedroom acquired it’s very own teenage girl. She’s a nice, quiet girl with an odd perception of reality. Luckily I, too, have an odd perception of reality, so we get along okay. I will say, as hard as it is to teach our biological children to learn from our teachings rather than their own mistakes, it’s harder when someone hasn’t grown their whole lives trusting your, or any parent’s for that matter, wisdom.
There have been other kids coming and going from our home. Foster parenting isn’t meant to be a permanent solution. Ideally these kiddos go home but sometimes, such as the one we have now, there isn’t a home to go back to.
Of my hobbies, my blogging is not the highest priority, but when I have something to say, I will.
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I just published “Blood Huntress”, the second book of the Blooddaughter Trilogy. It’s available at Amazon. com right now.
Shauna, Adjusting to life without the Sun and the need to feed, travels to Europe to track down the notorious vampire hunter, Henry the Inquisitor. She finds the night culture there in upheaval as hunters have decimated the vampire populations of France and the surrounding countries. The royalty she meets are not as friendly as she is accustomed to.
Her companion and best friend, the Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory, has particular difficulty adjusting to the new powers in Europe. Defending her friend may make enemies among the vampire royalty.
In case Shauna doesn’t have enough to worry about, her twin sister and vampiric progeny, Laura, free of her mortal addictions, may have found a new, deadlier, habit.
I’m working on the third book as my Nanowrimo project. It wont be ready to publish in a month–give me about six months to have it out there.
Print Version of Blood Huntress will be available soon. If you can’t wait, Amazon’s sub-company Createspace has it now:
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere I’m terribly busy these days writing my novels and thus all my creativity is going there for the time being. So my blog is suffering. As a lazy excuse for an annual birthday-slash-halloween post I’m collating my halloween posts of earlier years.
The timeless classic:
We all know the government shut down because Congress, who has the responsibility to figure out how to both acquire and spend the government’s money, has not passed a budget to allow for the continued funding of the government itself. It is congress’s constitutional responsibility to pay our nation’s bills.
What we are hearing is that the GOP is insisting that the budget cut funding for the Affordable Care Act, which most people know as Obamacare. The GOP is claiming they will negotiate.
The Democrats are not willing to negotiate on the subject of defunding Obamacare.
Should they? That’s the question.
Let’s back up a bit. The Affordable Care Act was passed by congress. In passing such a set of laws, they agreed, by majority vote, to provide the funds necessary to enact the Affordable Care Act.
The Act has survived dozens of attempts to repeal it. At no time could a majority of the elected representatives of the people of the United States agree that Obamacare should be repealed. This pretty much plainly says that it is the will of the people, through chosen representation, to keep Obamacare in place.
So the GOP is playing the politics game, trying to get ‘tit for tat’. They’re saying “We’ll give you what you want, the continued functioning of the government, if you give us what we want, to make Obamacare unfunded, thus non-functioning.” Yes, this is clearly stating that the GOP considers the continued functionality of the United States government is not their priority.
The GOP claims they are trying to impose the will of the people of the country by defunding or repealing or delaying Obamacare. If this really were the will of the people, at least one of their dozens of attempts to do so through the normal process would have succeeded. Representation might not be 100% true to the will of the people, but considering how persistent the GOP has been, and how many attempts they’ve made to repeal Obamacare, if the people really wanted to repeal it, they’d have let their representatives know and it would have been repealed by now. While not everyone likes Obamacare, most people accept it as better than the alternatives.
So the answer to ‘Should the Democrats be willing to negotiate with defunding Obamacare?’ is: No. Congress already approved Obamacare and all the costs that come with it. The proper way to disapprove it is to repeal it, not play politics.
Granted, ‘tit for tat’ is politics as normal. Congressmen add riders all the time to bills that have nothing to do with what they are adding to it. This is usually small, local to one constituency, projects or laws attached to large popular bills where the piddly riders aren’t worth not passing the larger bill.
And granted, compared to the continued functioning of the nation’s government, Obamacare is a smaller, lesser subject. But, it’s not, by any means, piddly.
So, yes, the GOP is doing it wrong. They are trying to play piddly ‘rider’ politics with nationally affecting programs. They can’t repeal Obamacare the normal way so they are willing to hold hostage all of the Americans who are furloughed from their government jobs.
I don’t like Obamacare. I’ve said so repeatedly on my blog. I think it was wrong approach the problem. Instead of ensuring everyone had access to health care, it merely ensures we all have access to health insurance. That’s not even a small difference. Health insurance does not guarantee proper health care. That said, it’s better than the nothing we had before. I’d have rather waited for a better solution, but we have Obamacare now. Rather than repealing it, we should focus on changing it to what it should be, whatever we think that is. However, we should not hold the government’s ability to function as a bargaining chip to impose our will when the people of the country so clearly don’t agree with our will.
To be clear, if the majority of the people of the country wanted to repeal Obamacare, it would be repealed by now. We’ve all had ample opportunity to elect new senators and representatives. We’ve all had the chance to tell our congressmen how we think we should be represented. Still, Obamacare has not been repealed. I’m not saying the GOP should give up on repealing Obamacare. If they want to keep slamming their heads into a brick wall, I say it’s their heads. I’m saying Obamacare is too big an issue to try to play ‘tit for tat’ with, when tat is the well being of our whole nation. They need to just do their job and sign the checks to pay the bills they’ve already agreed to pay.
When the time comes to sign the checks is not the time to decide which checks to write. We’ve already agreed on what needs to be paid for. Pay for it. Then start trying to decide what we should and shouldn’t pay for next time and next time, if they can’t decide by that time to not keep Obamacare, they’re going to have to keep paying for it. Well, they won’t have to. They have the option to keep acting stupid.
I am currently devoting the majority of my creativity to finishing up my vampire novella trilogy. My 19.5 fans out there will be happy to know I am almost done with the second novel and hope for a Halloween release or sooner.
I have a few other projects I am working on as well, such as my demonic roleplaying setting, Demiarpg.wordpress.com, but that requires me to dive deep when I do work on it, so I only touch it once a month or so.
In the meantime, my blog has suffered. I’d like to revive it a bit, but I need help on the creative side. Dedicating that part of my brain to my fiction, I tend to be at a loss as to what to blog about. I need ideas. Got Questions you need answered? These can be philosophical or scientific. I might even answer a personal question or two. Got concepts you need explored? I’ll try anything. Once I have an idea, I can pretty much run with it. My only restriction is no targetted political questions like “Why are Republicans so stupid?”
Send your ideas to me using my contact information on the ‘CONTACT’ page above or leave a comment.
I’d say there are no stupid questions, but honestly, that’s not true. If you think your question is stupid, go ahead and ask anyway. This is the internet and no one will ever find out, right?