Today, my first ever cover reveal on Books Are Cool. And I’m starting with a real bang. Here’s a fantastic cover for a book that you must read when it’s published. It’s honest, gritty, funny, startling, moving… but I’m jumping the gun. For now we focus on the cover.

 

paulygreen

I talked to Paul about his cover.

OK, so why this cover for Paulyanna: International Rent-boy?

I chose this cover firstly because out of all my attempts it really was my personal favourite. I simply liked the colours. It was also created organically and without much outside influence, meaning I didn’t blatantly copy any other book.

I allowed the layout, colour scheme and font to develop as I went along. Trial and error and this was made up of many errors. A bit like myself and therefore a very apt choice.

 

What does the cover tell us about your book?

I am not glossy or over produced, I’m simple,perhaps a touch plain, therefore so is my story. I think it truthfully reflects the content.

Symbolically I am one among many and ALMOST like every other rent-boy, only red.

 

What were you trying to achieve with this cover? 

I wanted to grab attention, draw the eye to my book. I think it is also more special if the author creates their own cover – it inserts an additional personal touch, a nice completion to the whole creative process.  I am no designer and these things are taste preference anyway. I am aware that some people simply don’t like green.

 

Was is it easy to design?

To design, yes to lay-out and implement my ideas, no. But that turned out to be a good thing. As I said this cover developed more out of the things I couldn’t do, Mistakes I thought looked OK and then played around with.

I used a basic drawing program that was very limited, sometimes insufficient. I searched online and used another program when mine fell short.

 

How many other cover designs did you discard on the way?

Nine, I got right into the designing process and could have continued on and on. My first was terrible and I got a bit better along the way. The only image I kept throughout was the royalty free clip art of the lone figure.

I’m not even entirely sure if I did get better. I enthused about all of my covers. But seemed to like the latest one more than the previous. I get bored easily so perhaps it was the new and the different I liked.

 

Did you ask for other people’s opinions and was that helpful – or confusing?

I did ask for opinions which was VERY confusing. Online you don’t know if the person you’re asking is colour blind, abstract minded or a top notch graphic designer.

Working for two hours on a design to get the response “I don’t like green” is not helpful, especially when another comes back saying, “Oh green, how lovely”.

I found it better to create a straight-forward photo poll with my shortlist. A poll with the simple option to click your favourite leaving no room for discussion.

 

Having been through the process, what tips can you pass on about designing a cover?

Scroll a book site, see what sticks out or appeals to you and start from there. Chances are your product with morph into one of your own making and not particularly like anything you initially spied. Keep it simple whenever possible and try to consider the content at all times, it is amazing how quickly you can get carried away.

 

pauly photoFinally, tell us about Paulyanna: International Rent-boy in 100 words.

A quick decision that steered me down a rather dodgy path.

Without added glamour and grit this is the tale of a 1990s British rent-boy. Risk and danger mixes with fun and thrills in my twelve-year career as a male prostitute.

A precarious existence on the streets of London and Los Angeles boulevards.

May not have been pretty but I had the audacity to succeed. This is not an erotic tale, more an intimate portrayal of day-to-day life as viewed from my quirky perspective. What goes on behind a glassy-eyed smile.

A road-book adventure in search of happiness.

 

Thanks Paul!

I’m chuffed to welcome indie author Nicholas A. Rose to Books Are Cool for a friendly interrogation. Nicholas writes fantasy and is two-thirds of the way through his second trilogy. Markan Throne, Markan Empire and Markan Sword make up the first, and Gifted Apprentice is being followed by Gifted Hunter in the second. I discovered Nicholas through the very enjoyable Gifted Apprentice so that’s the starting point for my questions to him.

 

1. Tell us briefly about Gifted Avenger

This novella continues Sallis ti Ath’s story. Sallis is a bounty-hunter with a strong belief in justice. He is also blessed with the Gift, which means he can “see” where a criminal he’s pursuing has passed. But murder sets Sallis on a path of vengeance and he’s forced to challenge his beliefs concerning justice and the Gift.

 

2. Who’s your favorite character?

In the novellas – Sallis ti Ath.

 

nick photo3. Which character is most like you?

In the Markan Empire Trilogy, there is a sylph scout named Neptarik. People who know me and have read these books assure me that he displays a lot of my own character traits. Basking in sunshine and a weakness for chocolate, to give two examples.

 

4. What makes Gifted Avenger stand out from the crowd?

That it is part of a trilogy linked to all the other trilogies that are, or will be, written by me. In many ways, the Gifted Trilogy is a prequel to the Markan Empire Trilogy, but is also completely independent from it.

 

5. Why did you choose to write fantasy, or did it choose you?

Probably because I read so much fantasy as a youngster. I loved being able to escape this world, and wonder what if? I suppose writing fantasy is just a natural progression from that.

 

gifted apprentice6. How did you come up with the cover design?

Joleene Naylor does all my covers. I just give her the rough outline of what I’m looking for and leave the rest up to her. I said I wanted Sallis on Glyder riding through a forest, pretty much what I’ve got. I leave the detail up to Joleene and she often surprises me with what she comes out with.

 

7. What are you working on now? Will it be out soon?

When people contact me about characters, the two they mention most are Sallis ti Ath and the ship’s sylph Cloudy. The next trilogy covers the ship Flying Cloud in her early days, how Cloudy came to be the ship’s sylph and some of her early adventures. I’m halfway through the first draft of The Ship And Her Sylph and finished the plotting and set pieces for the second in the trilogy, The Ship and Her Dolphin.

Fingers crossed, I’m hoping to have these two out in 2014.

I’m also (slowly) working on the next Markan Trilogy, following on from where the first left off. There may also be more Gifted books, if more plots present themselves.

 

8. What are you reading at the moment?

Factual books. The Ship (Landstrom), Seamanship (Harland), and The Age of the Galley (many contributors, published by Conway’s).

All dry stuff, all bought for research, but also fascinating (to me).

 

9. Do you write every day? Is it hard to find the time?

Every day, though I sometimes miss the odd day here and there. It can be hard to find the time, but more a matter of self-discipline and sacrificing other things I perhaps ought to be doing. One must keep the creative thoughts flowing!

 

10. What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Keep going, never give up. Learn from your mistakes. OK, that’s two.

 

11. What ereading device do you have? And why did you choose that one?

The ubiquitous Kindle. I bought that one because it was the only one available in the UK at the time. I also have an ipad.

 

12. Do you dress up or dress down to write? Or maybe you don’t dress at all?

I write in whatever I’m wearing at the time. Though I always am wearing something at the time. Jeans and t-shirt usually and often barefoot.

 

13. Where can we find your website? And other social media?

My website is at: http://www.ilvenworld.com/

My blog: http://ilvenworld.blogspot.com

On Twitter I’m Nicholas A. Rose

And I’m nickandyrose on Facebook

 

14. Anything else we need to know about you?

Happiest outdoors, where I’m free to think. Love mountains, the sea, good company and real ale.

 

15. Your favorite “knock knock” joke?

Knock knock.

Who’s there?

Me.

Me who?

Seriously, me, I’m just telling a knock-knock joke!

 

I’m delighted to welcome Jeno Marz to my blog today. Jeno has recently self-published her first book Falaha’s Journey: Descent, which is book one of a sci-fi trilogy. It has a very unusual heroine – a five-year-old alien girl, Falaha. Here’s what one reviewer on Amazon has said about the book: This is not for the kiddies. The main character is smart and interesting and gives the bad guys a run for their money. Even though the main characer precocious, she still has moments of being a child, which adds to the believability. I loved the twists and turns of the plot and the relationships between the characters. If you like “Ender’s Game” then give this one a try.

I totally agree; it’s an excellent book.

Now, over to my interview with Jeno.

Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog, Stephanie.

1.    What inspired you to write Falaha’s Journey: Descent?

This tiny story has quite a huge story behind it. I’ve been writing fiction since high school. The universe Falaha’s Journey is set in was “officially” born in summer 2001, right after I graduated from high school. I was an avid reader as a teenager (adult books, of course) and this was when I decided to write a novel. (I mean, everyone’s doing it, right?) The invented world had a lot of transformations since then – the biggest was its genre: from Fantasy to Science Fiction (education does impact how you see things and this was when I died as a Fantasy reader.)

So, for 10 years I’ve been trying to write a novel. I was also studying in the University and working full time during that time until I graduated, and continued to work full time until autumn 2008. The progress was very slow. But even during the hardest times I never abandoned the work on the novel, even if it was one word before I fell asleep. Sleep deprivation was my usual state of mind.

After I quit my job, becoming a full time freeloader (occasionally doing some ‘serious’ and ‘respected’ work for cash) and marrying the guy I’ve been ‘dating’ since kindergarten (sounds familiar?), I reworked everything I’ve created, so instead of one novel, there are now two in progress (I will tell about them later). But something didn’t add up in these two books. By this time the Danna already thrived in my head. Yet something was missing.

And then, one day somewhere in November 2011, I was reading a book about aliens (Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials by Michael A.G. Michaud.) And for some reason I though what if an alien kid sent us a message in reply to something she had received? And what if that kid is freely allowed to do it and has access to high tech? And what would that message be?

That’s how a character named Falaha was born. She was the one who would send us humans a message, and our world would never be the same again (in good way or bad way, who knows – might be devastating consequences.) Kind of makes her a villain.

I published that little story on my old blog and forgot about it… For two months. (You can still read it  on my new website, I’ve kept that pilot relic.) Then I noticed such thing as blog serials. I discussed this with my good friend, and we decided to do a blog series – I write, she checks my English to make it human-readible. I’m not a native English speaker, and my grammar was really not so good and still isn’t. She said my writing has improved a lot in the half a year. Episode One came out at the end of January 2012, and the last episode (Baro’s Bane) came out in July 2012. (This is what a revised and edited Descent is now, 34 episodes. And it is the reason it is and the novellas will remain being told in “episodes”.)

No outline, no character sketches, nothing. In January I had a 5-year-old girl, some extensive worldbuilding for my novels, and a nameless spacecraft. And it just happened on its own.

Thanks to this story I’ve learned two things about myself and my writing method: I’m a pantser, detailed outlining was killing my stories for years; awesome things happen when a writer drops a character into a situation and lets her figure it out, logically and emotionally – you just have to listen to her voice and write.

2.    How is your book different from the sci-fi that’s already out there?

First, there are no humans in it. They exist (and the Danna know about them), because the story takes place in the Milky Way some 3600 Earth years into the future from now, but they are not the part of this thing at all. The Earth is not the center of the Universe.

Second, it’s a girl’s story. It’s a girl’s journey on many levels to become a strong woman. Not a butt-kicking, gun-wielding sort, but a strong, accomplished person, a competent leader with a head and a heart. It’s a journey which starts in the early childhood. Everyone is welcome to read it, but I think it will be more appealing to women (a sci-fi for women, which is not a romance, though romantic notions present, or a space fantasy; it has an extra dimension if you get all the scientific and logical clues!) It’s a seemingly simple story, but it has layers. Many things were unintentional, it was a free-write after all; but even now when I think about it, I find more and more hidden themes there. Ok, I’m not that much of a philosopher. 😀

One notable thing that my husband pointed out was the scene with a ‘safe journey’ sign in episode 31:

Personal matters settled, I gave Eyuran the list of requested parts and materials.

“The bloodless guy is all yours,” I said and sprouted my helmet on. Eyuran did the same.

“Be careful.” He raised his hand, palm open towards me in the ‘safe journey’ sign as I walked away.

Then he shows me this and says, is this it? I’m like “Well, yes… Wow, for real!” And then we laughed that if the Danna ever found that plaque, from this picture they would think the Earth wished them a ‘safe journey’. Thanks, humans, what a nice ‘card’. Have fun staying on your rock.

3.    Falaha’s Journey: Descent has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

Yes. I have experience in graphic design and illustration, so I wouldn’t let anyone design my own covers. I always wanted to design a book series. Now I had my chance! But I’m saving the prettiest cover I drew for the complete trilogy set. It has a stubborn redhead on it.

4.    Which character from the book are you most like? Falaha? Eyuran? Baro?

Every character I’ve ever written has something from me since they are the products of my mind. But I tend to resemble my male characters more, maybe because I love writing male characters. Falaha is an exception, since I’m writing her in the first person.

5.    Once you’ve finished the Falaha’s Journey trilogy, what’s next?

I’m going to finish the novels, a two-book series. Each of these is quite big, epic size.

The first one is called Rjg. It tells a story of the war between the two dominating species on Dannan (Falaha’s homeworld), that took place long ago, the story of the emergence of the powerful civilization, and feature Falaha’s most prominent ancestors as protagonists. Can be read as a stand-alone novel.

The second one has no name yet, but it tells the story of THE Ancestor, who is present here as the MC and the protagonist; the large conflict, foreshadowed in Falaha’s Journey, and the reaction event chain triggered by Falaha’s actions in the trilogy will be examined in more detail and resolved in this book. I’m sure the readers will meet Falaha and her family here as well, but as the supporting/episodic cast.

After that I will write something else. I will think about it when I finish these two.

6.    Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I’ve finished reading Courtship Rite by Donald Kingsbury, a really interesting science fiction tale. And I’ve briefly swept through my dose of fiction I had downloaded for free on Amazon, so I’m waiting for the two new paperback books I ordered this week to arrive. These are Thin Air: Encounters in the Himalaya by Greg Child and The Death Zone: Climbing Everest Through the Killer Storm by Matt Dickinson. I’m really into this stuff.

7.    When did you first realise you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

As a tiny shrimp of a kid. No, seriously. Leaving aside my desire to be an astronaut and a rock climber at the age four, for me it was always a very serious thing, to write stories. My first alien race (I think it was alien, I don’t really remember what they were) I wrote stories about was designed at the age of three and a half. They were mostly picture stories, but I already could write at that age. But then I was distracted by real life, growing up and all. I came to full realization in high school.

8.    What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Write. Write as your life depends on it and get better. Never quit. I doubt there is anything else to consider. You grow when you practice all the time.

9.    What’s the one best thing and the one worst thing about self-publishing, in your experience?

The best thing is the total control of the process; the worst thing is that the promotion might get expensive, especially if you are from a non-English-speaking country and have to rely on internet only. Very exhausting and time-consuming as well.

10.    OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?

Tempura or battered butterfly shrimps with dark soy sauce; chicken cutlets (personal recipe); homemade Olivier salad (family recipe). I love to cook for special occasions; my hub is a self-proclaimed kitchen god and cooks every day; the cat approves.

I have enough pictures of me like this to write a book series titled Fifty Shades of Meat.

11.    What would you not be seen dead wearing?

Skirts. They are the abomination of women’s wear. Utterly uncomfortable. While I admit there are pretty ones and many women look good in them – I have some in my wardrobe, of course – but nope. Over my dead body.

12.    And finally, please describe your perfect day away from the computer and writing!

That would be any day away from writing AND reading, but not necessarily away from the computer.

Plan A) would be sleeping, especially on rainy days. Snoring the hell out of this house and the whole neighborhood!

But it never happens as I plan it – I wake up in the middle of the night to write a few sentences into the notepad in my phone; I write every day, even if these are a few sentences or paragraphs, if not on the computer, then on my phone or paper notepad.

Plan B) would be doing things with my husband. I’m a geek, but I need breaks from it sometimes. Occasional outdoor sports/tours are good, games, both computer and tabletop, are good, team cooking, team anything is good. In winters we have to clean our yard from all the snow, so the day can be perfectly spent on a snowball fight and fortress building.

I’m also an avid watcher of anime and a reader of manga. I can spend the whole day watching/reading something alone or with my hub and the cat.

Plan C) would be nature stuff: taking pictures somewhere in the woods, exploring old castles’ ruins, going to the beach to take some more pictures…

Plan D) Well, this is not really a plan; it is when relatives remember you exist. The day can be anything, but it is perfectly wasted from a writer’s perspective.

Plan E) I receive a call starting with “My computer isn’t booting…” or something. Occasionally I want to reply “Yes, this is cat speaking” but then I remember I’m getting seriously paid here. The greedy “I’m finally going to buy me a…” switches on. Writer? She’s absent today.

Signs and Wonders by Alex Adena is a fascinating book. Annie Grace is a fraudulent faith healer, although when she was a young child, she once performed a miraculous healing. Her father, Daddy, exploited this and became a very rich man through healing roadshows.

Annie feels like a fraud. A ghost from the past rears its head – Annie faces prosecution for her part in a tragic incident five years before. Two of her employees turn against her. A client secretly taperecords her making tactless remarks. Her latest one-night stand kisses and tells. It seems everyone is trying to bring Annie down. But when it looks like things can’t get any worse, her amazing powers return. The question is, will Annie use them for good this time?

The characters in the story are all rounded and believable. The book is very well written. It’s hard to put down. And events most certainly don’t follow a predictable path.

But there’s more to Signs and Wonders than the story of Annie. As the author says, he wrote it “for everyone who has felt pre-defined by their upbringing and family expectations”. This comes across strongly in the book. Can we change as we grow up, or are we cast in permanent roles as children by the adults around us, whether rightly or wrongly? Should we try and make other people change?

Brilliant book, hugely entertaining and very thought provoking. A definite must-read. Available as a Kindle book from Amazon and from Smashwords. Paperback coming soon too.

Alex Adena has a website here and pages on Goodreads and Smashwords too. He’s a thoroughly nice guy and has given me plenty of useful advice on book marketing, which I’m very grateful for. Do buy his book!