To agent, or not to agent? That is the question!

Back in 2012, when I had the first book of the Nukari Invasion Trilogy edited, I set out to find an agent and a publisher.  The process was long, and ended in many rejections.  I think what frustrated me the most was the fact an agency could take six to twelve months to determine whether they wanted to work with you. In addition they demanded “exclusive” review rights to your manuscript, effectively locking out finding other agents in the meantime.

Looking back, I had a great deal to learn about writing. Honestly, I’m always learning, but there was a far greater learnings that needed to take place at that point. I do understand why I was not picked up.

As my amazing editor, Arlene Robinson, completed the review of my fourth full novel, D’mok Revival: New Eden, she recommended I not self-publish. She felt the quality of writing was ready for an agent. I can’t tell you how humbled I was by her kind words. I have a very deep trust and respect for Arlene, so for her to say this was very significant to me.

This, of course, creates quite the conflict. I want to release New Eden! There’s AMAZING new artwork from Glenn Clovis to debut. Fans are clamoring for what comes next. The bomb at the end of D’mok Revival: Descension left many fans screaming “WHAT!” and wanting more. At least the approach worked! Sorry!

I’m also very proud of D’mok Revival: New Eden. Many events happen in the book that set the tone for future entries in the series (of which many are planned). In fact, I’m already one third of the way done with Weun Academy: Boy with the Green Eyes (working title). It’s the first official spin-off picking up after the New Eden novel.

To be honest, I was planning on going after an agent with Weun Academy. I feel the story is strong, and has the right combination to appeal to a marketplace hungry for more science fiction, superhuman, and youth focused stories.

I believe I’m going to look into the contemporary way to approach agents. Things may have changed in the past 4 years. Certainly the agents and agencies will have changed. If you’re interested in getting an early preview copy of New Eden let me know. I love passionate people that provide honest feedback. All I ask is that you’d support the book when it official comes out.

I’ll keep you posted!

The road to book 4… D’mok Revival: New Eden

“Here we go again.” That’s what I think each time I begin the next book. Of course, this time I carried with me the experience of publishing an entire trilogy and two novelettes.

The original fourth manuscript was started in early 2010 and finished shortly into 2011. When I published book three, I didn’t originally “see” more to the story, despite the bomb dropped at the end of the third book.

However, one day while working out at Bally’s Total Fitness, while listening to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé’s Telephone song, a scene popped in my head. It was Nikko, Kiyanna, and Dane together at a dance club. I found the whole scene amusing and curious. Why would those three (in particular) be together—at a dance club? I ended up heading home and writing out the “short story” of the scene. Two days later another scene happened just like it, except this time a small group of soldiers were attacking the three ladies. I found myself asking “why?” Why were they together? What were they doing? Why were they being attacked?  Why did they go to a dance club?! As always, the “Whys” led to answers, which revealed an entirely new book.

I’ve mentioned before that as I finished book four, I began working on a fifth book. However, before taking on yet another full novel, I decided to bring the first four manuscripts to “the world.” I returned back to book one, started the editing process, and the rest is history.

So, the first full trilogy is out. Two novelettes are released, and the last of the existing full manuscripts was next on the list. I know from experience that reworking an existing manuscript took a great deal of time. My writing style had dramatically changed since 2010, characters had changed, dynamics were different, etc. I needed to rewrite the entire thing.

Armed with the experience of five earlier published works, I assessed the existing fourth manuscript. While the foundation was solid, the approach needed great refinement. There were far too many point-of-views, there were far too many “main story threads” that people were going to get lost with. I also recognized the weakness in my earlier novels in character introductions and descriptions.

The first step was culling the plot points and establishing one core story thread.

I found it ironic that the very scenes (and corresponding main story thread) with Dane, Nikko, and Kiyanna that inspired me to write the fourth manuscript fell outside the focused main story. They had to be removed to keep things centered on the series protagonist Rhysus Mencari.

I didn’t want to lose the important question Dane, Nikko, and Kiyanna were on. So after removing the chapters dedicated to the detail behind their mission, I paraphrased the action in updates Kiyanna provided Mencari.

Doing this streamlined the main story around Rhysus Mencari, and created an opportunity to create a novelette (or even another full novel) around Dane, Nikko, and Kiyanna’s mission later!

What really gave this effort wings was when wrote the prologue for this manuscript. I didn’t have prologues and epilogues in the originally manuscripts. Those happened when each respective novel was re-edited. The introduction of “Jask” in the prologue (not a huge spoiler) from the perspective of the surviving Nukari Beast Warriors and Kajlit’ga’s encampment thrilled me. I saw it all so clearly. Interestingly enough, some aspects mimicked the original short story I wrote back in 1998 (that no one has read to date). The homage to the earlier work, including the symbolism which tied characters together, was so cool (to me).

Then I rewrote the first chapter, adding it entirely from scratch. Originally it jumped right into the operation on Naijen’s world. Without spoiling more, the new chapter one brings you right into Rhysus Mencari’s perspective. It helps you understand him, see what’s happened in the near year been the end of book 3 and the start of book 4, and where he is at emotionally and mentally. It also begins to introduce concepts about the abilities, and the first few key characters to the novel.

I saw it so clearly—watching the movie in my mind and typing it all out. The excitement from this carried me forward.

Another new section was the addition of an actual race at the Hoverdome! The Hoverdome is based on a board game design I created. In book three, you meet the character of Kiyanna who is an avid hoverbike racer (wannabe professional, current hobbyist), the Hoverdome is also introduced in passing. In the latest manuscript, she’s sent on a cover mission to race at the Hoverdome. It was thrilling to see the board game brought to life! I literally “played” the board game to create some of the dynamics discussed in the book. In fact, there’s a few evolutions to the concept mentioned in the book that will find their way back to the board game design. I’ll talk more about the Hoverdome board game in a different post. But the real thing IS coming. It’s a matter of timing.

There was one other significant change to the story. Back in 2010 my significant other of ten years ended our relationship. It was a very difficult time. The characters that represented us in the story were already headed for a split (which clearly shows I knew it was coming). But now there would be no reconciliation between the two characters… While dealing with my own personal pain, I channeled everything into the story. There were even chunks of conversations my former and I had, painful, soul destroying comments that made it in the manuscript. It certainly captured my pain during that experience.

Fast forward a number of years. I as a person have greatly evolved. It was honestly difficult to go back and reread sections of the fourth manuscript. As a writer, especially when evolving an old work, you relive the context of what inspired you to write what you did at that time. It wasn’t fun. I most certainly didn’t want to “be there” or experience “that” again.

But a curious thing—a wonderful thing—happened. I found myself blessed with the gift of perspective. I could look back on a horrible time in my life and see it with newfound understanding. I’m not the Michael of yesterday. Frankly, for the record, that end was the best thing possible for me and my son. I just didn’t realize it then.

So, as I rewrote those sections, I started by removing them entirely. There’s good drama, and then there’s bad drama. There’s interesting drama, and then there’s things we already go through enough in life that we don’t need to experience in our “entertainment.” You know?

Instead of leaving the reader in the lurch of raw emotions, instead of exposing them to my personal pain, I found a new opportunity. People will run into others they care about that are going through a terrible break-up (or dysfunction as a couple). The rewrite focused on Osuto and Rhysus Mencari’s observations about what was happening to Nikko and Cogeni, and talking about how to handle the situation. This included how to mitigate the impacts on the entire team… I enjoyed and appreciated the mature insights. My hope is it will help people understand a possible way to be navigate the muddy waters of others’ relationships.

And let’s be honest, no one needs to read things that tore holes in my soul. Some of it still smarts, now six years later. But I’ve decided it’s private and doesn’t need to see the light of day again.

Anyway, despite my attempt to cull the manuscript, it blossomed from 80,000 words (a modest starting size, thought nearly 16,000 words less than any of the other novels) to over 112,000 words! This was with content originally REMOVED. Yes, that means I wrote an additional 32,000 words while editing, and I still have content left for at least a short story (8,000 words), if not a novelette (17,000 words).

Characters demanded more time, scenes needed more action and detail, old story threads needed resolution, and once the half-way point in the story was hit, the rollercoaster of disasters that followed would not be denied their due space. So be it! I loved every moment of it.

The last chapter and epilogue clearly set up additional books. I already know what they are. In fact, I’m already working on the first book to the first spin-off series called “Weun Academy.” Yes, the same place that’s mentioned in passing in book three and presented in more detail in book four. You’ll have to wait for a future post concerning the numerous up-coming books.

I’m so excited to get this new book in your hands! I will say this, I am relieve to have the original manuscripts published. It’s given me a great sense of satisfaction. At the same time, as you know, I put a great deal of my own life into these stories. Sure, they’re set in the future, with fantastic characters and abilities. But at the heart of D’mok Revival lies human stories that everyone can relate to… Most are my own experiences, struggles, etc. But doing this comes at a cost, as you’re forced to relive what inspired you to write what you did as you review and edit the content.

Finally I get to be “me” again… Writing from my current context and place in life, no longer in the past. It’s one of the reasons Weun Academy is so fun for me to write! I get to weave my current life into my latest work!

I can’t wait to hear what you think about D’mok Revival: New Eden.

Arlene is working on the very final edit pass. The new cover is done from Glenn Clovis. I think we’re about two months out from a PRINTED release potentially. Though, I’ve been told this book is so solid I should shop it around for an agent.

Regardless, I’ll keep you posted.  That’s all for now!

P.S.  People have mentioned New Eden was not the original name for the fourth book, per my Author’s Note at the end of book 3. I’m changing the naming approach for this new trilogy, with subtitled that focus on the core object or thing discussed in the book as opposed to some over-arching theme.

Book 4’s Cover Design

Creating the fourth novel cover

So, here we go again!  After releasing two novelettes in 2015 which extended the D’mok literary universe, it’s time to tackle the next novels. These days, you don’t really “do” one book anymore. The expectations is TRILOGIES. Yes, this means there will be two more in the D’mok Revival series coming. 😉

I promise to write about the process of taking my fourth manuscript and evolving it into its final form in a future blog. This post is specifically about the new cover.

For some quick background, I am very proud of the five covers done to date. I’ve had the distinct honor of privilege of working with Glenn Clovis, an amazing 3D artist. He’s brilliant, incredibly talented, and PATIENT!  This is important, as working with “a client with a vision” (like myself) is NEVER EASY. Not to say I’m a high maintenance person per se, but I’m trying to create a specific look and with that comes some creative direction.

Here’s the first three novels:

book 1 coverbook 2 coverbook 3 cover

 

Here’s the first two novelettes:

mindwalk coveraloan conspiracy

 

I deeply respect and appreciate Glenn’s creative genius. I believe we iterate and evolve designs very well together. Sometimes it’s a suggestion on lighting, or transformation of a small part of something he’s already created. However, having “creative vision” is NOTHING without a creative master to make it manifest.

I’ve mentioned before the pressure that builds to have an impressive and more memorable cover book-over-book. I always want to push it and create something more amazing in the next round.

And so, here we are, “the next round.”  D’mok Revival: New Eden!

Novel number four represents a pivot in the D’mok literary universe. Many important things have changed since original trilogy, with ripple effects of how the Nukari Invasion came to an end.

So what should be on the cover?

I set forth a goal, what I wanted the cover to communicate:

  • It had to be familiar
  • It needed to focus on what New Eden looks like as it’s important the plot (starting in book 4 and moving forward)
  • I wanted to show the influence and adaptions being made based on exposure to Nukari technology
  • I wanted to represent the changing of the guard (leadership), in a way
  • I wanted the station to look capable, like someone wouldn’t mess with it, and would be able to destroy it if they tried

 

There’s a few things I knew already that would influence the visuals:

  • New Eden is not where Eden was, so the red nebula is out. A new location visual would be required
  • New Eden is the same “class” space station as Eden, just much larger, and enhanced
  • Examples of the Nukari technology are clearly illustrated on the third cover (the overlapping armor scales, and creature-esk look)
  • Books one and two featured a ship used by Mencari, so showing it again would create great consistency

 

The most important thing to “get right” was the station. There were many comments from the first book’s cover that I recalled.  For instance: “I’m not sure what I’m looking at? Is that a satellite or a weapon?” “It looks evil.” I didn’t want history to repeat. This time, I want to make sure people know what it is.

We looked at the source material.  First, the original space station:

original-stationoriginal-reference-for-email

Second, the Nukari ship (The Leviathan):

Dmok-CapitalShip

Third, the Nukari space gateway:

ring

 

So, here was the an early approach to the design of the New Eden station:

first station version

You have to start somewhere!  I loved the dome. The arms had segments, but they were very understated. The body looked still under construction to me, and I was looking for something more finished.

 

second version

That’s a leap! Loved the direction it was headed. The upper struts that connected the arms didn’t feel organic enough (something my test group also mentioned). I liked the reshaped arms, but wanted them even bigger!

 

third version

Another leap. I also loved the flairs put on the ends of the arms.  Those will come in handy later…  Though, my test group still didn’t get the direct connection to the Nukari technology with the overlapping tiles and such. There was a suggestion to change the light from blue to red like the Nukari, saying that would help create a stronger connection.

Interesting!  I LOVE feedback. Now, a quick aside, RED is usually used to represent bad things. This seems to be common across cultures in the world too. Even our own beloved scifi tend to follow this.  For instance, red blaster fire or Light Saber colors are used in Star Wars to represent the Empire or Dark Side. Hell is typically pictured as fire and red. Red auras are seen as people that have a “devil-may-care” attitude, are willing to try anything, and quick to anger. People with blue auras are seen as rare, bold, and charismatic, peacemakers with the ability to smooth out angry situations.

Based on this, I provided the feedback to Glenn, and this was the result.

 

fourth version

Amazing!

I reviewed this with my review team. They felt it was a HUGE leap in connections to the first and third books.

I placed it into my cover blocking and played with how to display the station with respect to position and size.  Placement actually was pretty easy.  I needed to follow the “Z” eye scanning pattern people unconsciously use to read in the Western culture.

perhaps-something-like-this

I also considered putting the original ship in the lower left, following the first book. I then added a small stream of ships headed to dock into the left-arm, and one slightly larger ship coming toward the viewer’s perspective.

However, when shown to my review group they felt it was a bit TOO similar to the first book.  Then I had an idea.  Going back to my “changing of the guard” display goal, what if a slightly larger ship heading at the viewer’s perspective was the original ship from books one and two? What if I had a new ship in the lower left heading toward the station?  I’d create the Z pattern, trigger the concept of being familiar, and present the changing of the guard all at one time.  It would be EPIC!

Of course, this meant I needed a new ship. It would need to be New Eden tech, with a similar Nukari influence.  We’d never designed New Eden tech before. Oh, the design challenges are endless (and awesome)!  So I mocked up a very crude concept for Glenn.

I’ll hold off on this ship for the reason that after coming up with an awesome design, the final cover composition worked best WITHOUT IT!  I know!  We spent so much time coming up with something so awesome. I’ll use it, just not for this cover. It’s the “Lexor Class” ship that gets mentioned starting in book 4, so there should be lots of opportunity to use it.

On to working on the final book 4 cover.  Together we mocked up a few different ideas (locations, angles, position of elements).

I wanted to go with a green and blue nebula. This would be distinct from the other major novel covers, and contrast with the orange-red glow from the station.

early rough

But one design really popped past the others. I loved (and so did my review team) loved the station on an angle, in a more ominous presentation.

Of course, this was just the beginning of the refinement.  Here’s a list of things we tweaked through numerous designs:

  • Presentation of the city under the dome (Rinow city)
  • Window placement on the station
  • Red glowing light from other places than the arm

Here’s the final version of the cover:

final cover

There’s so many fine details about this station and the surrounding area of space. For instance, the gleam off the dome, the trail of ships going into the arms, the windows on the station… I think it’s amazing and beautiful.

In the end, I believe I accomplished all my main goals for this with exception to a changing of the guard. However, one could argue that so much obvious Nukari technology shows something is up at New Eden…  Exactly what I want people (that are familiar with the series) to wonder about.

So, that’s the story about book 4’s cover development!

Inspiration from life

It’s hard to believe it’s the beginning of October already. I thought I’d post a quick update about progress on book 4, D’mok Revival: New Eden.  I’m just past the half-way point in the editing of the manuscript. My original goal was to be done editing before this point, but creativity ebbs and flows, and I’m a firm believer in not forcing my work if it’s not flowing on its own.

When an ebb happens, it’s a signal to me that life wants me to replenish a bit. For me, new inspiration comes from living life, having new experiences, meeting interesting people, soaking in the world around you.

I’ve spent a great deal of time with the Milwaukee Castaways Motorcycle Club. In fact, I’m currently a pledge, and will hopefully become a full member at the end of this month (October 2015). It’s an amazing group of guys who love being not just a social organization, but an entity that believes in community building, and raising money for philanthropies such as Camp Heartland (A place dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth and families facing significant health challenges or social isolation) and other well deserving local organizations.  It makes me feel proud to be a part of such a group. The experiences I’ve had getting to know the guys, going on “runs,” and the pledging process to become one of them, has been amazing and inspiring.

My son has also started third grade at a new school. It’s interesting to watch him step into a completely new environment. The initial social awkwardness, understanding the social positioning, getting locations and timeframes down, and integrating into the new environment has been equally insightful and fascinating.

At work I’ve also been moved from a centralized user-experience team into a decentralized model where I’m the lead UX person for all software “tools” (utility programs) for Johnson Controls B.E. division. Here too, there’s the awkwardness of getting to know an entirely new group, understanding how they work, not wanting to be too aggressive or suggestive in “how to do things better” until I understand how the team works today, and how things get done.

So how does all this help my writing? The heart of D’mok Revival is about the interpersonal dynamics of the D’mok Warriors, led by Rhysus and Osuto. There’s new members joining all the time, there’s new places and situations, in short, everything I’m going through in life can inspire what happens in the book based on an authentic real-world model.

While I’m focused on the fourth book, but I also am taking notes and writing short segments for the first book in Weun Academy series (that features Eisah, “the boy with the green eyes” starting at the academy). Here too, all of the things I mentioned about the Milwaukee Castaways M.C., my son starting at school, and the shift to a new team at work directly create a platform for me to authentically develop Eisah’s experience starting at Weun Academy.

As a result of “living life,” I’m finding a refreshed stream of inspiration flowing. I’m very happy with the continued evolution of the fourth manuscript.  My revised goal is to have it ready to edit by the end of the year. I’m also already working with Glenn Clovis on the new cover design.

No one likes delays, me included. But the resulting quality will be worth the wait.  I guarantee it.

As a final side note, it’s becoming clear to me that there needs to be another novelette to present the side mission Nikko, Dane, and Kiyanna went on to track down Tal. So, it appears that may be another project added into my queue. Perhaps I’ll wait to hear from fans about whether they are interested in experiencing that through a novelette.

Thank you again for your amazing love and support.  I greatly appreciate it.

From the heart… Revising the 4th manuscript.

I’m currently in the revising phase of the fourth manuscript in the D’mok Revival series.  This involves thinking about the first three books with the changes to characters, places, abilities, etc. and allowing myself to “rewatch” the scenes in this latest manuscript. I then update the manuscript with those new visions.

The entire manuscript is around 270 unformatted (not typeset for publishing) page in Microsoft Word. The current word count is around 92,000, which is on-par with the other three books. In the end, it will easily be 400+ typeset pages when published.

I’m very happy with the recent progress, and the direction of the manuscript. I originally wrote it back in 2010. I was in a very different place in my life then, and clearly the story was heavily influenced by my own personal struggles at the time. Five years down the road, I’m such a different person, and have a dramatically different perspective on things. Not to mention my writing style has evolved. This has led to a great deal of refactoring large chunks of the story.

That isn’t the only reason, of course. I’d received feedback starting with the release of the first book stating I needed to keep a strong focus of the story action on Rhysus Mencari, the main character.

I think it’s fine to present sections from the perspective of other characters as it allows the reader to become deeply connected with the inner workings of the other characters. But the main story is about Rhysus Mencari. Keeping this in mind, I’m rewriting entire segments to be from Rhysus Mencari’s perspective.

What’s interesting is rather than inflicting the reader with my raw emotion through characters in the original version, readers are now treated to a more mature view from Rhysus Mencari’s perspective. In essence, I’ve traded off the pain of the experience, for the wisdom of a path already traveled.

To be honest, some of the dynamics written about back in 2010 were incredibly raw and real. They contained direct conversations I had with someone formerly close to me—things which hurt me deeply—and I immortalized it in the dialogue between characters going through the same ordeal in my story.

I thought, at the time, it was a very good idea.  After all, one of the strengths of the D’mok Revival series was the ability to present very real and relatable characters and situations. Reviewing the manuscript now, I certainly captured the exactness of what happened back in 2010. However, it now feels better left private. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly cathartic to write it out at the time. It’s still somewhat like looking at a scar revisiting those lines and phrases. But the original emotional need I had to expunge the experience and externalize it on paper has served its purpose.

The Michael Zummo of 2015 would rather provide my series fans with what I learned from the experience, rather than tiresome drama. The rewritten segments are still real, while returning it to a realm I feel more appropriate (and mature).

Anyway, I’m very excited in the transformation happening in the fourth manuscript. My goal is to still have the book ready by the holiday season.  It is August, and I know many editors (including my wonderful editor Arlene Robinson) are getting slayed right now. So, we’ll see when the final release date is.  I also need to start working with Glenn Clovis on the cover too (oooh, yeah, I really need to get moving on that too).

The Next Two Novels (?!)

Where to begin? I’ll start at the very beginning. I hear it’s a very good place to start.

My second novelette, D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy, is officially released!  Can you believe I had it mostly done back in January. However, my third novel and first novelette had released, and a lot was happening in my life. To be honest, I was a bit burned out. Three full novels of authoring, editing, marketing, promotions, etc. in about a year and half was a lot of work. I loved it, but it really taxed me.  Remember, this is my hobby. I have a fulltime job and son, and somewhat of a life too. Thank God for great friends and family that keep me mostly sane.

Honestly, I wanted to release the second novelette earlier than July! But a few things were happening.

  1. I started editing the fourth manuscript in the D’mok Revival series
  2. I started seeing all kinds of visions in the first spin-off series (that was already a documented part of my literary universe’s book plans), which led to starting to write the first volume in that series
  3. I wanted a life

Okay, and being honest:

4. I started taking some new medications for my arthritis which actually impacted my creative flow

Okay, okay…

5. The board game for D’mok Revival

I’m an over achiever, sorry.

The good news is now that the second novelette is out, I can really focus on the next big things. Sometimes you have to get rid of one of the balls being juggled in the air.

So, given I’m only one person, what’s the next main opportunities here? I have focused my work on one major effort, the next book in the D’mok Revival series (technically book 4, but it can also stand alone as the start of a new trilogy). It’s called D’mok Revival: New Eden (Note: the name changed from D’mok Revival: Reunification as noted in the Final Note section of book 3. It just didn’t feel right. New Eden sets the tone for things moving forward too.)

Back in 2010, at another major turning point in my life, I wrote a fourth book for the D’mok Revival Series. It picked up about a year after book 3, D’mok Revival: Descension. There were many things unanswered coming out of the Nukari Invasion Trilogy. This book not only answered them, but showed the impacts of a redistributed power base in the galaxy. The tone had been set for thing to come (namely the next two books in the D’mok Revival main series). Yes, this means there’s a new trilogy. ;p

The manuscript was around 80,000 words. After ripping out sections (The Aloan Conspiracy was actually the first few chapters of book 4), and making early revisions to the content, it’s already heading up towards 85,000 words. My guess is it will be as large as book 3 was in the end (around 94,000 words).

Remember the fourth manuscript was written before any of the editing changes happened in the first three books. My writing style has also evolved dramatically, so this rewriting process take time. The new medication I’m on for arthritis has also impacted my speed. I originally had two computers going in my brain full tilt with visions of scenes all the time. Now, I feel like an old Commodore 64 computer… lol.  Geek humor. I’m just not working with the same power and speed as before.  The good news is the content is better and more focused.

Then what is this about the “next two” novels?  Well, before I refined my focus, I started writing the first book in the first spin-off series called Weun Academy. Long story short, for those that have followed the main series, this new trilogy (yes trilogy) is named after Seigie Weun and follows the rise of prominence of “the boy with the green eyes.” I’ve mentioned a few more details in past blog posts, so I don’t want to be redundant with content. I have the outline for the entire trilogy, detailed notes for each chapter in this first book, and am about 60 written MS Word pages in. As soon as book 4 in the main series is done, I’ll move directly into this one and finish it.

It’s important to know that the prologues for both of these novels have been professionally edited by Arlene Robinson already. Why?  Good question!  I have include BOTH of them as sneak peaks at the end of the D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy novelette!  How cool is that?  You can get a look directly into the action of the next two FULL NOVELS right now!

I’m so excited to share these with you. Sometimes people don’t believe me when I talk about the full scope of the series. For the record, I’ve only told a few, because I don’t want people to think I’m just bluffing or puffing myself up. This story is very big. There’s so much to talk about. There’s also a reason I specifically said “the first spin-off…” But before I say more, I think I rather write the stories and then talk about it.

Keep sending me your feedback. What do you love?  What do you want to know more about? What things are slow, boring, not as interesting? Don’t worry, I don’t dramatically swing because of one person’s comments. I trend them and observe what the fans are saying overall. Regardless, your thoughts are precious to me, and they help me grow as an author and creator of this literary universe.

Thank you again for your ongoing support and thoughts!

D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy Novelette Cover Design

Readers always ask where the ideas come from for book covers. I’ve posted a number of times about the process I’ve used and the evolution of the various covers in the D’mok Revival series. I guess it’s important to keep that tradition alive.

For those that are current in the D’mok Revival series, you’ll remember Speru Chew’s world of Alo. It’s the first major adventure in book 3, D’mok Revival: Descension. Without spoilers, politics abound on that world. One of the pinnacle moments there involved the moon set ablaze with energy, and the resulting power burst that streaked away from it.  It’s certainly one of the moments that comes to mind when I think about Rhysus Mencari’s experience there. It seemed fitting to evoke the memory of that event, and provide a picture of what Mencari saw there.

This is a space opera series, so I went to the traditional presentations from books and television. Picturesque images are common place. So I created an initial sketch.

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

Crude mock-up for the second novelette

The blazing moon was peaking over the horizon of Alo. I sent it, along with some example photos (thank you Google Images) to my amazing illustrator Glenn Clovis. As a sidebar, I could never say enough about Glenn. He’s amazingly talented, a dream to work with, and makes manifest your dreams!

He sent back this amazing image.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

First version of the cover based on my crude sketch.

Beautiful, isn’t it? It felt very Star Trek the Next Generation or Star Trek Voyager (which is great). Though, it felt very still. That wasn’t Glenn’s fault, it’s exactly what I asked for from him. It needed some type of action, something that would pull people in. Good covers make people go “oooh,” and also makes them ask questions—makes them want to be there.

Then I remembered “the streak” from the end of the chapter. I created a quick sketch and shot it over to Glen. The following is my original with Glenn’s response.

cover-thoughts untitled

You’ll notice the dramatic shift in design. How incredible. It really punched things up.  As always, I took it to my Facebook page to get feedback from my incredible fans and followers. It was received very well, though some people mentioned it looked like a highway of light more so than a streak. Fair enough!

I put another tweaked version out there, that was better received.

My "comet effect" version

My “comet effect” version

Glenn made a few adjustments, and BAM!  The final cover was ready.

Glenn's final version with the series branding applied.

Glenn’s final version with the series branding applied.

So there you have it!  D’mok Revival: The Aloan Conspiracy will be available on Amazon within a day!  Check it out and let me know what you think.  Don’t forget to post your review on Amazon.com as well.  🙂

The growing lore of D’mok Revival

Book number 4, along with the first book in the Weun Academy spin-off series are both moving forward. The second novelette, Aloan Conspiracy, is going through final editing and visual design. I’m hoping to get the board game design moving again too.  It’s very exciting!

What’s so amazing is now that I’m out of the first trilogy, book number four can do “new” things. At the same time, I’m building on the existing lore of the D’mok literary universe. This means I have to catch people that may not have read the first trilogy up. I need to provide some context for what’s happened since. There’s set up baggage that needs to be addressed. I’ve also found, on occasion, that I’ve had holes in my own information.  Sometimes it may have been from edits done that didn’t make it back to my catalog of characters, places, and things. Other times I’ve found I never gave a character a last name. Whoops. The good news is I’ve caught a number of things and have cleaned them up.

It’s been a lot of fun looking at how existing characters have evolved since the end of book 3.  For instance (no real spoiler here), what role is Eyani playing now? Has her title changed? How about Rhysus Mencari?

I also find it interesting working on both Weun Academy’s first book AND book 4 at the same time.  “Technically,” Weun Academy happens after book 4. Now, remember that I have an original manuscript for book 4 that I wrote back in 2010. I’m reworking it with updates based on edits done to the first three books, in addition to updating it with my current writing style.  What I’ve found is Weun Academy relies HEAVILY on what’s happening in book 4.  I’ve been literally writing them at the same time, striping back and forth with chapters and events. They both currently sit at 40 pages each. Something that happens in book 4 impacts Weun Academy, and visions of things that happen in Weun Academy feed back into set ups that are woven back into book 4. It’s all very fascinating (and convenient).

I’m having a great time with it. There’s new characters, new races, new places. The lore of the D’mok literary universe continues to grow! I’m glad to keep updated notes about the characters, races, worlds, etc. I need them!

When they’re released, I think you’ll be very pleased with the action focus and core drama presented.

As a side note, people have also been asking for an omnibus version of the Nukari Invasion Trilogy. I really need to get that out there. Perhaps by late summer I’ll have the time (with everything else I’m doing for the D’mok universe) to get it out.  I don’t want to simply slap together the original files and re-release it.  I’d like to add more insights, commentary, notes, etc. into it so it’s more of value (to both new readers and current fans).

The best laid plans of mice and men…

There’s so many things going on right now.  It’s an exciting time!  The official D’mok Revival board game is moving forward.  The second novelette is being edited by Arlene and Glenn Clovis is working on yet another amazing cover.

I’ve been making slow progress on restructuring the fourth manuscript. It’s always an interesting challenge to update an existing work based on all the edits and changes that happened to the manuscripts before it.

I wasn’t going to announce this just yet, but I alluded to how the series is going to continue to go strong well after the first trilogy.

The fact is, while trying (note: TRYING) to stay focused on book #4 in D’mok Revival’s main lineage, the first book in the first spin-off has been talking to me.  By talking to me I mean daily, thoughts, little movie sequences playing in my head.  It’s great stuff, and very existing.  I continue to write notes and file it away for later.  Yet something keeps drawing me back that book instead of #4…

I’m a firm believer in listening to your creativity. It ebbs and flows as it wants to–never as you want or when you want.  So if it’s doing its thing–LET IT–GO WITH IT!

So, I sat down and wrote 14 pages this morning… the entire first chapter.  This builds on the prolog I wrote earlier in the week.

The series is called Weun Academy. The working subtitle, for the moment is: Boy with the green eyes.  For those that have followed the series, you know exactly who this is…  😉

If there’s a clear high-concept model I’d say it’s a hybrid of Starship Troopers, X-Men, and Harry Potter.  Clearly there’s still Japanese Anime inspirations, and it’s within the D’mok Revival literary universe.

This side trilogy isn’t just a “nice to know” aspect, it actually reveals a very important dimension about how the abilities are impacting the alien community…  And sets the stage for D’abar…

Okay, that’s all I’m saying for now…  Teaser?  Yes.  It’s fun to share.  I get excited about these things…  And inspired!!!

Taxes Fun

There’s a benefit to running your own publishing company (mine is Zummo Books, LLC).  I’m able to identify the production costs and things along with the income from sales on Amazon, ACX, iTunes, etc.

If you have your own company, you may need to file 1099 MISC forms for each contractor you paid over $600.  There can also be penalties for not filing (YIKE).  It was the case for me here in Wisconsin anyway.

My awesome accountant pointed me to some great online resources that might be useful for you:

  • http://www.komisarbrady.com/resources/self-serve-1099s-and-w-2s.html
  • http://www.komisarbrady.com/resources/filing-1099s.html

Personally, I went with http://www.filetaxes.com.

Before you can put one together you’re going to have to have:

Your Company information (including EIN or tax reporting SSN number, address, phone, etc.)

Your Contractor information (individual name, company name if available, EIN or SSN for them, address, phone number, email).

You want your total amount paid for the year to them.

What I found great about filetaxes.com is it also told me of additional information or requirements needed for the 1099 MISC based on the state of the contractor.  Sometimes you have to fill out additional fields on the 1099 form.  They helped me through all that.

I followed their directions, paid my $4.99 per form (very affordable), then received my email notification the form had been sent to my contractors and filed with the IRS. So simple and worry free!  🙂

Anyway, as I continue work on my books and board game, thought I’d share this little insight with you!