Should I Just Give Up?

[Warning: Another posting in my depression cycle. May include mopery.]

So I had this idea for a crime thriller, and thought maybe this time I’d try the traditional publishing route. Just to see if I could get any kind of traction.

Less than ten days from starting pre-writing to finishing the first draft, and it turns out All Roads Lead to Hell is only 40,000 words. So on the border between novella and novel (by some definitions), depending where revisions take it.

It’d need padding out to twice that length to be acceptable for submission to standard markets. There area a couple of extra chapters that could go in , and there’re gaps in the story where other stuff could be shoehorned. Maybe.

A quick look around doesn’t find many markets for crime thriller novellas, but I could always search further.

For the immediate future, I’m setting it aside to cool down while I get on with other work.


I have real trouble estimating how long a story will be. Even after breaking it down into chapters, I seem unable to call on past writing experience to properly gauge such things. And I’m not sure I really want to. The story’s going to be as long as it wants to be, and trying to force it to be otherwise to fit a certain standard seems dumb. Unless you want it traditionally published.

And I seem unable to write things of a commercially acceptable length (as defined by the traditional publishers). I feel part of the problem might be I’m too influenced by movies and television, so my storytelling muscle memory is drawing more from those than from other prose fiction. I’m not sure whether I can unlearn that though.

I also wonder whether writing so fast is part of the problem. I’ve tried slowing my writing rate slightly, but do feel an increasing desperation to produce more in a vain hope of breaking out of obscurity.


The not knowing whether I’ll ever achieve any success writing is causing increasing anxiety. I kind of want someone who’s opinion could be subjectively classed as authoritative to tell me I can’t write, and to stop trying. (More so than telling me I can, since I have trouble accepting praise.)

It’s tiring to keep pumping out stories that never find much of an audience. The readership for most of my stories is probably only in double digits (okay, some are in five digits, but that’s the free stuff). And even that might be too optimistic a view, since there’s no way of telling how many have been completed, or even read at all.


Of course I have no idea what else I’d do with my existence, so I’ll probably keep writing for now.



Still having trouble focusing on actual work, but I have managed to spend the last couple of days compiling a list of potential reviewers (thanks to The Indie View) and sending requests to around thirty of them. A process I find far more excruciating and stressful even than blurb writing. It’s communicating with people directly, no matter how remote the communiques.

I also busied myself making new covers for Stoneweaver and Coral Throne. They’re not perfect, but the old ones were really starting to irritate me. I need to do more with them, since they look slightly bland. But they’re closer to my aesthetic tastes than the Createspace ones I had, and at the smaller size they’ll be viewed at on estores I feel the simpler designs stand out better.

Soul Food: Cover design process

Soul Food is out in a few days. In a shameless reminder of its existence to anyone who stumbles across this blog, here’s the process I went through in designing the cover.

The first stage in cover design is coming up with an idea that’ll be within my limited artistic ability to realise. I’m inclined towards simple designs, which tend to be better for covers that have to work at the smaller size displayed in online bookshops. Of course they also need to not be too obviously dodgy when seen at a larger size, and in print – if it’s going to be.

[The work below was all done in GIMP, a free graphics program]

For Soul Food, since angels and demons have an important role, I decided on a central bar, with an angel rising out of it, and a demon descending below it. Silhouettes, of course. Since you’re more likely to find license free images of them, and they’re easier to customise (also, less fiddly detail to be lost at a smaller size).

The two also need to kind of match up (not necessarily in size, which is easily scaled). In this case I found some wing silhouettes that offered the right approximate shapes.

So I resized them and put them in the approximate locations I wanted them.

[I use the page dimensions suggested by KDP and Smashwords, 1600px by 2400px, to work in, and save my working files as .tif. They take up a lot more space, but they don’t lose as much detail as saving them as .jpgs do from constant revisions. Once I have the final version, I save a .jpg version to upload as the cover, and a smaller 200px by 300px version for the website.]



Next up I looked for a body silhouette I could adapt to fit both sets of wings.








I didn’t really need the detail on the arms and legs, so filed it away into just the general shape.







Then it was relatively simple, only resizing a few times, to get the body to fit the wings.







Next step was colouring them. Red for the demon, white for the angel. The exact shade of colour can take time to settle on, and often may change when all the elements of the cover are set in place, and the contrasts can be properly judged. As with the font used for the title, it mainly comes down to what feels right for the impression of the story you’re trying to convey.

The first step was to delete a section in the middle, so I could use the filler tool to make the bottom demon half red.







Then I changed the background colour, so I could change the angel half white.








I also extended the middle section so the title had more room to fit.







Then I used the gradient tool to make the central bar transition in colour from white to red.







For the background, I looked for a granite effect. Something dark that the angel would stand out against, but giving a sense of the city in which the story occurs.






Then I copied the image onto the background, using transparency to make the blue background invisible. [It doesn’t go completely invisible, and against a lighter background I’d probably have changed the darkish blue to something lighter, or it may have discoloured the background]

I also raised the position of the image, since I wasn’t thinking of where I’d want it on the page when I started fiddling.




Then it’s a matter of looking through the fonts to find something that matches the style I have in mind. In this case, Bookman old style semi-bold.

For my name, I usually go with Arial. Unless it clashes with the rest of the cover.





I did experiment with fancy stuff for the title, but it just doesn’t show up too well. And it’d look even worse at a smaller size.

[In case your interested, this was done in a separate file by doing a gradient block the inverse of the bar. I then typed the text block elsewhere; copied the text block and background over the gradient block, making the text colour transparent. You then have a block with the text in the gradient colouring, which can be copied over while making the background transparent]



Then I adapted the cover for the print version, rotating the banner image for the rear cover (just so it’s not boringly blank).







Print covers can take time, and a few iterations, since you’re guessing at where the spine is going to be until you can look in the proof review after the books been reviewed by them. If Createspace made the spine markings viewable before review, they’d save themselves work, and authors time.


When the proof arrived, the granite background really wasn’t working for me. It was far more subdued than it appears in the images above, but even they started to look less than appealing. While the banner image is fine to my eyes, I needed to work on the background.

This was a working version to test out more of a picture in the background. The cityscape part is only a free license for personal use though, so I’d need to hunt something else down for a proper cover.






It doesn’t really work at a smaller size though, and can make the angel shape hard to distinguish.






So I went back to the simple background idea, and started looking around for another image. Granite initially, then I browsed the dark metal images.

This is the one I settled on. Large enough to also be used on the print cover.

The streaky metallic look also gives the impression of rain, which matches the mood of parts of the story.

And here’s the final version of the cover.

Pricing Change

At the beginning of the year I changed the pricing on my eBooks (and forgot to post about it). Most that were $2.99 are now $3.99, and this’ll be the price point for my novel length stuff for the moment (although some series starters may be $0.99 or free).

This is just an experiment to see if it makes any difference, giving an impression of value to the object by the higher price. $3.99 is apparently the new $2.99, and the optimum price point for eBooks. According to some. It’ll probably take more than changing the price to get any traction, but it’s a relatively easy experiment to set up.

And when Smashwords have their Read an eBook week promotion it’ll be easier to put them at 25% ($0.99) rather than 50% ($1.49).

Novellas I’ll probably price at $1.99, and shorter works at $0.99.

You may notice that the pre-order of The Monster in the Mirror, which I mentioned in the previous post, is a novella at $0.99. It’ll rise to $1.99 sometime after the release date (maybe the day after), but I’m planning to price pre-orders slightly lower in the lead up to release. So if you’re interested in it, you can get it half the regular price by pre-ordering.

Song of Thunder

Song of Thunder, a short fantasy novel that’s basically the Wild Bunch with orcs and goblins, is out today.

Song of Thunder

Part of a war that’s spanned history, the goblin scout Tuarth serves the Dark One as part of a small squad, whether he wants to or not. With no real home, or family but the squad, all he can do is keep his head down and try to survive, any kind of life outside war only a distant dream.

After kidnapping a human princess, the squad have both sides chasing them, and Tuarth’s dreams may soon be crushed.




Eternal Fall

I have a short novella out today.

Eternal Fall smallEternal Fall

Thomas Carver fell to his death over a century ago. He’s still falling.
Returning to the world after a while away, he finds himself hunted for the secret of immortality. And the hunters he knows about may only be the start of his troubles, as part of the life he thought he’d left behind catches up to him.
An 18,000 word urban fantasy novella.


The Nexi Meme

The twelfth and final part of the Tales of the Thief-City series is now available.

The Nexi Meme smallThe Nexi Meme

The figure behind Nexi’s troubles revealed, Rax has to halt his machinations before they destroy the city and all within it. But he’s not the only one hunting, and with the Thief-City’s prisoners ready to tear the place apart Rax may not survive the encounter.
The final part of the Tales of the Thief-City series. A 7,500 word fantasy short story.


For a Few Faeries More

The eleventh part of the Tales of the Thief-City is now available.


For a Few Faeries More smallFor a Few Faeries More

As his machinations rebound on those closest to him, Rax must travel to the hostile lands of faerie. An unwilling observer to the intrigues of the faerie court, he must navigate their treacherous waters in the slight hope of ever leaving again.
Eleventh in the Tales of the Thief-City series. A 5,000 word short story.





Createspace Woes

This is a public service announcement for those thinking of skipping the printed proof in favour of the digital version when publishing through Createspace. The colours don’t always come out as the digital version displays them.

Putting together a print collection of the Tales of the Thief-City series of short stories, I decided to use the basic cover design with different colours.

This is the standard cover for the eBooks, with the individual title filling in the gap. The colours feel like they could be a bit garish in print, so I went for a black and red scheme.

skel cover small








This is the front cover (I did an image for the wraparound cover, but this is enough for the current example). The digital version looked just the same.

Intended cover small








This is a scan of the actual cover (slightly cropped by the scanner, and less crisp). It’s a bit more muted than the actual copy, but the red at the bottom is less sharp, and you can see a blurring where the background buildings are, whereas with the physical copy it took me a few moments to see the slightly less than black greyness of them in print.

printed cover small








On first glance they just looked like part of the blackness, so made it look like too wide a blank area. I’m not sure whether it makes a difference that I tried out the matte cover this time, but you’d at least expect it to show the colours chosen.

This is obviously particularly irritating in that I don’t want to have to order another proof copy just to check the next attempt. Apart from the fact it took a month for it to arrive (unless I pay significantly more for expedited international delivery), this could easily become a money sink.

Having finished proofing the book (the final changes to the series made, so now they’re just awaiting publication), I’ve redone the cover with the greys lightened a touch and ordered the two free copies I get for completing NaNoWriMo. If these don’t look right with the below tweaked cover, I may not bother putting it up for sale.

new cover smallI think I prefer the colours on this version anyway. In digital, at least.