Book 2 Update – Beta Readers & Cover Art

Good news: The Knave of Souls, Book 2 is in the beta-reader stage!

That means the manuscript is complete, and it is in the hands of a few smart reader/writer types who are giving me feedback. They’re looking for problems¬†of consistency, clarity, engagement, fun-factor, etc. In fact, it is now in the hands of the last beta-reader, and I hope to hear from him next week.

After next week, I hit it with revisions and tweaks, and then it’ll be time for the copy editor. ūüôā

In the meantime, here’s a look at the full cover art, including the wrap-around to the back cover (which is the left half of the painting). The characters on the front cover, from left to right, are Harric, Fink, Caris, and Spook. ūüôā

 

Book 2 Cover Art Achieved!

Excited to announce that I finally have cover art for The Knave of Souls. Below is¬†a fun side-by-side shot of the concept¬†sketch from my journal and a detail from the artist’s rendering. Hoping to release the book next month. Stay tuned for more updates!

 

 

Awesome Indies Approved! 5-Stars for The Jack of Souls

Hey, cool news. Submitted The Jack of Souls to Awesome Indies for a review a year ago, and finally got the review. Awesome Indies is a great site for pre-screening indie novels. Their motto is, “We take the risk out of buying indie.” ¬†Hehe!

You out the review and the site here:

AI Approved! – 5 Stars For Jack Of Souls By Stephen Merlino

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00010]AI

THE KNAVE OF SOULS – Progress Update

SORRY FOR THE LONG GAP IN POSTINGS

I posted like mad¬†over my November retreat, but stopped during winter break,¬†and though I’be been writing since, I haven’t posted. I was in France for some of that. Here is a terrifying picture of my family and I at 13,000 feet in a glass box over an icy crag of the Alps.¬†

IMG_5204

SO! ENOUGH FOOLSHNESS! AN UPDATE! 

I’m sending Chapter 52 (The End)¬†for peer crit this Saturday! Feels great, too. I’m pretty happy with it. PLUS, for those of you who agree with me that 2.5 years to write a book is too long, it’s coming in at about 160K words, which is 30K words more than the first book, so, hopefully that 20% more¬†Harric, Caris, Sir Willard, Ambassador Brolli, and Father Kogan¬†will make up for some of the wait.

Below, some of the crit notes from the Chapter 51 peer crit session. I love scribbles. I find beauty in these artifacts. Hope I don’t become a hoarder.

IMG_5949

Knave Update: Finishing Battle Scene Revision

Forgot to post yesterday, but think of this post as a two-day post, as both days are on the same chapter, what I’m calling the Battle Scene. Today at Cafe Fiore!

(Actually more like Chapter 16)

(Actually more like Chapter 16)

For the record, I did get my minimum of 4 hours in yesterday on the Battle Scene. Also attended a Writers Cramp meeting for a critique of Chapter 21. As always, Cramp raises the bar for me to another level. Thanks Crampies!

Today, an 8-hour day: Goal after Battle Scene: I finish up the Battle Scene and Dive into the Post-Battle Scenes.

THE JACK OF SOULS is up for preorder on Audible!

The audiobook for The Jack of Souls is up for preorder on Audible, and it’s freaking fantastic! ¬†I am so pleased!

Here’s an audio file¬†of the opening pages. The actor, Alex Wyndham, went with an English accent—probably because of the lofty material, ūüėȬ†–and he rocks it! Turns out he’s a great character actor.

JOS - Audiobook

Even in the first minute I love what he did with the barman. II can’t wait to hear how he did Caris and Willard and Brolli and Bannus’s voices.

I shall have to subject my kids to it on the road trip to the mountains this weekend. Mwa-hahaha!

 

Ready thy snickersnee!

snickersnee

The commander of the sloop was hurrying about and giving a world of orders,which were not very strictly attended to, one man being busy in lighting his pipe,and another in sharpening his snicker-snee.

               РWashington Irving, Bracebridge Hall, 1882

 

Oh never shall I

Forget the cry,

Or the shriek that shriekèd he,

As I gnashed my teeth,

When from its sheath

I drew my snickersnee !

                 РW. S. Gilbert, The Mikado, 1885

 

From Dictionary.com

And You Think Sagging Pants are Ridiculous…

Weirder than Fiction

Fops Together

Building Believable (and Fantastic!) Fantasy Worlds

Reality is often truly stranger than anything you could make up, so it pays to research.

Take this picture from a late 17th century fashion mag displayed in the Rijks Museum, Amsterdam. Look close.

Look how hard these guys are working! That hair! Those stockings! Those accessories! They look like 80s glam rockers!

Accessory Detail 4

Accessor Detail 1

 

 

 

Accessor Detail 2
Accessory Detail 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Inredibles

Turns out, there was a name for this Captain Jack Sparrow style of dress back then. Here is what the Rijks Musuem had to say about them in their Fashion Magazines exhibit: They were called, “The Incredibles.” Not kidding.

Fop Explanation

 So This was Actually Satire of the High Fashions of the Rich!

Still, I am not sure they succeeded in making it more ridiculous than the actual fashions. How could they? Here is one of the men they mocked, also from a fashion mag of the time:

Noble Absurdity 2

Dude. You’re wearing pink and white candy-cane-striped tails with yellow pantaloons.¬†Nailed it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extremities of Female High Fashion

I wish I had more pictures of ridiculous wealthy men’s attire from the time, but most of the extreme examples are of women’s fashion.

Like these insane hairstyles for women.

Retouched Fashion Hair

 

 

 

The Ship one is my favorite:

Hairstyles 2

 

 

Here is the Timeless Message of High Fashion:

1)  Since no one could possibly do work in such attire, I am clearly wealthy.

2) Since the time it takes to design and execute such confections of hair/clothing makes it impossible to do any actual work during the day, I am clearly wealthy.

3) Since the cost of my fashion–not just in time but in money–is astronomical, I am clearly¬†wealthy.

Building This Principle Into Fantasy A World

A good illustration of this in fantasy is in¬†Martin’s¬†A Game of Thrones (the books, anyway)¬†where the fashion of¬†the noble women of the slave city of¬†Meereen¬†is a dress that is essentially a mummy wrap from neck to ankles, making it impossible for the women to walk in anything but tiny little steps. Clearly, those women are NOT doing any work!

Here’s a dress from modern day high fashion that might¬†have been from Meereen:

Meereen Dress

I apologize I don’t know where this image came from originally, or I would cite it. I found it via google on a Pinterest page. Anna D made a comment connecting it to Daenerys in Meereen.

Finally, a Note on the Timelessness of Junk Grabbing

Okay, pant-sagging may not have been around in the old days, but the Incredibles did, apparently, grab junk. They were straight up Gs.

Junk

My First Book Group Invite was a Blast

In January,¬†the Ashworth Avenue Book Group picked The Jack of Souls for their next novel and asked if I’d come to their meetup¬†to chat¬†with them.¬†Last night¬†we met at my good friend Jeanne’s home,¬†and¬†I had a blast¬†with them–some not even fantasy readers!–talking about the book, the characters, the process of writing.

They had a lot of fun questions, tangents, ideas, comments, wine, pizza, quiche, wine.

Thanks, Ashworth Book Group! ¬†I had a great time. ūüôā

(L>R) Mary, Pegge, Heidi, Alex, Denise, Shannon, Alice, Barb. (Front-Me and Jeanne)

(L>R) Mary, Pegge, Heidi, Alex, Denise, Shannon, Alice, Barb. (Front-Me and Jeanne)

A Fun Interview with Hack Sketches

Image for Question 1¬†I’ve done a few interviews in the last month, and when I got to about interview 3 I though, “Dang, these are pretty long interviews. Maybe I should spice them up with some with sketches from inside my brain.”

So I did! And it was fun.

Click the image above to see the interview. : )

Reading at Eagle Harbor Books Tomorrow

ehbHi all!

If you find yourself making a sunny day trip tomorrow on Bainbridge Island, I’ll be reading from The Jack of Souls and talking fantasy¬†at¬†Eagle Harbor Book Co, in lovely Winslow. Drop in! It’s walkable from the ferry!

Punch and pie.

Fun Review From Kickstarter Backer

Back in December, I was out delivering books to Kickstarter backers in the neighborhood around the high school where I teach, and met this woman whose daughter goes to my school! It was fun to meet her. And I just discovered her review on Amazon.
on February 22, 2015
Format: Paperback
I came across this book because the author teaches at my daughter’s school. What luck to stumble upon such a great story! I’m not a connoisseur of fantasy, but this book is enthralling. After a few chapters, I was thoroughly captivated with Harric and Caris, Sir Willard and Brolli, and their intertwined adventures. I highly recommend “The Jack of Souls” for anyone wanting to experience a new genre, and am looking forward to the next installment (2nd book!).

The War on Obscurity

What did I do for the month after I sent out all the Kickstarter rewards?¬†I launched what I’m calling

THE WAR ON OBSCURITY!

For an indie author, obscurity is public enemy #1. Of course, the more reviews a book has, the easier it is for readers to make a decision about it, but there’s more:¬† to be taken seriously by the best publicity engines out there, a book needs at least 25 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

So, January’s Target was to Acquire Book Blog Reviews 

What the Heck is a Book Blog?

I didn’t know, either. But it turns out there are thousands of book bloggers–book lovers who‚Äôve taken to posting their own reviews of books in a blog. They don‚Äôt get paid, and they don‚Äôt HAVE to review anyone. Authors contact them with an attractive pitch and request, and the bloggers accept or decline.

If they accept, the book goes in their To Be Read pile, and months later a review appears on the their blog, Amazon, and Goodreads.

In January, I Queried 127 Book Bloggers

Tiny BRYPThese I found in The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages (exactly what it sounds like, in heft and content) and Indieview. I started with a base pitch email, but each had to be individualized to fit each bloggers requirement policy, preferred genres and formats, and flavor/tone of their blog site.

IndieView

I Heard Back from 22!

Believe it or not, that‚Äôs really good results! The marketer who coached me submitted a book recently to 200 reviewers, landed 20 reviews, and was happy with that. She says 10% is standard, so I’m very pleased with my 17%!

Here’s a Sample Line from my Spreadsheet

Website             Blogger     Date Queried     JOS Sent     Est.Post

 SFBook.com    Vanessa    Dec28/Jan28     (Pbk 1/13)    Mar 15  

You can see too that I queried Vanessa twice‚ÄĒthat was b/c she didn‚Äôt respond to the first query. I figure, why not send again after a month? Reviewers get busy. Maybe she didn’t reply because she was over whelmed with requests and had to delete a bunch, unread; or maybe my pitch didn‚Äôt catch her attention and she deleted it. Who knows? In any case, I re-queried and made sure to re-target my pitch, and it worked! I‚Äôll do the same for the other 100 who haven‚Äôt replied.

 Reveiwer SpreadsheetHere is a look at the full spreadsheet:

 

 

 

Kickstarter Before & After Photos

I have officially sent off all 100+ mailers to 17 different countries and as many states! Here is what our dining room table looked like at the height of mailing frenzy in December. Now it’s online and Amazon does the shipping! (Whew!)

Here’s what it looks like now. We can use our table for dinner again! ¬†ūüôā ūüôā ūüôā

Short Story Award

I just learned that my short story, “Outside the Game,” won first place in the Southwest Writers International Writing Competition! ¬†SWW-Contest-Header

Many thanks to David Levine and Fairwood Writers, who helped me develop it.

“Outside the Game” is an alternative first chapter to The Jack of Souls, set in the same place the novel begins, but an hour before the events that start¬†the novel.

I wrote it as a tool to gain attention for the novel (and because Harric is so much fun to write about!).

Here’s the link, if you want to check it out:

http://www.southwestwriters.com/contest/sww-annual-international-writing-contest/

THE JACK OF SOULS won first place in the PNWA Competition!

A week ago last night, I learned that my fantasy novel, The Jack of Souls, won the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s unpublished novel competition for the Science Fiction/Fantasy category. I’m just getting over the shock, so I feel I can post it.¬†PNWA-logo

The announcement ran after they cleared plates from the awards dinner at the conference. Before announcing winners, they announced the names of all eight finalists and their novels, ala Oscars format.

It took a long time. Cruelly, they served no wine at the tables.

As they listed each finalist and the title of their novel, I imagined a door of probability slowly closing. Six years ago I submitted to the contest and didn’t even make the finalists, so now with each finalist name, it seemed the door closed a little more. When they announced the second place winner, only a crack of light remained, so it was extremely surreal when they announced my name next and I saw The Jack of Souls on the screen.

I rose and accepted the award and sat again. I know this because I found myself at the dinner table with the same people I’d eaten with, the award folder in my hands.

Here’s the link to the results of all the category winners for the competition:

http://www.pnwa.org/?page=2014contestwinners

An agent/editor party followed, where I met some fun and interesting people including the agent who judged the contest. Good things in the offing!