No, this blog is NOT about Valentine’s Day. A blog title of Facelift has the potential of being very cruel on Valentine’s Day.
Reading today’s blog means that you are visiting my website www.rexowens.us. Did you notice the difference? Gone from the home page is the dark, out of perspective banner. Gone is the blurry image of my article from the Writer magazine a few years back.
Here are a few things to notice on the home page. In the upper left hand corner I have named the series ‘The Irish Trouble Series’. The banner picture show in dramatic fashion the peace walls or peace lines in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The center of the page displays the covers of the books in the series. The bottom of the page is my Irish welcome to all of my website visitors and of course the various links.
All of the tabs have a new, single color banner and a lighter background to make it easier to read. The Books tab is still under construction because I need to write the blurb for Dead Reckoning. In June Henschel Haus publishing will re-issue Murphy’s Troubles and Out of Darkness with new book covers and interior design.
The IRA History tab now includes a few introductory paragraphs to provide historical perspective on The Troubles. The events page has been redesigned and now includes information of the presentations I can provide and information on my radio show ‘My World and Welcome to It’. Of course, the events page will be populated with new information as I am scheduled for events throughout the year.
Credit for this ‘facelift’ goes to Valerie Biel at: www.lostlakepress.com.
Cruise on over to: www.rexowens.us
Oh yes, Happy Valentine’s Day!
I don’t know who came up with that adage but as an author it is something we accept as true. As I noted in my blog last week I’ve selected book covers to reflect the theme of the book.
Working with a graphic designer is an interesting and sometimes frustrating. Graphic designers are visual artists so color, form, positioning are elements of a book cover that are important to them. Theme – theme they don’t care about at all. This makes the effort to collaborate between the graphic designer and the author stressful and the language we use to express our respective art forms is very different.
Last week I reviewed three images for the new book cover for Out of Darkness. One image contained bright colors across the page that made my eyes hurt and I rejected it quicker than you can say “Ireland”. Two other book cover concept images both contained an aerial view of Belfast Northern Ireland. It was the type of image a tourism agency would use to convince potential visitors that Belfast is a lovely city to visit and not a city at war with itself. The only difference in the two concepts was the placement of the title and my name at either top or bottom of the cover. In the center of the cover was a bold Celtic knot either in gold or white. I rejected both of those images, too.
From those covers it was clear that the graphic designer knows nothing about me or my work. I’m old fashioned; I believe the graphic designer should be required to read at least the first three chapters of any book when developing a book cover. In my ideal world the graphic designer would read the entire book but that isn’t realistic.
My direction was that if we use any aerial view of Belfast in the book cover, it must clearly show the peace walls. Period.
My guess is that the next “concept” I see won’t have a city view at all.
One of the first suggestions Kira Henschel, owner of Henschel Haus Publishing, made when we signed our contract was to re-imagine my book covers. I confess my skill set doesn’t include book covers and how I think about a book cover is not the norm.
For my first book, Murphy’s Troubles, I worked with graphic artists to select and alter an image. My idea was to portray the destruction to buildings that was a large part of the IRA bombing campaign. The graphic artist found an image that fit my idea and then we altered color and other technical aspects of the image. We chose a Celtic font because I thought it added authenticity.
For the second book I wanted the book cover to portray a central theme of the book – the peace walls in Belfast. I found a free image and then had second graphic artists alter it to fit the dimensions of the book cover. I was delighted with the image.
For my third book in the series my idea, once again, was to have the book cover reflect the theme of the book. Searching the web I found a free image of an old nautical map with a compass and quill pen. Again, I thought it was the perfect cover.
Do you notice the pattern here? To this date I have wanted each book cover to reflect the theme of the novel. The book titles also reflect the theme of the novels. I thought this approach was reasonable.
A publisher thinks differently. Kira Henschel called saying it was time to work on new book covers, she asked me what the overarching theme as for all three books. I answered – redemption, atonement, contrition. “No- no she said – something physical, you know Ireland.” I told her I would have to think about it and shoot her an email later.
Initially, I wanted a geographic scene of Ireland on each cover until I realized most people couldn’t tell the difference between scenes from Ireland versus Pennsylvania unless it was dramatic like the Cliffs of Mohr. I mulled over what to add to the geographic scene that would show readers the topic was Ireland. Simple – a symbol all would recognize as Irish, for example, the Celtic cross, an Irish Knot, or the Tree of Knowledge. With a quick Google search I found free images of all of them and sent them off to Kira Henschel in an email.
She was pleased that I understood her concept of making all three books “look” alike. Having a publisher opens up my world as an author and gives me a new perspective.
When Henschel Haus Publishing offered to give my first two books in the Ian Murphy series, Murphy’s Troubles and Out of Darkness new covers and interior design I was thrilled. All three books in the series would have the same publisher.
I didn’t plan on doing any work on the content of either book until I received this email from Kira Henschel last week.
“. . .it seems that you could go through it and modify some of the paragraphs so not (almost) everyone starts with "I" -- perhaps vary that a bit. I'm attaching the word doc here.”
I recall having the same issue when I worked with Christine Keleny from CK Books Publishing when the book was first launched. I thought I had edited quite a few “I” paragraphs before Out of Darkness was launched.
I opened the document Kira attached to the email and was embarrassed. Especially in the first three chapters nearly every other paragraph began with “I”. There was improvement as I read through the document. Yet, in my first pass editing only “I” paragraphs I found 55 paragraphs that had to change.
Out of Darkness was my first book in first person point of view. I wanted to write in this view point because I wanted the reader to see the world through Ian Murphy’s eyes and to delve deeply into his psyche. At the time I consulted with several past teachers on the mechanics of writing in first person point of view and completed addition online research.
My problem remained. I hope I’ve learned a lesson. One lesson is certain. Editing never ends.
(How many “I” paragraphs do you count in this 292 word piece?)
Like most of you I’ve struggled with the annual self –inflicted torture known as The New Year’s Resolution. I don’t know the history of this practice, I could research it on Google but that seems like too much effort.
Like most of you reading this blog I’ve had miserable success actually achieving any resolution I’ve made. Today with minimal research you can learn how to make and achieve your resolution with some common sense and some ridiculous strategies.
I’m too old for strategies, at one time or another I’m sure I’ve tried them all and I’m no better off today.
Various news programs always have pieces on how to make and keep a resolution that doesn’t send you to therapy. I saw a piece, I think on PBS TV that resounded with me.
The approach is to discard the grand over arching annual resolutions like, losing 20 pounds, the Number 1 resolution in America. The new approach is to make a mini-resolution – one each day and then congratulate yourself on achieving your goal.
A mini-resolution for a day might be to exercise 30 minutes today. I check my calendar and my list of tasks to get done then plop a time into my calendar – 2:00 pm exercise. Another day might be – write blog which I like to do before breakfast. Each day you give yourself a mini-resolution. Today’s is clearly to write my weekly blog.
This approach makes sense, feels right and recognizes the many small steps need to accomplish any resolution, like wanting to lose 13 pounds this year – the odd number helps, it is more unique.
Give it a try. Ten days into 2018 and it’s working for me.
This is the first time I’ve typed 2018 – it feels odd. I spent 365 days typing 2017 and it’s an old habit to break, but I will – always do.
Besides New Year’s resolutions the start of a new year is a great time to plan. My third book in the Ian Murphy series is being published in March 2018 by Henschel Haus Publishing. The publisher will provide distribution channels that I haven’t been able to access with the first two books and some marketing. The primary marketing effort still belongs to the author.
For the first time I’ve contracted with a publicist to help me launch Dead Reckoning in the spring. For my first two novels I can’t really claim to have had an official launch. It would be more accurate to say that those novels just appeared on the world stage with very little to no pomp and circumstance. That needs to change, especially because Henschel Haus will be re-publishing Murphy’s Troubles and Out of Darkness at the same time, so I have the unique opportunity to do the launch right. It is rare to have such an opportunity and I appreciate how fortunate I am.
I met with my publicist before Christmas and we outlined a strategy based on a thorough proposal she made. I have always felt weak in social media and feel I need a great deal of assistance. My numbers say I’ve fared well in social media. Last year my website averaged 2500 visits a month and 8600 pages viewed a month. I have 1086 followers on twitter. My publicists was humbled by these numbers – I don’t understand them – really I don’t.
The problem is the numbers are passive. I don’t feel engaged by either folks visiting my website or posts on twitter. The only thing I ever post on twitter is my weekly blog and I don’t engage in any exchange of tweets. Maybe that will need to change.
Already I’ve learned there is a way to link my author facebook page with my webpage so I guess we’ll do that. I will be adding a link from Henschel Haus to my webpage so that people can glide over and buy my books from the publisher.
My publicists will be working three areas for the book launch. The first is to spruce up my website and link everything that can be linked. Second, she will develop social media promotions for me. Finally, she will explore paid social media/review services and blog tours. From that list we will pick and chose those we believe (guess?) will be the most effective.
That’s the plan. There will be other post launch activities once the book is in orbit (might as well stick with the metaphor).
If you need an author to speak, I’m available. Presentation topics include:
Researching for historical based novels
Where Art and History Meet- Historical Fiction
My World and Welcome to It – A Spoken Memoir
My World and Welcome to It - My 103.5 FM Radio Talk Show
Send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
My publicist and I met recently to plan the campaign to attract and capture readers with publication of Dead Reckoning, the final book in the Ian Murphy series. I mentioned to her that I was concerned that unlike the previous two books, Murphy’s Troubles and Out of Darkness the third book may not be accepted as historical fiction.
Both the Historical Novel Society and the Historical Writers of America define historical fiction as events that occurred 50 years ago. Dead Reckoning occurs in 2003-2005 – a mere 15 years in the past. However, historical fiction is defined as much more than the time period. Elements of historical fiction include accurate portrayal of social conditions, customs, language, historical events and setting. The period in Irish History known as The Troubles is the backbone of my novels and the plot for each book is woven into historical events.
Yet . . . there is that pesky time period element of historical fiction. My publicists told me to pose the question to Henschel HAUS publishing and let the publisher make the determination because they would select the correct ISBN.
That same day I emailed Kira Henschel. Her response was swift and definitive – I wouldn’t call the book historical fiction. Maybe it could be called Ireland-Fiction or Ireland-Drama. She asked which I preferred.
I would prefer Ireland-Drama but then worried potential readers would be confused that the work is a stage play and not a novel. I worry about things like that. Kira promised to do additional research on the best genre – sub-genre. Who knows, maybe a change in category or genre will expand potential readers.
I’ve always thought I wrote historical fiction, there has been no intent to misguide readers. In terms of how the novel is written, all three books are historical fiction – just not 50 years in the past.
Opps! Wrong genre – my bad.
Ready to Launch 10 . . .9
As 2017 draws to a close my focus is in launching Dead Reckoning in April 2018. There isn’t an exact publication date yet so for planning I’m using April as the official launch date.
I have made proposals to speak at the Untitled Town Book & Author Festival Green Bay April 20-22; WAPL Conf. Pewaukee May 2-4; and the Lakefly Writers Conf. Oshkosh May 11-12.
I will contact the Milwaukee Aug. 16-19 and the Irish Book and Music Festival in Chicago October in the near future.
I have several confirmed events too. First a guest blog and facebook post with Valerie Biel around April 24th. Official Launch at Sun Prairie Public Library on April 24th. The Wordsmith book club, N Fond du Lac June 14th.
That’s a start – but just a start. On Friday I’ll be meeting with my media/publicist guru and I’ll share that experience with readers on my final blog of the year December 27th.
Anyone interested in helping me with the LAUNCH of DEAD RECKONING can contact me at: email@example.com. I will go to pubs, libraries, book clubs, coffee houses, book festivals, bookstores, senior centers, civic clubs, and writer’s conferences and anywhere there are three or more readers.
In my presentations I always share with the audience that the image of a writer spending endless hours alone bleeding over their laptop to conjure up the great American novel is a MYTH.
Every author has their own style of writing. Some do devote a great deal of time to living in their own imaginations and watching words pop onto the electronic page. I admit that long works writers must spend a lot of time alone as they produce the first draft. Although some writers will share their work prior to finishing the first rough, unspeakable, first draft. I am not one of those writers but I have met a few – just a few.
After the first rough draft is done, to publish a book, using any method takes a team. I have had a team work with me for each of my three books. It has been interesting because some team members have helped with all three books and others have worked only on one.
I want to share with readers a few of my team members. Christine D. helped me craft the final chapter of Dead Reckoning. The third book completes the series and I wanted to make sure the final chapter would satisfy readers and successfully bring the series to a close. Christine K. edited the entire manuscript and with her David Bowie knife cut out about 5000 unnecessary words. Marshall C. helped me craft a perfect query letter. Out of 8 letters sent out – 5 requested the entire manuscript. Nick C. introduced me to Kira Henschel the owner of Henschel Haus Publishing who gave me my first traditional publishing contract. Valerie B. is creating a marketing/publicity plan for me because about 95% of my book sales have been through direct sales – I need help.
To transform the manuscript into a book will require other team members I haven’t met yet through Henschel Haus publishing like the graphic designer for the book covers. There will be others I’m sure.
There is one person in a category of her own – Lynette. She has the patience to put up with my insane desire to write and publish and travel with me to a myriad of book events. She’s learned the pitch and how to use the ‘square’ to sell books. She is very creative on ways to sell books and get noticed. I have the immense good fortune to share my life with her.
I write to tell the story of our human saga.