Final Cover Design for Short Stories

I finally got a chance to sit down and putter with Gimp this morning and finish the short story covers for the Starstrikers Universe. I decided to change the green color to a light marble, which is the color for the background of the Starforgers novel, when it comes out this time next year. I also dropped the short story text. I’ll just assume anyone looking at this on Amazon has at least half a brain and can read. I know, I like to live dangerously sometimes.

Here is the final look of all the covers.

The design is not very colorful, but it works great on e-readers and the stars conveys that the stories are Sci-Fi. I like this design well enough. The covers scale very well to postage stamp up to iPad size. It reflects the look of the Starstrikers novel and that branding is important for the stories. I will change the border background to concrete for the stories that are set in the same time period as Starstrikers and to brushed steel for the one story set in the Tyrmia time period. All of this will make more sense in good time. Trust me.

Short Story Cover

This weekend I spent some time configuring one of my short stories for e-book format so that it can be sold separately. It already appears in the e-book anthology, Tales From Ocherva. So I really didn’t have much work to get it into shape. But the cover was another story.

I have struggled to find a look that works for the e-short story format. The cover has to let the reader know that these stories are set in the Starstrikers Universe and that they are not novels. The cover price will be .99 cents, as low as I can go on the Kindle. But the covers themselves must not be mistaken for full novels. They have to suggest the novels in concept but be their own individual designs.

I decided to go with a color stripe on the left that highlights the universe they are set in and spells out that they are short stories. The font used is also from the novels. But it’s the backgrounds have given me fits. My latest version is using a simple star field. But I have considered many ideas for background images, from the dunes of Ocherva to various characters to starships. I may still change my mind on this, but at this time I will stick with the stars. It is simple, it conveys Sci-Fi and it recalls the star field on the center stripe of the Starstrikers novel.

When you shrink the cover down to postage stamp size, you can still read the title and the author name. Perfect. The color of the stripe is green, which is the designated color for the First Generation, the time period the story is set in. Green stands for peace as the Federation is at peace before the Great War starts. The cover is super easy to reconfigure for a different short story title. Just change the title and depending when the story takes place, change the color of the stripe.When you intend to crank out a dozen or more of these covers, you need to keep them simple.

Short Story Covers

One of my projects for this holiday break is to publish a bunch of short stories on the Kindle. Each story will cost a buck and will be on the Kindle only for now. The challenge in making short stories available for e-books as opposed to novels is that people don’t expect to be able to buy individual short stories. At least not yet. So you have to set them apart from novels both visually and in the product description.

The hardest part of that is doing cover art that lets the reader know visually that this is not a novel, but is in fact a single short story. I plan to do this my making all my short story covers fit a template that clearly indicates a short story and not novel. My covers for these shorts will have a spine down the left side that simply says SHORT STORY. There will be no art on the covers, just the title and the author name. The colors I will use will determine the era or generation of my space opera that the stories take place in.

So for the first generation, those stories will have a green spine, the second generation red and the third generation blue. These colors were picked for their emotional meanings; Peace, War and Understanding. The actual cover backgrounds will probably reflect the materiel used on the covers of the Star Series books. For instance, Starforgers will have a marble feel to it, suggesting the classical foundation materiel. The second generation or Starstrikers will be concrete and the third generation or Starveyers will have a stainless steel look to it.

The goal is to make them completely different from novel covers and yet still interesting and appealing. I’ll do some Gimp tests this weekend to see if this whole concept is viable. By eliminating cover art, I’ve made it easier to crank out these covers by just changing the colors, background pattern and titles.

GENTLE REMINDER: Tomorrow is Buy TYRMIA Day on Amazon. Buy the new SF novel set in the Starstrikers Universe and help push it up on the Kindle Best Seller lists.

Short Story Cover Mock-Up

Took a few minutes this afternoon to work up an idea for the short story covers I will be releasing on Kindle. I wanted them to look different from a novel cover, but yet still convey that they are from the Starstrikers Universe.

I’m not sure I completely like this version, but it is interesting. Perhaps a different color border or maybe no color behind the Starstrikers Universe. The image is of a model I built a few years ago out of cardboard. I’d like to use stock images or perhaps pencil sketches of ships or people in the story. More thought and more mock-ups are in order me thinks.

New Short Stories Section

I’ve added a new page to the main menu in order to showcase my short stories. The idea is to rotate through them every month or two and let you get a chance to read them on the site using Scribd.com. This will let new readers sample my work before buying the novels.

I believe that there just isn’t a non-traditional market for short stories from unknown authors like myself. I could devote all my time to writing shorts and try to get them published traditionally, but then I would not have time to write my novels. I’ve decided to focus on the novel and supplement them with an occasional short story.

I know that most authors of the traditional mindset think I’m stark raving mad. Why do I insist on doing things my own way? Why don’t I just do things like everyone else? Because I can. I’m publishing what I want, the way I want it on my own terms. If you’re into my stories, you will “get it”, if you don’t read my stories, well, I’m just a crazy old crank.

Plastic Pals

Will AI brains need a teacher or a guide to living among humans or to even exist successfully in the universe? Can they figure out how to behave without a long period of learning like humans enjoy. I believe that they might actually require a longer period of learning. Simply because they have the capacity to learn quickly, does not mean they will use it right away. It takes humans longer than any other animal to fully mature. If you add walking and talking and socializing into the fold, it could be a while before a young AI could be let out in public.

In my short stories about androids who have been given awareness upgrades, I have them learning about their new condition through a teacher. Sometimes the teachers are humans other times they are other AI infused androids. What I don’t show is the long, tedious efforts to bring the AI up to speed on basic things like walking and interacting with humans on a basic level. That would be boring. Short stories are not a format for boring. So my stories move at a fast clip and usually expound upon a single idea.

I’m also interested in human and android relationships. If you had an android, would you be its friend or its owner? They say a dog is man’s best friend but what they mean is that the loyalty really only goes one way. Except for Payton in Silverado. This is not to say that humans don’t love their pets, but that is different than loving your best friend. Or is it? Would androids and humans ever be buddies? Now that would be an interesting character study. Note to self:  possible story about human/android buddies.

Weekly Writing Update

This week I’ve been working hard on the fourth and final Tyrmia draft. I’m about three fourths of the way through it. A few months ago I had some writer friends read the last draft and give me their comments. I got some really good feedback and compiled a hit-list of things to look at and or change. As I’m going through this final draft, I’m addressing those issues.

Tyrmia is quite the departure for me and it will be interesting to see if readers who enjoyed Starstrikers will like it. It’s still Space Opera, but it’s confined to one planet and the level of technology on the planet ranges from bow and arrow to Edwardian era technology the equivalent to WWI. Not quite Steampunk and not quite starships battling in space, Tyrmia is kind of doing its own little thing in one corner of the Starstrikers Universe.

I’ve also been thinking about a short story I started to write for the Federations anthology last year and then never finished. I need to finish it because it takes place maybe a year or two before my next novel, Starforgers. It might even be included in the Starforgers e-book as an extra. The story deals with the initial meeting between two main characters who will later go on to forge the Western Alliance – the good guy side of the Great War featured in Starstrikers.

I will get back into this short story and finish it before moving on to the outline of Starforgers.

Kindle Sales Update

As most readers of this blog are already aware, I’ve released a new e-book anthology this week. It has been up on Amazon for a week now, but only officially as of last Friday. That was the day that Amazon published the product description.  As of Tuesday morning, Tales From Ocherva, Volume One is sitting at 22,484 and is on one best seller list. Not bad for having just become available.

Meanwhile, sales for Starstrikers continue to march along at a respectable clip. We passed the one hundred books sold marker yesterday. So it looks like we might be on the fourth month of over two hundred sales on the Kindle for that novel. Currently, its on three best seller lists and ranked at 2,979.

If you are a blogger or a book reviewer and are interested in obtaining a free copy of TFO, for reviewing, please drop me an e-mail. I have an epub version ready to send out.

Reoccuring Characters

Many of the stories in my new anthology, Tales From Ocherva Volume One, feature the same cast of characters. This is intentional. When I started writing short stories a few years ago, I decided that I would concentrate on one particular planet and a handful of characters. I was not completely sure about all of the characters, but as I wrote the stories they emerged.

Principle characters like Devon Ardel, my Ranger captain and her android, Thirty-seven were already known to me because of an early draft of a novel. But new characters like the android Eighty-eight and Cole the programmer emerged as their stories came to life. I wanted to explore the lives of the Rangers and tell many stories about their bravery. They were partly based on the Texas Rangers with some 1940’s pop SF mixed in for good measure.

While I was in Moscow, Idaho on a book signing for the Barren Worlds anthology, I talked with a customer who had read my story, Ocherva. He mentioned that he enjoyed the connection between a physical place and the people who lived there. It got me thinking more about the planet of Ocherva and what made it special to the humans and androids in my stories. Many of my stories have explored that connection between the barren moon and those who live there.

When you write a novel you have more time to develop the main characters than you do with a short story. But short stories can paint a much more detailed picture of your characters if you feature them in many different kinds of stories with various points of view. For instance some of my stories about Devon are from her POV and some of them are from her android’s perspective and a few are from her friend’s viewpoint. That kind of range is not possible in the novel format. But a series of related short stories gives you that freedom.

Over time, you can build up a perception of your characters in the reader’s mind that grows into a complete picture of them. This is only possible with a series of novels or perhaps a television series. Since my medium of choice is narrative fiction, I like episodic short story collections for exploring these particular characters and this particular planet. There will be more volumes to the Tales From Ocherva series. As I complete a dozen or so stories, I will release a new volume. The release schedule for these anthologies will continue to be early summer.

I will begin writing he next novel in the Starstrikers universe this summer. Starforgers will focus on some of the main characters in the Tales From Ocherva stories. But that novel takes place after all the stories in the Ocherva series. So I have to be careful what I have her do and say in writing this particular novel. It helps to have already written about much of her life as a Ranger as I begin telling what happens to her at the start of the Great War. Starforgers tells how the naive Federation is transformed by the events that led to war with the Votainion Empire. It features Devon, her mother and father and her trusty android, among many other new characters. Again, if you have read Tales From Ocherva, you will already have background information for the next novel. Again, I’m building characters and telling a larger story than what is possible with just a single novel.

New Short Story on Scribd

I’ve added a new short story to my collection on Scribd. “Slag” is a story about the origins of the android Silicant called, Eighty-eight. The story will be featured in the upcoming anthology, Tales From Ocherva, Volume One.

Today I also sent off another short story to the Girls With Guns anthology. With any luck, it will get selected and you can read it in that free e-book. Otherwise, it will make its way into Volume Two of Tales From Ocherva. It features characters from the Ocherva stories and well, girls with guns, of course.