Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Importance of Choosing a GOOD Cover for your e-book

I’ve written about cover design at least two or three times before – but it is one of the most important concepts an indie writer ought to tuck between his ears.

Let me tell you about about my latest release, Hammurabi Road.

Hammurabi Road started out as one of a two novella collection that I called Hard Roads which was put together in 2007 by Gary Fry at Gray Friar Press.

Here’s the original cover – done by noted artist Zach McCain.

 

Now that’s a pretty good cover.

Hard Roads sold a few copies and I still have some on my shelf but these days I am focusing on my e-books – so it shouldn’t surprise any of you that I took it into my head to release these two novellas in e-book format.

Only – at the time that I was planning to release them my budget was feeling the pinch.

So I decided right away that I would use the Kindle Cover Creator and I came up with this cover.

Hammurabi Road expanded viewI took the photograph at the railroad tracks across the street from where I live – and I am going to leave you folks to guess at whether I live on the “right” side of the tracks or the “wrong” one.

I had to scoot under a tall wire fence to get close enough to take the shot and then I plugged that into the Kindle Cover Creator and came up with what you see there. It’s alright as a cover. It doesn’t make you want to pluck out your eyes or anything as drastic as that – but it LIKEWISE doesn’t make you want to pluck out some money from your wallet and BUY it.

But I was broke and this was all I could afford.

Then – when I decided to release Hammurabi Road in paperback I used the Createspace cover creator and I came up with this design.

Hammurabi Road Homemade VersionWhich was alright as well – but STILL really didn’t say BUY MY BOOK.

Which – at the end of the day – is REALLY all an author wants out of his book cover.

So – after a good couple of months I saved up enough in my pitiful PayPal account and I hired Keri Knutson to create a cover.

You might remember Keri. She created the covers

for Tatterdemon.

Tatterdemon New Cover

And for Sea Tales.

SeaTalesWell she put on her thinking cap and came up with this mind-blowing cover for Hammurabi Road.

Hammurabi Road new

Now that – brothers and sisters – says BUY MY FREAKING BOOK!

So – the moral of this story is if you want to write e-books and more importantly SELL e-books – get yourself a good cover designer!

Like Keri Knutson, for example.

NOW – if you want to read MORE about the importance of choosing a good cover take a look at these earlier blog entries.

CHOOSING A GOOD BOOK COVER!

COVER ME – THE ART OF CHOOSING THE BEST COVER FOR YOUR NEXT RELEASE!

**********

There is ALWAYS a commercial.

If you are intrigued enough to pick up a copy of Hammurabi Road you can buy it at Kobo or Kindle or in paperback format through Createspace at Amazon!

If you buy it and you read it and you like it – PLEASE leave a review. That means an awful lot to us authors out here in the creative boondocks.

Yours in Storytelling,

Steve Vernon

The Bloody Valentine’s Day Blog Hop 2014 – Part 3 – dealing with that “Block” word

There’s always comes a time when the celebrating is over and it is time to clean up all of the wrapping paper and the empty beer bottles and the cheese rinds and that funny-colored stain that looks a little bit like pre-World-War-1 Manchuria that Uncle Walter left upon the fabric of the ottoman that he was hunkered down upon.

If any of you want to make some kind of witticism about the “Ottoman Empire” well go right on ahead. I won’t stop you. However, I refuse to stoop to such low-brow pun-ridden humor.

Too bad Uncle Walter refused to stoop.

In some provinces they refer to this state – (I know, I know, make up your mind Vernon – is it a state or a province) – as the hangover.

It can be the worst or the best part of any sort of situation – depending on how you look at it.

We writers know this feeling. There is nothing worse that getting to that “wrapping-up” part of the manuscript.

For example – I’ve been attempting to “wrap up” a Bigfoot novel for about six months now and I keep beating my head against a stone wall.

I’m not going to use the “block” word.

Let’s just say that I am a little momentumously-challenged right about now.

So what does a writer do when they find themselves in the realm of negative-momentum?

Well, for starters I like to puddle about. Then I fart around for a brief spell. When farting around gets too much to handle I put off and procrastinate and occasionally redudanticize a phrase or two.

Up here in the snowy regions of Canada we refer to this stage as “spinning one’s tires”.

Suffice it to say that it doesn’t accomplish all that much.

But sometimes a fellow just needs to buy himself a little time.

And other times he just needs to spend a little time doing sweet diddly-squat.

I wanted to write about this today because sometimes some folks might think me glib while others think of me as some sort of a “writing god”.

“Well, Steve,” they’ll say. “You’ve got about thirty self-published e-books and seven regionally released trade paperbacks and a about a hundred or so published short stories and maybe another hundred published poems – some of which EVEN made money. You’ve written umpteen thousand reviews and a large handful of interviews and over four hundred blog entries – not counting your old blog. Surely you MUST know what you are doing by now.”

Well – bullshit.

The truth is we writers are in a constant state of perpetual adlib.

(or would that be a province?)

We are ALWAYS making things up as we go along.

This last month or so I have found solace and shelter in the more practical aspects of farting around. I’ve released a couple of new e-books and have just recently commissioned a brand new cover for my e-novella HAMMURABI ROAD.

I’ll show you that cover in a week or two – suffice it to say it is awesome.

I have also written over 7000 words in a brand-new Biblically-oriented piece of literature that I have been REALLY excited about.

In short – I keep busy.

Sometimes that is ALL a fella can do to keep the fire burning.

So – the next time you find yourself faced with that big old “block” word – pause for just a little while to fart around.

That’s step one.

Go fishing or fix that leaky faucet or replace every light bulb in your house whether it needs or not.

Then – proceed to step 2 and pause again and begin to futz about creatively. Find a new market for your old work. Repackage it or re-promote it. Write a blog entry or two.

Then if you are still stuck – find something NEW to get excited about and go forth and write the hell out of it. Main thing is to finish this second thing through – which I anticipate I will do with this new Biblical project.

The main thing to remember is to NEVER give up.

I will get back to Bigfoot – just shortly after I finish up with this Biblical project – which ought to take another two or three weeks.

Meanwhile – I am giving that Bigfoot project time to percolate without all of that static electricity of needless worry and fret.

The fact is there are TWO Bigfoot e-book projects on my plate – and one of them is ALREADY written – so I just have to finish the other one – and then I’ll release them both.

So take heart if you are faced by that big bad old “block” word. Don’t panic and don’t flounder around. Regroup and find your footing – even if you are waist-deep in the mud.

♥  ♥  ♥

Meanwhile, let me tell you about Valentine’s Day.

The morning was given over to work for both Belinda and I.

She had to go to her classes at Community College. They were having a fund-raising cake sale to raise money for QEII BONE MARROW COMFORT FUND. This is a fund set up by Halifax’s QEII Hospital to raise money for folks who have to face a bone marrow transplant. The Nova Scotia Community College has been supporting this particular fund for several years now. On Valentine’s Day this year the culinary department – (that’s chefs in training) – get together and bake some magnificent cakes which are then sold to the students to raise funds for the program.

Now I am supposed to be watching my weight – so Belinda did not bring home a whole cake. Instead, she brought along some plates and forks and a cake cutter and bought a whole cake herself and gave each of her classmates a slice of cake. She did bring some home herself and it was a chocolate raspberry cream cake that tasted like plated-up temptation.

Meanwhile I was visiting a local school – telling my stories and talking about how to write and tell a good story to several classes of Grade 8 and Grade 9 students at the Dartmouth Bicentennial School. I had a great time and met a lot of great kids and luckily happened to show up in time for a big Chinese dinner Valentine’s lunch party that the teachers were having. I had a couple of egg rolls and some chicken balls and some broccoli and beef and fried rice and Soo Guy and what was that I was saying about watching my weight???

So I got home and Belinda had set up an amazing buffet assortment of Valentine’s Day treats.

Valentine's Day 2014 003

Let me see if I can get all this right.

We’ve got – moving from left to right – pickled onions, olives, gherkins and Branston Pickle. Above that is a bottle of Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon and a tower of pear slices, blood oranges in brandy, grapes and apple. There is a tray full of  fancy black pepper crackers and sweet and savory jellies hidden behind the candles – apricot reisling, cabernet fig, and spicy peach chutney. Then a tray full of cheese – toffee cheese which tastes like dessert, mango cheese, Stilton and a Borsin and a dark black Guinness-infused Stilton which I love to eat but makes my tailpipe exhaust smell a little like an arthritic nine hundred year old dying moose.

Not to mention that bottle of locally brewed Martello Stout which likewise contributes to that whole dying moose effect.

Then in front we had a modest cheese fondue with freshly baked white bread and some somewhat over-proofed olive bread – which I adore.

My contribution to the feast was the wine, the beer and the appetite.

I also contributed the evening entertainment as we sat down and watched our new DVD set of VIKINGS season one. We are eagerly awaiting the second season and I thought it was high-time we sat down and rewatched the first season without any of those irritating History channel commercials – HAVE YOU WATCHED PAWN STARS MEETS AMERICAN RESTORATION WHILE AMERICAN PICKERS AND CANADIAN PICKERS DUKE IT OUT IN A STORAGE GARAGE SPECIAL?

(note – I actually really enjoy watching Canadian Pickers and Pawn Stars occasionally – but I get tired of the commercials)

Today we are going to carry on watching the rest of the season – after I get done a bit more writing, the dishes, my laundry and maybe some groceries and cooking. While Belinda is in college I pick up as much of the housework duties as I can manage to.

Today we are also going to make time to go through our Bag of Hearts.

This was Belinda’s idea originally. Many years ago on a February when we were REALLY tight on extra money – she decided to sit down and cut out three hundred and sixty-five reasons why we’re in love with each other.

Just yesterday I pulled the bag down off of my keepsake shelf and she could not believe that I had actually hung onto the homemade gift – but the way I see it, homemade gifts are the best kind – unless you count beer.

(grin)

In fact I’ve ALSO got every Christmas, Valentine’s and Birthday card she ever got me wedged into a shelf here on my writing desk. I take them out every now and then and look through a few of them.

It always makes me smile.

That’s what love is, folks. Love is a three hundred and sixty five day a year adventure.

Don’t waste your time aiming for one or two days out of the year.  Bring home a flower or a donut or a greeting card – just because it’s Tuesday.

Listen to the old moose, eh?

♥  ♥  ♥

Funny thing about entertainment – but sooner or later there is ALWAYS a commercial.

If you enjoyed this blog entry why not pick up a copy of my brand-new collection of six twisted love stories – BAD VALENTINES 2?

Bad Valentines - High ResolutionYou can buy it on Kindle and Kobo for only 99 cents this week.

(regularly priced $2.99)

AND REMEMBER – be sure to check out the two dozen OTHER authors taking part in the BLOODY VALENTINE’S DAY 2014 BLOG HOP!

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

The Bloody Valentine’s Day 2014 Blog Hop – Part 2

fbf93-valentinelogo

I hear a lot of folks today talking about how Valentine’s Day is sadly out-of-date. Some folks claim that it’s an outmoded notion, that a fellow who gives a woman a bouquet of flowers and some candy shouldn’t expect to get his hat boxed and his kiwis cuddled. Other folks complain about how Walmart and Hallmark have damn near merchandised this holiday to death. Overpriced restuarants and wildly expensive bouquets have done old St. Valentino in.

Bullshit.

I love St. Valentines Day.

I still remember the first Valentines Day I gave to my wife Belinda.

I’m talking about 1995 – back when I wore size 34 jeans.

Way back then Belinda wasn’t my wife – she was my girlfriend, but I loved her just as much. I scuttled into her house just as we were coming home from an evening out. I hastily paid off the babysitter and threw her out the door, making a dent in the front lawn where she landed.

Then – while Belinda was upstairs getting changed I hastily filled the living room with flowers, candy, jewelry, chilled wine, stuffed toys, balloons and great big stick-on Valentines decals in the windows.

Yes sir – I set myself a bar that I could never hope to successfully vault over – yet every year I keep on trying.
Fortunately, so does she.
♥ ♥ ♥

Then there was 2006.

We’d both lost work time over November and December, and my business back then especially suffered over February.  For those who knew me back then I was a full-time palm and Tarot reader at Little Mysteries on Barrington Street – and let me tell you there just isn’t a lot of folks who brave the winter to get downtown for a palm or Tarot reading.

So we decided to keep it small. I started out by giving Belinda a bag of ginger chocolate last night. Then this morning I awoke to find that she’d snuck down to my office while I was snoozing and left a stuffed monkey valentines card and some chocolates on my writing desk. I returned the favor by handing her a card and a DVD of the movie Tom Jones.

Then Belinda made me a big batch of heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast.

Point to her.

Then we both had to head our separate ways. I needed to go to the dentist, and she needed to go to work. We walked out, happy as pigs eating pigs.

The dentist visit was uneventful. They had to bring out a jack hammer to clean my teeth, (I’ve never had that done at a dentist before, and they made a follow-up visit for March. Then, when I was finished and went to the desk to pay my bill the receptionist said, “Happy Valentine’s Day. Your dental visit is on your wife.”

Right out of the freaking ballpark.

Heh. I did my best to make up for that by picking up a bouquet of bright orange roses, (which she loves), and a heaping helping of orange chicken and won tons, (which she also loves), but the fact is my wife has definitely out-valentined me that year. I bow down to her sense of timing. All hail Belinda, the queen of Valentines Day.

♥ ♥ ♥

I was going to tell you all about LAST year’s Valentine’s Day – but I think it’d be easier if I just sent you to the blog entry – which describes in MUCH more articulate fashion than I can manage tonight.

LIVING A LIFE LONG LOVE – FIFTY SHADES OF BACON!

So – instead let me tell you about Valentine’s Day at the Vernon house THIS year.

We’re on one heck of a budget this year – on account of Belinda is going to college all year long and is consequently making a LOT less money. She is taking a college course in Medical Administration and is scoring top marks and working her butt off doing it and I am SO damn proud of all of the work she is putting into it.

So we’re doing Valentine’s Day on a budget.

But that still doesn’t mean it isn’t special.

Earlier this week I bought her a fancy Tim Horton’s heart-shaped donut – just because I knew she was having a hard week at school. The other day I picked her up some fancy chocolates. Then Thursday night I brought her home a fancy Starbucks heart-shaped cookie.

See fellas – this is how you REALLY want to do Valentines Day. Never mind farting around for one mere night of the year. Stretch it out so that it lasts all week long. Never mind trying to be expensive. Go for thoughtful. Show your lady that you are thinking about them.

Listen to Poppa.

Valentines Night we are going to do fondue. We’ve got some fancy cheese – including some dark old Guinness-infused Stilton that is absolutely wonderful if you dig funky old cheese. Belinda calls it my hockey puck cheese.

(grin)

We’ve also got some toffee cheese which tastes like supper and dessert all wrapped into one neat little package. We’ve got some olive bread and some olives and pickled onions and gherkins and some fruit and I’m bringing home a fancy dessert – in case the toffee cheese isn’t sweet enough.

Belinda has a box of wine and I have a six-pack of good dark ale – the chewy kind that lumps down a fellow’s throat.

Um-gowa, baby. That’s good living.

See – Valentines Day does NOT have to be an expensive proposition. Just take a moment to pull life over to the curb and play a little soft music and talk a little of love.

Some folks might call that corny.

Let me tell you – people live off of corn. They eat it and they survive and there are a lot worse things in this world to go believing in than pure honest-to-god down-home corn.

(which reminds me – those folks new to my blog MIGHT want to check out my recipe for corn chowder)

♥ ♥ ♥

Funny thing about entertainment – but sooner or later there is ALWAYS a commercial.

If you enjoyed this blog entry why not pick up a copy of my brand-new collection of six twisted love stories – BAD VALENTINES 2?

Bad Valentines - High ResolutionYou can buy it on Kindle and Kobo for only 99 cents this week.

(regularly priced $2.99)

AND DON’T FORGET THAT VALENTINE’S DAY 2014 IS THE VERY LAST DAY TO ENTER MY BIG GIVEAWAY AT TEAM TYNGA’S REVIEWS!!!

AND REMEMBER – be sure to check out the two dozen OTHER authors taking part in the BLOODY VALENTINE’S DAY 2014 BLOG HOP!

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Bloody Valentine Blog Hop 2014 – Part 1

Bloody Valentine Blog Hop

Love is sweet.

Love is wonderful.

Except when it’s not.

Sometimes love can be one of the nastiest four letter words God – (or somebody else) – ever dreamed up.

So I was tickled pink to be invited to be a part of Nova Scotia writer A.F. Stewart’s upcoming Bloody Valentine Blog Hop.

Now – this isn’t the first time I’ve taken part in the BVBH. I took part last year and met a lot of really cool fellow bloggers and writers and I even picked up a few readers as well.

The idea is that each of us will release a weird and twisted Valentine Day blog post this Friday – and link it to the rest of the blog hop.

Well – you’ll just have to wait until Friday – but for those of you who are impatient – why not have a sneak peek at my previous Bloody Valentine Blog entries?

Bloody Valentine Blog Hop 2013 – Part 1

Bloody Valentine Blog Hop 2013 – Part 2

Bloody Valentine Blog Hop 2013 – Part 3

AND – if you want some more info on the BLOODY VALENTINE BLOG HOP 2014 just check it out HERE!

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

There’s ALWAYS a commercial.

If you enjoyed this entry why not pick up a copy of my brand-new collection of six twisted love stories – BAD VALENTINES 2?

Bad Valentines - High Resolution

Available on Kobo and Kindle.

Only 99 cents for the month of February.

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Warm Sweater Soup

How many of you folks have a favorite warm sweater?

I know I have.

warm sweater 001You like that?

I do. I bought it many years ago from a little South American lady who sold them from her pitch at the local Halifax Busker Festival. It was late in the summer and the evening weather had turned cold but folks were still gathered around my own pitch asking for palm readings and I wanted to stay a little later so that I could pay my rent – so I bought this sweater to keep warm.

“Mamacita,” I said to her, holding up the sweater. “Por favor.”

Okay, so I learned all of my Spanish from old John Wayne movies – but she got the drift and I gave her my money and I worked until the light had fled and I still have that sweater today.

I like that sweater.

I’ve got other sweaters that I like but I am not going to show to you. I’ve got a ratty old fisherman’s knit sweater that is great for wearing over a shirt when it’s cold; and I’ve got a Mr. Roger’s cardigan that I wear around the house; and I’ve got a couple others that should have been thrown out years ago but I won’t do it on account of I know something about those sweaters that a picture would never tell you.

Those sweaters are MAGIC!

So is a good chowder.

Nothing says “sit down and tuck in” more than a well made chowder. A well made chowder tells you that you have found your way home – or at the very least to a place that smells like home.

Chowder keeps you warm. It adds a little much-needed winter insulation. Don’t talk to me about cholesterol and fatty build-up. Heck, most of your brain is made out of fatty build-up – or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

(let’s file that last bit of nutritional information under “L” for Little-White-Lie, shall we?)

Let me tell you how to make chowder.

(had to stop and run down to stir the pot – I’ll tell you a little about that later)

First off, good chowder starts with a few scraps of bacon.

And an onion, of course. You can’t cook anything worth gnawing on without invoking an onion somewhere along the way.

(File that under “L”, as well. You can make chocolate pudding without onions, of course – but it won’t taste as good)

It doesn’t have to be fancy bacon. Just cheap and chewy bacon, something that will sizzle down and give you just enough “guilty” taste to make up for ALL of that veggie goodness that is going in next.

I like to chop my veggies first – so that I don’t have to fuss when I am cooking. I am allergic to fuss – most sensible people are.

It makes a few more bowls to clean afterwards – but heck, that’s what the good Lord created dishwashers for.

So I chop an onion. Then I slice some carrots thin. I slice a couple of zucchini – green zucchini today. I often prefer yellow zucchini on account of the appearance. It doesn’t taste any better – in my opinion – but appearance counts for an awful lot in a proper soup. You want something that slaps you in the eyes and says – in its best Tommy Lee Jones voice –  “Hey – EAT ME! EAT ME!”

I would have used a yellow zucchini in this particular chowder – but the only ones that the grocery store had were so old and withered that they looked suspiciously like something that might have been lopped off of a 973 year old Venusian celibate monk.

I also add a bag of potatoes. I’m using baby potatoes today – because they make a GORGEOUS soup – but any kind of potato will do.

I usually put celery in as well – but I forgot to buy it.

Bad shopper. Bad, bad shopper.

No biscuit for you today.

I sometimes put garlic in – on account of garlic is good for you and tastes “guilty” even though it isn’t – but I forgot that today and it’s too late to go back and add it – so pretend that I told you garlic and never mind pointing over my shoulder mentioning that I forgot to add it.

So then I find me the biggest soup pot I own. I throw it on the stove – gently, on account of the stove top is made out of glass – and then I heat that sucker up. While it is heating I take the bacon and I chop it into the pot. Don’t be neat, don’t be delicate – just chop it up like you were making a handful of drunken confetti out of your last three grocery lists.

Throw the onions in next – and the potatoes – followed by the carrots. Stir like your arm was possessed by an over-zealous swizzle stick.

Then I add me some chicken broth and keep stirring. I add the zucchini and a tin of yellow corn – on account of I love the taste of corn in ANYTHING.

Even chocolate pudding.

After the chicken broth I add a helping of milk – until it looks mostly full. Then I stir it a little bit more and then pepper it like I was trying to scare out a devil.

Today I added a whole bagful of mixed veggies – on account of they were cheaper than buying fresh veggies – which are hard to come buy this far north at this time of the year.

Besides – you can NEVER have enough veggies. They’re good for you and they taste good.

There are many different kinds of chowders you could make with this basic recipe. Fry in some chicken chunks in the beginning and you’ve got chicken chowder. Open up some clams and you’ve got clam chowder. Throw in some fish and it is fish chowder. Ham or garlic sausage or even wieners are ALL fair game.

This is simple basic cooking.

Cooking is an improvisation and a compromise and an art with very few rules to follow. This is peasant-work and trailer trash thinking – rural ergonomics by any other name.

So I don’t have much more of a recipe to offer you. Take a look at your refrigerator or what ever is on sale at the grocery store and put it into a pot. Let it simmer for as you want. Because I added milk I am conscientious about stirring – on account of milk will burn and stick to the bottom – no matter how low the temperature is. But me having to run downstairs every half hour or so to stir isn’t any kind of real hardship.

This is what my pot looks like today.

Zuchinni Chowder 001That’s dinner for the next few days – maybe even a week. I’ve got a meatloaf in the fridge that will likewise serve as supper for the next few days.

Now – if you enjoyed that impromptu cooking lesson why don’t you leave me a comment – or else share this blog entry on your Facebook page or your Twitter feed – on account of I want to share this with as many people as possible.

You REALLY like it – well you can always run over to Kindle or Kobo and buy one of my e-books just to say thanks.

OR – you can just take that recipe and cook up your own chowder and tell everybody else how you read about the recipe on this crazy bearded writer’s blog.

OH – and why was I talking about sweaters?

Well, mostly because coming home to this chowder on a cold winter’s day always makes me feel about as happy as my favorite warm sweater.

So mix yourself up a big old pot full of Warm Sweater Soup.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Today’s recipe was brought to you by my novella of redneck noir – HAMMURABI ROAD.

Available in Kindle and Kobo and Apple iTunes and Nook in e-book format.

Also available in paperback format from Amazon and Createspace.

Hammurabi Road expanded view