“A thrilling dystopian epic that competes with some of the best YA out there”

Hi there,

I wanted to share this review of The Fourth Sage by Eamo The Geek with you here:

Eamo writes: In a world becoming versaturated with dystopian YA tales all vying for the hard-earned money of beleaguered parents and desperate to grab the attention of movie producers to become the Next Big Thing, it’s easy to become cynical about the genre. It’s become tired and formulaic and other than a few mainstream successes like The Hunger Games and Divergent (which quite frankly to me were tired and formulaic also, but I’m not a teen so what do I know?) there has been little new to the table of late. Please continue reading here. 

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A Review by Undiscovered Tomes

Stefan Bolz’s The Fourth Sage Makes Us Ask “Why”

 Is it science fiction? 
 
Or maybe fantasy? 
 
Perhaps it’s a blend of both? 

Nope. Definitely sci-fi. Though it did seem like a genre blend for quite some time. After all, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Ok, ok… that Arthur C. Clarke statement doesn’t quite fit, but it’s one of my favorites, so I’m using it anyway.

Why doesn’t it fit? What in the world am I going on about now? Well… just keep reading!

The Fourth Sage is the first installment of the sci-fi Circularity Saga, written by Stefan Bolz, who, by the way, has a spectacular author page. So be sure to click on the link in that last sentence!
So what’s it about?

In a world where every move a person makes is watched, every word is guarded, and every independent action is punished, Aries Egan is an anomaly. She has discovered how to steal one hour of freedom every night, evading the cameras that lurk everywhere.

But freedom comes with a price, and one mistake can mean re-education and pain, as Aries discovers. Forced to flee, knowing that her life as she knows it is gone, she finds herself on a quest to topple the Corporation and bring freedom to others, as well.

And did I mention that one of the main characters is a hawk? Keep reading here.

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Soulful Self Publishing – What I Took Away From a Bunker/Grahl Webinar

I came to writing novels after a long phase of writing screenplays. During that time, I studied many a script, from Good Will Hunting to Lord of the Rings, from The Crow to Shawshank Redemption and American Beauty. I looked at the techniques used, the character arcs, plot development, and imagery. I soaked it all up. My favorites were, by far, Aaron Sorkin’s scripts of The West Wing. They were so good, the dialogues so crisp and tight, the writing so beautiful, that I was devestated.  I was awed, inspired, and devestated all at once. I am trying to combine those three words into one but I’m not having much luck. Awspevestated? Despired? Devestired? I thought very often, “O my god, this is awesome! O my god, I’m screwed!” If you’re an author, you might know of what I speak.

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I was taking acting lessons for a while, just before the novel writing started. My coach, Sande Shurin, had a simple yet brililiant approach: “Don’t worry so much about what the character is supposed to feel. How do YOU feel? Right now? What’s going through your head? Be authentic. Be your most authentic self. Nobody can copy you because you’re you. You’re not Matt Damon, you’re not Al Pacino, neither will you ever be. Ever. You can only be you. But you can be you whole heartedly and in so doing, create a unique voice that cannot be replicated.”

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What’s my point? There is one, I promise. I was devestated yesterday. Despired. Awspevestired. Why? I took part in a webinar – my first one – with Michael Bunker and Tim Grahl. “Indie Launch Secrets” was three hours long, with two short breaks. There was so much information, it was hard to keep up. My head was spinning after a mere forty-five minutes. Thank goodness, the webinar is there for me to go back to AND I will be getting all the notes from it today in a PDF. Why the devestation? I felt it. I felt the truth in their words. It was honest, intelligent, and throroughly thought-out. There was nothing flashy about it. It was pure. It was plain and simple, like an Amish life. It was nothing short of genius. I predict that this will be the North Star of how to successfully self publish, for years to come. Michael Bunker talking so passionately about the interaction between the artist and the reader, the soulful exchange that is at the heart of his success in self publishing, was what stuck with me most.

I won’t get into specifics here. It’s doubly, nay, quadruply worth it for everyone who has taken this rocky road of self publishing to get their buts and laptops to the next webinar (not sure when this is going to be but I’m fairly certain there will be another one). The gist, for me, is this: I need to forget what I think I know about self-publishing. I need to regroup. Devestation is a good motivator to regroup. The old ways (yes, the ways self publishing was conducted in 2011 ARE old) are no longer valid.

There needs to be a foundation. That foundation, based on a long-term and life-long-lasting plan of living as a self published author, cannot be made of sand. The tide will wash it away. It will take the house, as big and fancy and solid as it might seem to be, and it will wash it away and there will be nothing left but the sand on which it was built.

The new paradigm of self publishing is based on, built upon, and held up through soulful interaction with fellow humans. Gone are the days of tweeting the same message five times a day; gone the “BUY MY BOOK NOOOOOOOW!” shout outs into an audience that is already saturated to the rim with that very same message from yesterday. No. Let the tide take that house, built on twitter posts and cheap one-liners. Let it be washed into the ocean. And let me stand here and gather my friends and together build something that will last a life time.

Now, let me put my smart and brilliant acting coach into the picture, to round it off. If the foundation of self publishing is real human interaction, then it cannot happen between a real reader and a fake author. Fake author has to be washed away together with the fake foundation of the fake house. The real author, the real me, is the only one who will be heard, the only one who can build a house on granite, set deeply within the soil, and thereby made impenetrable to the tide.

Tim Grahl said this, in his book, Your First 1000 Copies: “Marketing is two things: 1) creating lasting connections with people through 2) a focus on being relentlessly helpful.”

What a concept, right? I will leave it at that. For me, finding that which only I can offer, and offer it whole heartedly without reservation, is my goal from now on. Thanks Michael and Tim. Thanks for sharing your talents and passions and continuing to do so.

Stefan

“The goal of the journey is neither the journey in itself nor its end. It is but the companions we collect on the way.” [Joshua Aylong - The Three Feathers]

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The First Two Years of Being an Indie Author – An Honest Assessment

It’s been a bit over two years since I began this journey into the unknown, into the world of indie publishing – this ominous thing I’ve heard about; this possibility of leaping into a different carreer. It has been exciting, disappointing, fulfilling, and leaving me hanging on by a thread, all usally within a day’s time. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic but I definitely went through the highs and lows just like any other author who had just jumped out of the starting gates. After two years of white-water rafting the currents of the great river that is called self publishing, I feel that I’m finally heading toward calmer shores. This article is an assessment, as true as possible, of where I am currently.

I didn’t use a professional editor for my first book. I couldn’t afford it. Now I know I couldn’t afford not to. I got 50 reviews, mostly 4 and 5 stars, but some readers mentioned spelling mistakes and some editing issues. The first book, I know now, is not meant to be read by a lot of readers. Maybe later. Maybe once my tenth book has been written and readers are beginning to read my stuff. Maybe then. I’ve got a little time to bring it to an editor and polish it before that happens.

Pushing that button for the first book to go on Amazon was what I imagine it would have felt like for NASA to put the first man on the moon. It was epic. It was like the promise of the most spectacular fireworks in the history of fireworks, over Paris while standing on top of the Eifel Tower. Well… something must have gone wrong with the lighter or maybe the fuse got wet. There was one small fire cracker going off somewehre in the distance with a puff. Hugh Howey gave me a shout out on the day I published. I sold 25 copies that day. I was extatic. I thought that was it and that, from that day forward, I would be a world renowned author.

Hmm…

Dreams and expectations can coexist peacefully. I know that now.

Then came what I now call the Age of Oversharing (at least that was my perception of that time). I plastered facebook with quotes, links, (good) reviews, and whatever else I could find that had to do with my book. I was very excited and thought it wouldn’t hurt if others knew about it. I’m not sure if it did. I think there is a fine line between keeping readers and people informed and forcing someone to look at your posts several times a day. I’m still not sure where the line is but I’m more aware now and my outlook has changed since then.

My first book, The Three Feathers, sold about 450 paperbacks locally through my book store. That number is pretty high due to the fact that I visited about 15 schools in the last two years and did readings in 3rd through 5th grade classes. That must have been one of the highlights of the last two years in this my self appointed part-time job in indie publishing. For one of the author days I did, I received $1,200. Others I did for free. In some I sold two books, in others fourty. I made about $2,000 on the books I sold locally so far.

On Amazon, from May 2012 until and including June 2014, I made $350. Here is my sales chart from the last 90 days. The numbers on the left are units.

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So, I made about $3,500 in two years. Production costs for the three books I have out right now, were about $3,400. That does not include facebook adds. I am estimating that to be another $600 for the last 2 years which brings the whole number to about $4,000 in cost. This does NOT include the 50 paperbacks I gave away for free to friends, family and through giveaways.

Writing, right now, is a hobby and one that, besides taking up a good chunk of free time, isn’t that expensive. I see it as my apprentice years. In Germany, a large part of the educational system is based on apprenticeship. As an apprentice, you make very little money but you learn a tremendous amount about your craft which pays off in excellent jobs you can get once your apprenticeship has ended.

Where am I now?

I have learned an incredible amount of things in the last two years. A lot of that is, plain and simple, what NOT to do. But that’s just part of it all. There were many things that I did right as well and the learning curve has been steep. The one thing I know now, is that I should probably write roughly about one million words before even thinking about making a living as a writer. If it happens earlier, that’s fine but I’m in for the long haul so what’s 700,000 words among friends, right? That’s not that much in the grand scheme of things.

I know now that, besides that newsletter sign-up list everyone is talking about (I have 23 people on that list and roughly 50% of them actually open the thing), the back log of written books is the most important tool of my writing career. Keep writing the next story and don’t worry about present sales data. I’m still dreaming. Every day. But for now, I’m writing, working on getting closer to those one million words, honing my craft, becoming better and better, publishing all around higher quality products, and developing my voice, my individual voice as a writer.

That’s all.

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A Back Yard Photo Shoot or How to Produce Your Own Indie Book Cover

In order for this to come out right and to show the process in its intirety, I need to go back forteen years, to the year 2000. I have recently been working on a novella called Dark World. I had first written it as a screenplay in 2002, as part of an online writing workshop with Writer’s Boot Camp. The screenplay was based on a poem written during a Creative Writing class in College two years earlier. Once the script was done, I sent it out to several producers. They basically told me that it was good but without “known source material,” a.k.a. an already published and well known novel or comic book, it was a hard sell. I shelfed it. Last year, during the 2013 NaNoWriMo, I dug it up and converted the screenplay into a 24,000 word novella of the same name. Here is the poem that became the seed for the story.

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The Writer’s Boot Camp screen writing workshop is six weeks long and leads the student through all stages of screen writing up to a completed first draft. They teach a lot about structure, down to a thirty-second elevator pitch that tells the story in one sentence. I highly recommend their workshops to anyone who wants to get into writing for the screen.

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After NaNoWriMo 2013, the first draft of the novella was completed and the document landed, again, in a file on my computer. In June of 2014, I took it back out to work on the second draft. During that process,  I began looking for images I could use for the cover. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money but still hoped to get a decent quality cover. I looked for an illustrator in some of the Facebook groups I knew. One of them was https://www.facebook.com/groups/BookCoversandCoverArtists/. I posted in it that I was looking for an inexpensive cover designer and received an email from Stina Rubio, an up-and-coming illustrator from California. She wanted to get her name out and agreed to do the cover for free, given that I’d provide the images from a stock photo site.

At that point, I had searched many sites for images of models I could use. I had a vision of how the cover should look but none of what I saw was right for it. Then I had a crazy idea: Mary Felice works in my favorite indie book store in the town I live in. I had just seen her during a reading I did there for The Fourth Sage. I knew she would make a perfect Amber for the cover of Dark World. I also somehow knew she would say yes even though I hadn’t asked her yet. Before I asked her, I asked my friend Maxine Rosola if she would do the make-up. She is a theater make-up artist and has worked on many local shakespeare plays and other theater productions in Woodstock and surrounding areas. She said yes. Then I asked Iszy Szemcsak (https://www.facebook.com/IszySzem), a high school student who is a truly gifted photographer, if she would take pictures. She said yes.

Finally, I went to the bookstore and asked Mary if she would be the model for my new book cover. She said yes. Actually, after a few “really?” and “are you serious?” she said “O my God, Yes!”. We booked a date a week later and everyone met in the afternoon in my backyard. I had bought a piece of muslin from a fabric store as a back drop. Iszy brought her camera, Maxine her (huge) make-up duffle bag and we started shooting.

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I mean, how cool is that! There is a photo shoot going on in my back yard, I’m having the time of my life, and all kinds of creative people do what they love to do. Doesn’t get much better than that. The amazing thing about self publishing is this – right here.

Here is a short video with clips of the shoot: Dark World Photo Shoot

Afterwards, the pictures who made it through the elimination process, ended up on Stina’s computer, together with my rough vision of what I had in mind. Stina is starting out as cover creator and hasn’t made a name for herself yet. Well, wait until you see the finished product. I don’t think she’ll have a problem getting work. Here is the picture that made it onto the cover:

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Mary looks so evil in it :-) And to think that she has no evil bone in her body whatsoever…

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Above, Maxine and Mary at the outset of the make-up application. Below, the sword was getting heavier… and heavier… as the day went on.

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Below, Izsy and Mary during the shoot.

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It was getting late :-) I love Mary’s expression in this one: “Leave me ALONE!”

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It was hard for Mary not to smile. That’s just not in her nature. So we tried to come up with things to upset her which basically ended up in all of us laughing.

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Being an indie author has its challenges. We are responsible for everytyhing related to what we put out. However, the creative freedom this brings with it, makes up for it many times over. If someone would have told me a few years ago that I’m going to have a photo shoot for the cover of my own book in my backyard, I would have said, “that’s crazy talk!” My suggestion is this: You can’t reach the stars if you don’t reach for them. They might be closer than you think.

Here now, the final cover for Dark World by Stina Rubio of Cover Lust Designs:

Below is the e-book cover. Nick Cole was kind enough to read an advanced copy and provide a quote. If you’re in New Paltz, NY, stop by at Inquiring Minds, an indie bookstore you’ll love. You might find Mary there. No sword, though. Just a smile.

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The Moment it Hit Me: I Am Now a Writer

When I began writing my first novel, I had no idea what to expect. I was very much engrossed in creating the story, dreaming it, feeling it to the fullest and journeying with my characters through a world of peril and friendships. Those first three characters – a wolf, a rooster, and a warhorse – were my companions throughout the writing, editing and publishing of The Three Feathers. I loved having them around, listening to what they had to say, fearing for them, and enjoying their company. That was my reward – writing the story and figuring out, with them, what was next.

Then came the publishing phase. I had no clue what to do, what not to do and how it all worked. I read several books on self-publishing, followed a few blogs and made many friends on the way – friends who, like the characters in the book, stayed with me until this day. I dreamed of being a successful writer. I actually picked out a house in our neighborhood where we would live once I hit it big time. Peter Jackson was about to call me any second to offer me a movie deal on The Three Feathers. If you are a writer reading this, I know you know what I’m talking about. Okay, it might not be Peter Jackson who is optioning your book but I’m sure it’s someone of equal caliber.

After a while, reality set in and it occured to be that it wouldn’t be that easy. Who needs a bigger house anyway, right? Then came writing The Fourth Sage and with that the doubt that the book would never amount to anything and that, at the end of the story, I would just realize that I had wasted a whole year on nothing. Well, that’s not the case, obviously. I’ve gotten enough reviews to assure me that I didn’t pour my heart out for nothing. At least a few people liked it. That should be enough. But what is enough? I’ve been pondering this question for a while. Is Hugh Howey’s success enough? Am I enough for myself, right now? What does it mean to be successful? It can’t be sales rankings. That would be cruel and I don’t want to live my life like that. I am more than a bunch of numbers that may or may not have any meaning.

Where am I going with this, you might ask, and rightfully so. It hit me today. I went into my favorite local bookstore, INQUIRING MINDS in New Paltz, New York. I went in there as I do about twice a week, to check if they need more copies of my books. I’ve sold quite a few through them. About 400 of The Three Feathers and already ten in the last week of The Fourth Sage. So, when I walked in there this morning, it hit me. “I made it,” I thought. Two years ago,  I had barely begun the journey that is self publishing and today, I walked into the book store to see this:

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Today brought home to me how much had happened in the last two years. There is a book of mine on display in a book store – one of those stores that I had admired all my life – where you smell that old book smell and sit and read and talk to the owners who have most likely read a good number of the books they sell. What comes after this, after today, wherever this journey will take me, is just gravy.

 

 

 

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My interview with writer and cover designer Jason Gurley

I met Jason Gurley through our ever-growing indie publishing community. He had been designing covers for Hugh Howey, Michael Bunker and others for a while and I was lucky enough to get on his schedule to design the cover for one of my own books. In this interview, however, I’ll talk to him more about his writing. And his cowboy boots. And hot chocolate vs. coffee. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me briefly mention how the cover design process went down with Jason. I sent him a sketch my girlfriend’s daughter Chloe had done that I thought should somehow be incorporated into the cover. I also filled out a questionnaire on his web-site that goes into some of the specific themes of the book. A few days after the promised date for starting the project, he emailed me.

Jason: “Stefan, here are three suggestions for the cover. Let me know what you think.”

Me (screaming on the inside due to the utter awesomeness of one of them): “I’ll take number 2.”

Jason: “You got it.”

That was it. There was no back and forth. He nailed it on the first shot, one hundred percent.

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S.B. Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. I know you’re very busy and I appreciate you taking the time. Speaking of which, what time is it now, the very moment you are reading this?

JG: Stefan, it’s my pleasure — thanks for inviting me! It’s seven p.m., Pacific time, on Monday, May 26th. I’ve been hanging out at coffee shops for most of the day, working very hard to finish the current edit of Eleanor. I’m about to call it a night, and go home to read bedtime stories to my daughter, Squish, and then I’ll probably be up until midnight or so working on the book.

I did take a small break today to see the new X-Men movie. It was really quite good. Lots of movies about time travel lately, aren’t there? I keep getting distracted by the trailers for Tom Cruise’s new movie, Edge of Tomorrow. I know there are a lot of Tom Cruise detractors in the world, but I can’t help it. I love the guy’s movies, no matter how cornball or serious they are, and this one looks like a really wonderful combination of Vanilla Sky and Oblivion.

I think this is the only interview I’ve ever started off with a bit of Tom Cruise cheerleading.

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SB: I’m glad you started the interview that way. Help me, help you, Jason. Help me, help you! I happened to read the screenplay to Vanilla Sky. It was in book form and in the foreword, the director talked about how they included more than 100 items (songs, phrases, and images) in the movie to make it deeper each time you watch it. Do you put items into your books that are usually only discovered on reading it for a second time? But the real question is, when you hang in coffeehouses, does your coffee contain cream, no cream, sugar, honey, or Mocha Cookie Crumble?

JG: Back when DVD players were still marvelous and new, I watched the Times Square sequence (at the beginning of Vanilla Sky) frame by frame. Mostly I wanted to catch all of the imagery that Cameron Crowe was slipping into the scene — there’s a lot — but also because, if you look closely, you can see people pressed against the glass of the buildings overlooking Times Square, staring down at the movie set below them, watching Tom Cruise run and act.

I love little discoveries like that.

I wouldn’t say that I consciously insert things into my books this way. But I do think that a lot of the things that happen in my books are a bit layered, and might read in a new or fresh way the second or third time a reader opens the book. At least, I hope so. You never can tell if you’re doing that well, or if you’re being too ham-fisted and obvious about it.

Here’s the thing: I do a lot of writing in coffee shops… but I don’t drink coffee. Hot chocolate all the way, my friend. Even on the hottest of days.

SB: Speaking of layers and coffee, I always think writing is like making coffee in a coffee maker. The water has to take time to go through the filter, absorb the coffee and come out on the other side, rich in taste, texture, and smell. No instant coffee can do that. Not sure how it works with hot chocolate but that might be a different metaphor altogether.

Let’s talk about Eleanor for a moment. I heard that you began writing the book about thirteen years ago. That’s a long time. Not only for a book, obviously, but also for you personally. You’re now thirteen years older, you’ve had thirteen years worth of experiences during that time. You got married and you got Emma, a.k.a. Squish, so I’m assuming your life changed completely within those years. When you now read the first few chapters of the book again, do you get the sense that you are reading something from a younger you? And do you see the changes in you reflected in the story?

JG: I started writing Eleanor in 2001. An enormous amount of change has transpired between then and now. I was twenty-three then, greener than I like to remember. I’m still young at thirty-five, but a bit more experienced. I can see the gaps in my approach back then.

But Eleanor has never been a linear process for me. I’ve stopped, started, restarted, thrown everything away, burned down the walls, dug up the foundation, laid new pipe — all of that, a dozen times over. The Eleanor that will be published in June is almost nothing like the Eleanor I began all those years ago. Its broad themes are entirely different, its specific characters barely resemble the ones I first wrote about. The entire novel is fresh, every word new.

You’re right, though, about the way things change over a period of time like that. When I began the book, I was married. Not long after, that marriage ended, and rightfully so. Years later I met the right woman for me, and we’re the proud parents of a dancing machine — Squish — and as a father and a husband, I think I’ve managed to write a better Eleanor than I could back then.

I hope I have, that is!

Hats!

SB: Speaking of dancing machines, what hobbies do you have? What interests you but you haven’t gotten around to yet? Ballroom dancing? Crocket? Sky diving? Stamps?

JG: As a teenager I was into baseball cards, which was simple enough until I discovered that I could forge autographs on them. I ripped off more than a few classmates. (This keeps me up nights even now.) I love movies, and these are my top five (though there are never only five): Contact. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The Mosquito Coast. Almost Famous. The Abyss. And let’s throw Road to Perdition in there for good measure. That list leaves out an awful lot of movies I love — everything from the original Superman to Wonder Boys to Snow Falling on Cedars — but like I said, the list is never just five movies long. Maybe five hundred.

I also own cowboy boots, though I haven’t worn them in awhile, and I have a special affinity for going dancing in them. My wife and I used to go to a little place back in San Luis Obispo, California, where we would stomp around and two-step and learn how to do dances called the El Paso or the Continental. Fire up a country song and I still start clicking my heels around.

Other things, as you might expect, include baseball — I grew up with the Astros, switched allegiance to the Twins, and now I’m adrift in Oregon, no team to call my own; Darryl Strawberry was my favorite player as a kid — and sleeping, something I don’t do nearly enough of these days.

I can’t imagine these things are actually interesting to anybody…

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SB: I’m right there with you on Contact and The Abyss. The scope and depth of either were phenomenal. I don’t want to neglect your two-step dancing, trust me, but speaking of scope and depth, I believe Greatfall was one of the early Wool fan fics, right? I remember reading it and enjoying it tremendously. Do you have the sense that writing one book sparks the idea for the next one or would you, for example, have written Greatfall without having written The Settlers first? But seriously, let’s talk a little more about the “El Paso” afterwards.

JG: In retrospect, Greatfall was early to the party. But at the time, I certainly felt like I wasn’t doing anything original. Wes Davies had already struck gold with The Runner, and Patrice Fitzgerald was going gangbusters with The Sky Used to Be Blue. Thomas Robins had a book of silo-themed poetry out. Lyndon Perry, I think, had already published his first silo story. I can’t remember if Michael Bunker had yet published the first installment of his Silo Archipelago series. He and I may have landed around the same time.

I’ve been very fortunate that the book seems to click with Wool fans. In fact — and this is super fun for me to mention — tonight I’m going to talk with a book club here in Portland that’s just finished reading Greatfall. My only regret is that since Greatfall is only an ebook, I can’t bring signed copies for everyone.

I’m dodging your other question, though. I don’t know if books spark each other into existence. For me, I think it’s readers who do that. Each time one of my books finds an audience, and people enjoy and share it, I’m inspired to write something new. When I published The Man Who Ended the World, my first novel, sixty-four people bought it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I actually know sixty-four people — which meant that strangers took a chance on my book. That was amazing, and definitely inspired me to dive into my next project, which was The Settlers, then The Colonists, then Greatfall after that.

The El Paso is a courtly little couples dance. It’s easy to learn, and everybody should: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRJOMWFp8Yw. I can’t possibly by the only science fiction writer who does these kinds of things, can I?

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SB: Haha, Jason. If I like somebody’s work, I do become interested in other things about that person. I think we all do. Take On Writing by Stephen King, for example. One of his best books, in my opinion.

JG: I like to call that being a completionist. Or maybe a completist? For me, being a completist of Stephen King means extending my interest in trivial facts to his family — which, admittedly, sounds very stalkery right now. I had the chance to attend his son’s reading and book signing at Powell’s Books last year. Joe Hill looks startlingly like his father, but he’s also a damn fine writer — perhaps on his way to being an even better one than his father. He told some wonderful stories about growing up King — dinner conversations about Shirley Jackson and H.P. Lovecraft, or the typewriter in the foyer that they all visited, adding sentences to a collaborative short story. I recall him mentioning that they all went out of their way to be as risqué and offensive with their contributions as possible, even as kids.

I’m not the sort of person who is easily star struck, or who goes out of his way to talk to people who are famous. But I’d probably blubber a bit if I ever had the opportunity to meet Stephen King. He almost singlehandedly taught me to love writing.

SB: By the way, I watched the video you mention and it’s nice and all but I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a video of you doing the El Paso. I think your readers deserve to see you do it. In your cowboy boots. Maybe when Eleanor comes out? I’m not hinting on anything. Not in the least. But isn’t that a really great aspect of being an indie author? You can fully be there for your readers and listen to their comments and, as you mentioned earlier, be inspired by them. This might be a question with a short answer but If a major publisher would want to buy Eleanor in the months to come, do you know what you would do?

JG: I’m no Hugh Howey, though. Dance videos — not so much. My daughter, on the other hand, is all about dance parties right now.

I’m not sure what I would do if a publisher asked about Eleanor. It’s not something I think about all that often. As an indie author — or a self-published author, or author-publisher, or whatever we’re calling ourselves these days — it doesn’t matter all that much if a publisher notices the book or not. Come June 27, readers can dig in. That much I can do myself.

Eleanor

SB: Jason, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you. I wish you the utmost success with the Eleanor launch. I know you’re very busy so I’m going to let you go back to what you do best.

JG: I really enjoyed it — thanks for inviting me, Stefan! And I can’t wait to pick up The Fourth Sage!

Make sure you visit Jason’s website and sign up for his newsletter. He gives away free stuff. CRAZY! http://www.jasongurley.com/

Jason’s latest novel, Eleanor, already has 94 reviews on Amazon. Here is the link to pre-order it. Publication date is June 27th. Go and get it! http://www.amazon.com/Eleanor-Jason-Gurley-ebook/dp/B00K8IAZ68/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403621987&sr=8-1&keywords=eleanor

Cheers,

Stefan

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The Fourth Sage – Unboxing video

Hi everyone,

here is the unboxing video of the day the paperbacks arrived. This is filmed by Peter Jackson. Yes, he changed his voice to sound like Amy but I guarantee you that it’s him.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYzQzxmMgZ8&list=UU05eV_Om-_KL0Zw2rv9tNYw&feature=share

 

 

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The Fourth Sage is now on Amazon

My author friend Thomas Robins interviewed me about The Fourth Sage and some other things. I inserted part of it below together with a link to the entire interview.

Interview with Stefan Bolz – The Fourth Sage

If anyone remembers, I reviewed a short story titled The Gate of Time a while back and I really liked the author’s style and ideas. Well, I as luck would have it, the author, Stefan Bolz, happens to run in some of the same online circles I do. He’s been talking about his new book The Fourth Sage (out on Kindle on June 15th and in paperback later this month) for a while and the early readers have extremely good things to say about it.
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Interview with Lawrence Mann, Illustrator

For the launch of The Fourth Sage at the end of June, I thought I’d sit down with the people closely involved in its production. I’m starting with Lawrence Mann, illustrator and cover designer who, besides drawing and creating mind blowing book covers, drew the map for the story. If you haven’t checked out his website, you must. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have met him. And that’s the beauty of the indie publishing community: there he is, somewhere in a studio in the UK, drawing away and I somehow get hold of his name. We started emailing back and forth and he agreed to draw a map for the book.

FinalMap

SB: Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. I know you’re very busy and I appreciate you taking the time.

LM: It’s a pleasure. I’m always more than happy to talk illustration.

SB: When was the first time you realized you wanted to be an illustrator? Was it a gradual process or did it hit you one day and you knew that this is what you wanted to do?

LM: Some kids can draw. It’s just a natural talent. I was lucky enough to have people around me who noticed that skill and pushed me in the right direction very early on. I was taught three-point-perspective when I was nine years old at junior school by one of my teachers. I’ve drawn every day of my life and became a professional illustrator at the age of 17 when I graduated Art College. Later, I went into advertising because I wanted more of a mental challenge, which was great. I worked my way up the ranks and winning a few awards along the way. Now I’ve chosen to focus once again on my first love – illustration. And the skills I learned in advertising really helped me to realize that the illustrations I create are a marketing tool for my clients and not just pretty pictures. Day-of-the-dead-RETOUCHED-Lowres

SB: First love, you’ll always come back to it one way or another ;-). I saw on your site that you work in Photoshop. What kind of mediums do you use? Do you draw by hand first and then scan it? For example, you did the cover for Immagica,  which is incredible, in my opinion. Do you start with a sketch or do you begin with an existing image? Can you walk me through the process a bit?

LM: When working on a book cover, I’ll start by talking to the author in detail about the book and it’s themes rather than just what’s going to go on the cover. As often as possible, I’ll ask to read the book or at least sections of it that might help me in me quest to make readers pluck it from the shelf.

I ask the author or Art Director involved to supply me with reference images once we’ve selected the perfect scene from the manuscript to depict. Sometimes they know exactly what they want on the cover and sometimes I’m able to make suggestions, aimed at the books target audience, that might help sales. I always feel that the cover should tell a story that makes the reader want to know what happens next and that’s why I’ll often suggest specific scenes.

Only after talking all of this through properly and gathering enough reference material will I start my detailed sketching, which these days I do straight away on the computer with my trusty Wacom Cintiq. It’s a 22″ drawing tablet with a screen built in that allows me paint and draw effortlessly. I do use Photoshop but recently I’ve been exploring the possibilities of Corel Painter which looks absolutely amazing I have to say.

Once the sketches are complete and we’ve ironed out the finer detailed and made any changes, usually small thanks to the prep work, I’ll start in on the polished piece.

LawrenceMann-K-A-LAST-–-Immagica-CROP-LowRes

SB: Do you have a specific time of day where you do your best work? Do you listen to music or do you need quiet?

LM: I mostly paint from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep every day of the week. I have to be forced to do everything else. I prefer to work at night like a lot of others I’ve spoken to but I’m not sure why. I just seem to get more done.

I don’t draw while watching TV or listen to music. I do however love listening to audio books while working. If I can, I’ll convert the manuscripts I get into audio-files and play those while I paint. Sometimes I’ll have heard the book six or seven times over by the time I’ve completed the cover. It’s brilliant. You have to put up with the computerized voice but the one I use is pretty sophisticated and I don’t mind it at all. I know many cover artists don’t get to read the books so this really helps me to create a piece that is in tune with the tone of the book. That way, the reader won’t be disappointed.

SB: I love the idea of listening to the book while you draw. That’s brilliant and should get you really deep into the story. For this next question, allow yourself to dream. What would be your ideal situation? Who would you love to have for a client? Would you like to write a book about illustration or would you like to be art director on the next Peter Jackson movie? What are some of the more lofty dreams you hold?

LM: Haha. That’s a great question! Having been an illustrator who’s already gone away to do other things and then come back, I can safely say that there’s no place quite like home. A rOtring pencil in one hand and sketchbook in the other (when I’m not locked in my studio). My dream job however would be to illustrate the cover for my favorite book of course; John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids – Published by Penguin. I have six copies of the book including a much loved first edition and a brilliantly illustrated Folio copy which was given to me by an author whose book I illustrated the cover of. That is the reason I love illustrating book covers. Because it means so much to the people involved. When you do a good job, clients, writers, editors, they say thank you and they mean it. Once the job is finished you have this physical object in your hand with your name on it and if you put in that extra bit of time then maybe you even get a thank you in the acknowledgements too. I’d say that’s why publishing is a dream job for me, or any illustrator!

SB: What do you like to do outside of work? What are some of your favorite places you hang out? Any hobbies besides illustration? You have a secret talent for baking apple pie? Tell me a little bit about you outside of work.

LM: Erm… well, I like to draw. Other stuff that I’ve not been commissioned to draw I mean. I do occasionally sculpt things out of wood which is fun but that’s very rarely. Mainly I just draw and paint. As for places that I like to hang out, I do go out occasionally for a break, to get away from it all and stop staring at my screen. I go to life drawing sessions a few times a month. It’s a great way to unwind while at the same time, sharpening my skills. I know what you’re thinking and yes, I’ve been told it before. Unless you like drawing, I’m not much fun to be around!photostudy___self_portrait_by_lawrencemann-d60qs9k

SB: Hey, I doubt that last point very much. You seem like a fun guy to hang out with. Is there anything you’re currently working on that you would like to share with us?

LM: I’ve got a really nice piece that I finished a month ago. I’m dying to show it off to the world but I can’t because I’m waiting for client feedback. I’ve got some other work too but I can’t show any of that off at the moment either. It’s a shame but that’s the way it works sometimes. All very top secret. Hopefully I’ll be able to show something real soon though. A German publishing company is just about to print a tutorial I’ve written about my art and my work has also made the cover of the book – So that’s great. It should hit the shelves in a month or two. Even if I won’t be able to read a word of it.

SB: That’s great! I’d love to read it, Lawrence. Hey, it was awesome chatting with you. Any final thoughts you might have, feel free to share.

LM: ‘I’ll send you a copy when it’s released! Make sure to track me down on Twitter & LinkedIn as well as Facebook. I get all of my work through word of mouth so social media is important. That’s why doing tutorials is such a great way to get my name out there. I can’t wait to read The Fourth Sage. I have a shelf here in the studio with a copy of every book I’ve ever worked on. It’s a long shelf with some really great books on it! Yours will be a welcome addition. There’s also a space on the door which would be great for a brass plaque.’

SB: Thanks, Lawrence. Much success in the future. I’m sure our paths will cross again soon.

LawrenceMann-Robotic-Low-Res

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