Monday, March 30, 2015

My Favorite Bad Habit: Art Commissions

As I've mentioned before, my favorite new hobby is all about commissioning artists to create illustrations of characters from my books. I love seeing what different artists will do with the information and ideas I give them. Part of it is a matter of developing some concept art, because even I'm not 100% sure what the futuristic setting of Poor Man's Fight looks like. I've been working on that, though (or, more accurately, I've had some artists working on it), and here's what I've got so far:

Russel Roehling put together this piece and delivered it for me at Emerald City Comic Con this past weekend. His stuff is gorgeous! The slight blurring effect at the bottom happened because the picture doesn't quite fit into my scanner, but you're not missing anything for it. I love how much energy Russ puts into his art. A lot of artists I talk to are happy to do relatively still portraits, but Russ is more than happy to put some action into his work. I'll be going back to him for more!

This one was done by Chuck Pires, who I found on DeviantArt. I offered him a couple of different concepts, but in the end, the thought of highlighting the "Cinderella In Space" aspect of Poor Man's Fight kinda won us both over. He offered a quick escalation of poses from "tired and miserable" to "seriously irritated" and finally the full FML treatment above, which makes me very happy.

I've shown this one before: Alicia and Janeka, as drawn by Lelia, another artist I found through DeviantArt. Feels like it should make a second appearance here with the others, y'know? This one came to me without as many step-by-step check-ins as I've had with other art, so when I saw the final product I was really thrilled.

More art is on the way. There's a piece with Casey in it that's so close to being finished I may just add it to this post as an edit. Another piece underway will be an ensemble of most of the pirates from Vengeance. That one's being done by Tadd Galusha, who recently did this glorious Ninja Turtles cover for IDW. I've also got a lady in the Philippines working on a portrait of Molly & Onyx from Good Intentions that has me really excited -- I'm almost tempted to show the preliminary rough sketch, because it's awesome enough all by itself.

Again, if by any chance you'll be at Norwescon this coming weekend, I'll be there, too! Check my previous post for details.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Conventions! Audiobooks! Exclamation Points!

Gosh, it's been a while since I updated, huh? Guess I've been a bit busy! Lots of news to relate here.

First things first: If you're in the Seattle-ish area, I'll be making my first convention appearance as a panelist at Norwescon from April 2 - 5. This year's Author Guest of Honor is kind of a big deal (George RR Martin), so it's looking to be a bigger-than-usual con. I'm told selection for panelists & such was pretty competitive this year, so I'm excited to have been chosen!
My schedule for the con has me on the following panels:

Name All the Things!
Thu 5:00pm-6:00pm - Evergreen 1&2
Dean Wells (M), Frances Pauli, Erik Scott de Bie, Brenda Carre, Elliott Kay

One-on-One Combat for Writers
Fri 10:00am-11:00am - Evergreen 3&4
GregRobin Smith (M), Norman K. Moss, Bill Gruner, A.M. Brosius, Ogre Whiteside, Michael 'Tinker' Pearce, V Whitlock, Ann Schilling, Alan Paulsen
(I'm not on the published schedule for this one, but the track lead invited me this weekend and I jumped at the chance. This is a great panel.)

Writing About the Military
Fri 4:00pm-5:00pm - Cascade 7&8
Russell Ervin (M), Bart Kemper, S. A. Bolich, Jennifer Brozek, Joseph Malik, Elliott Kay

Level Up Your Indie Skillset
Sat 6:00pm-7:00pm - Cascade 9
Matt Youngmark (M), Annie Bellet, Luna Lindsey, Elliott Kay

Beyond Insert Tab A Into Slot B
Sat 9:00pm-10:00pm - Cascade 6
18+ Only, please

Zap! Pow! Bam!
Sun 3:00pm-4:00pm - Cascade 9
Grant Riddell (M), Elliott Kay, Erik Scott de Bie, Craig English

Norwescon has been an annual event for me since I arrived in Seattle ten years ago. I've been a regular attendee, I've been a vendor('s boyfriend), I've found myself in after-hours room parties until far too late at night, and now I'm an attending pro! Hooray, progress!

But if you're on my blog here, you're probably wondering what I've been up to since my last update. I've been focused on my sci-fi books for the last couple of months. Some of my efforts have been drawn off by edits and proofreads of Poor Man's Fight and Rich Man's War in preparation for its publishing re-launch through Skyscape, but for the most part I've been hard at work writing the still-not-titled Book Three in the series. As I may have noted elsewhere, there's a lot of world-building to do for this one. Tanner is at the end of his enlistment term, with major decisions to face for his life while Archangel, the Kingdom of Hashem, the big corporations and the rest of the Union brawl their way toward a new status quo.

Additionally, I have some more good news if you're a lover of Audiobooks: and I have reached a deal for producing audio versions of Good Intentions, Natural Consequences and Days of High Adventure! I can't offer much in the way of details there except for the fact that the papers are signed and I have received word from Audible that the process is underway. We don't have a narrator chosen or a release date yet, but I'm told it should all be a matter of just a few months.

I hope to have more news soon, and if you're at Norwescon, please come say hi!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Traditional Publishing: Achievement Unlocked! I'm Signed with Skyscape!

I’ve been holding out on my readers since about December 4th, and it’s time to come clean.
I really don’t remember much about December 4th. The calendar says it was a Thursday. I know that was a “stay at home and write” day, or at least it was intended to be. Maybe I wrote. Maybe I didn’t. I don’t remember.

All I remember is this email that turned up in my inbox, with the subject heading, “Hello from Amazon Publishing!”

Kindle and Amazon send out mass emails, of course. They happen. I didn’t expect this to be anything different, but when I opened it up, I found this:

Hi Elliott,

I hope you’re well! I’m writing as an editor for Skyscape, Amazon’s traditional YA/new adult publishing imprint. I encountered POOR MAN’S FIGHT while browsing the Kindle store, and was instantly drawn in by your fantastic description. I purchased the book immediately and read it over the course of one night…

Have you enjoyed your self-publishing experience? And have you ever considered traditional publishing? 

I responded, of course. I had some hopes. But I’ve also learned not to get my hopes up too high since I first started writing these books. I have been contacted by agents before, including agents from very big and reputable companies, and one time a guy in Hollywood working for a yes-for-reals television agency inquired about the rights for Poor Man’s Fight…but usually it’s just a very brief query that doesn’t go far beyond that. So I responded, I mentioned it to some friends, and my hopes perked up more when Miriam (the editor) and I arranged a phone call. But again, I didn’t let those hopes run away with me.

As it turned out, Miriam said pretty much exactly what I wanted to hear: that Skyscape wanted to take Poor Man’s Fight and Rich Man’s War under their label for traditional publishing!

The deal is signed. We’re full speed ahead. I’m actually reviewing copyedits of Poor Man’s Fight now, and I’ve just filled out the first little bits of paperwork for the audio book.

What does all this mean for Poor Man’s Fight, Rich Man’s War, and the following book(s)? Am I gonna have to Young Adult this thing up and take out all the swearing and face-stabbing? Do I have to slap on a WB-style makeover for the characters and set everything to a mopey emo soundtrack? WILL THERE BE HUGE CHANGES?

No. Well, not HUGE changes. The one big change I’m looking at is a name change, because let’s face it, I made a goof when I named Allison, Alicia and Andrea. That’s one too many A-names to track, especially given what they have in common. Allison’s now looking at a name change. Past that, we’re just looking at fixing some editorial mistakes, and I’m very grateful for the help I’m receiving.

However, the action is still there. The language is still there. Tanner is and will remain a serial interstellar blasphemer. Casey is still Casey. Janeka is still Janeka. The books will remain available on Amazon as they currently are until Skyscape re-launches them, which at the moment looks like June of this year. And I’m extremely happy about all of it.

My other books, for the record, are untouched by the deal, and will remain as they are. I don’t find that disappointing at all; I like them just fine as indie-published works. My racy, not-for-kids urban fantasy line will continue. I need to finish with Volume Three of Well, That Escalated Quickly: The Tanner Malone Story (still no projected date on that yet!), and then it will be time to assess where I go next.

The only real change I’m looking at here is the prospect of reaching many, many more readers, and what writer doesn’t want that?

THANK YOU to all my readers—to everyone who left reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, to everyone who mentioned the book to a friend and who emailed me privately to give their thoughts. This ride just keeps getting better, and I’m so truly grateful for all the support!

Friday, January 23, 2015

It's like that joke about God sending boats to the dude in the flood...except totally not.

(This may well sound grumbly, but I swear things are going well for me overall.)

Probably the first rule of becoming a writer is Don't Quit Your Day Job. If it's not, it should be.

I have a day job. I've had the same day job for ten-ish years now. I won't tell you what it is, but it's one of those socially responsible jobs that our society desperately needs to function, and yet going into said job means you often won't be treated society. The job has plenty of drawbacks. You tell people this is your job and they make a face and say, "Wow, I couldn't do that," but they know it needs doing. It's also the sort of job where you need a college degree, and then you need more college after that, but good luck paying it all off on the salary you'll probably make.

For a long time, I liked the job, even though it could often be a drag. My actual time commitments were pretty malleable, though the low pay meant that I worked as often as I possibly could and still didn't really get far ahead. I tried to get more entrenched in my job, in the hopes of both professional growth and improving my economic standing (again, low pay, no benefits at all...not a lot of security). I didn't get very far. Part of that was the downturn in 2008; part of it was just the nature of my field; and, sure, sometimes I got beat out by better candidates. It happened.

I never lacked for dedication, or talent, or diligence. It just didn't get me anywhere. It certainly didn't help my wallet. The truth of the American Dream is that it still involves a lot of luck. I think my favorite quote in the last ten years is from George Monbiot: "If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire."

Writing wasn't a thing I ever planned on doing for a living. It sounds like saying you're gonna grow up to play in the NFL or be a rock star. It doesn't seem practical. I wrote for fun, and things have sort of grown from there.

I still have my day job, but I don't go in a whole lot anymore. That's a wonderful thing, too, because as the years went on and the growth never really happened, the day job became more of a drag than a calling. Good Intentions helped a lot when I went through a brief and entirely predictable bit of seasonal unemployment. Poor Man's Fight pretty much changed my life. Occasionally, a reader or a reviewer will say that Tanner is a bit too heroic, and I think, "Tanner bought me out of debt, paid for multiple book covers and my appendectomy and gave me the best summer vacation I've had in ten years. You're damn right he's a hero!"

The thing is, I'm not what you'd call rich. I'm just finally making what a college-educated guy who just hit 40 should maybe make, contrasted against a pretty modest lifestyle developed from years of not making all that much money.

Again, the rule is: Don't Quit Your Day Job. And I've more or less followed that. I've taken a lot of time off the day job to write, because I love writing and because the writing is demonstrably more profitable. But I haven't quit the day job...I just don't go in a lot anymore.

I went in this week, partly by request. I drove to work today in the car that I bought this summer, the first new car I've ever owned, the car that I could only afford because so many people have been so good to me and my writing.

...aaaaand I got rear-ended about a block away from the office. Trunk and bumper are just smashed. I'm okay, the other guy's okay. He got out of his van and passed along his insurance and he was cool, and given how common hit-and-runs seem to be in Seattle, I'll take that as a blessing. But still: I went in to work like a real person, and naturally my car took the hit.

I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

General updateness:

Tanner: Well, That Escalated Quickly (Book Three) is currently at 33,000 words, and this week I managed to get over a particularly concerning plot point, so I feel like it'll keep rolling along well. I have no projections as to when it'll be done. I desperately WANT to be done by early summer. The last time I shot for that, however, it wound up being late August, which as it turns out isn't the best time to release a book.

I've received confirmation that I'll be an attending pro at Norwescon this year (April 2-5). As the website will tell you, it's the Pacific Northwest's Premiere Science Fiction and Fantasy convention. All these years of being a regular attendee, and now I'll be a panelist!

I'm also working with a few different artists (mostly discovered at conventions or through DeviantArt) for some illustrations of Tanner, Casey & Co. that I'll share once I have them. I've wanted to get some more such pieces done for a while now. It's in the works. Hopefully we'll all like what we see.

As it's a common question, I'll just state here again that yes, I will someday write another book in the Good Intentions series. Maybe after the current book is done, maybe not. I can't say. I love those characters. I feel like there's much more to do with them. But I'm sticking to one book at a time right now.

There's other good news to relay, but I kinda need to keep it under my hat for a little longer just yet.

Couple last bits: I've finally taken to Twitter and Tumblr. Not all that much on either yet, but if you follow those outlets, I'm @ElliottKaybooks on Twitter and I'm on tumblr, obviously. Fair warning: I don't do a whole lot of advertising there. Just a little more of my regular voice getting out into the world.

Take care, everyone!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Good News, for a Change

Not exactly a serious blog post. Book Three is progressing for Tanner. Not much more to tell on that score right now.

But I feel like this should be shouted out from rooftops:

Christian Science Monitor: In a US first, New Orleans finds homes for all its homeless veterans.

I'm sure the program will have its flaws. I have no doubt that some vets will slip through the cracks. But the fact that this effort is being made and is having genuinely good effects is wonderful.

Like pretty much anyone, I want to see homelessness ended, for everyone, period. Veterans or not. Salt Lake City is apparently doing great things in that regard. But just from the standpoint of having to start somewhere, this is a beautiful thing.

I drive past homeless people all the time in Seattle. Sometimes I give to panhandlers. Sometimes I don't. But it kills me every time. And I know that Seattle isn't exactly doing nothing, but...I'm so glad to see cities making progress. Here's hoping it spreads.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Best Christmas Gift Ever

I read the news and watch my usual internet haunts and I keep thinking what a crummy year 2014 has been for a whole lot of people.

I could go off about Gamergate and racism and political paralysis and torture, but I sort of doubt I'm going to add anything to those subjects that hasn't been seen elsewhere. I don't think anyone would be shocked to find where I stand. Not if you've read my blog before now, at least.

So, yeah. Ugly year. There were also some good things that might easily go unnoticed, but good news doesn't often make the biggest headlines.

And yet, 2014 was a great year for me on a personal level.

I've had some wonderful developments that I'm not ready to talk about just yet. I can say that I'm hard at work on Book Three for Tanner and Co., and I have more good news to share on the horizon. But for now, I just wanted to share this, because it arrived just in time for Christmas. It's pretty much the best thing I've ever received at Christmas time.

Dear readers, I did exactly as I promised with Poor Man's Fight profits after Rich Man's War came out. Thank you so, so much for all your support. I realize it's all just fun and silliness and space pirates most of the time, and usually that's all I'm after -- but I'm so glad that we could turn some of the profits from all this popcorn into something worthwhile. The letter below is the result of a whole lot of people giving me a shot, and for that, I'm eternally grateful.

Thank you. Happy holidays, and I hope 2015 is a good year for everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Casting Call, Part II -- And Info on Paperbacks!

First things first: paperbacks for Rich Man's War and Natural Consequences are now available through Amazon! I apologize for the wait on NatCon -- to be completely honest, I got very focused on putting RMW together and so that project languished despite my having a printed proof to work with for a good long while. At any rate, if anyone's looking for, oh, holiday gifts or whatnot, I've got four books to offer...  :)

On to sillier business!

I wanted to let the "casting call" question hang for a bit to see if I'd get any bites on it, and I got a few. I'll confess that I did this in part because I wanted to hear some ideas, and I found a few in the comments that I found intriguing.

This question kicked my ass for two reasons: First, I just plain don't watch all that much television or film. I'm very often That Guy Who Hasn't Seen That Thing (OMG!), and often I'm still not interested no matter how many people tell me I totally have to watch/see/read this. If the dust jacket or the preview or the Netflix descriptor doesn't interest me, I can be very hard to motivate. The second, perhaps more interesting reason that this question was tough for me is that a great many of my characters are drawn from people I know. Rachel and Wade from Good Intentions, Gunny Janeka, Cpl. Brent Collins and a great many others from Poor Man's Fight--these are all based heavily on people I know or have known in the past, and that's part of how I bring them to life.

But I'm gonna go ahead and try to come up with more recognizable options for this.

Also, for what it's worth, we have to remember that actors get older, but we don't necessarily remember that because we think of work they did ten or twenty years ago. A lot of the characters in both my series are pretty young people, making them tough to cast. Hell, it's even tougher when you consider the longevity treatments that keep people younger longer in PMF/RMW; remember, Andrea is supposed to be in her early sixties, but she only looks twenty-five or so.

So here goes:

Poor Man's Fight / Rich Man's War

Tanner Malone -- Argh. That's a problem right out of the gate for me. My gut answer is "go for an unknown, maybe Latino, maybe Caucasian." The role would require a serious tan; Tanner is literally tanner than most of the people around him. But my first choice would be a young Shane Taylor, who played Eugene "Doc" Roe in Band of Brothers. Beat up, demoralized, almost empty inside but still moving and still feeling...if I can get that performance into my books at any point, I'll have won at writing.

Someone suggested Anton Yelchin (Chekov in the new Star Trek films) for Jason from Good Intentions, and I honestly think it might be interesting to get him a good tan, buzz down that hair and see how he'd do.

He's not named for the tan, btw; that's just a happy accident. Tanner is named for a Harry Chapin song I heard years ago called Mr. Tanner. It's about a man whose talents don't match his passions. And I can more or less promise you that I'll never write anything as sad as a Harry Chapin song, but the name stuck with me!

Casey -- Wow, so the James Spader suggestions really surprised me. I haven't seen his more recent stuff, though. It's certainly an interesting thought. From the beginning, though, I always envisioned Casey as a blend of Ian McShane as Al Swearengen (NSFW!!) from Deadwood and Michael Wincott's Top Dollar in The Crow. (Also NSFW, really) Either one would make me really happy.

Lauren Williams -- Uma Thurman. Versatile actress who can convey confident experience and is clearly comfortable with a stabby role.

Also, at least one of the pirate ensemble would have to be played by Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead. Because why wouldn't he? Hell, he could just be there as himself. He's Lemmy. Needs no other explanation.

Darren Mills -- James Franco. Heh.

Gunny Janeka -- My first thought is Angela Bassett, because her performance as Tina Turner really blew me away. However, the suggestion of Jada Pinkett Smith also works pretty solidly for me.

Chief Everett -- A somewhat younger Bruce Greenwood (Capt. Pike in the new Star Trek films) would kick ass in this role, but to be honest, he's one of the best parts of those films. He may just kick ass at everything.

Admiral Yeoh -- She's straight-up named for Michelle Yeoh. That one was set in stone in my head the moment I started writing her.

Allison -- Eliza Dushku, maybe? This one's still somewhat open for me because I see someone I knew years ago.

Andrea Bennett -- Eva Green. Done.

President Aguirre -- Mark Consuelos, maybe aged up a bit. (btw, if you have Amazon Prime and you're not watching Alpha House, you're missing out. It's amazingly funny.)

Vanessa Rios -- Rosario Dawson or Michelle Rodriguez.

Einstein -- Um. Honestly, I'm at a loss on this one. Damn.

Alicia Wong -- I wince while I write this, but I really think of Rinko Kikuchi. That bothers me a little bit because Rinko is Japanese, while "Wong" is a pretty clearly Chinese name, and I don't want to sound like I don't know the difference...but if you saw Pacific Rim and didn't absolutely fall in love with Rinko, I feel you may need to take your soul in for a diagnostic. Hell, maybe Alicia has some blended Chinese & Japanese ancestry. Who knows? It's never been spelled out...  :)

Sanjay -- Inspired by Sanjay Seran, vocalist for Delhi 2 Dublin -- an amazing band to see live. I kinda doubt the guy does any acting, but that's who I see in my head.

Booker -- Oh, man, can we get Anthony Mackie? I thought everyone in Captain America 2 was amazeballs, but Mackie just stole scene after scene that I thought had already been stolen by somebody else.

Lt. Kelly -- Here's where my West Wing fanboy comes out (you'll see plenty of it). I'd want Allison Smith in her earliest days as Mallory (Leo McGarry's daughter). I haven't seen any of True Blood, but I liked the suggestion of Deborah Ann Woll, too. She's definitely got the look.

Harris -- Brian Bloom (Pike from the ridiculously fun A-Team film)

Jesse (Jessica) Baldwin -- I like the Ellen Page suggestion, but I also think of Kat Dennings.

Good Intentions / Natural Consequences

Again, we run into the youth thing here. Also, this is a much racier story. I have no clue if any of these actors & actresses would want in on such roles. But, to my thinking, It's Not Porn. It's HBO. (NSFW language and goddamn hilarious.)

Alex Carlisle -- As with Tanner, I'd be happy to go with a young unknown. Otherwise...if we could get a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I think we'd be set.

Lorelei -- Changed in my head so many times while writing those books I can't even articulate it. One minute she was Sophia Loren, the next minute she was Morena Baccarin. But in the end, the voice that came through strongest for me and kept selling it over and over again was Claudia Black. I also think that Polly Walker (Atia from HBO's Rome) would knock this out of the park.

Rachel -- Another one that is basically someone I know. However...Emily Procter, who played Ainsley Hayes on the West Wing could totally have fit this role. My other thought would be: get Taylor Swift and have her do her Kesha impression. Done.

Drew Jones -- Dulé Hill. Done. (My West Wing fanboyness coming out again.)

Wade Reinhardt -- Again, I already know him, but you don't. My girlfriend recently got watching Supernatural, which I'd (amazingly) never watched despite the things I write. Having seen some of that over her shoulder, I think Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester) would be great in that role if we could, y'know, roll back the clock about fifteen years on him.

Jason Cohen -- I'm kinda back to the Anton Yelchin suggestion here.

Taylor -- Summer Glau.

Onyx -- Kat Dennings.

Molly -- Natalie Dormer (as suggested). I don't watch GoT, but I've seen the pics, and I remember her brief moment in Captain America. She'd be great.

Vincent -- Kevin McKidd (If I'm not mistaken, he's already played one angel...)

I think that's all I can handle of this for now. At any rate, Book Three for Tanner's story is in the works! I'm only recently through with the prologue & pushing on through Chapter One, but I wanted people to know that I'm not wasting a whole lot of time there.

Talk to you again soon!