The image above, Dauntless, was painted by the talented Christina Deubel. Not only is it a wonderful piece of artwork, one I have spent many hours staring at, but also the cover for my novel, The Range.
After what has often felt like an eternal struggle of finding time to write and edit, my novel is finally ready to be set free.
Before I show you the cover itself, and reveal the all important release date, I’d like to share the evolution of my book with you.
Written on a whim
The Range began as a passing idea, a piece of writing created around a what-if question. I intended to post it here as a short story, one told from the point of view of a video camera that captured scenes before, during and after an apocalyptic event.
The earliest file I have is dated 19th August 2010. It was called ZombieJuice at the time because I thought it sounded cool.
After running out of steam at around 35,000 words, I stopped working on it for a few months as I couldn’t find a way to tell the story I wanted purely through the lens of a video camera.
In February I returned to it and changed the point of view to third person. I figured the camera would still be a useful tool, but maybe if it was passed from one character to another it would enable me to tell the story of various characters struggling through the big bad event.
I managed to squeeze another 10,000 words into that version before again running dry in February 2011.
That was infuriating because I had begun to see there was a decent story amongst the dregs, yet I couldn’t get to grips of how best to tell it.
Change to The Range
Draft 4 of ZombieJuice was the last title of that name before I changed it to The Range in June 2011. It was about that time when it dawned on me that I could keep a single point of view, but instead of the video camera why not use a character to tell the story?
Problem with that change of heart was adapting what had become a large bowl of spaghetti, each strand being a point of view. In the process of changing point of view from video camera, to third person, and then to first person, I had a mass of narrative with so many contradictions and flaws I came close to binning the entire project and working on something else instead.
By Draft 3 of The Range I had churned out 58,000 words. After printing it out and offering it to friends to beta read, I wasn’t sure how it would be received. Mixed reviews. Some raved. Some tore it to shreds. I left the story to sit and wallow in shame until July 2012 when I dug it out (yet again) and read through it.
I was starting to feel like that distant relative who rarely visits.
Yeah, it was awful. We’re talking real trash, dear blog reader. Though there were some gems here and here, slithers of the good stuff worthy of being saved.
Drafts 3 to 5…slow progress
Minor adjustments don’t call for a fresh draft, but big changes to plot of additional chapters, sub-plots etc mean a new save is best practice. Just in case. You never know when you might want to go back and see where you went wrong, or insert a scene you chopped out from a previous version.
At times I was frustrated by the writing process and more than once I almost decided to dump the first person point of view (again) and try a third person multiple points of view. Did I have the energy to redo the whole thing? Was this a sign I was writing the wrong story?
During gaps between edits I spent time writing short stories for my blog, and even participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and wrote 50,000 word incomplete novels in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Future projects perhaps.
I thought if I did something else and took my mind off The Range, I’d return to it with fresh eyes and finally see a way forward.
In the autumn of 2013 I decided enough was enough. I had to grab this unruly beast and make it dance to my beat. Up until then I’d been pantsing the writing, making it up as I went along. And that had led to a lot of contradictions and continuity errors.
I’d never liked the idea of mapping out a plot before hand. It felt like cheating somehow.
In quiet moments, driving, staring blank at the TV screen or that fuzzy time just before I fell asleep, I’d ponder how I wanted to tell the story. What was missing? Why wasn’t I moving forward with it in practice the way I saw in my head?
So I plotted it all out.
All 42 chapters were each given a mini synopsis. Who does what, where, when and why. Who dies. Who lives. Changes marked in red fonts, and so on.
Around that time I made the decision that the scope of the story would extend beyond a single novel. I cranked out a similar plot structure for a second novel, The Holt, so when it came to writing I’d have a solid framework to work on, and goals to aim for.
That left a major problem. One I knew had been building since around Draft 3.
Up to Draft 6 I had a flashback slap bang in the middle of the story and it occupied a sizeable chunk of the book. Flashbacks can be used to great effect but in this case it wasn’t going to work.
It was too long and would serve to piss the reader off by dragging them away from the main story, force them to read through back story before dumping them back in the action.
So I chopped its head off.
And reattached it at the start.
That was a good moment, the best so far, and the first time I really began to see The Range as a complete story.
Fans of Friends will get that picture.
Draft 7: The Final Frontier
After adding a few more scenes in key places, so they’d key in with the sequel, I created an HTML file and previewed it on my kindle. I published a post, The Range is coming! about how excited I was that The Range finally seemed to be a real thing rather than a collection of words I played with on the screen.
Other than editing for silly errors like “the the” and “he his” and so on, I was nearing the point where I’d have to unleash my baby into the world and let it fend for itself.
That’s scary shit.
I’ve read so many ebooks from Amazon by amateur and first time writers. Some bad, some good. I like to leave well-balanced reviews on Amazon and Goodreads because after all the hard work an author has put into their project, I believe they deserve quality feedback.
Now I’ll have to prepare myself for reviews on my own baby. Good or bad.
Christina Duebel & Dauntless.
Ever since Draft 5 I’ve had an image in my head of what I wanted the cover to look like. I researched books of a similar genre but I found they all tended to have the same theme – apocalyptic scenes, blood, gore, zombie blah blah, biohazard signs…blergh.
That wasn’t for me.
I wanted something different. The Range is set against the back drop of an apocalyptic event but the real nature of the story is one of friendship, loyalty, honour and love, values I hold in high regard.
For a few years now I’ve been a fan of artwork created by Christina Deubel, and the first short piece I published on my blog, Ground Fall, was inspired by one of her paintings, Resilience. Since then I’ve written numerous short pieces using her paintings as a source of inspiration.
To say I was overjoyed when Christina offered to let me use her painting, Dauntless, as a cover for The Range, is a serious understatement. And when I saw it…damn, it was like she’d reached into my noggin and crafted a painting from my imagination.
It matched what I wanted perfectly. Dark and forbidding to show despair, yet bright and colourful to reflect hope.
One guideline I’ve read when publishing an e-book is never to do your own cover. Since Christina worked on the painting, I knew I had enough graphic design experience to add the final touches. The number of book cover versions I created around her painting is well over 40.
Hours and hours staring at the screen, trying to figure out text placement, colours, styles and sizes.
Even now I still can’t decide which of the final 2 designs I like.
The Range – covers.
So, dear blog reader, here’s where I humbly request your input.
Below are 2 covers. I’m happy with the design, but which one to choose?
Take a look, you can click them to go large.
I like both, and I can’t figure which looks better.
I would be most grateful to you, dear blog reader, for your thoughts on which one to go with.
Finally, the launch date!
This has played on my mind a great deal in the last few months. The big question is, when will it ever be ready? Honest answer, I have no idea.
I knew I had to stop tweaking and fiddling with it at some point. Even now I find it hard not to open it up and start flicking through, searching for the smallest detail to change.
In September I came close to announcing a launch date of the end of October, but something made me hesitate.
I wasn’t entirely happy. I had to do one last check and read it again. I spotted a few errors, silly things really. Yet as I write this I wonder how many are still there, lurking, ready to be pointed out by eagle-eyed readers. I’m confident I’ve found them all.
I’ve read books by world-class authors and have spotted errors. Maybe I’m just worrying too much.
Oh man, this is scary.
The Range will be launched on
Friday November 28th, 2014.
You know, I almost want to delete that, delete the entire post and postpone just so I can read and re-read it again and again, editing and fiddling.
Yet at the same time I want to share my book with people.
And wait for the reaction.
Like I said, scary shit.
Before then I’ll set up my author profile on Amazon and one on Goodreads. I’ve researched how to publish on Amazon kindle and The Range will be free for a time, a month or two, to encourage folks to take a gamble on a new author.
I’m not sure if I’ll do a print on demand version via Amazon CreateSpace straight away. I’d like to, so we’ll see nearer the launch date.
Right now I’m happy I have a deadline. It makes all the hundreds of hours writing and editing feel like they were worth while. Funny thing is I never worry when I post a short piece on my blog. I crank out the words, give it a quick proof read and hit publish.
But this feels so much more real.
A real book. Written by me. It’s got my name on it and everything.
Scary as hell but holy shit I’m excited!
Oh, about the sequel.
I’ve already written 150,000 words of The Holt, which will be around 250,000 when complete. By comparison, The Range is 148,000 words, so the follow-up will be considerably bigger.
I’m aiming to finish the first draft around April 2015, so factoring in editing and whatnot, hopefully I can publish on Amazon around September 2015. Rough dates for now, but who knows how much they’ll change.
As for the third book, The Retreat, I haven’t mapped out the entire plot yet, just bits and pieces, but I have it in my head, which is okay for now.
So there you have it, dear blog reader, the cover/s and the date.
All I have to do is click the little Publish button on my WordPress panel and it’ll be a real thing.
Okay, no messing about.