The Book Cover Conundrum – How to Make it Great

This guest post originally appeared on My Loves, Lives, and Passion

The cover for every book is critical, sometimes even more important than us writers want to admit. We want to think that the story we’ve crafted alone should be enough to ‘sell’ our books, but let’s face it: covers sell books.

I’m the same way when I buy books. The cover absolutely helps draw me in.

Genius De MiloWith that in mind, I had very specific ideas about the cover I wanted for my latest novel, Genius de Milo.

I knew I wanted a yellow cover with red type. Why? Because the covers to my other novels are red/purple and blue, respectively, and I wanted contrast as they are lined up on the bookshelf!

But the color scheme is only one aspect. Now I needed a design concept. So I enlisted my pal and fellow author Roy Mauristen, who designs covers for a lot of authors, and does a great job at that.

I started off with the idea that I wanted a lot of turtles on the cover. And I wanted them flipping around like popcorn. Why? Well … it’s important to the story. We tried to make it work, but Roy just couldn’t find the right turtle image. So finally we started over.

And that’s when I switched to the bubbles filled with DNA helixes. Again, these are important to the story. Once I had that idea Roy went off to the races. He did an absolutely fabulous job bringing my idea life, and then added the hand with the pin about to pop one of the bubbles. I wasn’t so sure how I felt about it at first, but I was totally wrong, because it works great, and never would have come up with it myself. That was all Roy.

At that point we made a few tweaks, but otherwise the cover just fell into place.

The response I’ve gotten so far has been fantastic. I’ve gotten nothing but enthusiastic reviews of the cover, so to my pal Roy … thank you!!

The words may tell my story, but the cover helps sell the book.

Now that you can see it for yourself … how’d we do?

Dear Reader By Russ Colchamiro – I Write Some Wacky Novels. Or Do I?

This guest post originally appeared on The Writer’s Life eMagazine

Dear Reader by Russ Colchamiro Dear Reader 3

The Writer’s Life newest feature, Dear Reader, gives authors a chance to talk to their readers – YOU!  

Today’s guest is Russ Colchamiro, author of the scifi/comedy, Genius De Milo.

Dear Reader…

I write some wacky novels. And yet they are also not so wacky.

I’ll explain …

My first book, Finders Keepers, is loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand, set against a quest for a jar that contains the Universe’s DNA. ThinkAmerican Pie meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

It’s a scifi backpacking comedy that falls under the category of what I like to call ‘Cosmic Lunacy’.

So when people ask me what my book is about, and I give them the explanation, I pretty much get only one of two responses. The first — my favorite — is this one: “Wow! That’s so crazy! How do you come up with this stuff? I gotta read that. Sounds awesome!”

And then I secretly (or not so secretly) bask in the glow of the compliment.

write letter - manYet the second response is juuust a bit different. Which is to say that I am on the receiving end of a blank, stern, judgmental stare — and utter silence.

And though no words are exchanged, I can see the thought balloon above their heads as clearly as the daggers being shot at me from their eyes. And the thought balloon goes something like this: “You are an imbecile. Leave. Now.”

So let me ask: Are you, dear reader, the sort of folk who insists upon rigid, predictable storylines that don’t dare venture in the world of wacky? Or, like yours truly, do you like to have loads of fun?

Because if you are fans of authors such as Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Tom Robbins, and Christopher Moore, or movies and TV shows such as Harold & Kumar, Bill & Ted, Hot Tub Time Machine, Time Bandits, Groundhog Day, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Quantum Leap, Northern Exposure, and Third Rock from the Sun, you might want to check out Finders Keepers, and my latest novel, Genius de Milo.

Genius de Milo is the second book in the Finders Keepers trilogy, where our bumbling 20-something backpacking heroes Jason Medley and Theo Barnes are once again tasked with retrieving a radioactive jar filled with the Universe’s DNA … before it wipes out the galaxy.

And whereas Finders Keepers was set predominantly in Europe and New Zealand, the action in Genius de Milo has shifted mostly to the U.S. And, of course, there’s lots going on in Eternity, the ‘cosmic’ realm where the Universe is created.

So Genius de Milo is more Midnight Run meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Also, since we’re sharing … well, technically, I’m sharing … even though my novels have that authentic you-are-there, on-the-ground feel to them, I kinda, sorta … fabricated all of the backpacking and Earth-bound travel scenes. Yep. I made them up.

But all of the scifi shenanigans are totally real and based on my personal intergalactic experiences.

Because it turns out — shhhhh, don’t tell anyone — I’m actually a fugitive from another dimension and the intergalactic agency in charge of such matters is hot on my trail, looking to drag me back to where I’ll face my day of reckoning.

Can’t say I’m ever looking forward to that.

Anyhoozle … while I’m still on Earth and up to no good, I like to write about the big questions we ask tend to ourselves: What does it all mean? Where do we come from? Is this all a dream? Is life random or is there some grand design?

And then I juxtapose those themes with the smaller, day-to-day questions we all face: How do I feel about my personal relationships? When is the plumber getting here? Is my Internet service working? Can I get the girl? Will my career ever amount to anything? Can I pay my rent? When are we going to see the new Star Wars movie?

So … wacky, but not so wacky.

There’s so much more I could tell you about what I get up to, but … I’ll leave that for my novels. Because if this letter gives you any indication as to the type of author I am, then you know you’ll be in for one heckuva ride.

Wanna come along?

Yours truly along the space time continuum …

Russ Colchamiro

Guest Post: Russ’ Top 10 Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors

This guest post originally appeared on FictionZeal

Guest Post by Russ Colchamiro

Russ’ Top 10 Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors

Throughout my travels as an author, young and aspiring writers often ask me how they themselves can become a great writer.

I usually chuckle – inwardly if not outwardly – not because the question is funny, but because it touches on something all authors seek: what’s the secret formula for success? And the answer is … it’s different for every author.

Genius-De-Milo-bannerI’m not so sure I can turn you into a great writer, but for those who are willing to indulge me, here are my top 10 suggestions for improving as a writer:

  1. Write every day. The more you write, the better you’ll get.
  2. Don’t try to be perfect. As my hero Zig Ziglar says, ‘you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.’ In other words, if you never write the first word no other words will follow up. Just get going and trust that it will come.
  3. There’s a big and important distinction between writing and editing. To my eyes, the writing phase is the content dump. Just get your thoughts down, even if they are sloppy and convoluted. The editing phase is where the surgical crafting and precision comes in.
  4. Be your own writer. I find so many aspiring authors who want to write like Stephen King or Hemingway or whomever else they love and admire, or whatever’s trending at the time. Having author heroes is great. But you’re not them. You’re you. Write in the style that you find most comfortable.
  5. Don’t fear the blues. Discouragement is natural. Fight through it. Every writer, regardless of age or gender, has at one point or another felt like giving up. Don’t. If you’re stuck or discouraged, take a break. But then get back to it. You need to power through the rough patches to get to the good stuff.
  6. Quality feedback is key. Some writers prefer writer’s groups, others, like me, prefer just a handful of trusted beta readers for input. Whichever you choose, most important is that you enlist the help of readers who will give you the feedback you most need, but not necessarily what you want to hear. Cheerleaders are important, but if you want to improve your story, and your craft, enlist those will give you both technical and structural feedback that enhances or corrects what isn’t working.
  7. Celebrate accomplishments. Writing the first word is a big deal. Without word one, there’s no word two. Finishing a short story or a chapter in your novel is a milestone. So is finishing the first draft, the second, and so on, all the way to getting published, and then, hopefully, making sales. You need the emotional boosts of each milestone to give you juice to keep going. I’m not saying you should throw a parade for each little victory, but take some time to enjoy the small, medium, and big moments. You will have earned them all.
  8. Don’t be afraid to start over. Sometimes the story you’re working on will fall flat. That doesn’t mean the work is done. I’ve had occasion to delete entire chapters, rewrite characters, and even rip out entire sections of a book I’ve written because they just didn’t work, for whatever reason. Starting over is not a failure. It’s a mature acknowledgment that you went of the rails somewhere, and it’s time to course-correct.
  9. Develop a thick skin, because you will get rejected. A lot. So don’t worry about it. Nobody likes rejection, but it’s part of a writer’s life. Sometimes the rejections are fair, sometimes they’re not. We’ve all been there. Welcome to our world. You are now part of the club.
  10. Write because you love it. If you plan on publishing a novel, there is simply no way to predict whether it will achieve commercial success, at any level. But you can always control how dedicated you are to your craft. My suggestion is to focus on the work. Write well, write for yourself, bring on great, brutally honest editors who give you the feedback your book actually needs — and then hire a skilled publicist if you can afford one. And if there’s fame and fortune at the end of your journey, all the better.

In the Writer’s Chair: The Story Behind the Story – ‘Genius de Milo’

This guest blog originally appeared in The Story Behind the Book

***

Much like the structure of my novels, the story behind the story is a three part adventure …

Part I: Chance Encounter

Back in college I ran into a guy I knew a little bit, but not well. Scott. I was in the classroom building, and Scott asked me what I was up to. I told him I had a semester left of classes, and then I was going to do my student teaching (I was on track to become Genius De Milo 2a High School English teacher).

He said: “Why don’t you take an extra semester and go on exchange to Europe?”

Immediately and without thinking about it I retorted, “I can’t.”

And he said, “Why not?”

Stunned, I had no answer. I was so used to saying ‘no’ to life back then that I rejected the idea out of pure instinct. But I really wanted to be a ‘yes’ to life person. And going on this exchange program overseas was something I had really wanted to do, even though — back then — it was so unlike me to actually do it.

So immediately after Scott and I spoke I applied for and was accepted into the International exchange program. The next summer I spent a month backpacking across Europe, and then went to Manchester Metropolitan University in northern England for my final semester.

Funny thing was, I rarely ever saw Scott before that one encounter, and I never saw him after. Ever. But that one, single conversation helped changed my life, and though he doesn’t know it, I have Scott to thank for it. He was the specific catalyst I needed at that very moment in time and space.

That spirit, that magical quality of having just the right person at just the right time come into my life is the very spirit that I try to capture in my books, starting with Finders Keepers.

Which takes us back to the trip itself…

Part II: The Netherworld Effect

There’s a time in life when you’re caught in the netherworld between college and a career, when you’re not a student anymore but you don’t want to grow up, have a career, pay your bills. You know the drill. You’re stuck in that middle zone and I wanted Finders Keepers to capture that, that sense that anything is possible, but because anything is possible, it can get a little scary and overwhelming.

I hadn’t traveled much back then. I was still very naïve. This was in 1994, a completely different world than what we know today. There was no Internet, no cell phones, no Facebook or Twitter. You couldn’t Google a place to stay in Barcelona because there was no Google. If you were stuck in the middle of Romania in the middle of the night — which actually happened to me — guess what? You were actually stuck.

So while I was backpacking in Europe I had this very wild, frantic, unpredictable adventure that legitimately changed my outlook on life. I know it sounds cliché, but in my case it’s absolutely true. A lot of my trip — the people I met, the places I saw, the trouble I got into — made it into the novel, including a guy I met from New Zealand, who became one of my best friends.

About a year later he came out to see me in the U.S., when I was living in Tempe, Arizona, and then fast forward again to early 2001 and I went to see him this time, in New Zealand.

As I say in my new book, Genius de Milo, the sequel to Finders Keepers, he and I only seem to do things big. And I’m not typically a do-things-big kinda guy. But our adventures together are the backbone of the series.

Part III: Sci-fi Shenanigans? Say What Now?

On a totally separate track … I had been tinkering around with a couple of story ideas and one day, out of nowhere, a line popped into my head:

“Jason Medley had on his night stand a jar that contained the essence of the universe”.

And I said to myself: “Who in the heck is Jason Medley and what on God’s green earth is the essence of the universe?”

I really didn’t know the answer to either, but after going on these travels and collecting notes, I started to see the narrative coming together, linking these outrageous trips I took with this tale of cosmic lunacy — an Earthbound backpacking trip meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

And thus the Finders Keepers series was born.

My newest book, Genius de Milo, is the second book in the trilogy, where my bumbling backpacking heroes Jason Medley and Theo Barnes — based on me and my pal from New Zealand — are once again tasked with retrieving a radioactive jar filled with the Universe’s DNA … before it wipes out the galaxy.

Genius de Milo (and Finders Keepers) is for fans of authors such as Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and Christopher Moore, and movies and TV shows such as Harold & Kumar, Bill & Ted, Hot Tub Time Machine, Time Bandits, Quantum Leap, Groundhog Day, Northern Exposure, and Third Rock from the Sun.

And whereas Finders Keepers was set predominantly in Europe and New Zealand, the action in Genius de Milo has shifted mostly to the U.S. And, of course, there’s lots going on in Eternity, the ‘cosmic’ realm where the Universe is created.

And once I take a little breather, I’ll be writing the third and final book in the Finders Keepers trilogy. I’ll just need to take one more trip to pull it all together …

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