Thursday, July 21, 2011

Milo Green

I can't seem to get enough of Milo Greene. They've been rocking my study sessions all week. The band only has a few songs out right now, but they're definitely one to watch.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Borders To Liquidate

Time of death: Mon Jul 18, 2011 5:22pm EDT

(Reuters) - Borders Group Inc, the second-largest U.S. bookstore chain, said it has canceled an upcoming bankruptcy auction and will close its doors for good.

The company said in a statement Monday it was unable to find a buyer willing to keep the company in operation and will sell itself to a group of liquidators led by Hilco Merchant Resources.

Borders' roughly 400 remaining stores will close, and nearly 11,000 jobs will be lost, according to the company.


One year ago, I was told I'd ruin my writing career if I went the indie route.
One year ago, e-book contracts were considered the subsidiary right.
One year ago, publishers decided what we could read.
One year ago, I did all my studying at a Borders.

What a difference a year makes.

My heart goes out to the 11,000 people who've just lost their jobs, but this is the consequence of a company with zero foresight. This is still America. Companies either innovate or they die. A new industry model is rising in Borders' place, one that puts the interests of readers and writers first. I just never expected the change to happen so fast.

Updates when they come...


Saturday, July 16, 2011

From a Storm Front to a Ghost Story






In t-minus ten days, Ghost Story, the new Dresden Files novel, finally releases in America. As you all know, I'm a huge fan of this hilarious urban fantasy series by author Jim Butcher. The Dresden Files begin with Storm Front, in which we are introduced to a down on his luck Chicago wizard named Harry Dresden. Harry is just trying to cover the rent on his place, and perhaps afford another cold ale, but he ends up involved in a crime spree that may very well involve some nasty dark magic.

The novel introduces Karrin Murphy (one of my top-5 favorite cop characters), and begins to flesh out the intricate paranormal world that makes Mr. Butcher's work feel so expansive. Oh, and snark, there is plenty of snark. Like Josh Whedon and Sam Raimi, Mr. Butcher always seems to know when to toss in a few jokes. Harry isn't an oppressively serious mage like Gandalf, but he's just about as good with a staff.

If you're interested in trying the series out, you'll want to start at the beginning. Here is a list of the Dresden Series novels in order:
  1. Storm Front
  2. Fool Moon
  3. Grave Peril
  4. Summer Knight
  5. Death Masks
  6. Blood Rites
  7. Dead Beat
  8. Proven Guilty
  9. White Night
  10. Small Favor
  11. Turn Coat
  12. Changes
  13. Ghost Story (Releasing July 26th)
The novels evolve from thier simple monster-of-the-book premise (books 1-3), into a series of stories taking place during a paranormal world war. I think that by White Knight, most readers are as surprised as Harry at how big of a player he has become. Through a mix of stubbornness and guile, he becomes a true force for change. But this shift is not without consequences. Once the major baddies start taking Harry seriously, the stakes rise sky high for both his friends and family.

Harry is constantly forced to balance his strong sense of morality with real earthly needs and desires. In works like the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, these moral decisions remain rather clear cut. No one really wants to be on Sauron's team...but what happens when everyone is a scumbag?

For a while, Harry manages to overcome these difficulties with an incredible mix of ingenuity and raw power, but we are left wondering when his prideful morals will finally meet their match. Harry's challenges keep growing in scale, and his foes keep getting smarter, Mr. Butcher does pull a few punches in the first eleven installments, but he overcomes this deficit in spades during Changes, and the gradual build to this personal cataclysm is well worth it.

Ghost Story presents the aftermath. That's why now is the perfect time to start reading.


Questions for discussion:

What's your favorite Dresden Novel?

Mine remains Proven Guilty, with White Night a close second.

Who is your favorite Dresden Character?


Who is your favorite Dresden Villain?


Your favorite one liner?

" amount of training or forethought can prepare you for the sight of an angry dinosaur coming to eat your ass." - Dead Beat

Friday, July 8, 2011

An Objective Analysis Of Zero Sight by Dr. Renzo Massari, Ph.D., Esteemed Global Economist, and Unabashed John Tukey Fanboy

The author of the following review attempted to submit it to Amazon but ran into some sort of trouble. I've obtained permission from him to post it here instead, so that it can get its proper due. You need to have read Zero Sight to truly appreciate some of his references. There are also some minor spoilers, so I've placed the review after the break.

Friday, July 1, 2011

An Interview With Jordan Kimura, Zero Sight's Graphic Artist

Today I'm hosting an interview with Jordan Kimura, the graphic designer that created Zero Sight's visually arresting cover. Her work has done wonders for sales, with many readers commenting that the cover image was what snagged their attention.

I was referred to Jordan by a mutual friend after several months of struggling to find a reliable designer. She is creative, prompt and professional, a rare trifecta for an artist.


Shier: Hi Jordan, so nice to sit down with you to catch up. By the way, congratulations on being named All-American Singles and Doubles by the International Tennis Association.

Kimura: Thanks so much, Brian! College tennis has been amazing. I can hardly believe that I've already played 3 seasons and have only 1 left.

Shier: Time goes kinda fast when you're taking rigorous courses, playing high level college tennis, and doing freelance graphic design.You had that golden season last year where you went undefeated too. You're having an incredible college tennis career! I know you're experiencing success with your design career as well.

Kimura:  You and I are both experiencing success! I see that the Zero Sight is high on Amazon’s Contemporary Fantasy List. Seems like it's a hit with avid readers from around the world. That's fabulous! Your amazing storytelling will keep readers fascinated for a very long time, I am sure of it!

Shier: Yes, the reader response has been quite a surprise. I'd hoped to sell 100 copies of Zero Sight…I guess my wife calls me a pessimist for a reason. It's so evident that you love what you do, it really makes a difference, doesn't it?

Kimura: It sure does! I am fortunate that I am able to do what I love and be on a full athletic scholarship. Balancing tennis and school has taught me how to work hard and be a respectful team member. I think this reflects in my work. Better teamwork leads to better projects. It helps in every step from conceptualization to completion.

Shier: Very true. When you returned your first proofs in under 48 hours, I got a pretty good idea how motivated you are. So let's take a step back. When did you become interested in art? Were you a fan first and an artist second or have you been a scribbler since kindergarten?

Kimura: Art has always been my passion. I started painting with watercolors as a toddler and I haven't stopped since. Art is something that resonates from within me. It is relaxing and comforting, like a dear friend I can always drop in on. Being able to see my visions as personal manifestations gives me great satisfaction, and applying my creative skills to commercial design projects is especially rewarding.

Ancient Classic Elements, J Kimura
Shier: What you just said is really interesting. A lot of the artists I know only want to do their own thing. Why do you find working with clients so alluring?

Kimura: Each client is unique. Each client presents me with a unique challenge that forces me to adapt and create something fresh while staying true to the client's vision. The process really encourages me to stretch and grow.

Shier: I draw inspiration from writing giants like Jim Butcher and Robert Heinlein.

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, Book 1)Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1)Starship TroopersStranger in a Strange Land

Both writers took their genres and flipped them on their heads. Do you find that your work is influenced by other artists as well?

Kimura: I tend to draw inspiration from structural designers and architects such as Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano and Santiago Calatrava to name a few.

Architecture really inspires me because I love integrating metaphors, stories, culture and symbols while blending aesthetics and environmental issues in every project. I also like the whimsical playfulness that graphic designer Will Staehle's fluid design displays.

Shier: Yea, I like his work too. I believe he did Christopher Moore's covers.

W. Staehle

So what led you to major in graphic design?

Kimura: My B.A. in Graphic Design has prepared me with technical skills in a rigorous program that serves as a solid design foundation. Graphic Design integrates words and images. I love sketching and bringing unique concepts to each of my projects through new interpretations, new structures, and new images. My approach is to blend computer technology with original artwork that I produce. My projects are authentically fresh because it comes down to my passion for illustrating.

Sense of Place, J. Kimura
Shier: But now you're also pursing an MBA...wait, how old are you?

Kimura: Yes, the MBA program provides me with the fundamental business skills needed to become a more innovative marketer. Being grounded in multiple business disciplines, the MBA helps me to integrate the intuitive and the analytical, meet consumer needs and identify strategies for design-based innovation. I just turned 20 a couple of weeks ago.

Shier: A twenty year-old All-Amercian singles and doubles tennis player that has already graduated with their Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design Summa Cum Laude and is about to get her Master's Degree…Your rates are quite decent considering… : )

So why were you interested in designing Zero Sight's cover? We faced quite the marketing challenge at the time: the ebook world was already crowded with new indie titles, the author was an absolute unknown with zero pedigree to speak of, and there is very little data on what would work and what would not. That was quite the set of challenges. What made you confident that you could nail the design?

Kimura: Well, as a friend of a friend (Jon Steller) I was happy to work with you at a lower rate. I looked forward to a long working relationship and friendship with you as well. That was reason enough.

Shier: Shucks, now you have me blushing.

So you started with the raw images from Sarah Pedersen's shoot:

What was your approach?

Kimura: After discussing the storyline with you, we came up with a design vision pretty quickly. Everything fell into place after that, and a high-impact cover was born! Many readers have commented on how the cover and the story are dynamically aligned. It goes to show that a good product can shine through even under adverse conditions.

Shier: So what feelings were you trying to illicit with your cover design?

Kimura: I was trying hard to bring out the raw intensity of your story in a captivating manner. I did this by providing texture, color, lighting, typography and the blood splatter elements. My goal was to create a design so good that readers couldn't help but be intrigued. I wanted it to be as fascinating and mysterious as the story you had woven.

Shier: Well, I was (and am) ecstatic with the result. I think Zero Sight's cover manages to convey all those feelings even in a thumbnail view. I remember back at the start, we were both worried about what would happen to your design when it was shrunk down to near nothingness. And yet this cover manages to be both legible and intriguing even at a very small image size. Black and white or color, the title and major image elements are retained. And to all you aspiring authors out there, I think a flexible cover for your ebook is critical.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz   vs.  Bitter Seeds

A good cover must be able to survive the many tortures websites and e-readers are going to put it through. You're going to be fighting for impulse buys at first, and no one is going to click on something that they can't even identify.

So, Jordan, what's next for you?

Kimura: I'm going to keep designing. It's in my blood! I hope to continue to create meaningful change through my design concepts as a sustainable, ethical, profitable and innovative designer. I want every detail in my projects—from concept to completion—to be intuitively well-structured and thoughtfully designed. I also look forward to designing many more best-selling book covers for you as your writing career grows : )

Shier: For anyone that doesn't know, Jordan is talking about the covers for Zero Sight's sequels. (Did he just say sequels plural…heck yes, he did!) And that reminds me, I've got to set up another photo shoot and contact my hand models. I've got to track those fine finger toters down again. They'll probably want more than just a taste of the delicious blood mix this time.

So, Jordan, where can people check out your portfolio?

Kimura: I can be contacted for design projects through my website.

Shier: Folks, I'd submit your projects to Jordan while you can still afford her. I can vouch for Jordan's incredible speed, customer service, follow-through, creativity, talent and personal integrity. Those are rare qualities in the industry. Ones any of us that have been through the experience highly value.

Kimura: I really enjoyed this time talking about the success of the book. Earlier today you performed neurosurgery and now you are discussing your novel. Very impressive.

Shier: Um, yea...I mostly held the tools. But they let me move the operating room lights this time. I lit up the surgical field on my first try and everything : ) Still a long way to go, though.


That about does it for this blog's very first interview. Feel free to leave comments and questions below. Jordan  and/or I will be happy to post responses. Just expect some delays. I'm on call this weekend.