The Indomitable Ten

I'm excited to announce a new story set in the Anthem's Fall universe! About a year ago I was contacted by the acquisitions editors of Curiosity Quills Press to pen a novella set in the world of Anthem. The novella, An Incident On Orion, is now available for purchase as one part of a (huge) anthology from many talented, bestselling writers called The Indomitable Ten.

An Incident on Orion is an origin story of sorts for one of the main characters from Anthem's Fall, and I know you'll like it. The Indomitable Ten can be purchased on Amazon here. The novel is so colossal that it currently can only be purchased in Kindle format.

Book two, Eve of the Gods, is almost complete! As much as I have lost my patience with George R.R. Martin's snail-like writing pace, so too must you be losing your patience with me. But don't worry, Eve of the Gods is coming soon. Anthem's Fall just broke 300,000 reads on Wattpad, and those kind of numbers keep me focused on the sequel's release date (hope for summer)!

Anthem's Fall Sequel!

Big news in the Anthem universe!

I’ve officially titled the second book in the series Eve of the Gods.
 
When you sign up for my newsletter, I'll send along the first chapter! If for some reason you don't get it, just email me. I’m currently writing the second half of the novel, and hope to release it later this winter. Eve of the Gods will start right where Anthem’s Fall left off, and will bring you back to familiar characters as well as introduce some new ones.

Some questions you might have...

Book two release date? Not set yet. Hopefully later this winter or early spring latest.

Are we going to see Felixes? Y

Are there Sejero fight scenes? Y

Is Kristen a POV character? Y

Are there any new POV characters? Y

More stuff about Anthem? Y

More stuff in NYC? Y

More ethical dilemmas? Y

More potentially overwrought apocalyptic prose? Y

Will all the book titles in the series be plays on words? Y

Movie rights? Hah! I wish!

I've contracted an artist for the Eve of the Gods cover illustration. You can see some of Rhys Griffiths’ past work at http://rhysgriffiths.deviantart.com/gallery/.

Also, reader Tom Ruhland has graciously created an Anthem series fan page at http://anthemsfall.tumblr.com/ Thanks Tom!

Cinder House

Cinder House is live! And it's free for a few days! Check it out.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MRML6L6

What starts as a lighthearted Maine vacation takes a strange turn when Steve Lowell discovers there might be a reason no one has visited the Ashford guesthouse on the east end of Oldharbor in decades. He ventures north to escape the stresses of his life, but soon finds that his life might be something he will have to fight for amid a shop of horrors.

Cinder House tells the tale of a wealthy family with a dark history and the guileless young man who uncovers something that has remained hidden for a long time.

It’s a modern take on the classic horror narrative that brings it back to the understated ghost stories of Sir Walter Scott, Bram Stoker and L.P. Hartley. Cinder House is a quick read that delivers a definable plot, a sense of terror, and a clear resolution. But at Cinder House’s heart are noticeable literary influences along with themes that elevate the “horror”.

There are also undertones of Vonnegut’s work in the story. Cinder House makes some subtle and some not-so-subtle references to Slaughter House Five and the burning of Dresden at the hands of the fictional Roger Ashford’s grand creation. Had I taken it a step further and brought the narrative to Tralfamadore, I would contemplate submitting Cinder House into Vonnegut Kindle Worlds. But in its current state, I think it stands on its own foundation. I'm hoping it will be the first of an anthology, as I'm already halfway through a somewhat related follow up short.

And it’s free for a bit, so check it out!

 

Great Launch!

It’s been about a week since I released Anthem’s Fall, and I just want to reach out and thank everyone who has purchased a copy over the past seven days. A few hundred sales are under the belt, and it’s a great feeling knowing that my book is in front of all those eyes. Friends, family, strangers (dare I say budding fans?), thank you!

Liz and I took Lucy to the North Cascade mountains yesterday to celebrate. Truly epic place, and it provided me with lots of inspiration. Gravitas would approve. There are actually mountains called Mt. Terror and Mt. Despair. The trip also potentially totaled our 2001 Taurus, but that’s another story.

In the next few weeks I plan on releasing Cinder House, a short story totally unrelated to the Anthem universe. AND in the near future I’ll be making available a draft of the first chapter of Herculaneum (the sequel to Anthem’s Fall). The novel is currently a little over halfway done. Now that the ole' debut release is behind me, I can devote all my time to writing again. Thank god.

Thanks again all!

10,000 Wattpad Reads

Anthem’s Fall broke 10,000 reads on Wattpad today, and that’s something to celebrate as my debut novel now has only 20 days until release. I’ve been busy these past few weeks writing blog posts for several blog tours and chipping away at book two. Writing such a sheer volume of blog content has sapped any ideas for a fresh post on my own blog, but I thought I’d still check in with an update. This is the latest batch of galley copies headed out for review, glossy personalized bookplates and all. Mostly Librarything and Goodreads early readers.

Get excited winners, you have a debut novel coming your way at the mysterious, inexplicably erratic pace of media mail shipping! Enjoy!

 

photo-11.JPG

 

Updates on the Anthem’s Fall warpath:

Excerpts read: (Wattpad, Scribd, my website, some others): 10,600

ARCs distributed to reviewers: Somewhere around 250

Goodreads: 2,637 requested giveaways, added by 770 as “to-read”, 25 reviews (3.92/5.0*)

Librarything: 638 requested giveaways

A step outside superhero fiction

Today the cover came together for my upcoming short story, Cinder House.

I have to admit, it's been quite liberating to step outside the Anthem's Fall universe and write something totally unrelated. I can't imagine how trapped writers feel by the time they're on book five or six. Cinder House has been a fun side project, and I'll likely throw it up on Amazon at some point over the next few months. Free or damn near to it. It's a horror short that takes place on the coast of Maine. Dare I say it's the first of an anthology?

My goal was to write it in the same vein as a 19th century ghost story, though I may end up going through and modernizing the prose before I hit the publish button. There are some self-evident Vonnegut references along with a good dose of simple spookiness. More details to come!

Cinder House S.L. Dunn

Marko Manev

When I searched for a cover illustrator for Anthem's Fall, I stumbled upon a ton of super talented artists. In particular I was floored by the work of Marko Manev. He does a lot of minimalist interpretations of pop culture icons, and in that field I think he's in a league of his own. I still often find myself going back to his website and flipping through his portfolio. I never get tired of his work.

I'll admit I still have my fingers crossed that one day our paths will align and he can bring to life a character from Anthem's Fall. Oh man what I would give to see his take on certain scenes! Here are some of my favorite pictures from his portfolio. I have a print of one of these framed above my desk. Can you guess which?

His website is http://markomanev.com/ if you want to see more of his epic work. Lots of other cool works.

Click on the image below to see more.

Updates on the Anthem’s Fall warpath:

Excerpts read: (Wattpad, Scribd, my website, some others): 4,700

Anthem's Fall currently ranked #20 in sci-fi//#20 in fantasy on Wattpad

ARCs distributed to reviewers: 90

Goodreads: 1,400 requesting giveaways, added by 519 as “to-read”,  18 reviews (4.06*)

Librarything: 638 requesting giveaways

 

Ramblings from the crucible of a debut book launch:

The other afternoon found me recreating this scene with an alarming likeness outside my apartment. The similarities penetrated several levels.

After fifteen minutes or so of feverishly throwing a tennis ball against my apartment building, I realized I was eerily reminiscent of Jack Torrance (askew cardigan and all) so I called it quits and went back inside to hit refresh on all my social media pages for the fiftieth time of the day. Or was it the hundredth time?

Such is the debut author facing his first book launch.

Terror, dread, exuberance, wooziness, ad nauseum. They’re all represented. To put it simply, I’m a shitstorm these days. You’d have to be rendered insane by ego or stupidity (or some transcendent state of zen-peace with the world) not to live in constant terror of your debut book launch. Sadly, I’m not the zen-peace kind of guy. But it’s what I signed up for. Means to an end, means to an end, means to an end. That’s pretty much the sole mantra I’m living by as I struggle for the first time with public praise, critique, self-promotion and self-doubt.

I decided that night—amid my Torrance-esque throes—that right now is the perfect time to discuss my hopes and fears as a debut writer.

As of this moment, I rest on no laurels and carry no jaded chip on my shoulder. I’m smack dab in the middle of the crucible. The gauntlet is not before me or behind me, but all around me. I’m entirely at the mercy of the esoteric forces and whims known simply as the industry.

The facts:

1) “Making it” is really hard (or so I’ve heard).

My debut novel stands to be one novel out of what will likely be over a million novels published in 2014. The average novel disappears in the blink of an eye, never to be seen again (a somewhat dramatic snapshot, perhaps). A sparse few of these million novels published in 2014 will receive a vastly disproportionate degree of readers’ praise, while the countless others—some excellent, some terrible—will never see a sliver of admiration.

I mentioned a moment ago that I am living by the motto, “means to an end”, but in truth I can’t define what that “end” really is. Victory or failure is immensely hard to define in any creative field, and ultimately it comes down to what you want as an individual. Sure, I want the proverbial Iron Throne. But at this stage, my task boils down to a much simpler goal: connecting with readers.

That’s the truth, the goal of today. And tomorrow. Connecting with readers. This is because . . .

2) As much as I want it, it’s not up to me.

The adoration, indifference or abhorrence of Anthem’s Fall is no longer within my power. When I clicked “save” on my final draft and changed its name from “Penultimate White Whale” to “Anthem’s Fall”, I washed my hands of the novel. In a large sense, the fate of Anthem’s Fall is no longer in my control. I can promote it as best I can, which I’ll get to in a moment. But from the moment a writer declares his or her novel “finished”, it then has to fight its own battle with every individual reader.

In that battle, only the words on the page matter.

The precarious nature of the tiny little flame that my indie novel represents is that it can be snuffed out, or—more accurately—disregarded, so easily. No marketing team, no perfunctory reviews from big media outlets, no contractually obligated blurbs from mega-authors, etc, etc. (Yes, that was a shot). But there’s power in my flame too, because a novel is one of the most viral products imaginable. Think about some of the best books you’ve ever read. You didn’t just finish it and quietly add it to your shelf. You told everyone about that novel. You shouldered the job of salesman and chatted about that novel to anyone willing to listen.

This isn’t to say that I think my novel will ever be one of the best novels someone has read. It simply means that I have faith in the viability of the novel itself. People are passionate about reading. If readers like something they read, they will tell other readers about it, and so it will spread.

In short, it doesn’t matter what I think about Anthem’s Fall. It matters what readers think. The only thing I can do is to carry on the story by continuing to write, and not allowing myself to implode in a supernova of nerves.

Not yet, at least.

3) F**K LUCK.

 If the odds of success are as low as getting bitten by a shark, I’ll chum the damn waters and accept my own “success” or “failure”.

I’ve attended a couple big writing conferences and read enough books and blog posts on writing/publishing to numb the mind. A particular vein of advice that people often insinuate is that “It’s up to luck”. I cannot and will not as a (somewhat) rational person give in to that logic. If at the end of the day it comes down to luck, that means every writer (or ultimately every creator) who has ever been successful has been a maniac or a fool. It implies that every creative field is an assemblage of wild, talentless gamblers. Though perhaps I’ll change my tune later, today—amid the debut shitstorm—I cannot allow myself to think about luck.

Of course luck is a very real and powerful thing—but it is only one variable in the equation. It is a single variable to be mitigated as much as possible. Nothing more. The less I leave up to “luck”, the less I expose myself to the vicissitudes of chaos.

No luck. No lottery tickets. Just readers.

4) Victory isn’t definable. Defeat is.

I’ve established that victory is hard to define. Defeat isn’t. Defeat is the day I stop. That makes things easy to consider, and takes the pressure off my debut launch. I’m already halfway through book two. When that’s done I’ll start book three. Then four. You get the idea.

You fail only if you stop writing” –Ray Bradbury

That’s all. Just thought I’d throw some genuine thoughts out there amid all this pseudo alienating self-promotion!

 

Updates on the Anthem’s Fall warpath:

Excerpts read: (Wattpad, Scribd, my website, some others): 1,870 (http://www.wattpad.com/user/SLDunn ---great website. Anthem's Fall currently ranked #34 in sci-fi on Wattpad)

ARCs distributed to reviewers: 83

Goodreads: 757 requesting giveaways, added by 340 as “to-read”, 11 reviews (4.09*)

Librarything: 386 requesting giveaways

Farthest geographical reach: India! (evidently I could beat New Zealand...errr which one's farther?)

 

 

Giveaway!

I'm launching my first giveaway! Yes! 20 copies of Anthem's Fall, paper and e-book versions, are up for grabs. Sign up and get your hands on a copy months before the book gets published!

Cover Evolution Pt. 6

Once the illustration was completed, it was time to turn it into an actual cover. Because Anthem’s Fall is the first book of a series, the font I chose was important. It would be represented on future covers as well, so it wasn’t just about choosing a font for Anthem’s Fall, but for the whole series.

I started looking for fonts on websites like Dafonts and others of the like, but nothing caught my eye. Every font felt either too simple or too impractical. Since I already had such a quixotic illustration, I wanted to ground the cover with a straight lined, simple font.

Eventually I stumbled upon Leonardo Gubbioni’s BUILDING typeface, and I knew at once I had found the winner. After reaching out, he allowed me commercial permissions for free—very generous. This step was also completed with the help of Laura Duffy, and without her I would have been utterly lost. Here are some examples of the iterations leading up to the final.

 

Also some updates on the Anthem’s Fall warpath:

Excerpts read (Wattpad, Scribd, my website, some others): 785

ARCs distributed to reviewers: 62

Goodreads: 326 requesting giveaways, added by 190 as “to-read”, 10 reviews (4.4*)

Farthest geographical reach: New Zealand! (that one might be tough to beat)

 

Not bad for a book that’s two months away from publication! June is going to see a lot more giveaways, so stay apprised!

 

Cover Evolution Pt. 5

Having settled on a broad theme for the cover illustration, it was now a matter of honing down specifics. I had come to terms with the fact that there was no such thing as a “perfect” cover. But there was a “right” cover, and I was on the track to find it.

To reiterate the points of previous posts, there were a few basic goals for this envisioned illustration (an illustration that would eventually come to represent the entire novel):

1 ) To create a “money shot” image that stood out among others, (especially in thumbnail). Given the choice, I would have preferred it to be too loud than too understated. The goal is to catch attention, nothing more.

2 ) To have that image convey a sense of the novel’s overall tone. The book description talks about a world called Anthem being destroyed by machines. There’s also mention of an entrenched young scientist named Kristen working on a strange new technology. These are well-established premises in the genre. Nothing new. It would therefore have to rest solely on the cover illustration to elevate the tone of those messages and leave the implication that there is something more to Anthem’s Fall. In other words, Anthem’s Fall isn’t merely a story about an advanced empire’s collapse or a scientist in New York working with a dangerous technology. The real story is the collision between those two plots. And the goal of the cover was to capture this collision front and center.

The hope was to create an image that was recognizable yet unfamiliar—just like the novel itself.

Here are some of the drafts that were involved in taking the idea and translating it into an image. The final illustration (on the right) was the brilliant work of Tim O'Brien.

Anthem's Fall S.L. Dunn


Cover Evolution Pt. 4

I loved the eye from the earlier post. It was a great visual to accompany the manuscript, but there were two critical issues.

 

1) It screamed “attack of the killer robots”, which was not a sentiment I wanted to convey on the cover.

2) Currently, there are about twenty thousand novels on Amazon featuring an ominous blue eye. A cover is about standing out, not fitting in.

 

It was back to the drawing board. I needed to formally decide what type of illustration I wanted on the cover, so I made a list of thematic images that could work. Most of these will have little relevance to someone who hasn’t read the novel, but oh well. The “final cut” list was as follows:

 

1) Kristen sprinting with backpack in NYC intersection

2) Gravitas touching down

3) A broken spearhead (*still my favorite one, but ultimately not feasible)

4) Shadowed blonde woman standing in flames. Blue eyes through the fire.

5) Close up of the Blood Ring with a drop of blood on it

6) Vatruvian cell/Double helix design

7) Huge person (Hoff/Darien) standing in otherwise normal city

 

They all speak to a different aspect of the novel, and the dilemma was deciding which facet to choose for the critical first impression. What made the situation even more difficult was that first drafts of cover illustrations are hard to envision in their final form. The process starts with copy and pasting stock images to create a template, and then going forward one adjustment at a time. This translates to a situation where it’s ultimately impossible to develop upon more than one basic idea at a time.

Here’s some proof. You can see here (and ultimately in the final cover) that I ended up choosing Gravitas for the final illustration.

This was the starting point for the final illustration, and it ultimately evolved into an image I liked. Next post I'll show the evolution it went through.

Goodreads Giveaway!

First chance to get an advance reader copy of Anthem's Fall !! What a great excuse to start an account on Goodreads if you don't already have one!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Anthem's Fall by S.L. Dunn

Anthem's Fall

by S.L. Dunn

Giveaway ends May 30, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Cover Evolution Pt. 3

My first foray into cover design was a massive disappointment. I knew that Anthem’s Fall needed a strong, thematic cover. It would be an absolutely essential component of the “book package”. But after last post’s versions, along with a few others, I realized that I wasn’t looking for cover design at all.

Not yet, at least.

I was looking for an image, an illustration. I didn’t need a nuanced cover (like last post’s versions). What I needed was a money shot to grab a potential reader's impression. An illustration had to come first—a big, bold, in-your-face illustration. An evocative and thematic work of art would anchor the cover in the sentiment I wanted to convey. Then I could worry about turning that illustration into a final cover.

This realization sent me on a path that ended up taking a LOT of time. I needed to find an artist. In hindsight this was a much more difficult task than I first would have thought.

Where to begin?

My search started on Deviantart.com, Behance.com, Pinterest, and gallery collections. I more or less roamed any online art assemblage and made a long list of artists whose style I thought might work. I also perused book covers that I liked, and hunted down the names of the artists who created them. Very few publishing houses actually hire in-house artists, so most of the illustrators who do cover art (even for the biggest publishing houses) also do freelance work. The right illustrator was out there, it was just a matter of finding him or her.

Remember, this final artist wasn’t being hired to paint a surrealist piece for my living room. I needed a clear, simple and commanding illustration that would translate well to thumbnail. Over many months, I worked on several types of drafts with different artists.

Here is one example.

Anthem's Fall S.L. Dunn

Cover Evolution Pt. 2

When I finally neared the end of editing and rewriting Anthem’s Fall, it was time to contact a cover designer. Covers are unbelievably important to novels—especially debut novels. When you think about products that generally cost under $10, the novel is an outlier. Unlike most other products in that price range, (a sandwich, a pint of beer, a taxi ride) a book is a product that a given reader will spend hours upon hours engrossed in. Among $10 (or in the case of e-books, $3) purchases, a novel represents a gigantic commitment of time. And when searching for a new novel and weighing out the awareness of that commitment, what does a reader look at?

A blurb, some reviews, the first few sample pages, and the cover. The cover is the only part of the book “package” that isn’t words. Consequently, the cover is a unique opportunity to make a promise to the reader of what lies within the pages.

Think I’m overvaluing the art of the cover design? Check this out…

www.thewrap.com                                                www.awesomenator.com        www.techeblog.com

www.thewrap.com                                                www.awesomenator.com        www.techeblog.com

Yeah they’re movie posters, but the idea behind them is the same. What can you infer from these assemblages of movie posters? There are rules! Think about it…you can say in the blink of an eye what each of these three poster-schemes represents: thriller, art house, and superhero.

There are rules that movies with multi-million dollar marketing budgets still adhere to. And there are rules with book covers too. Those rules culminate to…target your audience!

Anyways. Back to my own process.

I didn’t know what to expect as I began my own cover creation, and it was hard to envision what a final product would look like. I knew I had to target my audience, but at the time I couldn't quite decide who my audience was. After a lot of searching, I got in touch with a designer who had done some covers I liked. I took the plunge and sent him a copy of the whole manuscript, a ten page synopsis, a three page synopsis, a pitch, and some notes. These were the first two drafts we created in succession. It was a starting point, but I ended up going in a completely different direction.

Cover Evolution Pt. 1

In the spirit of kicking things off, I want to show how the cover illustration of Anthem’s Fall evolved through time. The final cover (as seen in the "books" section) took a lot of planning and consideration. Breathing life into my story with words was a challenge, but creating a singular image that could encapsulate all of those words seemed practically impossible. It wasn’t a 1-2-3 step process to create the cover for Anthem’s Fall, and over the next week or so I will release the different iterations and drafts in daily installments.

In the end, I'll write a post that explains what my logic was for each progression, and what my goals were throughout the process.

These first two “eye” images were the work of Matt Sheridan, one of my beta-readers. For a very long time, these were some of the only tangible visuals that were attached to my growing manuscript. They were a game changer when I first saw them—at long last there was something to look at! I still think they’re beyond epic.

Anthem's Fall S.L. Dunn

Welcome!

Hi Everybody,

Thanks for checking out the website!

Presumably most of the people coming here at this time are friends and acquaintances I know in real life. I’ll address the 800-pound gorilla straightaway:

Yes, I wrote a novel. Yes, my pen name is S.L. Dunn.

Onward . . .

Here you’ll find everything there is to know about Anthem’s Fall as the summer release date nears. I suspect it will be interesting to follow Anthem's Fall over the next few months. If you’re reading this blog currently, this is a rather unique opportunity for you to check in every now and then to track the progress of a young debut novel. To draw a comparison to a tree, most of the novels you’ve probably come across are already fifty feet tall and several decades old (as in, they have already found a niche, already have fans who have suggested the novel to you, and have a lot of attention around them). Anthem’s Fall is a seedling—a rarity for better or worse for most readers.

I don’t intend on hiding much about Anthem’s Fall or what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis as I try to spread the word about it during these next few months. My goal is simple: to reach as many readers as possible. I'll be doing lots of giveaways as the release date nears, so don’t be a stranger. If you’re tenacious, I suspect it won't be difficult to get your hands on a free advance-reader-copy (ARC). If you’re after an e-book, you won’t need much tenacity at all—just shoot me an email and I’ll see what I can do. I want Anthem’s Fall to be read—the sooner the better—so if you’re perusing this website and finding yourself intrigued, reach out.

Being my first post, I’ll embrace brevity and leave it at this for now.

 

Thanks,

Sean