Hi, I’m Aleksandr Voinov, and I’m glad to be here. Thanks for joining me on the Incursion virtual book tour! Feeling lucky? I’m giving away three prizes to commenters on any of the blog tour stops. Comment on this post (feel free to ask questions!) and you might win! The first winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate and a swag bag with assorted magnets, wrist-bands and other goodies. Two more lucky winners will receive swag bags as well. I ship internationally and will draw the winners from all commenters after the tour is over. Deadline for entry is 7/15/12. Please include your email address in your comment so that I can contact you. Enjoy!
I want to talk a bit about things that went on behind the scenes when we made Incursion. I’ve talked elsewhere about the pieces of inspiration that came together to form Kyle’s story in my head. I want to talk about the things that went into making the ebook (rather than the story).
The process of making Incursion actually started with my first editor, Kristen Osborne. She may have chuckled indulgently at my email saying I thought the story was pretty clean and probably didn’t need much. At that stage, I’d edited it a few times myself, and with twenty years of publication history under my belt, ten years of coaching authors, and a literature degree, I always delude myself that I know what I’m doing.
Getting the edit back was a shock. The page was drenched in red. Like a dentist you’ve been avoiding for way too long, she prodded at every soft bit, hmmm’ed suspiciously and asked questions. Oh, all these damned questions. Like, “Why would he do that?” or “Is that consistent with what you said further up?” And my first response, always, is “Oh dear, that’s going to be work.” Then I flop down dejectedly on the couch downstairs and feel very sorry for myself. After all, by that point, I have a new story rampaging through my head and the Muse isn’t that keen on expending even one wing flap on something that’s “old” and “done.”
But always, I get to it. When I self-edit, my text changes about 5% (yes, I keep track of this). Usually, I tighten the text up and cut words. After Kirsten’s pass, I rewrote 20% of the text. That’s’ a good 5-6 thousand words. I added here, I cut there, I explained, I smoothed, I polished. I sent it back. I know that I’m actually a good worker at this stage, so I’m rewiring the whole thing with confidence. Even I can see that it’s getting better (and I’m usually text-blind by that stage).
“Great job, just a few more bits and pieces,” Kristen writes.
And yes, there was less red on the page this time, and there were whole passages without a single edit. By that stage, re-claiming my words from under the red flood is actually a delight. It’s like watching a wound heal. All the time, Kristen was a champion; she must have been sicker of the text than I was, but she was always lovely (but firm. It’s that no-nonsense, friendly firmness of a really professional editor).
I think the story went through ten versions in total, getting a little bit better after that first gigantic overhaul. It’s actually really fun to see what a good editor tickles out of a story that most others would consider “done”. The little cool ideas I came up with and that were triggered by her and that would never have happened if I’d worked with an editor keen to finish the job and move on. No, here’s an editor looking to do the best job possible. The difference to other editors in our genre is glaring, and I couldn’t be happier (or more exhausted) with Riptide Publishing’s quality-first approach.
We declared it done, then, I thanked her for the workout she’d given my text (and my poor, poor brain), and I moved on to Rachel Haimowitz, who’s probably the best editor I’ve ever worked with. Maybe that’s because we think very much alike and I trust her like I’d trust a brain surgeon about to drill open my skull. I thought the job was done and Rachel would only do a proofing pass.
When the story returns, there’s another damned question, and it was about the ending. While I was really happy that Rachel hadn’t seen the twists coming (tricking her is NOT easy), for her, the final revelation was too smooth, and she was right. In that version of the text, Kyle accepts his fate rather meekly, and she challenged me to really think that bit through again. I did. I added words, killed others.
After she was done with it, the emotional arch was more intense and the ending packed a much bigger punch than it had. In terms of rewritten words, it was just a few hundred words. But every one of those changes made the story better. It was the last polish applied to a properly-cut diamond.
While we were labouring away in editing, my cover artist, Jordan Taylor, was working on the cover. I’d sent her an early version of the story (draft 2). And she emailed and said the genetic angle would work best on the cover, so she searched for a good stock image and worked on it, changing colours and contrasts (and a dozen things that I don’t have the words for). The image she sent me was a perfect fit. Few artists go to the length to read the story they are making a cover for—just because sometimes the author is not the best person to suggest a cover image. Jordan will always spot something deeply symbolic to the story that’s much better than I would have come up with (a space ship, or a Maori warrior tattoo were my ideas, so you have Jordan to thank for the much cooler cover, I had nothing to do with it). She also fonted and arranged the title and my name on it to make sure it looks good even in thumb size.
Then LC Chase, art director at Riptide, stepped in. She chose the graphic element (the DNA strand) for the scene breaks, and did the overall layout. The tragedy of a layouter is that if they do a good job, the work is invisible. The story simply looks natural that way, and even though it considerably influences the “look and feel” of the ebook, it’s not work that people notice. You only notice it when layout goes wrong.
By that time, I’d written the blurb. Rachel went through it. She cut and trimmed and rearranged and made it all fit the story. I can be a bit self-indulgent in my own blurb-writing (I’m decent enough with other people’s blurbs, but mine are difficult), and Rachel cut all that. This fiddling can go on for days, and often does.
Then all the pieces were put together and Alex Whitehall, one of the other Riptiders, proofed the story (and found typos and minor things). Those got fixed, LC made the final PDF, and sent it to Jim, our converter, who creates our epub and mobi and html files. That work, too, is fiddly, and also allows us to put in last-minute corrections if any come up.
Last but not least, Stephanie Grober, our new marketing wizard, makes sure that Incursion gets blog tours like these, that reviewers receive copies, and get the book out there before it’s on sale. She’s manning Twitter and Facebook and researches more opportunities, and she’s amazing at it (getting authors to write ten blog posts is probably more difficult than herding cats). She’s been tremendously helpful and patient with me.
In the end, it seems unfair that my name is so large on the cover, and everybody else’s names is tiny on the page with the warnings and disclaimers and copyright notice. All their work is absolutely essential, or my readers would get a lump of text that might or might not make any sense. Even the books I’m writing on my own are group efforts, but I get all the credit. (Of course, I also get the negative reviews, so it balances a bit.) So, here’s my shout-out to the unsung heroes and heroines of the process. Thank you, guys, for your hard work!
(And if anybody has questions, I’m happy to respond to the in the comments.)
Fighting with your back to the wall is all well and good—as long as you’ve chosen the right wall.
When the local authorities ask Kyle Juenger to hunt a shape-shifting Glyrinny spy, he can’t refuse. After all, he can use the reward to replace his paralyzed legs with cyberware, and maybe even to return to his home planet. Besides, he hates the morphs—those invasive, brain-eating monstrosities whose weapons cost him his legs.
Kyle’s best lead is the , a mercenary ship armed to the teeth. Grimm, the pilot and captain, fascinates Kyle. He’s everything Kyle lost with his legs, and he’s from the same home world. He’s also of the warrior caste—half priest, half savior. But Grimm’s been twisted by life as a merc, and Kyle’s stuck undercover as a criminal on the run.
That doesn’t stop Grimm from coming on to Kyle, or from insisting he’s more than the sum of his past and his useless legs. But Kyle has other concerns—like tracking a dangerous morph who could be wearing anyone’s face. And as if things weren’t complicated enough, Kyle can’t tell if Grimm is part of the solution . . . or part of the problem.
Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London, where he makes his living editing dodgy business English so it makes sense (and doesn’t melt anybody’s brain). He published five novels and many short stories in his native language, then switched to English and hasn’t looked back. His genres range from horror, science fiction, cyberpunk, and fantasy to contemporary, thriller, and historical erotic gay novels.
In his spare time, he goes weightlifting, explores historical sites, and meets other writers. He singlehandedly sustains three London bookstores with his ever-changing research projects and interests. His current interests include World War II, espionage, medieval tournaments, and prisoners of war. He loves traveling, action movies, and spy novels.
Visit Aleksandr’s website at http://www.aleksandrvoinov.com, his blog at http://www.aleksandrvoinov.blogspot.com, and follow him on Twitter, where he tweets as @aleksandrvoinov.