My Writing Process: on Heart of Borneo

This is a blog hop on the writing process of which I’ve been tagged by the multi-talented artist and author Uvi Poznansky.

First, let me introduce Uvi to those who haven’t met her, and then please visit her blog and have a look around.

rise-to-power-uvi-poznanskyUvi earned her B. A. in Architecture and Town Planning from the Technion in Haifa, Israel, and practiced with an innovative Architectural firm. She received a Fellowship grant and a Teaching Assistantship from the Architecture department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. There, she earned her M.A. in Architecture. Then, taking a sharp turn in her education, she earned her M.S. degree in Computer Science from the University of Michigan.

 

During the years she spent in advancing her career—first as an architect, and later as a software engineer, software team leader, software manager and a software consultant (with an emphasis on user interface for medical instruments devices)—she wrote and painted constantly. Her versatile body of work can be seen online at http://uviart.com. It includes poetry, short stories, bronze and ceramic sculptures, oil and watercolor paintings, charcoal, pen and pencil drawings, and mixed media.

 

Uvi has published a poetry book, Home, and two children books, Jess and Wiggle and Now I Am PaperApart From Love, her novel, was published to great acclaim, as were her recent novels A Favorite Son and Rise to Power.

I will now answer the questions Uvi has asked me.

What am I working on?

I’m writing “Heart of Borneo”, a forest crime.

Much like Sydney’s Song, this Work In Progress is a real-life socio fiction, except, instead of portraying a vibrant metropolitan as massive as Sydney, I’m visititheme around a love story, “Heart of Borneo” focuses on conservation works, particularly environmental economy.

whereintheworld

Heart of Borneo itself is a conservation initiative to slow down the rapid deforestation of one of the world’s few remaining natural rainforests. Covering an area of 220 million hectares, two-third of which is in three Indonesian Kalimantan provinces, this program identifies and develops sustainable ways to empower the local residence and to protect the area’s threatened rich biodiversity.

PrintA lawless no man’s land which is 2004’s ultimate illegal logging heaven awaits Lance Knox, an environmental economy fresh graduate assigned by WWF to promote community livelihood in Kapuas Hulu Regency of West Borneo. To prevent further deforestation, Lance must show the indigenous people how to develop alternatives and more sustainable income sources. However, Kapuas Hulu is wilder than his dreams.

How can a conservation program work, when the boss of Malaysian logging mafia sleeps in the house of TNI’s Regional Military Cests have brought in obscene wealth to their personal pockets? It doesn’t help at all when the central government insists on developing an oil-palm plantation along Malaysia-Indonesia border, which necessitates demolishing virgin forests in three huge national parks.

 

 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have read some excellent works by Indonesian and European anthropologists, economists, journalists, and travelers on Kapuas Hulu (Upper Kapuas), but each of them describes only a portion of a complex land with massive issues. They are like vivid portraits of esent, hopefully, the complete picture. I’ve been lucky to receive guidance from my personal contacts, insiders who are highly dedicated professional conservationists, including one of the world’s most respected environmental experts, as well as indigenous scientists.  Let’s hope I can do them justice.

 

Why do I write what I do?

I have many reasons, among others:

  • I have deep respect for those who work hard to get things done in conserving the environment. The conservationists I’m writing about are noble people who have striven to preserve wildlife and safeguard human dignity. This is their story.
  • I’m passionate about forest conservation (although, I will also write about marine conservation in my next book). I wish very much that the forest criminals stop for a moment and think about the helpless animals that are losing their homes with nowhere to go. Of course, decimating the forest itself of protected trees can only bring natural hazard to the local as well to the international communities. Hopefully, more hearts will come to care through my writing.
  • The most valuable asset of Kapuas Hulu is its people, and I would like to introduce the Borneans to more people, because, hey, guess what, the world owes them. They are unique communities who are blessed with a rich land. They live in pristineeart of Borneo zone will slow down global warming.  The whole world depends on their forests, and on them to save our planet from harmful climate change that can only lead to grave natural disasters. Climate change is dangerous for people’s health and economy. By not cutting their trees — like all other people of the world have done — the indigenous people of Borneo are rendering a most noble sacrifice for the good of mankind. 

 

How does my writing process work?

borneo wwfindonesiaIdeas normally come to me when I do my walks, but I need to be passionate about what I write. This WIP was triggered by the environmentally depressing state in my birth country; a state that had been at the back of my mind and brought hich was a 50-km road trip. But Sumatra today is no different from Java. How would you feel, if the tall canopy of your jungle disappeared and replaced by potato fields? And it is so much more than the loss of the magnificent beauty. How would you feel when you think of the protected animals that must face extinction because they are endemic to their forest condition?

A few months back my dear friend Allan Howerton reminded me of my (now gone) forests, and that opened the pandora box.

There is so much to write and so little time available. And then there’s so much to learn from my conservationist mentors, from books and from the internet. I’ve been busy studying and interviewing. In the process of my research I frequently stumble upon ut facts that I had learned during my life journey — facts that assist me to understand pieces of a few puzzles. In other words,  more information turns up from nowhere and everywhere prompting me to write and rewrite. I will also travel to the locations, as I’ve only been to a few oil fields in Borneo, to make sure I don’t make mistakes.

And of course, that’s before throwing my manuscript to the wolves for critic! I have been known to heed my opinionated assessors, as many of them as I can get, the sharper their claws the better.

The author I tag for next week’s blog hop on The Writing Process

307159_100137780102626_873656523_nJ Lenni Dorner began publishing poetry at age eight, and won several awards before turning eighteen. Education includes the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Excellence in Creative Writing semi finals and Penn State University’s Honors and Scholars program. Tragedies and personal traumas took the writer away from the modern world for a while. While embracing the ancient tribal traditions, J Lenni Dorner discovered a story worthy of the ancestors- one that no other could tell. J is happily married and living in Pennsylvania (USA) on the original lands of the Lenni Lenape people. When not reading or writing, J enjoys video games (such as The Sims and Civilization V), amateur photography, and watching movies.

Come visit J’s websiteFacebook, and follow J on TwitterPinterest, and his interesting blog.

 

I would like to end this post by calling all readers to make donations towards wildlife conservation. Click the following logo to donate. Thank you.

button-warrior-wwf

Guide to Cover Art: How to Create a Compelling Book Cover

 

Compelling, quality cover maximises reader’s dramatic experience of your book. Great cover art invites sales. Therefore, it is highly advisable that an author/publisher hire a public-relation expert who is also a fully experienced cover artist.

Experts range from very expensive to affordable. For either, an author and publisher must learn the principles of cover art in order to know what to ask and what not to ask.  As part of my blog series New Authors’ Pathfinder, this article aim to guide:

(a) An author planning to hire a cover artist, but wanting to have a say in the book’s cover art.
(b) A self-publisher wanting to design his/her own book cover.

 

Notes in building a book cover:

  •  Be mindful of your author brand at all times. (I will publish a blog post on author brand next week.)
  • Unless you are a visual artist or an excellent photographer, buy the license for an image from royalty-free photo sites.
  • Get experts’ feedback—even if you are an excellent artist. Apart from creating the main picture, you must take care of the public-relation and marketing aspects in order not to ruin or waste a perfect picture.
  • Post the proposed cover on your online group walls for critics. Heed bright-idea feedback. Only criticism will give you ideas on how to improve your project.

 

Guide to Choosing an Image For Book Cover

 

  • Eye catching quality picture.
  • Intriguing. The image should prompt a second look.
  • The longer people look, its aspects become more pleasing.
  • Let the picture speak the thousand words for you.
  • Captures the essence of your book.
  • Unique. Represents your brand of quality.
  • Be subtle, yet strong. For example, for a horror novel don’t use a too-literal horrific image.
  • Less is best. Avoid using more than four colours, unless you are a specially gifted artist with flair in the use of multiple colours.
  • Image resolution must be excellent.

 

Cover Size

 

Recommended paperback sizes for best results:

  • Novelette: 5” x 8”
  • Use 5.25” x 8” for books up to 85,000 words.
  • Use 6” x  9” for fantasy/thrillers with over 85,000 words.
  • Use 6” x 9” for any large-print books.

Notes:

–          6” x 9” is cheaper because it uses less number of pages, but distributors prefer the smaller, easy to handle 5.25” x 8”
–          For pictorial children book and nonfiction, other sizes are available.

 

Spine Width

 

Width = 0.002250? x pagecount for CreateSpace’s white interior paper.

Width = 0.002252? x pagecount for CreateSpace’s cream interior paper.

Enquire about the paper thickness if you print somewhere else.

 

Gutter

 

Allow ¼” all around for cutting (see the dotted lines in Pic 1). Make sure there is no text and no important image inside this gutter.

 

Final cover size

 

See the Pic. 1. Including the dotted line:

Cover width = ¼” + back cover width + spine width + front cover width + ¼”

Cover height = ¼” + book height + ¼”

 

Font Types

 

  • Use a font type that looks more basic like Times New Roman, but preferably not Times New Roman itself.
  • If you want something different, browse and install some free fonts  type from internet. There are millions.
  • Don’t try to use a PC-provided ‘different’ type of fonts. It’s so overused-yet-unique-wanna-be (Comic Sans falls into this category).
  • Don’t use a too literal horror/spooky-themed font type with blood drops and all that. It would look like a Halloween story for children instead of novel for adults. Be subtle, yet strong.
  • Be careful with the readability of curvy fonts. Make sure that the fonts, especially the capital ones, are easy to recognize.
  • For curvy font type, don’t abuse it. Use it once, or maximum twice, if there are three elements of text (main title, sub title, and author’s name). Use a basic one for the second font type.

 

Font Colours

  • Visible.
  • Slight invisibility could also trigger curiosity.
  • Choose any colour with earthy tone, not neon/vivid one as it cheapens the novel.
  • Less is best. Let the picture speak—pick font colour/s taken from part/s of the picture as not to detract people’s appreciation.

 

Text Size

 

  • Readable in thumbnail. Title must be clear when your book is displayed in the miniature cover size of Amazon listing and other online catalogues or magazines.

 

Text Placement

 

  • Avoid putting the text right on any object, especially main object. Use blank space.
  • Place author’s name close to the book title. Make sure both will appear together if this cover is displayed in a square thumbnail (as in Facebook, Twitter, etc.). To accommodate this, it is okay to move the subtitle (if any) or book series somewhere else.

 

Consistency

 

The colour of logo (book title) of the front cover in Pic. 1 was originally black. When I chose dark red for the back cover to let people know that this wasn’t a gloomy story, Zaki advised to change the front cover’s logo to the same dark red. My theme colours become black, white, and dark red.

 

sydneyssong cover art

Pic. 1. An example of item placement.

 

Endorsement

 

To boost your book’s credibility and marketability, ask a well-known author or the topic’s leading expert for a cover quote. The colour for this seal doesn’t have to conform to your theme colour.

 

Back-Cover Content

 

When your author brand is famous, all you need on the back cover is your author photograph. Until then, you need:

  • Book description (hook). Use either one of these:

–  A couple of lines that captures the essence of your book.

–  A 100-word summary of your book that book catalogues will also use. (Best option.)

– Your pitch. (Must be in easily readable font-size.)

  • Testimonials.
  • Mention awards, if any.
  • Author photograph with a one-sentence bio or a one-sentence author brand. (Optional.)
  • A signature image. See Pic. 2 (courtesy of Terry Stanfill). Here the krater’s image that speaks the thousand words serves as a book description. Note that the space on the right bottom corner of the back cover is reserved for barcode.

 

realms of gold

Pic. 2. An example of back cover with a signature image.

 

 

And come visit the website of author Diana Wilder for marvelous examples of self-created book covers.

Here’s wishing you the best for your work.

 

 

Capturing Colorful Characters can be as Easy as Carrying a Notebook

We have been honored with a visit from grammar police Nikolas Baron in the form of a guest post today.  Nikolas kindly shares with us some very useful tips on how to create a highly readable content. His writing nicely fits and complements my blog series New Authors’ Pathfinder, which I will roll out here every Monday in the coming weeks to, hopefully, assist new authors. Our gratitude, Nikolas, many thanks.

 

Capturing Colorful Characters can be as Easy as Carrying a Notebook

 

Why Many Writers Carry a Notebook

One of my fiction professors told me during every class period to “always have a notebook on hand because you never know when crazy strikes.” It’s true. That perfect character might walk up right next to you at a gas station with a purple Mohawk, leather jacket with safety pins up and down the arms, a ripped up gray tank top, faded blue jeans, and pink Converse sneakers…and then you see that they drive a Toyota Prius. There’s so much that can be done with stereotypes, contradictions, first impressions, and gender roles with just one person you happened to run into at the gas station. Having the notebook in your pocket or purse allows you to write down descriptive details, setting, thoughts about how it could turn into a story, anything. Writers need to have a place to collect their thoughts and capture the interesting moments of life quickly, before they pass by or you forget about them.

What Can the Notebook Do for Me?

Not only can the notebook serve as a place to collect conversations, characters, and chaos, but it can also be used as a reference tool. When I feel lost or have writer’s block, I refer to my notebook of ideas. It gives me a fresh look on the idea I first had and allows me to explore what my first impressions were. The notebook can also provide me with a huge resource of names, places, and people that can seem unrelated but with a writer’s touch, can weave a story.

The notebook can easily serve as a place to get out all of your creative frustrations. When you’re feeling creatively stifled or just have too many ideas floating around in your head, the notebook comes in handy. I’ve been frustrated before with editors for chopping parts of my work I thought I really needed. I used my notebook to get out all of the feelings I was holding inside. Later, when I was trying to describe a frustrating relationship between a parent and child, I reviewed the editor rant and found a place to write from. The frustration and annoyance I felt was extremely similar to what my characters were feeling. Channel those emotions you stored in the notebook and use them to fuel your story.

Colorful characters can be found anywhere; as a writer, you know this. The notebook can capture any ideas you may have at any time. It can be reference material, inspirational material, memories, and facts. I once overheard a controversial conversation between two people having lunch. I assumed they were a couple, and later found out that they were actually brother and sister. They spoke with such passion, pizazz, and punch. They seemed as if they were dating. They kissed on the mouth when meeting! But I was wrong and I thought about what we normally consider “healthy” relationships. It lead to a musing that helped me get through a tough period of writer’s block later on. Never underestimate the power of pen and paper when you’re a writer.

What if I Hate Carrying Pen and Paper in My Pockets or Purse?

There are options other than traditional pen and paper. I like to use my iPad or my phone to take notes since they can be synced instantly. There are also online resources where you can take notes, write passages, and check your work all for free. If you’re struck with inspiration at the coffee shop and end up writing a few paragraphs, check them with an online proofreader before you incorporate them into the rest of your story. It’ll save you time later and help you see errors more quickly. I like to use a site called Grammarly to check my work for errors. I love when I can just jot down a quick few paragraphs and have Grammarly check it for grammar, punctuation, better synonyms, or style. One of the best aspects of Grammarly is its ability to adapt to your style so that the more you use it, the more it learns how to help you. Making sure your work is error-free before incorporating it into your piece is a great habit to get into.

Even if you’re still not sure that you like the idea of carrying pen and paper, almost everyone carries a smartphone nowadays. Utilize your phone as a note-taking resource and don’t let a crafty character pass you by.

Grammarly