Happy Birthday, Lee!

In the world of the outlaw known as Crazy Cat, it’ s Lee’s birthday today! Huzzah! Had she been alive (not that I’m saying that she ain’t!) she would have been 167 years old. She would no doubt have celebrated with drinking whiskey and shooting guns. Both fine activities I fully endorse, although not necessarily combined.

T-Shirt, tote bag, button and postcard featuring the sketch of Lee is available here: http://www.zazzle.com/crazycatdrygoods.

In the event of Lee’s birthday, I’m giving away Embers at Dawn (kindle edition) for free today and tomorrow. Get yours here: US or here: UK

Crazy Cat Dry Goods and Sundries

bildeI’ve opened up a Zazzle store dedicated to merchandise inspired by my western series The 9 Lives of the Outlaw known as Crazy Cat. My goal is always to make something I would wear or use myself.

bilde-2 I’ve ordered a few items to check the quality of the print, and have been very pleased with what I’ve received. More designs are in the making, I’ll let y’all know when something new is out.
The Embers at Dawn T-shirt is available here.

Reviews… Please and Thank You

I’ve gotten a few very nice reviews from winners of my Goodreads’ giveaway.

Here’s an excerpt from what Lynda has to say about Embers at Dawn: “The first paragraph grabbed my attention quickly and by the end of the first chapter the lead female character’s qualities became known. Lee was a multi-faceted woman surrounded with softness and harshness giving her great depth and an uncommon attraction. The author created a strong commanding character unlike any female character I have ever read…my curiosity was piqued to learn more about her. Not a perfect heroine but heroine-like in many ways – very interesting character development.” Her review of my novel is the review I dreamed of receiving, but wouldn’t dare to hope for. Read the full review here.

Duskofdoubt writes: “The main female character, Lee, is strong and spunky, and so amazingly likeable. Don’t expect the run-of-the-mill damsel-in-distress you’d so commonly find in similar stories, because Lee wields knives, holsters guns, and uh twists the testicles of her enemies (like I said, spunky!), and it’s most certainly refreshing to see such a strong female character once in every while.” She sums up her review with: “Overall, a pretty darn good book!” Read the full review here.

I’d like to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU! to those first few of you who have taken the time to read my debut novel and given it a rating or review. I don’t mean to sound greedy, but the fact of the matter is that Embers at Dawn needs more ratings and reviews to get noticed. I would be extremely grateful for any and all feedback on both Goodreads and Amazon.

Would you buy a book written by an unknown author solely based on its blurb? Well, I guess it depends… But would you pick up one for free? Get Embers at Dawn for FREE TOMORROW on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

The Cover

I’m thrilled to announce that the cover for Embers at Dawn has gotten a positive mention in The Book Designer’s monthly e-book Cover Design Award. I quote: “Very atmospheric cover that I’m sure will have the desired effect.” This is what I wrote about the cover: “I designed the cover myself. I’m a professional photographer, so it was an easy choice to take that particular job myself. The book is the first in a series. The series’ caption at the bottom is meant to be reused on the upcoming books. It’s a western novel. The face on the cover is the protagonist.”

Evolution of a cover: From rough sketch – via mock-ups – to finished result.

Designing the cover for my debut novel has been a meandering journey in sketches and mock-ups. I’ve been working on the concept for the cover art for almost as long as it has taken me to complete the writing (I have a lot more sketches and mock-ups than the ones shown here). I knew early on that I wanted Lee’s face on the cover, featuring her whiskers and ever present cigarette. I dabbled with the idea of hiring someone to draw the cover, but I eventually decided that I wanted a photograph on the cover and to do the job myself.

Because Embers at Dawn is the first in a series, I wanted a style that could be easily copied onto the upcoming books. The idea is to have a different close-up image of Lee’s face on the cover of each book. Ingvild Eiring has kindly agreed to pose as Lee throughout the entire series. I’m aware of the fact that the title Embers at Dawn is somewhat cryptic, so it was important to have the series’ title in focus too. The “label” (at the bottom of the cover) will be reused on future releases in the series.

To emphasize the western genre I used fonts I bought from Walden Font Co. It’s the first time I’ve paid for fonts, but I’m very glad that I did. I made several mock-ups of the cover using whatever fonts I had at hand, but they didn’t quite “fit” the gritty western style I was looking for. Walden Font Co. have also been kind enough to feature the cover art for Embers at Dawn in their customer gallery. Thanks guys!

If you’d like to wear the gorgeous Ingvild/Lee, I’ve made a T-Shirt featuring the cover photo that can be bought here: Cafepress

Shooting Irons

These are my Uberti Cattleman revolvers. I use them for CAS.

Guns are an integral part of the western genre. They also play an important role in my western series The 9 Lives of the Outlaw known as Crazy Cat. Lee, the protagonist of the series, refers at one point to her shooting irons as her “precious pieces.”

Lee’s shooting irons are important to her for several reasons. Being a woman, she doesn’t possess the brute force of the men she’s commanding, or the villains she’s facing. Being able to wield her weapons quicker and more accurately than those she’s up against, and the men who follow her lead, is paramount to her success in claiming respect, causing fear and staying alive. She usually carries four revolvers. It makes her a dangerous adversary, who doesn’t have to cower and hide when she’s emptied one gun. Beside the practical aspect of this, I like the aesthetic of four guns on her person; it prompts an intimidating figure. There are certainly additional elements to Lee’s character that makes her stay in charge, but I’m gonna aim to stay on target here – we’re talking about shooting irons, after all.

It was important to me to show the reader that Lee is an authority on shooting irons. I did research, asked for assistance and learned to shoot, in order to transfer the knowledge and know-how I figured the protagonist of my series needed, to be representable as a know-it-all gunslinger. In short: I had to become an authority on shooting irons myself to make Lee one.

In the first draft of Embers at Dawn I had equipped Lee with two Colt Peacemakers. This was about three years ago, before I had much of a grasp on weapons. A friend of mine got me in touch with an avid CAS (Cowboy Action Shooting) practitioner, who possess a vast knowledge of firearms of the Old West. The Peacemakers were subsequently replaced with something more interesting upon his advice: A pair of Remingtons and Merwin & Hulberts. Lee’s Whitworth rifle was integrated in the story from the first draft – and remained in the story with the gun-savvy Cowboy’s blessing.

I believe that the weapons a character carries, and how she wields them, can say a great deal about her personality. The making of the piece and the condition it’s in might suggest a preference regarding practical concerns or a sense of style. It may also emphasize a character’s history, social status or indicate a certain profession.

In time, I will dedicate a post to each shooting iron from The 9 Lives of the Outlaw known as Crazy Cat series.

Yee-haw, an Indie’s Life for Me

When I started writing my debut novel Embers at Dawn, I simultaneously started exploring the possibilities with self-publishing and found “the deal” enthusing. One deciding factor to not pursue the traditional route of publishing houses was royalties. The idea of getting paid more per book sold (at a lower price), than if I’d been signed to a publishing house sounded like a good idea… Or a very fair lottery ticket. The other deciding factor was control.

I relied heavily on my experiences as a freelance photographer when I made the decision to try my luck with self-publishing. I kept coming back to a want and a need to be in complete control of my first book project. I was tired of my success being at the mercy of others, being given half creative freedom on jobs I did for free and… I’ll stop right there, before I go into an angry rant, but I’ll tell you this much: It’s a whole lot easier to sell a finished product, such as a book, than to boast that something can be done.

Self-published books have started to find their way into the regular charts and bookstores. Self-published authors are being headhunted by agents and publishing houses. This is another reason why I figured self-publishing might not be such a bad idea. I get to publish my book my way, but still don’t opt out of the world of “regular” publishing if I should change my mind.

Choosing to self publish was also an easy choice to make because it has become easy to do, relatively speaking at least. Yes, I have to do pretty much everything myself, but there’s a plethora of guides and forums with all the information one could need. And as you have probably picked up on by now, doing everything myself is just the way I like it. I still have to market my work, but I don’t have to buddy up with the local fashion mafia, hoping to get an editorial in the next issue of [insert name of generic fashion magazine] that would give me half a toe inside whatever door is the trend that season.

I haven’t entirely given up on photography, my previous post should state that fact quite clearly, but I no longer pursue a career as a photographer. I started losing the joy in doing it and decided that I’d rather flip the industry a big, fat bird and enjoy photography with personal projects instead.

The irony in this is that what’s going on in the world of publishing looks a lot like what the world of photography has been through. The digital revolution made “everyone” a photographer and ultimately rendered my hard-earned craft’s certificate redundant, and my endless hours spent in the darkroom a quaint skill. Now, indie publishing has made “everyone” an author too, but what I experienced as a negative effect in the world of photography feels more like a positive revolution in publishing.

Cowgirl Photo Project

This is a project I’m super excited to tell y’all about: It’s a photo collaboration with model and costume designer Ingvild Eiring. We have already completed two sessions on different locations and plan to do at least three or four more. We might be done by the end of the year. The project will definitely culminate in a book and hopefully an exhibition.

The theme is vaguely based on the Old West, with a somewhat fleeting cowgirl character in the “lead role.” We’re more concerned about creating something captivating, than to stay true to historical accuracy or a tangible storyline. Sources of inspiration range from Helmut Newton to Matthew Brady. The series will be shot entirely on Polaroid.

Yellow Highlighters & Black Powder

For me, research spans from poring over books to saddling up horses and loading guns.

IMG_4132I hadn’t ridden a horse since I was eleven years old when I mounted one three years ago. I joined a riding class for beginners. I trotted, no: walked around in circles during my first lessons. The riding instructor was the only one there who was anywhere near my own age, except a few of the parents accompanying their 6-12 year olds. And yes, I’m talking about three years ago.

The riding instructor just so happened to be a returning customer at the video rental store I was working at back then. We got to talking, and when I told her that I could hardly wait to go trail riding; she immediately picked up on it. From then on I had most my riding lessons on trails in the woods. It was challenging, fun and inspiring. We’d cross rivers, climb steep paths, gallop across fields and cuss at cyclists who’d come zooming past us – startling both us and the horses.

I believe that being new to horses made me notice things about them that I would have otherwise ignored if I’d been a seasoned rider, details that I’ve integrated in my writing. I can say pretty much the same thing about being a tyro gunslinger.

IMG_2595I handled a firearm for the first time about a year and a half ago at a gun safety course. I had done some research about guns of the Old West, but felt like I was grasping at straws without hands-on experience. I needed answers to questions that no book could truly answer.

My questions have pretty much been answered, and more so: I have found a sport I’m serious about. As far as horses go, I greatly enjoy getting to know their nature and pursue to become a better rider, but horses remain a hobby for me. I have no intention of winning a derby. Shooting, on the other hand, has made my competitive instinct surface. I compete in local ISFF competitions and train several days a week. My love for shooting and the Old West has also brought me to CAS (Cowboy Action Shooting). What better way to live the dream, than to dress up in cowboy attire and shoot guns (replicas) from the Old West era?

But research isn’t all about guns and horses, I’ve spent my share of hours with my nose stuck in a book, or scrolling through websites in search of what truly was. It’s a never-ending search…

IMG_5778In response to the phrase :”Write what you know,” I’m stuck between saying: “Hells yeah!” and: “That’s BS!” I have read countless interpretations of the phrase in writer’s guides that explain it as simply a way to make it easy on yourself: Set the story in your home town, in the present, construct the characters around yourself and people you know, and voila: you don’t have to do any tedious and time consuming research. Obviously, this doesn’t work when writing historical fiction.

Another tip I’ve come across more than once is: If you have to do research, don’t do any until you’ve completed your first draft. That way you’ll only have to do a minimum of research because you’ll have pinpointed exactly what you need to learn. I can see the logic in this, but I find this piece of advice flawed.

I’d like to expand the phrase “write what you know” into: “know what you write – write what you know.” By “know what you write,” I mean: Do your research and know your characters. Having a firm grasp on the what-fors of the period your story is set in will help you from stumbling into the pitfall of assumption. What use is it to do research post writing if you find out that half of what you thought you knew turns out to be plain wrong?

The ultimate kind of research would be to travel to the places I describe in my writing, but until the opportunity to do that arises: I pretty much live the dream anyway.