And here it is, as promised, an early peek at the cover art for my western novel The Last Hunt, due out in mid-March.
Special thanks to Bobby Rockwell and the Rockwell Museum of Western Art for allowing me to use William Robinson Leigh’s original painting and to Chris Kent for a superlative job on the design.
The Last Hunt.
But here’s the thing: The Last Hunt is a western.
You heard me. I’m talking about hard-bitten gunslingers, tall, wide vistas, ornery horses, evil black hats, the whole bit.
Oh, sure, you say, but it’ll be like some kinda weird Cormac McCarthy hybrid, right? A whacked out, modernistic take on the Wild West, standing the entire genre on its head.
Nope, nope and…nope.
Y’see, I happen to love westerns. I don’t look down on the genre, relegate it to second-class status. I grew up watching Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies. I enjoy reading the novels of Elmer Kelton and Richard S. Wheeler. They’re superb writers, regardless of categories and classifications.
I’m saddened by the cinematic decline of the western—the last truly great cowboy flick I saw was “The Long Riders”, made back in 1980. “The Unforgiven” (1992) was a decent movie but far too earnest and over-long. “The Long Riders” was the shit.
And since then there’ve been remakes and abominations like “Young Guns”—westerns by people who’ve never been near a horse in their lives and whose knowledge of the Old West is, put kindly, superficial. Hollywood has tried to update westerns, reinvent them with big name stars and budgets that would make even Michael Cimino swoon…but they’ve lost the spirit. Sam Peckinpah and John Ford had a real grasp of those who pioneered the land west of the Mississippi, their contrary natures, the sort of valor and resolution Alan LeMay refers to in a quote that precedes his classic novel, The Searchers:
“These people had the kind of courage that may be the finest gift of man: the courage of those who simply keep on, and on, doing the next thing, far beyond all reasonable endurance, seldom thinking of themselves as martyred, and never thinking of themselves as brave.”
In the course of writing The Last Hunt, by pure chance I happened across a reproduction of a William R. Leigh painting called “The Warning Shadow”. It was another one of those too-amazing-to-be-a-coincidence moments (and I should know, I’d had a few of them). The image was perfect for my book—but I had a dickens of a time tracking down who owned the rights. Finally, I was put in touch with the Rockwell Museum of Western Art (in Corning, New York) and Bobby Rockwell helped me secure permission to use the painting. Mr. Leigh’s artworks are highly prized, very collectible and I’m honored to have “The Warning Shadow” on my cover.
The cover accompanying this post is, I hasten to say, a mere mockup…but it gives you a fair idea of what to expect. Once our designer, Chris Kent, has a crack at it, the cover will look even better.
As for plot details, er, I think I’ll keep that to myself for now. When it gets closer to publication date I’ll be more forthcoming. Hoping the novel will be popular with fans of the western genre as well as people who just love a fast, entertaining read. Like my last two novels, I think The Last Hunt has a lot of cross-over appeal, the potential to draw a wide variety of readers.
I’ve spent the past three weeks going through the second draft and I like what I’m seeing. It’s a short novel, around 50,000 words, and it moves along at an exciting clip. Good, solid protagonist and memorable supporting players. By the time this book is released in the late fall, it’s gonna hum.
So stay tuned, check in every once in awhile for updates and further developments. Maybe even an excerpt or two, just to whet your appetite.
Yeah, I know, a western. But, trust me, it’s a helluva tale…
The cover of the next novel in the Ilium “cycle”, Of the Night. Coming soon to a bookstore near you (we hope)…
Our pal Chris Kent completed work on the cover this weekend and I have to say he’s come up with another beauty (Chris also executed the cover for my previous book, So Dark the Night). Australian visual artist Adrian Donoghue created the original image and Chris, as designer, supplied the fonts and conceived the “look” of my book without damaging Adrian’s wonderful work.
(Click on the cover if you want to see a larger version)
Final edits on the text will be complete this week and both the text and cover files will be sent to our printer, Lightning Source, by the weekend. Then we get a proof copy, check it out and if everything looks A-okay, Of the Night will be available for sale. I’m anticipating an official release date somewhere around October 20th. Keep checking back for the latest updates and news.
My deepest thanks to Chris, Adrian, and my wife, Sherron, for combining their talents and visual acuity to give me the loveliest cover an author could ask for. Folks, you’re the best!
First of all, the cover and text files of my novel So Dark the Night have been uploaded to Lightning Source and we have been told to expect a bound proof of the book in the next week or so.
The process of prepping the book, getting the files formatted properly, meeting Lightning Source’s very complicated and detailed specifications, took some doing. Honestly, the folks at Lightning Source are great, helpful and quick to respond to questions. Full marks to them for that. But their process is so amazingly convoluted it would scare the living bejesus out of anyone with little or no tech savvy. Fortunately, my wife Sherron is fearless and possesses endless reservoirs of patience. She needed every last drop. She worked for hours on consecutive nights, trying to make sense out of the printed guide supplied by Lightning Source and then, God help her, doing her best to master Adobe Pro 9, which we needed to complete the process. She was a trooper, I tell you, plowing her way through while her husband (that’s me) had to take frequent “time outs” to maintain his composure and rein in his well-known impatience and incendiary temper.
And let me also single out our cover designer/graphic artist Chris Kent for praise, salute him for assistance and tolerance above and beyond the call of duty. When Sherron finally had to throw up her hands, he graciously agreed to meet with her and help her get those &$#@ing files sorted out. Chris, you da man!
So now it’s wait for the proof and see if there are any glitches that need correcting. This is computers we’re talking about, after all, semi-sentient creatures showing the first stirrings of consciousness. God knows what that proof will look like. Lightning Source has a promotional offer on right now–for the next month they’re waiving their set-up fee of $75. So I guess I should consider this, my initial shot, a freebie. Nothing to lose, right?
But if all goes well, we’ll get the proof, it’ll look fantastic and production can begin immediately. I’ll put in an order for 100 books and we’ll arrange a launch, peddle the books to Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton. Send fliers to the indie bookstores still out there (damn few of them) and prevail on friends in far-flung places like Vancouver, Toronto and Los Angeles to flog the sample copies I send them.
What else can I do? Newspapers have slashed their book review pages–and, even so, indie/self-published work constantly had a hard time getting any kind of acceptance from the mainstream media. No one in Canada reviewed Righteous Blood, despite the review copies publisher Peter Crowther supplied at my insistence (sorry, Peter!). Should I try my luck with their on-line counterparts? BookNinja and Bookslut, places like that? What think you, Readers? Where do you go to get your reviews, information on interesting new releases? Let me know…
I’ve checked into shipping and, hoo boy, have prices ever skyrocketed in the past few years. Mailing out copies of So Dark the Night is going to be a pretty costly proposition. Tentatively, here are the numbers we’re looking at:
So Dark the Night—$17.95 per copy (U.S. & Canada); £13 (U.K.); €14.75 Euros (Europe)
E-Book: $9.95 (U.S. & Canada); £6.50 (U.K.); €7.50 Euros (Europe)
$8.00 Surface (USA) $9.50 Airmail (USA)
$16.50 (Air) Overseas
I’ll be making half the book available as a free PDF and I’ll also be recording the entire book, which you’ll be able to hear (free) as an MP3 download or podcast.
And there you have it; you’re now completely up to date.
Besides getting the book ready, I’ve had to register Black Dog Press as a business ($110.00) and check on my PST and GST status (thankfully, neither applies to a micro press like mine). To keep myself sane, I’ve been creating more music, which I hope to post in the next few weeks. For those of you who liked my “Soundtrack For A Science Fiction Movie Never Made” (thanks for the kind words, by the way). Anyone who hasn’t popped over to my Audio page for a whole buncha free stuff to listen to and download should check it out.
I’ll drop a line or two when the proof arrives, maybe even include a few pictures. We’re on pins and needles around here. Nervous as expectant parents. Counting the hours and hoping for the very, very best…
Yes, my friends, this is the new look for the front and back cover, courtesy our pal Chris Kent. Ado Ceric’s gorgeous cover art is still predominant, but Chris has given us a different font and overall design. My only instruction to him was “make it look like a fun read because that’s what it is”. And Chris came through for us—hoo, boy, did he ever!
You can click on the individual pictures to view them full-sized.
We’ll soon be loading these illos on to Lightning Source’s templates, along with the complete text of So Dark the Night and awaaayyyy it goes. But this is our first crack at this here new-fangled print-on-demand process so there are bound to be complications and glitches. Thank God I’ll have Sherron to do all the dirty work while I pace back and forth behind her, cursing a blue streak.
But even with the foul-ups—the folks at Lightning Source have been very patient with my questions thus far—we should still have a proof within two weeks and the book ready for publication by the end of April (as previously announced). Cover price $17.95. You will also be able to download half the book (.pdf) here at Beautiful Desolation (or over at Scribd) and read that excerpt for free, download the complete e-book for $10…or (at some point) listen to an MP3 of me reading the book for nuthin’. Your choice.
The book has been polished since the earlier version I posted, tightened and pared down. I’ll be purging that previous draft in the coming days/weeks (it has served its purpose and can now be deleted).
Don’t have much else to add—let me know what you think of the cover and please spread the word near and far that So Dark the Night is on its way…and there’s some great spring/summer reading ahead.
So Dark the Night is done.
Editing, polishing and buffing now complete. After some proof-reading for typos and mis-spellings, it’s off to the printer in the form of a PDF and, hopefully, by early March we’ll have a physical book to offer you. Really pleased with the changes I’ve made; I’ve tightened the novel considerably, lopped about 5 pages from its length. Speeds up the pacing..the idea is to make the book impossible to put down. And I think I’ve come pretty close to achieving that goal.
Can’t wait to see Ado Ceric’s gorgeous cover art on a trade paperback. Hoping to keep the price around $17-18 max. And, of course, we’ll still be offering the newly revamped So Dark the Night as a free e-book for those of you who have evolved and now do most of your reading from some kind of screen. Judging by the number of downloads I’ve had over the past couple of weeks, I’d say a lot of folks received Kindles or other e-readers as Christmas gifts. After all, what else do you give a discerning bibliophile (if you’ve got over $200 to spare)?
There will be more posts re: the release of So Dark the Night (the book) so stay tuned.
* * * * * *
In the meantime, idle hands and all that: once I completed edits on the novel, I had some free time and indulged in some “automatic” writing. This is what I came up with, my first fiction and verse of 2010:
A witch’s heart won’t burn, so what do you do with it? It can’t be buried, its evil influence would still be felt, blighting crops, causing stillbirths. To cast it into a well would poison the water for miles around.
No, best to keep the vile thing locked away. In a lead-lined canister, sealed with wax, submerged in holy water.
And who better to steward the damned things than me? Serving as an invaluable repository for witch-hunters desperate to dispose of something infernal, indestructible. Making a pretty penny off it too, if I may say so. Not many willing to do the work, to be honest.
It’s the shrieking and carrying on that’s the worst. There are nights I have to stopper my ears. They never rest and they never stop yearning to be free. From a hundred shelves, a thousand faceless jars. Some of them claiming innocence, and they’re the most dangerous and insidious of all.
© Cliff Burns, 2010
They have departed to the pleasure domes
abandoned their husks to decay
Meatless, eternal, every wish fulfilled.
Etheric couplings, satisfaction guaranteed;
high adventure, simulated to the last pixel
experience without significance,
vouchsafed by an overcautious A.I.
You can never die and so
you can never live
and virtual love is no love
They can emulate everything except a soul
(but it’s only a matter of time)
© Cliff Burns, 2010
How the woman puts up with my nit-picking is a source of wonder.
But at last we’ve got the perfect cover design for Of the Night.
Have a look…then zip over to the “Novels” page and download the book.
And hang on to your hats…