Archive for January, 2012

While I am still waiting for my editor Terry Coleman to complete his overview and comments on my latest Jason Dark supernatural mystery, “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire,” I spent some time over the past two weeks, trying to create a suitable cover for the book.

In the past I had always hired an artist to paint a cover for me, based on clearly-defined ideas and suggestions I had. Many times, I prepared a mock-up that I would send him and then let him paint what I had in mind. Very consciously, I always went for a classic look, as I tried to recreate the flair of old-school pulp fiction, dime novels and the wonderful horror movie posters of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

All of that served my desire to create a certain look for my books, but some time ago, the question came up again and again if, perhaps, this look has been holding back these books, dating them unnecessarily or putting them in a niche where few readers will pick them up. As a result I did major and minor overhauls of some of the covers over the past year or so.

To make a long story short, for “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire,” my idea was to go a slightly different route. I wanted to treat the book as a stand-alone and break with the old, just to see how things will work out. Therefore I decided not to have the cover painted this time, but instead try a different approach.

One was to open up the cover design to the public, essentially, and I created a contest some time ago, offering artists the chance to create a cover for the book and get it published. Sadly, the response was not what I expected and once the deadline was over, I knew I had to take matters in my own hands once again. I toiled away at ideas, but everything I came up with seemed old and stale — completely uninspired. And I knew it.

Eventually I turned over the work to my wife, Lieu, who is a graphic designer, and who regularly winces at the stuff I come up with. To her I am an amateur, stuck in a rut, and she’s probably right. She offered to help and I gladly accepted her offer.

It took Lieu no more than ten minutes to come up with a general design that I liked. Talk about a pro, there. Within a few hours we had set up a photo shoot to take the key imagery that she’d need for the cover and by the end of the day she had things neatly lined up.

All that was missing was the title lettering, and I often tend to think that is one of my fortes. (Oh, stop rolling your eyes, will you?)

Anyway, I gave it a shot and I spent a day creating tweaking and re-tweaking a lettering until I was pretty much satisfied with it. I say “pretty much” because I got to the point that my wife actually said, “Would you stop it? It is great the way it is. Stop messing with it.” Yes, I can get a little carried away, and if it were up to me, I’d probably still tinker with the logo.

The final version of the cover is still not complete. Lieu still has to properly assemble the various elements and balance it all to the point that it will be “perfect,” but I thought I’d give you guys a first peek at the lettering I created. Never mind the background. I included the swirl simply to get a general idea how it looks superimposed over some color, as opposed to having it sit on a black background.

Fu Man Chu’s Vampire Lettering

Doesn’t that have a totally gnarly graveyard look? Can’t you just feel the age oozing from it? It had a different texture first and at one point I started playing with the textures and blend-modes for them, when I hit this one. I started at it and immediately knew, This is it!

I don’t know how you respond to the lettering, but to me it has the look and feel of a crypt. I can practically hear stone scraping on stone as the lid slides away… yeah, like I said, I can get carried away sometimes, so never mind me, but feel free to let me know what you think of it.

Also, don’t forget that I am still running my promotion. If you buy “Curse of Kali”, you will get a free copy of “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire” as soon as it is available. Exclusively, and ahead of anyone else. So, if you want to be among the first people to read my next book, make sure to read the full details of the promotion here.

I’ve been working my way through Amazon’s new KF8 format specs a little bit, and while it is a great format, taking the Kindle eBook format to where EPUB has been for some time, I have to say there are a few things that stick out like a sore thumb.

One of the issues that truly and really disturb me is the lack of support on anything but the Kindle Fire. Although Amazon had initially announced that the current generation Kindles and software readers would be KF8 capable, that statement was simply not true. It has since been revised that these devices will support KF8 some time in the future. In the real world that is a big difference.

It means that if you’re using KF8, you are currently limiting yourself to the Kindle Fire platform. While it is clearly a successful platform, it is nonetheless a niche.

The other thing that sorely disturbed me is the fact that Amazon is in no real way accommodating MOBI alongside KF8. By this I mean that Amazon is not willing to allow you to upload a KF8 version of a book and a MOBI version of the same book in order to enable proper support for all their Kindles. This problem extends not only into the publishing platform but actually starts at the root, the authoring of eBook.

Although with the new tools, Amazon has set up media queries, using an HTML @-rule, which allows you to define different styles for the KF8 and MOBI builds generated from your submission file, it is sadly a rather mediocre solution. It does help, however, in some cases. If you want text to flow around an image, a feature the KF8 format finally supports, you can tell it to use a different style setting for the MOBI version, in which you could center the image and then force a line-break and start the text on the next line. In theory, this would work. The problem seems to be that the old Kindles do not understand the display: block property that would be necessary to enforce the line break. Unless I find some way to tell the old Kindle that it needs to perform a line break after an image, this media-query fix is useless in this case.

The same is true with tables. Old Kindles have no table support. It’s been a major problem in the past, as it makes tabulating information impossible. If you display a KF8 table on an old Kindle it will be flattened, which means every table column will appear in a separate line. From a technical standpoint it makes sense because it is the easiest way to parse a table without actually implementing support. In practice it defeats its purpose, because it completely mangles and intermingles data that should, by rights, be separated — hence the use of a table.

Sadly the newfangled media queries won’t help in this case either, because the only real substitutes for tables on old Kindles are either completely restructured data, which requires different structural code and cannot be managed using a style, or you could replace the table with an image, which also requires code and cannot be achieved via a style setting. Ergo, the media query once again misses the mark.

Nonetheless, the media queries are great and will help on occasion to allow a certain degree of “correction” between versions. At least it’s a try…

In my opinion, however, Amazon should allow publishers to upload separate KF8 and MOBI versions in the future. It would be the only way to make sure that both versions can be authored to the best of the respective format’s capabilities and look as best as they can. Trying to automate the process – even with a media query hint has never been a good idea. The Smashwords Meat Grinder is the living proof that this Least Common Denominator approach is getting you nowhere but in trouble, and therefore I sincerely hope that Amazon will rethink their strategy in that respect, and while they’re at it, maybe they should look at their documentation also and rework the CSS selector listing they have in there, because as it stand, it would lead you to believe that old Kindles can’t handle any CSS, as every single selector is marked off as “unsupported.”

I wonder if they have actually corrected some of the issues I raised a while ago in the new platforms, such as incorrect em calculation, the right margin and padding issues, the missing borders, and so forth. Maybe some of you reader can enlighten me on that, since I have no Kindle Fire and none of the latest Kindles at my disposal.

Today I have a special offer for you, and hopefully I can entice you…

As you are certainly aware, I am currently putting the final touches to the latest Jason Dark supernatural mystery with the title Fu Man Chu’s Vampire. The book is currently with my editor for a final polish — at least I hope he’s not going to recommend a complete rewrite — and I have tentatively scheduled it for a late January release.

What you may also know, since I mentioned it on occasion, is that the previous Jason Dark book Curse of Kali actually foreshadowed the events of Fu Man Chu’s Vampire. To call it a prequel would be going too far, but the earlier book definitely leads up to the upcoming mystery with very overt references and a subplot.

Now, I know you may be sitting on hot coals, waiting for Fu Man Cu’s Vampire, so I thought, perhaps there is something I could do to make the wait a little more tolerable. That’s where my special offer comes in…

Kali CoverPurchase a copy of Curse of Kali anytime between now and the end of the month, and I will give you a free copy of Fu Man Chu’s Vampire as soon as it is released. In fact, I’ll do one better. You will get the book before anyone else!

So, not only do you get two books for the price of one, you will also be among the first to read the new one. Do I have your attention?

All you have to do is purchase a copy of Curse of Kali anywhere you can find it — on Amazon, at Barnes&Noble, at Kobo, in Apple’s iBookstore or on the Jason Dark website. Once you have that, simply forward the email with the order confirmation to and we will take care of the rest. Even if you purchased your copy a week or two ago, feel free to send in the receipt and I’ll put you down for a free copy of Fu Man Chu’s Vampire.

Are you ready, yet? Curse of Kali is only $2.99 and you could get your copy right now. Why wait?


Purchase on Amazon
Purchase at Barnes&Noble
Purchase at Kobo
But it in Apple’s iBookstore
Get your copy from the official Jason Dark website

You won’t regret it, and these books are perfect fodder for that new eBook reader you got for Christmas! :)

Happy New Year

Although I’m a little late, I didn’t want to be remiss in wishing all of my visitors, fans and readers a happy new year. So here you go… Happy New Year!

With the old year behind us, it is time for me to look forward and make plans for 2012, decide what I want to do, how I want to tackle certain problems, how to overcome various obstacles. It’ll be interesting to see how this year will turn out, especially in the light that none of the things I had planned for 2011 really panned out. It proves to me once again that strategic forward planning in an industry that is not only unpredictable but driven by other companies is truly a waste of time. I mean how can you create a sensible business plan when all the parameters are out of one’s control… waste of time, like I said.

Nonetheless, there are goals I wish to achieve in 2012 and they are essentially the exact same ones I had for 2011. Funny, isn’t it? Feels like deja vu. Like I just wasted an entire year. The entire year of 2011 was stagnant for me, without any growth. Oh well, let’s hope 2012 will be better.

At long last, Literary Landmark Press, the publisher behind the “Spirit of Poe” Anthology, to which I have contributed a short story, has finally unveiled a release date for the anthology. Arriving on January 19, fans of the American master of macabre literature will be able to see how Poe’s stories and spirit have influenced writers across the country and infused us with images and elements of terror.

Make sure to grab a copy to support the cause that all of us contributors felt so strongly about, namely the preservation of the original Poe House in Baltimore. You can pre-order copies now at the Literary Landmark Press website.

Those of you interested in my Jason Dark mysteries will also be pleased to hear that Fu Man Chu’s Vampire, the next Jason Dark book, is with my editor at this time to get its final polish. With things moving along the way they are, I am confident that I will be able to release the title later this month. Unfortunately I have no cover for it. The response to the Cover Contest I set up a month ago has been extremely slim, unfortunately, and none of the submissions met my approval. So, it seems that for the next weeks, until the release of the book, I will have to get cranking on a cover and see what I can come up with. In a way I am very tempted to take it into a completely different direction than the previous ones, just for the fun of it, but who knows. I’ll have to find some time and play around with Photoshop a little.

Stay tuned for more about Fu Man Chu’s Vampire in the coming days and weeks.