Archive for the ‘ Books ’ Category

As I am revising the latest Jason Dark supernatural mystery, Fu Man Chu’s Vampire, my mind was wandering. I thought about possible covers for the book, and then I had an interesting idea. What, if I let fans design the cover?

Here’s the deal. It works like a competition, in essence. You can get your cover on Fu Man Chu’s Vampire! All you have to do, is create a cover artwork for the book and send it over for evaluation. If my wife and I like it, we will use it for the eBook and print versions of the book, and you will receive full credit, naturally. If you’re an artist, this will be a nice opportunity to add to your portfolio, to have a valuable publication credit. I’ll also throw in some goodies on top of it, such as a box of DVDs or so.

Most importantly, however, you will have the ultimate bragging rights!

So, what is the story about? I can’t tell you a whole lot about it, really ,because I do not want to give away the story as such, here in public. You may want to read the opening chapters of the last Jason Dark mystery, Curse of Kali, however – you can find it online here – as it gives you an impression as to where the story goes.

In a nutshell, you can say that evil Doctor Fu Man Chu is putting a Jiang Shi, a hopping vampire, on the trail of Jason Dark and Siu Lin, in an attempt to have them killed.

In technical terms, I don’t want to impose all to many guidelines. Needless to say, it should fit in with the series as a whole. I am posting some of the covers from the previous books below, so you can get a feel for the direction we’ve been taking in the past. Alternatively, please visit the Jason Dark website for a closer look of the respective covers.

However… if you feel you have the ultimate idea, even if it does not fit into the current style of the series, we’d love to see it. The reason is simple. With eBooks in particular, it is easily possible to “play” with covers. To try different approaches and see which cover works best. I know people who have been able to increase their sales tenfold by simply changing the cover of their eBook. With that in mind, I believe, it is important for me to point out that while I have a preference for the current style, I’m not entirely in love with it, either. If someone tosses me a cover that knocks my socks off, I’ll take it, even if is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

The only real guideline that I do have is this. The final cover needs to be at least 8.5”x11” at 300 dpi in size. For the purists among you, that would be 2550×3300 pixels. We have this size requirement in place to make sure we can use the artwork for marketing and sales materials.
If you send your cover for evaluation, you can send it in smaller, of course, so that it easily fits into an email, but I want to make sure everyone understands, that the final version will have to be super-sized.

So, get creative! Pull out your pens, markers, canvasses or Wacom tablets and get cracking, already. Email scribbles, sketches, drawings, paintings, layouts, anything you want us to take a look at to contest@guidohenkel.com. You have until Sunday, December 18 to completely blow my mind! I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with.

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Things are moving along, as I reported in last week’s post, and I am proud to report that at this time, the Jason Dark Supernatural Mystery Collection 1 has been released.

Currently available on Amazon and Barnes&Noble, the book should be available on Kobo any day now also. For the time being, this collection will be available only as eBook. I will make a print version available if I feel there is demand for it, but at this time I am happy to release the collection for eBook readers exclusively.

Jason Dark Collection 1 cover

As I announced recently, the release features the first three of my Jason Dark supernatural mysteries, namely, Demon’s Night, Theater of Vampires and Ghosts Templar in one book.

As an added bonus, the book also contains the short story Food for the Dead that appeared in Fangoria magazine as a five-part serialized story earlier this year.

Available now for only $6.99 this collection gives readers the chance to safe big money over the individual releases while also getting the short story a a bonus that is not available anywhere else.

Work is also progressing on Fu Man Chu’s Vampire. The first draft is finished and I am currently in the revision stages. I will take a few passes at the story to make sure it feels round and reads well before handing it off to my editor for the last polish. Look forward to seeing it to be released in a short few weeks, hopefully.

I am also ramping up work on a new project. Can’t tell you much about it yet, other than that it excites me quite a bit right now. I will unveil more details as I get deeper into the actual “creation” of it.

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It seems I have neglected posting here on my blog for a little bit, but let me assure you that it was simply due to so many exciting things going on here on my end. So, perhaps, I should tell you a little about it.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard that the city of Baltimore had cut their financial support for the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, one of the city’s historic landmarks. I assign quite a bit of significance to this museum, as it is dedicated to perhaps the most important American horror writer. So when I heard that Literary Landmark Press is putting together an anthology of Poe-inspired short stories to benefit the Poe House, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

I wrote a short story with the title The Blackwood Murders and submitted it to the editors. To my delight I was notified shortly thereafter that my story would, in fact, be included in the anthology The Spirit of Poe, which will be released shortly.

I felt both honored and flattered at the same time. Honored to become associated with something relating directly to Edgar Allan Poe, helping to protect his legacy by no small means. Flattered, because the editors of the anthology actually found my piece worthy enough to be included alongside many other accomplished writers.

I had a blast writing “The Blackwood Murders,” and during the entire time, I saw it play in front of my eyes like an old Roger Corman movie with Vincent Price. That should give you an idea what to expect from the story, and I hope many of you will show your support of the Poe House by purchasing a copy of the book. If you do, please DO let me know how you liked my entry. I’m a sucker for flattery. 🙂

Once I had that short story finished, I decided that it was time for me to put together a collection of Jason Dark mysteries to sell together as one book. After some soul searching and talking to friends, I have decided to release collections featuring three stories in one book. The first one, which will be available shortly, will therefore feature Demon’s Night, Theater of Vampires and Ghosts Templar in a single volume. In addition, as a bonus, I have decided to include the Jason Dark short story Food for the Dead in the collection. As you may recall, this story was a Fangoria exclusive and ran in five serialized installments in the magazine earlier this year. This collection will mark the first time this story will be available in one piece.

My wife and I are currently finalizing the cover for the release, but expect to hear more about it shortly. Make sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with all the cool developments.

And then, just before Halloween, I had a great idea for a new Jason Dark story. Those of you who read “Curse of Kali,” the latest Jason Dark mystery, may recall that I seriously foreshadowed a story called Fu Man Chu’s Vampire in that book. Well, I had finally had the igniting idea where to go with the story.

Funny enough, at the same time, “National Novel Writing Month” – aka NaNoWriMo – kicked off and there was this huge frenzy of writers around the country starting up new projects. While I do not participate in NaNoWriMo, I decided it was a good occasion to kick off “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire” in earnest, and perhaps against my better judgment.

So, on November 1st I outlined and began writing this exciting new Jason Dark supernatural mystery with the intention to fulfill the NaNoWriMo required 1,600 words a day. I knew it would be hard for me to keep that pace with all the other stuff going on in my life, but I was very determined to give it a good and honest try.

Well, here we are, 12 days later and I am very proud to report that I have not only fulfilled my daily word counts, but exceeded them significantly on most days. As a result, “Fu Man Chu’s Vampire” is rapidly heading for its completion. As I am writing this, I am just about to tackle the book’s final scene, which means, the first draft should be complete later today!

I will then set it aside for a few days to work on the cover for it, before beginning the edits and revisions. Although I had planned not to write an Jason Dark stories in the near future, I am very happy I did. This is the fastest I have ever written any of these supernatural mysteries, and it could mean that, perhaps I will actually be able to release it around Christmas time, or at the very least, first thing in the new year. Either way, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for more info on this and other developments. It just so happens that I had another interesting idea for a project that I might pursue in the near future…

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Yesterday, Amazon released information that with the introduction of the Kindle Fire tablet they will also switch to a new eBook format. Anyone who will check out the quick overview will certainly be pleased and also notice that with the upcoming KF8 eBook format, Amazon seems to have addressed virtually all the shortcomings I have raised in my blog post 10 Things Amazon should correct in the Kindle that I posted a while ago.

And yet, I am not happy. Why is that?

One would think with these issues out of the way, the Kindle should finally catapult itself to the top of the eBook capabilities, right? Well, yes and no. The problem lies in the details, the fineprint, so to speak. The big problem with the introduction of the KF8 format is that Amazon is doing a pretty hack job with this, I am very sorry to say, because, according to Amazon’s announcement and FAQ, none of the older Kindles will be able to support this format.

Why is this a problem? Well, as a professional eBook formatter, the question for me is, how am I supposed to deal with this? Instead of creating the foundation for one rock solid Kindle platform that has powerful capabilities, Amazon is now going down the road of platform fragmentation. Already we had issues that the Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 had capabilities the Kindle 1 did not possess. It was a big problem because things such as tables were unusable, despite the fact that the capabilities were built into the K2 and K3. Since authors have to make sure they cover the largest possible market share, however, using tables made no sense, as the Kindle 1 did not support them and rendered them in a useless, garbled fashion.

With KF8, things will get even uglier. We now have three different sets of capabilities. The Kindle 1 at the bottom end, the Kindle 2 and Kindle 3, and then the new Kindle 4 and Kindle Fire. This is not a smart move on Amazon’s behalf and reeks of either laziness or engineering ineptitude.

From a programming standpoint none of the features introduced in KF8 are in any way supercharged capabilities that require special hardware. Let’s face it. eBook reader software is, in effect, nothing more than a specialized web browser. It is not rocket science! Therefore, Amazon’s decision is hard to comprehend. Web browser implementations have been written a thousand times — I wrote one myself 10 years ago for use in a computer game. There are reference implementations out there that they could have used for free, all things that should have made it possible to retain a unified platform. So, why could’t the software engineers at Amazon make sure they introduce these capabilities in all devices through firmware upgrades?

It is a very short-sighted decision in my opinion, that not only shortchanges the end users, but causes a lot of problems on Amazon’s end as well.

They will now have to begin offering and delivering different versions of the same books – one formatted according to the old, outdated MOBI file specifications, and another one formatted according to the new KF8 guidelines for this to make any sense. How does that make sense?

So, not only will they now have to deal with publishers having to create and upload multiple versions of the same book. This comes at an additional expenses to authors and publishers, as they have maintain two versions of the book. But it also comes at the expense of Amazon, as they have to modify their existing pipeline to accommodate these multiple versions.

To make matters worse, they will have to educate people which format to use for which device, and they will have to prepare – and possibly ramp up support staff, to answer all the customer questions stemming from this sort of confusion.

As I said, I do not think this was a very smart move and it is not in Amazon’s best interest.

Writing and updating the firmware for all existing Kindle platforms would have been a clean way into the future, without all the hassle that comes with platform fragmentation. I know what I am talking about – I’ve been programming for 30 years and I’ve been working in the mobile field for many years, where device fragmentation has gone rampant and costs publishers and cell phone carriers hundreds of millions of dollars every month just to support the insanity.

I know, that for me, KF8 is a step backwards, no matter how attractive it looks at first glance. For the most part it is useless out of the gate because if it doesn’t work on all Kindle devices, it has no value to me and I suspect most of my clients.


Addendum:

An important point was raised in the comments to this post that deserves a few additional words, I think.

Amazon promises that KindleGen 2, the tool they provide to allow authoring KF8 files “will convert your content so that it works on all Kindle devices and apps.”

If you think, this means that all problems are solved with this, you can smoke that notion in a pipe. There is a big difference between could and should.

Just because KindleGen 2 promises to convert your books, doesn’t mean you should, because the output quality will be dubious at best. Of course, if you are part of the I-don’t-care-just-make-it-easy, Smashwords-adoring crowd, yes, that might work for you, but if you take pride in your ebook’s layout and formatting, this is not going to fly.

Let me illustrate this with a very simple example. Say, you have an image and you add the float property to it, to have it embedded in your text with the words flowing nicely around it.

When converting such a file, all KindleGen can really do is ignore the float property — which, coincidentally, all the devices do already. As result, on a Kindle 2 you will now have the image sitting on the left side of the screen with nothing surrounding it. Perhaps the first line of the text that was supposed to float around it will sit firmly at the bottom, creating a huge, ugly gap. Surely not what you had in mind.

If you had properly formatted a version for MOBI devices, instead, you would perhaps have centered the image in this case and spaced it out a little more. That is where KindleGen’s auto-conversion will fail you miserably, because it cannot make decisions like that for you. Things will, undoubtedly get even nastier when your formatting is more complex than this one very basic example, and I would not be surprised if certain elements would even disappear entirely.

Let’s face it, there are certain things the old devices simply can’t do if Amazon refuses to upgrade their firmware across the entire line of products. Just having some devices that support it and others that don’t is hackneyed at best.

As a publisher you will have to look at the lowest common denominator for your product, and that is the long-abandoned Kindle 1, that has seen little love from Amazon in recent years.

Sure, this is not a big problem if you have a novel without graphics or a special page layout. Fair enough, in that case you are really not affected by these changes at all. You will continue to build MOBI files exactly the way you did and ignore the new capabilities, because MOBI offers exactly the kind of functionality you need. Nothing wrong with that.

When books become a little more complex, that is when the problems begin and they will very quickly become exacerbated.

The bottom line — and the main point of my post — is that the way Amazon is approaching this is creating tiers of devices, each tier with different implementational limitations. And that, my friends, is a very real problem.

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I am a huge fan of the Kindle. Always been. I owned a first-generation Kindle and in my mind, the Kindle was every bit as revolutionary a product as the iPhone. A game changer.

However, as great as it is, even the Kindle is not perfect. I am not talking here about buttons being too small or somesuch thing. I am talking about the software implementation in the device.

Over the past two years I have formatted hundreds of e-books, as I’m sure you know. I have formatted books for NYT best-selling authors, for publishing houses, midlist authors and indies alike, and I have been able to study many of the idiosyncrasies of the ebook readers in the market close up.

The Kindle has a number of firmware bugs that have unfortunately not been corrected in its three-year lifespan or its three platform generations. At first I was always willing to admit that it was easy to forget that Amazon is simply not a software company but a retailer. So the experience pool is simply not there and mistakes happen.

As the competition mounts we can no longer be so forgiving, I suppose. Apple shows everyone how it is done with an ePub implementation on their iBooks platforms that not only lives up to spec for the most part, but extends it with significant improvements. Apple may drop the ball entirely on the store side of iBooks, but that’s a different story for another blog post.

I think, however, that Amazon can no longer afford to let things like these firmware bugs slide and should take steps to address them properly. Not only in the current or upcoming platform generations, but backwards also, to make sure all Kindle users enjoy the proper, highest quality e-book experience they are looking for.

Here is my list of 10 Things that Amazon should correct in the Kindle.

  1. Let’s start with a simple one. Image transparency. The Kindle supports PNG images but not the format’s transparency settings. Instead it renders the background white. This would be a simple software fix to correct the issue and could be done in a few minutes. In fact, it is surprising that this bug exists at all because PNG transparency is one of the image format’s most basic features.

    Transparency error
    Notice how the background of the image is white against the sepia paper color, while it should be transparent.
    Click on the image for a larger view
  2. Em-spacing. As a book formatter em-spacing is the key to all good formatting, because it allows for proportional scaling of the content, which is key for applications in which text is free flowing – such as e-books.?Currently the Kindle miscalculates the size of em entirely, making it about 4 times larger than it should be. Proper formatting using em-spacing is therefore problematic on the Kindle and I am sure everyone agrees that spacing in pixels is unacceptable in a world where display sizes range from the tiniest cell phone to the largest tables and desktop screens.
  3. Margins are also a sore topic on the Kindle. Not only are margins calculated incorrectly as a result of the em-spacing error mentioned above, the Kindle completely ignores all margin-right settings. To make matters worse it ignores all padding-right information also. As a result it is impossible to space text properly in various occasions.
  4. Border properties are also ignored in many cases. Depending on your Kindle generation or software you may or may not see borders that have been created using the border style attributes in the e-book.
  5. One of the biggest issues, perhaps, is text justification. The Kindle does not properly justify text. Every few lines or so it will suddenly create a ragged line, throwing off the formatting. This is clearly a software bug that should have been addressed long ago but for some reason it hasn’t been addressed even though it is at the heart of the most basic function of the Kindle, the actual flow of text paragraphs.

    Justification error
    Notice how the lines in the top paragraph are ragged when, in fact, they should be fully justified.
    Click on the image for a larger view

  6. Going along with this issue is the lack of hyphenation. While the Kindle software reader software support hyphenation, the Kindle devices do not. Now, I can understand that perhaps the dictionaries necessary to do proper hyphenation may be too large to fit on a Kindle or may be too processing intensive – though I honestly doubt it, giving modern software technologies – the fact that the Kindle does not even support HTML’s soft-hyphenation is really a disappointment. Hyphenation is integral part of text flowing and I am not sure why it has been so overlooked for all this time.
  7. Early generations of the Kindle also do not support tables. When at first the Kindle arrived and was used for novels mostly, this was perfectly fine, but as the acceptance of e-book readers grows, so does the diversity of the books, and, let’s face it, text and reference books need tables. There is always a need to be able to tabulate content, something the Kindle makes impossible. While the current Kindle generation supports tables, it is a feature that cannot be used because legacy readers do not. This feature should be introduced to the Kindle 1 retroactively with a firmware upgrade also to ensure uniformity across all generations.
  8. Another point of contention is object floating. The float property is not part of the mobi e-book specifications, but let’s face it, these specs are older than your last computer. Amazon has bought the company that developed the mobi e-book file format but sadly the development and extension of the format has completely seized, making the Kindle the only e-book reader with a completely outdated e-book format. Before you tell me that Amazon also allows ePub submissions at this point, let me remind you that Amazon converts these ePub files into mobi files before delivering them to users, stripping the e-books of all ePub specific features.?The float properties would allow text to float around images, giving us not only the opportunity to insert images into the text, but they would also make graphical drop caps a possibility at last.
  9. What is also missing from the Kindle is a way to properly deep link to other books in the Kindle store. Sure you can use a link to Amazon’s website and insert it into your e-books, but did you ever look what happens? The Kindle tries to display the Amazon website on its screen, rendering it garbled and virtually unreadable. Why not give Kindle authors the chance to link to page that has been optimized for the Kindle like the one the Kindle pulls up when you search and purchase a book directly on the device.?I cannot tell you how many emails I have exchanged with Amazon on this subject but for some reason the support staff does neither seem to understand the issue, nor care much about it. I was continually referred to use either regular Amazon web links or some XML links that the Kindle could not even interpret properly.?Since upselling more books would be in Amazon’s interest every bit as much as in the authors’, I am flabbergasted at Amazon’s disinterest in providing such a specialized deep link.

    Store page
    This is what a deep link to the Amazon store looks like on the device. Not very useful, is it? Most of it is not at all readable.
    Click on the image for a larger view
  10. Last, but not least, Amazon should spend some time to make sure the software versions of their readers are actually representative of the devices. They do have the best software readers out there — don’t get me started on the Nook software reader that can’t even center text and will crash in 9 out of 10 times — but the way a book looks in the reader is not representative of the device at all? Why is that? Just use the same fonts, the same firmware routines and things should look identical. It is called code portability and I’ve done it for 10 years on cell phone games, making games look the same on hundreds of different phones.

As you can see, these are some basic flaws and it is surprising that they have been sliding by for so long. The things in question are not tied to hardware issues at all. They are all simple software bugs that can be addressed without too much of a hassle. It is really not rocket science. All it requires is a little discipline.

If you agree with me, maybe you would join me in telling Amazon about these issues and reminding them that in order to remain the market leader, they will have to make sure they continue to deliver a superior experience.

Send them an email at kdp-support@amazon.com. Send them a link to this bog post or pick your favorite flaw and ask if they could please fix it. Maybe together we can direct Amazon’s attention towards these software errors that truly deserve to be fixed.

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Only now I realized that, despite posting about the preparations for the launch, I have never actually informed you that my middle-grade chapter book “Kitt Pirate: Snaggletooth’s Treasure” has actually been released.

Kitt Pirate cover
As I mentioned before, I have settled on the pen name Ben Oliver for this release, to create a bit of separation between the horror books I’ve been writing before, and this children’s book. It seems the sensible thing to do to me, although it does create a lot more work and can cause a bit of confusion here and there. Who am I today? Guido Henkel or Ben Oliver?

For those of you with kids somewhere between 7 and 10 years, you may want t to give the book a closer look. It is available as an e-book for $2.99 in all major distribution outlets, and it is also available as a paperback for only $5.99 on Amazon and Barnes&Noble. So, whichever format suits you best, feel free to support my efforts and my work and grab a copy for yourself. It is — I think — a fun adventure read with a great main character and it features a couple of cool pencil illustrations by my friend Juan F. Garcia, who also created the cover.

Here are some quick access links for you to find the book.

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback
Barnes&Noble Nookbook
Barnes&Noble Paperback
Apple iBookstore

And, while we’re on the subject of children’s books, I also want to let you know about two other e-books that have originated in our household. My wife has released two picture books for toddlers. Although available as e-books only, they have been designed specifically for larger display e-book readers, such as tablets and laptop computers.

Hummingbird cover
The first book is “Growing up Hummingbird,” a wonderful look at the first two weeks in the life of a hummingbird. From the moment the eggs were laid to the day the little birds were fledging and leaving the nest for good, my wife has captured the key moments with her camera and put them together in a kid-friendly picture book for toddlers to experience.

Amazon Kindle
Barnes&Noble Nookbook
Apple iBookstore
Kobo

Beach cover
Down the same lines, she released “At the Beach,” a collection of photos from the beach. Colorful and complemented by simple first words, the book will easily grab a toddler’s attention and keep him or her occupied or quite a while.

Amazon Kindle
Barnes&Noble Nookbook
Apple iBookstore

Both books are available for only 99 cents on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Apple iBookstore and Kobo. Feel free to grab copies and see if your toddler enjoys these colorful picture books.

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Oftentimes when I send out a finished e-book to a client after I completed the formatting for them, I get an email that asks me, “Why is the Table of Contents in the back?”

The more I thought about it, the more I felt it is something I should probably talk about here on my blog, because there are a number of reasons why placing the Table of Contents — or TOC — at the end of an e-book makes a lot of sense.

Traditionally, in print books that is, the TOC served for readers to orient themselves within a book. You would simply crack the book open, go to the TOC, look for the chapter of interest and then go from there until you got to the chapter you were looking for. We all know where to find a TOC in a print book — in the front — and through years of practice we have learned to use our eye to estimate a position of a certain page number within the whole of a book.

In an e-book things look a little different, however, because if the TOC is in the front, and you are currently reading on page 560, you will have to do a lot of paging to do in order to get to that Table of Contents. Hundreds of button presses are in order… That doesn’t sound cool, does it? No, instead e-book readers have a button that takes you to the TOC, so that a simple button press takes you to a menu from which you have direct access to the table of contents. From anywhere in the book. And you won’t even lose your current reading position.

Hold on a minute, doesn’t that mean…? Yes, it does. The word menu means that the TOC does no longer have to be in the front of the book, because no matter where it is, the e-book reader always finds it for us and displays it in its Contents menu. In fact, it does not have to be part of the actual book text itself at all anymore.

Yeah, but you’re traditional-minded, right? Like, you never thought you’d be using a digital thingie-ma-whatsit to read books on anyway, because you like the feel of a bound book. And because you are a traditionalist, you want your TOC in the front nonetheless, just for tradition’s sake.

Well, not only have you obviously made the switch to digital despite your traditional preference of the printed book, but take it from me, you also want to adapt to modern TOC usage. There is a very good reason why you would not want your TOC in the front of the book.

Apart from the fact that it can potentially give away major plot points through chapter titles, which would be the first thing people see when they open your e-book, the main reason is a thing called reading samples. How does that make sense? Well, think of it this way. When Amazon creates an excerpt of the first 20% of your book to allow people to sample it for free, they take it from where in the book? The front, that’s where.

So, instead of using that exceedingly valuable space to hook your potential future readers and clue them into the premise, your style and the story of your masterpiece, you are boring them to death with a Table of Contents that contains — at its worst — nothing but a three-page list of the numbers 1 to 85. Perhaps you also threw in about five pages of legalese and credits and acknowledgments and such.

Honestly? I don’t think that’s a particularly good way to win over potential readers, let away convince them to give you their hard-earned money for the effort. Therefore, it makes sense to put non-essential things, such as a Table of Contents, in the back of the book where people can reach it but are not forced to sit through it and most importantly, where they are not bored by it when they first open your e-book or reading sample. First impressions are vital — never forget that.

This is no longer the world of print books. Things have evolved and the Table of Contents has evolved with it. Not only has its placement in the book become irrelevant, it has become interactive and therefore deserves special treatment in every possible way.

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Last week I told you about my upcoming middle-grade book, Kitt Pirate and also showed you the cover artwork for the book. Well, as these things go so often, we actually made a number of change to the cover because there were a few things that Juan, my wife and I felt could still be improved.

So, Juan had another go at the cover and added some more detail. The result is an incredible cover artwork, I feel, that is definitely stronger than the one I showed you last week. More fleshed out, it hits the nail perfectly on the head in my opinion and if a solid cover were any guarantee for stellar sales, I am sure that Kitt Pirate would have to become an instant bestseller when it is released. Naturally, things are not all that easy, but hey, one can dream, right?

Preliminary Kitt Pirate Cover

You may also notice from the cover that I have settled upon a pen name for the book. After much deliberation I have decided upon the name Ben Oliver. My wife and I felt that the name has a certain playful quality and a good ring, so we thought for children’s book it may be a good choice. So, there you have it. Let me know what you think of both, the improved cover and the name.

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Some of you may recall that I mentioned before that I have been working on a middle-grade book for some time. Well, the book is essentially finished and almost ready to be published and I thought I’d give a quick heads-up, as to what it actually is.

Please meet Kitt Pirate!

Kitt Pirate Logo

As the title suggests, this is the story of a young pirate. A young lad who is captain of a bunch of salty pirates as they sail across the Caribbean in search for treasure and plunder. But they’re not the kind of bunch who will slaughter and kill just about anyone.

Kitt and his gang have a mission. they have decided to take the money from the rich and put it to use to help the poor – of which there are many. Under the oppression of the Spanish, the French and the English, no one in the Caribbean is safe from these greedy, gold-hoarding invaders, and Kitt feels it is only apropos for him to return the favor.

The book I wrote is called “Kitt Pirate: Snaggletooth’s Treasure.” Kitt has come across a treasure map that promises unfathomable riches and for months he and his crew have been sailing across the cerulean seas in search for the elusive island where the treasure is rumored to be buried. When at last it surfaces on the horizon, nothing can stop them… or so they thought.

I have been working with an old friend of mine, Juan Fernando Garcia, to provide me with interior illustrations for the book, as well as the cover artwork. I’ve worked with Juan before, as he was one of the artists on one of the game projects I was producing for Squaresoft, and I knew his style would be perfect. not only is he a killer pencil artist, but he has also branched out into other areas and has recently worked on comic books as well as — I am not kidding you — candy packaging for kids. So, clearly, he was the perfect man for the job, and as you can see from the cover artwork below, it shows.

Preliminary Kitt Pirate Cover

For the past few days I’ve been formatting the book for its digital release and I’ve been tweaking the cover and I am now at the point where I could theoretically upload the book to distribution channels.

There’s only one snag, which keeps me thinking. My name…

I know it sounds weird, but I am seriously considering publishing this book under a pen name. Why would I do that? The main reason in my mind is that it would allow me to separate my horror books from this children’s book. While my Jason Dark mysteries are not overly explicit most of the time, I think they are definitely not suitable for fourth or fifth-graders, at which I am targeting Kitt Pirate. The last thing I’d want is for them to google my name because they liked the book and ending up reading some of my horror fiction. I am sure every parent can appreciate that sentiment — I know, I do.

So, that raises the question, what pen name should or could I use, and that’s what’s holding me up right now. A pen name is something, I feel, I need to take seriously. Not only does it allow me to project something into that name — hopefully an exciting sense of adventure for children — but it is something that will stay with me for a long time, as books do not really outmode. I am sure I will come up with a name I find suitable soon enough, and then it’s off to the races!

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Today I have more exciting news for you. Like Gord Rollo and Gene O’Neill, I met Joe McKinney during the World Horror Convention in Austin a few months ago, and I was also immediately struck not only by his warm personality, which was particularly evident also during the reading Gene and he held on one of the days.
For those of you, who are not familiar with Joe McKinney’s works, let me tell you that he is for zombie books, what George A. Romero is for zombie movies — a guiding light with sweeping ideas and a knack for great storytelling.

You can find his zombie books on the shelves of any book store in the country — if there’s any left in your corner, that is — but like many traditionally published authors, Joe was reluctant to enter the digital playing field.

While his zombie novels were published as e-books by the respective publishers, he did have the rights to some of his other books, including the e-book rights to his latest book, The Red Empire — more on that later.

To make a long story short, I suggested to Joe to work with me to get his books out on e-books and he soon came back to me with a book called The Predatory Kind. Together we’ve prepared it to be released in all e-book formats and I am proud to let you know that today is the official release date for the book! Yay!

What you have here, is a collection of ten short stories, penned by some of the greatest horror writers of or time, including the likes of Joe McKinney, Scott Nicholson, Joe Nassise, Kealan Patrick Burke, Lisa Morton, Nate Kenyon and others. To say that this book is a heavy weight is an understatement, really, because not only do these incredibly talented and renowned authors lend a hefty amount of credibility to the project, but the stories they deliver in this collection are nothing to sneeze at either.

Exploring scenarios to show that our world is not as safe and secure as we may believe, The Predatory Kind contains supernatural stories about the hunters out there, watching us, stalking us, waiting for their moment to strike. They are the predatory kind!

The Predatory Kind is available now at Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Kobo or only $2.99.

While it may not feature the human flesh-eating zombies we’ve come to know — and perhaps expect — from Joe McKinney, this book offers up about 300 pages of unbridled suspense and terror, so make sure you take a closer look and grab a copy. If the launch of this title will be successful, we will also bring out The Red Empire as an e-book soon, and that is also a book you don’t want to miss — a magnificent throwback at 50’s-style Jack Arnold-inspired science fiction, where a secret government project goes wrong and a wave of flesh-eating red ants sweeps the countryside. Awesome!

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