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Author D. Robert Pease Discusses the Making of Epic Fantasy “Shadow Swarm”

This new epic fantasy is off to a great start!


 
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Bio_Pic-DRobertPease_v2_300dpi_760x790Author D. Robert Pease has dropped by to talk a little bit about his writing of Shadow Swarm, the new epic fantasy that is off to a roaring start. Early readers are loving it and spreading the word, and we wanted to do the same. As part of this, D. Robert Pease is hosting a raffle on Facebook (linked below), so be sure to check that out. And now, we’ll let Mr. Pease tell you how this entertaining book came to be.
 
 
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Bringing an Epic Fantasy to Life

Of the four(ish) books I’ve written, Shadow Swarm took the most effort, by far. I have a blog post dated June 3, 2007, and in that post I state that I had been writing what was then called Crimson Swarm about two or three years. I had actually written the post just after I finished the first draft. So, here we are in July of 2014, meaning I worked on it (off and on) for approximately ten years. That’s a long time to spend in one imaginary world.

I wrote the first drafts for all my other books during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and then edited for about a year afterwards. I’m not exactly sure what this comparison means, but I poured much of my heart and soul into this book, to be sure. I wrote a total of about thirty blog posts during the editing and rewriting phases of Shadow Swarm. It’s a fun exercise for me to look back and see my process along the way.

I posted little sketches, and detailed drawings of various locations and scenes (click the images to enlarge).
 
SS_Addlemort SS_ChambersOfWaiting SS_Voormarg SS_WarCouncil
 
 
 
SS_MapOf course there was a map, and I talked about creating a calendar to keep track of the days. There’s a post about languages I created for the book. High Aerodore is more of a code where I switched out letters for other letters, and changed the orders of words to make something that sounded pretty cool. I actually created this back in high school, so I guess you could say I worked on this book for almost thirty years.

Through the editing and rewriting phase I was a member of an online critique group called The Silver Griffin. This group of writers was invaluable in really helping me hammer out the story and prose. We were all at various stages of completion and experience but I’m convinced the story wouldn’t be near what it is now without their help. I highly recommend this approach, especially on your first book or two.

Several friends read through early drafts (and ripped into it good at times). I even shopped it around to a few agents, getting great feedback from one of my dream-agents, Kristin Nelson. Then the world of publishing changed with the self-publishing revolution, and I decided to go a new route. Eventually I did end up with Evolved Publishing, more of a hybrid small press than the traditional publishing company of the past. Much of what I do now, in terms of control over my career, is very similar to self-publishing, but I have great editors (Marissa van Uden and Lane Diamond) and a publisher behind me ready to lend support and ideas when the need arises.

I hope if epic fantasy is at all your thing, that you’ll give Shadow Swarm a try. To help push you over the hill of indecision, I’ve set up a raffle with a giveaway for a free signed hardcover version (U.S. only please) and a $50 Amazon gift card. Click the link below, and while you’re at it, I hope you’ll pick up an eBook version to read while you wait to see if you won the hardcover (and doing so will give you 10 more chances to win.)

LINK: RAFFLE ON FACEBOOK

Shadow Swarm by D. Robert Pease

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3D-ShadowSwarmAberthol Nauile doesn’t know that he once led legions in a war that had raged since the dawn of time, against an enemy that could not be killed. He doesn’t know that he rode on a dragon with his father, or that his mother died while giving birth to him. He doesn’t know that he once saved his great, great, great grandfather by defeating the black enemy on the slopes of a volcano.

Aberthol doesn’t know that he beheld the creation of the world, as his grandfather eight generations before took the planet, ravaged by a war of the gods, and began anew.

All he knows is that he awoke in a coffin deep within a tomb, and now the whole world thinks he is their savior. All he really wants to know is his name, and why he keeps hearing voices in his head.

In the Spotlight at Evolved Publishing: Megan Harris, Editor

Getting Our Books to the Quality Level We Demand

As a publisher, we pride ourselves on the quality of the books we publish, a subject we discuss often (as recently as yesterday), because it’s so important. We also take great pride in the quality of the team we’ve assembled. Every great team starts with the people—quality people produce quality work—and editor Megan Harris has been an integral and valued part of our team for a couple of years.

Bio_Pic-Megan_HarrisEvery book is approached from multiple perspectives before we publish it—great story revised and polished by the author, professional formatting for every version of the book, a great cover, and of course, concise editing from the editor (or team of editors). For some of our most critically-acclaimed books, this is where Megan has come in.

Megan has become the go-to editor for a few of our authors, developing strong working relationships with them. Her attention to detail, her training and skill, her easygoing professionalism, her absolute commitment to deadlines—all of these make Megan the kind of editor with whom authors love to work.

They also make her the kind of editor that makes a publisher smile, comfortable in the knowledge that such critical work, where quality is considered Priority #1, is in good hands.
 
 
Just get a gander at the books in which Megan’s deft eye has raised the level of quality, ensuring a great and enjoyable experience for the reader.

Desert_Rice_300dpi_2x3_Comp Desert_Flower_300dpi_2x3_CompThese extraordinary books by Angela Scott have a cumulative average rating of 4.73 stars (for 82 reviews) at Amazon, and Desert Rice has won multiple awards from the literary community.

Megan’s contribution to these books helped to make them what they are. While we always recognize the talent of the author, and their being the most important spoke in that wheel, we also know they every writer needs an objective and skilled editor, like Megan, to help make the books the best they can be.
 
 
Hannahs_Voice_300dpi_2x3_Comp Carry_Me_Away_300dpi_200x300These remarkable books by Robb Grindstaff have a cumulative average rating of 4.62 stars (for 81 reviews) at Amazon, and while they haven’t yet garnered any awards, we fully expect that they will (that’s how great they are). It’s just a matter of time.

It helps, of course, to work with an author as talented and as skilled as Robb Grindstaff (a qualified editor in his own right), but don’t let that fool you. Robb would be the first one to tell you that Megan’s detailed work helped him identify issues to which he himself was blind. No author is capable of being truly objective about their work, and whatever their skill, having an editor like Megan on their side is a big plus.
 
Spirals_v2_300dpi_2x3_Comp Stones_300dpi_200x300This journey into ancient American Indian culture by Ruby Standing Deer has a cumulative average rating of 4.75 stars (27 of 32 reviews are 5 stars) at Amazon. Spirals is a sequel to the award-winning Circles, and the first book in the series in which Megan jumped in to edit. She also edited the upcoming Stones, releasing on July 21st.

Editing a series like this provides an extra challenge for Megan, who must attune herself the unique dialects and word usage of an ancient culture, in order to create an authentic American Indian historical novel. This requires a great deal of cooperation between author and editor, who must often struggle to find an acceptable common ground. Ruby and Megan have struck that balance, and readers are loving the end result. This series remains one of our most consistent sellers, and it’s almost all through word of mouth—the surest sign that everyone involved in the project did their job well.
 
WhispersOfTheDead_300dpi_200x300This paranormal suspense thriller by C.L. Roberts-Huth is just the first in the series of Zoe Delante Thrillers. It hasn’t been out for a long time, but has a cumulative average rating of 4.60 stars for its first 20 reviews at Amazon. Early response has been strong, indeed, and we’re expecting good things from these books.

This series marked the 4th for Megan, and once again took her into a new genre, with its own conventions and challenges. As always, Megan rose to the challenge, helping to produce not just an excellent, entertaining book, but once again building a solid and no-doubt long-lasting relationship with the author.
 
And of course, we’ll have more great books coming your way with Megan’s help.

Megan Harris, Editor (A Bio)

Since she could read, Megan has been interested in writing as a career. Almost every day of school, she would bring a book to read in between breaks from some of her favorite authors. Many of her teachers encouraged her, and some still do today since she has kept in touch with them. Megan began to write stories in second grade, first about her day-to-day life, and then later about characters she made up.

In high school, Megan pursued journalism, starting first in the prerequisite course leading up to taking newspaper classes, and then she later moved up the ranks from writer and assistant section editor until, as a senior, she was the paper’s editor-in-chief and oversaw a staff of thirty writers, editors, and photographers.

While her college educational path moved her towards political science, international studies, and Spanish as subject matters, her heart remained on writing. She continued to contribute to her college paper as a copy editor before joining the student government association as a residence hall representative for two years. Still, the siren call towards the written word beckoned.

When Megan began working as a freelance writer in 2011, her father was battling advanced stage cancer. She had reconnected with him after four years of estrangement only the year before. He came to her wedding at the end of 2010, which was the first time she’d seen him since 2007. Megan was looking forward to seeing him before she and her husband moved back to Missouri at the end of 2011, as he lived in Wyoming with his family. He was proud of her accomplishments and for pursuing her life-long passion of writing, and she was happy to speak with him more often, while still hopeful his condition would improve.

Sadly, in July 2011, her father passed away just days before his 44th birthday. Megan made it her mission from then on to continue taking on projects he would have been proud to see her complete. Her passion for writing moved into other areas, such as editing and social media management. With each project, Megan began to heal while still wishing he had been there to see all that changed over the years.

Today, in 2014, Megan now has another motivation for her work: her daughter, Adalynn, born in the fall of 2013. Between juggling full time work, freelance work, and being a new mom and wife, Megan has a lot on her plate, but she continues to move forward and pursue what she loves despite the struggles she’s endured. While life may throw new challenges and changes in her path, the written word remains constant and steady through her life.

The Pursuit of Quality and the Value of Book Reviews

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Managing Publisher/Editor Lane Diamond Discusses Evolved Publishing’s Commitment to Quality

A recent minor ruckus online has inspired me to talk about matters of quality and customer service as they relate to the book publishing marketplace. This ruckus came about because a book reviewer—an author and editor in her own right—posted a review in which she pointed out the many grammatical errors and poor writing/construction that appeared in a large swath of the book.

Now, this reviewer still rated the piece at 4 stars (pretty darned good), because she enjoyed the underlying story and characters. However, she struggled with the poor writing in many spots, and felt it important to point that out, along with the specific issues at hand, in her review.

The result? The author responded negatively, asking the review to be taken down. The author claimed that the reason for all the mistakes was that her book was published by a traditional publisher, which hired their own editor, and the author “didn’t have control over the boo-boos.” Well, first of all, writing them in the first place is the ultimate control, but never mind that. This really raised my hackles, and led me to want to discuss two separate issues.

ISSUE #1: Reviews are for readers, not authors!

In this new indie environment, there’s much to admire about how authors are taking control of their careers. However, we run into a few problems in this environment, too, not the least of which is the sense of entitlement a fair number of indie authors seem to express. Now, let me be clear about this: many indie authors are fantastic, doing it the right way, and I’m not trying to lump ALL indie authors together. However, this movement has spurred some new problems.

The author in question seems to think that reviews of her book are all about HER—helping her to market and sell her book. Wrong! Book reviews may indeed accomplish that, but their first purpose is to provide valuable information to consumers so that THEY may make informed decisions about which books to buy, and conversely, which ones to avoid. Reviews are for readers!

Really, it’s hard enough for readers to navigate the morass out there, and to find excellent, entertaining books—those raindrops in the vast ocean—without authors colluding/cheating/manipulating the system. And yes, an author contacting a reviewer, asking her to take down a review because “the mistakes weren’t her fault” is the worst kind of manipulation. It should never happen.

ISSUE #2: Traditional publishers do not guarantee quality, any more than small publishers automatically indicate poor quality.

This one truly gets under my skin at times, for obvious reasons. After all, I run a small publisher. And you know what? When we say “Quality is Priority #1,” we’re not just tossing around platitudes. We agonize over every piece we publish. At least one of our editors, and often two of them, pore over every single paragraph of a piece—every sentence, every word, every little punctuation mark—before we call it publishable.

Why do we do this? (It’s a ton of work.) Well, that’s easy to answer: we’ve always believed, since Day 1, that EP would distinguish itself from the new maddening crowd—the wild, wild, wild, wild west that is self-publishing—by providing the highest quality books possible. Indeed, we believed that we would only succeed in the end if we established a strong reputation for doing precisely that—and the brand recognition that would ultimately foster.

Are all of our pieces perfect? Of course not; no such thing as perfection exists, especially in the subjective arts. However, we get as close to “perfectly clean and professional” as we can. In fact, we quite often put up revisions to address the 3 or 4 or 12 errors that managed to sneak through the initial process, so that we eventually (might take 2 or 3 versions) have a mistake-free product out there. That too is a lot of work, but we do it because we’re committed to giving readers the best possible book.

The sad truth about traditional publishing is that, in response to the hard economic times they fell on starting in 2008, they laid off a bunch of editors. In some cases, they cut over half their editorial staff. And guess what? Quality has often suffered as a result. Go figure.

As in any business, customer service comes first.

Publishing is no different than any other business that provides a product. We must give you a quality product at a fair price to ensure a happy and positive customer experience. If you take the whole of our catalog, across all genres and styles, you would find we maintain an average of roughly 4.5 stars per review. This has been the case from our first book, and has continued right through to this point where we’re approaching 100 books. Each new book merely solidifies that grade, our reputation, and your reading experience.

Additionally, we continue to rack up awards (see our Awards Won page) and to build our base of reliable repeat customers. We’ve heard from many readers that they’ve enjoyed 3, 4, 6, even 12 or more of our books—across multiple authors and genres.

All of these things tell us what we need to know about how we’re running our business. And they tell you, dear reader, what you need to know, when you’re deciding on that next book to read, about what you can expect from our books.

As always, thank you for your support, and please feel free to engage with us at Facebook and Twitter, and to subscribe to this blog. You’ll find the necessary links at the bottom right corner of this page. You can also subscribe to our newsletter.

In the Spotlight at Evolved Publishing: Mallory Rock, Artist

Putting an Attractive Face on Our Books

As a publisher, we pride ourselves not only on the quality of the books we publish, but on the quality of the team we’ve assembled. Every great team starts with the people—quality people produce quality work—and Mallory Rock, graphic artist and designer, has been an integral and valued part of our team from early on.

Bio_Pic-Mallory_Rock_v2_300dpi_760x790Every book is approached from multiple perspectives before we publish it—great story revised and polished by the author, concise editing from the editor (or team of editors), professional formatting for every version of the book, and of course, a great cover. For many of our books, this is where Mallory comes in.

She has been our most prolific cover artist, as you can see on her profile page. As of June 14, 2014, Mallory has produced covers for 33 of our books, and she has several more in the pipeline, and more coming every couple of months. She’s put a face on books representing a wide range of genres, from young adult to literary, from women’s fiction to suspense thrillers, from zombie westerns to romance and erotica. No matter the genre or subject, she’s able to produce a cover that helps us tell that story, and draw the reader in to take a closer look.

If determining the quality of literature is a subjective thing—and it surely is—then determining the quality of artwork is hyper-subjective. A cover that makes one person say “Wow!” might well make another person simply shrug their shoulders. Such is the nature of art. We have always strived to put a clean, professional face on our work, understanding that it’s impossible to please everyone, and working within the financial constraints that are a natural part of our business as a small press. We ask our artists to work tight and work clean on our behalf, and to work cooperatively with our authors to please them as well. Mallory consistently rises to that challenge.

How does she go about her work? Here’s what she said in a recent interview: “Most of my covers are created from stock art, but not in the traditional sense that one thinks of stock art. I do photo manipulation on every project. I like to blend multiple photos together to make very unique pieces, so an author gets a cover that isn’t going to look like 100 others out there. I also like to create, combine and manipulate letters and fonts for the same reason.”

SS Title PageHer work hasn’t stopped there. She has also formatted the internal portion of print versions for many of our books, giving them an added flair and making them more visually appealing for the reader.

manticore_CompWhether adding fancy graphics for the title page or chapter headings, or finding that perfect font style for the specific story at hand, or adding character sketches, as she did in The Silver Sphere by Michael Dadich, she helps to enhance the reading experience for our customers.

Finally, for some of our authors, she has produced video trailers to help entice readers and generate excitement for a book. She also creates website banners, online ads and swag to help authors promote their book. As an avid reader herself, she’s even functioned as a beta reader on occasion.
 
 
So whatever the budget—and it can vary significantly from one project to the next—and whatever demands we as a publisher put on her, or the authors put on her, Mallory Rock consistently helps to support the primary philosophy of Evolved Publishing: Quality is Priority #1.

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