There have been some detours and bumps in the road getting here, but the rough draft of Tier Zero, my sequel to Hell and Gone, is in the can.
After learning a lot the hard way by trial and error, this time I'm avoiding some of the mistakes I made with my debut novel.
The most important correction may have been my decision to hire a professional artist for the cover art this time. Despite the wise old adage to not judge a book by its cover, people do exactly that. We've all heard about the importance of making a good first impression. If the book cover doesn't pique a reader's curiosity, they'll probably never sample what's inside. So, in effect, it doesn't matter how good a book is if you can't lure readers to open it.
I was fortunate to find veteran cover artist Derrick Early. He was quick, reasonable and spoke my language--just an overall pleasure to work with, and worth every penny. Since I wanted TierZero to have an old-school men's adventure feel to it (despite its 2013 setting), I wanted a retro-men's adventure look for the cover, too. As you can see in the e-book version cover above, he delivered big-time.
I also made an effort to pack even more action into the story this go-round. And I cut the number of characters down from my cast-of-dozens in Hell and Gone. I still tried to keep the language PG-13.
What I didn't change was my effort to write a paramilitary shoot-'em-up throwback to the '80s paperbacks, but without obliterating suspension of disbelief or underestimating the intelligence of the reader. I was fairly happy with it once the rough draft was finally done.
There have been times when I thought I wrote something good, but when somebody else looks at it, they point out flaws I had been blind to before. So even though I think I've matured quite a bit as a writer, there's still some doubt, if not trepidation, when I go through the critique process (now called a "beta read"). My new novel recently finished the beta read and received much constructive criticism with few red flags. The revisions have been fairly painless.
So far, so good.
I also asked a favor of Jim Morris, since he is a well-established and respected author whose influence with readers spans decades: Would he be willing to give it a quick read and write a reaction I could quote for promotional purposes? He agreed, even though he was helping others with their projects. I got a blurb from him, and was very grateful to have it. Then I got these comments:
"I've edited more than 200 adventure books, fiction and non-fiction. Not five of them were as good or better than Tier Zero. ...It really is a highly superior adventure novel. Big fun."
That was welcome news, let me tell ya. He kept reading, then said:
"I'm two-thirds of the way through, and it just keeps getting better. You are one hell of an adventure writer. If I weren't already reading two other books I'd be through."
And finally, upon finishing:
"Loved it. Do I smell sequel?"
Heavy sigh of relief. And swelling of the head. When you're a relatively unknown independent author, you just have to share comments like that from a guy like Jim Morris.
Something else I'm doing different this time is a blog tour. It should be a lot of fun, and there's a giveaway with it. (Free stuff! Yay!) The tour is scheduled to start right here on Monday, January 14. Check back for the schedule and details on how to win (and what you can win).