Painting With Shotguns #62

Painting With Shotguns

Irregular Creatures

So, I think it’s fairly official — I’m doing a Kindle collection. It will be titled Irregular Creatures, as each of the stories contained within the collection features, well — do I really need to explain it? Critters. Off-kilter, strange, dwelling-at-the-fringe critters. The plan is loosely to have something up and ready by Christmas, but I make no promises as I am almost literally buried under work (which is a good thing).

The plan is also to be fairly transparent about the whole thing: I intend to publicly document my experiences, my sales, my numbers, just so you have an idea of what you’d be getting into if you ever decide to jump into just such a process. I have literally zero idea what to expect, and that’s okay by me.

I did up three mock covers — you’ll note that the third is far more grisly and demonstrates that I was maybe planning on calling the thing “Hangnails,” but really, the stories contained within just aren’t that gory. A couple of ’em maybe, but really I’ve move away from the straight-up horror I wrote in younger years. The three covers here are hasty — I Photochopped them together in about 30 minutes a pop, so.

Sample Book Covers For Kindle Collection (3) Sample Book Covers For Kindle Collection (2) Sample Book Covers For Kindle Collection (1)

Are they any good? Ehhh. Not great — which is why I’ve got somebody doing a cover for me. I won’t announce it officially until she wants me to, but I’m pretty guldurn excited about her work.

Keep your grapes peeled.

Does Character Trump Everything?

I kind of feel like character matters more than just about anything.

If I care about a character, everything else can fall by the wayside. A great character can still be compelling even in a boring world — hell, you might even stick with a great character in an otherwise unengaging story. But the reverse isn’t too true: a boring character in a compelling world or an engaging story just won’t keep you (or, me, at least) reading.

I’m wondering if that’s maybe the approach to take when concocting new stories — think of the character first. Envision a killer character and (hopefully) all will follow. I did that with my novel, Blackbirds, with the character of Miriam Black, and from the character sprang the story. What I’ve been doing after that has held the reverse to be true. And I wonder if that’s a mistake.

It’s an interesting question. Thoughts?

PWS On Hold?

For the next couple months I’m thinking of putting Painting With Shotguns on hold — not because I don’t love it but because by gosh and by golly, I just plain don’t have the time. (Plus, PWS actually poaches blog ideas from myself — each micro-installment inside Painting With Shotguns could and perhaps should make its own blog post somewhere. It’s like I’m stealing food from my own mouth. And punching myself in the solar plexus to spit it back up. Or something. I don’t know, don’t judge me.)

Anybody got a problem with that?

Lincoln, Lincoln, I’ve Been Thinkin’, What The Hell Have You Been Drinkin’?

Links! For you, my pretties.

Here, then, are Six Animals That Just Don’t Give A Fuck.

Richard Dansky (a brilliant gent) would like to speak to you About That Crap You’re Reading And The Brilliant Stuff He Likes.

Aaron Dembski-Bowden provides you with “I’ll Stab You In The Face: An MMO Guide.

Monsters: A Film Made By Five People And A Laptop.

Interview with Steve Weddle, He Of Oscar Martello, He Of The Needle.

Jaw-dropping photography over at National Geographic.


  • Hey Wendig,

    As someone who’s also just dipped his toe in the wonderful world of Kindle/ebook self-publishing – Hotel Flamingo, available for just $2.95 at Smashwords, go o, click the link, I whore because I love – I am keen to see how this pans out for you. Maybe we can share data, and I don’t mean that in the way you’re already thinking.

    I also applaud the move of commissioning a cover rather than going DIY. I think it makes a big difference in the marketplace.


    • As someone who’s also just dipped his toe in the wonderful world of Kindle/ebook self-publishing – Hotel Flamingo, available for just $2.95 at Smashwords, go o, click the link, I whore because I love – I am keen to see how this pans out for you. Maybe we can share data–

      *takes off pants*

      — and I don’t mean that in the way you’re already thinking.

      *puts on pants*

      Yes, data sharing. I see, I see.

      No, that’s awesome. And Hotel Flamingo out in the marketplace is awesome, too. Are you planning on putting it on the Kindle marketplace, or is Smashwords its ultimate home?

      That link, in case people miss it —

      — c.

  • The friggin’ hangnail makes me cringe every time!!!

    I’m with you on the character thing. The people I remember most in life are the characters.

    And when I really look at it deeper, I like characters because they’re the kind of people with the best stories…so it’s only natural we put so much importance on character.

    With very few exceptions, a run-of-the-mill person pales in comparison to a real character. The guy who worked hard, watched TV, and does little more isn’t nearly as interesting as that chain smoking 94-year-old who puts down a big plastic cup full of whiskey everyday and all the stories behind every scar on his body.

    So yeah…gimme good characters…

  • Comic books live on the “Character trumps all” concept. Look at some of the comic book plots, or villains, which are completely ludicrous, but because they put a beloved character through a narrative wringer, they’re gold.

    I hate to say it (because I like them) but if PWS takes you from paying work or better blogging, you must kill our darling. Or just smother her with a pillow for a bit.

    All these covers work. If the stories are not that gory than maybe the hangnail one is out/ I must say that I like that title, and the implication that these tales are stuck hangnails, best. Perhaps that connection warrants the picture? On the irregular creatures side, I like the more iconic, 1st cover. The 2nd has a vaguely comedic feel (is that a rubber chicken?) which I think you’d benefit from avoiding.

    Congrats, I think it’s a good move.


    • @K —

      Well, first the hangnail I think might elicit an unpleasant reaction (see @Christopher cringing below) — though the title is apt, yeah, because I can’t stop picking at short stories.

      And the Irregular Creatures collection *will* have some humor in it. Hell, four of the stories are actually pretty quirky. More fantasy than horror.

      — c.

  • As long as you keep blogging once in a while, I personally wouldn’t mind if the Shotgun was set aside.

    As for characters . . . while I enjoy a plot-driven story or novel once in a while, it’s the characters who drive my favorites, and that’s how I tend to write. I might see a scene—a celebutante leaving a club with her boyguard and personal cyborg paparazzi gets (maybe accidentally) killed with an archaic projectile firearm wielded by her brooding actor boyfriend, who may or may not have staged it with her as a boost to their media ratings.

    But then I focus on the paparazzi, who is a woman with a lens replacing one eye and antennae on her fingers, dancing through the mayhem and recording the entire thing without worrying about her personal safety until the ambulances and the police clear the scene. She’s happy about the livestreamed story she just uploaded, which she can edit into a series, but this means she has to find another contract because she can’t quite afford the upgrades she needs to stay competitve . . . if she gets the exclusive on the funeral from the deb’s father, she can troll for another subject . . . But . . .

    Natalie (her name’s Natalie Tribune-Fox—interesting—why?) is tired of following around people who are famous for being famous and being sneered at by the Pressmen who are sponsored by the Networks . . . or maybe she’s just tired. She’s been at this for a long time, fighting for exclusives and bandwidth and new cybernetics, and to stay one or two steps ahead of the competition. She doesn’t know anything else and she’s burned her bridges. But . . .

    She feels a little sorry for the deb, too . . . and maybe a little worried about the bodyguard, which is unusual, as Pressmen are the ultimate neutral observers—they don’t have opinions, they don’t make judgements, they don’t get involved. But what would she do if she was offered the chance to opt out of the media race and get involved . . . would she be brave enough to take the chance?

    Hey . . .I should write this down . . .

    • @Sarah:

      Oh, I’ll continue to blog every day — in fact, eradicating PWS might make that a little easier. Though the blog posts may get a little shorter, which for many is probably a mercy. 🙂

      Yeah, I think that character is a good way into a story — I mean, to be fair, no one path into a tale is absolute, and every story has its own unique way “into” it, but I think character is a smart one to work toward.

      — c.

  • Love the Irregular Creatures title. Much more enticing (for me) than Hangnail. Of three covers, the first one is the only one that goes with that title. Visually, the second is more interesting (I love me some saturated colors – and better use of the visual space) but I don’t know if it matches the vibe of the stories inside.

    Character has always trumped all for me, both as a reader and a writer. It’s why a struggle a bit with a few of Neal Stephenson’s books. When he gives us a Hiro Protagonist (and YT, who may trump Hiro) or Sangamon Taylor, I’m right there with him. But without that character to latch on to – meh. Man is a vain creature; we care about man. The pretty settings and cool tech/magic/critters are often just icing.

    • @Kate:

      You know, I loved Snow Crash but have had a very, very hard time getting into anything Stephenson has written beyond that.

      Irregular Creatures = title, good. Excellent. The chicken and tractor title is meant to evoke that — “This chicken is huge, dwarfing the tractor,” and since Lethe and Mnemosyne will be in there, a story inspired by that photo, I figured it was a good place to start. A giant chicken dwarfing a tractor felt pretty “irregular” far as creatures go. 😉

      But again, irrelevant — have a cover commissioned. These are just hastily thrown-together samples.

      — c.

  • I like the 3rd cover, but I agree that the title Irregular Creatures is better. Looking forward to seeing the new commissioned cover.

    I’m still thinking about self-pubbing my short story on Amazon. Going to spend some time this month editing before I decide. It will be interesting to see your data (put your pants back on!).

  • Irregular Creatures = Good

    I like the retro approach to the first cover, but it should be a little more descriptive of what’s inside. The typography is okay, but you can’t count on a person reading your cover if they can’t instantly identify what the book is going to be about.

    At first glance, I see abstract cat standing on a Doc Savage logo. Without reading, I wouldn’t know what the book was about and would pass on to the next offering. Art is like writing. Show… don’t tell.

  • Real quick: Diamond Age is a great book, but it took me three tries (years apart) to get past the first chapter or so. The ending is standard Stephenson, which is to say that it just kind of stops, but the world-building is brilliant.

    That and Cryptonomicon are the only non-Snow Crash books of his I’ve been able to finish.

    • @Chris —

      You know, I couldn’t get into Diamond Age. I probably read 3/4 of the book, but really didn’t like it — couldn’t get behind the characters, felt the world-building was way too intense compared to the actual characters themselves. Just wasn’t doing it for me.

      And I tried Cryptonomicon.

      I really tried.

      I am:

      a) Too impatient
      b) Too stupid

      … to really get that book, I think.

      — c.

  • A quick amen on the character front. When I think of writers in my genre(s) I really like (James Lee Burke, John LeCarre, John Sandford, Michael Gruber) and then others that have been very successful, but that I don’t much care for (David Baldacci and Vince Flynn sping to mind) the big difference is character. The former group creates a world peopled with compelling, complex folk and then involves them in a story. The later spin plots populated with cardboard cutouts. I guess some folk like that, but I don’t.

  • Chuck,

    Sales through SM land me $2.18; SM take 38 cents and another 39 goes to transaction fees.

    If it sells through an affiliate, I get $1.84, SM get 48 cents, the affiliate gets 29 cents and fees take the rest.

  • Chuck, I love your blog. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

    As to the character question, I think you’re onto something. Perhaps that is what has been hampering my novel attempts. I will have to rethink my approach.

    I like that first cover, something about a black cat with wings, too cool!

    Also, thanks for posting that link about the animals. My husband laughed so hard he shot hot chocolate out of his nose. (well, almost, but it was a near thing).

  • I know that writers exist who don’t start with the characters.

    I don’t know how they do that. All my favorite books are my favorites because of the characters. I can’t imagine life without Miles Vorkosigan, Vanyel Ashkevron, Fiver and Hazel, the crew of the We’re Here, Meg and Charles Wallace…and I can’t imagine I’d give two nits about their stories if they weren’t so awesome.

  • I’m all about the characters, too, and almost always start with a vision of who the MC will be before I get fully engaged into the story telling aspect. Just as long as the short story/novel doesn’t turn into one long character sketch. Something has to happen other than a whole lot of angst-filled pondering.

    P.S. Love that chicken…maybe your designer can incorporate that? It’s like a snapshot of an old Godzilla/Godchicken movie…

  • Dude, I love the cat cover.

    Do you want reviews of this? I’m a reviewer / writer.

    AND you are probably right about the character aspect. These days it’s all about empathy towards the characters.

    I still need to deal with that aspect.

    I mentioned I’m about worldbuilding.

    BTW I live in a place where RPGs like D&D never made it & I live in a tough time zone to play online with people.

    I hope you did not think about WoW as RPG.

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