So a decent amount of reader feedback has come back for the three cover designs proposed for my novel, Billy Maddox Takes His Shot, and two cover designs ran almost neck and neck: #2 and #3. Thirteen readers thought Cover #2 was the strongest choice while 12 readers preferred Cover #3. Four readers also weighed in as advocates for #1 with some compelling arguments for why that cover was the strongest. Let’s break down the feedback to determine how to move forward with the final book cover design.
Years ago, I joined the Peace Corps, a U.S.-government-funded volunteer organization that sends willing Americans overseas to participate in grassroots projects with the citizens of countries around the world. Some volunteers do community development, others lead health or sustainable agriculture projects. I ended up teaching English as a foreign language in Sri Lanka. I was supposed to live and teach there for two years but the country was in the middle of a civil war at the time, and my assignment ended up being cut in half.
A variation of the following short statement accompanies the novella, The Curse of Jaxx, and was written by the story’s author to explain its dedication to the early-20th century writer, H.P. Lovecraft.
I have been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft since my late teens. I first came across the word “Lovecraftian” in Stephen King’s novel, The Stand, when I was about 13 and had no idea what it meant at the time. But a few years later, my friend Dale showed up in front of my parents’ house on his Harley and pulled out a collection of Lovecraft’s collection of short stories. “You’ve got to check this out,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
My long short story, “Green Bay Outsiders”, is coming along. Yes, I know I’ve been at work on it for a while and it’s dangerously close to turning into a novella, truth be told. I converted the manuscript into Microsoft Word the other day just to see how long it was, and it had reached 170 pages. When did that happen?
In any case, one of the fun things about writing a story that turns long is that new themes emerge, or existing themes take on depth or nuance you originally didn’t expect. I posted my first post about “Green Bay Outsiders” back in September when the only thing I really knew was that one of the main characters, Jack Billings, was a Vietnam vet who had fought in Khe Sanh in 1968.
As part of my research for my current story, “Green Bay Outsiders”, I looked at some of the challenges facing Vietnam veterans once they returned to the United States following hostilities in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The protagonist of “Green Bay Outsiders”, Carl Daniels (who becomes a major character in the novel, Billy Maddox Takes His Shot), lives a somewhat comfortable if routine, middle-class existence in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He is fascinated, however, by the history of his uncle Jack Briggs, a former Army Special Forces soldier who fought at Khe Sanh in 1968. Jack’s experiences continue to haunt him, and his influence over the younger man (Carl is a recent college graduate) only grows when Jack moves to Green Bay from Missoula, Montana to help take care of a former war buddy, Bob Brown, whose exposure to the Agent Orange herbicide has led to serious health problems including the onset of Hodgkins disease.
To start researching Vietnam veterans, I turned to the First Blood films from the 1980s.
Last week, I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert in Washington, DC. It was my third time at a Springsteen concert. My first time was in Syracuse, NY in 1992 (road trip from SUNY Binghamton). Then it was Los Angeles in 2009 (during a brief visit to my brother-in-law at the time).
One of my favorite Springsteen songs is a little-known tune called “New York City Serenade” that closes out his second album, The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.
I’ve never known Springsteen to play the song live and I wasn’t quite sure, going into last week’s concert, why he should. It’s not, like, one of his greatest hits. I mean, you know “Rosalita” will make an appearance and “Spirit in the Night” will have everyone raising the roof.
But against all laws of probability, and with the kind of stunned good luck that might come from walking down the street and finding a dropped $100 bill at your feet, Springsteen opened last Thursday’s concert with “New York City Serenade”.
The first line? “Billy, he’s down by the railway tracks….”
I’m not saying the name of the protagonist from my novel, Billy Maddox Takes His Shot, was inspired by one of Springsteen’s characters. But I can’t say for sure that it WASN’T inspired by Springsteen either.