Thursday, April 30, 2009

What is Your Online Index?

I made this up a while ago from an old Live Journal post I created. It is strange to think how much you are actually online. Not just in general, but how much you are actively doing something online. It hit me that some of us... especially writers, are spread all over the Internet in different forms. Think about all of the sites you belong to... The blogs, the social networking sites, the microbloging sites, the business networking sites.... This could go on and on. The thing is it is getting more complicated by the day.

The ever growing Internet is a beast for people like us. If we wanted, we could probably spend all day online just writing... Writing about life, writing about writing, writing to others... Again this could go on ad infinitum. I try to spread my online writing out as much as possible because honestly I feel a bit guilty if I spend too long doing things online. Think about it... Think about how much you could get done if you weren't doing things online.

Now don't get me wrong, doing these things is essential to a writer. I am a firm believer in the idea that writers have to support and promote themselves. They can't rely on their publisher, or PR person or whomever is on your side. Sure they can help, but they can't promote you like you. I hear writers all of the time talk about how they are not promoters and how they just want to write. Ok fine, but you better be darn good and darn lucky. Personally, I am more of a grassroots and DIY kind of guy. I love to mix things up and give people more than what they expect. My life is an open book. You can pretty much find everything you want to know about me online. Yeah, scary huh? Whether it is under my name, Nick Valentino or the online version, "Hazeltherabbit" you can probably find way too much about me by Googling either of those names.

So what exactly is an "Online Index"? It is a term I made up that is exactly that. It is everywhere you are located online. In the spirit of self indulgent indexing, here is my long list of online identities. So go on... use this blog. Tell me your online index.

Myspace (Book)

Myspace (Personal)

My Live Journal



My Website

Linked In





Book Mareting Network


Fall With Me

Goodbye My Empress

Email # 1

Email # 2

And of course this blog... But you know that don't you?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Seventh Annual Naples Writers Conference

I have only been to two writers conferences, so I am still not totally adjusted to them yet. My first writers con was in San Diego which was a blast. They had tons of panels to pick from and a wonderfully relaxed environment. Actually, this was a huge monet for me as I met some people that are actually behind me and very encouraging. My thought with the Naples Writers Con was to go, learn, and pick up as many tips and connections as I could.

The Venue
The Naples Writers Con was held in a small art museum called the Von Liebig Art Center which was hosting an Andy Warhol exhibit at the time. There was only one room where most of the panels took place, but the walls were colored with a variety of colorful Warhol animal prints. Not being the biggest Warhol fan in the world, I was surprised that I enjoyed listening to authors and publishers speak in such an environment. It really added something to the feeling of the entire con. This is the only picture I took with my marvelous 2 Mega Pixel phone camera. Yeah, I know... I'm such the photographer!

I got the chance to speak with (Rita Award winning author) Linnea Sinclair, who was a wonderful woman. She gave me some really good advice and made herself available throughout most of the conference. To be honest, I thought her panel on character preparation was the best of the entire con. I also ate lunch with best selling author Robin Cook, which was fun to hear his stories of being in the military and how he wrote his first book in a decompresion chamber.

The Rundown
While this con was a good one, It was much less frantic and free as San Diego. Honestly for the dollar, San Diego is better, but this was a quaint and relaxed place with lots of access to authors. I am really big on writers cons and I suggest you attend as many as you can. Not only as a writer, but as a reader as well. The amount of books available and author access is wonderful. At the vary least, who doesn't like a book fair anyway?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

I have the expression right. It isn't Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks, this is Amanda Palmer (not related as far as I know). Amanda Palmer is the singer of The Dresden Dolls which quickly became one of my favorite bands about... 6 years ago. (Wow has it really been that long?)Anyway, I originally saw a video on one of those On Demand video stations. I picked it on a whim. It was wonderfully insane with lots of pianos, theater makeup, and lyrics that can make you laugh and cry in the same song. By the way if you ever get a chance to see her in concert, it is a must!

Who Killed Amanda Palmer The Book
Since then Amanda Palmer has put out a solo record that is absolutely amazing as well, but I am focusing on her new book that is coming out in June also titled "Who Killed Amanda Palmer". It is a collection of fun yet creepy photographs accompanied by stories and text from Neil Gaiman. At first I thought this was going to be a hardcore fan, ego trip, "I love her so much I have to have the book!" sort of thing, but the more I see the pictures, the more I like it! If you are into intense photo art and Neil Gaiman, well you probably want to check this out.

If you are interested, you can pre-order this 10,000 run first edition now, but word has it they are going pretty quickly. I didn't mean to bombard you with so much music for the last three days, but I guess it is just a big part of my life and seems to infiltrate me no matter what I am doing. If you would like to explore more, click here to hear Amanda Palmer's music.
Click here to pre-order or learn more about the book.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Makes You Tick?

Like many of you, in order to write I need a specific environment. As I haven't studied everyone Else's writing habits, I wonder if any of my needs for writing match other writers? So in the spirit of learning more about you, I will share what I do and I hope you will let me know what your writing environment is like.

First off I need to be alone. The phones ringing, the TV, the dog wanting to go outside are all huge distractions when it come to writing for me. I need my space. If I had my choice I really enjoy setting the mood with Christmas lights, and incense. Making a writing nook is critical to get a lot of work done for me. I am very happy to report that soon I will be moving to a new house that my wife and I just bought and one of the major selling points for me was that it has a separate finished garage that will become my personal studio. I can light it, decorate and make it my own!

I am a music nut. Years ago, I discovered a huge connection with reading, writing and music. I was reading The Thief of Always by Clive Barker and I read the entire book in one night with Tori Amos' cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit playing on repeat. The mood of the song just seemed to match what I was reading. Ever since, I love reading to music. Voivod's albums "Angel Rat" and "Noithingface" seem to go very well with Clive Barker's Imajica novel as well. So when I started writing, I like to heighten my emotions by listening to music. The funny thing is I listen to really odd music.

Let's Get Weird
My first manuscript was a horror novel, so I wanted something evil to stir my imagination. Already liking some pretty "dark" bands, I opted to put in some black metal and summon some demons on the written page. Ever since, I've been hooked. If it is a fight scene, a creepy scene, an action scene, it was probably written while blasting really fast minor chorded music with a guy screeching over it. Here are some of the bands that I can not write without.

WARNING: You very well may think I am crazy so listen at your own risk. (If you are easily offended you might want to check out another blog today.)

Cradle of Filth
These guys are my number one when it comes to setting an evil or action scene. They set such a wonderfully disturbing mood, that it makes writing an evil character almost easy. Despite that you won't be able to understand barely a word of hat they are saying, their lyrics are quite smart, focusing on Vampires, Faustian Philosophy, and historical figures such as Elizabeth Bathory.

Godspeed You Black Emperor
Yep, that is the name of the band. These freaky guys and gals play what I like to call, "End of The World Music". It is sad, ultra dramatic and basically sounds like an orchestra playing a requiem for the world. Great for crashes, devastation scenes, or describing a barren landscape.

Wolves In The Throne Room
This American Black Metal band has a bit of an earthy feel to them. Their experimentation with very fast tempos mixed with an occasional acoustic guitar creates a great breeding ground for raw and violent characters. Need a gnarly goon? Put this one and one should pop in your head immediately.

Battle Of Mice
Compiled of underground superstars, this band is just plain creepy. Their singer, Julie Christmas, can be absolutely frightening and brings out a raw emotional element that is perfect for some painful introspection by your characters. This band is a tension builder for me. When things are getting ready to hit the fan, Battle of Mice will be vibrating the walls in my house. (You may want to check out Julie Christmas' other band, Made Out of Babies... absolutely crazy!)

These guys don't speak a word of English, but they come across as so genuine and passionate that it stirs a vast array of emotions. It is a wonderful soundtrack for that part where the protagonist finally beats their nemesis.

This is a tiny cross section of things I listen to. I literally listen to more bands than I can count while writing, but these are some of my elite team of inspirational music. I know it isn't your ordinary lot of music, but it gets me going. I know some of you have to be thinking, "Ok Nick, you are kind of weird. I'm not so sure you are totally right in the head." I assure you I am a perfectly adjusted writer... Oh, Yikes!

So how about you? I want to know what you do to write. Do you play music? If so, what do you listen to? Do you write in the park? Do you need to be alone? What makes you tick?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Against Me!

What I am doing here is I am trying to alternate my blogs every other day or so between something about writing and something about my personal life. Today is personal life day so you could be in for anything. Art, Movies, Music, Sports, my pets... Who knows. Well, today I am going with music since I attended a wonderful show (concert) last night at a local club.

Keep in mind I was in a band for years. We recorded, played countless shows and even got to do a little touring. I am sure I will fill you in on all of that in blogs to come, but I need to tell you that I am a bit of a jaded underground music nerd. So keep that in mind. These days I really only go to shows that I am sure are going to be pretty awesome in some way or another. I guess everyone is like that, but it is odd since I have been to so many shows over the last 16 years that I have literally seen thousands of bands.

Against Me!
Originally I didn't like this band very much and just to keep things straight, despite the odd name, the band is actually called "Against Me!". They seemed poppy punk and I was never into that. Then a friend introduced me to one song of their's called "Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong". This song is so emotionally driven it literally grabbed me by the heart strings. Yes, it is a little weird for me to like an Irish sounding song with a guy kind of barking over it, but wow... you can litterally feel the passion!

The End
So last night Against Me! came to a small club here called The End. There once was what I like ot call a "golden Age" of shows that were usually small bands, touring on their own and playing across the country in any venue they could get. Some of the best shows were actually held in people's houses. I kid you not, these were the bands that were out to play music for little money and maybe a plate full of cheap pasta if they were lucky. They did it because they loved it and that is what counts in my book. So Last night this show was a funny mix of a concert in a club and a house show. The entire crowd sang (or yelled) most of the lyrics the entire time. Here is a picture of last night taken with my oh so powerful 2 Megapixel camera. Yeah I know it looks like a gang fight, but I promise everyone was having a good time.

Ultimately, this band has done nothing but grow on me with their brutally smart and courageous music. I didn't even tell you that they played spot on with a wonderfully energetic edge making the live show even more intense than the recorded product. If you want more, check them out HERE.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The art of Fallon

My first manuscript actually started with a book called The Adversary. In writing that book I was possessed by a side character named Fallon. She is a young girl, 15 or so that essentially took the story over. It was not my original intention to let her do this, but she kicked and screamed until she took the spotlight.

Fallon Gets Angry
Keep in mind Fallon has basically unlimted and unpredictable abilities which she can only sometimes control, yet she is a 15 year old girl. In the middle of writing The Adversary, Fallon demanded that she have a back story. Well, of course what I am I going to do? I can't argue with a moody 15 year old that can summon savage shadowy creatures now can I?

The Process
So off I went, making a huge manuscript about Fallon's early life that took about a year and a half to write. But what did she look like? How can I show you what she looks like without you reading a word? I called on my bud Will Routon again. (This was technically the first time but you get the point.) After our customary Sake, Sushi and some character descriptions, Will comes back with illustrations of exactly what the characters look like. Here Will breaks out some sketches of Fallon with slight variations as he tried to capture exactly what she looked like form different angles.
Page 1

Here is a second sheet as Will started to shape her.
Page 2

And from these ideas came the master work. The actual physical embodiment of this strange little girl.

Here is another version of a whole body.

Fallon still wasn't happy
I am an art nerd to a degree. I love different styles of art and I love to see what is floating around in everyone's head... especially when it comes to material I have written. While Will's work is what Fallon looks like, I wanted to see what other artists thought she looked like. So I asked Alex Eckman Lawn and Daniele Serra to put their spin on a scene that I sent them.

Alex Eckman Lawn's piece on on of the last scenes in Fallon.

Daniele Serra's piece on the climax of Fallon. (This will also be featured in an art book featuring Dani published by Black Coat Press.)

The original works by Will were originally done for the novel The Adversary but apply well to the latter part of Fallon (Which is her origin novel)and in doing these pieces, he also did several other characters Alex, Colin, & Aleser. I will make a separate blog about that as I really wanted to focus on Fallon this time around.

For further links, check out these talented artists here:
Daniele Serra
Dani's Myspace

Alex Eckman Lawn

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nashville Roller Girls

If you know me, you know I am a huge hockey fan. In the off season, or when there is not a Nashville Predators game, I really enjoy going to watch home grown Roller Derby. It is almost always sold out and absolutely a crazy good time. These women are hardcore athletes and I truly think that this sport could become huge under the right conditions. The hits are vicious and the competition is fierce.

There is nothing like watching these ladies work their butts of (for no pay) and give it their all.

We enjoy this so much, I (as the best man in my friend Dave's wedding)scheduled his bachelor party around a Roller Derby Bout. It was a blast by the way. (He was put through the "Spanking Gauntlet) where he has to run through the roller girls while they spank him. Ahhh the good times. We always support the locals. I was orginally introduced to this sport by one of the girls "Hilda Beast" who gave free tickets to help raise money for Big Brother Big Sister of Middle Tennessee. I've been hooked ever since.

Another great part of Roller Derby is that these ladies are humble and cool. Not only do they host an open to the public after party after every bout, but they also hang out with the crowd, signing autographs for kids. No egos here, it is all about fun and competition. Here two Nashville Roller girls (Maulin Monroe and Lady Fury)hang out with some kids after destroying The Big Easy Roller Girls with a score of 211-34. Check out their website here NASHVILLE ROLLER GIRLS

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Creation of Thomas Riley

As you know, all the artwork for Thomas Riley was done by Will Routon. He has done some really awesome work for me in the past for Fallon,(which I will blog about in the future)and again he knocks it out of the park with his concepts, imagination and pure freaking skill.

Another cool feature Will brings to the table (no he is not an action figure) is that he can visualize from written descriptions. Every time he does work, I send him a character description and we talk a little (usually over some sushi & sake.)about what I am looking for. What happens next is Will uses his secret power where he can actually crawl into my mind and see exactly what I am thinking. Every character or scene he has drawn has come back as a freakishly identical model of how I envisioned the characters.

I am going to show you the process, well, because it is really cool!

Part 1
First off, Will made a show piece from my character descriptions. Here, he jumped right into the genre with a daguerreotype portrait. It looks like he did this with a pen...

Part 2
After making sure he had nailed the characters down (and indeed he did), Will moved on to an actual scene which we had discussed. I wanted it to have a movie poster style. Here is one of his first sketches.

Part 3
The Next Step was adding texture, light and details to the sketch. You can see the characters and derigibles take shape. He also removed the robot which he just thought was cool but unfortuneatley was not in the story. I think the expressions also are a wonderul indication of their personality. Even in the first show piece, you can get an idea of what Thomas and Cynthia are like.

Part 4
Then out of nowhere, Will brings the illustration to a new level, adding a lot more lighting effects, clouds, depth and balance to the composition. Notice that he armored and modified the derigible which is how they are in the novel. Again he must have gotten into my head, becasue I don't recall telling him that. I was giddy when I received the first sketch, by now I was beside myself with excitement.

Part 5
Finally, Will litterally goes above and beyond. He puts more depth in the clouds, gives Thomas and Cynthia belts, armlets, and gadgets as well as frontal cannons on the derigible. I still marvel over the lighting in Cynthia's hair and the filigree details in her corset and sleeves. Go on, look closely. There are 100 details which I personally see more and more of each time I look at this. Notice the relfection in the goggles, and the tear drop shaped windows. The list could go on and on. At this point, the illustration looks more like a photo than it does a cartoon.

Keep in mind this didn't happen overnight. This took a little over two months as Will spent countless hours on this piece. There were about 12 other reenditions of this with tweaks and little changes that I opted not to show you because I am pretty sure you got the point. I hope you enjoyed this little walk through of what it took to make the cover for Thomas Riley. The best part about it is that instantly the reader knows what to expect from the story without reading a single page. I wish Will had a website so I could link you to him, but he doesn't. He is a true artist that does what he loves while avoiding a lot of internet presence. Then again, judge for yourself. With this kind of talent, does he really need a web site?

Thursday, April 16, 2009


My name is Nick Valentino. I write Horror and Science Fiction novels. More specifically, I write in the Steampunk genre of Science Fiction. If you are wondering what the heck Steampunk is, think if Jules Vern wrote a story with Indiana Jones and Hyo Miazaki then set it in an alternative history. Steampunk is basically a "what if" genre where instead of electricity becoming the dominant form of power, it was steam, alchemy and elemental science that took the world by storm. So in stead of cars being powered by gasoline or electricity, they were powered with huge steam tanks. Airplanes are replaced for the most part with enormous dirigibles. The age of the water born ship has been made primitive by the luxury and the splendor of these sky giants. As with all of man's endeavors, this boom in technology has given rise to powerful sky pirates, and warring states hungry for dominance over their neighbors.

Thomas Riley
My first Steampunk novel is tentatively called Thomas Riley which is about two weapon's designers Thomas Riley and his spunky assistant Cynthia Basset. Their country, West Canvia is locked in a twenty year war with the neighboring country of Lemuria. (I'll go ahead and give you a hint, think the French versus the Germans)Thomas and Cynthia are constantly inventing and producing a vast array of weapons systems that range from automated flame throwing robots to blimp bursting cannon shot for the West Canvian Air Force. When the duo are forced to perform a risky alchemic process, disaster strikes embedding a foreign soul into Cynthia, giving her a split personality. Thomas and Cynthia are forced to join with murderous sky pirates in a deadly race to capture the only man that can undo the botched alchemy, their arch enemy and counterpart weapons maker. Here is the cover done by my good friend and unbelievably talented Will Routon.

As for the Horror novel I have written, it is entitled Fallon and is about a very special Japanese American girl that is kidnapped by a mysterious man and taken back to Japan, where she is trained under the strictest environments to hone her odd and seemingly limitless natural abilities that defy normalcy in every way. There is something powerful and disturbing about her and everyone wants her on their side. These same people will stop at nothing to get her to join them or kill her. Fallon touches on deep Biblical references and touches the world of the divine. Fallon is part one in trilogy. The second novel is entitled "The Adversary" and the third is "The Triumvirate". I am very big on having artists do their own renditions of scenes from Fallon, but here is one from artist extraordinaire Daniele Serra.

The Young Alchemists
I am also working on a series of short Steampunk Young adult stories for Echelon Press Publishers also tentatively called "The Young Alchemists". This series is about Knox Wallingford and Lizzy Strauss, two teenagers that idolize Thomas Riley and Cynthia Basset. While they strive to be like them they run into a variety of adventures to help their country of West Canvia in their war against the Lemurians.

The Eye
In other business. I am working on a non-disclosure graphic novel called "The Eye" with R.W. Wells and Kenny Porter. I can't say anything about the story other than this is an exciting and fun endeavor. With some big name artists on tap, The Eye could prove to yield an entire universe of fun things in the future.

The Beer Blog
If you don't know already, I am a beer nerd, or beer Knurd in some circles. I love to try all different beers and after a while I thought... Why the hell am I not writing these down and reviewing them? So I started (Yeah to late for my past beer tastings, but oh well) I currently have 27 pages of different beer reviews and I am having a ball with them. While this is not in production yet, I am building a massive index of beers, reviews and ratings for the beer lover's pleasure and disgust. For example, here is one of My more favorable reviews:
Samuel Adams Boston Lager
Ole Sam… Really Sam Adams Boston Lager is the American gold standard for beer. If we are in a golden age of brewing, this is surely a bar of platinum. This is the stuff that I imagine they were drinking when the declaration of independence was being written. This is the stuff the guys got lubricated on before they dumped the brits tea in the harbor. Hoppy, malty, and rich in flavor, this beer is the what everyone goes for buyt never quite achieves. If you want something with flavor and are not afraid of a little bite, this is the beer for you. So strap on your work belt, and get a six pack of Boston Lager. A revolution is waiting for you, this is your calling.
4.8 Mugs

A lot of my inspiration and support has come from Karen Syed at Echelon Press Publishing and all of her very encouraging authors from Echelon Press. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart. Soon, things will come to fruition and you will be seeing all types of projects from me.

This blog will mainly focus on writing, but I am excited to branch out and comment on other things from time to time. So, I hope you enjoy! Please comment and follow if you are enjoying.

Love, Nick

For More Information or connections, you can reach me here:
Valentino Empire