Author: Gavin Zanker

Science Fiction Author

Signs of Life: New Book Covers

While my blog has been quiet of late, progress on my novel is still whizzing along like a stolen bumper car being chased by angry, mustachioed carnival folk. I’m nearing the end of the final draft of Solace Within now, and after a proofread it’ll be ready to release. It was an infinitely quicker turnaround than my first novel, which dragged on for the better part of a year, but I’m already enthusiastic about starting the next project and seeing which areas I can improve on.

With my new book coming out soon, I figured it was a good time to revisit the covers. So I took a ‘break’ last weekend (hah) and had a stab at creating something a bit more professional. I checked out the bestsellers in my genre, found some decent imagery, and set to work in GIMP (free Photoshop). Here’s what I came up with, you can click them for larger versions if you’re so inclined.

Here are the old versions for comparison (I never finished the graphics for Zenith Rising).

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So clearly a massive improvement over my first attempt. They actually look like book covers now, which is somewhat helpful. Think they’re decent? or are they all garbage that deserve to be set on fire and tossed into a larger fire? Let me know in the comments.

When I wasn’t busy of late editing or banging my head against GIMP, I dedicated some time to research some marketing and self-publishing concepts. It’s incredible how much you think you know until you tumble down a rabbit hole, emerging with more in common with Jon Snow than you possibly imagined. If you’re interested in the topic yourself, check out Chris Fox’s youtube channel. He’s produced multiple series of binge-worthy videos, from writing a novel in 21 days (highly recommended) to marketing concepts and book launches.

I also finally invested in Scrivener and took some time to learn the program. It’s a bit… Apple-y, which is at odds with my Windows nature, but the structuring it allows inside a project certainly beats having multiple word documents floating around, guiltily shuffling around in some pretend semblance of order. Anyway, Scrivener is powerful software and I can already see the potential in making my life easier. Not sure why I didn’t do try it sooner really.

Hopefully my next post will be celebrating the release of my new book. So until then, thanks for reading.


Book Covers designed by Gavin Zanker using licensed iStock imagery.

March Update: How Many Words Are Enough?

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At the start of the year I decided I set myself the goal of releasing four books in 2017. I recently sat down and did some rough maths to figure out how many words I need to write per day to achieve that. I discovered, rather unsurprisingly, that it would require a pace that’s just unrealistic to keep up every day. So I decided that instead of rushing out content I’m not satisfied with, I’m scaling back my expectations made during that naive period of New Year enthusiasm and aiming to release a more realistic target of three books this year.

The Maths

Working 5 days per week (everyone needs a few days off sometimes) gives me ~20 days per month.

3 books per year means I get 4 months to spend writing each book, so that’s 80 days.

6 drafts at ~80,000 words each means 480,000 words written/edited per book.

480,000/80 = 6,000 words written/edited per day.

So that’s my target daily wordcount to stay on schedule and release 3 books this year. I’ve been keeping to it for a couple of weeks now, and it seems achievable. I wrote a post about the wordcounts of some famous writers back in 2015 when I took part in Nanowrimo. Back then I was averaging just over 2,500 words per day, so I’m happy with the progress I’ve made with my productivity since then.

The downside of all this is that I’ve hardly found any time for reading so far this year, which as a writer, is a shameful thing to admit. Also my blog has suffered, with my posts coming nowhere near as frequently as I had hoped at the start of the year. (Weekly posts? Hah, past me was so naive).

So what do you think, is 6,000 words a day too many or not enough? How many words do you write per day? Every writer is different, and I’m always interested in other people’s methods, so let me know in the comments below.

Current Project

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Solace Within, the second book in the post-apocalyptic Fielding series and follow-up to my first book, Forged in the Dawn, is coming along well. In a couple of weeks it’ll be nearing completion, however I’m holding off on rushing it through and releasing by the end of March like I originally planned. Instead, I’ll be pushing it back a month to line up with my new 2017 schedule. An extra benefit being that I get more time to polish the finished product and make sure it’s up to a standard I’m satisfied with before releasing.

Planned Release: April 2017.

If you would like to follow my work, you can keep up to date with progress on all my writing from my current projects page, otherwise you can follow my blog for updates.

Other Random Stuff

Despite having already been covered a million times, I’ve been thinking about making a post on the subject of opening lines for a while now. Until I find time, here’s a Reddit discussion on people’s favourite opening lines in a fantasy book.

I stumbled over this song by Weird Al Yankovic and it made my day. Anyone with an affinity for words or irrational hatred of the lazy way people talk on social media will appreciate this one.

Lastly, here’s a video of the rockstar author Neil Gaiman himself giving out some advice for aspiring writers from a couple of years back. Pretty inspiring stuff.

So that’s my update for March. TL:DR is things are moving forward and my next book is coming out soon, but it’s at the expense of finding time for everything else I want to do.

I hope your own writing/reading projects are going well. Until next time, never give up, never surrender.


Solace Within images Copyright © 2016 Gavin Zanker

February Update – Nuzzling The Grindstone

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It’s been quiet around here lately what with me busy pressing my nose against the grindstone of my latest manuscript. I finished off the third draft a few days ago, and it’s a relief to put the most difficult draft behind me and give my face a brief rest. There’s nothing like seeing actual measurable progress on such a massive project.

I feel a little bad about neglecting my blog in the meantime, but I set myself the lofty goal of releasing four books this year, and I’m already a little behind schedule. I don’t want to post crap here just for the sake of it (he writes unironically in a post with zero substance), and I’m sure whoever reads my blog can survive with a little less of my rambling in their life. At least for a while anyway.

My plan now is to step away from my manuscript for a couple of weeks (I had hoped for longer, but deadlines) and work on something else for a while, then I’ll come back with a bit more perspective and finish the final draft. Which means hopefully by the end of March, I’ll have Solace Within, the shiny sequel to my first novel, sitting up there on Amazon’s kindle store for everyone far and wide to admire, or more accurately, quickly forget as it slides into the abyss to be buried under the never-ending cascade of paranormal romance. Still, getting a body of finished work out there is my sole focus this year. I can worry about sales later.

So that’s a quick update on my progress. Hopefully I’ll find time to post something interesting around here soon, but for the meantime, it’s back to nuzzling the grindstone.


Photo by Dave Ruark licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.