Meet Ben Mcleod, cover artist for The Wanderer and the New West

My next novel — The Wanderer and the New West — is getting closer to publication! A key part of that process is designing a cover, and I’m thrilled to announce illustrator Ben Mcleod will be taking on this important job.

Hailing from Manchester, Ben has created art for an array of cool clients like Disney and 20th Century Fox, working on such popular franchises as Star Wars and X-Men! Check out some of his recent work below and on his Tumblr blog.

I’ve seen some of Ben’s ideas for The Wanderer and am thrilled with the direction. Can’t wait to share the cover with you when it’s complete!

The Time Machine
Credit: Ben Mcleod
Star Wars
Credit: Ben Mcleod
Big Hero 6
Credit: Ben Mcleod
1984 by George Orwell
Credit: Ben Mcleod

Journalists are worried about trust… and 4 other big takeaways from ONA 17

Just got back from the Online News Association 2017 conference in Washington, DC!

From fake news possibly influencing the election to elected leaders referring to real journalism as fake news, trust in news could be at an all-time low in the United States. As someone who cares about reporting truth with fairness and balance, I’m deeply worried about the future of journalism. Based on what I heard at this year’s ONA, I’m not the only one.

Here are some of my takeaways from the conference about how to restore trust in this critical institution:

  1. Journalists should spend quality time in local communities.

    Asma Khalid (WBUR) made a strong argument against “parachuting” into towns and neighborhoods to get the story. It’s important to be present and listen, she said. Not only will sources appreciate it, but it just might change their opinion about reporters.

  2. Newsrooms should be as diverse as America.

    Journalists are supposed to ask questions on behalf of the nation, but according to Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times Magazine, an industry dominated by white men can’t represent all of the people. News companies must consider this as they make hiring decisions, she said.

  3. Be open about where you’re coming from.

    That’s from Rob Wijnberg, editor in chief of De Correspondent. Transparency about the writer behind the story makes for more honest journalism, he said. PBS Public Editor Madhulika Sikka said it’s impossible for reporters to be completely objective because they have to live their lives outside of work: “The point is to be fair.”

  4. Fact check with public data and citations.

    Government data and other trusted information makes it difficult for critics and politicians to dispute a story, said one panel. NPR combated one senator’s Twitter criticisms of a story by coolly tweeting the facts used in its reporting, said Mark Memmott. The senator backed down.

  5. Don’t cover everything.

    There’s something to be said for “strategic silence,” said CUNY’s Molly de Aguiar. Reporters should ask if they’re giving oxygen to a fraudulent claim, inadvertently reinforcing the disinformation, she said.

ONA Reception
Journalists let off some steam at the Newseum.

An update on my current projects

Things are moving forward again on releasing my next novel, The Wanderer and the New West.

Jim Spivey
Jim Spivey, editor

I’m very excited to announce that professional editor Jim Spivey has joined the project to proofread the novel! Jim’s job is to seek and destroy typos and grammar and style problems. Like my first editor, Jim previously edited for DC Comics. He later did production for Hachette and directed editorial for Kirkus. Check out Jim’s full profile on Reedsy, but you can bet his more than two decades of professional experience means a super-polished read when the new book reaches your hands!

Meanwhile, I’ve begun work writing my next next novel! It’s a political satire following Blake “The Hammer” Hamner, PR crisis adviser for a dystopian president. Believe me, this past year has provided a wealth of material! The novel’s working title is Utopia PR. It started life as a short story, but that felt too short. I also tried it as a screenplay, and while I think it would still work well as a film someday, I ultimately decided that a prose version provided some advantages.

Can’t wait to share all of this with you. Assuming all goes well, I hope to announce a release date for the Wanderer in the not-too-distant future. Stay tuned!

You’re Invited to ‘A LifeTrade Wedding’

Logo for 'A Life Trade Wedding'

Here’s the ad copy for my new short story:

Read about the next direction of matchmaking apps – exchanging lives! A reluctant groom leaves his bride at the altar by trading places with a man who wants to be married. A series of testimonials by the wedding party shows how LifeTrade can give everyone a “happily ever after.”

I wrote “A LifeTrade Wedding” as a fictional advertorial for the trading-places-as-a-service (TPaaS) introduced in a previous short story. I had a lot of fun writing it and am super excited to share it with you!

As with all my short stories, it’s completely free to read. If you like it, please leave a comment below or a review where you download it.

Get the eBook now from Smashwords, Apple iTunesBarnes & Noble, Kobo or Scribd.

Cover for A Life Trade Wedding

What I’m Writing in Spring 2017

It may not feel like it, but spring is here! What are your plans?

Here’s what I’m up to.  I’m writing a comedy screenplay about a spokesman for a dystopian government. I call it Utopia PR. I’ve got the plot outlined and have written about 35 pages. That means I’m about a third of the way through (think of each screenplay page like a minute of a movie). I’m hoping to finish the script over the next couple months and enter it into a contest or two. It’s been a lot of fun to let loose and have a laugh, especially given the current state of the world.

As for my third novel, The Wanderer and the New West, I’m afraid there’s not a lot new to say. The search for a literary agent continues. I’ve received definite interest but I’m waiting to hear more. I really can’t wait to get the book into your hands! I’m hoping to decide in the next few months whether to take matters into my own hands and self-publish, as I did with my previous novels.

Speaking of which, happy to report that sales have been up on We, The Watched and Divided We Fall, especially since the presidential election! Seems that ads about dystopian governments are getting clicks these days. You may have seen that sales of George Orwell’s 1984 are way up, too, so maybe my books are getting some kind of Orwellian bump. Thanks, George!

George Orwell, presumably giving We, The Watch free advertising.
George Orwell, presumably giving We, The Watched free advertising. Photo Credit: BBC