The Cover Design of Almost Human

What happens when the line between ape and man is blurred?
Cover by Casey Whitesell

Many readers, as well as fellow authors, have asked me who designed the cover of Almost Human. 

Casey Whitesell, period! Casey is amazing. After turning down several cover proofs from my publisher, I was very frustrated. I shared this with my friend Casey. She reminded me that she was a graphic artist and offered to give it a go.

I showed her a photograph of a chimp I had trained years ago, Oliver, who had been the inspiration of this book. I described how I wanted the cover dark and sinister, and that the eyes were especially important. She created the perfect cover with little drama or fanfare. The publisher loved the cover and recommended it over their in house art department.

Readers have told me that Casey’s cover was what intrigued them enough to take the plunge and try my book.

More Lessons Learned From Book Signings

Book Signing - Hot Shots
sBook Signing at Hot Shots Coffee House

I was honored to do two book signings in my hometown this last weekend. I wondered what it would be like to personally know many of the attendees believing that in most cases you can never be a prophet in your own land. Many of my signings on the tour were very successful with large numbers coming out who had already read, Almost Human. I wondered if this would be the case in my hometown.

At both events, I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the turnout and number of readers. I mentioned in a previous posting some lessons I had learned from my first book signing. Well, here’s another reason to do these personal appearances. You never know who you might meet.

The two I did this last weekend were both at coffee shops, Hot Shots Coffee House and The Tea and Coffee Exchange. They are excellent businesses in my hometown area of Lake Arrowhead, California. I highly recommend both!

While many of the people who attended were locals who I knew, some brought friends who I’d never met. While some bought books for which I’m grateful, others turned out to be beneficial contacts to promote my book. One was a fellow author who invited me to speak at a local writers’ group I’ve been trying to contact for a considerable time; another, was a producer of a TV program that might feature my book.

So the new lesson I’ve learned is book signings are not about selling books so much as making a personal connection with people who might help you grow your book. These people are your readers or potential readers who will have a stronger connection to you and your work by meeting face to face. That is how loyalty is built.

I will never complain to my wife, Tammy, again about doing one of these events again!

Second Edition is Now Available!

The Beauty and the Beast!
The Beauty and the Beast! Thanks to Kat Gallego for providing the beauty!

The second edition of Almost Human is now available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

I’ve cleaned up after the proofreaders of the first edition.

Autographed copies of Almost Human can be purchased directly.

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Shipping and handling listed in PayPal is for the USA (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). International shipping will vary.  

For information on book readings, signings and sparkling discussions go the my Amazon Author Page.

What the Hell is a Book Signing/reading?

My friend, Jason, sent the perfect photo of how I read! Pacifico is a great
My friend, Jason, sent the perfect photo of how I read! Pacifico is a great “learning aid.”

Tomorrow, Sunday, July 12, at 3pm, I will do my first book signing/reading at Del Rio Vineyards and Winery in Gold Hill, Oregon.

I honestly don’t have a clue of what you do at one of these things. My agent was not much help as she suggested I “just be myself and sell books.”

I have to say that all the marketing part of the publishing business is a real mystery to me. I didn’t realize how much time I would be pulled away from writing my sequel, More than Human, to fulfill obligations that were in the “small print.” While it will be exciting to meet people in person who have read my book,  Almost Human, I am really nervous about doing this as I am completely out of my element. It borders on embarassing to me.

I plan to give the backstory of what inspired me to write the novel and some of what is behind the characters. Maybe talk about the craft of writing and answer questions if there are any.

I would love advice and suggestions. My reading is at 3pm tomorrow. HELP! 

First Edition of Almost Human has Sold Out!

Advanced copies of Almost Human have arrived!
13 first editon copies of Almost Human are left

The First Edition of Amost Human has sold out! I have 13 copies left over from a book signing that the publiher authorized me to sell rather than send back. 

The next edition will be available soon according to my publisher. I am working on the revisions to the galleys for the next editon presently. I’m cleaning up after the proofreaders!

Autographed copies of Almost Human can be purchased directly.

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Shipping and handling listed in PayPal is for the USA (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). International shipping will vary.  

For information on book readings, signings and sparkling discussions go the my Amazon Author Page.

More Lessons From Writing My First Novel – Almost Human

Photo By Gail Fisher, LA Tiimes
Photo By Gail Fisher, LA Tiimes

It is really gratifying to be contacted by so many readers (many are fellow writers) requesting the background story on Almost Human. As a writer, it is a humbling experience to realize your work is reaching out beyond the private and often lonely effort of putting the words on the page.

Recently, I received an email from a reader in Russia (Russia!) who asked were I got the inspiration for Chapter 3, Lester and Girlie. That chapter is based on someone I knew years ago when I worked in the motion picture business who had a unique relationship with an aging chimp. He was an animal trainer in his late seventies or so. The old man and chimp, were a real odd couple, who I enjoyed visiting from time to time. The trainer was old Hollywood and claimed to have worked on many classic movies of the 30’s and 40’s. Also, he claimed that the chimp was Cheetah. Unfortunately, most of us in the animal world questioned the validity of that, but it made for a great story just the same.

Putting his claims aside, their actual relationship was touching. The chimp had the run of the trailer including her own room. Very often she even brought the old trainer coffee. The old man had the endearing habit of talking to her continuously. Their relationship was tender and loving. Clearly, they truly cared for each other in a way that blurred the line between what seemingly should separate them. He saw his chimp as a non-human being, but a being never-the-less.

I based Chapter 3 on this relationship. We, as writers, are hunters and gathers of experiences. We gather and store what we live, waiting for a time when we can re-work and insert those experiences into one of our stories. Simply, I believe a writer must live in a way that gives him material to gather, with the purpose of using it later. We always want to tell, “just one more story.”

Autographed copies of Almost Human can be purchased directly from the author.

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Shipping and handling listed in PayPal is for the USA (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). International shipping will vary.  

For information on book readings, signings and sparkling discussions go the my Amazon Author Page.

Lessons Learned From Writing My First Novel – Almost Human

What happens when the line between ape and man is blurred?
The full cover of the book.

I was in Baja last week and met a reader who told me he was writing a book. He paused and continued by lamenting that he had been writing it for many years and it was not anywhere near completion. I’ve met many writers who are in this same predicament. They’re writing or “gathering” but not any closer to finishing their book–their dream. Believe me I sympathize, I was in the same situation from many years.

Here’s a few strategies I’ve learned from writing Almost Human. First, and foremost, write the ending. I had been writing this book for years and my novel just kept growing. My editor and teacher, Kathryn Lynn Davis, after reading several chapters asked me, “How does the novel end?” When I couldn’t tell her, she gave me the single most important piece of advice that helped me finish my book! “Don’t send me another chapter until you’ve written the ending.” It took me several chapters to accomplish this but once I did, I had a road map to line up my plot development and character arcs. So, after many years of writing on and off, I finished the novel in the next six months! While this may not work for every novelist, it worked for me.

I set myself a goal to write three pages a day no matter what. Very often, on a particularly productive day, those three pages flowed and grew to twenty or more. But most importantly,  I wrote every day because that’s what we do, writers-write!

Also, I did very little editing as I wrote. I didn’t try to get my narrative perfect at the expense of the flow. I wrote and filled it out later. Sometimes as a warm up before my three pages.

I was fortunate to be invited to join a writers’ group that included several published authors led by a creative and insightful leader/author. The feedback and advice on how to to improve as a writer and navigate the publishing world was priceless. Just make sure it is a good group that truely critiques your work–no matter how painful. The goal is to become a better writer not participate in a mutal admiration support group. These writers were honest and skilled. I am very grateful.

And finally, I work hard at trying to live a life worth writing about. This can be referred to as “gathering” or “research,” I call it just having fun living life’s adventure. I feel drawing from our experiences makes our work ring true and gives it credibility.

I know while this worked for me and certainly is not exhaustive, it may not work for every writer. I wrote this because of how often I’m asked by readers how I managed to finish my novel.

Oh, it helps to have a worldclass, New York Times Bestselling author as your editor.  Thank you Kathryn Lynn Davis!

Autographed copies of Almost Human can be purchased directly from the author.

Buy Now Button

Shipping and handling listed in PayPal is for the USA (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). International shipping will vary.  

For information on book readings, signings and sparkling discussions go the my Amazon Author Page.

The Back Story to Chapter One and Two of Almost Human

moja
Ken Decroo with Moja (signing chimp) e. 1984

Several readers have asked me how Almost Human was “born.” I was working as the technical adviser and chimp trainer on a movie that starred Karen Allen and Armand Assante. One evening we were out relaxing after a long day of filming on location in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After a few drinks Armand commented on how human-like my chimp, Mike seemed. I put on my university professor hat and began pontificating on all the traits we humans shared with chimps including my work as a linguistic research assistant on a project in Reno that had successfully taught chimps to communicate using American Sign Language (ASL) as used by the deaf.

That evening after the bar closed I went home and wrote the second chapter where Dr. Turner is lecturing about the similarities and differences of chimpanzees in a University lecture hall at the University of Nevada, Reno. I had worked there on the signing chimp project. I wrote that chapter in about 1984 or so on an old Royal typewriter. Just before dawn, as I finished writing, Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” played on the radio. I put another paper in and wrote the first chapter before going to work.

Almost Human – The First Paragraph of Chapter 1……..

AHFinal2Lettering
Book Cover – Publisher’s Proof

As many of you know, I’m participating in a writing blog, Writing 101. We are to work on describing a setting; a place we would like to be transported.

There are two places I like to be–on two wheels going fast or on the deck of a ship far out to sea in a storm. I saw this as an opportunity to share the beginning paragraph of my first chapter of my novel, Almost Human. It will be released in May 2015.

I would love feedback on if I’ve succeeded in setting the tone of the story with my description of setting. So for better or worse, I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter 1 – Somewhere off the coast of Equatorial Africa, 1938

Malice brewed far out in the Southern Atlantic, where two winds met from different quarters of the world. At first, they stalked each other, blowing blasts between calms as they circled. But in the dying embers of sunset in the empty spaces of the Equator, they combined with a force that turned the calm tropical seas of summer into a caldron of froth and fury. A storm was gathering. It brooded alone for a while, gathering its force until it sent out the first signals of doom at dawn with steep running swells that raced out from the eye. They grew in force with each mile, forming giant walls of death which caught the shipping lanes asleep.