Book Covers Part 3: The Finalists

After some feedback and design tips, I decided to go with a more monochrome/B&W concept to emulate the early days of science fiction writing.

I have narrowed it down to five choices.

Which one catches your eye?

Take the Survey: Book Cover Survey or make your comments below.

Your input is appreciated!


You can see what my old cover was below:

Not ready to purchase yet?

Sign up for my newsletter and receive a free eBook of your choice.

Oh, pick me!
C’mon, space stuff!

Sunday Story Share: Part 1

I thought that I would share one of my short stories in my book, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories. It’s the longest one I had written up to that point. For dramatic purposes, I’m going to split it up into three chapters to post each Sunday. I hope you enjoy.

Chapter One

The handwritten note on the dashboard read: Not Abandoned. This was a nice courtesy to others, but unnecessary since the car was parked in the parking lot at the head of a popular hiking trail called The Ridge. My curiosity piqued, I studied the vehicle—looking for what, I don’t know. It was a little dusty, probably a result of the dirt road, not the kind of dust that accumulates after several rains and drying winds, which we had experienced recently—two, three days ago? I wasn’t sure, but it had to be at least two. I had reluctantly put off my hike to avoid rain. I usually don’t mind hiking in inclement weather; it keeps the other hikers away. But The Ridge is notorious for looking like a muddy river on days like that.

There was no camping along the trail. Once you got past the easier first section, it was a difficult out and back, which according to the trail sign should be a half-day hike, about six hours. I once did it in three. I had come close to repeating that speed a few times, but that day was my crowning glory. Now, in my sixties, I usually finished it in four.

Since I wasn’t there as an investigator, I checked my backpack: water, jerky, M&Ms, half a baked potato, and my first-aid kit. And my knife. Never go without a knife, was what my father taught me. I saw only one other car in the lot. The couple it belonged to were starting out just as I pulled in, so that gave them a twenty-minute head start. Not that it was a race or anything; I just liked to know these things. I was sure to catch up with them. OK, it’s kinda a race, I thought.

After kneeling to tighten my laces, I did a few stretches—getting older sucks—and started up the path. The first section of the Ridge trail is wide and hard-packed. Most people go to the first lookout, take a few pictures, and head back. It is a stunning view. The trees stretch upward, providing a decent amount of shade, while letting in magnificent shafts of light that give the forest a surreal quality.

It took only half an hour to get there. I’d been expecting to see the couple making out on the bench and was pleased to have been wrong. Leaning on the rail, I took a drink of water and started to chew on the jerky. No matter how many times I’d come up here, I was always blown away by the view: the valley, the mountains rising along the river, and the sea of green forest as far as the eye can see.

After the lookout, the trail begins to rise steadily. A bit narrower, a few more rocks and roots to put you off balance. But I had grown to know where each and every one was. One rock, right in the middle of the path, is so smooth and black from all the shoes stepping on it that it is almost as reflective as a mirror. At about 11 a.m., depending on the time of year, it seems to glow. I had been on this trail a lot.

As the terrain on the left side of the trail begins to drop away, the incline on the right gets steeper. Most hikers hug the right side as they’re going up. I always kind of liked the feeling of being on the edge, so I was a lefty this day. It had surprised me to learn that no one had ever died on this trail. Lots of injuries, though. I have a scar to prove it.

The hikers in front of me must have been moving at a good pace. I should be able to hear their voices, I thought, since sound carries in this valley. Despite the heat, and breathing harder than usual, I picked up my speed a bit. I took another sip of water and a then few bites of potato for a little more energy.

I was lost in my thoughts. Looking at my watch, I saw that I had been hiking for an hour and a half, which meant I was getting close to the end. I felt I exceeded my normal pace. A little competition will do that. I decided to stop and listen for voices. Nothing.

After another twenty minutes, I finally heard voices. It sounded like they were getting closer. Rounding the corner, I saw a woman and a man coming toward me. Knowing the narrowness of the path and the steep bank, I called out, “What side do you want to pass on?”

“We’ll take the inside,” the woman replied. “Chickenshit here gets a little dizzy!”

He slapped her on the shoulder and said, “I tripped on that root and nearly fell over! Excuse me for being cautious.”

“Been there, done that, and I have the scar to prove it!” The three of us laughed. “Have a good one,” I said as they passed me.

“You, too,” he said back. In a few minutes, I was alone again. I completely forgot to ask them about the car, I thought. They probably would have mentioned it, wouldn’t they have, if they had seen something?

Finally, I arrived at the trail end, marked by a stone and concrete wall with a metal railing, which must have been quite the task to build. There were still old wooden posts sticking up through the ground, remnants of a wall that had to be replaced after the avalanche twenty-five years ago. I sat for a moment, had a drink, and looked around. From here, a person had three choices: go back, go down (straight down), or up (straight up). I got up and walked to the metal railing, then turned and looked up at the sheer rock face.

A free climber could probably scale it, but I have never seen any attempts. I brushed my hand along the rail, following it to where it met up with the mountain. That left my palm quite dusty, so I brushed my hands together and then wiped them on my shorts. Not wanting to leave the rest of the railing unwiped, I began to run my hand back along the top, then stopped. Looking closely, I confirmed there was a boot print in the dust on top of the rail. A jumper? Peering down, I had a moment of vertigo, which surprised me since I’d been here before. If someone had jumped or fallen, there was no possibility of survival—or discovery. I looked over the edge and could see there was a bit of a ridge protruding from the cliff, about two feet below the wall.

I backed up a bit to see if I could tell how far it went along the rock face. It seemed to curve around a vertical shaft of rock. There was a narrow crack above, paralleling the ridge. A brave soul could possibly inch along, with fingers twisted into the gap, but to where?

I looked at my watch: 3:43. Plenty of time to get back before dusk. My curiosity fought with my good sense. I’d done some climbing before, but always supported. I looked around and spotted a long branch lying by the path. Grabbing it, I returned to the wall. I poked down to the ridge to see how stable it was. It was about an inch wide to start, then narrowed as it approached the corner. I used the branch to flick some of the loose material away and watched the tiny rocks fall to the valley below.

 Except for one.

(Tune in next Sunday!)

Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

Success! You're on the list.

Funny Fridays – Is Science Fiction Funny?

Growing up, I was fascinated with space and science fiction (if you need a recap: Returning to Roots).

Isaac Asimov had several short stories that had humorous endings or situations. But for sci-fi humor writing, Douglas Adams has to be the benchmark-although I do admit, the Hitchhiker series could have ended sooner than it did. John Scalzi seems to have taken the reins for this. Kurt Vonnegut has written many science fiction stories, and his writing always has elements of humor.

There has been many sci-fi based T.V. shows and movies that either had some elements of humor (Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who), while others went straight for the funny-bone, some more successful than others. I’ll list the ones that I think missed the mark, in no particular order-cuz’ they are both bad: Avenue 5 and Moonbase 8. Similar titles, similar bombs.

Now the hits. In my opinion, BBC’s Red Dwarf takes the top spot-hands down. Brilliant writing and hilarious characters made this a must see for my friends each week (in re-runs). It may have have gone on a bit to long, but it continued to make us laugh.

Galaxy Quest: Because I grew up with Star Trek, I could relate to everything they were poking fun at.

The Orville: I find much of Seth MacFarlane’s humor on Family Guy hard to watch, but he is a funny guy. Like Galaxy Quest, he is able to pick out the situations that lend itself to humor.

When I began to write short story science fiction, I knew that humor was going to be involved at some point. The story even made my editor laugh out loud. Now that’s a good sign! I posted it on my page, so here is a free reading link: Reasonable Hand-drawn Facsimile

I hope you find it as entertaining as she (my editor) did.


Why I Write

One of my pencil sketches

I sent this to my newsletter subscribers earlier in October.

I want to thank you for taking part in my writing journey. Writers write to share their ideas, visions, and emotions, and I hope that you find my weekly rambles entertaining. I write in a lot of different styles, which may or may not be the best way to keep a readership.

I think about it this way: My writing is like a box of…(I’ll stop there to avoid copyright infringement). But it is. You know the one, that assorted box that you get at Christmas, the one with the candy map. You always go after your favorites, but sometimes you take a little nibble of the one with the chocolate squiggle. Maybe you discover that you like it, or perhaps it makes you glad you didn’t buy a whole box of strawberry creams.

What was the first thing that I wrote that wasn’t part of a school assignment? Probably a song lyric, but I always scrapped it because I was never happy with the result. When I decided to pursue classical guitar studies, I began to compose, letting the music provide the emotion instead of words. I wrote many pieces, some I wrote down, still others I forgot. I recorded some, but it never came out polished. I make too many mistakes, I can never play as close to perfection as I want, I get nervous performing in front of people or a microphone, so it takes a lot of takes to get something that I am OK with. The first piece that I wrote is called Riviera Galliard, which is an homage to the Renaissance composer, John Dowland. I hope that I can record it and share it with you. There is my incentive.

I wrote a few others in the same style before turning to acoustic guitar after hearing the Canadian guitarist Don Ross. Unfortunately, most of those pieces have been lost. Either I can’t find the scores that I wrote down, or my memory decided that I didn’t need to know those anymore. I can still dig up little snippets, but it is like reading a corner ripped out of a book.

Fast forward to my poetic journey. I ventured back into lyric writing to make sense of a difficult situation. The poems followed as some of the unused ideas became short poetic pieces. Most of my poetry is short and not too complicated. As one reader put it:

 “Lines by Leon is an eclectic mix of poetry and thoughtful, personal reflection. The ideas are straightforward with an understandable simplicity.

I wanted people to reflect on the poems and seek connections without having to try to interpret deep philosophical meanings or search for hidden underlying messages.

During my poetic journey, I started to sketch images that came to me. Some of these images evoked ideas that became my short, short stories-one or two paragraphs that tell part of a story that leaves the rest to your imagination. Some of my stories became longer, but still without conclusion, similar to waking from a dream and lying in bed thinking, what the…?

Enter science fiction: My forever favorite. If you have read my blog post, Returning to Roots (and I hope that you have), you will know that my father introduced me to this genre. We would watch science fiction T.V. shows, and he would read me stories. It was only natural that I would turn to this topic as my writing developed. I was able to cross my styles when I wrote a series of post-apocalyptic poems that are featured in my next book, The Knot at the End of the Rope.

I also want to keep a sense of humor in my writing. Some of my poems and stories will hopefully make you chuckle or smile. My blogs and newsletters give me a chance to poke fun at things, be cynical at current events, and showcase my odd sense of humor.

Some writers stick to the same formula, and their readers stick with them, which is perfectly understandable. A successful author wrote that to be successful, you have to write what your audience wants. I do want to entertain readers, but I’m not trying to make everybody happy. I’m trying to make myself happy, by hopefully providing material that can be enjoyed by others.

If you are here for my poetry, fear not, I continue to write and still have pages to revise. It took me three years to get to my first book, and I promise that it won’t take another three for the next. For my sci-fi fans, I am proud to share my short stories, which could not have happened if it wasn’t for my father. Let’s all gather to share to love of the written word—no matter the style.


Revised Nov 11 12:00

I almost forgot. When I get reviews like this:

It makes me happy and lets me know that I am on the right path.