Monthly Archives: March 2013

Through the Mail…


WELL… ACTUALLY through the aether, Marko Kloos’ first novel, Terms of Enlistment.

And the story of how he came to self-publish — thus doing a 180 from prior expressed beliefs — is both tutelary and cautionary.

And the boilerplate reminder: this blog is an Amazon affiliate. When you purchase from Amazon through my links, you help defray the costs of operation at no additional charge to yourself. Please patronize our advertisers, and thank YOU for your support.

Been Under the Weather

‘N’ OTHER STUFF recently. Sorry for the lackobloggage.

Loophole This

SO LEMME GET THIS STRAIGHT. If you’re a licensed dealer, and you’re selling guns at a gun show, you have to perform a background check. But, if you’re just a private individual, and you’re selling your personal property to a private individual you don’t? And the people who wrote this law were NOT strung up from the nearest lamppost on PROPOSING it?

Speaking of Covers…

PASSIVE GUY WAS on a roll last week with valuable bits of lore for self-publishers. Here he took note of a Joel Friedlander article done for Guy Kawasaki on the topic of offset printing. It’s a lightweight piece, but it does point out the potential value of the process — with the caveat that it can be capital-intensive, albeit with a potentially marvelous ROI.

On a side note, I was taken aback by the thumbnail of Kawasaki’s book cover. Based on that alone, I — for one — wouldn’t take advice on the topic of self-publishing from somebody with such a shitful cover design. But that’s just me.

A Cover Story: Chapter 5 – Bad Cover! No Biscuit!

I’m pushing back the intended next chapter another day because of some serendipitous content that flew in over the transom, so to speak. The blog The Passive Voice has featured a couple of items relevant to our process, and so I thought it appropriate to toss them in. We will resume forward progress tomorrow.

PASSIVE GUY points to a gallery of very bad book covers. Since we’re on about covers in this series, naturally, we should take a gander. And, I think, most of the covers blatantly display the reasons they were chosen for the list. But… Not all. I’m not certain I disagree with all of the choices the cover artists, art directors, and editors took. For example, I don’t get the criticism of the Hemingway. Not my cup of tea, but I wouldn’t, as the saying goes, kick it out of bed for eating crackers.

Of course, those covers which do sin against all good sensibility do so … shall we say … dispositively. The sins range from poor composition to purely awful image selection. Many of them are so bad as to cause readers to want to remove them from the book store shelves and given them a decent burial or commit them to the flames or something final-rest-y like that. So as to not cause harm to other, innocent onlookers. Anachronism, for one, utter inappropriateness for another. (Tell me: how do a modern briefcase and a kitten relate to a tale of intrigue and adventure set in France at the time of the Revolution?)

On the other hand, you don’t have to search thirty-year-old catalogs from used book stores to find purely awful covers. There are myriad examples to be found among the top editors’ picks at Amazon. For example this one. Or this one. Or this one. Or, in my own genre — science fiction and fantasy — this one. Or this one. That last actually intrigued me and I clicked through from the search listing to the individual product page, but the utter awful type arrangement (I will not dignify that abomination with the ancient and honorable term of “typesetting”.) just sent me running into the howling outer darkness. OK, not that bad, but not good.

This says nothing whatsoever about the quality of the books, only that of the covers. The books themselves might be masterpieces, but their bad covers diminish their chances of ever being read, and more’s the pity. And, if the reasons that I selected the ones I did are unclear, ask in comments and we can discuss.

I do think, however, I should make it clear that my choices have little to do with my personal taste. There were a good many covers I didn’t like and would never choose for my own work. And also many I did like but still would not choose to cover a book of mine. The ones I point out are those that jumped out of the search listing at me as REALLY bad in thumbnail form. And I only clicked through to the one. The rest were judged SOLELY on the basis of the 160×160 pixel image. Keep that in mind. Your work will also be judged on that same basis.

PASSIVE GUY ALSO points to some tools for color. The one I like is the one called Kuler which helps you make a color scheme or theme. I like it because it forces a limited palette. Or, at least, it does if you actually use it.

Limited palette is important because… In order to draw a potential reader’s attention, you need to draw their visual focus. You need to make them PAY ATTENTION to you. And, for the most part, a very good way to do that is to make your cover image a thing which is perceived to be of a single color.

Why? Well, the eye is drawn to the unusual in a scene. And most scenes — look around yourself and you’ll see what I mean — have an incredible amount of noise in them. Which makes it hard to see a particular individual object in a scene unless there’s something to draw your attention to it — to make you focus on it to the exclusion of all else in the scene.

Shape.

A distinct and clear shape that stands out from the background is one thing that will do this. Military folks have been using the inverse of this for practically ever in the art of camouflage. If you break up the outline of an object, you make it harder to see. Conversely, if you strongly limn the edges of an object, it will stand out — be more noticeable.

Color can accomplish much the same thing. If most of a scene is either a single color or incredibly noisy and an object is of a single different color, or NOT noisy, the object will stand out from the background. So, if you use a limited color palette in your cover design, and do so wisely, you can make of it an object that stands out from the background and yet contains in it other objects — the title and author’s name, or the featured object in the source image — which in turn stand out from the cover. Ideally, you want all of your major elements to read effortlessly at that 160-pixel square size.

Another thing about that tool, (which may mean that SOME of you (I’m looking at you, Mrs. Hoyt) may not be allowed to use it), is that it’s by Adobe. And integrates (or so I’m told) with Photoshop. I haven’t been able to figure out how, yet, but I’m told it’s possible.

But, it’s also an online tool, so isn’t locked into the Adobe apps. You can note the color values in RGB, HSV, CMYK, Hex, or LAB… and transfer them manually into whichever app you’re using. With practice, that’s actually not too bad. I use a similar technique for reading colors from Photoshop into CorelDRAW. Not because I really have to, but because, on an ad hoc basis, it’s fast, easy, and lightweight. Doesn’t take a lot of setup and effort to do. Sometimes the low tech way is best.

A Cover Story: Chapter 4 — The Pressures on a Commercial Artist

I originally set out to draft this post back in January. It wasn’t originally about book covers specifically or technically, but more about a general philosophy of commercial art that would support a certain set of notions about book cover design. I never could get to finishing it, so abandoned it. (A lot more work gets abandoned for lack of motivation or a sense of how to proceed than you might think. Call it a false start.) Since then, a lot has changed, and events have developed beyond it. And I’ve come back around to the concept of writing about cover design and want to include this in that wider project. However, rather than attempt to bring it into continuity with the rest of the saga, I leave it here as an intercalerary piece (thus the weekend post), and hope that the quirkiness of it is found charming rather than distracting.

AT LEAST, WHEN I SAT DOWN TO compose this post, that was the title that popped into my mind.

Sarah’s been after me… Well, no. Not really. She mentioned it once.

But, to have it even popped into mind among the other things she has going on in there (including a perfectly pellucid dream fable of totalitarianism and the subversive nature of art), it must be important. That is to say, there is a certain need for this, not that it matters to Sarah. The thing has to be important.

I’ve struggled for months with the ideas and strictures of lending my experience at the top levels of graphic design in service to the selling of creative product (that’s as specific as I can get without giving away my employer, who really doesn’t need to be associated with my far-out right wing extremist views). How do I do a workshop — or even a post — on the subject of book cover design. Yes, I’ve designed book covers. Just not New York City (said in the tobacco-juice-spitting accents of those Texas cowboys who love them some Pace picante salsa) published mass market stuff.

I’ve decided to focus on one aspect of the subject. I have to figure either you already know the rules of composition, perspective and proportion, line and mass, color and contrast, hue, and tint, and the language of symbols, and how to make attractive headline-type layouts or you don’t and I can’t teach you in 500 words, or even 5,000, so why try. Instead I’ll focus on one aspect of the subject — source imagery.

What is source imagery? Well, if you look at a book cover and strip away all the type — the author’s name, the title of the book, the publisher’s name, the price of the book, the marketing tag line, AND all the other graphics (including plain borders and large areas of solid color — what’s left is usually a picture, photograph, painting, illustration. That’s your source image. It’s what conveys the sense, mood, concept, and a little about the characters and even the plot. It is also what is going to attract the reader to your book. Your entire career is resting on this image. So you can understand why authors obsess so about covers. And they’re right to do so, even if they’re sometimes wrong in how they go about expressing their obsessions.

Abby Sciuto, the hyper-smart Goth forensic tech on NCIS puts it, “There’s no substitute for high-quality source imagery.” And it’s so true. I wince when people tell me they use free clip art and photos and do their layouts in Power Point. There is far more to getting good output than just throwing pretty pictures on a computer screen. A lot more.

In doing commercial package design — and that is what you’re doing — everything has to be perfect. Otherwise, your product label will look bush league and, even if the potential customer can’t articulate why she thinks so, she will be turned off your book. She may still buy it, but your chances of closing any individual sale just went down — by more than half. Trust me.

So, what do I mean by perfect? Oh, let me count the ways.

First, it has to look good. Then it has to suit your purpose, third the execution has to be clean, fourth it has to be tough… have heft… make you horny. And last, it has to work mechanically with the reproduction process.

That’s five. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

1. Look Good. Way too many book covers have art that looks terrible. It’s weak, lame, amateurish, unprofessional. These are all attributes that signal to the buyer, “This is a book which may disappoint you.” It may not, but, if the cover is poorly done — which is built on your source image — that’s a signal. A negative signal. That is, it can’t look like five-year-old painted it in those cheap-assed finger paint watercolors they let you use in grammar school. More than that, it has to look like a competent artist made the image — whether it’s a photograph or a painting or a drawing, or a comic, or whatever.

That’s not to say the technique can’t be rough — far from it. But there does have to be technique, even if it is rough. For example:

Back in the days of Punk, when such things were in fashion, I used to get photocopied imagery. The senders wanted us to emulate the cut paper, high-contrast photo, Xeroxed style of the punk rock promoters’ flyers — the things you used to see stapled up on telephone poles all over the place near colleges and hip business districts, advertising concerts and parties. And might still, for all this old fogy knows.

But the point was, the photocopied image was never the starting point, and what had to be done to the image to get it to look rough and cheap and tough and all that was long, protracted, and — need I say — expensive if you wanted to hire a pro to do it. As an amateur labor of love, it could be cheap, but amateurs can flake out on you at the worst possible moment. But trust me, those Clash and Sex Pistols album covers were done by pros working in pro studios and may have been cheaply produced compared to — oh, say — a Beatles cover (back cover, Abbey Road), but they were out of reach for your average garage band. Trust me. You can’t interface with a pro production establishment by submitting crap. It has to meet certain minimum standards or fixing it will cost more than it’s worth.

And, yes, crap has been published. But do you want to bet your career on it? No. Of course not. So: perfect, make it look good.

That’s not to say that all source imagery has to meet or surpass the standards of classical art or the renaissance mashups of it. This is not “Grandma Moses need not apply.” I’m not here to argue whether folk art is art.

Although it is interesting that when people want to parse things, they start with arbitrary taxonomies that make no objective sense. Why is Rembrandt not folk art? Was Rembrandt from another world? An alien from Arcturus Centauri A? Of course not. He was a people. Doesn’t that make him folk? What people who seek to divide “fine” art from “folk” art are expressing is a snobbishness about training versus talent. Me, I don’t give a shit about either. I’m concerned with discipline and production. I know a superbly trained and talented artist who, the last time I saw him, was selling fresh fish in a chain grocery. All the talent in the world (and he had it, trust me) availed him nothing. And, yes, the world is poorer for it. But… YOU have to put product on the metaphorical shelves, and it has to be done to certain standards.

But-tennyway… It can be the crudest, most primitive, objectively immature work in the world. If it’s well-executed, THAT is what counts.

2. Suit Purpose. As a book publisher, you have several requirements for your package label. It must

• Attract attention, either of a reader already familiar with your work who may be actually look for this particular title or of a reader browsing book listings (or an actual, physical shelf).
• Turn the reader on. There’s an attractant that may reside in the same place as sex — thus the notion “sex sells — whatever, but it certainly appeals to the same brain-side nervendings, whether it’s an image, a sound, a taste, a scent, or the mental stirrings that come when you read words or hear a radio drama.
• Finally, make the reader buy the book — turn him/her from a generic reader into your reader, at least in potential.

3. Clean Execution. Part of technique, of course, is execution. Any pro will have definite opinions on this, but… The execution of any project should be evident in the output. It should be clean, of course. It should flow smoothly from one element to another. It should fit properly into its frame. It should HAVE a frame — a frame of reference, which might not be apparent to the casual view, but to which all parts of the artistic unity refer.

And you’re going, “What the farg is he on about?”

Artistic unity is that all parts of the whole refer to one another, or to some external frame of reference, in a systematic, visual or philosophical way. If you plunk something down in a design, it has to relate to the whole, in scale, position, attitude, color — somehow — or it will look out of place. In The Door Into Summer, Heinlein wrote that you don’t put a propeller on a bathtub just because you have one handy. On the other hand, you might put one in a bathtub if you’re making a Jacuzzi. It’s all a matter of context and your frame of reference. The illustration you use as the source art for your book cover has to relate, not only visually to the rest of the design, but also conceptually to the content of your book.

That’s not to say that the busty redhead on the cover has to be a literal portrait of your female protagonist. But the visual cues — the symbolism included — have to make sense in the frame of reference of your book or you’ll get dinged for artistic fraud. At least.

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard or read the same horror stories I have about how books were killed by covers that were commissioned by art directors who had not even read the executive summary of the book, let alone the whole manuscript. Those covers would be, therefore, the veriest definition of a lack of design unity, and were, also by definition, poorly executed. But I’d go further and guess that the vast majority of them were also badly-done. I know, I have seen examples of such and have thought them all to be shoddy work.

That relates to the cleanliness of execution in that the total work, as seen by an objective viewer, should appear to be well-made.

Ever seen a bad Photoshop job? What did you notice most about it? The edges. The seams. The stray pixels, the mis-matches in color, resolution, sharpness, perspective, lighting. Those are all earmarks of poor execution. The artist was in a hurry. Not attentive to detail. Too cheap to spend the time and effort to make a clean mask, to find photos that match up in the other matters. These things jump off the cover and smack the reader in the eyes, making him/her move on to the next book on the shelf. And the bad part? These things are emphasized, not hidden, by down-sampling or scaling an image. So tiny little details in your large-scale working image will, when the cover is shrunk down to a thumbnail, be exaggerated. You need to make sure, by properly executing your work flow (and testing your image at different sizes and resolutions) as well as making sure the image is well-formed.

So: technique, clean execution, suit purpose. What else? Well…

4. It has to have heft. Sorry, I don’t know how else to explain it. And, also sorry, this is something a lot of designers get wrong. The ones who get it right?

Aubrey Powell. Po. Does album covers. Based in London. Was, with Storm Thorgerson, half of Hipgnosis.

Hugh Syme. Does album covers. Based in Toronto. I’ve had the honor to work with Hugh and he is as brilliant as his work might let you think.

Michael Whelan. SFF fans will of course recognize Whelan for his work covering works by C.J. Cherryh, Heinlein, and myriad others.

A West. West’s hand-drawn mini-masterpieces enhanced album covers, posters, newspaper and magazine ads for such artists as Tom Petty, Billy Idol, and Fleetwood Mac. His Brass Ring Circus Studios was a fixture in southern California in the ’80s and ’90s. I’ve lost track of him since and miss his presence on the scene.

OK, you say, I’m not an artist of that caliber. Well, here’s news — neither am I. You don’t have to be to do a good design.. But you have to see what these guys (and others at their level) do in terms of shape, volume, composition — the language of form — in order to do your fakes and cheats to make the primary images on your book covers. You have to come up to that level in terms of the toughness and the sexiness of your images. Why? Because others will, and you’ll be competing with them for eyeballs and, eventually (as Heinlein put it ) their beer money. And, if you come up short, you’ll lose.

OK. Tough. Heft. What else.

5. Meet mechanical requirements. The image has to be, in addition to beautiful, clean, and well-made, properly built for its mechanical purpose. It has to display and print properly, or it won’t serve its purpose. It must be of the correct resolution, with the requisite bleeds included, of the right size and aspect ratio, and in the correct file format.

A Cover Story: Chapter 3 – Elements

Base Lips ImageANY DESIGN IS MADE UP OF ELEMENTS. What are elements? Well, there are Elements of Design and then there are the elements of a design. The first set refers to the overarching principles that inform good design — line, color, texture, space, and form. The second refers to the collection of — for lack of a better term — objects which make up a particular image. For our purposes, a book cover will have a source image or images, type copy, type faces, color, and composition. Except for the creation of a source image or of type, we will make little direct use of line. Color will be a big part of the tools we manipulate for our purposes, as will texture and form. And we will attempt to create space and form as we go.

But first, we must gather our elements and decide on a design.

My exemplar cover is a live project intended for the first novel in the Baby Troll Chronicles, Dolly Apocrypha, current working title Report from New Xenaland. That’s going to change, and will have to be pretty well settled before we proceed too much farther on the cover design, but it’s open at the moment.

And thereby may hang a tale. Because the direction take for the final sale title for the book will — should, must, ought to — influence the look of the cover package. Are the reasons for that clear? If they are not, post your questions in comments and we’ll discuss it. But for now, I’ll take them as both obvious and given.

As the story is a part of a larger series — indeed also as the anchor story for the first of three or four distinct series or story arcs featuring these same characters and this same built world — the covers for the entire series will have a unified look. I have a great deal of experience in this, as I use the concept daily — albeit in the service of a wholly other end — and I will be able to pass along some of the tricks and techniques I and my teammates use to this end. More on this later.

I will have to emplace three marketing tags in addition to the book title and my name on the cover, which implies that I’ll have to be most clever with the arrangement of the type to get all that in and still keep it readable, both close up and life-sized an reduced and down-rezzed to thumbnail for Amazon et al.

Also, as I do not have the time (or, to be honest, the skill set) to produce figurative illustrations of people or scenes, the tack we’ll be taking will involve abstracts, symbols, and found objects to denote (and connote) our themes. This implies that we must consider how to tie the look of all the series’ covers together and still differentiate them from one another. As I say: more, later. So. The elements:

  • Source illustration
  • Background texture
  • Colophon (publisher’s logo)
  • Volume indicator
  • Title
  • Marketing tag One: “The Baby Troll Chronicles”
  • Marketing tag Two: “Book One of the Dolly Apocrypha”
  • Marketing tag Three: “Something clever and enigmatic Dolly says in dialog.”
  • Front cover blurb:”Something nice somebody you’d know says about the book or me or Dolly.”
  • Back cover blurb: “In 1996, the Goddess Aphrodite cast the soul of her servant, Gabrielle Francesca East, into a 12-inch plastic Xena: Warrior Princess action figure. A dolly. On Valentine’s Day in 1998, Aphrodite arranged for the soul to be transfered into a human body. These are the adventures of that dolly. For fifteen years, the world has eagerly awaited the arrival of the final versions of Dolly’s stories. This is the first volume. The wait is over.”

I’m not holding my copy up as an example of The Way, The Truth, and The Light. Along my way, I will be running these by real pros in the field and listening to what they have to say about them, adjusting accordingly. But I know those elements need to be there for my cover to look — to be — professional. So I’m putting in placeholders to be altered as required down the road. This will complicate the production of the cover art, but it’s necessary they be there, so we accept the complications as part of the process.

There will also be a set of elements which the printer will require. At least one will be the bar code, which will probably subsume an ISBN. (What? You’re not buying an ISBN? Are you serious? Or are you just playing around? Go. Buy at least one, ten if you can afford them.)

Here’s why. First, if you don’t buy ISBNs for your titles, your books don’t exist. Don’t complain to me; I didn’t design the system. Yes, there are myriad other identifiers. Yes, “they” (that ever-present and amorphous “they”) say that the ISBN is going away. All that may be true. But, now, here, in the real world, the ISBN is the number that everybody uses to identify a book. Even Amazon does, though it’s not their preferred identifier. Bowker charges $125 for the first one, but will sell you the next nine for $13.89 each (rounded up). If you find it hard to turn loose of that as an investment in your business, fine. Cut your own throat. You can get “free” ISBNs issued by some channels — CreateSpace and Smashwords both offer free or discounted ISBNs. Read the fine print carefully to see whether these services suit you. But DO NOT attempt to publish a book without an ISBN altogether.

And the point for the purposes of this discussion is that you need to make provisions for the ISBN and bar code in your design. The Create Space template includes requirements for it. They will place it on the cover, and I recommend you go with the flow on this. They’ll encode the number, and decide whether to print the human-readable alpha imprint in black over your art, or knock it out to white. Just leave room for it and be aware it will be there.

Now, let’s start looking at the elements in more detail.

1. Source Illustration: The illustration needs to tease the story without giving anything away. No spoilers. It does not need to be a literal portrayal of persons, places, or events in the story. But readers may refer to the cover illustration while they’re reading, and if there is a dissonance, you’ll hear about it. I don’t have a completed illustration — don’t even have a rough sketch, yet — so we’ll be hand-waving for a little bit. Possibly by Chapter 5, we’ll be working with the actual image(s). For now, let’s talk about the overall concept.

The story takes place in Auckland, New Zealand and its northern suburbs — in particular the Rodney District and Snell’s Beach area. The setting does not serve as much but a ground for action to take place. Auckland does have significance to the overall saga, but never figures as a character in the story in the way that New York does in the Nero Wolfe stories or London in Sherlock Holmes. However, there are themes and tropes in the novel that ground the story and we will use some of them visually. These elements will also help down the line to identify this particular book among its litter mates, when there are more of them on shelves actual and virtual. Among those will be the silhouette of a certain species of palm, not native to the city, but nevertheless a familiar in its public spaces.

Finally, a good deal of the character development hangs on events sexual in nature, and I will be looking for a way to portray certain — erm — climactic scenes in the abstract, using symbols and objects to hint at what is a good deal more explicit in the text. The ideal I’ll be striving for is represented by the image at the top. (You can click on any of the images in this article to see it full-size.) However, that particular pic is not suitable for several reasons:

  • First, it’s not mine. I don’t own the copyright on it. And court cases on the subject have made it clear that derivatives of images must be unrecognizable as such to not infringe.
  • Second, it’s from the wrong angle. It’s a full profile, whereas I want something that’s turned toward the viewer at least a quarter.
  • Finally, it’s — subtly — the wrong expression. I want something more like the images shown in the screen grab of my image directory below.

There are several other factors mitigating against direct use of this image, but others that make me want to use it as a base, not least being I want to use it as a reference for the texture, detail, and gloss on the lips. All three may go away, depending on what I do about the style of the illustration, but they start out in the mix for the moment.

But back to the cover source image. Right now, the only element in-hand or very far along at all is the lips. The rest will come along as I go. And, for future discussions, I will consider the background texture as a part of the source illustration, although I will be breaking it apart from this particular cover and re-using it on others in the series.

3. Colophon Really? Why? Well… Same as with the ISBN. You are going to turn potential buyers away if you make your book inaccessible. Many distributors and retailers will not carry self-published books. That prejudice is slowly going away, but it does still exist. There’s no point in poking it with a stick. There is also the possibility that, without at least the appearance of a discrete publisher — as separate from the author — you’re going to scare off some readers. You face enough friction slowing down potential sales. There’s NO point in adding to it if you can easily eliminate it. Publishing under your own imprint is one way to do that. And a solid anchor for taking advantage of the practice is to include a publisher’s logo in your cover design. My imprint is Dreamflower Works. I have the domain name and everything (although the web site is embryonic at the moment). The logo image is a morning glory blossom in a frame with the imprint slug under the flower.

scr adobe bridge 130318The image to the right (and the similar one below) are screen grabs from Adobe Bridge. I have arranged and configured the display in each case for my illustrative purposes in making the grabs. There is a great deal more possible with the application than meets the eye here.

The creation process in making the logo can be divined from these grabs. I wanted originally to make a Mucha-esque corner spray of three blossoms, some leaves, and vines. But, short on time, I decided to simplify the thing, (always a good approach to improving a design). So I drew as my text, the tattoo flash of a single morning glory blossom (second row, second from left in the screen grab), and used as my guide for drawing the blossom the photo of the white flower, (fourth row, farthest right). I did the drawing in CorelDRAW!. It took, perhaps, an hour. Then I threw together the logo badge. I have always liked the typeface. It’s called Arnold Boecklein, or, in some font kits, Arabia. Boomer fans of the band Yes might recognize it from heavy use by the album cover artist, Roger Dean. The rest of the design stems from a desire to make something tough looking that will read well small. I intend to make a line version of the flower for use in print versions of the book as a scene and chapter break “dingbat”.

And I observe from my previews, that we’re running a bit long. Plus: I promised this post much earlier today, though I doubt there are more than a handful of you out there waiting with ‘bated breath for my words of wisdom. And, it’s past time for dinner, so I have to go. Chapter 4 is already in the queue and will appear tomorrow morning.

Enjoy!

scr_adobe_bridge_2_130323A side note, here. I love Adobe Bridge. And if you need a reason to buy Creative Suite, this app is one. I understand that some of the features I really like in it are not available in earlier versions, so keep in mind I’m describing the version with CS6 (or later). I’m finding it a bonzer production tool. It has just enough cross-platform and inter-application heterogeneousness to make it useful to someone who uses apps by other publishers, but is powerful and flexible enough if you just use CS. (Or the other apps, but you wouldn’t have it if you weren’t using CS.) There have been many attempts to provide this kind of function before, but they have all failed in trying to control too much of the user’s experience, instead of simply sitting there and let the USER decide how to use it. What it provides is a combination of search, archiving, production process control, app- and task-switching, and visual access to all of the collateral an artist will use in regular production. I find I can tunnel across the network to other machines and snatch up content from alien drives and archives as easily as though it were on my desktop. Claims have been made of this before, but, in my experience, most have fallen short of the ideal. Adobe seems to have hit a home run, here.

Quote of the Day

There is something in a cat which cannot abide a closed door.

–Me

Just a Reminder

THAT EARTH HOUR COMES on a Saturday this year. March Twenty-threeth (that’s today), so keep a close eye out. Those leftist shibboleths can be sneaky critters.

But. all you sinners. put your lights on. Put your lights on. ‘Cause there’s a monster under your bed and it’s called International Revolutionary Marxism in environmentalist clothing, a.k.a., a watermelon.

The rest of you, use all the ‘lectric you want. We’ll make more.

St. Ann This Week

IS ON THE WARPATH about Republican stupidity. Her column this week takes the GOP to task for running stupid candidates. Really? Looks to me more like the people who step up are stupid. How about getting less-stupid people to step up?

Wellll…?

“Well…” what?

You are, as Mycroft put it, not-stupid.

I’m flattered. But… no. I wouldn’t do as a candidate. Not even in a suit. I’ll just say that southwest Ohio is mostly lucky in the kind of people who step up. No, Josh Mandel didn’t win. And the nation is all the poorer for having Sherrod Brown shoved down our throats for another 6 years. But Mandel is a good guy and he’ll be back. Or the Second District’s own Brad Wenstrup — stepping in to replace Jean Schmidt — that was a win, wunnit?

But we really need to get rid of this notion that, because the Republicans won’t run liberty-oriented originalists, the People lose.

What? Third party? That makes a fuck of a lotta sense!

No. I’m thinking more along the lines of a good second party. Or, actually, first party. Relegated the Dems to second place.

Not as Young as I Used to Be

AND LACK OF REST gets to me faster than when I was younger. I apologize, but I was not able to finish Chapter 3 of the Cover Story before bedtime Thursday night. And, as it’s grocery week, I won’t be able to get it Friday night, either. It will have to wait until Saturday morning, so I’ll be publishing sometime Saturday afternoon. Chapter 4 is already written and will run on Sunday. I hope this won’t happen too often, but it’s almost inevitable, given my age and infirmities.

Quote of the Day

[M]en who hold all truth to be relative, or to be a fable meant to uphold an unjust social order, have no purpose to their questions, except to erode the world.

John C. Wright

Neatly put.

Depositor Haircuts

OK. THIS IS NO LONGER me preaching sedition. With governments around the world proposing that depositors’ money be stolen — yes, stolen — to prop up failing banks (which fail in part due to inept banking regulators), it is no longer seditious to preach the assassination of importunate government officials. It is now a matter of defense of property. In other words, the prevention of a felony-in-progress. Make no mistake, if the kleptocrats are not reined in — and sharply — no man’s life or property will ever be safe again.

And idiot leftists (BIRM*) wonder why the American Constitution includes the Second Amendment and why it’s so fiercely defended. “Why do you fear your government?” they ask — witlessly. “Because the government does not sufficiently fear the people,” we answer.

*(But I Repeat Myself)

I Get Started on Rants Like This

AND BEFORE I GET TO THE second paragraph, I’m sputtering like Daffy Duck just had his beak shot off by Elmer Fudd. I just cannot keep it together long enough to express my anger without it overcoming me.

So, thank the Lord we have Emperor Misha. Who gets right to the point and manages to keep his cool to state his thesis.

Enemies of We the People and the Constitution of the United States of America to which we swore an unbreakable oath: You are entering territory that is not uncharted, you would know if you’d ever bothered to take a break from licking each others’ balls and read a few books, but it is fraught with danger, horror, tragedy and pain. You will not emerge from that territory unscathed and, if G-d be truly on our side, you will not emerge at all except to be hanged from the nearest utility posts.

Not that, as Misha admits, it will do any good to issue the warning. But in a moral sense, it is required. To strike without warning puts We in the Right on the same moral footing as the Enemies of We the People. (LIBAKM*.)

*(Let It Become A Keyboard Macro.)

A Cover Story: Chapter 2

I SAID IN THE PREVIOUS chapter that I would challenge some accepted conventional wisdom on this topic. Let me start out by attacking two seemingly contradictory shibboleths all at one fell swoop.

One: you can do this. It’s not rocket science. You don’t have to be a professional to do it. But: B, professionalism does count. It doesn’t take any special talent (although talent helps), but it does take discipline.

People will either tell you that you can’t do it — hire a pro — or they’ll tell you that you can, and the concerns that pros voice on the subject don’t matter. They’re just silly gatekeeper notions that can be swept away because the person speaking said so.

Juxtaposed like that, you should be able to see the risible idiocy in both contentions. So, I’m not going to tell you that you can’t do this, but I am going to tell you that you need to trim your expectations as to the potential results. And, in aid of that, here’s a dirty little secret about professional, commercial artists:

We don’t all draw.

Oh, we can. It’s kind of like what Heinlein’s Johnny Rico learned about K9 dog handlers in Starship Troopers: if you’re not enough of a dog-lover to sneak one past your mom, you’re probably not cut out to be a K9 handler. That applies here: if you’re not an art geek — drawing pictures and doodles, making images, shooting photos, working WAY outside your comfort zone every waking minute of the day, you’re probably not going to find the field comfortable. While you may find it frustrating that you don’t get to use your skill with a pen or pencil (or, in this day and age, a stylus) every day, you do keep your chops up.

But you don’t get to use them all the time, simply because, unless you’re a cartooning savant, it simply takes too long. And time is money. My time is worth up to $300 an hour. I don’t get to waste it noodling around with a pencil. So I learned — a long, long time ago — how to cheat. Yes, you do trace. Yes, you do use Photoshop. Yes, you do steal images. And you learn how to both file the serial numbers off, but also how to take those stolen images and make them your own. (The two not being utterly unrelated.)

One of my artistic heroes, Michelangelo, famously asserted that one cannot call himself an artist if he cannot draw. That is, if he cannot accurately reproduce what he sees before him, or in his mind’s eye, in — at minimum — the basic level of a marking medium on a loose sheet substrate. BUT… that is not to say that one cannot use mechanical aids. Yes, a steady hand is an asset. But it is not a sine qua non. In fact, it is one of the grand gifts to the world of art from the explosion of personal computing technology that computers provide mechanical aids to drawing which permit someone with less-than-brilliant eye-hand coordination to nonetheless produce nearly-perfect drawings with remarkably little skill, talent, or training.

(But not, it should be added with haste, none.)

So, imagine what you can do WITH those things. And a computer. And a set of software tools at a high level of quality and ease of use.

Back when I was in junior high school (what they call middle school these days), I played in the marching band. One day, our instructor went up in front of the class with a beautiful horn in his hand. It was a Getzen trumpet — worlds away better than the Bundy horns we were playing. It looked like that snowy dove, trooping with crows, that Shakespeare talked about. It sounded like the voice of angels. And it was easy to play. It practically blew itself. It also cost. Even back then, Getzen trumpets sold new in four figures. By the Candy Bar Rule, that means that a $2,500 trumpet in 1967 would be worth $25,000 today. Or more. Herb Alpert played one. And a whole raft of others did, too. For me, it was the first name-brand instrument I learned to recognize not only on sight, but by sound.

Yes. With years of practice, one might be able to approximate the beauty of the music that came out of that thing with a cheap-assed hunk of brass and tin. And, in the hands of a virtuoso pro, our dented rentals could sing like those angels. But the tool was and remains ineffably superior, and there was and is a very good reason why top pros choose it.

Back in the days of the 486 computer, when Photoshop was in version 2 and Illustrator was in 4 or 5 and CorelDRAW! somewhere between versions 2 and 5, I used to say that the best that’s out there was barely adequate to our task. That’s changed in the years since, but, even so, pros are always pushing the outside of the envelope. And it takes a long time for the results of those pushes to trickle down to the open source level. And you’re beginning to see where I’ve been headed. Tools. While it’s a poor workman who blames his tools for bad work or failure, the quality of your tools will be reflected in your work — at the very least in how easily you can get it done.

People will tell you (I’m looking at YOU, Dean Wesley Smith) that you can do acceptable cover art in PowerPoint. I’m here to tell you that he’s full of it. He got away with it, but if you saw some of his early efforts — before he and Kris hired a real artist to do their covers — you’d shudder like I did. I will tell you this: here where I work, we WILL NOT accept as ready for production ANY image prepared in ANY application in the Microsoft Office suite — and that includes MS Publisher. And, if work is submitted in one of the formats, we’ll charge at our confiscatory hourly rates to translate it into a format that actually — you know — provides salable output. This is not an unreasoning prejudice (like I used to joke I had against Aldus apps). It is a hard-earned wisdom gained over years of struggling to get those applications to cooperate with professional level output devices and the tool sets associated with them. Things have, as I say, improved since, but there still is a long-established work flow to getting marks on paper, and Microsoft seems to think they know better than a global industry which goes back to Gutenberg and knows a thing or two about the art and science of it. And you learn — the hard way — that using the wrong tool for the job is a waste of time and money. And, at these hourly rates, that’s a real big waste.

A lot of people — usually salesmen — will hand-wave all that away, saying in essence, “If I can’t see the difference, I’m going with the low-cost way, no matter what.” And this is where I started this column: you don’t have to be a pro, but you do have to exhibit the pro wisdom, or pros will come along and eat your lunch. Because, you see, you have to remember that you are not a stand-alone phenomenon. Your cover does not exist in splendid isolation. It has to elbow its way to a potential reader’s center of attention throw a virtual Rodney King riot of competing covers. It has approximately a tenth of a nanosecond to do it in. And it has to NOT send any subtle, nearly subliminal, negative cues to observers during its instant in the spotlight.

What does this mean to you — the non-pro, who doesn’t have the time or inclination to become a pro, just to make a few book covers? Simple: be aware that there are pros — and non-pros willing to put forth the effort — against whose your cover will be competing. If you’re not willing to put forth the effort to learn these basic principles, which I am attempting in my own, poor way to exposit here, do not come crying to me about how tough the competitions is. Talk to the hand.

And here’s a final bit of wisdom for you to think about, and to tease you until next time: details matter.

With regard to tools… You can get away with using a vastly underpowered tool set for a while. However, if you’re going to be doing this for a living (by which I mean design your own book covers for publication and sale) (and if you’re not, hire a pro), you will eventually have to invest in doing-it-for-a-living level tools.

So, yes. Investigate and learn how to use GIMP, Inkscape, Xara, and the rest of the free and cheap applications. For one, the greater variety of tools you can use, the wider your perspective becomes, and the greater your facility with all of them. BUT… plan to invest. My recommendation, if you’re not able to turn loose of the admittedly significant bolus of cash for Adobe Creative Suite, is that you look into CorelDRAW!. Yes, it’s PC-only. But the Corel Graphics Suite includes both the (in my opinion) best vector drawing tool out there, and a powerful, top-end bitmap editor, and the ONLY bitmap-to-vector tracing tool still on the market. Plus, as I have noted elsewhere, Corel’s PostScript output is far superior to Adobe’s own. However, you will eventually have to invest at least in Photoshop, even if you don’t get the rest of CS. So start planning for it now. Save your pocket change, if you have to. But don’t put it off too long.

There’s a rule in business. In broad general it goes like this: if you spend more by farming work out than you would obtaining the ability in-house, bring it in house. We bought our first imagesetter (a 6-figure investment) when we were spending more every month with a service bureau than the cost of the machine lease payment and the consumables. Since we were charging back the rates the service bureau was charging us, those fees went straight to our bottom line. The same will apply to you. When you are spending more per cover on outside art than the tools and training would cost you, and you have the ability to do the work (and the time, but that’s a different discussion), then it’s time to take the plunge.

But, possibly, not before.

A Cover Story: Chapter 1

I’VE BEEN MEANING TO WORK this series up for some time. I don’t ordinarily get all didactic on my readers…

Yeah, right.

Dolly?

Yes…?

Stifle.

Pthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthbpthb!

Very mature.

And the horse you rode in on.

Andy way. I think I might have some cogent and salient points to make, here — something of value and worthy of note to add to the conversation on the subject of book cover design.

And, in order to explain, let me tell you a bit about my credentials.

First: what I can’t tell you. I cannot tell you the name of the company I work for. Or the industry in which I labor. Nor the names of any of my clients (although you would recognize them all). I can’t even describe the products I design, because they are unique in the world and, in that venue, I am too well-known. And (here’s the kicker), the field in which I till is so deep in the fever swamps of leftism, so set about with so-called — scorn quotes — “political correctness” that you cannot see the shore from here, and very few people in the business are even allowed independent thought, let alone capable of it.

Now, for myself, I wouldn’t care. If I did, you wouldn’t know squat about my political or economic or social positions. I’m that practiced at keeping them to myself. But my employer would rather not fight the battles (not to mention that one owner is a Republican, the other a Democrat), and I see no moral case for imposing myself on them. Really, morally, politics and religion have no place in business, and it’s only due to the importunate Left that they have been intruded where they are unwelcome. But that, too, is another fight nobody here wants.

So: what can I tell you? OK. What’s relevant, here. I have been in this field for 30-plus years — a career in other words. The field where I till is global in scope, high-profile, and inhabited by a highly-educated, well-to-do, demanding clientele, impatient of incompetence and imperfection in goods or services. In short, it’s a truly Darwinian field, where the weak, the stupid, the clumsy, and the lazy do not survive. It also is highly dependent on graphics, and its practitioners, by en large, are literate in the jargon and symbolism of the visual arts. They know good art when they see it. And, yet, they are not unwilling to be innovative, albeit with a strange and quirky conservatism — even in their transgression. As Wilde put it, hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.

Personally, I have little formal training in the graphic arts. My education in the field consists mainly of tutelage by excellent teachers in public schools, and a fair grounding (garnered at home, by the way) in aesthetics and art history. I have, however, always had a deep and abiding interest in making pretty pictures. I have always taken pencil and paper and drawn on my imagination. In high school, I took up photography — including darkroom work — and gained skills to be considered a serious amateur. Even did some work at a pro level, although I found the business aspects of it unpleasant and so failed in the enterprise.

At that time, I thought my main career thrust would be in show business. I was on the stage crew at school and intended to work in legitimate theater (think: Broadway) as a lighting technician. But it was not to be. The why is not relevant to this story. Suffice it to say that, in my mid-twenties, I found myself working in the offices of a failing entertainment venue and looking around for the next step. And my boss took me along on his own leap into … this company. The one I still work for. It was, in the main, a printing company. And I began an intense apprenticeship in all matters related to getting ink marks on paper. If you are familiar with the apprenticeships of Michelangelo or Rembrandt, you might get some notion of what I underwent by the age of thirty. I cut paper, ran machinery from slitters and round-cornerers to cameras and presses. I set type, did pasteup, shot and stripped film, burned plates, engineered jobs, and eventually ended up running the shop — all the while also serving as the customer service rep to this industrial segment where the company had hit on its particular specialization.

In my early thirties, I had as my clients ninety percent of the top figures in that industry segment. And, due to the vagaries of the business, was essentially also serving as designer and/or art director for their projects. By 1990, I could accurately claim to design 90% of what the global industry used from our product line (and those of our few competitors). I was (and remain), in short, a world-class designer in a big-money field.

In the ’90s, the spread of microcomputers through the graphic arts industry accelerated. The Mac was introduced in 1984. By 1990, it ruled the roost and PC makers were beginning to take notice. And Microsoft introduced Windows 3. And the company for which I work began an intensive drive to computerize all of our graphics operations. I took to it like a duckling to water. By 1992, I was a sysop on the Corel and Adobe forums on CompuServe and becoming a recognized expert in the desktop publishing field, writing regular articles in tech journals on the various aspects of the use of software published by both companies, a state of affairs that lasted until the Clinton administration popped the tech bubble by its persecution of Microsoft in 2000.

So, now you know why you should pay attention to me. We will mention it no more. Don’t take this as an appeal to authority, merely an argument as to why I’m not wasting your time or squandering your attention. And by now, some of you whom I have not told will have figured out who I am, and I will stop dropping more clues. From here forward, judge the value of what I write on its own merits.

What I’m proposing to do here is to offer some insight into the processes of getting artwork on paper, and some verities of design that appear to have gotten lost in the mix. I am going to burst a lot of bubbles, and speak counter to wisdom conventional and not-so-. The next installment will begin my perorations. And, while it will not become immediately relevant, I propose to take as my text the requirements for getting a cover done by CreateSpace, so, as a prerequisite of sorts, you might hie yourself there and at minimum obtain their cover template and instructions. And, you could probably do worse than signing up and getting yourself an account there while you’re at it.

I’m not entirely sure how fast I’ll be able to turn these columns. They take a good deal more effort than mere political bloviating, and so might come at rarer frequency, but I will attempt to keep them coming at least once a week. Watch this space.

In the Mail

NOPE, FEDEX AGAIN: the masterwork, Starship Troopers from Robert Heinlein. It’s research. Yeah. Research… That’s the ticket.

In the novel currently In Progress with the working title of Discovery Dolly has …issues. I can study the master to learn how to portray those issues. So it really is — Jon Lovitz notwithstanding — research. Just wish I could write it off.

And my ur copy — of a vintage with the original mass market paperback release — in addition to being packed away in storage, is getting a little dog-eared, yellow of page, and incontinent in the spine, if you catch my drift. So the reissue is a Good Thing to have.

And, as The Glenn says it, BabyTrollBlog is an Amazon affiliate. When you make a purchase courtesy of any of our Amazon links — including from the Library Thing thing at right — you assist in defraying the costs of bringing our free ice cream to you, at no additional cost to yourself.

Thank you for your support.

Nanny Bloomberg Takes One on the Snout

AND YOU’RE ALL CELEBRATING and shit because you think you won somethimg.

Hardly. Both the plaintiff and the judge in the case side-stepped the real issue — the one that had everybody all, “He can’t do that/He just did.”

Does the state have the lawful, legitimate, just and proper authority to make such a law in the first place?

And the only right, proper, just, and lawful answer is, “Hell no!” But that’s not the answer that won the day, now, is it?

So… Who exactly won that one? The forces of liberty? Or the forces of creeping statism?

Time Change

PEOPLE TALK ABOUT VARIOUS compromises to get rid of the ridiculous twice-annual ritual of Time Change. Spring forward a half-hour and leave it there; switch to Greenwich Mean Time worldwide; go to standard time year round.

Here’s mine.

In the winter, I’ll be on Standard Time full time. In the summer, I’ll be on Standard Time in the morning and, starting at Noon, switch over to Daylight Savings Time.

Do the math.

Oh, and by the way, I go to lunch at One O’Clock.

Progress on Work

DISCOVERY IS UP TO 1,260 words. Slow going, but I’m loving where it’s going. It will be quite different from Report and quite possibly astonish readers. We’ll see.

I’ve also been doing some daydreaming on titles and cover art. The concept for the latter is coalescing, mostly around changes in the former. I’ve been playing with the concept of the Apocrypha as a series, which it is, and thinking of ways to tie the different books together externally — on their covers. I’m playing with the notion of following a Article, Noun, Noun, Noun pattern, where the first two nouns relate to where the story takes place or the key bit of action that defines the story. (Sort of like what I have now, but with a twist.) The last noun is one of the several words given in translation for the Greek word upothesa, which are: affair; hypothesis; assumption; business; case; concern; cause; matter; conjecture; premise; presumption; shebang; supposition. So, worked out in first draft, the new series of titles becomes…

  • NX: The New Xenaland Concern
  • DX: The Discovery Conjecture
  • DS: The Double Snatch Affair
  • MJ: The Moose Jaw Incident
  • DD: The Dynasty Divine Matter
  • XO: The Great Crossover Episode
  • DO: A Doll’s Odyssey
  • DB: The Dolly’s Birthday Shebang

You’ll notice that some of the stories are missing. Those will be incorporated into these or dropped altogether, for a number of reasons either way.

In the Mail…

WELL, UPS, A Few Good Men by guest blogger, (see below), Sarah A. Hoyt.

Realized today that I hadn’t updated my Library Thing in so long that none of Sarah’s books were in there, so they don’t show in the widget at right. I fixed that. Now they will.

And, if you click on either the thumbnail immediately to the right or WAY over there in the sidebar, and go through to eventually order the book from Amazon, you should be aware that BabyTrollBlog is an Amazon affiliate and that, by ordering from links on this blog, you help to defray some of the costs of maintaining the blog — bandwidth, hosting, etc. — at no additional cost to yourself. Thank YOU for your support.

Guest Post!!!

MY COPY OF Draw One in the Dark came in the mail yesterday. (Out of print, although soon available from Baen.) A Few Good Men is due today. It’s a Sarah Hoyt week! And then, this morning, I find in the email a long-anticipated guest column — a stop on the Sarah A. Hoyt 2013 Blog Tour. We are proud to host it (below).

The topic came from a comment I made at Mad Genius Club. It has long been a bugbear of mine, but is not — really — any more. It was a dual problem, I think, of wanting to understand whether what I was submitting met minimum acceptable standards of the market. Well, that’s not a problem, really, with indie publishing. You publish. If it sinks like a stone, either nobody liked it or nobody found it. Not much you can do about either. Move on to the next one.

The most important point is one Sarah makes. I’ll let her make it.

And with only that much ado, I present to you, the incomparable, Sarah! A! Hoyt! ::and the crowd goes RAWWWRRR!::

ON, BTW, Sarah, you do have a logon here as an editor if I recall correctly.

Ain’t That Tuff Enuff?

How Do You Know

by Sarah A. Hoyt

How do you know if your writing is really good?

A lot of beginning writers are tormented by this question. I know I was.

Fortunately (!) I was lucky (!!) to come up in the days when my only way to publication was to submit and sell to editors. So I soon evolved the answer “if it sells, it is good.”

I evolved this answer, even though I — objectively — knew d*mn well that this wasn’t true. However, it was functionally true. Let me attempt to explain.

I’m not sure if there is such a thing as “objectively good.” I’m not sure of this, because 99% of NYT mega bestselling books would go against the wall with force if I were fool enough to read them after reading the synopsis. To me, Terry Pratchett is objectively good, but I have tons of friends whose opinion I respect, who can’t read him. In the same way, I find Twilight and its spawn “sickish” and dumb, but I have very smart friends who love the books. And don’t get me started on Dan Brown. Just don’t.

But even if there were such a thing as “objectively good” it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Take Patricia Wentworth (please.) Objectively I can tell you everything that is wrong with her Miss Silver mysteries: to wit, several of them can only work if all characters are as dumb as a box full of hammers; they’re more woman in peril thrillers/romances than mysteries; they’re repetitive — if you read one, you know how the others will go.

And yet… and yet, I own every one of them I can get my hands on, and I re-read them often over months at a time.

Why? Well, I know they’re not “good” as far as I understand writer technique but they are low-tension rides with the certainty that in the end evil (and she writes great evil women, particularly) will be defeated, innocence avenged, and good flourish (even good that’s dumb as a box full of hammers.) They are, essentially, cozy and comforting. Taking apart their structural flaws is like pointing out flaws in the weave of your security blanket: granted that it’s all true, who cares? At certain times they serve my purposes in reading them. And that’s all you need to know.

Even back then, when I was trying to tell myself “what sells to an editor is good” what I really meant was “it advances my purpose of making a living from fiction.” I didn’t mean it was good. How could I? I knew the other stuff those magazines and houses published, and most of them were anything but good. More, I was aware of the fact that to be accepted by most magazines (houses are a little harder to aim for. None but Baen have a distinctive identity) I didn’t need so much to be “good” as to be what they wanted me to be/expected me to be.

However, I had to pretend the standard meant something to live with myself. And having that validation kept me from driving myself crazy.

I imagine what it’s like to be a newby now “What do I write?” “What is good?” “If it’s not selling, is it because it’s bad, or is it because I haven’t promoted enough?”

I’m going to dispose of the “good thing” right now. From now onto forever, when that thought comes into your head, remember “Sarah Hoyt says it’s good enough.”

How can Sarah Hoyt say it’s good enough without having seen your work? Because Sarah Hoyt has trouble imagining — unless you’re actually writing in such a way that the sentences don’t make any sense (say “the wide purpleness swam languidly”) or that the meaning doesn’t carry from a sentence to the next anything worse than stuff she had to read for college in the seventies, or stuff that’s been assigned to her kids in high school very recently.

Worse, I can’t imagine anything that’s worse than what I call “the worst book in the world” which fails to engage the reader by taking side excursions into irrelevant stuff, the author contradicts herself four times in the first three pages, the characters are repulsive, the action ridiculous… and yet that book (indie published) has six sequels and the author is living from the proceeds.

In fact, if you managed to write anything worse than that, it would be a work of genius JUST on the basis of that, and by itself that might deserve a place in world literature.

As for selling — this might change, everything about indie seems to change every other day — but for now what seems to make a difference is to have several pieces of writing (under the same name) out there. It maximizes people’s ability to find you.

However, other than that, there’s not much doing. The (Ric) Locke theorem specifies that for every piece of writing, not matter how horrible, in a world with millions of readers, you’ll find x thousand that think your book is the best thing ever written. The x is some number larger than 1 and possibly extending past a thousand.

So, keep writing, keep trying, don’t worry about being good or bad. Ask yourself “Good according to whom?” And “bad according to whom?”

If you’re bad according to yourself, then do try to fix the areas that bother you. Study from those authors you admire. This falls under the principle of “don’t sell sausage you’re not willing to eat.”

Other than that, ignore critics, don’t read reviews, keep working and keep publishing.

And if anyone asks you why you think this or that is good tell them that Sarah Hoyt said it was good enough.

And Yet, You Scoff

WHEN WE IN THE RIGHT try to tell you that Democrats are scofflaws, that they do not love this country, that they do not have your best interests at heart and are therefor unworthy of your support:

The best part was when Rand Paul sought unanimous consent for a sense of the Senate resolution that the President shouldn’t kill American citizens in America — and Democrats, led by Dick Durbin, objected.

Seen at Instapundit.

…or when I tell you that the senior Senator from Illinois is a tick and needs to be backed out of the wound he has made to fester on the American body politic and his ass popped to drain the blood he’s sucked from the Constitution.

Quote of the …

NAME YOUR OWN time frame.

Medical Marijuana prohibition is a crime against humanity and a violation of the religious precept – heal the sick.

–M. Simon @ Classical Values.

Any prohibition is an affront to liberty and as such is — in this country at least — unlawful. The government has no legitimate interest in defining and controlling contraband and needs to have its hand slapped (at least) whenever it tries. Long time past for this to be brought to heel.

Comity Go Hell

A CALLER TO GARY-JEFF WALKER (sitting in for Brian Thomas) on the WKRC Morning Show last Thursday (it’s on I Heart Radio, BTW, so you non-Cincinnatians can listen to it live) was trying to castigate Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA — warning: link takes you to a filthy statist crony-ist government web site) while simultaneously trying to sound reasonable and stipulating that “They may have started out wanting to do good things…” or words to that effect.

As far as I am concerned, this is morally equivalent to Marge Schott’s, “Hitler started out good but went bad” gaffe of a few years back. We really need to stop ascribing positive motives to leftists. They don’t have them. The entire rotten edifice of the Left is founded in bad faith and ill intent and there is no need — or any benefit or propriety — to pretend otherwise. We know they lie. So why do we trust them when they claim good motives?

Section 8 used slum clearance as a stalking horse, but it was more about afflicting landlords than it was about comforting slum dwellers. After all, if the poor were to be lifted from their plight, who would the rabble rousers rouse? Wouldn’t that be a case of “1-2-3, where’s your power base?” Trying to pretend that a despicable practice grew out of altruism when it did no such thing only weakens your attack against the practice itself. Stop it.

It should be clear to one and all by now that the Left has nothing to offer America or humanity and should be stomped out wherever it raises its ugly head. We need to make it clear that the way, the truth, and the light is through individual liberty and self-reliance — that government, far from being the, a, or ANY solution to problems is the CAUSE of all of them.

Quote of the Day: March 6

You cannot have a reasoned discussion with someone to whom math is an opinion.

–Og, in comments at Buttercup’s