Monthly Archives: July 2013

Coals to Newcastle or

STEEL TO DAMASCUS, but it’s the least I can do… ::grin::. Our Curmudgeon has started a club you might want to join — if you’re a writer. The idea is to offer an imprimatur of quality in fiction. It might even be a — all puns intended — novel approach. I can’t lay claim to dispositive or authoratative knowledge on the subject. Read All About It. Decide for yourself.

Seems as though this thing would have a greater chance of success the more people got involved.

Quote of the Day: July 30, 2013

There is no evidence that a third party wins.

–Rush Limbaugh, Monday, July 29, 2013

…and there won’t be…

…until it happens.

If the perfidy of the Republican establishment is as great as all the hyperventilating from the chatterers on the Right would have us believe, why wouldn’t Palin’s going rogue excite sufficient support to win?

Or, if it’s not that bad, then what are they on about?

At Work on the Novel

SPENT MOST OF THE WEEKEND shoring up the structure of The High T Affair. Since y’all will never see the earlier state of the story, you’ll have no basis for comparison, but — trust me — it’s a major improvement. And, if it’s a change (not sure whether it is), the word count now stands at 85,000 and change.

Also spent some time daydreaming imagery for the cover. Nothing terribly concrete at this stage: just notions.

To the Self-Important Asshole in the Lincoln Who

WILL PROBABLY NEVER READ this. Your desire to climb up my ass and pass me in a NO-PASSING ZONE, then chastize me with your blaring horn is of no moment. That is, by the way, what the SOLID LINE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE EXIT RAMP means — YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

  • You do not have a constitutional right to go faster than everybody else. Sucks to be you.
  • Your relative importance on the road is not established by the kind of car you drive. Get over yourself.
  • The car in front has the right-of-way. Get used to it.
  • Horn blows, so does the driver.

Postcards from the Vernacular

GATE RAPE n. The process by which prospective airline passengers are subjected to official sexual assault by agents of the Transportation Safety (sic) Administration (TSA).

Quote of the Day: July 25, 2013


There’s a saying from firearms instructor Clint Smith, “If you look like food, you’re going to get eaten.” I used to explain to my classes that criminals were as good at their chosen career as the students were at theirs. Criminals are experts at picking out victims, and they prefer the suckers who aren’t paying attention. If you look like work, they’re probably going to pick somebody else to victimize. If you’re paying attention you’ve gone from “food” to “work” and if they wanted to work for a living they’d get a real job.

Want to preserve that. Plan to use it in fiction some day.

When Obama Says

TRAYVON COULD HAVE been me (he — the Prez) 35 years ago, he intends to confer some saintliness to the late thug. But what he’s really saying is that he (the Prez) used to be a thug. With which I agree and argue that, among myriad other failings, disqualifies him from public office. As I said when I first learned of his existence. But who ever listens to me?

Sea Turtle Eggs

Lepidochelys_olivaceaWATCHING A NATURE SHOW this evening, in which the practice sea turtles have of laying eggs on beaches to hatch at the full moon, it occurs to me…

A group of sea turtles will lay thousands of eggs. Five percent make it to the water. The other ninety-five percent get killed and eaten by predators and scavengers. It’s a part of nature. By this, the predators and scavengers get fed — at least one meal. It’s not what the system is designed for, and the turtles as a species would probably be better off if more babies survived. The system is designed to reproduce the turtle. The rest is mere by-product. The very definition of collateral damage.

Photo: Bernard Gagnon, 2006. Wikimedia Commons

A business might employ thousands of people. As has been demonstrated here recently in the Twinkie situation, frequently, a business can survive and deliver its product employing substantially fewer people. Which is a desirable state of affairs. The business does not exist to employ people. That is, rather, a collateral benefit. But the business will not survive if its employment costs are beyond what its sales can support.

And, of course, the same is true of governmental entities.

These are fundamental economic lessons. Lessons which the so-called ruling elites of the world seem to have either forgotten or never learned in the first place.

As Glenn Reynolds puts it: the country’s in the very best of hands.


SYFY CHANNEL is running a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon Sunday and … ? Monday?

One of the episodes played was “Becoming” Part II, the finale of Season Two. Heartwrenching. The last few minutes feature a Sarah McLachlan song, Full of Grace, which never fails to jerk a tear.

And this is a writing post, because I find myself wondering if you could take the beats from the two parts of “Becoming” and make a novel from them, or if they depend too much for the exposition and story arc of the rest of the series to that point.

What do you think, writers?

This is a fan-edited take on, not just that episode, but a collection of heartbreaking beats from the entire series. You know there’s a reason Joss Whedon is so popluar.

Just My Type

cvr high-t 1 0713THIS POST IS ABOUT my process. Your mileage may vary. Hell, my mileage varies. This is not the entirety of my process; it’s not even the only approach I take to a given project. I may take a half-dozen approaches or more. And your process will reflect your character, your desires, your state of mind and emotion, and your blood levels of a caffeine. At least, it does in my case.

Creative projects often change directions like a drunken sailboat skipper sailing against the wind, looking for his keys — tack after tangent after reversal. No Less this one, the cover for my first-published novel, The High-T Affair, Book One of the Dolly Apocrypha arc of the Baby Troll Chronicles.

I have a welter of ideas running around in my head, like a bunch of bratty characters, each one trying to grab the wheel, all shouting at the tops of their lungs for my undivided attention so they can pitch their notion.

Makes it hard to pick just one. In fact, I’m toying with the notion (only one-sixteenth seriously) of doing them ALL and publishing them ALL and seeing which one sells best. Yes, the reasons not to do that are myriad and obvious, but nobody ever accused me of not wanting to have it all.

So, here is the first result. This is the pretty, so-I-can-show it off version. Click on the image here to see it larger. Click on the image that pops up to see it full size. I strongly advise you do both. You will be able to see just how clean the image is. This is very important. To quote everybody’s favorite goth lab geek, Abby Sciuto, there’s no substitute for quality source imagery. This image is as sharp and clean as it can be made. And, yet, I’ll wager that the resampled rendering by your web browser makes it look fuzzy and pixelated at some magnifications. Imagine what can be done with an image that starts OUT fuzzy and pixelated.

Why is this important? Well, I’ll tell ya. A lot of what pros learn to do with graphic imagery in product packaging and suchlike is subliminal. Not in the hidden messages kind of subliminal, but in the details that are important, but that nine out of ten people wouldn’t be able to pick out of an image. Despite that latter fact, those same nine will be able to say that something is off — though whether it’s a color mismatch, a bad mask, an out-of-focus image, a mix of high and low resolution in the same image (denoting bad compositing) — or whatever they may not be able to say exactly.

cvr high-t 1 thumbs 0713And these are the actual-size thumbnails that would show at Amazon — 300 pixels for the display on the book’s own listing page, 160 pixels for the results page of a search — however it is found — and 135px for the “suggestions” or “also-boughts.” There are smaller renderings, but these are enough to see how the thing “reads” at postage-stamp sizes.

For the reference of those following along at home, the original layout is 6×9, done in CorelDRAW (x6). The fonts are from DaFont — Motion Picture, and from my collection of licensed fonts from over the years — Onyx (a Monotype font) and Copperplate Gothic bold (this particular instance a URW font). (Most of my licenses have come with copies of CorelDRAW or Adobe Illustrator, but many have been purpose-bought for some project or another — or, just because I liked the face.)

The version of the Motion Picture script is licensed as free for personal use. Once I’ve settled on it for actual use, I will buy a commercial license from the foundry. At $60, it might seem a bit pricey, but, as I see it, an individualist libertarian has two moral choices — buy the thing at the price offered or don’t use it. Support your local (and global) type designers.

And, on that tack, let’s discuss fonts for a moment. Typeface designs are NOT copyrightable. Font programs are. That is, the shape of letters (glyphs), or a set of letters, are not protected by copyright law. In computer use, however, what is protected is the program code used to instruct the operating system’s rendering engine (including a printer’s marking engine) how to draw a glyph or a block of text on the screen or a marking drum for transfer to paper: the font file(s). What this means in technical terms is you can use a legally-licensed “font” program to set type, convert the type to curves, and none the wiser, the type is yours.

Where you may get into legal trouble is when you exceed the terms of the license. Typically, you may permanently install the font file on a set number of computer systems (desktop/workstation) and a single printer on a single site. Adobe’s licenses (with notable exceptions, see their EULA pages) permit a number of seats (5, 10, 20, et al), with a work-home allowance and ONE printer with a permanent download. (If you convert to curves on printing or only download on a per-job basis, there is no printer installation.) Note: YOU and ONLY you are responsible for ensuring that your practices are in compliance with the software licenses granted you. Read and understand the EULAs which accompany all software. If you install on more than the permitted number of systems, or egregiously pass font files hand-to-hand, you’re liable to be prosecuted for piracy and the penalties can get severe.

What this means in moral terms is something else altogether. A lot of type designers will license a font free for personal use. But this is manifestly a commercial situation, and this foundry has a requirement to buy a commercial license for such use. Not only that, but, like writers, type designers need to eat. Not only that, but their work benefits the world all out of proportion to the effort they put into it and they deserve to be compensated for this outsized contribution to the common weal. Also, we as individualist proponents of free markets and human commerce owe it to ourselves to behave in a manner consistent with our beliefs. It is the socialist who steals the property of another for the sake of convenience or need. We don’t do that. If you NEED something that belongs to another (and it is for sale), for God’s sake, PAY FOR IT! (Even if there’s not a price tag on it, donate to the designer. It can come back to you in myriad strange ways.)

And, in reality, fonts are cheap. Even the Motion Picture script used in the above examples, at $60 for a single font is dirt cheap. And, considering all the notionally free fonts we get bundled with our application software, tossing a Benjamin in the pot every once in awhile doesn’t seem too great a burden. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re all poor and counting pennies to eat. Boo-hoo. Pay the five bucks, as the saying goes. It’ll do your karma good. In fact, even though I’m probably not going to use it (see below), I’m probably going to buy the Motion Picture font because it does look like a very useful script — good color, well-made, pleasing letterforms. And I just hate to have trial versions of software lying around because I never know when I might pick something up in the throes of creativity and forget I haven’t paid for it. Don’t want to risk that, so I — as a colleague says — cope ahead.

End of lecture on software licenses and karma.

The notion behind the design is a nod in the general direction of a current retro fad in design which harks back to deco-ish trademarks and print ads from the ’20s and ’30s. You can see lots of examples at sites like Emigre. Having taken it this far/fur, I may develop it farther/further, adding elements and rearranging what’s here to better suit the style. But my original notion (and this illustrates how the graphic design analogs of plot bunnies pop up) was to just get some idea of possible type arrangements so I could get a feel for how to make illustrations to fit. Those who’ve been following along may recall that I had some other notions earlier (and may still use some of them) — a silhouette of Dolly at the peak of being pleasured by Drummond; a model of a testosterone molecule (which is relevant for reasons exposited in the story); icons of Mexican Washingtonia palms, (also relevant for reasons to be found in the text); a 3D rendering of an “escape” ring, which plays a part in the plot. Choosing among them, arranging them in a coherent and unified design, and placing type (which itself must meet certain criteria of readability) over or around the images while still permitting them to “read” at some size (albeit probably not at thumbnail sizes) are all part of the design process, but it struck me as a possible first step that I could play with the type. And thus this tangent.

Or tack.

cvr high-t 3a 0713And, just to throw a little more confusion in the pot, we, as the customer, are going to reject the first draft design. First off, the use of three type faces violates a cardinal rule of design. This particular aesthetic fashion usually only permits two faces — a script and either a serif face or a sans-serif headline face. IF you want to get silly, of course, you can make your design look like a ransom note, with a different typeface for each character. But we’re serious, here, and — remember the bit above about details the layman may not spot, but will notice? — well, here’s one. So we want to regularize our type choices. Not only that, but the Motion Picture script is not really suited to the overall design aesthetic of the line, so the customer politely asks the designer to PLEASE use the designated script — Floridian Script — in the three-piece pattern established on our Web site (q.v.).

So, back under the designer hat, we bin the Copperplate and the Onyx, and we browse through our collection of type until we come across a well-designed headline face with several variants — Bodoni. And we set the title and other items in Bodoni variants and resubmit to the customer.

And then we step back and look at the piece. It’s been a long week and we’ve been pressed by multiple tight deadlines and we haven’t really had a lot of time to think. It’s just bang-bang-bang, one job after another. So a long session of just catching our breath and basking in the design seems called for.

And we realize we missed it entirely. This doesn’t say anything about the book. What it is is a cover announcing a book for rabid readers who are already looking for it. If it were trad-pubbed, there would be an inside second cover with a rich illustration on it. But we’re indy, this is a first novel by an unknown, and we need to put our best sell on the outside. If you didn’t know the series, this cover says more that this is a political non-fiction book, not an erotic science fantasy thriller. So, although we’ve got some clear notions about type, it’s going to be back to the drawing board on Monday.

And we sigh and shut down our work station in preparation for going home for the weekend.

Our next step is going to be playing with pictures — those images mentioned above, which provide symbols and hints as to our story and which should excite the prospective reader’s imagination and make him or her want to explore further.

But at least we have some notion of what the type might be. We may abandon it altogether. We may warp it beyond all recognition. Or we may layer and meld it together with the pictorial imagery.

But what we no longer have is a blank screen. Before today, we’ve had inchoate notions and stray fantasy images. Today, we’ve made an start on our design.

My intent is to work next on imagery. But I have this tendency to … squirrel! … so we’ll see. And you know what that means.

Writing on the Post-Zimmerman-

VERDICT REACTION AMONG American blacks, Heather MacDonald lays out a set of facts countering the reaction of elites to the outcome of the trial. A lot of people with suspect agendae have asserted that the verdict is either the result of or indicative of a generic racial bias in the justice system against blacks. This is being echoed by a lot of people who are less thoughtful or less well-informed: Rush’s low-information crowd. But, as MacDonald points out:

In fact, if a black parent wants to radically reduce his son’s chance of getting shot, he should live in a white neighborhood. New York’s crime profile is typical of urban-crime disparities across the country. The per capita shooting rate in predominantly black Brownsville, Brooklyn, is 81 times higher than that of predominantly white and Asian Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, according to the New York Police Department. Blacks in 2012 committed about 75 percent of all shootings in New York, and whites a little over 2 percent, though blacks are 23 percent of the city’s population and whites 35 percent. Blacks are 60 percent of the city’s homicide victims. Their killers? They aren’t white.

By the way, that pattern holds true in Cincinnati, where our police and race relations situation have recently undergone a well-publicized self-criticism protocol. If you control for “ghetto” location (not even black neighborhoods, but basically slums), our violent crime rate within the city is virtually nil. It’s a shame this has to be true, but the reason white victims get so much mindshare in the news is that they’re rare. Seems like several times a week, you hear about another body dropped in the ‘hood where drugs and alcohol were involved. I don’t think anybody likes it, but most feel powerless to do much about it.

A colleague at the patch factory related a situation she described as a take she hadn’t heard before — or thought of. A black friend of her son expressed reluctance to go to a movie with him. This kid, by her description, is not ghetto trash. He is, in point of fact, the kind of guy you’d WANT your lily-white daughter bringing home to dinner. He’s intelligent, well-schooled and -dressed, well-behaved, and not at all unaccustomed to being around and about in white company. Kind of like that hero kid who was briefly bruited about as the anti-Trayvon.

My colleague was told, in conversations with this kid’s mother, that the media has terrified black teenagers of going out in public where whites are around because they’re agraid of getting the Trayvon treatment.

Which, from a white, middle-class perspective, is just not likely. We see kids of his type as middle-class first and black (if at all) second. Certainly no threat. (But then, the media HAS worked mightily to gloss over the fact that Travyon DID present a threat to Zimmerman, whether you want to argue that threat was real in an objective sense or not.) To us, by and large, it’s never been about race, but has always been ALL about class.

My immediate reaction was, “Just wear khakis.” Khakis and polo shirts — maybe with moccasins or loafers instead of Air Jordans. In l’esprit d’escalier, I’d add, “Stand up straight, walk in strides instead of a shuffling shamble, keep your head up, make eye contact, smile, speak with at least SOME volume and clarity. Nobody will mistake you for a thug.” And avoid hoodies, falling-down jeans and ass-hanging-out red plaid boxers. It’s amazing how people will treat you with respect when you’re not wearing the uniform of a drug-addled horde out to burn the town down and rape the daughters.

The daughters might even give it up with consent. You never know.

Koch Brothers Promote Freedom — Damn Them!

Because, you know, the Koch brothers are evil and ever’thinnn’.

Spotted at Snarky Bytes.

Browser Wars

AFTER A YEAR OR SO ON FIREFOX I’m back on Opera. Firefox was just getting too bloated and slow and has a habit of locking up the system. Now, this might just be symptomatic of a system run too long. They all accrue cruft and encrust barnacles as time goes on. You’d think by now that developer best practices would include tools to prevent this. But… no. So. ::shrug. We switch periodically.

A Couple of Panaoramae

pan mt adams early morn


CLICK FOR FULL size. Taken from the Kentucky shore.


I THINK THERE IS AN IMPORTANT principle to be hammered home here.
I think it is fundamental to the concept of ordered liberty. I think of it as the Principle of Who Started It.

Over the millennia, the mothers (and fathers) of the world have done humanity a grave disservice — perhaps even unintentionally. When two or more children disturb the peace of the household, parents tend to demand peace instanter. When the one child who — legitimately or not — claims to be set upon by the other(s), mothers down the ages have said, “I don’t care who started it, it ends now.”

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, a very liberal — dare I say, progressivist — position. It is a “peace at any cost” position. It is a position against justice and for personal comfort and convenience. After all, chaffering children are not conducive to peace in the home and modest contemplation of eternal verities. But, in the case of the set-upon child, it teaches a lesson (in the parlance of the progressive, “sends a message”) that, come adulthood, may never be un-learned. That child has suffered unjust aggression and, on appeal to higher authority, been unjustly — indeed, rudely so — handled by said authority, whose fiduciary responsibility has thus been abdicated.

It is a principle of ordered civil liberty that society shall not brook aggression. Aggression, it is believed, is never right. The aggressor in any situation where rights may come into conflict is — not to put too fine a point on it — wrong.

In the Zimmerman case (Are you surprised? It is in the headline, you know.), it can be argued that both participants — George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin — could reasonably have believed that they were exercising their rights to self-defense. Both might have reasonably believed their lives to be in danger. The problem for society, then, is to winkle out who is wrong. Who — as it is said — started it.

And much of society has got it wrong — judging as they have on the bases of the wrong criteria. The white man, they say (or the black man) is always wrong, no matter what the circumstances. When, really, the only proper criterion is: Who Started It?

We have a saying in America. “[Your|My] right to swing [your|my] fists stops where [my|your] nose begins.” The aggressor is, by this principle, the one — not who threw the first punch, took the first shot — but the one who threw the first punch, fired the first shot that landed.

That person — by all the evidence — was Trayvon Martin. Up to that point, by my estimation, the two men were on equal ground. After that, it was weapons free, and the aggressor became fair game. By his own actions.

The extenuating circumstances — and there always are extenuating circumstances — do not withstand.

Galleries Additional

IN THE MENU BAR AT the top of the page, visitors may note a new item — Study Project East Wall Cabinets. These are the construction photos of the home office at Casa d’Alger, the East Wall being the first (well, last) piece of the project engaged in. There remains more to be done, but the East Wall is as far as it’s gotten so far. Eventually, I’ll put up other sets — the northeast approach, the southwest approach, the getaway… Not to mention the aerial photography. But for now, this is all there is.

You can get there by clicking the text link. The goodies at the other end will not remain static, but will be constantly updated.

Did My First


SOLO MODEL IN modo. It’s a lot easier to work, once you get the metaphor, than 3DS Max and I think, as time goes on, I will not regret making the switch between apps. And, of course, all the experience with 3DS, Bryce, Poser, Carrera, and the brazilian other 3D apps I’ve used over the years will help me pick up concepts in modo. It’s always that way — you already have the concepts, you’re just translating, rather than learning ab initio.

Anyway, this is a ball-and-stick, the basic form, for the testosterone molecule. I need to adjust the length of the stick, I think, and the relative radii of the ball and stick. (Right now, it’s 3:2, but I might have to go 2:1.) I really like the ease with which I can get a bright reflection on the brass surface. It would take me hours messing with lights in 3DS. It took a few clicks in modo. I spent more time spinning the perspective view and zooming in to fill the frame than I did either shading or rendering.

These modern apps! They’re SO FUZZY!

Cheerleading for a Friend

THE CAREER OF A WRITER passes through several stages. The earliest being those spelling lessons in grammar school, or perhaps the first book precociously read above one’s grade level. It proceeds through many stages over years of life and learning. And, near the main cusp — the point at which writing and storytelling change tack from being an avocation and a subject for study to a possible career — one goes to school.

I’m sure that the school setting and curriculum are as varied as are people, their lives, and their experience. At the same time, I believe any artist would recognize the schooling experience by the universal nature of certain elements. How to use the tools of the craft, what is the form of a complete work, the history of the art, the horizons you seek.

For storytellers, there will be a workshop experience. It may not be called a workshop. It may take place in a formal setting, or a casual or ad hoc one. It may take place face-to-face or, in this modern age, online. In the latter case, the participants will almost inevitably be widely scattered. All the same, relationships are formed in what may be seen as a crucible of common experience.

For me, that setting was the Online Writer’s Workshop for Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror. My time on matriculation was around the turn of the current century. (The 21st, not the 20th — I’m not THAT old!) The senior classmen at the time included Elizabeth Bear. The most recent graduates, Jim Butcher.

And among the upper classmen of the era was a woman who took me under her wing and undertook to help me along. I fell in love with her writing — particularly her voice, which at the time, reminded me of Zenna Henderson. (No more. She has her own, unique voice, now, though the perceptive may find the warmth and wisdom of Henderson in its tones.) She, in turn, fell in love with my characters. She is, as a matter of fact, Dolly’s godmother, the alpha reader for the Dolly stories. Her name is Jamie Lee Moyer, and I am proud to call her friend.

Her first novel is now available for pre-order. It is the first book of a trilogy (and possibly a longer series, but who knows) being published by Tor between now and 2015. It’s called Delia’s Shadow and the Amazon link is above. (Remember, if you buy at Amazon through links on this blog, you help defray the costs of running it at no additional cost to yourself.) I have read the first two books complete and am beta reading the third, which is at present in draft. I can heartily recommend it as thoroughly enjoyable.

And, among all the other wuffies, Jamie got an absolutely brill review in Publisher’s Weekly. Check it out.

You Can Almost Put

ANY INTERPRETATION you like on an appropriately abstract and allegorical set of song lyrics. Nevertheless, I think I hear in this one a lot of the emotional freight of the Dolly and Drummond stories.

Getting really horny to want to get this first story out on the market. Can hardly relate to authors who have to wait 2-3 years for their books to come out.


VELOCIMAN reports.

There’s No Threat

TO YOU OR YOUR MARRIAGE from gay marriage legalization. Oh, no. It can’t happen here.

That’s it, then. The argument is over. I was right: bad faith intent. Nothing more to see, here.



Today is no-bra day!

‘Course, da doll doesn’t wear a bra ANY day. Not since scienterrific studies showed that bras don’t do much for the boobage. I calls it dressing at liberty.

With matching underpants, of course.

Science Bleg

Testosterone from ballsI HAVE CONCEIVED this desire to put an image of a model of a testosterone molecule on the cover of my novel, The High-T Affair. Being an acquisitive sort, I saw a ball-and-stick model of one in the Wikipedia article and decided I had to have one of my own.

Easy peasy, I thought. After all, I have several 3D packages, including the big kahuna, 3DS Max, and Modo 601. I should be able, with very little google.fu, to find a model that I can import into a scene and use there.

Not so much.

OK. There should be a way to find out how to make one from scratch. And, sure enough, there’s all kinds of packages. Problem is, I suspect, they assume more knowledge than I have or could get within a reasonable period of time. I might want to get it later, but right now, I have limited time.

So, before I abandon this quest for good and ever (or do something else), I thought to ask youse guys if anybody might know where I could get one or learn how to make one in a bog standard 3d package without boning for my piled higher and deeper. Anybody? Beuller?

Independence Day

Well she lit up the sky that fourth of July
By the time that the firemen came
They just put out the flames and took down some names
And sent me to the county home.

Now, I ain’t sayin’ it’s right or it’s wrong
But maybe it’s the only way
Talk about your revolution
It’s Independence Day

The Government Chicago Deserves

WE’RE ALL GETTING it, good and hard, deserve it or not.