Monthly Archives: August 2013

So the DOJ Pulls Up Its Big Boy Pants

AND DECIDES ALL ON ITS LONESOME that atheism is a religion and entitled to First Amendment protections.

All well and good. And, now, it’s also not privileged above other religions and we’ll hear no more about taking down Christmas creches.

Right?

I saw what you did there.

Not to Be

A ONE BOOK WRITER Kris Rusch writes on the difference between getting published and making a career at writing. In aid that… With the publication of my first novel perhaps a week or so away, I am mindful of the keystone requirement — the next book.

Even as I’m trying to wrangle beta readers and get the cover together for The High T Affair, I am in the background processes of setting up the next one: pouring the first draft into Scrivener; considering whether to meld another story line into this one; wincing at the terribly juvenile plot, characterization, dialog, etc. of the first draft.

I’m also looking two, three, four books down the road, trying to chivvy the ideas into line, playing the long-story-arc game.

How’s your career planning going?

Interesting to note that writing buddy, Jaime Lee Moyer’s first novel, Delia’s Shadow is set for release September 17, but has been available for pre-order on Amazon for several months. We met on the OWW thirteen years ago. (Before, I should note, it was the OWW, back when Mr. Redley (Del Rey Books) was the sponsor.) Who beat whom to book publication? (And does it matter?) I have a copy of the MS for the third book in her trilogy. I’ve read earlier drafts and am excited to see the final thing. Back in the workshop days, I compared her voice to Zenna Henderson. I still get the gentle warmth, but now it’s uniquely Jaime’s. The genre is paranormal fantasy with a soupcon of San Francisco history. Recommended.

Dolly’s Going to WorldCon

BUT NOT THE WAY YOU’D THINK

Well, not the way I’d hope you’d think from the headline.

My first reader, in order to Get Right On It, is taking a printout (I supposed it’s a bootleg, but I think it’s OK; I know the rights holder personally.) to WorldCon to read in the down times. One of which will be, I’m told, babysitting for a Hugo nominee.

Our brush with fame.

Except that One of the Gang is going to be reading, the rest doesn’t really mean much. It’s just kind of funny.

Amusing-and-cute funny, not disturbed-and-potentially-violent-neighbor funny.

Apropos of Very Nearly Nothing at All

OK, WELL, OG POSTED a thing about BLACK Magic Marker, which brought this to mind.

::sigh::

HERE WE GO AGAIN! Democrat pusillanimity is going to get us into another land war in Asia. And they’re going to go about it in half-hearted, half-measures, executed in a half-assed manner by less than half the numbers of personnel we should use. The Big Stick on the cheap. Because — you know — it has always worked so well in the past. (Can you say, “Vietnam”?)

The Race Card is SO Overused

IT’S SUPPOSED (BY THE LEFT) to be a trump card, and it’s turning out to be a joker.

No jokers in bridge.

You are SO perspicacious, Dolly!

::preens::

Quote of the Day

SPOKEN (WELL, WRITTEN) TO DEMOCRATS

You are the enemy.
You are not benevolent.
Your first goal is to disarm us.
Your second goal is to eliminate privacy.
Your third goal is to criminalize our opinions.
You want power for yourselves, and nothing else.
You believe yourselves entitled to rule us absolutely.
You routinely wish for the deaths of conservative figures.
You would have us forcibly “re-educated,” if you could pull it off.
You are trying to destroy all remaining restraints on the federal government.
You’re doing everything you can to criminalize disagreement with your agenda.
You accuse your political opponents of every foul crime and motivation in the book.
And you do it with a contemptuous smirk that says “You can’t stop us no matter what you do.”

I tried to grant you the presumption of integrity.
I can’t. You’ve forfeited all claim to decency or benign purpose.
The only difference between you and the Communists of North Korea is your skin tone.
From here to the end of my life, I will do all in my power to have you seen for what you really are.
Not decent people with different opinions about what’s best, or what means are acceptable.
Not persons agonized over America’s residuum of violence, or poverty, or racism.
Not neighbors peacefully willing to agree to disagree with other Americans.
You are none of those things.
You are the enemy.
You are villains.
Traitors.

–Our Curmudgeon, at Liberty’s Torch

RTWT.

Deadline Pushed Back

I SUPPOSE IT’S NOT all that obvious, but, despite having more-or-less completed the final edits on The High T Affair over the weekend, I suspect I will be unable to meet my self-imposed publication deadline by September 1 — next Sunday.

I can still try, but I have yet to register copyright, finish the cover art (which, it looks like, will be vastly different from what you’ve seen so far, but that happens a lot in creative projects), and herd the thing through a beta read.

I may have to push it back a day or two.

It’s National Go Topless Day!

bouncybouncyAND DA DOLL plans to participate. Photo from last year’s event. In observance of the day, I stole a scene from Alger’s latest work, The High T Affair, which is due out in probably two weeks, now, it looks like.

By the way, he’s still looking for beta readers.

Minoan Tits

“You dirty old man!” Olivia stage-whispered at him, slapping him on the shoulder while giggling and simultaneously trying to keep the blanket pulled tight around herself with only one hand.
“That’s me,” Drummond said as drolly as he could manage. “The old original cradle robber. Anyway, I’d wager it’s a high standard.”

“Eh?”

“Canadian not you are?” He grinned at her. “Your tits. If the rest is anything to judge by, I’d say they set a high standard. Might even be Minoan tits.”

“OK, now. What? In all. The Hells of Santa Ana. Are you talkin’ ’bout?”

“OK. Well. I can’t claim credit for this. I just heard it somewhere, but… You know those murals they discovered in the palace at Knossos — the capital of the Minoan Empire? (Which the Gods in Upothesa can tell you was the source of the Atlantis myth.) All those ladies of the court wearing their bosom-baring fashions?”

She nodded. “Sure as eggs, all of them heifers have fine knockers. Almost like somebody’s husband or daddy paid the painter to… improve on the subject.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Or the painters had a particular type.”

“Yeah. Minoan tits. So how…?”

“Well, you know, I’m sure, that there are those who want for it to be considered decent — or, at any rate, legal — for women to go topless in places not the beach or their bedrooms.”

He looked sidelong at her, one eyebrow raised.”

She pursed her lips. “I most certainly do. And I’d be in favor of it, too.”

“Because,” he said. “It would make you look good, you with your world-class, weapons-grade rack. Is I wrong, or is I right?”

“You is not wrong. Or so I hear.” She gave him a wicked grin. “I bet we could find us a linen closet and you an’ me could play doctor, ‘n’ I could prove it to you.”

Drummond grinned back at her. “Get thee behind me.”

“So what’s this-all got to do with prehistoric porn on palace walls?”

“I figure that, if they did make it legal for women to go topless, some bunch of fools with more power than sense would try to legislate on the basis of aesthetics. After all, it’s a matter of keepin’ our city beautiful. Can’t have big ol’ saggy hooters with wrinkly skin, hangin’ down to the lady’s knees out there for God and everybody to see…” Drummond realized he was unconsciously adopting Olivia’s Texas twang and, with an effort, stopped. “So… a particularly fine pair would be judged street-legal, or…”

Olivia gave a sharp bark of laughter. “Minoan tits! I love it!”

So, whip off those tops ladies. Particularly you young ‘uns with… Yes, with Minoan tits.

So…

SO IT OCCURS TO ME that one reason there isn’t as much griping about the price of gas as influenced by corn-fed ethanol (and the accompanying rise in food costs) is that… Well… So you grab a bag of frozen kernels from the freezer case at your neighborhood Kroger. Sure it may say, “Kroger” on the bag – or Green Giant or Birdseye – but, really, who MADE the corn that goes into that bag? You don’t know, do you? So, where your money goes… well, you can stop buying it, but who does that help?

Does this sound a little like why medicine costs so much? You just submit the bill (or, worse, your providers do) to the insurance company and it gets paid – less your 20% or whatever your copay is. You don’t know where the money comes from or where it’s going, really. (OK, well, yeah, it comes from your productivity at your job, but you never see that. You’re working for the twenty bucks a week you put in your wallet to buy a beer on Friday. The rest of it just… drains away and you never really see it.

But, really. There is a Big Corn, and they’re paying off congresscritters to rip you off.

Oh, and the poor schmuck who tills his 532 acres of high-yield Pioneer Breed 153 or whatever is on the sign isn’t getting rich off it, either. It’s somebody else up the food chain. The farmer gets the shaft along with the rest of us.

Blah! I’m sound like a Young Pioneer or something.

Some Idiot at the Washington Post

<joannewhorley>IS THAT A CATEGORY JOKE?</joannewhorley> asks what he thinks, no doubt, is a terribly clever question: “Why aren’t there any libertarian societies?”

Might as well ask why Henry Ford’s first car wasn’t a 2013 Thunderbird.

Dipshit. It’s because libertarianism is highly advanced and is not something that you start out from. It requires educated and sophisticated understandings of the relationships among people and between people and the state. It requires an advanced conception of the necessities of self-government. You start out with anarchy, develop through various stages of autarchy through democracy and republic. Libertarianism is an END STAGE governmental form.

If you want to know why there are no purely libertarian societies, look in the mirror. Are YOU well-advanced enough to govern yourself? (And not meddle in the affairs of others?)

Marxism FAIL

I SAW IN PASSING a blog topic on the Washington Post site: “Is Capitalism Moral?” And I’d like to propose a little thought seed — a virtual brain grenade… you pull the pin, throw it, and sometime later, it goes off.

Does capitalism even exist? Isn’t the word really the root of a straw man argument in the (FAIL) witless maunderings of idiot… well, idiot-not-savant Karl Marx?

Just axin’s all…

Don’t it Make You Giggle

DERISIVELY TO HEAR the phrase “The Rev’r’nd JACKs’n tweets.” Dun’t matter what he says. It lessens or eliminates entirely any hope of gravitas in the utterance that comes via Twitter.

Quote of the Day

AT THE RISK OF perpetuating a cliche, this ought to leave a mark, but probably won’t even make an impression where it’s needed. More’s the pity.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you can’t manage to muster even one honest, moral, consistent, logical or rational statement when defending your opinion, perhaps it’s time to consider changing it entirely.

Matt Walsh

Or, as Ayn Rand put it, “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”

(RTWT.)

Quote of the Day

As for the 99.9% who won’t see my level of success, I would point out that 99.9% of those who submit material to the traditional machine will never see a similar level of success. It isn’t like our option is to self-publish OR see how well our novel does fronted out on an endcap in a bookstore. Our options are to self-publish OR spend a few years landing an agent, another year selling the book to a publisher, a year waiting for that book to come out, and then three months spine-out on dwindling bookshelves before you are out of print and nobody cares about you anymore. If you’re lucky. Most likely, you’ll never even get an agent. Because you aren’t Snooki.

Hugh Howey

You Know, the World Would Run Better

IF DEMOCRATS WOULD JUST admit from the start that they’re wrong or lying or duped or stupid.

As it is, we fight and fight with them for years to expose the truth, and then — years later — we get admissions like Noam Chomsky admitting Sarah Palin was right.

And it was Tina Fey who said, “I can see Russia from my house.”

Just an Aside Here

IN A HEMI-DEMI-SEMI-RESPONSE to something said in a comment thread (which has gone on FAR too long) on another blog. Said response also being off-topic.

Everything you say is off-topic. It’s your approach to life.

YOU, young lady, have NO room to talk!

Well. At least, I know where I get it from. How about you, Mr Author?

ANY. Wayyy.

Why is it, whenever a male of the species expresses admiration for a female of the species as “love” (as in, “I love you!”), bystanders automatically assume he means it as a desire for ownership for the purposes of reproduction?

And, if said female has committed herself to a permanent, monogamous relationship, said bystanders can’t seem to respect her autonomous choice as such and always interject, “She’s taken.” As though “she” were a prize to be fished out of the bottom of a cereal box? (Sealed in FDA-approved-for-food-contact wrapping paper.)

Can’t we, as individualists, express admiration for another individual, without regard to sex?

If that question isn’t rhetorical…

It is.

…In a word, “No.”

Late On the Deadline for the Cover

I KNOW, I KNOW! I’m working furiously away on the edits. I promised to get the latest round to Jaime. She’s just turned in the last book of her trilogy and has about a minute, thirty to pay attention to Dolly — her goddaughter — so I have to hustle. That’s OK. I’d have to hustle even if I didn’t have to make Jaime’s window of availability. I have to keep grinding away if I’m to have a hope in hopscotch of making a September 1 on-sale date.

Why do projects always come down to the last minute?

Maybe because you schedule them that way? Why can’t you go on sale September 2? Or October 1?

Dunno. Maybe when I get this thing on-sale, I’ll have a free second to think about it. Meantime, here’s a whole flock of free ice cream that’s been backed up in the queue for a little while.

Quote of the Day

But liberals don’t care about the innocent black victims of crime. They don’t care about citizens being prisoners in their own homes — as long as it’s not in their neighborhoods. The important thing is to self-righteously preen about racism.

Ann Coulter

True dat.

Biggest News of the Summer?

I DON’T ORDINARILY blog about what Kris Rusch writes (even though I read it avidly) because bigger dogs with larger audiences always beat me to it. But occasionally, such as this week’s Business Rusch, she posts something that excites a peculiarly idiosyncratic comment from me.

I’ve been involved in business all my adult life. Unless you’ve worked exclusively in government, so have you. All that time, I’ve embraced an attitude best encapsulated (to my uncertain knowledge) in the enthusiasm for Tom Peters’ In Search of Excellence, in which he profiled a series of what he called (from his perspective as a McKinsey consultant) “excellent companies.” I firmly believe it is an iron law that the marketplace does not exist for the benefit of the seller, but for that of the buyer, and those who succeed in the market — in the end, ultimately, in the long run — will be those who best serve the customer.

The — or a — countervailing belief to that (among serious contenders — collectivists need not apply) is the short-term eye on the bottom line.
Business is all about money, money is the ultimate thing traded in any market, it is the most important factor in gauging a business’s health, and everything else comes second. In this belief system, the only disagreement there can be revolves around how long a time-scale you’re discussing — daily, weekly, quarterly, annually, or longer-term? As a front line executive, I have always tried to ensure that every single project in which I engage made not only a profit, but came as close to the established margin the business requires to thrive as I could manage.

But, is that always a wise course to follow?

Twenty-to-twenty-five years ago, the Patch Factory was at the end of a decade of phenomenal growth. At the beginning of the decade, as one of Bill Graham’s lieutenants put it, nobody’d heard of us, at the end of it, everybody knew our name and, at some point, did business with us.

The problem was that we were hemorrhaging red ink. Our sales grew month-over-month, year-over-year, but there never was a profit for the owners to take home.

A new owner bought in, a money man, who consolidated matters, cut staff, cut costs, changed the company’s behavior, and made us profitable again.

And a decade later, we were no longer growing. We were shrinking and losing market share to upstarts we should have been able to kill in their infancy, had our leadership not be so relentlessly focused on the bottom line, the 80/20 rule, and eliminating all the little “mice” on our balance sheets.

So, which approach is right?

Kris writes this week about consolidations in the publishing industry, and the importation of or usurpation of front-line business folk’s initiatives by “money men.” I wager they’re going to kill the publishing industry. At the end of the process, the landscape will look considerably different, and successful authors will be cottage industrialists — either self-published, or CEOs of micro-presses with a single author in their stables. And there will not be a single multi-national conglomerate to be seen.

I can only hope that the author and the reader will ultimately benefit from the change.

OK. So the Glittering

HOO-HAHS* of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) have proven the truth of Conquest’s Second and Third Laws:

2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.
3. The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

(The first being, “Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.” And only semi-relevant to this post.)

They have, as a trade guild of authors supposedly active in a field dedicated to challenging conventional thinking, expelled one of their members for politically-incorrect utterances. (No idea what. Don’t care. Not relevant.)

Which should be just fine. Authors these days engaged in efforts to push back the frontiers of ignorance, to labor in the vineyards of the Literature of Ideas (–Harlan Ellison, if memory serves) are, if they’re serious about getting their work out there and making money at it, are independent self-publishers. As such, SFWA is — I don’t care — Not Relevant.

What? Me? Care?

* Coined by either Kate Paulk or Sarah Hoyt. Can’t remember which.

Points for Music


IS A COOL CONCEPT although, I have to say the exchange rate sucks. But, WTF: it’s free stuff.

Got three albums by K.T. Tunstall with the most recent batch. Nice writing music. She now has five albums out, with the release of the latest Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon. That’s enough of a body of work to get a handle on whether there’s the promise of a true career of worth, or the artist — however talented — is a flash in the tin pan.

And I gotta say, “Good on Katie.” She should have a long career. And the new colletion not only fulfills the promise of the earlier work, but demonstrates a growing depth and maturity. We should get a lot of enjoyment from this young lady’s work over a — deo volente — long and fruitful career.

Memo to Reince Priebus

HEY, GUY; Just wanted to drop you a note on this debate thing. Like Rush said the other day, there’s really no point in Republicans giving any traction to the legacy partisan press. That just gives aid and comfort to the enemy — i.e., the Democrat party. What we need to do is leverage the power of new media. So here’s the thing:

Have the Republican debates on Blaze TV, moderated by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Brit Hume, Neil Cavuto, Chris Wallace — hell, Michael Savage, even Pat Gray or Stu Burguiere. If the Demoncrats have the stones to show, let ’em appear. And answer more pointed questions than the softballs they usually get pitched to them.

Nuke some popcorn, pour yourself a Big Gulp, sit back, and enjoy.

Quote of the Day

You are not Facebook’s customer, advertisers are Facebook’s customer. Same is true for Google. You become an asset that they monetize and sell to their customers, aka the advertisers.

Phil Zimmerman, creator of PGP
in an interview with GigaOM.

In the interview (RTWT), Zimmerman asserts: “It is going to require some push back in the policy space. We are going to have to have Congress react to this and we need to get the population to react, perhaps through the economic consequences we face of losing a lot of business for American internet companies. Maybe American internet companies can push back because of economic harm that comes with the rest of world turning its back on us.”

I agree. I think it’s going to take a long, hard, messy slog through the courts as well to establish as governmental best practices the recognition that:

1) You own yourself, therefore you own the information about yourself. The two are inextricably intertwined.

2) With respect to individual rights, there is and can be no separation between public and private sectors.

There seems to be some strain of belief that, since the Constitution is a bill or particulars limiting the power of the state in acting against the rights of individuals that ONLY the state is so constrained. However, if you read the document carefully, there are few and limited enumerations of government power thus delegated to the Federal government (or, in the case of state constitutions, state governments), but the proscriptions against the infringement or abridgement of rights are absolute and universal.
The Second Amendment, for example, does not start out “Congress shall make no law…” but an assertion that an armed populace is a sine qua non to a state of ordered liberty and ends with an absolute proscription: The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed. No actor, public or private, or at any level of government may infringe upon the right, inhering as it does to the individual.

Anti-self-defense types (and even some pro’s) argue that the RKBA cannot trump private property rights. And, in purely social circumstances, that may be judged to be true, but we are a long way from establishing that in law. (In fact, I assert that the commercial actions thus far taken in defense of RKBA are only the beginning.)

In the meantime, there exists this contention that, if you operate a public accommodation (such as a drugstore lunch counter or an email server), you cannot abridge the rights of individual citizens to assemble or associate freely, or enjoy the blessings of privacy rights, or be free from the requirement to quarter troops in their homes, or self-incriminate, or limit their rights to those enumerated, or suffer an unlimited expansion of Federal power.

If Woolworth’s can’t discriminate on the basis of race whom they serve, how in the hell is it allowed that a book store can forbid the carriage of arms on its premises? Why is it not right, proper, recognized, and expected as such for a Silent Mail to tell — dispositively — the agents of an importuning Federal bureaucracy to “Come back with a warrant — for each and every account whose Fourth Amendment rights you seek to vitiate” — and make it stick?

Department of Redundancy Alert! If you act dispositively, it damned well better stick.

Yeah, well…

Yeah, it’s gonna take some pushback. It is, as a matter of fact, going to take some smash-mouth constitutionalism, a lot of ruined careers and lives for Federal employees, and — yes — some lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for citizens.

More’s the pity.

People across the political spectrum assert that, if you don’t pay attention to what the government is doing, you deserve what you get. I call bullshit. Why is it that predatory statists are allowed free rein, but people only wishing to be left alone to mind their own business have to sleep with one eye open? Should it not be that the statists are the ones in fear for their lives? Just sayin’s all.

Heads Up Baby Troll Betas!

I HAVE THE EDIT back from Jeff Hill and am rolling through. Time is going to be tight, but confidence is high. Will probably need only read-throughs with thumbs-up or -down. If I’ve talked with you about beta-ing this, stand by. If you have a moment, please drop me a line as to whether you’re still available and interested.

The Eyes Follow You

I intended this post to appear last week, but got caught up in the failure of my home machine to perform up to spec. Accordingly, this appears a half-week late. The alert from Outlook advising of the cover deadline has already popped up. The deadline is this coming Friday. I shan’t assume I’m going to miss it just yet. Rather, I intend to make a heroic effort to meet the deadline despite the setbacks. ‘Cause that’s what pros do. In the meantime, some other ideas have cropped up which, given sufficient time, may prove superior to the one working here at this moment. Stay tuned.

thumb_dolly_eyes_originalIN THE PREVIOUS POST of this series, we finally got around to working on the image itself. In the meantime, I have been playing with the image. My purpose in this play has been to learn about the image and what I can and cannot do with it. Also in the previous post, I mentioned that I cheated, having shown you, faithful readers, the modified version of a photo, but planning to use the original. Here’s the original.

The aim in this exploration is to find the way of least effort to my end vision or some variation of it. I have broken the bits of the image into its components. So far, most of the work has centered on the model’s eyes. First, I need to “float” the eyes independent of the rest of the face.

This is not because I want to — as I might in other circumstances — resize or reposition the eyes. Rather, what I want to do is uncouple the eyes from the face so that I can minipulate the face without greatly influencing the eyes. My aim is to be able to paint the model’s freckles against a white background, which, in essence, floats only the eyes and the freckles on the white ground.

In my experimental exploration, I have determined that the tint values of the freckles and the skin tones are too close together and too light for me to be able to magic wand select them. I could paint a selection mask, and may do that eventually, but really what I need to do is trace or rotoscope the freckles and thus do away with the rest of the face. While doing that, I want to preserve the eyes. So I have to float them.

So now I have to figure out how to cut the pieces apart and yet put them back together seamlessly. Unfortunately, the image doesn’t come with little dotted lines along which to cut. So I have to make my own. The process is simple in conception, if tedious in execution. You simply duplicate the image and remove everything NOT of the piece you want. The trick here is to do this as little as you can get away with, but also to preserve your options to go back to an earlier version.

pal_layrs_1Fortunately, Photoshop has mechanisms which permit the user to do just that. First, never work directly on your original image. There are two layers of this. First, preserve the original as a separate file. Second, make liberal use of Photoshop’s Undo and History features. Finally, if you have the experience to do so, watch the results of your work closely and be ready to step backward through recent work. At right, you can see the state of my layers palette at one step of the way. I suspect I’ll make many more layers as I go, but these are about the elements I anticipate working with at the moment.

I also anticipate that there will be two places where I’ll have to do intensive pixel-editing-slash-painting. Those are isolating the eyes — particularly masking the eyelashes — and picking out the freckles from the skin. Below at right, you can see the model’s right eye. The image I’m after is the eye and the upper lid, more-or-less as draw by the model’s eyeliner. The tricky part is, in order for the image to look natural, I have to pick up the eyelashes, too, which means I have to mask them, hair-by-hair.

scr_eye_rightAnd I have, as a matter of fact, just made a decision, which requires me stepping back. I had started taking the fold of the upper lid as my edge. Then I decided I wanted to cut it tighter, getting only the actual stroke of the eyeliner. And then I saw the result and changed my mind again. So, now, I have to start over. A couple of hours lost, but the whole of the work is saved from my indecision.

So the new direction established, I duplicated the original layer, merged the floating eyeballs layer down to it, then deleted the background except close in around the eyes and started masking off around the eyes and the eyelashes.

Next, once the eyes are floated, we start in on the freckles.

This post is part of a series of posts on the subject of books covers, directly primarily at self-published and independently-published authors seeking to design their own covers. It is in the category “Covers” and can be seen with all of the other posts in that category by clicking on the link in the right sidebar. The sophistication of that display page will improve as time goes on. The next post in the series will appear here within a couple of days.

Consider the Source

I WORK IN THE MUSIC BIZ. Have for over forty years, now. Back when rock bands first started taking home millions from touring, there instantiated the custom of gifting outstanding employees with silk tour jackets. Those things became very hip and inside for awhile. Until covetous types who wanted to look cool without actually — you know — doing the work got into them and they became so common that the actual road warriors lost interest in them. These days, crews still work in SWAG t-shirts, but you’ll rarely see anyone wearing so blatant a badge. More often, the real movers and shakers are in khakis and polo shirts. And the gifts get less obtrusive and of higher value — for those who really provide outstanding service to a tour. (Frex, I received a $700 wristwatch from one tour recently.)

Think of it as a cargo cult approach to accomplishment. The fans saw the real hipsters wearing the tour jackets and thought the jackets would make them cool, when it was really the hipsters who made the jackets cool.

For a long time, the wealthy and powerful of the world have gone to university. The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and is credited with being the first degree-granting university. Prior to that, university-level learning was a bit more costly and ad hoc. Essentially, Papa bought you a Greek tutor. But you had to be very rich and powerful. After that, mere merchants could send their sons to college.

Fast forward to the 20th Century, when leftist demagogues tried to persuade working class folk that they, too, could enter the middle class (where they already were, being neither peons or serfs, nor yet hereditary nobility, middle class was all they could be). And said demagogues persuaded them that, because those wealthier and more powerful than they had been to college, so should they (the working class) go to, and they would become rich and powerful.

Not so fast, Guido. See, the wealthy and powerful never had gone to school to become rich or powerful, but in order to gain social graces that allowed them to fit in with their class. Wealth and power wasn’t the outcome, it was the cause, you see. But the leftist demagogues — being covetous sorts themselves — kept hammering on that point until the working class became persuaded that college was the highway to success.

It was a cargo cult approach to accomplishment. And, once again, they got it backwards.

Meantime, those who stayed and actually — you know — did the work got rich and acquired a power of their own of sorts, being one-eyed men in the kingdom of the blind. Carpenters, mechanics, plumbers, electricians became self-employed merchants and bootstrapped themselves into the true American middle class.

Now, we’re faced with the looming collapse of the higher education bubble and people are being forced to face the question: Of what worth is a college education? What price university?

Port-to-Port

SO OBAMA GETS THE ATLANTIC and Gulf coasts mixed up. Hey! It can happen! Who hasn’t made that mistake?

But what I haven’t seen discussed is the notion that, if we don’t deepen ports ANYwhere, boats will stop coming into them. Like goods destined for the US interior will be unloaded in Mozambique?

Exsqueeze me?

OK. I Am Now Officially

A RANDI Ingerman fan.

So, We Can Get Inter-Agency

COOPERATION WHEN “THEY” want to spy on American citizens, but not so much when it comes to actual — you know — militarily-useful intelligence.

Is either one really useful to the — you know — primary purpose of government, i.e., to secure the rights of the governed?

Does government ever serve its true purpose?

Didn’t think so.

There’s a Science Fiction

STORY THAT’S WORTHWHILE mentioning here, The Cold Equations, by Tom Godwin.

The story takes place entirely aboard an Emergency Dispatch Ship (EDS) headed for the frontier planet Woden with a load of desperately needed medical supplies. The pilot, Barton, discovers a stowaway: an eighteen-year-old girl. By law, all EDS stowaways are to be jettisoned because EDS vessels carry no more fuel than is absolutely necessary to land safely at their destination. The girl, Marilyn, merely wants to see her brother, Gerry, and was not aware of the law. When boarding the EDS, Marilyn saw the “UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL KEEP OUT!” sign, but thought she would at most have to pay a fine if she were caught. Barton explains that her presence dooms the mission by exceeding the weight limit, and the subsequent crash would kill both of them and doom the colonists awaiting the medical supplies. After contacting her brother, Marilyn willingly walks into the airlock and is ejected into space.

Life is set in a ring of iron of cold equations. They don’t stem only from limits on fuel and breathable air. They also arise from laws of economics which, somehow, leftists and others think don’t apply to them. These facts of life, the universe, and everything can also be read of in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Gods of the Copybook Headings.” But, of course, Kipling was an apologist for the British Empire, a racist, and blah-blah-blah, so leftists think they can be excused for being ignorant of his work. Just as they believe they can be excused for being ignorant of the iron laws of the universe that teach such lessons as “If you don’t work, you die.” Or, if you allow unions to exist, sooner or later, like any parasite, they will kill their hosts. Doesn’t matter a whit that their existence can be rationalized as an anodyne to human cruelty. They are parasitic in nature and, as the Gods of the Copybook Headings can teach us, parasites kill their hosts.

The decline of American cities was predictable. It was possible to predict it in the moments that international revolutionary Marxists sought to unionize garbage collectors. The inevitability of the process only varies in the time scale. The conclusion is foregone.

So FedEx Redeemed Themselves

BY DROPPING my new RAM on the front porch around 3:30. By 4:00, I had it in the lappy and the machine booted clean as a whistle.

Noticed that, while it was unintentional, I doubled my RAM capacity in the process. The old 1GB DIMMs had 16 chips on the cards, while the new 2GB DIMMs have 8. Moore’s law or something like that. Remember the old days when SIMMs came in MB and cost three — sometimes four — figures?

So, now I have to catch up with all that I intended to do Saturday, as well as today’s chores. Life goes on.

OK, FedEx

THE POST OFFICE beat you here. You may now hang your head in shame.

Help! I’m Being Held Captive

IN A CHINESE FORTUNE cookie factory. (Or however that old joke from the ’50s goes.)

My home workstation is temporarily out of sorts. Either the main memory DIMM needs to be re-seated or it needs to be replaced. I may be back in operation Saturday, or I may be down for several days. I don’t have email or Faceplant access at the moment, though I may be able to get at them via alternative modes. I’m just going to be very busy Friday and Saturday, so may not have time to fix things. Not to worry.

Update: Ordered the RAM from Amazon. Same Dell OEM part at roughly half the price as at Dell direct. Even with rush Saturday delivery, it’s still the price of the module (at Amazon) LESS than the price just for the two modules from Dell. Do the math. So, one hopes, my weekend won’t be as miserable as I thought it was going to be this morning.

Dead-eye-line

IN THE LAST post, you met Dolly’s eyes. Now I get to work to develop this basic image into a book cover illustration. I open the original JPEG file, downloaded from Dreamstime, in Photoshop and immediately resave it under a new name eyes.psd. This is a PhotoShop Document, which uses pack bits (lossless) compression and supports layers with variable-transparency and various built-in blending effects. I will be using these tools to alter the image to suit my needs.

Warning: icky sex talk. If that squicks you, skip the next paragraph.

The original idea is to focus on Dolly’s eyes, looking up in love at Drummond (whom we do not see) at the moment he penetrates her while they are making love. It is an expression most men will know and most women have assumed — whether or not either is sincere, though in this case, I think Dolly is. It is a wide-eye expression, almost one of surprise, with the eyes turned up, as the man is usually looming over the woman at this moment. (Both of them in the horizontal position.)

OK. It’s safe to come back, now.

The image is to focus on and isolate the woman’s eyes, even stylize them a bit, and render them in what’s called a high-key image on a white background. I figured that I would have to have a source image to modify by painting in a pixel editor. I don’t draw well enough to satisfy my perfectionism and don’t-have-slash-can’t-work-with a model. So I did the stock search described in the previous post.

And came up with something somewhat different. But close enough. I think I can modify this image in Photoshop (perhaps with an assist from a 3D app — modo or Poser — to get the eyeballs themselves JUST right, but we’ll see). But the really interesting part is the torn paper frame and the silver paper background. It intrigues and offers new directions. I may abandon both, but I will proceed in a fashion that permits me to do either ad lib and only once I have seen both images and chosen between them.

It is experience and practice which allows me to A) do this, 2) see that it can be done and 3) how to do it so as to preserve my options to the end and D) — perhaps most importantly, that it’s desirable to do so. I’ll refer back to this a lot. I’ll call this concept preserving my options.

So there are two basic options — work with a very high-key image on white (I’ll show you what that means in a bit) — or with the background, either as it exists, or with an entirely different look. No, that’s not three. That’s One and Two, with a possible Two-B. The reason to think of the either-or should become clear down the road.

The first thing to do, then, is to save under a new name, which I’ve done. Then the next is to prepare the image to be worked over. In order to do that, I’m going to establish my frame and pull the thing apart into layers.

Experience teaches me that, if you don’t start out establishing two factors at the very beginning, they will devour you in the end. The first, as we say at the Patch Factory, the most important specification, is the deadline: when do you need it.

Weren’t expecting that, were you?

I’m not surprised. Even experienced, sophisticated, and knowledgeable people come acropper of this problem. But time is a key factor in any creative project. How much time there is to do the job determines each choice made in a binary fashion — yes or no, do it or not — and most fundamentally at every step of the way.

In this case, the goal is to have an ebook on sale in the KDP Select program by September First. Now, there are a lot of stumbling blocks, not least of which is that the text may not be ready. BUT… if it is ready and the cover is not, then the cover is holding up the release, whereas if the opposite is true, well, nothing to do but push the deadline back, but that decision is being taken for the right reason — that the product itself is not ready, and not that the packaging needs work. Remember that; it’s key. The book is the thing. The cover is packaging and of secondary importance UNTIL it becomes the deciding factor in a sale. In any case, the cover cannot be permitted to drive or drag on the on-sale date.

(Aside: A friend who is trad-pubbed did just that — she and her agent forced her publisher to change the cover. The publisher pushed her book back a whole year. Not in retaliation, mind. It’s just that that was the first available slot.)

Now, the way to establish deadlines and schedule is to find a delivery date and work your way backwards until you get to now, at the start of the job. It is (as I write this) the Second of August, so I have twenty-nine days. I need to lead my on-sale date by an as-yet-unknown period. Dean Smith asserts he can have a book up in minutes. (Fifteen, if memory serves.) That assumes, I imagine, that you already have your account set up at Amazon and know what you’re doing in clicking the “Publish” button. But it doesn’t seem as though the lead time should be more than a day or two at most. I know that I can do the work necessary to producing this cover art in under two weeks. My editor claims that he can have the MS back to me with notes and edits in two weeks. That seems to indicate a timeline that has the final prep of the work happening between the Fifteenth and Thirtieth of the month. Shouldn’t be stressful.

So the deadline (checks the calendar) is the Sixteenth. Mark it on the calendar and set a reminder five days prior. We probably won’t need the reminder, since this project will be pretty much our sole focus this month, but you should never rely on that kind of stuff. Always be disciplined and organized about your work and you’ll avoid that overwhelmed, too-much-to-do feeling.

OK. That’s the deadline. But you’ll remember, I said there were two factors. The other may be more obvious, but, again, you’d be surprised by how many putative pros get this wrong.

In — scorn quotes — “fine” art, you can wing it. You can frame your image or object ad hoc as you go along, as the mood moves you. The canvas can be any size, and the image wherever and whatever size you plunk it down. In commercial art, however, what you’re doing, first and foremost, has to serve a purpose. And, in most cases, it also has to be made — usually by someone else. The image has to be producible in a medium that costs thousands of dollars to throw the on switch on. And, all the digital cheerleaders notwithstanding (I kid you not) digital costs the same to operate whether you’re printing something or not. Digital printing costs pennies per copy. The cost per widget only adds up when you have multiple copies per widget. The prep cost, far from being two thirds of the cost of a printed project old-school, is ninety-to-ninety-five percent of the cost new school.

This means you have to get it right, and you have to get it right the first time. Your trim size has to be right, as do the bleeds and margins, and the creep allowed for in folding signatures, and… and … Or the job comes out — in technical terms — fucked up.

Now, here again, we’re having to push against some unknown factors. Of course, there is no size for an ebook. Every ereader and ebook format assumes a different screen size. So what size is the cover? I’m going to side-step that for the moment and assume I’m going to eventually do a paper edition and will want to use this image for the cover of that. And, at CreateSpace (and from other sources) I see that the most common advice seems to be to think in terms of a 6″ x 9″ layout. No problem. I can deal with that. So my trim size is putatively 6″ wide and 9″ high. That makes my bleed size 6.25″ wide and 9.25″ high.

(A bleed, for the uninitiated, being 1/8″ of an inch margin OUTSIDE the trim. And, if one side bleeds, then a bleed image — even if it’s just blank white — must be provided and accounted for on all four sides in the engineering of any job.)

But my image is square. Ish. That means I need to either crop it or add image to make it taller. But before I do that, I realize that, because I have (at this stage, pretending we haven’t already played with the type) no idea how much space the type will take up, I need the ability to “float” the image in the frame, I need to separate the image from the background and make it a layer. In Photoshop, I do this by finding the layers palette and double-clicking on the layer. I get an option to rename the former Background Layer as Layer 0, which I accept. The layer the image is on (the only one in the file so far) thus becomes Layer 0, a floatable layer, which I can work on independently of the other layers in the document (as they come into being). It can also be blended with other areas, depending on the relative modes selected. For now, it is in Normal mode, which makes it the effective background.

OK, now. If you’re following along at home, or have a really good grasp of what’s going on, you may have noticed that, once we get the image settled in with right and left bleeds indicated, that the margin to the corners of the model’s eyes is only a quarter of an inch. Which is acceptable, but it worries me. I don’t know HOW much time I’ve wasted over the years faking in image to meet an acceptable margin and/or bleed because the important image was JUST that much too big for the live area, had to be shrunk to fit, and left insufficient, as I say, margin or bleed. Now, what I could do would be to fake in bleed left and right now, at the outset. But instead, I’m going to cheat.

Well, I’ve already cheated.

Remember that I told you I’d bought three images? Ever wonder why? Well, it’s because THIS one is not the original This has been modified by the photographer with the addition of the torn paper frame. It indicates what his vision was in making the original photo, but it’s not the thing itself.

That is an image of the model’s face, full width, from about the bridge of her nose to just below her hairline (which is how I could tell fersher she’s a redhead), with her hands held up flat either side of her face like she’s shading her eyes against oblique light.

This is valuable because there is more image in the width, but also in the height, either of which can prove useful in my repurposing of the image. Also, even though it probably won’t change my crop, that there is additional image to the sides can potentially save me a lot of trouble.

What I want to do is use the original, but treat it in some ways like the modified image. In order to do that, I need to drop the original down on the modded pic and match the two of them pixel-for-pixel in size and position. Since I really want to work with the original — always work with the original if you can — I drop the mod onto it. And realize that, in pixel dimensions, the mod is smaller than the original. This is good, because it means I’ll be able to work at an even higher resolution than I had originally thought, and at this stage of the game, I’m hoarding resolution like a gamer hoarding strength points. The final piece will be resolved more coarsely, but for the moment, it’s like speed or gasoline: it is life itself.

I slide the transparency of the mod to 50% and stretch it to match the original. (I use the corners of the eyes as guides.) As I do so, I discover that the mod was stretched anamorphically (differently in x and y axes). The delta is slight — perhaps three or four pixels over several thousand, but noticeable when overlaying as I am. I finally get the two to match and resize the final piece to fit the frame (greedily retaining the extra bleed just in case).

At this point, I can de-couple the process from the modified image and work exclusively on the original, saving the mod only for reference. Next time, we inspect the image even more closely.

This post is part of a series of posts on the subject of books covers, directly primarily at self-published and independently-published authors seeking to design their own covers. It is in the category “Covers” and can be seen with all of the other posts in that category by clicking on the link in the right sidebar. The sophistication of that display page will improve as time goes on. The next post in the series will appear here within a couple of days.

Is it Disinformatziya?

SO THE STOCK SURVEILLANCE state dystopia casts the panopticon state as both omniscient and omnipotent. But the author of this article in Slate begs to differ. As I’ve long thought, though I can’t claim much heft to my thought, as I haven’t really said much about it.

But I do wonder some times what it is that makes a given individual rise above the general noise level.

And then, you can’t wondering all the run-in-circles-scream-and-shout that has embassies closed all over the Arab quarter isn’t a bit of theatre to persuade us of the value of letting the NSA go ahead and rape the Fourth Amendment.

Dolly’s Eyes

Dollys_Eyes_Source_1WELL, THE TEXT OF THE book is in the hands of my editor. I expect it will come back to me in shreds and I’ll have to sew it back together. But for the moment, I’m content to leave it there and move on to the cover.

I’m still in the experimental phase, searching and testing imagery and type, but I am getting closer. I’ve come back to focus on the erotic component of the plot and the relationship between the two lead characters. As such, I’ve hit on a narrow-focus shot of Dolly’s eyes at the moment the docking probes engage, so to speak.

I chose Dreamstime as my source, more to narrow the selection down than for any other reason. However, since I have an account there already, it is simplicity itself to find something. I searched on the phrase eyes wide and found within the first page of results a satisfactory image. It also has the bonus of providing — already built-in — a dramatic presentation in the torn paper edges. This has a dual advantage in, One, as I say, a dramatic presentation, and B, limiting the amount of image I have to work on.

And work I must. It’s fortunate that the model is a redhead, with the requisite freckles, and light-colored irises. But that’s about the limit. You’ll see as I go along where my vision is going to take me and why I don’t want to have to work on a full-face or full-body image.

There will be other elements, but this image is the starting point.

I checked the license on offer and it is appropriate. The rights owner provides a royalty free license, to use on books (up to 500,000 copies — with higher quantities negotiable), permits modification, does not ask credit, but I intend to provide it. If the artist is worthy of his hire, he’s worthy of the fame for it. That’s my take and I see no reason not to hold to it. On the other side, there’s no claim to modifications, so what I intend to do becomes mine to use so long as I adhere to the terms of the original license. All agreeable. I picked a resolution that permits me nine inches of width at 300 pixels per inch. (I intend to pad the height, so the width is the relevant factor.)

As for tools: I am working this image in Photoshop (CS6). No apologies. As I’ve said here and elsewhere, if you want pro results, you have to use pro tools and skills. It’s possible to do this stuff in free or cheaper aps, and Grid knows, there’s tons of them, but I’ve been using Photoshop almost since the beginning (version 2.5, actually, in the early ’90s) and I not only have a high skill level myself, but I also have access to experts who can direct me toward tutelage on particular skills I may lack. In another app, I’d have to climb that learning curve all over again.

I understand that some people starting out or struggling due to expenses in other areas might not be able or willing to make the investment, but I do strongly advise everyone to give hard consideration to the realities. Remember that you are competing for eyeball space with pros who use these tools for their daily bread. Neither they nor the book buyer will cut you slack because you chose not to invest in the right tools.

Now, Photoshop is a bitmap editor, primarily. It can handle vectors — most especially and valuably, type — but it’s primary utility is in handling photos, paintings, soft blend effects, and suchlike. For straight vector art and simple one-up illustration, I use CorelDRAW. This is a matter of preference. I first learned vector drawing in CorelDRAW and find Illustrator, for example, to have a deeply opaque interface and metaphor which I, as a wax-and-exacto-trained layout artist, find very alien.

You may find Illustrator more to your liking. That’s fine. The concepts translate, albeit clunkily. Inkscape is another possibility, but, frankly, I don’t have the time to climb yet another learning curve, so I’ve only looked at it briefly and messed around with it. It appears to support most tasks, but I haven’t delved into it enough to say much more than that about it.

As for alternatives to Photoshop, there are, as I say, multitudes. Primarily, I’d say, your choices boil down to GIMP or Corel PhotoPaint. I have a problem with PhotoPaint similar to the one I have with Illustrator — I don’t grok the interface or the task metaphors. So I can’t speak much about it. However, several of my colleagues in the Corel community swear by it and prefer it to Photoshop OR PhotoStyler — which is an old and, now, abandoned app that actually preceeded Photoshop on the Wintel platform, and which should tell you how far back some of this goes — both my work in the field and my association with other experts.

In addition to these apps, there is the realm of the third dimension. 3D apps, such as 3D Studio Max, Maya, Poser, Bryce, and a long list of others, allow artists to model real objects and render them to photo-realistic images. If I had the chops, I’d be doing this whole image in a 3d app, and may do future, similar projects in one. But I have to take myself to school first, before I can commit commercial art in one.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have done paying work — sold it in five figures, as a matter of fact — in 3DS Max. But the license I have is getting long in the teeth and unlikely — for myriad reasons not relevant here — to be updated. So I am learning a new app — modo. And, if you (or I) think the differences in interface between Draw and Illustrator are stark, you ought to try between 3D apps across a ten-year delta in development age.

But I degrease.

In a Heinlein hagiography — Requiem, I believe — Spider Robinson avers that he is writing an essay debunking a bunch of BS about Heinlein to save himself time — so that, when confronted with loud nits making bogus assertions at cons, he can just hand them a copy of the essay to shut them up and go back to having fun — rather than engaging in a long, verbal flame war. So I hereby take that as my text for this bit of bloggage. I’ve ranted enough about what I see as the foolishness of cheaping out on tools. I don’t want to do it again. From now on, if the subject comes up, I’m linking here and moving on.

If I can remember to do it.

This post is part of a series of posts on the subject of books covers, directly primarily at self-published and independently-published authors seeking to design their own covers. It is in the category “Covers” and can be seen with all of the other posts in that category by clicking on the link in the right sidebar. The sophistication of that display page will improve as time goes on. The next post in the series will appear here within a couple of days.

IFF This Pans Out

IT COULD BE quite interesting. But I notice the article says nothing about the concept’s practicality in Real World applications. So, let’s not go overboard, yet.

Quote of My Morning

A dreamer is someone who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

— Oscar Wilde, 1888

Found courtesy of Courtney Galloway on Facebook.

Major Milestone – First Novel Edition

thumb_dolly_eyes_source_1I’VE WRITTEN SEVERAL MILLION words in my lifetime. And in all those words, I’ve never really finished — finish finished — a novel. Until now.

I sent the send draft of The High-T Affair to editor Jeff Hill today. In advance of actually seeing the thing, Jeff thought there would be a good chance that I’ll be able to have the thing up on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing on or before September 1.

I have also picked a cover image. This will be extensively modified to suit my vision, but this is the starting point. And, by the way, people should know, I have purchased the rights to the image (and two others). Just frex as to what’s the right thing to do.

Update: I meant to write “second” draft, but perhaps my typo — “send” — is more accurate. Actually, the first draft was the original Apocrypha story, written back in ’99 and trunked. The second draft was the one I started for NaNoWriMo last year. This is something like the third-and-a-half draft. Except none of them are exactly complete drafts, so you have to use dot-release indicators like they do for software. Which gets to be too much of a bother. Bother!