Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gotcha!

Here we go -- this is the cover. Mystery. Suspense. Sex. Danger. You name it. It's amazing how a couple of small adjustments will change the whole feel of an image. For example, initially I had the guy in the window positioned in front of the guy with the knife...which made it feel like a slasher cover. But reversing that, with the knife in the lower corner made it more like he's prepared to protect himself.

Also, trying the nude figure in black and white along with the background image killed it. But pumping up the color in his face and desaturating his legs and knife, a little, just made it more intense...to me, anyway. And covering his ass with the title seemed to bring more attention to him being naked and added more of a sense of vulnerability than by putting the title below him, or above.

I'll sign it up with Smashwords, tomorrow, and get it going as an e-book. Then comes the fun part of setting it up on Lightning Source. And THEN comes getting it noticed...and selling. I've sunk so much money into this set of books, I doubt I'll ever get out of the red. But they're mine, now, and I've fulfilled my obligation to them.

God...what a relief.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hmm...maybe...

This is close...maybe close enough. I tried it in total monochrome, except for the title, but for some reason the impact was lessened. It's like the knife needs to be in color so it doesn't vanish. And I like his face being a bit red to counterpoint it. The model's expression is good, though.

I sort of think I need something more, but I tried it with a lens flare behind him and that looked goofy. I laid a window with a silhouetted figure in it over the background and that was interesting...but it felt a bit like a slasher cover. This one strikes me as a bit mysterious.

Is it possible this is still the wrong way to go? Maybe if I did a more precise job of centering everything. I just eyeballed where things go in this mock-up. I might narrow the banner behind the title. The letters are 72 point, which I like, but it can be a bit closer together.

Okay...more work ahead...but I'm almost there...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Damn you, Flash 13!!!

Looks like my Tumbler blog is gone. I cannot log back in and Tumbler is ignoring my requests for help. Same for an art site I go to based in Japan, where I've posted some of my work. I send requests and ask to reset my passcode and do everything I can to get their attention...and nothin' in response. When a company reaches the point where it can't -- or won't -- help its clients, the hell with it.

I did manage to finally get back into most of my sites, including Deviant Art. I've got some work posted on there, too.

I just got some images from Dan Skinner, whose work is on the site...and he gave me exactly what I was looking for. Even better, actually, because the look in the model's eye is nearly vicious. Very cool.

Now I need to pay him. Since I also paid (most of) my taxes, today, that wipes me out. But I've got my cover for PM. Don't need anything else except the wording. I'll get that done up, tomorrow.

I'm still plotting out the changes to OT...and as usual, one shift here means a cascade of alterations throughout the story. But it's better...much better.

And more than a little cruel.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Computers are spawn of the devil

I just spent nearly 5 hours trying to get my internet connections to work right. All of a sudden, I couldn't view videos or get into any of the sites I belong to, even when I input my ID and password. And, of course, you can't find any way to contact the sites, themselves; maybe they'll post a contact window that you fill in and send to them, but most are just lost. YouTube was the worst.

I finally went into Google and found out Adobe Flash 13 will not work on my laptop. It's got a bug that makes it go nuts on laptops made between 2004 and 2008, even if they're using OS 10.7.5. So I had to uninstall it and reinstall Flash 12. Now I can at least view videos on YouTube.

But I'm still locked out of several sites, and me asking to reset my password isn't doing a damn thing. What's crazy about this is, I keep a cheat-sheet of my passwords -- just reminders of what they are because I have a lot of different ones. Whatever was wrong with Flash 13, it screwed me up, royally.

But then, it's not just on my laptop. My desktop's having issues with the same problem. Not as bad as regards the videos; on my Mini it's just the videos won't play consistently but have little hiccups that make the image frees for an instant even as the sound keeps going, then it jumps to catch up.

Maybe instead of working on my French, I should learn Code.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Writers on writing...

Donald Barthelme -- "Writing is a process of dealing with not-knowing, a forcing of what and how. We have all heard novelists testify to the fact that, beginning a new book, they are utterly baffled as to how to proceed, what should be written and how it might be written, even though they've done a dozen. At best there's a slender intuition, not much greater than an itch."

Truer words never spoken, because I run into that consistently when my characters won't talk to me. I become lost and have no idea where to go except in the wrong direction.

Kurt Vonnegut -- "Keep it simple ... Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were profound. 'To be or not to be?' asks Shakespeare's Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story 'Eveline' is this one: 'She was tired.' At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do."

I caught a glimmer of this when I read Wilkie Collins' "The Woman In White" years ago. It was long and rambling and a bit silly in its plot...but there's a point in the book where the hero thinks the woman he loves is dead, and all of his grief is poured into one three word sentence: "I loved her." And that jolted me.

George Orwell -- “All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.”

Sometimes I think a demon is the only way I was able to write some of my books...that or an avenging angel. To be honest, I'm not sure which I prefer...or if they're not working in conjuncture with the muses.


If you want, you can read the full essays via the links on the names.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Protest comes in so many forms...





Excerpted from The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects by Richard Kurin, out now from The Penguin Press.

Seventy-five years ago...on Easter Sunday...African-American contralto Marian Anderson performed an unprecedented open-air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to a huge live audience and to millions more over the radio. The actor and playwright Ossie Davis, then a student at Howard University, was in the crowd and reported on the experience:

It was a cold and dreary day, and Marian Anderson was on the front steps in her mink coat. Standing there were seventy-five thousand people, and the student body [of Howard University] was included, listening to her. All of a sudden, I had a transformation that was almost of a religious nature. Ah, something in her singing, something in her voice, something in her demeanor entered me and opened me up and made me a free man.

The coat attests to the fact that a narrow act of racial prejudice had been transformed into a performance commanding national respect.

The mink coat became a symbol of the day, reminding all that the concert took place outdoors—not by initial design, but because Marian Anderson had been denied an indoor stage at Constitution Hall because she was African-American. The coat attests to the fact that a narrow act of racial prejudice had been transformed into a public performance that commanded national respect. The fact that it was a mink coat—a recognized symbol of high status for women at the time—also illustrates that despite stereotypes and obstacles, an African-American woman could transcend entrenched social and cultural barriers to achieve fame, fortune, and success.

Marian Anderson was born in 1897 to religious, working-class Philadelphia parents. She was close to her grandfather, who had been freed from slavery, and was influenced by his stories of the struggles of African-Americans to achieve respect and equality. After graduating high school, Anderson applied to an all-white Philadelphia music academy but was summarily turned away after being told, “We don’t take colored.” She persisted, studying with a private tutor, and in 1925 won a singing contest that earned her a performance with the New York Philharmonic.

Anderson’s career took off from there. She acquired a voice coach and manager, gave classical singing recitals, and, in 1928, made her debut at Carnegie Hall, then the apex of American performance venues. In spite of this, systemic racial prejudice meant that very few American theaters and opera companies would allow Anderson to perform. The Europeans, particularly Scandinavian and Russian fans, soon had “Marian fever.” In Salzburg, conductor Arturo Toscanini told her she had a voice “heard once in a hundred years.” At home in the United States, Anderson gave perhaps five or six dozen concerts a year. While on tour she would sometimes face discrimination—denied a room at a whites-only hotel or a table at a restaurant. Jim Crow segregation was not limited to the South: Albert Einstein hosted her after she was refused accommodation in Princeton, N.J., before a performance at the university. She and Einstein became lifelong friends. While Anderson faced these indignities on the road, her studio recordings of arias became big sellers.

For Easter 1939, Anderson was scheduled to perform in Washington, D.C., in a concert sponsored by historically black Howard University. The search for a venue was complicated, as the nation’s capital was still a segregated town. The city government denied Anderson use of Central High School, because it was a white school and its policies forbade admission to an integrated audience. The denial provoked petitions and outrage among the District of Columbia’s black leaders, the black community, and their liberal white supporters. Anderson’s manager tried to book Constitution Hall, which was administered by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), an organization of white women representing descendants of Revolutionary War officers, officials, and soldiers.

The DAR turned Anderson down, claiming that the hall was booked. But it became apparent that in fact they did not want to host a black performer or set a precedent of integrating the hall with a mixed audience. Their refusal produced protests. Eleanor Roosevelt, who had become a member shortly after her husband became president, spoke out, saying, “To remain as a member implies approval of that action, and therefore I am resigning.”

Marian Anderson commented, “I am not surprised at Mrs. Roosevelt’s action because she seems to me to be one who really comprehends the true meaning of democracy. I am shocked beyond words to be barred from the capital of my own country after having appeared almost in every other capital in the world.”

Following Eleanor Roosevelt’s example, hundreds of other members resigned from the DAR. Some local branches distanced themselves from the DAR’s decision, while others vocally supported it. The national press picked up the story, and as the controversy escalated, the D.C. Board of Education reversed its decision and approved the concert permit for Central High, but it was too late. The president and Eleanor Roosevelt, working with Anderson’s manager Sol Hurok, and Walter White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, arranged with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes to hold the concert under the auspices of the National Park Service at the Lincoln Memorial. The plan immediately captured the national imagination. One reporter wrote, “Out of the narrow-minded mixture of red tape and prejudice which has kept Marian Anderson, the great negro contralto, from the concert stage in this capital of democracy, is growing as if with divine justice one of the most notable tributes of recognition ever accorded a member of this long suffering race.”

The day of the concert, crowds began to arrive before dawn. They came prepared with blankets, umbrellas, and raincoats, as the weather promised to be cold and wet. Police were in full force; some five hundred uniformed officers patrolled the Mall in case there was any trouble. The crowd swelled to more than seventy thousand people, black and white. At 5 o’clock Anderson took her place on the steps, adorned in her mink coat and matching hat. She was introduced by Harold Ickes, who stood before an assemblage of microphones broadcasting across the United States as well as to Canada and Mexico. “In this great auditorium under the sky, all of us are free,” he said.

Anderson then took off her mink hat, and began her first selection, “America.” Closing her eyes, then opening them and gazing upward to the sky, she sang, “My country ’tis of Thee,/ Sweet Land of Liberty/ of thee we sing.” A hush of silence fell over the crowd as she concluded; many were moved to tears. No one applauded, sensing that to do so would have been an intrusion upon a sacred moment.

Accompanied by her pianist, Kosti Vehanen, Anderson then sang two arias, “O Mio Fernando” and the haunting “Ave Maria.” When she sat down for a break, the audience erupted in an outpouring of emotion and appreciation.

The second half of her performance included spirituals, “Gospel Train,” “Trampin’,” and “My Soul Is Anchored in the Lord.” She closed the concert with the resonant “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” Then, briefly, Anderson addressed her audience. Without politics or commentary, she humbly apologized for not being a good speaker, and thanked them sincerely for their attention and appreciation.

The mink coat from that day came to the Smithsonian more than 50 years later. Anderson and her husband, Orpheus Fisher, had long made a lovely home called Marianna Farm in Connecticut. Fisher died in 1986, and in 1992 the family was moving the now-frail Anderson to Oregon to be closer to them. As her nephew, James DePriest, the longtime conductor of the Oregon Symphony, described it, they found seven of her furs. Most were in terrible condition. But the long brown mink coat was there. It had a tan lining and elegant gold trimming with her monogram. They had heard that the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Museum was mounting an exhibition about the black history of Washington, D.C., and agreed to donate the mink to become part of the permanent collection.

From The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects by Richard Kurin. Reprinted by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Smithsonian Institution, 2013.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Interesting suggestion...

This was suggested by a friend of mine...and I kind of like it...but I miss the color in the bottom image. It made a nicer contrast to the knife. Still, putting the title in red works really well against a black and white background.

I'm not doing anything about it till late Sunday, however. I finally got in contact with a photographer whose work is posted on DeviantArt.com and he had a photo shoot happening this weekend, so he's going to work in doing an image like the one I sketched up, but more contrasty. He's got a model who'd be a good image for Alec...and I want to see what he comes up with. For just a little more money than using Shutterstock, I could wind up with something really cool and all mine.

Now some writing to discuss:

It's kind of spooky the way things are coming together in OT. From the beginning, I knew the opening would be Jake and his step-mother, Mira, talking over lunch at a small restaurant in Paris, and her grilling him about why he stays with someone as crazy as Antony. And he can't really explain it except that he loves the guy.

But as Sinclair Lewis once wrote, "Love has to stop someplace short of suicide." And throughout the book, Jake was wondering why he and Antony were drifting apart...and so was I.

Until I started having trouble with PM's cover and got so locked into it, I couldn't focus on anything else. That let the back of my brain start listening more closely to Jake...and he started whispering things to me that finally meandered into the forefront...and now I'm ready to rock. I finally have all the answers, and will be cutting a full subplot (which will go to UG).

But I have to say, Jake -- took you damned long enough.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Got it...

This is the basic idea...clean and crisp and cold-blooded.

What if I used this face?

I'm still debating the scowl or snarl as opposed to a smile. If I put this face on the body I posted, yesterday, would that make a difference? I dunno. I continue to lean towards the "warning" look.

Of course, I could do without the face, I suppose. Just work up a torso and expand on the knife...shit, I don't like being this indecisive about anything...even though that's my normal state of affairs.

Doesn't help that in the last three weeks two of my credit card numbers have been used fraudulently, meaning auto-charges I have set on them need to be updated and all my other cards checked. I may start doing everything through PayPal, using them as a firewall against the scum.

Whatever else, I do need to settle this. I finally figured out what the beginning of The Vanishing of Owen Taylor is all about, and want to get back to it soon as I can. It stems from the direction Underground Guy is drifting, and means I can simplify ...OT a bit while expanding on UG.

I can't tell if Morrissey's songs are meant to be taken seriously or not. I've heard three different ones on WUFV in the last couple days...and they're boring.

Oh...shit...I just had an idea for PM's cover...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Possible...

This is the basic idea I'm going for, just in color instead of graphite. I don't know about the smile, though...actually seeing it makes me take a step back. I may try another with a glare instead of the grin.

I think I need to take some time off from the job. I can't afford it, but I'm at the point where I'm making stupid mistakes. I've got too many things going on to keep track of, and this job demands an attention to detail I've never possessed.

Problem is, my books take money and I also like to eat and sleep in a bed instead of on the street.