Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A New Year to Master

I wonder if 2006 will be workable.

One of the things I hope to master is the art of making time count. Too much of 2005 frittered away, sitting in front of computer screens waiting for writers block to disappear, sitting with a blank drawing pad in front of me, sitting playing Spider Solitaire trying to wake up in the morning. I'd like to produce something every day. Even if it was crappy doodles.

Hmm, sounds like a plan. 2006, the Year of Crappy Doodles.

Friday, December 23, 2005

2005 - A Year I Just Want to See GONE

I didn't send out Christmas cards this year.

Back in October I told myself I'd have cards ready to send to all and sundry the first week of December. But by the time the first week of Advent rolled around, I was already so damn sick of Christmas Shopping Season hype everywhere that my holiday spirit just shut down.

I think part of it is how incredibly rude people have become in their frenzy to shop and buy. I've seen more crazy antics on the roads this winter already than I care to remember. When I've driven past the mall in Modesto, it looks like every parking space is taken -- come on, people, THERE'S NOTHING IN THERE WORTH BUYING!!!!

Okay, maybe a couple things in Macy's or JC Penney's, if you're looking for pillows or a sweater. But the rest of those stupid stores? NOTHING IN THERE IS ANYTHING ANYBODY ELSE REALLY WANTS!

Anyway, back to rude people. A perfect example was waddling around the local supermarket today, in black capris above her spider-veined ankles, which rode atop some black funky-heeled semi-clogs. Her hair was done in a permed, scrunched-with-gel-but-not-combed style, and she looked down her nose and was plainly starring in The Movie About Herself. She knew she was beautiful and clever, even though she was really just an skaggy-looking woman too old for the clothes she was wearing and an asshole, to boot. I watched her jerk around the fellow at the meat counter, asking him to bring out various rib roasts. "Oh, that one is just a little too small. I like the look of that one, but I just don't know..." I was keeping an eye on the price display for the cuts of meat as the fellow placed each roast on the scales in front of her for her approval. $30 - $35 bucks for her Christmas triumph, and by golly, she was willing to waste a quarter of an hour letting the butcher know that she was SERIOUS about her meat. She finally was "willing" to buy a prime rib roast if the meat cutter would just slice off three-quarters of an inch! Cut me a damn break, if you can cook something like that so that it tastes good, you're going to want to have some left over to snack on after the guests have gone, anyway.

Ostentatious cow. I hope Santa brings her a big, juicy bag of fresh cow flops.

The other thing I think has been depressing is the unrelenting weight of overtime that Bernie has had to work. During the week, he leaves for work, comes home late and exhausted, wakes to eat a mid-day meal, and then has to scramble off for work again. What time we get on the weekends is like cramming for college exams on How To Manage To Live as a Couple Again.

And then there's the Christmas cards we got in the mail. Most of them are from businesses that see the traditional holiday greetings as a merchandising opportunity. The few that we got from family and friends were mostly too obviously hurried and impersonal. Some were the same cards that they sent last year.

Maybe I should start sending New Year's cards instead of Christmas cards. I could put images of snowflakes and bathing suits on them to match the season with the shopping opportunities.

But even though I'm not sending cards this year, I am wishing anyone who reads this blog a happy holiday, good digestion, and the greatest gift of all, Love. Merry Christmas, folks.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Kingliest of Kongs

We went to see King Kong today.

I'm not a giant gorilla fan. Never have been. I thought the original 1933 production of King Kong was appropriate to the time, when burlesque and prohibition of alcohol said it all about the culture. That is to say, "Ridiculous."

Bernie convinced me to go see Peter Jackson's King Kong. I did it because I love Bernie so much.

Our review of the movie is in the Piker Press this week.

Oh, dingles. It's a movie well worth seeing.

Good job, Mr. Jackson.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Let's Have Another One

Tonight I finished editing the second book of Aser stories.

Mostly it was listing the stories and their page numbers for the Contents Page; there was some adjusting of chapter titles and a few word changes. Alex and I thought that "Oz Can Keep Them All" would make a catchy title, seeing as how the better part of the book was about wizards who are annoying, but Bernie has reservations.

The point is moot until I come up with some kind of cover. Most of the stories in the second book don't have illustrations. "Hot Stuff" did -- maybe that will make the cover. (Ock, another cover with a black background. Why do I do that to myself?") The back cover has got to have a pic of Kaladang the Axe, on his bay horse, attacked by horseflies and a June beetle.

Coming up with a front cover is going to be a major operation. Still, I expect to have the thing ready in a week.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Judge, Jury, Shaman


The first Aser book is finally available in paperback.

You want constipated gnomes? You got constipated gnomes. You want lizardmen in love with ditsy elf-chicks? Yes, yes, they're there. Want to see a wizard get groped by a horny ghost? Oh, shit, that's in there, too. But the book will also give you an earful about greedy merchants, kids who spit, and how to tell if you have a big ass.

Uploading this book to Lulu was a raving pain in the ass, as after it was uploaded, I found an errant blank page, and had to re-do all the chapter headings to reflect that, uploaded it again and found I had to re-do the entire Contents page. Bugger.

I blame elves.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Volume One is Done!

The latest book is done.

Judge, Jury, Shaman, Volume One of the Aser stories from the Piker Press is complete, put in order, and ready for uploading to Lulu.com to be made into a paper and ink book. High time, I say. I've dithered around with this project for months, trying to come up with catchy illustrations to insert here and there.

Now I could use the original illustrations that accompanied the stories in the Press but although they were cute little sketches, some stories had a lot of illustrations (well, three) and most had none at all. Maybe a couple years from now, I'll get into a manic drawing fit and illustrate the stories like they ought to, but for now I'll follow Josh Brown's advice and just get the damn thing into print.

So this evening I spent almost 3 hours trying to learn enough about Photoshop 7 to make my cover images. I bought several reference books on Photoshop to help me learn how to use it effectively; I have learned just enough to make myself dangerous to my files. Not enough to do what I wanted to do with the cover images. Okay, so maybe a couple of years from now, when I do the illustrated editions, I'll have learned enough to do the cover I had in mind as well.

In the meantime, I went back to my stupid dumb baby "Photoshop Elements" and cobbled together a tentative front cover, and the background for a back cover. Maybe. I just realized the back cover and the image I want to put on it don't have enough contrast. Crap.

I don't know why I worry so much about this stuff. A stroll through any book store will provide a viewer some of the worst cover art imaginable. Not only is a lot of it UGLY, but a lot of it is so DUMB I'd be ashamed to have it cover my book. So I shouldn't worry that the cover to Judge, Jury, Shaman is just a stony background with the big fat nasty curse-stone and some of the Ur-Jennan family totems on it.

And I suppose I shouldn't talk about other covers being ugly, because the ogre Hoke the Horrible is going to adorn the back, and Hoke has a reputation for being ugly enough to make a wizard puke.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Writing, and blocks, and stupid crap

Like my friend Terri in England, I've been having a bad case of writer's block for ... uuuuhhhh ... six months or so. Ow.

Back in 2001, when I discovered writing (in my own life, that is; I had nothing to do with inventing the alphabet) I could not wait to sit down and write reams and tons and heaps of words about anything from going to the mailbox to toenail fungus. The past year (much of which was spent endlessly editing) however, saw me straining to write anything, be it review or short fiction. Occasionally a small literary turd would plop into the Piker Press, but plops have been few and far between.

As a half-crazed hedge shaman, you'd think there would be plenty to rant about or write about or (preferably) lie about. But how many times can you shout outrage about the proliferation of enormous SUV's and the dumb dollies who use them to race madly to the supermarket to buy a loaf of bread and some fat-free fake ham? By and large, they're stupid, they don't know what being "alive" means, and they drive like they took their driver's test on their backs. But that's ... EVERY DAY. Once or twice, it's amusing. Every day is tedious.

I could tear at my matted uncombed hair and screech about politicians being corrupt, but everyone knows that they are, we don't have a democratic mechanism for getting the dirty bastards out of office (unless they misused a government credit card and then saved all the receipts, which means they're so damn dumb I don't know how they signed up for a government position in the first place) and the Life that Guides the World knows that people want bread on the shelf of the supermarket and gas in the pumps at the truck stop, and an honest and concerned government official who said, "YOU'VE GOT TO STOP STUFFING YOUR FACE AND STOP USING PETROCHEMICALS!" would be lynched before three months of office had past.

And as to lies, how could I possibly come up with a bigger whopper than the woman who pretended to find a dismembered finger in a bowl of Wendy's chili -- only to confess later that she'd used the amputated digit from her ex-husband's co-worker who had handed over the flesh sundered from his hand in an industrial accident in lieu of paying back money that he owed???????????? People like that are just killing fiction writers.

Maybe we should sue.

(Wendy's should definitely sue. In spite of the fact that I know the finger thing was a scam, I can't even look at a Wendy's restaurant sign without feeling queasy. And no, I don't ever intend to eat at a Wendy's restaurant again.)

Also I don't like the loss of color availability in this blog. It cramps my style. It offends my fashion sense. It makes me -- crazed.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Annoying Tests

You Passed 8th Grade Math

Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Considering that I'm one of those people who absolutely hate to try anything new for fear they'll look like assholes, my taking this test is astonishing. Here I am, astonished. Thank goodness I had a pen and paper handy. Gosh, I love having to exercise my brain cells after a cold afternoon in the wind. (That was sarcasm, BTW.)

Thanks Cheryl and Holly for poking me with a stick.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cold, cold, cold, cold toes!

Each year by April I forget how cold my feet get after 30 minutes of riding in the winter.

The chill from the stainless steel stirrups rushed through the leather soles of my boots and sank right into my toe-joints this afternoon, which was the first really cold afternoon of the season. It's time for the insulated riding boots again, I guess.

My friend has decided to keep her horses at the ranch where I board for another month! That means we can ride out together as many days as we can escape our normal duties, and that either Bernie or Alex can ride with us! I'm really glad we can do that. Riding alone is better than not riding at all, but riding with a pal or a posse is a lot more fun.

My face feels windburned and my back is indulging in painful muscle spasms, but it was a good ride. Tonight is for curling up in bed with a bowl of hot stew and an interesting book. Maybe I should start writing one.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Yap About Getting Published

Every year I get so damn irritated by the NaNoWriMo.org forums.

Every year a large number of extroverted loudmouths blather at length about "By God, You Better Not Let Anyone See Your Writing On The Web Or Publishers Will Shit On Your Submissions!" Oh, bullshit. If your writing is really good, the publishers don't give a hang if your work has been published on the web. Unless you've been published on a website with a bigger following than Dilbert.com or say, BBC.com. Get real. Two years ago, there was a fellow on the NaNoForums who'd had his science fiction novel posted on a website for a year (if not more) and then an editor from Tor books saw it while browsing the web, contacted him and signed him up. Seeing it on the web only allowed the editor to see that it wasn't crap. Who listened to him? Not many. Much easier to run around with your hair on fire, screaming, "First Publication Rights! All is lost!"

I CAN, however, imagine an agent or publisher looking at a sheaf of poorly written, typo-laden garbage and smiling kindly and saying, "Sorry, it's already been published, can't help you here." Easy out.

There are writers I know who are sitting on their works, afraid to show them to anyone for fear they might be plagiarized, or are waiting for their words to magically become Perfect before they're confident enough to show them to others. In the mean time, years pass, the story moulders in manuscripts or degenerates on computer disk. The Story has taken a back seat to The Marketing. And if the Writer is not also a Marketer ... why, the writer is screwed. (But then that's why agents are so important.)

Oh, well. Our society teaches us from toddler on up that to be successful, important, or valid, you have to earn $$$ from your efforts, be they creative or daily. You must earn your allowance by doing chores, you must make your art pay for itself and then some or it's not worthwhile, you must be able to earn a living through a career. If you draw well, you must become a syndicated, madly popular cartoonist, if you paint, you must be able to show in the finest galleries (or market your own galleries like T. Kincade, yick), if you like to cook you must become a chef in an upscale restaurant. Money money money money money.

"I wrote a book," says the author proudly.

"Can I get it at Barnes and Noble?" says the potential reader.

"No, but you can see it on the web/at Lulu.com/ etc."

"Oh," the potential reader says. "Let me know when you've REALLY written a book."

Let's all run around in circles screaming that we didn't become the next Maeve Binchy or Jennifer Crusie or Nora Roberts and burn our manuscripts in despair. And By God, Don't Let Anyone See Those Ashes or We'll Lose First Publication Rights.