Relative silence doesn’t mean no progress


(Fuzzy image of a blue skirt)

I find that, being involved with graphics (learning enough Pixelmator to attempt a cover for Book 1 of Pride’s Children), I am finding myself with nothing to blog about, and I wondered why.

I think it is because I have nothing much to report yet, and the style of my posts has often been ‘reporting back from the trenches.’

When I learn something new that I think might interest or amuse someone else, then I write about it – and share the experience.

I hope there is at least something mildly useful to my readers in what I write about.

And that isn’t true of the graphics because:

Much of what I’m learning is how to achieve specific effects – and my experience of those effects are very much limited to using them for this one particular cover.

The cover isn’t finished – I have nothing to show so that a reader could see what I’m talking about, and graphics should be visual. That, and it takes a lot longer to describe something than to show it.

My level of experience in using graphics software is low and recent – I have nothing to ‘teach’ that a reader can’t figure out more easily than from reading my posts.

Statistically, most indies who design their own covers won’t be using Pixelmator on a Mac.

I read many Photoshop tutorials, but I’d be even lower on the experience ladder in that community, as I don’t have access to the program, have no intention of buying access, and definitely have nothing to add to the knowledge base.

Reading (and writing) are more common activities than doing detailed graphics – so I would expect a lot less interest in a graphics post UNLESS I had something amazing to show, quite unlikely for a beginner.

So I find myself in the position of learning widely and possibly deeply (much more than you would need to enhance photographs), and of keeping thousands of words of detailed notes so I can reproduce effects on a clean copy of everything once I have the ideas worked out, and of having nothing to say.

My notes have pieces such as:

“The shadows are too dark, and I lost the contrast with the arm – so the arm disappeared. Going back to basics I realized the top of the skirt is clumsier than the one I cut from Skirt 5 – but I’ve already put so much work into the skirt I’m hesitant to redo it. The palm of the hand needs some shadow – the reddish glow makes no sense.”


“Fix the right foot. Take picture of daughter’s foot at correct angle, and with light coming from the right direction for the figure and the sunset. Blur tool and paintbrush – toes fixed.”


“NEW important trick: to make a white-to-fade (transparent) gradient,—-pixelmator-172549845 teaches me how.”

Unavoidable interruptions – we all get them

In addition to all this pixel stuff, real life has taken a turn toward more stuff, and includes things like:

“Find a medical specialist that accepts our insurance, has an appointment within a reasonable time, and handles problem X, and has the right certifications.”


“Document EVERYTHING in the process of getting a major corporation to do their job, and send it to them, even though they are being pain about it.”


“Figure out how to use the automatic thermostat for the AC in the chinchilla’s room, install said AC, remember how the controls work, and this time WRITE IT ALL DOWN – it will be the same next year, as it was the last three – why don’t I have notes?”

Plus my assistants quit – and I’m non-functional in the areas I was depending on them, plus all their jobs now have to be reassigned to me, or I have to find someone else. Weeds don’t pull themselves (not that I’ve pulled many lately).

Not much to report

So that’s all this is: a post about why I have nothing much to say, all done in my inimitable long-winded style, filled with incomprehensible detail.

I miss having something to blog ABOUT, and chatting with people online when they comment, but I didn’t want you all to think I’d been IDLE.

Very soon this stuff will jell, and I will be moving back to the short path to publication I’m on, with something to show for all this immersion in an area definitely alien but fascinating.

Teach yourself as much as possible, then find mentors

I am immensely grateful to those who have taken the trouble to explain things with posts full of images and with YouTube videos – I wouldn’t be making ANY progress without them: this stuff is so different from the way I normally think and work and the Pixelmator has thousands of useful features – and VERY limited documentation about those features.

Full manuals seem to be a thing of the past, and I never find the coverage deep enough (the lone exception here has been Scrivener, which has a full manual that has almost everything you could ask in it) in programs, and the online ‘documentation’ which supposedly can be updated more easily I find appalling.

Maybe it’s the explosion of knowledge. So many features are being added that the documentation can’t keep up with the changes. Maybe it’s the expectation of new generations, something we already experience a lot of, that the features on a program shouldn’t NEED documentation, but should be intuitive and easy to learn (ha!).

Maybe I’m just too old for this. And I can’t deny the brain fog is a factor in slowing the process.

In any case, that’s what I’ve been up to: learning. Teaching myself (with help from J.M. Ney-Grimm, who has shortened the learning path more times than I care to count). Doing something that is not me, and liking it.

But not writing much about it.

All I can say is, “I’m working on it!” That will have to do.

What y’all been up to?


6 thoughts on “Relative silence doesn’t mean no progress

  1. Lily White LeFevre

    I have a love-hate relationahipbwith graphics. I have a solid enough base in art that i think i SHOULD be able to get the effect i want. Then i sit down an fiddle and it…doesnt work. There is a reason i havent changed any of my covers, and it’s not cuz i think i got them right the first time. They are just still the best i can do with no $ to pay someone to do them and no time to really focus on them (when i can barely find time to write 500 words a week i cannot justify spending 10 hours fiddling with a cover). So I feel you on the slowness of progress, and the learning curve of those programs, and only wanting to blog when you have something to say 🙂


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It IS an odd feeling, not having anything to say. But it makes sense – I’ve been at the graphics a bit over a month, intensely, with much random stuff tucked in there before but not much actual experience.

      But words… I didn’t think the words would be tucked away while I was doing this. Maybe they needed a vacation before the editing begins.

      Kiss the wee one. Don’t worry about writing – when you have the time, you already have the ability, and the stuff from your subconscious will come pouring out.

      Your covers can wait; I think they’re ‘good enough’ – maybe a bit of tweaking would help, but they’re far better than many already. When you’re writing again, you can tweak them as part of a new release – brand the bunch – otherwise if they attract more readers right now, you don’t have anything new for a while. Most of the rah rah marketing wants velocity: more and more. I can’t write that way, so I don’t even try.


      1. Lily White LeFevre

        You are absolutely right about re-doing covers to “brand” them all when i have my next book out. hopefully by the end of this year, but progress is lamentably slow. even if there are reasons for it, it still frustrates me 🙂 AS i am sure you have experienced!


        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Yup. Three kids.

          Life never stops moving forward – everything we learn is half-assed and we never get a chance to go back and clean it all up because every new day brings MORE stuff to deal with.

          I think I’m finally catching on to the system. I envy those who live in the present.

          The hummingbird feeder is out, and being visited regularly – where I can see it. Kiss the wee one on the soft top of his head.


  2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

    Hey, thanks, Sandy. I have the same problem with it as I had with writing when I started: high expectations and standards, low ability to meet said standards.

    But I’m finding the capacity for taking great pains – there IS a way, and I’ll find it – and the lack of a deadline, mean I can really dig into it.

    I’m still in Kindergarten, and having great fun with the fingerpaints.


  3. Sandra Manning

    Alicia, tipping my hat at you for trying this. I have zero design skills – none- which is why I’m glad that I just had to suggest central themes to my cover designers, and I can just leave it in their hands. But I’m expecting great things from your cover.



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