Monthly Archives: June 2015

Writer working: Feel free to disturb

cropped-p4157551.jpgWHERE, O WHERE HAS MY LITTLE DOG GONE?

It occurs to me that I have left my small band of followers in the dark for a while, and that is not nice.

I am STILL here.

Nothing bad has happened to me.

I have not gone walkabout, quit, decided to take up the care and rearing of dandelions.

What I have been is working my little tail off, for the eventual benefit of those who appreciate such things, and LEARNING all kinds of esoteric things, such as kerning.

In the writing thing, I feel reasonably competent: I’ve been at it for many years, and have come to a style of my own. So when I blog about my writing techniques, while I don’t expect to be followed on that path (many of them are cobbles uniquely suited to my fogged CFS brain), they represent actual solutions to real problems, and I’m proud of having figured out how to do something.

Always use shortcuts, if possible

I don’t blog about writing problems I’ve seen solved elsewhere. Granted, I don’t SEE everything, but I do a search or two, read some blog posts and some books, and hope someone else has provided ‘the answer’ – before I go to the effort of figuring it out on my own.

If someone else has a canned solution, I use it. Even if it needs a minor adaptation or two. Why reinvent the wheel unless you’re designing hovercars?

I will try to credit all the people who have made major contributions to speeding up my work flow, but we all know that you can read ten things before they add up inside your head, and you suddenly know what to do.

So, what HAVE you been doing, Alicia? And how goes it?

I have been making a cover.

This, of course, required learning graphic design for covers, and fonts, and how to search image databases.

And the careful expenditure of cash – for licenses. As a firm believer in intellectual property rights, I want my books to have all the credits and rights and licenses necessary.

J.M. Ney-Grimm has been an absolutely wonderful mentor.

The cover has been finished for ten days now, and I’ll do a reveal a few days before everything else is ready to go – you’ll have to trust me until then. I know it’s done because my subconscious finally let me alone about it.

I have gotten permission to use my quotes from the King James Version of the Bible.

You have to email the rights person at Cambridge U. Press, give all the details, and get an answer.

Why? Because the British crown has awarded itself rights in perpetuity (they paid for the translation, and it took YEARS, and many scholars, and they ARE the crown).

As I want to be able to market world-wide, I didn’t want to have any problems in British territory – and have them decide I would make a fine test case for enforcing their rights-by-treaty with other countries, like US.

I’m working of the book description.

Because it, and the cover, are your most important piece of free advertising.

Over the years, I’ve tried several approaches to describing a long, complex book in a couple of sound bites.

I have the placeholder, and the one I use on Wattpad (which is very different), and one of every form advised by anyone whose blog I’ve read.

And I’ve done my market research – some of the stuff out there is pretty ludicrous, some depends on fame I don’t have, and some has been quite eye-opening.

All I can say about book descriptions is that they are hard to get right.

Lily White LeFevre is helping – I’m getting back to it really soon, Lily. Promise.

And I’m currently up to my ears in ebook formatting.

I want the ebook version to LOOK nice, but to work on ereaders everywhere. A tough combination.

And I don’t want to spend gobs of time when I want to fix a typo, so the process has to be under my control (big surprise), and set up right initially so changes are easy.

Which required a LOT of reading of formatting books and methods, and lots of blog posts, and some experimenting.

And learning enough HTML and CSS to know what need to be changed by hand in any automatic systems I come up with. And to make sure I have nice clean code. No shortcuts. Ha!

I’ve been at this latest venture for the past 8 days, and I am glad it’s going to be a lot faster than the cover. Phew! HTML and CSS are computer coding, and I used to do much tougher programming, so I don’t approach it with the trepidation many non-tech writers do, but with a long list of questions of ‘How do I do X?’

It’s coming. I’ve made some decisions as of yesterday which I hope will result in said system.

I just figured out some of my problems are because I don’t know HOW I want it to look, which makes it impossible to achieve it. Duh!

But yesterday, yours truly created her first ebook for Kindle, navigated getting several programs installed on her computer, learned that several I already had needed updating.

I got the dreaded ‘Kindle can’t open this’ message, tracked it down, got MY EBOOK version open in my Kindle for Mac and several Kindle Previewer formats, and learned how to handle the viewing controls for the Previewer.

I have reviewed dozens of systems (everyone has a favorite), and have decided to use Scrivener + some post-processing in TextWrangler (a free text editor for the Mac, little brother to the famous BB Edit).

Why? Because I have complete control in how I create my text files, set them up in files and folders, and I think I’ve found a way to do everything I want to do. Basically, because I think I can.

You are now up to date.

I’m getting there. I have a path through most of the hard stuff remaining (except marketing).

I’m happily busy, not stalled, not frustrated – just very, very busy with DETAILS.

And, because I have only the experiences of the newbie, I haven’t written much about the processes and steps: we all go through them, no one’s system works out-of-the-box for anyone else, and mine is a patchwork quilt of pieces taken from everywhere (including the very LONG Scrivener manual).

Next task from the TO DO list?

I hope to report next that formatting is a go, and that I have plunged into EDITING. I hope I don’t have to make MAJOR changes there, but I have a long list of things to clean up.

If you have left a comment, editing will be where I will consider what you said VERY carefully, add it to what everyone else said, and decide what to do. Yup, even those comments you made two years ago on Chapter 1, Scene 3.

If you have any other suggestions, speak now or forever… 

Sorry about the radio silence! The two functioning neurons have been busy.



A blogger’s story: venality will out


If you have been reading along here at all, you would have noticed, starting Memorial Day, that my friend, TheDisabledCyclist, is caught in a mess not of his own making, as part of a group of about 900 families whose SSD benefits were abruptly cut off by the SS Administration, and were thrown into the middle of a battle because they chose the wrong attorney to represent them (picked out of a phone book, DC said) when they won their disability cases.

It is becoming a thriller, with a cast of villains – a lawyer being accused of corruption, and destruction of an unbelievable amount of records. Something fishy AT the SSA (there is ALWAYS an insider side), where the SAME records have ALSO mysteriously disappeared – though the are required to keep them forever.

And a whole bunch of innocent victims.

And the really horrible part, people taking their own lives because they can’t see a way out.

I’m not going to rewrite his words, but the last three updates he’s posted are starting to read like a novel of epic proportions:

So It Takes a Nano-second to Unlawfully Stop People’s Incomes,and How Long to Pay Them? (June 7)

SSA Fiasco Update (June 9)

SSA Fiasco Update (June 11)

I’m boosting his signal a bit.

Feel free to do the same – the more widely this is known, the more likely it will be investigated properly. And the facts of the case become evidence.

And, if there is someone out there looking to write the story, contact DC.



One-track mind: writing OR graphics mode

3 symbol


I realize I haven’t been producing original content for this blog for a while now.

The impulse is there: I’ve started around thirty posts, with a few words and a basic idea, and have gotten nowhere.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I simply can’t multitask, and that includes switching from writing mode to graphics mode, and back.

No, I have not gone hiking in the Himalayas

That’s next year’s project. And next book’s.

I have thousands of words in my Scrivener project: Pride’s Children Finish BOOK 1.

A quick check reveals I’ve written 50,000 words over the last two months. But every single one of them has to do with learning graphics and working on the cover for BOOK ONE.

And there I started as a rank amateur, with four years of reading the blogs and ebooks from self-published writers about cover design, a strong desire for a particular sunset image I had fallen in love with (and secured the rights to use), and not much else.

Oh, except for the desire and decision to do it myself.

My reasoning there is that this is fun, I’ve always wanted to have an excuse to learn something like Photoshop, I wanted to be able to interact with a professional if I decided to use one, and the belief that many things rise to ALMOST the level of art if you become very good at craft.


Following these impulses, I had already purchased both Pixelmator (a wonderfully inexpensive Mac graphics program that has most of the basics in Photoshop) and Learn – Pixelmator 3 Edition, a video course for Mac user with over two hours of detailed tutorials (most under 2 minutes). I have watched these tutorials over and over, finding layers and layers of information as I was ready for it. Thank you, Mac. U.

To that I added accounts at several of the companies online which supply images and arrange licenses (because my drawing is rudimentary, and I had an idea which required a figure of a woman on the cover).

Many of the videos on the web are made for Photoshop users. I early on exhausted the Pixelmator ones, absorbing things as I went.

I have a few references for specific pieces of craft, such as a nice discussion of what the various blending modes explained are (and what that means).

I have learned to use Google Images – something I’d never done before because I really don’t think visually, and had no particular need to go through images by the thousands. I have now – and found out fascinating things such as that most books about Africa have 1) a sunset (very red/orange), and 2) a single tree in the middle of a vast plain (Acacia tree?). That image instantly says ‘Africa’ to readers when used as a cover – something that is both useful and sad at the same time.

We all know that the Romance covers have gotten stereotyped to the point where is the cover has a man’s naked abs, and it isn’t obviously about bodybuilding, it’s Romance.

Amazon has become my go-to tool for book research. I looked at hundreds of book covers. I read their descriptions, perused their interiors and samples, I paid close attention to their prices, and especially examined the typography: the last thing I want to do is pick a cover which somehow screams to the cognoscenti that the book inside is genre X – if I don’t think Pride’s Children falls within Category X by a thousand miles.

Branding – in the future

I may still do my own thing – this is called ‘branding’ when you do it on purpose (and know what you’re doing) – but it won’t be OBVIOUSLY sending the wrong signals. Of course ‘branding’ isn’t much of a concept if you are putting out your first book – but it pays to think ahead on these things.

One of the nicer things to come from all this research is that I still find myself in uncharted territory, rather than finding out, depressingly, that I had simply picked up on the universal gestalt and was rewriting the latest memes.

Not that I think writing ‘the same, only better’ is wrong – but it certainly isn’t what I’m aiming for. If so, I could have saved myself an awful lot of trouble.


It basically comes down to me only being able to do one semi-creative thing at a time. It’s been visual/graphic for the last two months

And, because I don’t want to do a cover reveal until the whole is finished and available for sale, I can’t bring myself to put many of those thousands of words into blog posts.

Maybe afterward – when I feel I have something to show. I have even considered writing ‘The Making of the Cover of Pride’s Children,’ because a new designer is going to need to go through the same steps. I’m held back by the sheer ego of the idea: who am I to teach anyone how to suck eggs?

Biting off more than I can chew

Truth be told: I probably couldn’t have picked something much harder to try. This is said in retrospect, with little of that massive ego in it.

I have attempted to produce a composite image as if it were an actual photograph, out of SIX photographs, TWO vector shapes, and an artificially-created sun.

At worst, I have constructed a magnificent failure, just enough ‘off’ in every direction to annoy the subconscious mind. At best, well, let’s just say that NEXT TIME I am going to find a model, locate the right house, and camp out there until the sun does what I want it to do – and it will still save me time.

Question for today: can YOU do several creative things at once, or do you get lost in a single mode for months on end? Or is this mostly an artifact of either my CFS brain – or aging?

So It Takes a Nano-second to Unlawfully Stop People’s Incomes,and How Long to Pay Them?

For those who are following along with my friend DC ( about the high-handed and arbitrary way he and 900 other people on disability had their benefits summarily canceled on NO notice), here’s his latest update.

Imagine it happened to you. Now imagine that you are diabled, and the small payment SS grants those who are disabled (nowhere near enough money to live on!) is canceled immediately, and your mortage is due in a week, and you were barely making ends meet as it was.

Scary, isn’t it?