Thursday, December 29, 2011

Illustrator Wanted

Just popping in for a moment here, before the family treks off on some mandated Togetherness Time. (Actual quote from my wife and I to kids: "We will have fun, it won't be boring, so put down the video games and get your shoes on!")

Rob Bowker correctly and kindly suggested that I need an illustrator for the vision I'm carrying around in my head for the cover of my honest-I'll-self-publish-any-day-now novel One Last Quest. Of course, I have no experience finding the same. How exactly does one find such talent these days? Craigslist posting? Comb through deviantArt? Hang out in Starbucks and Peet's and look for someone sketching? Does one even sketch any more, or is it all done with iPads these days?

If things get desperate, I can always hand the digitizing pen over to my nine-year-old daughter. At least she won't be riddled with self-doubt, and I can reimburse her in leftover Christmas cookies.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

See the Mighty List Before Us

  • Cards sent and cards received
  • Gifts bought and wrapped and hidden and shipped
  • Cookies to be made
  • Ingredients we need for more cookies
  • Wishes written in wobbly crayon to a certain Jolly Old Elf
'Tis the season for us compulsive list-makers for sure as we try to cram in all the final things before the end of the year. Most people do these as New Years Resolutions, but I resolved long ago to not "do" Resolutions. Here's my own personal to-do list, stuck on a yellow sticky note where I can't hide from it.
  • Pies
Just so you know that my priorities are straight. There are pies to make today, and over Thanksgiving I tried making my own crusts for the first time, after watching my mother and sister do this from scratch every year. It was time I took up the family tradition,  so this Christmas, all the crusts are from scratch. Or will be, once I stop screwing around on the Internet and make them.
  • Web Site
For reasons that seemed good at the time, I volunteered to be in charge of our local youth track team. This is funny for a number of reasons, not the least of which is I can't run. Of sure, if there's a disaster or if I'm in mortal peril or there's pie waiting for me at the end, I can get there under my own power, but it certainly won't be pretty. Luckily, this is not a coaching-type job, so I won't inflict my own lack of grace, form, and athleticism on children. Instead, I am merely coordinating adults who have all of those things. Part of the deal, though, is that I want to redo the web site, which is a pain to maintain in its current form, and will give me another outlet to show off my accumulated knowledge.
  • Garage
My wife and I already gave each other our big Christmas gift: a new back porch! Yes, it's just as romantic and festive as it sounds, but we wrote out the check to the builder yesterday, and now I'm looking at all the stuff that we shoved into the garage while they were doing their work. Now we have to decide what goes back, and what's clutter and gets tossed.

As a bonus project, my large tool chest has, over the years, gotten to the point where it holds a ton of junk that's not-tools. It's like a microcosm of our back porch. Time to empty it into large boxes, and then replace things worth keeping, and toss or sell or donate the rest.
  • Donate
The ultimate fate for much of the salvageable clutter. Once all the "special" gifts are out of hiding in the back of the car (shhh) it gets loaded up with the old dishes and outgrown clothes and hauled off to Goodwill. And hey, while I'm there, might as well look for some familiar cases...

The simple fact is: there's a large tree in the middle of my small house, and it's keeping a mighty pile of gifts under its boughs. Come tomorrow morning, we're going to need to find places for all those things.I believe they have reached some sort of gift critical-mass and are now producing new gifts entirely on their own. Saint Nicholas is going to have a devil of a time finding room tonight.
  • Read
I'm exchanging read-my-novel favors with a friend, and am overdue to go through his draft and give him feedback. I'm hip-deep in a Victorian-era Gothic horror novel, and there's three books on inter-library loan sitting on my nightstand that must go back by January 5th. I finally got myself onto Goodreads, too, though I have yet to post any reviews of anything. At the moment I've used the site as a place to dump what books I can remember reading.

Also, I think the NaNo draft has ripened: it's time to have a big glass of something fortifying and hops-based and go through it, or through one of the drafts that are stacked in boxes on my dresser.
  • Letters
So many letters I owe to the Typosphere! It's embarrassing. I have managed to send exactly one letter since September, I think. I need to set up a typing station somewhere in the house. Thank-you notes will need to be sent out in a week's time or so, too.
  • Publish
This has to happen. I've got beta-readers finishing up my own novel over the holiday, and I'm in need of an illustrator to try and realize the half-formed notion I've got for cover art. I finally got myself hooked up on Smashwords as well, as a bookend to the Goodreads membership. It would be nice to see this link go away: "You have not published any books — Publish a Book"

So that's the list. Ambitious? You betcha. But not, I think, unreasonable. I've been relaxing for a few days, letting the kids drive me crazy, but use list-makers can only idle for so long.

I hope your own holidays are fulfilling, in whatever form they take. And if you wind up on the wrong side of someone's "Naughty or Nice" list, I hope, at least, that you earned it.

Christmas 1970

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Doomsday in 2012?

Whereupon I strap on the sandwich board and declare:

The End is Nigh!

Say Goodbye

No, not that kind of doomsday, although if you work for one of the institutions represented above, it probably feels like it. Once-mighty Kodak is now suffering the indignity of seeing its stock trade for less than a dollar per share, with the ravening wolves of bankruptcy snarling just outside its doors. The U.S. Postal Service offered to delay closure of large parts of its infrastructure until the end May, but it's clear that volume has dropped well below its capacity, never to return. And the newspaper industry continues to consolidate, restructure, reduce, and combine in an attempt to remain relevant in a world where nearly everyone carries a fully-connected two-way computer in their pockets.

As a photographer in a line of photographers, I'm sad to see Kodak being steamrolled by history. The silver film can up there belonged to my late grandfather, an ad man by trade, decades before Don Draper and friends made it cool. (Grandpa worked on the Westinghouse campaign, and others I don't recall.) Losing Kodak is losing a part of that connection to the hours spent under the dim red safety lights in his basement darkroom, watching images magically appear on paper, surrounded by amber bottles of mysterious liquids and yellow packets of dry chemicals. At least Fuji still seems to be in the film business, and there is a manufacturing outfit in eastern Europe that is still making film, but the loss of Kodak is truly the passing of a great American success story.

As a retronaut and sporadic letter-writer, I'm sad to see the post office falling away, becoming a niche service that even people like me only mainly use once a year for sending Christmas cards and packages. Unless SOPA passes and drives us all back to pre-Internet times and technology -- and boy, is the Typosphere ready for that eventuality -- I see the end times for the good old USPS coming sooner than they'd like, and later than is practical. I'd better write some more letters and use up those stamps.

As a reader, the loss of the newspaper should hit me the hardest, but as I picked up our paper this morning in the driveway, half-soaked because it slipped out of its protective bag and into the rain, I realized that we're only getting it for two things these days: comics and coupons. I'd like to say I'm reading it for news, but everything there is a day old at least. "Local" news has all but disappeared in the wake of our own paper's many mergers: shown in the photo is the Business "section", which is a huge misnomer, as it is simply one page of newsprint, folded into half. Four pages, and the last page is taken up by a 3/4 sized advertisement. Our delivery person is an anonymous stranger that drives up and down the neighborhood at 5:45 am each day, after having driven thirty miles or so from his home for the privilege of peppering our suburban neighborhood with a bundle of advertisements insulating yesterday's news.

So where is the bold, beautiful tomorrow?

To be completely honest, I think it's in our hands. Literally. Mike Speegle is off making his writing dream happen by just doing it, publishing his own book, and damn those writing-program naysayers. Typosphere godmother Cheryl Lowry is working for a certain large seller-of-everything-under-the-sun, and leveraging her writing skills and 'net savvy into some sort of position that requires her to carry about numerous cool toys. Rob Bowker is sending hand-typed letters to any and all takers, bringing back the lost art and simple joy of a handmade message (and maybe introducing a new generation to the idea.)

And, oh yes, there's that little "Occupy" movement that the kids are so het up about. Whether you see this as citizen democracy or hippie rabble, it's the same thing -- individuals trying to jump in and do something, make a change, with their hands and voices and actions.

Dissolving old institutions, and trying on new ones. Smaller, localized, and independent. Kodak's demise doesn't come at the cost of photography, citizen journalism brings an immediacy and intimacy that the printed page cannot, and the mail? Unless it's a letter from a pen pal, 90% of what I get in my mailbox goes right into the recycling bin.

Maybe it's time to bring back the Pony Express? I bet my newspaper carrier would be up for it. I have a sandwich board here that says he's going to be out of a job soon.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


December 10th already? Egad, this month is flying by. Pie-baking and cookie-decorating ruled the day, and on Monday, the promise of meeting the Big Guy Himself. My daughters prepared their letters today before dinner: handwritten, of course. Does St. Nick even have an email address? And how do you know it's not an outsourced elf on the other end?

These are the kinds of things I worry about.

Christmas 1971

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Wrap It Up

Nano Rhino Purple

Another November done and gone, another draft on the pile. The Typewriter Brigade was in rare form this year, with more purple winner's bars showing up than year's past. The Office of Letters and Light upgraded their servers this year and the forum software, and not only were there no meltdowns, but we also didn't get our topic split up into multiple chunks like years past. True to form, though, the typewriter people posted the most... and no, it wasn't all just me. We had new faces as well as veterans, plus proud members of the Typewriter Mafia (those without a functional typer) and cheerleaders a-plenty, as the humble Nano Rhino prodded one and all with a motivational horn to the sides. It was a magical time, and in those waning days, as my caffeine addiction reached its horrible peak, I realized that I look forward to November the same way my kids look forward to Christmas, with all the excitement of the good times to come, without fretting about the inevitable cleanup.

Ah, the cleanup. There's no avoiding that, is there? NaNoWriMo 2011 (a.k.a. The Ballad of Congo Willy) will go down in personal history as "the one where I just kept blathering on in circles in the middle of the book." I always try to do something new with each NaNo -- this year was letting go of some of my retentive planning process and just seeing what the characters would do in certain circumstances. And they did some strange, freaky stuff. They lied to each other. They got kicked out of the house. They waxed poetic about the slow pace of life on the byways of central Ohio. They rigged a revenge game of cowpie bingo.  I'm pretty sure they even died. None of this was planned this year: my index cards were essentially a TripTik across the U.S., with a few scenic spots highlighted (and in some cases, entirely bypassed.) So this year's New Thing was: "write from the hip."

Now comes the hard part. After the gifts are all unwrapped and piled up under the tree, and the kids are all banished to their rooms for going stir-crazy, I'll be plopped down on the sofa with a fountain pen in hand, sifting through... something. Maybe this year's draft, or maybe even last year's, which is still unread and in a box in my bedroom. Right now, I need to get a little mental distance from the writing, and think about which story is ready to be wrapped up.