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What’s Up, Pussycats?

 

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I’m worn out, on my website ever day, trying this, trying that.

Which is why I’ve had so little to say lately.

My apologies to here, and to the TSU and Rabbit Hole threads on Facebook.

That guy up there is Sly. (And who else would it be?) In my half completed drawing he is wearing his pharaoh costume that he dons for John Dee’s séances. I tried to find my image of Dee in his pharaoh garb, but as usual, I can’t lay hands on it. (My files are a mess.)

I’ve been building my website. I finally have a format that will work with a light use page, excerpts, come-ons, a brief intro, etc., and will also do for full chapters. I’ve created a background to underlay all. The images will change with the various sites but the configuration will remain pretty much as is. I am snaking type around images on the background – that left/right/centering of images with a type runaround never works for me, never works as well as I could wish.

I have registered names of six sites in case I decide to put the whole thing up. That would be two novellas to a site. More than that and the menu gets too crazy.

I can always lasso and marry images in Photoshop, but my next task is to learn how to create a clipping path. (I have never figured that out.) So that (ideally) I can place images in the text layer and not have unused areas blocking out what lies behind.

I follow the discussion on Facebook in a thread populated by designers. Someone said: I create my design in (some software I never heard of) and hand it off to the developers to write the code. Here am I, trying to cheat and trick my way around WordPress, getting it to do things it doesn’t want to do.

WordPress could make life so much easier for us with a few small changes. A way to indent first lines. A way to right indent paragraphs. No, they save that stuff for the upgraded plans. You gotta pay for that convenience. Irritating.

Why do I like WordPress? Over Wix, I mean. I love Wix. In Wix you can do anything you want to do, almost. That’s the problem. WP forces me to rein in my more extreme design-y tendencies.

GD’s a whirlwind of activity over on Facebook. I’m trying to wrestle WordPress to the mat. What’s everyone else up to? Or are you sitting back, watching the money roll in?

 

 

 

 

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Scattered* Thoughts.

*(Are my thoughts ever anything but scattered?)

 

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My newest Facebook friend,

Alex Leslie Combs, a friend of my niece, has published a small comic book: Tittybar Tales. His website is: tittybartales.com

The amusing story is of his (formerly her) work as a stripper (to fund a sex-change operation). It’s a handsome heavy glossy stock 6×6 book that he sells on his website and at events. He is active in the San Fran community, very visible, participating in many-many activities. He contributes to several comic-centric web sites, creates posters for comic cons, pursues all kinds of visibility. He is an energetic promotor, we should all take note. Now, I know that a piece of fiction hasn’t the same eye-popping appeal as a splashy comic, but, particularly for the works of sci-fi, there are many areas to exploit.

That is his cat up there. A bit R. Crumb, don’t you think? He shows other styles as well, some more Feiffer-ish. I don’t know if his style has evolved, or if he mixes it up.

Now I have a contact on the West Coast for my bumper stickers! (When they’re ready.) Hmmm. Should I make Sly bi-sexual? 

Just kidding! Kidd-dding! It’s bad enough Sly puts the moves on a saucy capuchin monkey at Queen Elizabeth’s court.

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A look at the news

adds to my vision of my own situation (sixteenth century Hameln). This is input far easier to acquire (in terms of time and energy, and on the pocketbook) than what Hemingway espoused: A writer’s job is to live life, and then to write about it.” (From memory/not verbatim.)

From Daily Mail   June 21. 2018

Swedish town is told to keep doors and windows closed
due to plague of GIANT RATS the size of cats.
  • The town of Sundsvall, Sweden, has been ‘invaded’ by rats
  • Kindergarten children kept indoors and locals told to shut doors and windows
  • The problem has been caused by the relocation of a local recycling centre
  • Rats ‘the size of cats’ caught in area, as council launch extermination campaign

Residents in a town in northern Sweden are being told to keep their doors and windows shut, due to an ‘invasion’ of rats the size of cats. The escalating rat problem in Sundsvall, caused by the relocation of a recycling centre, has even forced a local kindergarten to keep children indoors.

These aren’t the normal rats you see in the forest,’ says Benny Sagmo, head of wildlife preservation in Sundsvall, a town of some 52,000 residents. They’re as big as cats.’

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I get my ideas from everywhere. I just stole a line from an idiot pastor’s speech, reported on Facebook. Those Evangelicals are good for something after all.

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It  has just come to me that Sly was the original hippie. He’s trying to sell Peace and Love to some very jaded rats. Ringo Starr, eat your heart out.

 

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Phillip Roth, Thank You.

At my job – I work for a compositor, we set books for publishers all over the country – I see, and marvel at, first books by young authors. I always wonder, how did this one catch the eye of an agent? And, subsequently, snag a publishing deal?

The answer has to be – through connections forged in a writing program, winning references from people with friends in high places. This is beyond most of us. Maybe Kris has connections, she teaches writing, I believe. The rest of us, that train has left the station.

But references go only so far. A book still has to sell itself. I handled a mystery a year or two ago, set in Boston, interesting to me for the local detail, I lived in Boston for twenty years. That author had been a consultant on a TV crime show, and had gotten a book accepted on that basis. I can’t remember the name, but I don’t see that it’s made waves. And I haven’t seen a second book in what was plainly meant to be the kick-off to a series. All the right moves, the big publisher, the front-sales touts, presumably, an actual advertising budget, and the market, apparently, has not come to Mahomet. The author, a former Boston DA, for all her sexy insider detail and her familiarity with Beantown’s mean streets, has not created another Friends of Eddie Coyle.

Some good news: At least we haven’t spent big money on an MFA, only to see our work submerge in a sea of cute. (“The powerhouse mother/daughter team has done it again, bringing you the laughter of their lives.”) Bestseller shtick is not my thing, for all its charm. (Haven’t read Scottoline, but I have to assume there’s something appealing there.)

How does one become a Phillip Roth?

From Wikipedia: “Roth’s work is known for its intensely autobiographical character, for philosophically and formally blurring the distinction between reality and fiction, for its “sensual, ingenious style” and its provocative explorations of American identity.”

Hey!

* intensely autobiographical character * philosophically and formally blurring the distinction between reality and fiction * a sensual, ingenious style * a provocative exploration of American (in my case, catly) identity.

I’m there already!

 

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What I did on my vacation.

Wasted a lot of time (watched/read a lot of news). Messed around with my plants. I’ve got two pots of asparagus sprouted way too early. Can I keep them going until I can move them outside? I kinda jumped the gun with them. Let’s see, what else? Oh yeah, I built a website.

We need to keep moving forward, in any way we can. To do otherwise is to give up. If I’m not moving forward on my story (I am, but slowly) I’m moving forward in other areas. Movement is essential for our mental health.

I’d meant to spend the week writing. I began fooling around on WordPress and never got to my next (new) chapter. I only have a title so far: The Crystal Visions. (John Dee thought he was able to talk to angels.)

My website is a big step for me. I have eight chapters of book three posted, and I’m pretty happy with them. I’ve got a format I like, for the most part. What I don’t like is how the type migrates. I’m trying to structure my headings so they don’t fall in danger zones and get separated from the body type they’re supposed to be allied with. It’s tricky. This is why I threw in the towel on Wix.

Wix is a nightmare for slippage. You have complete freedom, that’s the problem there. You can do fabulous things, lovely layouts that are a disaster when the page is resized. You have complete freedom to anthing you like, as long as you get out your ten tons of coal a day – who knows where that’s from?

I still have the illustration to create, and that’s scary. I’m working up to it, gathering reference material, cleaning off my drawing table that has been a junk catcher for months. Do I call that a step forward? I do. A tiny step forward. Yeah, I’m pathetic, and I know it.

I’m not going to announce the address of my site until I have three or four pieces of my own art up. At present I have images off Pinterest dummied in as placeholders and as an indication of what incidents I intend to focus on.

I allow myself to get excited about a big response when I finally get my PR effort underway. Reality hasn’t slapped me down yet. Just what the world needs, right? Another version of Puss in Boots?

I’m in a bittersweet mood. I’m proud of what I’ve done with the website. I think it looks damn good. I’m come a long way, but I have a long way to go.

I’ll feel better when I have a finished drawing of Dee in his loopy pharaoh costume, worn for his séances, pulled from a book on the Edwardian theater, ‘The Modern Stage of Today’, copyright 1910. Fabulous characterizations, fabulous costumes. James O’Neill is in there, and a somebody Arbuckle (the book’s downstairs) that I’ve always thought might be Fatty Arbuckle before he hit the silver screen. One of these days I’ll look it up.

Yeah, another silly post, but at least I’ve cranked something out and maybe given GD a break. He’s a trooper.

What about everybody else? What have you done lately that feels like a step forward?

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What can I say except – stay positive.

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Update: I have discovered that my template ‘cols’ is more flexible than I thought. There is, apparently, a way to isolate articles on a page. That would solve a lot of my problems. Thus, I could have more than one chapter per page. (They’re very short chapters.) There is also a plug-in for pull quotes. (Also on my wish list.)

 

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Medium – What Is It Good For?

I don’t know, I just don’t know. 

I thought Medium might be a place to post fiction. Fiction is one of their categories, after all. There are many ‘publications’ here that claim to host fiction. But most of them want what one member described as ‘snackable’ content. Poems, short stories, flash fiction, etc. Fiction is almost an afterthought on the site, tucked away. You have to go looking for it.

They have politics. Also current events/art/design, the whole range of topics you find on any general interest news/commentary site. But the big thing seems to be self-improvement.

There’s a lot of discussion about writing. Most of it, same-ol’-same-ol’ regurgitated. This type of post dominates the front page (you land on the front page by getting a lot of reads). The exposure encourages others to go the same route. Mind-numbing!

I’ve found very little useful in any of the following:

> Is This What It Takes To Become A Writer?

> Why You Are Losing Your Best ideas And How Not To

> Use These Three Tools To Overcome Your Scarcity Mindset

> 5 Quality Tips For Growing Your Medium Page

> What’s Stopping You From Writing?

> Writing Is Easy. Quality Writing Is Not.

‘Live Your Best Life’ is another big area. I’d better dig into this. Sly is eventually going to lecture the rats of Hameln on living their best lives. Any of the below could apply.

> You Make Or Break Your Life Between 5-7 AM

> If It Doesn’t Suck, It’s Not Worth Doing – YOUR SUCCESS MANTRA FOR 2018.

> Willpower Doesn’t Work. Here’s How to Actually Change Your Life.

> This Morning Routine will Save You 20+ Hours Per Week

> This Is How You Train Your Brain To Get What You Really Want

> UN-COMMIT Immediately to Everything You’re Not Definite About!!

> Tell Me What You Did Today, And I’ll Tell You Who You Are

I am amused by how many titles incorporate a number, as in snap-your-fingers-easy.

> This One Question Will Make Every Decision In Your Life Easier

> 3 Ways People Become Stuck, Undeveloped, and Unsuccessful

> The 2 Mental Shifts Highly Successful People Make

> 7 Ways To Make Immediate Success Your Only Option

> 8 Things Every Person Should Do Before 8 A.M.

> 13 Things That Will Happen When You “Level-Up” As A Person

> 21 Behaviors That Will Make You Brilliant At Creativity & Relationships

> 14 Strategies To Accelerate Your Personal Growth By 1,000%

> 50 Ways To Live On Your Own Terms

> 31 Things That Will Happen When You Finally Decide To Live Your Dreams

How and Why are (apparently) big attention-grabbers:

> Why Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life

> Why Even Ambitious People Rarely Become Successful

> How to Become the Best in the World at What You Do

> How to Increase the Volume of Your Brain and Make Optimal Decisions

> How to Create the “Moments” that Change Your Life

> How To Go From Successful To Very Successful (and why most people can’t do it)

> How to 1) Get Into Peak States, 2) Make Bold Decisions, 3) Invest In Yourself, 4) …

Here’s a How and a Why. Give this guy a cigar. 

> How to Consistently Act From Your Deepest “Why”

This begins to sound like the ‘We Can Help You Publish Your Book’ / ‘We Can Help You Market Your Invention’ spots I hear driving home from work at 1am.

I’m not ready to give up on Medium.

The best advice I’ve gotten so far is to publish a short excerpt from my book and link it to a web site. Like I didn’t know that already. Duh! 

They have a category called ‘series’. I thought that perfect for me, but was told that ‘series’ is for short pieces. I looked at two and each has only three or four pages, with a few paragraphs and a graphic. The term series is misleading. This is a special format that only takes a certain number of words per page. There may be a limit on number of pages as well. And the pages are the size of a largish cell phone.

If I publish under my own name I can do anything I want to. But the advice is, if you post within a publication you will get more exposure and more reads.

Maybe I’ll just lie, pull a chapter from Sly, call it a short story (like I’ve done with the anthology) and try to slip it past the gatekeepers at The Mad River. “Where Weird Waters Flow” is their subhead. I think I’d fit right in there.

This is like eating potato chips. I can’t stop. I just read a piece – The Brutal Solution To Writer’s Block: You do not have writer’s block. You are lazy.

Excuse me. When I have a problem to solve, I wait for an answer to strike me, an answer that makes real, emotional sense. If I push, it will be a bullshit answer. I’ll know it’s bullshit and my reader will know it’s bullshit. I work on another chapter until I have a eureka! moment.

 

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Bookends.

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My Pied Piper episode is coming in fits and starts, but it’s coming. Finally. It’s half, maybe more than half written, and when it’s done, book three of Sly will be about three quarters done. (I actually had the remainder all written but my thinking has changed radically in the last fifteen years.)

And so, with my novella essentially complete, book three near to it, I have a pair of bookends to a four volume series.

Who here considers himself to be a disciplined writer? Do you put in a set number of hours a day? Someone (someone famous) said his method of writing was: apply butt to chair and write. That may work for you, it doesn’t work for me. I’d be writing crap.

My style is – I think we all know it – style heavy. And I surf from one sentence or thought to the next. I’m not getting events down, to be cleaned up later. I do that sort of thing in fragments below the finished text. I drop down and plunder my notes as the spirit moves me. My file presently contains 95 pages, three quarters of which are my haphazard notes, and research material copied from around the web – in this book heavy on John Dee – waiting to be rummaged through. This mish-mash is as close as I come to an outline.

Bookends: I am going to publish my novella first, and immediately thereafter, to publish book three, the wrap-up. I will tack a synopsis of books one and two onto the novella.

I am moved to go this route partly by the announcement of the demise of Bookkus, all those high hopes! Heartbreaking! And partly by seeing the difficulty everyone is having gaining traction in the marketplace road race. I am ready to throw caution (and, probably, good sense) to the winds.

My attitude now is, to coin a phrase: Just Do It. The faults in my book are baked into it. No amount of polishing is going to change that; they are the essence of my storytelling. Every one of us has to stake a claim to a piece of literary real estate, and my flag is planted on ‘Whatever’.

A friend (not a writer) is reading my new material as I go, and says, and says, and says: you sure have a lot of story here. She means it in a positive way. She loves it. Others will say the same thing and it will be a criticism.

I do have a lot of story. One idea leads to the next. I expand and expand. A question occurs to me and I want to know the answer. If it turns out to be counterproductive to my goal I dump it, but frankly, this rarely happen. I almost always see value, for the next chapter, or fifteen chapters on, or way back in book one. Nothing goes to waste. My abundant hypotheses find themselves a home in some way, shape or form. Sooner or later. For better or worse. For richer or poorer/my bet is poorer. Till death do us part. I’m married to my monster. I’ll be adding to my silliness on the day I die.

How does the song go? Old friends, old friends, sat on their park bench like bookends. This story and me, we are old friends.

On one end of my park bench sits my novella. On the other end, book three, the wrap-up of my essentially endless adventure. Can’t recall the exact title right now, isn’t that terrible? I’m losing my grip. (Maybe I lost it long ago.)

I’m in the middle. Here I am on the bench, on the Group W Bench (W for Wacky/love Arlo, will love him forever) . . . back to S&G:

. . . old men (in this case an old woman) waiting for the sun . . . The sounds of the city sifting through trees settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends.

Me and this old friend of mine, we’re going down together.

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Watch This Space.

DARKER

I’ve been on vacation this past week. But I’ve not really been on vacation. I’ve been busy working on something. (And driving myself crazy.)

My moods swing from hopeful, to discouraged, to downright depressed. I’m finally attempting a finished illustration for Sly, rather than my usual screw-around preliminaries. What I have so far may do double duty as cover art and as a future paper doll. My big problem: I’d always envisioned something cleaner, more designed for the cover. My illustration is the visual equivalent of my writing – elaborate, packed with detail. No matter how I try to push/drag my style in another direction, it always weasels its way back to . . . well, you’ll see.

In my to-come image Sly, having finally been baptized, thus eligible, has been awarded Haute-Navarre’s highest honor. He has been admitted to an exclusive society, the Order of the Golden Ram, and he wears the order’s avatar on a chain around his neck. He holds one glove in his left hand, a convention of portraiture, a symbol of authority. It’s is not actually a glove, it is a fingerless gauntlet. In Italy (so I read) fingerless gloves were the hot new accessory. (Sly was always in the forefront of fashion.)

Sly determined to head north, King Jakome has had this formal portrait painted as a consolation. He’s lived with the animal for ten years and will miss him sorely. And I get to reinsert some of the nonsense I removed years ago depicting the cat’s interactions with a self-important portraitist and his (the cat’s) musings on his philosophy of art. This entire novella, without the baptism debacle, without the staged Virgin Mary visitation, with the Minister of the Treasury playing only a cameo role, once occupied three or four chapters, then we plunged immediately into the pirate episode. It’s all Book Country’s fault, scolding me for too much world-building, not enough action.

I am much taken with the cover of The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish: Reason and Fancy During the Scientific Revolution. It features a detailed period engraving. I am halfway inclined to mimic that serious-stuff-here look – an extenuation of my faux-historic slant – and to sub-title my story: Half-Baked Reason And Full-Tilt Fancy At The Dawn Of The Scientific Revolution.

I am going to take the drawing into work Monday night and scan it on our 11×17 bed scanner, darker and lighter grey-scale, at various sizes, to see how it reduces/reads. At present I view it as no more than a foundational drawing, to be digitally enhanced. Tuesday morning I will replace the current graphic with the scanned (but not yet doctored) image. I plan to experiment with digital color washes, etc.

This stage has always been my stumbling block, and the reason I quit an illustration major in art school. I have never felt that my natural drawing style was a viable illustration style. I felt it was too tentative. I’m working on that. I’m trying to punch it up. The pain I’ve suffered this week, the insecurity, the self-doubt, harken back to my anxiety-ridden schooldays. But I’ve got to develop a methodology that works for me. It’s now or never.

I’m still not happy with a cascade of sash slung across Sly’s trunk, copied from a seventeenth-century bronze bust of a bug-eyed, big-mustachioed Swedish nobleman. I don’t make stuff up if I can help it. But my cats are not going to pose for me draped in an appropriately-sized shawl. When you transfer an article of clothing from a human to a cat, the anatomy very different, the arms, for instance, erupting from a different area of the body altogether, you have to invent a bit.

Keep calm, girl. You’ll get it eventually.

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