Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Full-time Writing Goals: Focus

It has been two weeks since I was laid off and this adventure began. I told myself that I could have these two weeks without any goals at all, just take that time to do what I need to do.  That time is up.  November 1, I get started on my new full-time writing life.

I don't expect to hit the ground running, but maybe I'll hit the ground Groucho-walking.

And I'm going to manage that via FOCUS.

To that end, I am not going to worry about the 40+ hours of miscellaneous tasks I need to put into my writing business, including blogging and art and keeping up my websites and all the rest.  I'm only going to worry about the 20 hours or so I want to devote to one project at a time.

Starting Thursday, November 1, 2012, my writing dare goals will be three hours a day on whatever project I have on the top of my pile.

So I'm no longer doing the thing where I coordinate my goals with the blog, and the blog counts toward my goals.  That was fine for before I was laid off, it isn't fine now.  Now it's all about getting books done.

Which isn't to say I'll neglect the blog.  As a matter of fact I think this will work out a little better, once I get my feet under me:

First project is to be finished today: get the ebook of Misplaced Hero uplaoded to Smashwords and Kindle.  Thursday I'll announce the results of that, and a couple of other publishing things.

Second project: Test of Freedom -- all episodes in the can for publication over the winter, and the ebook put together and published, I hope by Thanksgiving weekend, but it could take longer.

One of the reasons I postponed the episdoes of ToF for this week is because I realized the story was suffering from neglect while I had too many other things on my plate.  So I postponed it specifically so I could get other things off my plate completely, and concentrate only on ToF for a while.

Third project: After ToF is off my plate, I will throw myself into Devil in a Blue Bustle, which I hope to publish in December.

Debt Snowball - Writing Snowball

If you're into personal finance, you may notice that what I'm planning above is like Dave Ramsey's Debt Snowball: where someone with overwhelming debt goes after one debt at a time to get it off their plate and out of their hair -- and also to free up resources to go after the remaining debts.

Now mathematically, you would be best off to go after the debt with the highest interest first.  However, people who are in crisis, and overwhelmed, very often can't keep up with such a plan.  They are up against it and stretched to their limits.  So Ramsey suggests that the best plan is to go after the smallest debt first: pay minimum payments on all others, and get that small debt off your plate NOW.  When that is gone, it lowers your minimum payment load, and gives more relief sooner.  This gives you momentum, a psychological boost, and most important: it gives you more leeway.

Or maybe most important is the momentum.  At least, I'm thinking that where this overlaps with writing, momentum is the big thing.

All of those unfinished stories and ideas are like debts. I've got to get them written before I die. And the sooner I get them done and out into the world, the more attention I can put on the remaining ones.  Also, the more support I can hope they give me in terms of income.

So this week, for ROW80, I didn't really track what I was doing.  That starts for reals tomorrow.  (NOTE: find other participants for A Round of Words in 80 Days here in the Halloween Check-In.)

I'll end with a Groucho video. He doesn't do his famous walk, but it's one of my favorites.  "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" from At The Circus. (Which is one of the pictures the Marx Brothers made to pay off Chico's gambling debts, I understand, so it's relevant to this post in many ways!)

See you in the funny papers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fun with Covers (and a storm delay)

I'm blaming Hurricane Sandy.

I had to skip an episode Monday because of computer problems.  But I was also having a certain level of creative problems, too. I realize there are some things I have to stop and focus on.

Which is the whole basis of my next set of goals: focus.  So, given that everybody is distracted by the Big Storm (and a whole lot of people may not even have power or internet for a while) I have decided to skip this whole week on Test of Freedom.

I'll talk more about how this focus thing is going to work for this story tomorrow when I post the new goals.  In the meantime, here's the illustration I did for the ep.  I had to do it at the last minute, and so I just hunted down a period engraving for a reference, and recomposed and drew.  I like working with black and white and gray.

On the good side: the prequel to the story, The Wife of Freedom, is finally being offered for FREE on the  Amazon Kindle Store! (In the U.S. anyway.  International stores don't often match the prices the way the U.S. store does.) Other stores where it's already free: Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and in every format at Smashwords.

This sale lasts until Thanksgiving. (Some retailers will continue to offer the free price for a while after that, but I can't predict how long.)

The Case of the Misplaced Hero, almost published.

Okay so here it is, the first final cover of The Case of the Misplaced Hero.  I hoped to have it published by the time you see this, but the computer issues kinda cascaded into that project too. I should have it done by the end of the day, however, and I'll do an official announcement on Thursday.

I'm pleased with the cover concept -- basically characters from the header illustrations, enlarged and polished up.  The type in the logo gave me trouble: I really like that font for the title... but it's so thin that it doesn't up and down-scale well.  Since the upload copy has to be high-rez, it's a long way down from 1600 pixels to 100.

I tried a number of things, but I finally did the one thing I never would have thought of:  I exported as a jpeg at full resolution and then resized the jpeg.

Resizing a jpeg is normally not recommended at all, ever.  I mean, seriously, you just don't resize a jpeg if you can avoid it because every time you re-save it, it recompresses and you lose a little more of the image quality.

But for taking a high rez print image with text, and shrinking it down to the tiniest thumbnail, it works better than resizing the Photoshop file, or resizing a png.

What you see here is actually still legible even at half the size. (Though the smallest text is just barely legible). The little figures across the middle still look like figures, though it's harder to see what they are doing.  But then, they are a design feature, and it doesn't matter if you can see their details in the thumbnail.

Random Pre-Designed Covers

I hope, in January or so, to start selling pre-designed book covers.

For that you need more than a portfolio of designs, you need stock to sell.  So I'm foodling around a little here and there.

I really like the design to the right ("BlueYellowSmear1"), even though it doesn't feel like any particular genre.  It's more abstract and fine arty, so I'm not sure if there is a market for it.  Still, there are a lot of writers, and stories, which don't have a genre.  And something like this has a literary feel, so who knows?

That is one of the problems with pre-designed covers: you have to have an idea of a niche or audience who wants them.

Still, I like the idea of doing the art on spec because most of the cost of designing a book cover -- that is, the billable hours for the artist's time -- is taken up by going back and forth with the client trying to get the thing right.

I'm assuming that is why Joe Konrath's cover guy went to "pre-designed" covers rather than doing work on commission.  It's a better deal for everyone.

So the question is whether I can find my niche, to fit my skills to a demand.

This other cover, "FireMoon." is an image I posted earlier.  Just something I did off the cuff, which doesn't stand alone as art at all.  But when I put it together with type, I like how it came out.  It's got kind of a 'retro' meets 'out of date' look.

This look is has to do with how the font matches the design. They're both just a touch simple and ugly in a way that works together.  The font is Apple's Capitals font, which is a sucky system font available only to Mac users.  Using a different font would have a different effect.

This one would probably be a "bargain basement" type work, though. It's a very specific image that may be hard to match.

That's it for this week's images.  Next week we'll have another Miss Leech cartoon.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Next Episode Postponed

My computer power supply and battery decided to go gazookie tonight, just as I was belatedly getting down to fix up the episode for posting.

The first and most urgent task of tonight is to back stuff up, before the computer decides to go down for good.

But hey, I thought. I can write by hand.  I only had to revamp the first paragraph, right? Heck, I'll put the relevant draft up on Blogger, so I can get at it from other machines, while I back up this one.  This'll be great.  I'll use my iPad.


I swear my blood pressure only went up a tiny amount, but that was sufficient to bring about the feline apocalypse.  The orange cat decided that it was time to get SO incredibly needy and anxious that for a whole hour and a half he absolutely HAD to break or chew or roll on anything I looked at. He had to be under my hands, under my feet, up my nose.

"Mom! Mom! Mom! Look at me! Give me your full attention NOW NOW NOW! Oh, wait... gotta puke first."

And the iPad?  Worse than Max.  iOS and Blogger are not happily compatible.  I'm not going to say any more because Max is finally settled down and I don't want another spike in stress from me to send him in to fits again.  (Too late, there he goes again.  Must hold computer tightly to keep it from flying off the counter....)

Also, I think I had a silent migraine before this started.

And I think I made a bad mistake in the stuff I intended to skip over to get to this episode, but my brain is unable to process it.

So I'm going to bed, as soon as the most critical back up is finished, and the computer is put away, safe from cat-maggedon.

So you'll have to wait until Thursday (make that next Monday) to catch up with the next episode, which may be different than I thought it would be -- but maybe it only needs to be a longer than usual episode.

None of this is going as well as I'd hoped.  Too much distraction.

See you in the funny papers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Week in Review-Preview - Layoff Diary 1

I had this really cool idea that I'd write a little "Layoff Diary" as a short feature of my Sunday updates. What I've learned/experienced each week.

What I've learned these first ten days is that things move so fast -- in my head at least -- that something that seems like a brilliant idea on Tuesday, not only loses it's luster, but I can't even remember the train of thought that made it sound cool.  Or worse, I do remember and I think "Why would I want to do that?  That was, like yesterday's thought.  I'm sick to death of thinking about that."

Which leads to the main thing that happened to me the first week: Popcorn Kittens on Speed. (For newbies, the reference is to this video, and Kris Rusch's blog post about how the excitement of indie publishing has her brain neurons firing like popcorn kittens.)

When I got laid off, I knew I shouldn't expect anything of myself for the rest of October.  I was right.  There was more kerfuffle related to the layoff than expected.  I also had a lot to process.  I have been very distracted and my mind has not been in the right place to actually write.  I have been able to do some drawing, and I can write to meet deadlines for the blog -- but thinking much beyond tomorrow's blog post has been a little beyond me.

Other than make grand plans, that is.  Thinking Big Picture stuff.  But not actual work yet.

And then, a few days ago -- just about exactly one week after being laid off -- my brain kicked into gear.  I realized just exactly how I was approaching this wrong.  I have been setting myself up to be overwhelmed, and my brain didn't like it.

The Irony of My Dare Goals:

I used to go after a novel dare the way others did: with word counts, just pushing toward a single goal on a single project. Like Nanowrimo: write a book in a month or two months or whatever.  This works when you have a day job and a life and you're not planning to change from that any time soon.  The point is to eliminate distractions.

But for the past few years I've been working on changing my lifestyle, and making the transition toward writing full time.  And for that, I found that I needed to measure my "time on the job" for the writing dares.  So I split my work week, 20 hours at the day job, and 20 hours at the writing business.

And that worked really well.  I have to say that that has helped me wonderfully to make the mental transition.  I was already working 3 days at day job and 4 days at home. I'd just take what I do on those 4 days, and do it 7 days a week.  It seemed like the perfect way to transition to 40 hours a week on the writing business.

And it will probably work in terms of habits.  The problem is with substance - what I'm doing, not just how long. I'm going to be fitting a whole lot more different tasks and pressures into that 40 hours. A whole lot more opportunities too.  Just punching a time clock is not going to solve the problem of managing so many tasks.

That's part of why I am so distracted. I've got a lot on my plate, and now everything is integrated into my life so deeply that there really isn't a good dividing line for that 40 hours.  It's more like 24/7 now.

And that's okay for everything with an external deadline.  You pay the bills by the due date, and get that blog post done before bed time.  And most other things will take care of themselves -- either becoming urgent or forgotten.

But the writing needs its own special place.  It's ironic, but I think the best approach to writing when you go full time is the same one I used in the beginning, when I wasn't planning to give up the day job:

Focus on, and account for, just one work-in-progress at a time, and let everything else take care of itself.

Just like a regular old vanilla novel dare.  And with so much on my plate I like to think of it as like being badly in debt, and the solution as being a little bit like Dave Ramsey's Debt Snowball.  I'll talk about that on Wednesday when I post my official goals for the rest of ROW80.

A Round of Words in 80 Days Update

This Segment's Progress:

Wednesday Day 24 - 135 minutes
Thursday Day 25 - 210 minutes
Friday Day 26 - 90 minutes
Saturday Day 27 - 210 minutes

This Past Week's Posts:

Coming This Week on the Blog:

Monday - Test of Freedom, Ep 5 "The Ladies' Expeditionary Force."
Because of computer problems and other things, I'm postponing both of this week's episodes until next week.  I'll explain more on Wednesday.

Tuesday - Covers!  (And maybe a published book announcement)
I've got some art to show you, and I hope to have Misplaced Hero published.

Wednesday - New Goals: The Writing Snowball
New priorities for my New World Order.

Thursday -Test of Freedom, Ep 6 "Hingle and Sherman"
Postponed until next week

Friday Favorites - Uhhhhhh ... a Surprise!
Seriously, I don't know what I'm going to write about.  I haven't even thought about it.

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Friday Favorites - Halloween Movies - the silly and the scary

I'm not a fan or horror movie.  I don't like being creeped out, nor do I like blood and gore, and, well, horror itself is not one of my favorite emotions.  Suspense, great, but not horror.

But at Halloween, you like a good spook, and I have a few favorites to tell you about:

Arsenic and Old Lace

This is the ultimate Halloween comedy.  Intelligent, silly, scary, great script, great performances.  It started as a hit play on Broadway, and  the script is so good that if you get the chance to see it done in local or even amateur theater, you can be sure it will be fun.  The script carries the day, even when the actors are just mumbling their lines.

However, the movie does not have mumbling or awkward actors: the movie is hip deep in not only great stars, but great character actors, even down to the minor roles.  Cary Grant, Peter Lorre and Raymond Massey headline, but the supporting cast is all top character actors from Jack Carson to Edward Everett Horton.  And John Alexander and Josephine Hull and Jean Adair.  Even bit parts have people of skill, if not fame, such as Charles Lane playing one of the reporters in the opening.  The romantic interest was played by Priscilla Lane, who was always underused in every movie she was ever in, but this one at least made good use of her comic talents.

And each of these actors (and a few I haven't mentioned) continually steal all the scenes from each other.  And the play was written so that they all could steal every scene. It's a free for all of scenery chewing. 

The story revolves around Mortimer Brewster's wedding night.  He's got he marriage license, he's trying to elope, but he stops home to tell his two sweet, darling maiden aunts about it... only to find that someone in his sweetly loopy family is murdering people.  It's probably his delusional brother Teddy, who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt, or ... maybe not.  As Mortimer slowly comes to the realization that his whole family is much more crazy than he imagined, complications pile on faster and faster until Mortimer is quite sure he himself is the craziest of all.  And no one, not one other person, realizes what is driving him batty. (Except perhaps his other brother, the incredibly dangerous Jonathan Brewster.)

The whole movie is a delight, and one of the best examples of a screwball comedy out there.

There are other great silly movies for Halloween, also-rans might be anything to do with the Addams Family, and also most of the Abbott and Costello Meet (name your monster).  A and C tend toward the Scooby-Do end of low brow.

Wait Until Dark

Wait Until Dark is a great suspense film, and has one of the great scary moments in movie history (though it may not be as scary to modern film-goers, because it has been imitated since).  It's one of the seventy flicks on my top ten list.

It was also a stage play first, and the intelligence and misdirection shows.  It has a good cast, but the show is stolen by Alan Arkin, who was only on his second feature role.  I know people these days see him as having a particular "Alan Arkin" persona, but back then, he was a chameleon, playing a very different character in every role.  In Wait Until Dark, he plays Roat, a cold sociopath who believes a blind woman (Audrey Hepburn) has something he wants.  He engineers a night of misdirection and terror.  He is smart, manipulative, and holds all the cards, but he meets his match in this woman whose life is all about coping.

It's a great one not only for watching plot mechanics and watching actors act, but also for seeing how the writing enables the actors in their characterization. (That's true of Arsenic and Old Lace as well.)

The Haunting (1963)

This is the only actual horror movie on my list.  But it's a horror movie of another era, atmospheric, beautiful, spooky -- and pretty much all psychological horror.  It's a lot like a John Bellairs novel.  There is nothing icky or gruesome about it (unlike the remakes).  Still, it'll scare the bejabbers out of you, and if you don't take well to the whole horror thing, it can give you nightmares.

One of the ways it does this is because it relies on the ways we scare ourselves and creep ourselves out.  When you were a kid, did you ever stay in a spooky old house, and you could see the face of a monster in the wall paper or a stain on the ceiling, and it creeped you out so bad you had nightmares? That's what this movie is about. There aren't any slashers. The walls don't run with blood. But it's still a house that was "born bad."

It was directed by Robert Wise, whose career I can't even describe.  Anything from Run Silent, Run Deep (about submarines in WWII) to The Sound of Music, to The Sand Pebbles (one of Steve McQueen's great roles), to the first Star Trek movie.  He had a great way of putting the intimate together with grandeur.  In this case, though, the Wise-touch was particularly in the cinematography. This picture, unlike any of the ones listed above, take place on a smaller stage -- a single house -- but through sheer artistry (camera angles, lighting, set decoration, editing and sound) he makes this house into a character which steals the show from the actors.  It's beautiful and weird and menacing and creepy all at once.

Night of the Hunter

This is not a horror film, but it is suspense, and there is a touch of weird and creepy to it that makes it a Halloween flick to me.

It was directed by Charles Laughton, who was an artiste, of the effusively snobbish order.  So even though it's a suspense film, it's also literary and artsy, and probably a little slow for most people used to modern American films.  It's got the pace of a European film, actually, and those who like the newest wave of interesting directors will certainly love this.  It reminds me of the Coen Brothers when they are serious (but not too serious).  It reminds me of Guillermo del Toro a little too.

The story is mostly straight forward, though.  Two young children. Their father died in prison, their mother is kind of useless and hopeless.  A charming preacher man comes to town, played by Robert Mitchum in one of his most iconic villain roles, and he sweeps the mother off her feet and becomes the scary step-father. Eventually the children are on the run on their own, with him tracking them down... because he believes they hold the secret to a fortune.

The story becomes like a fairytale or folktale, full of symbol and cinematic moments, as our little Hansel and Gretel run form the Big Bad Wolf.  Building up to the climax comes one of the great moments in movie history, which Mitchum stalks a house where the children have taken refuge, singing a hymn beautifully, as Lillian Gish, who is defending the house against him, joins in harmony.  Here's the clip on YouTube: Night of the Hunter - Leaning.

An interesting bit of trivia on that clip: the Coen Brothers chose to play that hymn over the final credits of their remake of True Grit.  While it is something of a commentary on the ending of the film, I suspect it's also something of an homage to this classic film.  I have no doubt that the Coens were influenced by that picture.

There are certainly lots of other great flicks for Halloween out there, anything from the camp horror of The Blob, to other classics, like Psycho.  But the above are my favorites.

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 4

Episode 4 - "Just a Ghost"
by Camille LaGuire

JACKIE'D HAD BEATINGS before, and petty humiliations by loyalists when he had drunk too much and they caught him in a back alley.  He hadn't, however, been under the power of another for an extended period of time before.  And, when he thought about it, he hadn't really expected this to last that long.  He'd expected a quick spate of abuse, a trial, and then hanging.

It was possible to be defiant over a short period of time, when you didn't expect to feel anything after the end of it.  His defiance was made more difficult after the first time he'd spoken up in court and they forced the iron gag in his mouth, and buckled it to his head like a bridle.  And then all he could do was stand there, fretting at the bit like a nervous horse.

And it was all so ironic, because he hadn't done anything.  He'd come to the territory to talk someone out of sedition.  He hadn't said a peep.  Hadn't so much as criticized the queen's dog.  But they arrested him anyway, for all the things he'd said before.  And they would have hung him for it, and quickly.

And that was the most extraordinary thing.  He stood there fretting at the gag, and they were rushing the thing through.  They'd already found him guilty.  And then the lady came.  He had no idea who she was, and couldn't imagine a reason why she was there.  He'd been distracted and missed her name, even.  She was beautiful and beautifully dressed, in a fashionable gown of a dark bluish gray, with black trim like a widow.  Obviously a person of quality who should be glad to put the noose around his neck even tighter.  But she called him a literary flame and asked for clemency, and they laughed at her.

Then she brought up the subject of the queen's treaties, and the way she looked at the judge and the judge looked at her, it was suddenly quite clear that the whole reason for the gag, and the speed of the trial, was to prevent that subject from coming up.  Then they could say "Oh dear, your magesty, we didn't realize what effect your treaty would have on the case until after we hanged him.  We're so sorry."

So he was transported instead, and that left him in a state of shock for a bit.  But he just couldn't see living as worse than dying.  Mary had always said he was an optimist.

As he came out of his shock, it was with the belief that providence had played a hand in this.  He didn't really believe in God, not as a person.  But just now he felt a purpose to the events of the world: His life was over.  It was done.  He should have hanged.  But there was still a use for him, and rather than waste him, providence had thrown him in here where his words had never penetrated before.  Where liberty was a bizarre concept that seemed like no more than a joke.  Where hope meant the next man got the lash rather than you.

But it took a bit to adjust himself to this terrible world.  It took him a while to realize what it really meant to have no freedom of expression.  That it was behave himself or wear the gag.  After a few days, though, he'd learned well enough to get by.  When the guard went by and asked him;

"What do you think of the royal governor now?"

"He rules by the right of god and the queen, and I'm grateful for his justice," answered Jackie, without a trace of sarcasm.  When the man was out of earshot, though, he'd add under his voice.  "He also has a pretty arse that smells like roses."

The other prisoners smiled into their bowls, but it made them nervous.

"You're going to get us all killed," said the old man chained next to him one day.

"We'll die anyway," he said.  "They say a man won't live long, once he's sent to the Sabatine.  Might as well die while you still have your soul."

"None of us have souls," said the old man.

"That's what they tell you, but it's a lie.  It's them that's lost their souls."

A few hours later the guard came up to him.

"So you say I don't have a soul?"

"No," said Jackie.  "Only a fool would say such a thing."

The man struck him three times across the shoulders with his cane, which was thick, and probably left a bruise, but not a real injury.  Jackie was more careful after that.  The old man clearly hadn't said anything to anyone, but they were all so close together, who knows who else had heard?  And he realized that he shouldn't be too impatient.  The boat was only the beginning.

And he tried to keep himself from thinking about Mary, because he was sure that would be the end of him.  I'm just a ghost, he told himself.  I don't have anything now.

The Test of Freedom should be available as an ebook in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Full-time Writing: Ready or Not?

I am not ready to make a living at writing.  Far far far far far from it.  Before I got laid off my plan was to write seriously for two years, and then get serious about the business, and then start thinking about things like making a living at writing.

And yet, unprepared as I am, I am dancing in the streets anyway.

The truth is, even though my writing business is not ready, I am ready.  I've been preparing for this for a while.  I talked about this in some earlier posts:

But there are some other things that I've done that aren't mentioned in those posts.

Previous Freelancing and Entrepreneurship

Everyone in my father's family had a side business.  They were farmers and teachers and they lived in a place with a seasonal economy, so they did all sorts of other things too.  That's just how you get by.  You pack stuff away for the dry times, and you pick up work where you can, and you make and buy and sell a little something on the side: whether it's spare berries from the patch, or home crafts, or copyediting.

When I was in high school, we boarded horses on our farm to help support my horse. Then my dad converted one of the pastures and built three professional level clay tennis courts.  He did it by hand, totally on a shoestring.  Wheel barrel, shovel, a bit of screen on a frame to sift the clay. He'd buy some hardware here, and hire a local farmer with a backhoe/bulldozer to do a little digging or smoothing there.

We didn't have much in the way of cash. My dad was a teacher in a poor district.  So every summer, my parents would give tennis lessons, and hold tennis tournaments -- every single weekend -- and maybe rent out the courts to some up-and-coming player who was looking for more experience on clay before a big time tournament. We had two antique pop machines which we used to sell pop to the trickle of customers.  We also spread a sheet on the tennis court fence and projected 16mm film to have movie nights, with popcorn and hot dogs.

I have an uncle who made (and lost and made again) many fortunes with bigger versions of that sort of thing, but for us, it was just the way we lived.  Just a way we could have a life we wanted. Boarding horses meant I could have a horse.  Tennis lessons and tournaments meant my dad could play with dirt and play tennis all summer.  Selling pop out of a machine meant we had pop.

And so that just seems to be a natural way to live for me.  I never had a lemonade stand, but instead of comic books, I liked to read Mother Earth News, especially the "bootstrap businesses" column.

So it was perfectly natural for me to start a business selling buttons at science fiction conventions when I was in college, and especially after college. It paid for the computers I used to design and create the buttons.  And the car I used to transport them to the cons.  It was also natural to take the job as a noon-time playground supervisor, and do tutoring, and help people write their resumes and fix their computers, not to mention freelance script analysis, and um, you know... writing fiction for magazines!  I did these things in lieu of regular work, and in supplement to it.

So I never really saw any source of income -- even my Day Job -- as anything but another income stream.  The Day Job was like showing movies on that tennis court: it was fun, rewarding, and it kept me in hot dogs and chips.

So I was never emotionally dependent on that job.  It was never my identity.

What that job did for me, though, is allow me to become financially complacent.  Sure, while I worked there I still designed t-shirts for Printfection, or wrote SEO articles for eHow on the side.  But I didn't need to, and so I didn't do it "for reals."  It was more experimental than lucrative.

I never made a lot of money at those other activities, and one thing this 25-year temporary job did for me was to give me cash for investment. Which is the other thing that makes this transition go better.

Investing and Saving

Because of my squirrel-like upbringing, I have a tendency to pack stuff away for winter. It's not just my bank account, and my IRA, and my brokerage account.  I have nuts buried all over the place -- from penny jars and first edition books, to tiny amounts of stock in direct investment programs.

My investment secret is this: Stock is a cool toy.  If you feel like buying yourself a cool toy (like, say, a wireless mouse) buy stock in the company that makes it instead.  (Or some other company you've already vetted.)  If you buy a toy, you'll have some fun, and then a year or two down the line, you'll have junk to get rid of.  If you buy stock, you still have the value of the stock.  Even if the price goes down, you've got more than you had with the toy.  (And over time, stock prices trend upward.)

And because I am a squirrel, I am always thinking of what value something could have later -- in the long term.  Amusing anecdote from work: long ago I had a coworker who was a neatnik. He noticed that when he threw things away, I'd often pull them out of the trash and stick them in my crowded office (not everything, just a few key items).  Then later, when we had a crisis, I'd pull out one of those items to save the day.  After a while, he started asking me to assess the hidden value of items before he threw them out.

These assets I pack away include my writing and art.  My blog posts are savings bonds.  I don't have time or energy to convert them to cash right now... but down the line, I have some potential books or booklets out of it.  That sketch I did of a policeman and a trench-coated reporter way back at the beginning of this blog... that could adapt into an interesting book cover.

I have a freezer full of rice, and you'd be really shocked at how much you can get out of even 10 square feet of garden, if you work at it and go vertical. (Also if you're home and not too busy to notice whether the beans are setting seeds. Whoops.)  I know how to grow cucumbers and how to bake great bread from scratch.

I think one of the reasons that going over to the freelancing lifestyle is hard for most people is because it's not just about schedule and time. It's not about what you do, it's about how you think -- and that way of thinking takes years to develop. It takes years to know what works for you and what doesn't. Sometimes you do something for one reason, and fail, but you find some other value in it.

In some ways, the freelancing lifestyle is about always making lemonade.  You fail constantly, so you recycle.

It also takes years to acquire the tools you need for that lifestyle.  Whether it's a spading fork or a Kitchenaid stand mixer, or Adobe Photoshop -- or a computer -- or the knowledge to use any of the above; having the tools to do your work makes that work possible.

So you could say this post is a warning to others.

I'm going blithely into this not because I expect to make enough money at writing.  That's a very big question, with no proof of concept at all. I am blithe because I have layers of options, including that of being incredibly poor.

But even with all my options, it takes time to sort things out.  I'm taking October to sink into the new lifestyle.  Next Wednesday, I'll post new goals, and talk about the transition -- changing habits.

See you in the funny papers.

If you read this blog, and find it useful or entertaining, buy a book once in a while, or make a donation. 

Here's a link to a list of my books.  And ... hey, look at that!  There's a donation link right below this sentence. (Donations are via Paypal)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 3

Episode 3 - "Mary Black"
by Camille LaGuire

When the hotel man had gone, Penelope's maid, Loreen, came forward and looked quizzically at her.

"Mary Black.  Isn't that the woman in your pictures?  Your model?"

"Yes, only her name isn't Mary Black.  It's Mary Alwyn."

"Oh my, she's his woman, then?" said Loreen.  "Oh, and that means she's...that...freedom person."

"Very delicately put, Loreen," said Penelope.  Loreen wasn't one for political readings, but she was one for gossip, so she'd heard of the Whore of Freedom, even if she had not read the book about her, and had only a vague idea of the philosophical ideas in it.

The hotel man returned, and Mary burst in, her shawl and bonnet flying, practically running him over.  She was pale and thin, and full of nervous energy, yet she was a beautiful woman, in a wild, unusual way.  She had the striking dark eyes, dark rippling hair, and classic features of the ancient Acteran race that had once inhabited Acton.

"They won't tell me where they sent him.  They won't tell me anything.  They won't...they won't..."

Penelope took hold of Mary and hugged her.  Mary stopped her torrent of words and stood still, not crying or trembling, but seeming to gather herself.  Then she took a breath and hugged back.

By the time Penelope had her seated, the hotel service was back with a tray.  Mary, now cautious, watched them carefully and did not speak.  When they left, she looked askance at Loreen as well.

"Loreen is my maid," said Penelope.  "You can trust her.  She listens to gossip, but she doesn't spread it."

"The loyalists hate me," explained Mary.  "I have trouble when they find out who I am."

"I understand."

"You know who I am now, too, don't you?"

"Yes, I figured it out."  When she had last seen Mary, she was a spy pretending to be a lady's maid; Penelope's maid to be exact.  Friendship, however, had knocked down both political and social borders.  And when last seen, Mary had been the strong one, and Penelope had been in distress.

"You've been ill," said Penelope, noting that Mary's hair was shorter, barely past her shoulders.

"I had food poisoning," said Mary, suddenly animated again.  She rambled on in her sing-song Actonian accent.  "That's why I didn't realize when he'd left.  Oh, you mean my hair.  No, I cut it during the war to go in disguise.  I've been very well up until this week.  We were happy.  Did you see him?  You must have.  How did he look?"

"Angry and harassed, mainly.  They didn't let him speak.  I really didn't see much.  I got there late in the proceedings."

"Poor Jackie.  Why did he have to go and be an idiot?  What on earth did he say to get himself arrested?"

"I don't know that he said anything," said Penelope.

"He must have.  He always says something."

Penelope decided not to tell her about the gag. It would be too distressing.

"They broke the law, Mary," she said instead.  "They charged him from what he wrote before the war.  I tried to bring up the queen's treaty but they dismissed me.  They said that the treaties only covered things done during the war, not before."

"And does the queen have anything to say on that?"

"She doesn't interfere with the peninsula any more than necessary, but I'm going to bring it before her.  I'm leaving tomorrow, as a matter of fact.  I don't know if it will do any good, and it takes time...."

"Aye, and he'll be dead by then, won't he?  He's probably headed for Sabatine, and they say less than half live out their sentence.  And where ever he goes, a man like him...."

"He is headed for Sabatine," confirmed Penelope.

"You know where they sent him?"

"Yes, I had my man making inquiries from the moment I heard of his arrest."

"And the ship?  What's its name and when did it sail?"

"Does that matter now?"

"Of course it matters!  How can I follow him if I don't know?"

Penelope stared at her for a moment.  "And what will you do when you get there?"

"I don't know.  I'll think of something."

"Yes.  Yes.  Of course you will.  I keep forgetting there are people like you."  Penelope put down her tea cup and stared at Mary for a moment, so full of energy and empty of doubt.  "I'll go with you.  They sell them at the other end, don't they?  We can buy him."

The Test of Freedom should be available as an ebook in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Week in Review-Preview: Quite a Week

Well, it's been quite a week.

For those who haven't been following, I got laid off on Tuesday.

Been having fun with abstracts
I was not blindsided by this because A) I've worked 25 years in this place, and I know how it works, and B) even though I wasn't ready to do this now, quitting and writing full time is something I've been preparing for a very long time.  You can read more about it in this past Wednesday's update post, or wait until this coming Wednesday for yet more thoughts on suddenly being a full time writer/blogger/artist.

And that's the biggest change that you're going to see right off: The focus of this blog (at least the writing posts on Wed/Sun) is going to be my adventures in Making The Shift to Full Time Writing.

I will do other writing posts, but they may show up on my miscellaneous Tuesdays, or as guest posts elsewhere or just later on when I am back to a normal frame of mind.

In the meantime: A Round of Words in 80 Days Update

This has, temporarily, blown my concentration on the dare out of the water.  I'm not keeping track of my minutes-on-task right now.

I did a bunch of work, including rewriting the first two thirds of Episode 2 from scratch Wednesday night.  I was under the influence of antihistimines and sleep deprivation, and that may show, but the existing draft was a blot of exposition -- something that would work to ease into a long chapter, but not for a short episode.

I will undoubtedly rewrite it before the book version, and probably update the post here too. (Though it won't be much different in content. Just clarity and timing and one minor discrepancy with a later chapter.)

Peter Lorre
As for my ROW80 goals: Right now, I'm not counting anything.  I'm just keeping the blog schedule going.  I'm going to ease into this, and more about that later -- Wednesday.

The other thing I've been doing this week, while not keeping track of anything, is sketching.  I've scattered a few images from sketching this week around the post.

I did a very nice image for tomorrow's Episode 3 (which does not appear here), and I'm also considering doing "on spec" book covers; what some call "pre-designed."  I'm wondering if they might make an income source, especially the simple, quick, cheap for those on a limited budget, or who need covers for short stories, discount books or freebies.

This Past Week's Posts:

Monday -Test of Freedom Ep 1 - "Just Like Jackie"
Tuesday - Story Notes and Concept art for covers.
Wednesday -It's the End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine) (about getting laid off)
Thursday -Test of Freedom Ep 2 - "Lady Ashton and the Man in the Dock"
Friday Favorites - Peter Lorre and Mr. Moto

Coming This Week on the Blog:

Monday - Test of Freedom Ep 3 - "Mary Black"
Mary won't give up, so Penelope offers some help.

Tuesday - Skipping Tuesdays for the duration of October.

Wednesday - Full Time Writing: Ready or Not?
Some thoughts on what makes me feel good about going full time, even though I'm clearly not ready to make a living at it.

Thursday - Test of Freedom Ep 4 - "Just a Ghost"
Jackie comes to grips with the fact that he has no freedom at all.

Friday Favorites - Halloween Movies
It's late October, time for the spooky, the scary, the creepy... and the silly.

See you in the funny papers.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Favorites - Peter Lorre as Mr. Moto

I gotta admit, I love Mr. Moto.

It's a guilty pleasure.  I don't really care that it's politically incorrect having a German actor play a Japanese spy. Or that they are cheesy b-movies.

I haven't read the books. They're not in print. From what I hear, I would probably like the character of Moto even more than I do in the movies. In the books, I'm told, he is my favorite type of character -- not the protagonist, but an "impact character" of the paragon type, who lurks in the background and saves the day.

But I gotta tell you, I love Peter Lorre, too.  Always have.  And the character of Mr. Moto, as presented, meshes completely with the Lorre persona.  A small, diffident, polite character who is a lot more dangerous than people think he is.

The fun of this series is that, unlike the other Asian detectives of the time, Mr. Moto is an action hero.  Which not only goes against the stereotypes of the time, it also goes against the stereotype of Peter Lorre.  He's a secret agent and international law enforcement agent, who goes undercover, and fights badguys and has chase scenes.

But mostly he's just smarter than everyone in the room, and a bit of a show off, though he pretends modesty.  (Which, of course, does fit the stereotype.)

He's also a master of disguise, and one of my favorite bits, of course, is when he disguises himself as ... an odd little German gentleman!  Which he has done in at least two of the pictures.

This is in contrast to, say, Mr. Wong -- who is played by Boris Karloff.  Just as Lorre plays Moto as a variation of his own persona (small, watchful, sometimes disguised as simpering or sniveling or sneaky -- with broken English), Karloff plays Wong as one of his own personas (large, patrician, well-educated, no accent at all).  I don't recall Mr. Wong ever going in disguise -- he's a thinker.  He's someone who directs a case, and questions suspects, and looks at evidence.  If there is an adventure component to any Mr. Wong mysteries, the action is provided by others.

The Mr. Moto movies themselves are not quite B-movies.  Yes, they are well produced with a decent cast, but the plots are just excuses to throw in whatever spy/thriller tropes they have lying around.  The humor depends on whichever character actor they have on cast as sidekick at the moment.  (Often it's a silly English sidekick, but sometimes it'll be a cringe-worthy negro servant.  These are not politically correct movies.)  Mr. Wong seems to be a little more down-scale, with actors you've never heard of to go with the formula scripts, and the cheapest sets.

What do I learn, as a writer and a student of story, from Mr. Moto and Mr. Wong?

(After all, if a guilty pleasure is still a pleasure, then something MUST make them that way.)

Been thinking about that, and I'm still not sure, but here's what I've got so far:

B-movies are a kind of folklore -- they follow patterns and tropes the way fairytales and myths do. And they do it so broadly that you can often see the wheels cranking.  Also with a dated b-movie, it's easier to tell the real tropes from the fashions of the time it was made.  Here are some tropes:

1.) We love to see underdogs who are not really underdogs at all.
  When Moto fools somebody because of their prejudices, that is satisfying now, and was even more satisfying back in the day.

2.) A good actor, used well, shines above the material.  In particular both Lorre and Karloff bring a presence to the character that isn't fully in the script.  With Lorre it's an edge -- that touch of controlled hostility that is in his other roles.  With Karloff it's a sense of benevolent power that justifies the utter confidence people put in him.

Writers should study such acting to understand characterization, and the subtleties involved in creating a rich character even in pulpy material.

3.) You don't have to have one of those oh-so-hip stories full of irony and "meta" references to have a little fun with irony.  Just a tiny bit of it can pick up a shallow little story. (A little German actor, pretending to be a Japanese spy pretending to be a little German professor?  Priceless.)

4.) As with children's fiction, sometimes the real fun is in taking silly things seriously.  And that may mean not just suspending your disbelief, but sending it on a rocket to the moon.

The value in that last bit can't be overstated: a writer has to capture the courage of childhood, that ability to go with the outrageous and the silly, and the irrational, in order to discover new things.  That's a part of what creativity is, to shake off the guilty part of the pleasure so you can find the pleasure.

Both Mr. Moto and Mr. Wong are available DVD, mostly in collections. IMHO, they aren't quite worth the investment of a whole set, but you should be able to rent them. I think one of the better Mr. Motos The Mysterious Mr. Moto. (Which is at Amazon in this collection.)  Also Mr. Moto's Last Warning, which has George Sanders in it as one of the villains.  (Any picture with George Sanders gets extra points.)  That's in a different collection.  You might find them on YouTube, because it might be in the public domain.  (A lot of b-pictures of the period are.)

Some Mr. Wong flicks are available free on Hulu (like Mr. Wong, Detective), and also via Amazon Prime Instant Video.  (NOTE: if you find a Mr. Wong movie staring Bela Lugosi, it's a different series -- Mr. Wong is the villain.)

See you in the funny papers.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 2

Episode 2 - "Lady Ashton and the Man in the Dock"
by Camille LaGuire

Lady Penelope Ashton couldn't shake the image of that man in the dock, though she had been unable to see his face properly with that thing he had strapped to his head; a gag to keep him from speaking for himself.  All she could really see were those intense blue eyes, staring out from under a mop of black hair.

A man of words made silent, like a beast.  How horrible.

She had never met him, and did not know the sound of his voice, but she had imagined it when she read his political tracts, and been thrilled by them, even if they were much too radical to be taken literally. They were philosophical.  And now this court had silenced him and seemed intent on silencing him forever.

And as she saw him in the dock, all she could think was; I should be there.  That' s my place, the dock.  I should cry out at my own guilt.  I am a murderess!

Which was, of course, irrational since it wouldn't help the man in the dock at all, no matter how true it was.

The judge began to lay his sentence.  Transportation, as good as death for many.

Lady Ashton half rose from her seat, a slight sound in her throat.  She was a woman of high station, the still-young widow of the governor of Acton Bay, and those in the room were conscious of it.  They looked on her with deference.

"My lady?" asked the judge, indulgently.

"Please your honor, I ask  you to reconsider!" she said.

"You want him drawn and quartered?" asked the judge.

"No!" cried Penelope.  "I ask for clemency."

There was a moment of hush and Penelope felt the courtly deference slipping away from the entire courtroom.  Every single one of those men frowned, and then the prosecutor stepped forward.

"On what grounds?" he asked.

"On... on the grounds of literary achievement!"

This caused laughter in the courtroom, and the judge's face turned crimson.  He slammed his gavel down to quiet the others, and Penelope tried to break though with explanation of the man's value to the philosophy of the world, and of his great influence.

"It is his literary achievement that he is being sentenced for, my lady," said the Judge sternly.  "And as for his influence, might I remind you that your husband died by a hand of a murderous rebel under this man's influence."

"That's not true!" cried Penelope.

"You should be ashamed to betray your husband's memory like this!  You come close to treason yourself!"

"The queen's treaty says it is not treason--"

That was as far as she got. The judge ordered that she leave the court and made a good many comments on the foolishness of women.

And in the dock the man who could not speak only looked hard at her with those blue eyes, condemning her as a fool as well, for thinking that her position had meant enough to make any difference at all.

And now, a week later, Penelope sat at tea, with her chalks and paper spread out before her. She couldn't get that man's stare out of her head.  She had tried to draw it, but all she had been able to see was his eyes, and drawing them alone was disconcerting.

So she drew the judge instead, as a pig, with a large snout and drooling mouth and a leering eye. Then she crossed him out and threw the paper in the fire.

She should draw something more calming.  Things, not people.  But people had a spirit in them and she couldn't help herself.

As she stood over the fire and watched the paper burn, her maid Loreen came in. Loreen wrung her hands, as she seemed to do a lot these days.

"Mum, there's a woman...."  She trailed off and gestured to the person beside her, who was not a woman, but a servant from the hotel.

"I am so sorry, madam," he said with a bow.  "Downstairs there is a rather common woman who's been asking to see you.  She won't go away."

"Did she say what she wants?"

"Oh, a favor, I think.  She's a bit wild looking."

"Did she give her name?"

"Mary Black, she said."

"My god!"  Penelope nearly dropped the poker into the fire.  "And you've made the poor woman wait?  Bring her up at once.  And more tea, or broth, or whatever it is you give to people in terrible distress."

The man looked startled, and then bowed deeply and raced out. Penelope returned the poker to its stand.

At last, she thought, she could be of some use.  And perhaps even return a favor that had been done for her.

Stay Tuned For Episode 3 - "Mary Black"

The Test of Freedom should be available as an ebook in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's the End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine)

Something dramatic happened to me today, which necessitates a change in my blogging schedule -- and my life schedule.

I got laid off.

It's not as terrible as it sounds, at least not right now, and I can't really talk more about that, because the situation and my options are still fluid.  I can only say that I have built my life on several layers of buffers.  (Buffers are good. Buffers are very very good.)  And as a result, I'm in a strangely unique position:

I am now a full time writer/blogger, like it or not.

Whoa, yeah, that's right, I really am.  And furthermore because of the buffers, I never have to not be that.  Sure, if I don't start making more money at writing a few years down the line, it won't be pretty... but even if not, I won't have to stop being a full time writer.  At least not in the foreseeable future.  (The unforeseeable future is, you know, unforeseeable.)

And that's the strangely unique part: Right now I have incredibly high motivation to get serious about making money at writing... but I still don't have to.  Which means I can still write what I want, and still be patient.  I still get to experiment and have learning experiences, but they will mean a heck of a lot more, and that means I'll learn more.

I was going to write today about the way we look at writing in terms of doing it for money or love: the idea of hobbyists and amateurs and professionals and entrepreneurs.  For me, all four of those things just crashed into each other.  I'll talk about them later.

For now this is not changing my plans.  I'm a little distracted, so it will be a few days before I shift into a new schedule.  And then I basically just plan to shift what I'm already doing into a higher gear.

I was doing 20 hours a week, I want to get up to 40 hours a week by November.  The blog effort will be about the same as I'm doing now, but I will accelerate my writing schedule on the backlog of books. I now not only hope to get Devil in a Blue Bustle done, but also get a good start on The Man Who Stepped Up.

I might even do Nanowrimo.

But right now I get to be The Dude, and we all know The Dude Abides.

See you in the funny papers.

 A Round of Words in 80 Days Update

This Segment's Progress:

Sunday Day 14 - 180 minutes
Monday Day 15 - 233 minutes
Tuesday Day 16 - 60 minutes

(See others who updated their progress today: ROW80 Linky.) 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Test of Freedom - Story Notes and Concept Art

Yesterday was the first episode of Test of Freedom, so I don't have  a lot to say in terms of story notes, except for about the art, and also a spoiler warning:

If you are reading Wife of Freedom -- or are interested in reading it soon -- and if spoilers matter to you: Thursday's episode contains a spoiler for certain events that happen in the middle section of Wife of Freedom.

In the meantime....

I was very unhappy with the illo for yesterday's episode.  (Here it is for those who don't want to click back and look.)  I have too many different style ideas in my head.  I wanted to go for a more abstract, more primitive, and more contrasty look. I ended up with the opposite of nearly everything I was going for.

My original goal was to create an illustrated cap with the episode number in it.  I wanted it to be a woodcut, and to capture the awkward roughness of period woodcuts.   But I didn't account for the fact that period woodcuts were often AWFUL designs -- especially when they are an actual illustration, and not purely decorative.  They don't often make good use of negative space (that is, the space between things) and don't have a lot of contrast either -- working with line rather than shape a lot of the time.

Modern woodcuts (or woodcut-style design) are what I really should have been going for.

I also had decided that I would create black and white designs.... and when I got the thing mostly done, I found it too low contrast. It was boring, so I added a wash of color.  Originally like some hand painted woodcut prints I had seen, but I decided to go with colors that were compatible with the blog design.  And to make them brighter.  The fact is, both color schemes were ugly.

And since I had this spiffing idea for a representational illo, I also chose to do something too complicated.  And because it was complicated, I made my biggest mistake: I created it at a higher resolution, so I could get more control over the 'etching' marks.  But I lost too much detail in downsizing.  These dingbats are not going for print, I need to create them at the size they will be.  That's the only way to get the detail level right.

I figure I have two choices.  One is to go for the colorful style of the book covers for the series, which I might do, but I think the better choice would be to go back to black and white - and if I want anything more, might add a shade of flat gray.  I'm going to play with the style for the next couple of weeks.  I really do want to create some repeating motifs that make use of black and white.

Concept Covers!

In the meantime, I mocked up a draft of the cover for the ebook version of Test of Freedom.  I've got a lot of work to do on the image of the bowed prisoners on the lower left.  I like the concept of the one looking up, while the others are down, but I don't like the composition yet -- it's too busy.  It looked really good in a pencil sketch, but it's hard to do that kind of overlapping repeating shape in the simple color scheme I've chosen.  (I also did a better job with the pose in the pencil sketch. I'll have to look at it again, and consider how to translate it.)

What I really do like, though is the red figure up top.  That's Rocken, a character you will meet somewhere around Episode 13, I think. (I may reorder some episodes.)  He's an important character: dangerous, scary, and ... oddly reasonable.  A self-aware villain.

The chemistry between Rocken and Jackie drive an awful lot of what goes on for the whole trilogy of stories.  Which is why this image is like it is.  The other figures are bowed, with one looking up.  But he's not just looking up, he's looking at Rocken.

The Misplaced Hero Cover Mock-up

I also did a mock up cover for The Misplaced Hero.  This is truly just a mock up, because I basically just grabbed figures from the various illustrations I posted here.  But that led me to see what I wanted the concept to be.  Those little individual figures are like little bits of story. An abstraction of the idea of a serial -- bits of episodes.

I want to go for this "visual anthology" look.

I'm still working on every aspect of it, from the colors and composition to the fonts, but I do like the concept.  (I am unhappy with the idea that the font which worked so well for a web graphic logo simply doesn't resize well enough to be an ebook cover.  I may fiddle it in Illustrator, though, and see if I can save it.)

One old-timey concept that could work with this design is to have an oval at the upper center, which would make the figure of Alex with the sword stand out more -- and then have the tiny figures arranged around that.  (I'll probably make those tiny figures larger, though they don't have to fully recognizable in the tinier thumbnail.)

The last thing I need to do is see if I can get a sub-title in there.  I third bit of text tends to look good on a book cover -- especially this banded style of book cover.  I still haven't decided on the series name, though.  I will probably go with some blurb about being the collected episodes of a web serial.

In the meantime, I need to get to bed.

See you in the funny papers.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Test of Freedom - Episode 1

First Episode | Series Intro and TOC | Story So Far | Previous Episode

Episode 1 - "Just Like Jackie"
by Camille LaGuire

She was sick when he left, and hadn't been paying attention.

Not terribly sick.  She'd simply eaten something she shouldn't have, and the worst part was over.  She was worn out and flat on her back, when he had awakened her by brushing her hair back.

"Mary?" he said.  "I've got to go out for a bit.  Peter needs some help."

"Mmmm?" she said, or something very like it.

"Mrs. Drew will look after you.  I'll be back in a couple of days."

That was it.  No indication whatsoever that she might never see him again.  It was just like Jackie.

It was also just like him to go off on an errand and forget to come home for days on end.  Or, it used to be like him.  He hadn't done that lately.  Still, she didn't worry too much until Peter Simple showed up at her door, looking sick and guilty.

"Jackie's been arrested for treason," he said.

That made no sense at all.  None.  Sure, she had dreaded those words for years, but Acton had won the war.  It was a free nation, and Jackie was a patriot.  Much as he annoyed people, there wasn't anyone in Acton likely to accuse him of treason.  It made no sense.

Then Peter added the words to explain it.

"Down in the peninsula."

That was loyalist territory, the only district in Acton still under royal rule.  The people there were so rabidly anti-revolutionary, that even the new queen could hardly restrain them.  Even so, her treaties should protect an Actonian even there.

But Jackie Alwyn -- known widely as Jackie the Freedom -- was famous for his inability to keep his mouth shut, especially around those who disagreed with him.

Mary wasn't at all the kind of woman given to fainting, but considering her recent bout with food poisoning, it wasn't surprising that her knees buckled.

* * *

Jackie hadn't gone down there to make trouble, and perhaps that's why he hadn't told her where he was going.  For once in his life, it had been the opposite.  Peter had asked Jackie to help get his nephew, Joshua, out of trouble.

The lad, like all in his family, was deeply religious and had gone down to the peninsula to preach to the heathen loyalists who mistook their queen for a goddess.  He wouldn't be talked out of it, and since it was Jackie's talk that had convinced him to go, Peter thought Jackie might be able to talk him into coming home.

And he'd done it; Joshua came home safe, but alone.  Jackie had been arrested in spite of the queen's treaty.  He must have said something.  And being Jackie, he would have said it to exactly the wrong person.

* * *

And now Mary sat in a tea shop in the peninsular city of New Isle, staring but unable to see the pile of newspapers in front of her.  The shop owner--because he didn't know who she was--had kindly provided all the papers from the past few weeks.

She couldn't believe the trial was already over, over before she had got there.  At least they didn't hang him, but they'd sentenced him to transportation, and he was already gone, on a ship somewhere far away and impossible to know.

How could it happen so fast?  The man at the courthouse said it had been rushed, because of who he was.  Then he found out who she was, and refused to say more.  He just smirked and called her a whore, and told her to leave or he'd charge her.  He didn't say with what.  It was soon clear he meant it, so she didn't press the matter.

"I must eat something," she thought, but the little sandwich next to her tea made no more sense to her than the newspapers did.

She picked up another newspaper and scanned the report of the trial, unable to really read, but looking for some mention of where he'd been sent.  Or the name of the boat.  Or anything.

Then she saw the words Lady Ashton.  She blinked and looked again.  Lady Ashton had testified.  She'd asked for clemency.  Mary kept reading the words, but they made little sense.  All she could think was that Lady Ashton must be in New Isle.

She staggered to her feet, clutching the paper with both hands.  She started to stumble out, but someone took her arm.  She looked up in confusion.  It was the owner, and he was only trying to hand her bonnet to her.  She found she couldn't let go of the newspaper, so she scooped the bonnet up in her arms and held both it and the paper to her chest.

"Thank you," she said.  "I must go.  I've found some help."

She stumbled out, and was three blocks away before she realized she hadn't paid, and the man must have known that.

People could be very kind, she thought, if they didn't know your name or your politics.  But perhaps that was unfair.  Perhaps he did know.  He could see for himself what she was reading. Who was she to question his kindness?  Jackie never would, for all he'd question everything else.

But then the thought of him drove her on, to find Lady Ashton, and a shred of hope.

Stay Tuned For Episode 2 - "Lady Ashton and the Man in the Dock"

First Episode | Series Intro and TOC | Story So Far | Previous Episode

The Test of Freedom should be available as an ebook in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords

Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Week in Review/Preview


I did put in a lot of work this week, all of which counts.  It's just that I said to my self, "Gee, Self, you have to get these books edited and uploaded, and all that artwork to do, so pull back on that blogging.  You've got lots of posts in the can.  Oh, look, there's a perfectly fine one right there for next week. Hey, and there's another one for Friday Favorites.  Go for it!"

And then I proceeded to spend all of Friday and Saturday writing more blog posts.  Including a post which requires an infographic.  (Just what I need, more art to do!)

Still, the ebook of Misplaced Hero only needs a cover and a little work.  Test of Freedom is giving me fits because I keep intending to do simple artwork -- to actually cut back seriously on the artwork -- and I ended up with something more complicated.  Also, I hate the colors.  I'll talk more about that on Tuesday.

Oh, and my brain started working on book three of Starling and Marquette. (The Man Who Ran Away)  Book two isn't even on the schedule for serious work until January. The thing that got me thinking about it, is one of the things that spawned new blog post ideas.  And those aren't even the posts I worked on the past few days.

What is it with these muses?

A Round of Words in 80 Days Update

This Segment's Progress:

Wednesday Day 10 - 185 minutes
Thursday Day 11 - 312 minutes
Friday Day 12 - 183 minutes
Saturday Day 13 - 380

Total for the week: 1060 + 305 = 1365
The goal is 20 hours a week, or 1200.  Well, at least that was a win.

Check out the other people participating this week in ROW80 here.

This Past Week's Posts:

Coming This Week on the Blog:

Monday - Test of Freedom Episode 1 "Just Like Jackie"
He said he was "just going out for a bit."  He neglected to mention the part about maybe never seeing him again.

Tuesday - A Note on My Illustrations
Some previews and thoughts on the art I'm doing right now for several projects.

Wednesday - Hobbyists, Amateurs, Professionals, and Entrepreneurs
Some thoughts on how we writers categorize ourselves and each other.  With charts!

Thursday - Test of Freedom Episdoe 2 "Lady Ashton and the Man in the Dock"
In which we meet Lady Ashton, a nice lady with a secret.

Friday Favorites - Peter Lorre and Mr. Moto
Another paragon, and a guilty pleasure.  (Also a side discussion of Mr. Wong.)

See you in the funny papers.