Saturday, August 27, 2011

Week in Review - New Dare, New Cover, Hurricane!

For those hunkered down on the east coast -- and especially those inland - a reminder: Most of the death and devastation done by Hurricane Camille in 1969 actually happened in Kentucky and Tennessee, long after the system was no longer a hurricane, when the storm dropped 39 inches of water in a 24 hour period. Yeah. That's over a yard of water.

Also remember that most of us have only experienced the power of water in waves on the beach. Those waves usually just reflect the power of a couple of inches of water at the surface, and are nothing like the hellish force water can exert when you've got a foot or so on the move.

DO NOT underestimate the power of water, folks, and do not assume that anywhere is completely safe. I notice Amtrack is taking the threat seriously: "Amtrak said Saturday night it is suspending all service north of Jacksonville, Florida, and east of Toledo, Ohio," says CNN live blog.)

On that cheery note, I turn to the events of this week, where I had TWO EPIPHANIES:

New 600 Minute Dare

One epiphany was my new 600 Minute a Week Dare, outlined in yesterday's post. Azarimba pointed out in the comments that how well such a dare will work depends on your time and task management abilities. One of the reasons I went for the minute-count is because it makes things really easy that way: the only minutes which count are those with my nose in the manuscript. Period. Nothing else matters.

I think that goes back to something else too: how do you measure productivity? Most of our measures don't really do a good job. Even word count is misleading. In the end, the only thing that matters is the finished work. Getting it done and out into the world.

In the meantime, I had another epiphany the other day:

A New Cover Concept!

I like the cover I had designed for The Man Who Did Too Much, but I just couldn't take it to the next level. I need a branded cover -- something I can replicate into a series. When I played around with covers for the next books, I didn't like what I came up with.

And, okay, I'll be honest: I want something artier. I know it's a cozy and quaintness is important... but when I was a young urchin, all mysteries (cozies included) had slick designs.

Still, I wasn't thinking about that consciously, until my screensaver (which rotates through dozens of classic movie posters) popped up with Anatomy of a Murder -- which is a puzzler, and a Michigan murder mystery too. And I thought "You know, I should play with that fractured paper cut-out style from the late '50s."

So I started sketching, and I had some plans to do three figures like the original cover, but then one of the rules of fine arts happened: sure, sometimes you can only take an artwork to another level by working on it beyond the resistance point... but sometimes the artwork hits its golden moment and you have to stop. There comes this point when it's just done, and if you put one more element in, it will ruin it.

Oh, sure, I'll play with it a little more, but most likely I'll just polish up the body, and the colors. (I might want to go with a distressed wall look instead of stark white for the background, for instance.)

I've already played with what I'll do for other covers in the series, and I think I will go mostly for variations in the typography and color. The body may have slightly different positions. Who knows yet.

The Return of the Students!

This week students returned to both our little college and the big one down the road. This, like the monsoons, seem like both a plague and a blessing, as hordes of young people crowd everywhere, blocking streets and making life difficult, but also bring well needed cash to the depressed economy.

I like it when the students come back. The first half of last week was prepping for their return, and the second half was patrolling the halls, looking for lost souls to help. But I think that the bulk of the students didn't come in yet. (Sometimes they don't.) The LCC traffic jam did not tie up several blocks as usual, but only a very slow line up half of one street. Next week should be worse.

But as I said, I like it when the students come back, because when they're gone it's slow and boring, and so many great restaurants run the risk of going out of business. Like last weekend...

Food of the Week: Dim Sum

As a devout gourmand, my Sunday worship service is generally dim sum. This weekend we trekked out to the better of our two great dim sum houses, and found it nearly empty, because A) it was August and nobody was around, and B) it is in a remote location separated from its main customer base by extensive road repairs. It's a case of "you can't get there from here."

Since they weren't otherwise busy, they did a fabulous job. I have not had better even in L.A. Below are images of the remainder of the Turnip Cake and Fried Meat Dumplings (not to be confused with pot stickers -- these have a gooey sticky sweet rice flour wrapper). I didn't manage to get pictures of anything else before it was gone.

Tomorrow we're headed to the other dim sum place -- which has carts, and is likely to put on some special dishes for the return of the students.

See you in the funny papers.

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