‘Superversive’ coming soon

Someone showed me a picture and I just laughed— Dignity never been photographed.

—Bob Dylan, ‘Dignity’

Neither the redoubtable Sarah Dimento nor I could think of any good way to draw a picture of a superversion; so after long dithering, I asked her to come up with a simple text design. Here, then, is the cover for Superversive: Recovering the Tao of Fantasy, coming soon to an Amazon near you. superversive

Progress report

Since inquiries have come from several of the 3.6 Loyal Readers, I answer at large:— Tonight I finished compiling and formatting the essais that will go into the Superversive collection, and to my surprise, they seem to hang together pretty well, and add up to a sustained and forcible polemic. I still need to go through the drudgery of compiling the bibliography and endnotes (always the worst part of the job), and to write a valedictory piece, ‘Recovering the Tao of Story’. Then I have got to talk Sarah Dimento into doing a cover. I expect to have the new book out in July. I have also, at long last, come within a few chapters of completing the first episode of Where Angels Die. I am reasonably pleased with the work so far. My original plan was to make the episodes about 60 manuscript pages apiece; that is, roughly as long as the screenplay for a one-hour television drama. But the first episode has a lot more work to do, introducing the main characters and setting up the central conflict; so it will be double that length. This is not without precedent; quite a lot of TV series have premiered as made-for-TV feature films, which were then cut up into two episodes for syndication. I have sketched out the next three episodes, tentatively entitled ‘The Little Charter’, ‘The Bad Enough Brigade’, and ‘Luck’s Travelling Temple’. I should like to release all of them at once, and get some of the ‘Liliana Nirvana’ effect I referred to earlier. We shall see if this has a salutary effect on sales. Meanwhile, I am formatting several paperback books for Wendy S. Delmater, and editing a translation of a stage play by Bruno Moreno Ramos. I am open for more commissions of both these kinds, at the right price. Once all these things are taken care of, I intend to get back to work on the Magnificent Octopus. It is still my firm intention to get The Grey Death out for an autumn release; though at present it looks as if it may be later rather than earlier in that season.

Cover design: Your feedback, please?

Good news, everybody! The formidable and talented Sarah Dimento has delivered the all-but-final cover design for Where Angels Die, based on my rough concept and rubbishy layout. I always feel embarrassed when taking cover ideas to Sarah, because something about her puts me in mind of Edna Mode from The Incredibles: ‘This is a hobo suit, dahling, you can’t be seen in this, I won’t allow it!’ But she has a rather nifty way of turning those hobo suits into eye-catching book covers. The current idea is to release each episode of Angels under separate cover, and then bundle them as a fix-up novel later. To minimize the amount of design work required, we have it in mind to reuse the same design with different background colours (and, of course, episode titles). The design follows the jump below. WAD1_613 What do you all think?

Comparing notes

An interesting day today. Our Esteemed Cover Artist, Sarah Dimento, delivered the cover design for my forthcoming story collection, The Worm of the Ages and Other Tails. (Current plan is to release Style is the Rocket in May and Worm in June. I have another short book that may be ready to go in July, if my health holds up.) Here is a closer look at the cover: Worm-of-the-Ages_613 Sarah and I are trying to develop what the jargonists call a ‘design language’ (pretentious term!) for the covers. Some general rules:
  1. Consistent typographical design. (We’re using the Brioso type family from Adobe, designed by the incomparable Robert Slimbach.)
  2. Vector art instead of photographs or pixel-mapped art, to allow higher quality in print reproduction (and sharper rendering at all sizes).
  3. Clear, iconic visual elements that plainly signal the genre and tone of the work at thumbnail size.
  4. Consistent colour schemes and backgrounds. We have settled on using a parchment background for the essay collections, and solid colours (with a sort of leathery craquelure texture) for fiction.
A further note on #3: Many self-published authors try to imitate the styles of the big publishing houses, and try to illustrate a scene or motif from the book with digitally edited photographs (or even an original drawing or painting). This, in our opinion, is a mistake. Such designs can look good at the size of a printed book, but even there, they tend to blur together on a display shelf; the reader is left relying upon the printed title and author name to distinguish one design from another. (Some designs, indeed, have been used and reused for dozens of books by different authors, with only superficial changes.) While it is true that an ebook cover is an important marketing tool, most people will see it at thumbnail size; and whatever graphic elements are included have got to be clearly distinguishable at that size. We believe that in the environment of an Amazon page (or other ebook seller’s site), a cover design will work better by functioning like the icon for an app, rather than an imitation of a dust jacket. The design above, I think, fulfils this purpose reasonably well. Everything is quite clear at thumbnail size (except the explanatory legend ‘Six Short Fantasies’ at the bottom); but if you zoom in and view the full-size artwork, you see finer details – the embossing effect on the text and graphics, the texture of the background – which reward the eye for its curiosity. As for the graphic, nothing says fantasy like a heraldic-looking dragon.
In other news, today I was driving about on errands and listening to the Fan 960, our local sports radio station – thereby performing my patriotic duty as a Canadian hockey fan. I heard that the afternoon crew were doing a live remote broadcast from the newest location of a Canadian fast food chain called South St. Burger. The place was quite near me as I was driving; I thought, ‘How interesting. Must try it sometime.’ Then they announced that for every burger sold today, the restaurant would make a donation to the Red Cross for their relief work in Fort McMurray, Alberta. You may have heard about the Fort McMurray fire. For some days now, thanks to hot weather in that part of northern Alberta, the city has been nearly surrounded by forest fires. The whole population of 80,000 has been evacuated, except for firefighters and emergency crews, and sizable parts of the city have already burnt down. Urgent pleas for aid are flying out in all directions. I am far from being a rich man, but I thought the least I could do was to help the South Street (South Saint?) people with their fundraising effort. So I turned the car around, drove to South St. Burger, and had a mushroom Swiss burger combo (quite tasty) whilst rubbernecking at the radio crew. The announcer, Rob Kerr, came over during a commercial break to introduce himself and shake hands. As I was finishing my meal, the broadcast ended, and the technician began taking down the equipment (a much smaller job than it used to be). I wandered over and struck up a conversation with Mr. Kerr, and we talked for about ten minutes. The talk of the hockey world at the moment is that the Arizona Coyotes have hired a 26-year-old statistical analyst as their new general manager. ‘Advanced’ statistics (think Moneyball, if that helps) have a bit of a bad reputation in hockey, because of the exaggerated claims made by some advocates for what are really very simple and inaccurate attempts to measure some of the variables in a complex and fast-moving game. John Chayka, the new Arizona GM, is not part of that picture. He founded a firm to design sophisticated and proprietary stats software for National Hockey League teams. Every second of play, every frame of video, is broken down in detail, and all the information gathered in an enormous database from which all kinds of interesting statistical inferences can be mined. Alas, the general public (including amateur ‘advanced stats’ people) have no access to these systems. I mentioned to Mr. Kerr that I would like to hear more about these genuinely advanced statistics and their effect on the game. He agreed with me, but pointed out that some of his listeners don’t want to hear it. Neither do a lot of senior executives in the hockey business. Many of the older generation of managers still take the attitude that John Henry (as played by Arliss Howard) described at the end of the Moneyball film:
The first guy through the wall, he always gets bloody. Always. This is threatening not just a way of doing business, but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihood, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s a government, or a way of doing business, or whatever it is, the people who are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch, they go batshit crazy.
Rob Kerr operates at the tectonic fault between two industries being disrupted by new technology: media and professional sports. He mentioned how technology has literally made it possible for him to broadcast his radio show from his mobile phone; he did it just the other day. A fire alarm forced him to evacuate a remote location, and he finished his broadcast over the phone, sitting under a tree. The effect of ‘big data’ and advanced statistics on the sports business, of course, is just as John Henry described, and it is just now beginning to have large effects on hockey. As for me, I work in a field that is being completely remade by ebooks, print-on-demand machines, and the miraculous selling machine called Amazon. Bondwine Books is a creature of the present decade; I could not have been in this business just a few years ago. So we sat and compared notes on the disruptions. I pointed out that New York publishing is still largely run by people who went to Ivy League schools, and were rich enough that Mummy and Daddy could pay their rent in Manhattan whilst they worked at unpaid internships for publishing houses. They know less than nothing about the kind of people who buy their products; and it shows in their foolish business practices and appalling decisions. Mr. Kerr countered that the sports business is largely run by retired professional athletes, who are almost equally unable to relate to the concerns of their customers, the fans, and moreover, have not been selected for their intelligence or business skills. I like to follow the sports business; I tell people it demonstrates just how badly a company can be run, short of being a publisher. As we parted, Mr. Kerr asked me for my URL; I already have his. Perhaps he will look in on us here at Bondwine; more probably he won’t. Either way, I have had a refreshing meeting of minds with a professional whose situation resembles my own in many ways, and I feel as if my world had become larger and more interesting than it was this morning.

Sarah D: Mobile apps are not a web solution!

That paragon of outdated thinking, the Calgary Public Hobo Mausoleum Library, has drawn down the wrath of Sarah Dimento. She speaks wisely, as is her wont, and without profanity, which is unusual for Sarah in a wrath. Key bit:
A single-purpose mobile app is about as useful as a unicycle. Sure, you might be able to ride it down the street, but it was never designed to get you much further.… Back in 2011, every clueless CEO wanted a mobile app (that does nothing a website can’t already do) because they heard it was the latest, hottest thing and wanted to jump on the bandwagon. It was a terrible fad that had its day because it was a terrible idea. Yet here you are, in 2015, telling people, “Please use our unicycle instead of the bicycle we can’t be bothered to fix. Unicycles are still hip, right? Pleeease try out our unicycle. We lost our bicycle building budget over this!”
Read the rest.

Revenge of the Forbidden!

Sarah Dimento, our Esteemed Cover Artist, offers some thoughts on her trade:

Your Generic-Ass Cover Makes Me Think There’s a Generic-Ass Book Inside

And in a heroic attempt to rid the world of generic-ass titles in the form ___ of ___:

The Cliché Fantasy Title Generator

Generate your own stupid fantasy title! Use at your own risk! Yes, you too can come up with classic titles at the touch of a button. Titles like:

Revenge of the Forbidden

Wizards of Evil

Evil of Wizards

Evil of Evil

and the ever-popular Arthurian saga:

Nightmare of the Round Table

Which ought to be the name of a book about a zombie King Arthur. Alas, there is a book (or at least a comic) that appears to be about a zombie King Arthur, or at any rate a zombie-killing King Arthur. It’s called Dead Future King, which is clearly the Wrong Title, because it has not got an of in it.

From the pen of Sarah Dimento

First, cover art for my next collection of essais, Style is the Rocket: Featuring the title piece and a Bunch of Other Cool Stuff. Style is the Rocket   Second, Aristotle’s Ethics brought within the reach of the Modern Dude: Ethics for Dudebros: The Golden Mean
The Golden Mean is our scale for being a Chillbro. It means if you go too far with something, you’re being an Asshole, whereas if you’re not doing enough, you’re being a Douche. Being a Chillbro means sitting comfortably between the two extremes. According to Stotes (Stotes is what I call my main man, Aristotle), there’s 12 ways you can be awesome (Virtues), but 24 ways you can fuck it up (Vices), so there’s two Vices to Each Virtue.
Like, check it out, dude.

‘From the Competency Plateau to Mastery Mountain’

Comfort is the antithesis of greatness, whether it be in art or athletics. Don’t listen to people who claim art is easy, who offer formulas and simple unbreakable rules, or tell you not to strive to create something new because “everything’s been done before.”

Sarah Dimento

Wise words from a fellow climber. What she says about dabblers, hobbyists and hacks is particularly wise. Go and read.

Sarah Dimento explains literature

From Nine Literary Movements Explained Snarkily:
Books can be complicated, because they’re full of words and stuff. Apparently book words are not complicated enough to justify research grants though, so academics made up new words to describe what the words in books do. As a graduate of Fine Arts, I’m here to demystify some of their terminology so you can sound smart and stuff too.

1. MODERNISM

Yo, we’re sick of them elitist Classicists not letting us in their clubhouse, so we’re going to make our own isms, with blackjack … and hookers.

2. POSTMODERNISM

Screw those Modernists not letting us in their clubhouse. We’re going make our own isms, with blackjack, and hookers. Actually, forget the isms and the blackjack.
Read the rest from Sarah Dimento. (Who is, by the way, not only a Grandmistress of Snark, but my cover artist as well. Plus she can operate cats and other dangerous equipment.)