Monday, May 31, 2010

Covered By Covers

Instead of tweaking the Kate book, I got distracted by rebuilding the Impossible Charlie cover.  It's over 2 years old and it was the best I could do at the time.  And it's pretty good but it could be better.  The Summer Horse book has out-sold it 6:1.  That's kind of weird because Charlie always seemed like...Disney was interested in it for a while.
So maybe it's the cover.

I also got lost looking for horse show programs or posters and didn't really find anything so fantastic that was in public domain but got a number of wonderful circus posters.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Just Kate, Again

I've been doing quite a lot of thinking about this book.  It was the book that got me into television so that makes it notable, and I had a lot of experiences because of it.  It was optioned by Procter & Gamble for a TV movie, but they couldn't find a way to make it work.  Then a couple years later I worked with Mel & Ethel Brez who were the writers on the project.  They were never specific as to what they felt the stumbling blocks were but since the Brezes are very clever it had to be something.  Maybe it was P&G.  Maybe they just couldn't see where the story was.  Maybe they saw the story but P&G didn't want to go there.  It's always hard to say what the problems are in entertainment.  As a writer you have to juggle so many elements besides the actual writing.  I'm not even sure how much the writing counts, most of the people in the business are business people not creative.  It's about product not art.  Some people think they are creative but they're not and they're the worst because they insist on having ideas.  Usually they won't work dramatically.  But they insist on them for personal reasons.  Sometimes their own morality, or lack of it, gets in the way.

The entertainment business is rife with broken people.  I wouldn't know that if I hadn't been there.  Next time you think to yourself there are so many crummy TV shows and movies and you can't understand why, now you have the answer.  These aren't whole people, they're not adults.  They're bratty children in town-cars.

Happy Memorial Day.  God Bless America.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Just Kate

After working on this cover yesterday afternoon,  this is all I can expect so I'm calling it done.  But I say that and 6 weeks later, I'm at it again.

I, apparently, want to tell a "story" with the cover design and I want it to appear 3D.  So that's something interesting to find out after working with Photoshop for the last 8 weeks.

The book still needs a tweak mostly to keep it in line with the sequel (if it's ever written).  It's lovely that it's possible to rewrite history, change things around to suit my current needs.  It's also lovely that I can write a sequel that would never ever sell to mainstream and it can be available to the reading public.  Whether they want it is another issue that's too depressing to go into.  The whole Joe Konrath Effect situation.

There is a book I should work on which is Phase 3 in my career.  All this going back to work produced during Phase 1 and Phase 2 doesn't seem so helpful.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ice Cream Cloud

Pen Names

The further I go along, the more pen names I seem to collect.  A couple weeks ago on a forum someone was really annoyed with me about this.  So this morning I thought I'd explain it.

Robin O'Neill is a pen name, one I've been using since the 1990s.  The reason was two-fold.  My name is quite a mouthful and isn't easily designed around.  It confuses people.  The second part of the reason was that I had breakfast in Santa Barbara California with agents Michael Larson and his wife, Elizabeth Pomada.  He said I was "a victim of your own talent", meaning that I did too many things passably well and I should stick with one genre.

I didn't want to do that, so I wound up with a new name--Robin O'Neill.  Let Robin do what I didn't want to do.
So every time I wanted to move without carrying the baggage, it seemed appropriate to find a new front woman.
That's the explanation.  Nothing dark, nothing intentionally duplicitous just practical.

One more pen name when I move to the final stage and that'll be it. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We're Having a Heat Wave

A tropical heat wave,
The temperature's rising,
It isn't surprising,
She certainly can can-can.
     ----Irving Berlin 1933

I rebuilt the ice cream parlor vid this morning and ran out of steam.  Or I was steaming is closer to the reality.

Over at Joe Konrath's site there was an article at Publishers Weekly about him.  It was typical mainstream media stuff, full of mistakes and biases posing as reality.  The commenters all seemed shocked (shocked I tell you) that PW would lie and demean his accomplishments.  This is so not news for me, where I go on the net, we see that every day. But okay, it's a big surprise when it's happening to you.

The other thing Joe talked about is DRM.  He's against it, I'm against it.  He doesn't care about piracy, I don't care about piracy.  Some of the people were so upset.  I wondered if any of these people who are shouting that piracy is theft, it's illegal (is it illegal to record a movie from TCM and watch it whenever you want?), are okay with smoking pot.  Just asking.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Summer Horse

I finished the book trailer for Summer Horse this afternoon and, one could say, made the same mistake I am making with Disconnected.  Instead of just throwing some titles in between the images, I'm building...well they were called title cards in silent films.  Even those weren't as labor intensive as these are.

Some of the ponies were so adorable I could hardly stand it.  I wish I could have a pony!  I always wanted a pony.
Too big to ride a pony now, darn it all!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Come Back To Me

I finally figured out a new title for That's Amore and finished the new cover today.  One more (!) pass thru the book and I'll republish it.

31 layers.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Disconnected/ Reconnected

Here's the final image from the trailer.  Although it might not be the final version of it since I found more petal brushes and I'd like to try them out.

There is an issue of length and I'm still working on that.

What software to use came up on a self-publishing list.  I'm using Corel Video Studio and it's excellent.  I also used it to create the ice cream parlor trailer 2 years ago.  I test drove a couple other programs, but I like Corel.  That said, I have created perfectly serviceable music vids using Windows Movie Maker so you needn't buy something when you're starting out.  Something cool probably comes in a Mac but I have no idea.  Sorry, PC now and forever (probably).

Monday, May 17, 2010


I created a new cover for the ice cream parlor book.

I think it's better than the technicolor banana split.

I'm starting to love working with Photoshop--not the lack of instructions part, but the artistic capabilities it offers.  And I know next to nothing.

There are probably about 10 layers in this image.  Except for the chocolate splatters, I made the brushes myself.  I did the cherries, strawberries and soda jerk myself.  So I've made a lot of progress since struggling with the cowboy hat!

Small peanuts compared to Joe Konrath's news.  (Linked in the rightside column.)  He's going to be the first ever author published by Amazon's publishing arm, 6 weeks ahead of his dead-tree publisher.  This is confirmation that the tide is turning.

I remember quite a few years ago Microscoff had a commercial and the jingle was "The world will never be the same again."  Publishing will never be the same.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mulvane, Kansas

Isn't this a stunning photo?

The year I lived in Kansas, Mulvane was the next town over.  It was quite a drive because the land is all cut up into sections and the roads follow those demarcations, pretty much everything is oriented to the compass points.
Our vet was in Mulvane.  Good guy.

I'm rebuilding the ice cream parlor cover, probably because I was disheartened by the book trailer for Disconnected.  I had a plan in mind and it was twice as long as it should have been, so the cuts began.  And persisted.  And it's still about 30 seconds long.  I could probably get away with that but then I'd have to redo the music.

Are book trailers worthwhile?  Yeah, they sure are if they're run on national TV.  If they're on youtube, not so much.  I suspect they wouldn't persuade many people to buy a book, but if someone was already on the fence, it might tip them over.

Here's the book trailer for the ice cream parlor.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book Trailer Leading Me Somewhere

I spent all yesterday working on a book trailer.  I expect to spend all today on it.  And maybe tomorrow.

No.  I've done these before.  I test drove all the video programs a couple years back and decided on Corel.  Then I switched to Windows Media whatever because I just wanted to streamline the whole process.  The program that comes in Vista is pretty good.  But recently I upgraded to the new version of Corel's Video Studio and it's really good--well beyond whatever skills I have.  It offers more precision than the Windows tinker-something-together Maker, which is important if you're actually timing the images to coincide with the music.

Speaking of music, youtube has just gone cuckoo pulling vids off if they don't think...if some huge multinational conglomerate is putting the screws to them regarding rights.  (The whole rights thing I don't really get.  You put something up on the net and it's gone, it's not yours anymore, you have no control, give up illusions that you can.)
I spent the morning looking for Paul Whiteman's version of Deep Purple and finally found it only to find that it really stunk.  It was his big band version instead of what I assumed would be an earlier version.  So I went with the Artie Shaw/Helen Forrest version.  I cut it using Audacity, an audio program I can recommend and is free and available at

I have the music track and I have the images.  What's taking so long is instead of creating text over the images is I'm building title cards.  You'll see.

I'm not going to put anything from the book trailer up but instead introduce you to Michal Towber.  She was born in Israel and at some point moved to NYC, got into music (and is very good at it) then went to Yale, then got a law degree and she's going to be an entertainment lawyer.  While singing.  I suppose.  I was introduced to her because I was sitting here at the computer one day a couple years ago and heard singing on the TV in the other room.  I was compelled to get up and find out who it was.  It was some young woman on a soap opera I had once written for.  I discovered her name and bought her first album.  Her song, Flash, is still one of my favorites of any modern song.  I wrote to her, she wrote back.  She's a doll, intelligent, and I think she was recently married.  To a nice Jewish boy.  Mazel Tov!

"Straight lines are godless things."

Michal Towber

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mercury Retrograde

Just when I realized we were in a Retrograde, today is the last day.  Phew.  Maybe now I can get somewhere with ...well everything.  Yesterday I suppose it was I uploaded a novel to kindle.  This morning amazon emailed to say that this book is in public domain and can I prove the author is dead.  I'm not dead.  I don't know how to prove it, though. 

I began listening to a quite old album by the Michael Schenker Group and it made me think about a book I wanted to write that no agents were interested in.  ("No one wants to read about women who are older than 35."  Oh, good to know, let me write that down for future reference.)  I called it Comforts and Joys for a while.  Now I have the right title after coming upon a really quite old song from the 30s.  I don't know how many women over 35 have Kindles or Nooks and such so maybe the niche market is minute.  I do wonder what I'll write next since there are so many compelling projects I have waiting and now that I don't have to pay heed to agents or editors and the issue of selling 20,000 copies isn't applicable.

Charles Grodin wrote a book called "It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here" in which he wondered how many fine performers were chased from show business because it's so cruel.  We wind up with the strongest egos not the best performers.  To extrapolate--how many wonderful books haven't been published or even written because it just too painful to press on.

I could say more but I won't.  Instead I will insert the beautiful mosaic from the Beit Alpha Synagogue in Israel.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Magician, He Sparkles In Satins And Velvets

I managed to get a book up on Kindle today.  I can't even gauge the hours it took.  Then it's not live for 48 hours unlike Smashwords.  But Smash has the whole ISBN thing going on now and I don't want to commit to everything today so it went on Amazon.

Joe Konrath has a stunning sort of new post (it's linked on the sidebar) that reveals the anger writers have roiling just beneath the surface.  I think we're angry that we're mistreated so casually by the people in publishing.  Whether agents or editors, they are discourteous to us.  Writers may be a dime a dozen but without writers, who needs agents or editors.  If I'm going to publish myself on Kindle, why do I need an editor.

This is a book I had submitted to a publisher who has contracted to publish a book of mine next year but hasn't seen fit to pay me.  When I was feeling jolly about them 7 months ago, I sent them a 2nd book.  The longer they ignored me, the more annoyed I became until I wrote and told them (not asked) I was withdrawing this 2nd manuscript from their consideration.  The then (there's a new one in the last 4 weeks) editor asked why.  I said I could publish myself and be ahead of the game.  Never heard back from her. 

Now my agent is going to attempt to find out what's going on regarding the payment (contracted before I signed with him).  Sure, I have an agent (waving!) and am happy about it.  I just don't want to feel my life is bottlenecked because of an agent.  Now that I can work along on my own, I'm free.

I made this background today, with a song playing in my head.

"The magician, he sparkles in satin and velvet,
You gaze at his splendour with eyes you've not used yet."--Donovan Leitch

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Day When Everything Went Against Me

Some vitamins I ordered were delivered and they sent the wrong thing.  Photoshop was throwing a temper tantrum and Corel Draw loaded slow all day.  I think it's because I had PS open at the same time.  None of the amazon publishing pages worked.

I should give you an update on the lasso tool.  It's totally not intuitive.  There is no click a button and the background falls away like you would expect.  It's very effective and "simple" but involves making several layers and then deleting the ones you don't want.  You would never stumble upon this by yourself, it's something that requires someone else telling you.  That someone won't be anyone from Adobe, I can say that with quite a high degree of confidence.

I worked on a book cover and made this background.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Drives Me Nuts part 2

I don't get how the lasso tool works.  I've read the manual too.  So it only takes 4 different programs to do anything.  These coders should be embarrassed.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Drives me nuts.  Adobe either thinks we all know how to use it or doesn't give a darn.  The program is crammed to the gills with the neatest bells and whistles for which there are absolutely no comprehensible instructions.  And that goes for even the easiest functions like how do you apply the crop function.  You click inside the image and if that doesn't work......?   What's wrong.  Three hours looking for a tutorial.

If you remember that rodeo hat I was struggling with, and then the magic wand thing, I couldn't make the cut-out thing/select image work.  I carved it out manually.  It's really lots easier than that.
The program--as you would expect a computer to be able to manage at least a little if a computer can get guys to the moon--can find the edges of an image if they're really obvious and just lift the thing.  Then you don't have to go back and clean up all the pixels like I did with another image for a very long afternoon last week.

This is actually a skill I need for a cover I'm thinking about.  Not with oranges, tho.  (Why this doesn't have a transparent background here--I don't know.  It has one everywhere else.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Importance of a Good First Chapter

Here's a post with solid advice from a NYC mystery editor.  (I admit to committing at least one of his crimes in my last mystery.  Easily fixed by...actually no, it's not easily fixed at all.)

First Chapter Boo-Boos

Does the buying public judge a book by its cover?  Sometimes.  Do they judge a book by its first chapter?  Yes, and so do editors.
I really can't overemphasize the importance of getting Chapter 1 right.  A good Chapter 1 makes the reader - whether agent, editor, or book-buyer - want to read more.  A poor Chapter 1 causes the door to slam shut.  And with Amazon allowing readers to read a book's first chapter via its "Look Inside the Book" feature, I would argue that a good first chapter is more important than ever.
(Interestingly, on a side note, the first chapter of non-fiction--usually the introductory chapter--is often written at the END of the writing process, because it's so difficult to get right.)
Herewith some things to watch for in Chapter 1, things NOT to do.
1. Don't get too ambitious.  Oh, the train wreck that is a first chapter that attempts to cram the whole book into its pages.  A first chapter should whet our appetite and make us want to keep reading.  It shouldn't, and mustn't, attempt to raise a series of questions and answer all of them before Chapter 2.
2. Don't make it the length of a novella.  Consciously or unconsciously, many readers see Chapter 1 as obligatory--they have to get it out of the way before the book kicks into gear.  Though it's the first chapter or a book, writers must see it as transitional.  The reader is transitioning from a previous book into a new book, and needs some time to ease into the new one.  There's always a bit of trepidation in starting a new book, so make it easy on readers and don't demand too much of them in the first chapter.
3. Don't burden it with backstory.  Chapter 1 is almost never (wait, scratch the "almost") the place to go into a character's backstory or history.  A first chapter with extensive backstory is a mark of an amateur.  Sure, juicy little tidbits can be dangled in front of the reader, as well as hints about the past, but please don't introduce your characters today and immediately go back to 1975 to explain their various psychological problems.
4. Don't introduce your entire cast.  Say you go to a party with a bunch of strangers, and you're introduced to ten people, one right after the next.  How many of those people's names do you remember?  Maybe one or two at most?  Your readers really don't want dozens of characters thrown at them in Chapter 1.  Making readers work so hard in Chapter 1 doesn't dispose them to wanting to continue your book, especially if they're slightly tired, which most people are, all the time.
5. Don't bore us with details and descriptions.  The first chapter should set the book's tone.  You're writing mystery and suspense, so your first chapter should have some mystery and suspense.  Lengthy descriptions are often a turn-off (they're one of the marks of those "literary novels" that end up remaindered as soon as they come off the printing press). And asking your readers to have to remember a series of small details that occurred in Chapter 1, when they really weren't into the book yet, isn't fair to them.
Now, for some things to DO.
1. Give us some action.  Something needs to HAPPEN in Chapter 1--something mysterious.  Maybe a mysterious phone call?  A breaking and entering?  A casually observed theft?  You don't need your car chase in Chapter 1, but please have the characters do something.
2. Raise some questions.  Create some cognitive dissonance.  Make the reader wonder what is going on, and don't offer any explanation.  It's that cognitive dissonance that makes the reader want to keep reading, to find out what happens next and how that cubic zirconium ended up where the diamond should have been.
3. Establish a significant character trait.  Not all your characters need to be quirky, but your protag should say or do something memorable in Chapter 1.  We meet enough milquetoast/boring people in life.  Readers are hungry for a character who makes an entrance and takes no prisoners.
4. Keep it tight.  Keep the cast of Chapter 1 to a maximum of three people.  Make ONE major thing happen to focus the reader's attention.  Don't make Chapter 1 a Rube Goldberg that makes the reader's head spin.
5. Show it to friends.  Print out Chapter 1 and show it to 10 friends.  Give them an anonymous ballet that asks a single question: "Based on what you've read, do you want to keep reading?"  If at least 7 of them don't say YES, kill it and start over from scratch.