Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 130 - A Waiting Nightmare

Once upon a time there was a man who hated waiting. In fact, his aversion to waiting was so tremendous that he would often go hungry as opposed to having to wait for toast to toast or top ramen to boil in a microwave.

Well, one day, this man decided to write a book. Because he was impatient to have it done, he worked on it every day for a long time until it was finally done. Then it was done. So he tried to publish it. He wrote nice query letters with lots of pretty words on them and sent them to publishers who spat on them and used them to train their puppies where to pee. Finally, the impatient man got tired of waiting for publishers, so he decided to publish his story himself.

He did everything he could do to get the book going on his own, and then he found people to help him with the stuff he could not do.

And then he waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

In fact, he waited so long that he actually went crazy. For, as you may recall, he was famously impatient, and, therefore, having to wait made his brain explode. It also made his chest scrunch up in a tight little fist inside him, and it even made his sphincter whimper and cramp up sometimes.

Finally his impatient mind just went, poof.

The next thing he knew he was on a grasshopper train headed for Daisy Duke’s cutoff drawer. Only there were no tiny, bun hugging jean-shorts in there, but instead, a big smoke screen that couldn’t keep flies out on a hot summer day. So the train, which was only driven by grasshoppers and not really made from them—it was really made of butter instead—melted. The butter poured down the trestles and ran out into the fields where it began to smell bad in the grass, just like it does in a man’s moustache after he eats corn on the cob or really buttery bread.  The smell was awful and flocks of geese threw up in great sheets that rained down on the crazy man, but these were not the nice sheets you put on your bed—not the 600 thread-count ones, oh no, these were sheets of partially digested water bugs and gooey green strands of pond scum and algae. Pretty gross.

The Grasshopper Train to Daisy Duke's Cutoff Drawer

So anyway, when the impatient man finally got his brain to work again, his wife was like WTF? He shrugged, having no memory of the event, and began snuffing and snorting and mumbling about how he really wanted to get his book done.

His wife had to try very hard not to slap him because he was being such a little pouty bitch. Finally she said, “It will get done. You just have to wait."

“I hate waiting,” he said.

And all the grasshoppers laughed at him.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 124 – Yarrr, Here There Be Dragons: Cris Ortega’s Latest Addition

Original "Here there be dragons" type map.
No self-respecting fantasy story doesn’t have a dragon in it, right? Well, because my story respects the crap out of itself, of course there is a dragon. And, since fantasy readers love their dragons as much as they love their sorcerers and their hot chicks, guess what my book cover has on it?

Wow, you are good at this game. That’s right, a dragon.

So, this post is about my dragon and the latest update I just got from Cris Ortega that has the dragon from my novel cover on it. WOOT.

But first, to add drama, and to add some fluff to this because I know you all don’t want to just SEE the dragon that fast, you want some dragony foreplay before the main dragon event, I’ll prep your experience with a tiny bit of back story.

First, my dragon’s name is Taot. I pronounce it “Tay-awt” in my head. Well, and when I say it out loud too, actually, but how often do I do that, really?  When I originally wrote the Taot character in a short story some twenty years ago, he was, as he is now, the wing├ęd mount of a young sorcerer (whose name I no longer recall, which is funny, because he also had a pet raven named Spiff, which I do recall. I wonder what that says). I always liked the name, so I brought it back, since that short story never got finished anyway.

Well, there’s your back story. For more details about Taot’s abilities, size, temperament, intelligence and other cool stuff, you’ll just have to read the book when it comes out (which is taking painfully long… I honestly thought I was being generous when I said end of July three months or so ago, but clearly that ain’t going to happen. Sigh).

Okay, before I post the picture, I want to show you my personal favorite dragon picture of all time. This is the kind of thing I had in mind when I commissioned Cris Ortega to do this work for me. This image I am about to show caught my attention as a kid and no other dragon done by anyone has ever reached this level of perfection (feel free to post links to dragons you think compare… but you’ll have a hard time swaying me). It’s by the Brothers Hildebrandt, and it was done for a Tolkien calendar way back in the late 70s. Look at the detail (hopefully you can see it; this is a telephone capture from the poster on my wall--yes, I'm that much of a geek).

Brothers Hildebrandt "Smaug" (from my poster)

As you can see, that’s amazing stuff, the muscle and light play is awesome. The Hildebrandt brothers did the covers for Terry Brook’s Shannara series of books too, and those are also breathtakingly vivid (good books too). Not everything they do is this tightly rendered, but a lot is. And keep in mind, they did this without computers. Pretty hardcore, eh?

Anyway, now that you know what I am shooting for, you will see why I am so happy with the Dragon Cris Ortega has created for me. Look how much detail she has put in its big scary face!!! Oh, and ignore the ragged edges, because that's my fault for cutting it out of the main picture in MS Paint (lol). So, without further adieu, meet Taot:

Taot - from The Galactic Mage

Alright, there’s not much else I can say. That dragon is bad ass. I’m totally stoked. Cris is working on the main character, Altin Meade, now, so, we’ll see how that goes. I’m sure it will be fantastic. I imagine a few of you might want to know where the finished product of Orli is, but, you don’t get to see her. She’s too hawt, like, uber hawt, and you have to wait to see that kind of awesomeness until it’s done. So, there you go. Bye for now.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 117 – How to Build Your Website without Hate, Violence or Weeping

Typical web developer
I learned something very valuable about website building over the last two days working on my website. It’s something that I have heard from “web developers” over the years but never paid much attention to because, well, we all know those kinds of guys. You know, I.T. guys, a.k.a., nerds, geeks and D&D players. Why would I pay attention to them?

But, now I AM them. Yes, the D&D part already happened back in 1979, but the web developer part was only a maybe, a possibility, even though I’d begun trying to build my own site. But now it’s official. I am one of them. Here’s why:


Now, you may be asking yourself:

1) Why does he hate I.E.?


2) What does that have to do with being a “web developer” and all that other stuff?

The answer to number 2 is number 1. Every web developer I know hates Internet Explorer. But I did not hate it, and therefore I could not be considered a web developer. But they hate it. All of them. And I never knew why. I used to hear them rail against it, talk about how awful it is, but to me it always just sounded like they were just being little butt-hurt whiners. “It works fine for me,” I would say to them when they tried to get me to switch from I.E. to Firefox or Chrome. “I don’t need to learn new stuff. I can open any website just fine with I.E.” And I could.

But they always insisted it sucks anyway. Argued against the logic of my own perception. Now I know why. Internet Explorer DOESN’T work with everything. And while it might open pretty close to 100% of the websites you try to visit, it sucks serious ass if you are trying to DEVELOP A WEBSITE.

So here’s what happened. I was trying to get the Facebook “Like” button to work on my web page. Everyone has that button on their site, so, being the sheep that I am, I want one on my site too.


Well, I couldn’t make it work. I tried. Lots of stuff. Several times. I went and got these things called “plug ins.” Not the stupid ones that gullible people buy to “deodorize” their homes. No, I mean the plug ins you can stick into a website (the Romulan part of it nobody understands) that will then make the website do stuff, or at least, that’s what they are supposed to do. They call them “plug ins” because of how easy it sounds to do, you know? Plug in. How hard is it to just “plug in” something, right? A monkey can do it.

No monkey.
Where was a monkey when I needed one?

Needless to say, I had to do it myself. I went through a bunch of these plug ins trying to get one that worked. I searched online. I did my research, read lots of boring-ass crap I hate. Found a “good” one. Watched the torturous “how to” videos for it. Went and dug out my passwords to all my various Internet gates and control panels that give me access to stuff they really shouldn’t actually let me mess with, and, after a lot of time and frustration… nothing. It didn’t work. So I tried another. Still failed. So I tried a third.


One of them put a big giant ass button on some of the pages, but that was all sideways and jacked up, jutting into the sidebar conspicuously. Nothing I could do fixed it, and despite searching for forty-five minutes, I couldn’t find any help on any forums anywhere.

Another one that I tried seemed to work. It looked funny, not like I wanted, but at least it was on there, so I almost thought I was okay. But when I tried to test it, to do a “share” on Facebook so you all could see the rapturous wit of my test post… I got gobbledygook on my actual Facebook wall. It didn’t share the post; it shared some funky chunks of code with margin settings and weird numbers. Pretty awesome, eh? Don’t you want to see scrolls of HTML numbers and Romulan language on your Facebook every time I post a new blog article? I know you do. (I can hear all the “unlike” clicks now.)

So anyway, I tried others that didn’t work too. It was annoying and pissed me off. I actually quit trying for three weeks. I tried to beg one of the guys from work to go look, a real Romulan, but Romulans are a snippy bunch, and they don’t like humans trying to mess with their secrets, so everyone blew me off. Bastards. (Yes, that means you Tomalak J. Stevens!!!)
Tomalak J. Stevens
But I showed them. I figured out why nothing was working. They spilled the secret themselves unknowingly, and it turns out that Internet Explorer is like Romulan kryptonite. And, actually, I have this blog to thank in part for the discovery.

A number of you (along with me too) have complained that you can’t post comments to this blog sometimes as “yourself” using the Google account—you get forced into a log-in screen that doesn’t work, and you end up using “anonymous” instead of your actual Google user profile. I know I had that problem, and I could never respond as “me.” At least not from home. I thought maybe it was because I had logged in from work and not officially “logged out” when I shut down my computer. So I tried logging out from work the next day, came home and tried again. Nothing. That’s when I realized, I use Firefox at work (because that’s what the work Romulans tell you to do). So, I tried posting again, this time on Firefox, and it worked. WOOT, problem solved.

In fact, switching to Firefox also fixed some problems I’ve been having with the “reply” button not working for Cris Ortega’s emails. I had been assuming it had something to do with her Spanish email client clashing with my American one or something. But when I tried it with Firefox, it worked just fine.

SO, realizing that I.E. is giving me trouble on so many fronts,, I decided to try one of those Like button plug ins that wasn’t working for me again, this time in Firefox. Poof, it worked. Where on I.E. I couldn’t get the second and third tabs to open in the plug in console, with Firefox, they all opened just fine. Click. Click. And the next thing you know, I had a Facebook Like button on my stuff.

So, now you know. If you want to build a website without hate, violence or weeping, don’t try to do any of it using I.E.

(website is at if you didn't know. Be patient though, if you go, it's still a work in progress.)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Day 108 – OMG Cris Ortega is the Most Amazing Artist on the Planet

Alright, so I know I teased this particular entry from way back in last week, but, well, I got busy and other stuff happened, so I didn’t get to it until now. So, to make up for it, I won’t spend a lot of time blabbing and I’ll just get to the image after a tiny bit of set up.

So as you all know, or most of you anyway, my point with the cover was to have a really hot chick on the cover that will be jaw dropping and work to catch attention so that people will pick it up, turn it over, read the blurb that many of you have come to know and love (or hate). That said, I gave Cris Ortega a character description which many of you may have read (you can find that post here), and provided a rough cover sketch posted on my book website.

She has sent her sketches to me, and we have discussed various facets of them, and approved some and are developing others further. Since I thought she had our heroine, Orli, pretty well sketched out, Cris decided to go ahead and paint Orli’s head (hair, face, neck), and she sent me that back to approve before she goes any further.

I admit to have been nearly giddy with anticipation as I went to open the file, my hands almost trembling and something of a childlike thrill to see what I got. It was like Christmas!

When I regained consciousness, crawling up out of the stupor born of ecstatic euphoria, I got off the floor and sat back in my chair and just grinned. It’s perfect. So, without further adieu, here is Ensign Orli Pewter’s lovely face as rendered by the master artist, Cris Ortega:

Wait for it...


Wait for it...

Click to see larger image.


Isn’t that insane?

Can you imagine being that good of an artist? My God! I’m serious when I say Cris Ortega is in there with the brothers Hildebrandt, Boris Vallejo, Rowena… for sure in that class, and I know I should say something qualifying before insisting on names like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Rubens among other names that come to mind, but I’m not going to. Cris Ortega rocks. She’s going to be so famous someday she’ll have to burn anything smaller than a hundred dollar bill just to make room in her stash.

Anyway, okay, I’m done gushing for now. (But she is awesome, and Orli looks awesome.)

So I debated whether or not I want to show the whole sketch. I know I said I would, but it’s almost a spoiler, so I decided I’m not going to. Cris did send me some progression shots of how she was able to get to such an amazing work of art, so instead, I’ll show a piece of the initial sketch, and some of the points along the way. Think of it as a little tour through the mind of an artistic genius.

Isn't that cool? I am so stoked I can hardly see straight. It's coming out marvelously. I will reveal little peeks of other parts as the thing comes along, but I am definitely not going to let everyone see the whole thing (sketch) at one shot because it's just too cool. Plus, it's still in development. Maybe if enough people whine, I'll show the cool stuff I turned down. That might not be a spoiler.

Anyway, I hope you guys love how Orli is coming along as much as I do. And, since nothing I can say will be more interesting than that picture is, I'll just shut up now.

If you want to see more amazing work from Cris, or for information on how to commission her to work on a project for you or your oganization, check out her site:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day 104 - The Book Blurb Has Finally Been Vanquished

I have just spent another TWO HOURS battling that goddamn book blurb. I swear to F--- that is the hardest freaking thing you can possibly imagine. I'd rather just write another damn book. It’s been thirty-some-odd days since I started this mini-monster, and just, wow. I even have a whole bunch of really awesome advice from people, some stuff people wrote and sent to me, which I have digested and plucked delicious bits from (so thank you thank you everyone), and yet, still brutal do do.

So, gahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Anyway, I have just completed another draft of it. I’m probably going to go with this one, because I think it’s got all the right pieces from all the advice I got, while sticking to what I want to do too. So, we shall see. I actually like this one, despite the venom you see before you thus far. So, since there may be some among you curious, I shall paste it below and you can comment on it, vomit on it, or praise its beauty, rhythm and style. Frankly, at this point I am just glad to wash my hands of it. Mostly.

Okay. That little episode past, here it is:
They told him space travel was impossible. They told him the greatest wizards who ever tried it died. He’s going to do it anyway.

Altin Meade is a sorcerer running from a curse, the curse of Six: He’s got too much magic to control, yet not enough to save himself. No Six in his planet’s history has lived beyond the age of twenty-five. Altin is twenty-two. Determined to escape that fate, Altin seeks to leave his homeworld and remake his destiny amongst the stars. But first he has to invent a way to get there—a process that might bring about the very doom he’s trying to avoid.
Far across the galaxy, there is nothing Ensign Orli Pewter hates more than the cold emptiness of space. Brought aboard the spaceship Aspect as a child, she’s spent the last ten years amongst the stars living a life she never asked for, a life of misery. Bright, strong and beautiful, Orli is now an officer in the fleet from Earth, serving a role and a mission she did not choose. As the lumbering Earth ships hunt a mysterious race of genocidal aliens across the enormity of the galaxy, years are ticking off her life. She’s got to get away. She’s got to get out of space. But there is nowhere for her to go.
Or is there?
So there you have it.  I think this is what I’m going to use, although I have until I upload the book to change my mind (sigh). Thank you to everyone who read and helped. Seriously.

Oh, and I’ll write up the blog about my new Cris Ortega art shortly. It really is amazing. I got too caught up in this blurb and didn’t think of it till right now.