Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Good Intentions

We all know what the road to Hell is paved with, and even by putting this out there, I risk one of Murphy's corollaries, but here goes ...

I have several projects pending. "Pending" can mean different things, and sometimes the phrase "twisting in the wind" is more apt, but what it mostly means is these potential books, movies, etc. are in some stage of waiting-for-somebody-else-to-do-something before I can move on them. 

On any given day, the phone could ring or the email inbox could pop! and those would be like a starter's gun going off at a long-distance race. I don't have to be in the blocks, but I need to be ready to step up to the starting line pretty quick.

As a writer, if you are juggling several efforts, you have to leave time, because there is usually a deadline involved for some of them, and more often than not, these deadlines are shorter than they should be: That tie-in novel that had eight months on the clock when you started talking about it got dicked around before somebody made a decision, and five of those months have slipped past—but the deadline is the same. 

Or there's an opening in a schedule because something fell through, and they need a replacement yesterday. Sometimes you can do it, sometimes you can't, and while I hate to turn down paying work, I have had to do so more than a few times because my plate was simply too full. Better than the alternative, but still ...

As a working pro, if you delve into work-for-hire or shared universes, you have to be able to accommodate a certain amount of capriciousness, because ... that's how it is. Writers who can step up and step in and get something done cleanly and quickly will get work sometimes because that is the overriding factor–if they need it Tuesday and you can deliver it and a better writer can't? They'll go with you. A pretty good book on the racks when they need it there is better than a great book half-done at the writer's house.

Um. Anyway, what all this means is that I'm moving a back-burner project onto the front burner. I have attended to the paying projects as best I can for the nonce, and it is my intent—which I hereby repeat doesn't always mean much—to put my energy back into a book near to my heart, i.e., Churl, the next Matador novel.

Since Ace has passed on this one, I'll be putting it up as an ebook, possibly a POD, and possibly in  conjunction with half a dozen of the backlist Matador novels, once those rights are reverted, a process that currently ongoing. Might take five or six months for that, because that's the general flow of such things, and after I have that, we'll see what's what.

There seems to be a demand for these, but that remains to be seen.

Here's the rub for my fans: If this book gets done and up and sells really well, then I'll do another one soon; if it tanks, probably I won't be in any kind of hurry. So if you want to read another one, the more bushes you beat to scare up buyers, the more likely I am to put it at the top of the list. How's that for literary blackmail? (I'm still planning to write another one, but the question will be, When can I get to it? That will be up to the market.)

Would that I had a patron who would pay all the bills whilst I paint the chapel ceiling; alas, that's now how it goes these days. 

I realize that by getting back into Churl, it's like washing your car–which, as we all know, is why it rains–and that another project is apt to thunder in and put a halt to Matadornity, but just so you know? That's the plan ...

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I got a quick turnaround–no pun intended–on the DVD I ordered, Dave Mullany's Introduction to BluesShowed up here one day after I ordered it, some kind of mail delivery speed record, even from Portland to Beaverton, I think.

Mullany has plenty of credits, and the vid is laid out simply: There is an introduction, a tuning reference, and detailed lessons on how to play four songs: Robert Johnson's Love in Vain; Eli McDaniel's Before You Accuse Me; Blind Boy Fuller's Step It Up and Go; and Good Morning Blues, by Brownie McGee. Comes with a TAB/standard notation/lyrics booklet, about eighty minutes of instruction. Split-screens, close-ups, like that. 

I dunno if you've worked with these kinds of vids, but this is a good one. Mullany plays the first verse or two of a song, then breaks it down into chords, fingering, rhythm, and takes you through each slowly. Blues shuffle, turnarounds, fingerpicking, enough so you can get a flavor of different styles, from delta blues to a little jazzier ragtime. First song is the easiest and they get a little more difficult as you go, but nothing scary for somebody at my skill level.

The video is clear, the production clean, and the material, which is basic, presented well. It's basic blues, but if you are a beginning guitarist still having trouble switching from an A- to a D-chord, probably better you wait a while before you get this–blues are simple, but as we all know, simple doesn't mean easy ...

I stuck the vid into the computer and went through the first lesson, and while I haven't gotten it down yet, I did learn Robert Johnson's classic turnaround, and got to practice the shuffle in A. 

It's a start. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

New and Improved!

I use a leather guitar strap thingee called a Neck-Up. It's a great gadget; it allows you to prop the guitar on your leg with, well, the neck up, and if you play in the classical position, i.e. sitting, it keeps you from having to prop your foot on one of those classical guitar foot-rests. These can be bad for you long term, sciatica and like that, and when you can keep both feet flat on the floor, you can use a regular chair and not have to worry about carrying your foot-rest with you. Way more comfortable, too. 

Acoustic players who prop their instrument on the other leg, it works fine for that, too. 

Mostly, it works great most of the time. Now and then, one of the suction cups that keep it attached to the guitar comes undone. (If you have an acoustical with an end pin, you use only one of the cups, which attaches to the waist of the guitar. If you don't have an end pin, as in a classical nylon stringer, the thing uses two suction cups.) 

There are two sizes of cups, and for security, I ordered the larger ones. But even so, the strap goes slack now and then when the upper suction cup lets go. I think it has to do with the finish, which is thin on my guitar.

Not dangerous, the guitar is on your lap because you are sitting, so it doesn't go far, but it is annoying.

So, since I had a couple of extra suction cups, it occurred to me that I could upgrade the system, and I added two more of them into the mix. Two high, two low, paired large and small.

Much more secure with four instead of two. It hasn't peeled off accidentally yet.

Adventures in Music

There's nobody to take an instrumental solo at the jam session I attend. I can do a little fingerstyle and a couple of single-note or double-stop leads on this and that, but I'm more like Guitar George in Dire Straits first hit, "The Sultans of Swing:" I don't know all the chords, but I'm strictly rhythm, I've never wanted to make it cry or sing. (Digression: Seems like only a little while ago that song came out, but not really, it was 1979 when it first rolled into MTV's stage. Thirty-two years. Lord, how time flies ...)

Mmm. Anyway, I realized that at the jam group if there are three rhythm guitarists, one of us needs to step up, and if it's me, I'm gonna have to at least learn the pentatonic boxes.

These "boxes" are patterns on the fretboard that, when properly played, give you the ability to do leads over chords.

For those of you not guitarists, playing lead involves knowing one's scales, and one can get by with pentatonics because they tend to sound pretty good over a lot of blues, rock, or folk. I know two of these, but there are five in the CAGED progression–the letters stand for notes–that I should know and be able to play. 

(This doesn't scratch guitar modes very deeply. Let me exhaust my knowledge of that here for you:

Ionian - Same as the major scale 
Dorian - A scale with a flattened 3rd and 7th  
Phrygian - A scale with a flattened 2nd, 3rd, 6th & 7th 
Lydian - A scale with a sharpened 4th 
Mixolydian - A scale with a flattened 7th 
Aeolian - Same as a natural minor scale. A scale with a flattened 3rd, 6th & 7th 
Locrian - A scale with a flattened 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th & 7th

If this all sounds like Greek to you, that's because it is, and good guitarists can play these without knowing the names, they just noodle them out.) 

All of which is to say that I'm going to drop round Artichoke Music, which is a store/music school, and take a basic blues class. I have the teacher's DVD on order, and I'll fiddle with that, then go and see if I can make a dent in my ignorance ...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

These Kids Today

Grounded WA daughter shoots dad with arrow

by Associated Press
Posted on May 26, 2011 at 8:34 AM

TAHUYA, Wash. -- A teenage girl has been arrested in Mason County for allegedly shooting her dad with an arrow after he took her cell phone away.

Detectives say the man told officers that his 15-year-old daughter used a hunting bow to shoot him Wednesday evening after he grounded her and took the phone. He's listed in serious condition at a Seattle hospital.

Deputies say the girl fled into woods behind her home with the bow and arrows but a SWAT team surrounded her and arrested her for investigation of first-degree assault.

And the Beat Goes On

October last, I sat down with some musicians who had a weekly jam session and uncased my guitar to try and sing and play along. They called themselves the NFUs, for No Fuck Ups, and the name was a joke meant to convey the idea that the players were not that. Guy who ran it knew my wife through work, and he invited me to drop round.

This was my first experience trying to play with a group, and it came to be one of the highlights of my week. Mostly, they were better players and singers than I. Most of them could play more than one instrument. Much of the repertoire consisted of numbers I didn't know, standards, blues, oddball songs from hither and yon, but by dint of practice, I was (mostly) able to keep up. Not able to take an instrumental solo, I do rhythm and a little fingerpicking, but I could manage the chords, and each session, I learned more about stuff you don't get practicing on your own.

Lou, the guy who sponsored the group at his house, pulled the plug in April. He was in another home jam group, plus he had been asked to play harmonica with some folks who were actually getting gigs and paid and all, and he wanted to concentrate on those. Couldn't blame him for that.

Most of the NFUs had other musical venues, and they went on their way. I didn't, and having gotten a taste for it, I looked around for another jam group I might join. 

I found one, the Closet Musicians, not that far from my house, and after some back and forth via email, was invited to drop by. 

This is an older group, some of the players and singers are in their eighties, and I've been going there for four or five sessions and having a fine old time.

It's a different experience. 

The NFUs had a songbook, and somebody would suggest a number, count it down, and we'd roll. They had memorized a fair amount of material. Different people would sing the lead, there'd be instrumental breaks, and different players would take a solo. If you had something new, you'd bring the lyrics and chords and give it a go. We drank beer, played for about three hours, and finished with pie. 

The CMs have a whiteboard with a few songs on a set list, a couple of tryouts for new stuff, for which we get emails with the chord sheets, and a couple of songs that we have played once or twice and are still deciding if they will go into the repertoire book or purgatory ...

Sometimes we have cookies or hard candy, but they aren't beer drinkers. I know some of their songs, but there are also standards and oddballs I haven't played, or in some cases, ever heard. Mostly everybody sings along with each tune, now and then somebody will do a vocal solo, and with the players who have shown up since I've been there, nobody plays lead instrumental solos.

In the NFUs, I was the newbie who had to work to keep up. In the CMs, I'm still the newbie, but vocally and musically, I am, relatively speaking, better than I was in the NFUs.

Always a student, of course, but now, oddly enough, sometimes people are asking me questions.

That's interesting. I've long thought that you can learn as much teaching as you do being a dedicated student, I've seen this in silat for years. If you teach a thing, you need to know it well enough to show it and explain it, and when people ask questions, you don't always know the answers and you have to work them out. 

So my musical chops aren't getting polished as much, but my theory is having to get better. Somebody asks, "Where do I have to capo to play this in G?" I have to look at the chart and figure it out. 

There are some CM players who are much better than I, from what I hear, but none of them have made it round yet. Until they do, if there is an instrumental break, I'm going to have to learn how to play lead. 

Scales? Scary ...

And group dynamics are interesting, as in any social setting, so I have to figure out how I fit into those. 

Never, as I might have mentioned here before,  a dull moment ...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Funny Man

Jimmy Fallon, doing Neil Young, with a surprise guest ...

(And yes, that's who you think it is ...)

And check out Fallon's Dylan impersonation ...

The Fretboard Journal

Just renewed my subscription to The Fretboard Journal. If you are looking for a classy magazine with outstanding photography and articles on stringed musical instruments what have fretboards on 'em, this is as good as it gets. Terrific all the way around. 

How Funny is Life?

Watching the news night before last and there was a story about a new strip club opening up in Portland. The neighbors were upset, because there was already a strip club there, and the idea of a second one and an impending red light district was distressing to them.

Okay, that's a legitimate reaction. The traffic that occurs when guys with a lot of one-dollar bills go to look at nekkid women and drink beer maybe isn't so bad, but they sometimes draw folks selling drugs, or women in the world's oldest profession, and they might not be who you want your spouse or kids to run into on their way to the Safeway. 

Psst. Hey, mister. Want a date? Need some Viagra ... ?

But here's the part I found funny. The established club in this story Casa Diablo, is the world's first—and so far as I am able to tell, only—vegan strip club.

There are three words I never expected to see in the same sentence: Vegan. Strip. Club. It boggles the mind.

A quick search of local internet comes up with some bad puns and strained word play, as you might imagine. And this once more goes to prove that if you are a science fiction or fantasy writer, you don't have to look far to come up with things that will fit right into the most esoteric alien culture you might want to create ...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Far Side

I somehow found myself thinking about Gary Larson this morning while walking the dogs. Those of you too young to know who he is, he was the author and illustrator for The Far Side, a syndicated single-panel cartoon that was the funniest intentional toon ever to grace the pages of a newspaper. Had a wit that was sharper than a box full of razor blades and a really crooked way of looking at the world.

The Far Side ran for nearly fifteen years, made Larson rich, and tired of the deadlines, he shut it down in the mid-nineties. He didn't want to phone it in, and better to go out on top, he said.

Got to love that about the man. 

Back when TFS was running in just the Seattle paper–I disremember if it was the P.I. or The Seattle Times, but both of which I was reading in those days, Larson put some of his originals up at a Norwescon art show, selling them for something like fifteen bucks each. 

I saw one. 

I didn't buy it. 

This is a tragedy right up there with my grandma throwing out my comic book collections with half a dozen first editions, from Scrooge McDuck to Fantastic Four and Spider Man ...

The Far Side was hilarious, fans all had their favorites, and half the science labs in the world had them stuck up on walls and specimen fridges. It's hard to narrow it down, there were so many great ones. The three I remember liking a lot were 1) "Blah-blah Ginger," in which a split panel showed a guy yelling at his dog, and the only word she gets is her name; 2) A device worn by a scientist that translates what dogs say, and what they all say, all the time, is "Hey! Hey! Hey!" and 3) Tonto standing outside an outhouse saying, "Kemosabe! The music's starting, the music's starting!" That last one put me on the floor when I first saw it. So clever. And meaningless to anybody who wasn't of an age to have seen the old Lone Ranger TV series. 

Larson was a passing good jazz guitarist, and after he retired, he pursued it, apparently able to take lessons from world-class players, and good enough sit around and jam with them. 

Last report I could find, he was living more or less anonymously in Seattle, very low profile, and enjoying his life. 

Good for him. 

Little Bobby Zimmerman

Happy birthday, Bob.

Seventy. My.

Monday, May 23, 2011

eBook News

Here's something I saw today: Apparently Amazon.com is going to start accepting ebook submissions in ePub format and not just Word or .mobi. 

That will open up a larger door there, and I suspect, move us closer to a standardized format. Make life easier for publishers, including those of us who limit ourselves to publishing our own stuff. 

Big wheel keeps on turnin' ...

Oops ...

Ghost Wars

Peter Cushing, the actor who played Tarkin in the Star Wars movie, died in 1994. These photos above were taken this year. How?

A sculpture. 

Might get you a ticket-free ride in the diamond lane, you think?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Facing Violence

Constant Readers will know that I have a great deal of respect for Rory Miller, whose background in life gives him unique qualifications for teaching and writing about such subjects. His take on violence is based on long experience, and his observations go to the point that learning what he offers might save your life–and it doesn't get any more valuable than that.

His latest book from YMAA publications is Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected, and whether you read his earlier work, Meditations on Violence or not, this work stands alone and you should get it.

Get both if you haven't already.

I spoke about this book here last summer, when I had a chance to read it in manuscript form. And to maintain truth in advertising, I gave him a cover quote after that reading, but I'm not making any money off that deal, so my endorsement is at least semi-objective. 

Rory and I have been known to disagree on various subjects, on his blog or mine; we don't see eye-to-eye, and probably never will regarding some of the details of who we are and what we do; still, that is no impediment to me flacking his stuff here. It's a good book, better-written than the first, and I hope he sells a million copies of it. 


The origin of the term "deadline" comes from prison useage: A line beyond which the guards had leeway to shoot a prisoner who disregarded it. 

I became familiar with the term through newspapers: This was a time beyond which copy submitted was too late to make the next edition of the paper. Once the type was set and the presses running, stopping them and re-setting type was a spendy and time-consuming process, and the only thing that would do that was a major breaking story that could not wait. WAR! or LOHAN ARRESTED ... !

This has become the more common meaning: A deadline is a time beyond which a project is late, and sometimes, irreparably so.

Deadlines in daily publishing or TV programming are necessarily tight, and missing one is a big no-no. You don't open the morning paper and find a block of white space in the middle of a page with a note that says, "Sorry, the story that was supposed to be here was late." Same thing with magazines or the evening news. 

If you are writing a movie-tie in novelization and it needs to be on the racks the week the movie comes out, it has to be going to print X-number of weeks before that, and must be edited Y-number of weeks before that. The margin is narrower and with less give.

Sometimes,  as in the case of an original book you are writing, these deadlines have wiggle room, they are considered "soft." Most writers I known, myself included, have had, if they work in a shared-world series, an experience wherein an editor absolutely-positively-has-to-have-it-by-the-1st-or-the-world-will-grind-to-a-halt! Writers will crank like they are on crank and make it under the wire. 

Six weeks later, when they haven't heard anything, a follow-up note gets this response: Oh, um, I haven't had time to read it yet, sorry.. 

That editor's credibility goes into the toilet. Tell that story at a gathering of writers and watch the nods. 

So if you have been around a while, you ask, when do you really have to have it? to see how much of a buffer the editor is giving him- or herself. On hurry-up projects, sometimes that buffer becomes critical.

But soft or not, eventually, there comes a point beyond which the piece is gonna be shot, and you as a worker do not want to cross that line.

I used to know an artist who was a pretty good illustrator. He had drawing chops, a good eye for detail, and his work graced several magazines for which I wrote, and some book covers in the F&SF field. He eventually faded from view, however, and it was not because he couldn't produce good art, it was because he couldn't get it in on time.

He always had a reason and it was never his fault. 

There are legitimate excuses, of course. If your mother dies, your spouse gets deathly ill, you break your arm, you likely get a pass. And if you are terribly unlucky and two or three of these things happen to you in succession, editors will sometimes still cut you slack, as much as they can. Depends on how established you are, how good at it, how much they like you. But eventually it comes down to reliability. If you can't get the work done and in on time, they will look elsewhere, because there are people who can deliver. "Why" doesn't matter as much as "Doesn't." 

I've been lucky in that I've made most of mine over the years, the deadlines. And it's now and again tricky.

If you have a collaborator, you are waiting on their draft and they are late? Not your fault, except that it is, because you are a team, and if team loses, you lose, and too bad. You can parse the blame among the players, but the final score is what matters. And mostly my collaborators have been conscientious and held up their end. (Not always. There have been some failures wherein I had to scramble and pick up more slack than I wanted, and that's disappointing, but part of the risk. What if your collaborator gets hit by a bus halfway through his or her draft? You have to be ready.)

I point all this out for those of you who are considering going into the shared-universes as I have done. If you get there, you will be better served by figuring out what the deadlines are, how flexible or inflexible they are, and making sure you observe the placement of your feet around them. You might not get shot, but if you miss deadlines too often, you likely won't get more work in that realm. You need to know this. 

Got Wood?

I must have missed this issue of the comic when it came out ...

The first funny picture notwithstanding, I was a big fan of The Rifleman TV series as a kid. It ran, in black-and-white, from 1958-1963, starring Chuck Connors and Johnny Crawford. 

In the 1880's, Lucas McCain was a widower raising his pre-pube son, Mark, on a ranch in North Fork, New Mexico. Westerns were all the rage on the tube back then, and this one had two gimmicks: First, no momma on the ranch, and second, there was that rifle. This was a tricked-out Winchester lever-action that McCain could twirl, spin, and cook off shoots as fast as a machinegun. Ten shots in the magazine, one in the pipe, yet sometimes McCain would fire off a dozen rounds without reloading. Hell of a gun, the Winchester. 

A model 1892 carbine, in .44-40, which meant the gun didn't come out until years after the time and setting for the TV show, but they played with a couple, so there might have been an 1873 model in there. The .44-40 round–numbers are, respectively, caliber and grains of power–was Winchester's first centerfire metallic cartridge, and there were also revolvers chambered for it, including the Colt six-shooter. 

Ostensibly a man of peace who was always telling his son that violence was a last resort and like that, McCain pretty much kept the Winchester ammo division in business all by himself, the number of rounds he blasted off ...

(Much like a character with a similar name who would arrive on the tube nearly ten years later, Kwai Chang Caine, McCain was a great example of do-like-I-say-not-like-I-do, and never far away from his thunderstick. Bad guys dropped like poisoned flies back in them days of violent TV.)

Connors was a serious jock. He played pro basketball–for the Celtics in Boston–and later went on to play pro baseball, including a stint with the Brooklyn Dodgers,  one of only a dozen or so men to ever do both sports as a pro. His fame as a basketball player was that he was the first guy to ever break a backboard.

Before Connors got the role of Lucas McCain, he was best known for his starring role in the Disney movie, Old Yeller. After The Rifleman, he went on to various character parts, and his last years, he played a villain on Spencer, a werewolf in the Fox series Werewolf, and was on the western series Paradise.

There are two stores  about how Connors got the role of McCain. The first is probably true, but mundane: The producers interviewed forty or fifty actors, and decided that Connors was the guy, but low-balled their offer, which he turned down. One of the producers then saw Old Yeller and determined that they had to have him, so they upped the ante, and he signed on.

The second story is probably apocryphal, but I like it better: As each actor auditioning for the part walked into the room, a flunky would toss a Winchester rifle at them unexpectedly.
Supposedly Connors, because he'd been a pro baseball player used to handling bats thrown to him, just reached out and caught the rifle, no problem, and he was the only guy who made it look easy. 

A lifelong smoker, Connors died of pneumonia secondary to lung cancer, at the age of 71, in 1992. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Black Steel

Alan's catalogue is up. This is a particularly fine collection of blades, and very reasonably priced. Have a look. 

Stopping Power

Long ago and far away, I was a private eye. When I moved back to Louisiana from L.A., My brother and I opened our own agency, Perry and Perry Confidential Investigators. We worked our own cases, but most of what we did was sub-contracting for a lawyer/investigator who was much better established. The pay was okay, there was plenty of work, and it was interesting.

This was Ron Johnston and Associates, and we were the associates. There was a period there of a year or so when we were the go-to guys for P.I. biz in Baton Rouge, and we had some adventures ...

Ron, a balding, nervous, two-pack-a-day smoker, was doing well enough that he decided to buy a wine and cheese place. This was called The Bottle Shop, and it was ahead of its time–they probably sold more Mad Dog and cheap Gallo than anything else. Ron kept it for a while and then got rid of it. It was on Government Street, across from the entrance to the Rebel Drive In Theater.

Now and again, when the regular clerk was sick or otherwise unavailable, I would sometimes cover the stick-up shift, from six until midnight. Mostly that gave me a chance to catch up on my reading, since business was slow at best, and glacially so during those hours. 

There was a big container of Slim Jims on the counter, and for those of you who have never indulged in such, these were long and skinny sticks of compressed-something that was a spicy, greasy, salty, jerky-like snack. Vile things, and I used to eat three or four of them every time I worked there.

I told you that story so I could tell you this story:

Ron kept a .32 S&W revolver under the counter at the wine shop, just in case. Ron was not a shooter, he had a couple of old handguns, and the ammo in the one at the shop was so old the brass was turning green. Only five rounds in the gun, and one empty shell under the hammer.

I knew the gun was there, I checked it, and though I never needed it, it was comforting to know I could lay my hands on it in an emergency.

Well, comforting until I found the box of envelopes ...

Because the shift was so quiet and there was usually little to do, and because I was, after all, a private eye who got paid to snoop, when the place was empty, I took the opportunity to poke around. Under the counter were business-related things, including a box of #10 envelopes. I happened to notice that there was a small hole in the end of the box.


So I opened it up, and lo, the first twenty or thirty of these were ripped along the top edges, and at the end of the furrow was an expended .32 round.

It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out: Gun under the counter, one empty in the cylinder, box of envelopes with a bullet in it. The only questions were, who had fired the shot? And why?

I pointed this out to Ron, and to shorten the story, the regular clerk who at first denied it, eventually admitted to plinking the box. Why? Because he was bored, and he wanted to see if the gun worked. 

It did work, sort of, but the next time I clerked in the shop, I brought my own gun with me. If a round from the .32 wouldn't penetrate more than a few inches of paper envelopes, it didn't seem like it was apt to stop a robber lusting after some MD 20/20 and the contents of the register ...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Train is at the Station

In case you missed it, Amazon.com is reporting that their ebook sales have outstripped paper book sales.

That is, for every hundred paper books they sold this quarter, they sold a hundred and five ebooks.

This is major, folks. And they aren't counting the freebies in this tally.

Smile of the Day

Art Contest

All right, here's the deal. I'm offering a contest for starving artists. The idea is to produce for me an image of alien female who will be one of the main characters in an in-progress science fiction space opera novel upon which I am working. 

I am going to put up some roadblocks, and I'll warn you of them to as we go ...

I laid out the basics in a previous post, but I will repeat and amplify them here. If you want to play, read this carefully. Pay attention, because anything that doesn't meet the requirements gets tossed. 

I am asking for a specific thing, and I don't want to see anything other than that. Drawings of winged tigers, fairies, or unicorn-porn get deleted immediately. Not to say they might not be wonderful, but these aren't the droids for whom I am looking ...

I'm going to describe a character. From that description, I'd like to see a drawing, painting, sculpture, some kind of representation that presents the character. The artist who comes closest to the vision I have is the winner. 

I am not looking for a cover design yet, just the character, posed however you like.

I'm the sole judge. I might show stuff around and ask for opinions, but it has to work for me.

There is no entry fee, but artists are limited to one submission each. 

The idea for the novel (and others in a possible series) is being pitched, but the first book won't be done for a while. Unless I get a hurry-up for some reason, I'm thinking the deadline for this contest will be August 31st, 2011, at the latest. 

Speed is thus not of the essence; however, if it takes you six months to do a drawing, that is a handicap if I need it sooner.

I ordinarily wouldn't ask artists to work for free, save that a contest is that by nature; and my thoughts are that the one who comes closest will get one of two prizes–such that they are, depending on the scenario that comes to pass.

One winner, no second or third places, no ribbons, no trophies. If your art was close, I'll say so, and time permitting, I'll speak to submissions, but no guarantees.  I reserve the right to post entries here if I think they come close to what I have in mind. If there is an honorable mention, that's it.


First scenario: If the book gets picked up by a traditional publisher, I will submit the artwork with the ms and suggest that they hire the artist for the cover illo. 

To be upfront here, they don't pay a lot of attention to me in New York City about cover art, so this could be no more than wishful thinking, and you need to know that–it's a long, long shot at best. I'll make best effort.

If you buy a lottery ticket and are seriously upset when you don't win? Probably you don't even want to start down this road.

If an artist somehow gets the job from the publisher, this will have been his or her audition piece, and the commission is the prize. You do the work, you get paid, I'm not part of any such deal. My victory is that I get to offer what I think the character should look like.

Failing a direct commission, which I have to repeat, is likely, I'll ask that the publisher at least use the winner's artwork as a basis for the character–if they put her on the cover, and 
that's if they do, the artist will have bragging rights, and a small payment out of my pocket. 

If they don't use it, you don't get the bragging rights, but I'll still kick in a small honorarium.

How small is small? I dunno, that will depend on how big an advance I get, but for an artist trying to break in, it could be a show piece: Steve Perry thinks this illo is the best version of his alien in his new book series and you can ask him for a reference ...

You won't get rich off any such prize, but you might be able to buy a new pair of good shoes, if you aren't planning to go to Italy to buy them ... 

Further, if the artist is into graphic novels and has any desire to play with this series in that medium, I'll offer him or her the right of first refusal for those rights.

Second scenario: If the book winds up as a e-novel instead of a traditional paperback, and I publish it and thus have to provide my own cover, I'll offer the winner the chance to illustrate it. 

Again, we aren't talking about big bucks, a small advance against a small royalty. If I could afford to hire a top working pro illustrator to do my e-covers, I would do so. (You aren't supposed to give away any part of your royalty, but if the cover art helps sell a lot of copies, in this special case, I'm willing to share that with an artist in lieu of a big advance.) 

That's the deal, and if you don't think it's fair, that's cool, I understand. Lot of "ifs" here. But if you enter, that is your choice. I'm not leading anybody down the garden path. I'm not The Huffington Post ...

You won't get rich off such a royalty, either, but if your cover is there on Amazon.com and iBooks to be seen, maybe that gets you more work. Maybe.

Naturally, I don't expect to get established illustrators interested in this kind of venture, any more than somebody would get me to write a novel thusly; however, for somebody who is getting artistic chops but hasn't had a place to showcase them, this might not be such a bad deal. I used to write for a couple of penny-a-word magazines, and was happy to do it at the time. We all have to start somewhere.

Don't mail anything to my house. Submissions must be via email in a common electronic media format–JPEG, GIF, PDF, like that, and not so big they choke my server. How big is that? You should be able to keep them under a couple of megs for purposes of email. If I want to see larger images with a higher resolution, I'll ask you for them. If you send me a half-gig file, I won't open it. 

Submissions can be rendered in whatever medium you want, pencils, oils, clay, bronze, electronic, B&W or color, whatever, as long as the scan or picture is clear enough so that if I am looking at it on a 72 dpi computer screen, I can tell what it is. For my part, you retain ownership of your original to keep or sell as you choose, and that's usually the case when publishers buy the publication rights–you get your original back when they are done with it.
For an ebook, I don't need the original, only a clean scan, but that's down the road and maybe.

Winner will be chosen when and if I get enough submissions, and I reserve the right to vote "No Award" if nobody gets close to what I want.

If you are still here, the description:

KLUTHfem is of the Vastalimi race. She is about five feet tall, (152 cm) mesomorphic build, and there are three terran creatures to keep in mind when constructing her: Tiger, hominid (ape), and praying mantis. "Kay," looks mammalian, has short, orange fur–no stripes, but of a tiger-like density. Vastalini do not ordinarily wear clothes, though they will use belts for gear and will sport combat armor when appropriate.

Two arms, two legs, no tail, stands upright. She has retractable claws on each of her fingers and toes, talons that are about four-centimeters long when extended. Fingers and toes, not paws.

Kay has a head shaped somewhat like that of a praying mantis, however, it is less insectile than a mantis. The basic wedge-shape, but while her eyes are larger than that of a human, they are not a large as those of a mantis compared to her head's size, and keep in mind that nature is surely going to offer protection for the eyes of an evolved, intelligent creature unless the eyes can regenerate. 

Here's the main trick–her facial features need to be something that won't cause humans to turn away in horror. I do not want to see an orange version of the Predator, but a face that should be, in its own, albeit odd, way, attractive. She needn't be cute, but neither should she be repellent.

Submission conveys no other special rights in my direction, save that you are using one of my copyrighted characters as the basis, so she's literarily mine–that's how it works. 

Terms for the winner will be worked out. I'll want to use the image on my blog and in whatever online advertising I might do if I publish the e-novel. If it gets to that, we can dicker, and there will be contracts and all like that to protect both of us. 

If all this doesn't make you want to tell me to go fuck myself, here's where you send it:


By submitting work, you agree to the conditions listed above.

I'll keep you posted.