Thursday, September 25, 2014
I don’t have anything specific to talk about this week, so I’m just going to jump around. We’ll start with an entry from the “Oh, the Irony” column. The local library’s running a promotion for Banned Books Week: get your photo taken with a banned book. Somebody else got Stephen King, so I went with Harry Potter. (By the way, have you seen that “fanfic” some alleged housewife is writing, that replaces all the references to magic in Sorcerer’s Stone with Christian ideology? In the first installment, Harry is rescued from his Godless existence and learns true Christian values. Common consensus among fandom is that this is really a satire perpetrated by one or more pro writers as a joke. Geez, I certainly hope so. Oh, and since Dumbledore was revealed as gay in the actual series, I suppose we can look forward to a priest-and-altar-boys subplot in an upcoming installment.)
While I was there, I told the ladies running the camera I write erotic romance, but the library’s content filter won’t let me access my publisher’s web site—in effect, banning me from viewing my own output. Their response was instantaneous: “There’s nothing we can do.” It’s the computer program, you see, not the fault of anyone human. I considered asking them who programmed the computer, but I suspect that would have been futile. Apparently the computer programmed itself and makes its own decisions independent of human direction, Hey, scientific community, look over here! The Lancaster County library system has successfully created AI! Terrific. Amish Country will one day be the birthplace of the Terminator. (“Come with me if you want to live, vunst.”) Now we can be famous for more than just buggies and Witness.
I forgot to mention how the filter fails to stop kids from getting into such fun sites as tips for growing pot indoors and how to build a pipe bomb. As long as you’re not having sex with stuff, the program thinks it’s okay. I did point out that the books the program’s designed to block are still readily accessible on Amazon. This revelation took them by surprise. In point of fact, you can still find flat out porn using the library system if you know which sites to look for.
Maybe instead of a computer program they should get that housewife “fixing” Harry Potter to flag sites inappropriate for children. That would reduce options to Teletubby fan sites and the 700 Club home page. I really need to get home Internet.
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Over on our other blog, Shapeshifter Seductions, we’re in the process of putting the serial story together for self-publication. I downloaded the Smashwords style guide and read through it. Now my head hurts. I’ve been working with computers since the early ‘80s, worked for typesetting companies off and on for at least ten years, I’ve got Microsoft Word on my laptop, and I can’t tell you a thing about coding, fonts or typography. I didn’t pay much attention to that stuff. I was just there to type. Maybe that would explain why I kept getting laid off from these places.
But what really gets me is covers. I don’t know how to do graphic design either, in spite of that background listed above. I took a six-week course in Adobe way back when, but didn’t pursue it. How was I to know publishing your own ebooks would become a thing fifteen-odd years later? Who even heard of ebooks fifteen years ago?
I’ve also got a bone to pick with stock images. Covers aren’t created by artists any more. They’re compiled from disparate images through Photoshop. If your lead character has a distinctive tattoo or hair style and they don’t have a picture of it in the files, you and your book are SOL. I foresee a lot of bland, similar-looking covers (with identical-looking leads) in the future.
We’re having that problem right now with our cover for the serial story. We’re trying to come up with a mammoth for the background. The one in the book was a mutated creature with wolf and human attributes, but there aren’t any stock images of that. We’ll have to settle for a generic mammoth (and when’s the last time you saw that term used in a sentence?). It might take longer, but it would look so much better, and much more unique, if we could just draw the damn thing. Why didn’t I take art in college instead of English?
I know I said we weren’t going to gather all the story’s separate posts together into a book. I lied. I’m a lying swine. There, I said it. Never trust a writer. We’re doing it as a promotional aid. The plan is to introduce ourselves and create awareness of our blog (and the books we wrote and advertise on it) to a wider audience. It’s what I’ve been talking about these last three weeks. This is us attempting to reach those million people who, we hope, will give us each a dollar. The serial story itself will be free, but if they like what they read they might check out our backlists. See how it all fits together?
One last thing. If your goal is to be a writer, don’t major in English in college. Take something that’ll let you earn a living. You can learn more from reading a really bad book than any lit courses anyway. But not our books. Our books are great. Keep those dollars coming!