More on Adjusting

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Part of Drunken Owl’s gear, such as it is…

A. and I had a conversation over dinner the other day about adjusting to life’s changes.  She’s currently between jobs and she might be, as she says, “catching up on years of lost sleep”, but she’s not wasting time at all.  She’s been brushing up on her skills by taking various online courses, and she’s also currently taking part in NaNoWriMo, writing a mystery novel.  We’re both relatively comfortable financially at the moment where she can afford to take some time off and readjust to real life.

This got me thinking as well, because we both understand what it means not to have a job, and especially what it means to live paycheck to paycheck.  So many things we’ve put off for one reason or another, whether it be financial or emotional or whatever.  I always found this deeply depressing and intensely aggravating, to be honest.  Since I was a kid I’d always wanted to be a writer, an artist, and a musician — not one or the other, but all three — but it was hard for me to focus on all of them.  They all demand countless hours of practice, knowledge, and labor that a person already working full time may not have time for.  This is precisely why it took me until my forties to become a self-published author, and to a lesser extent, why it took me until my forties to dedicate some daily practice time for my music playing.  And why, alas, I have never had enough time to focus on art.

I’d said to her that I was both impressed and maybe a little jealous that she now had this time to catch up on all the things she hadn’t been able to do.  I would absolutely love to be able to not think about Day Job stress and simply focus on learning the ins and outs of things I’d love to do.  I would love to take art classes again — something I haven’t done since high school.  I would love to learn how to record multi-track song demos in Spare Oom.  I would also love to improve my writing without having to carve out whatever precious time I might have for it.

[Mind you, this is also why I am always angered by those who view the arts as frivolous and not worth federal funds or adequate payment for delivered goods.  But that’s another post entirely.]

So what’s happening right now is that I’ve been doing some deep thinking about this.  I’ve been contemplating changing up the Day Job for some time, as you already know, and with that change comes the adjustment of other things in my life.  This is a perfect time for me to start making a stronger effort to include those ‘extracurricular activities’ in my daily life instead of keeping them at the level of wishful thinking.

On Self-Publishing: Creating Book Covers

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Picture credit: Shutterstock/Jose AS Reyes.

I’ve said it before, I love doing covers for my books.  It’s another creative avenue that I get to play around in that I don’t otherwise have much time for.   Every now and again I’ll go through my own pictures and create one just for practice.  [I’ve even come up with a few pseudonyms for certain styles; for instance, all my fake mystery novels are all written by Chase Johnson, and my fake lit-fic and women’s fiction is by Joanna Chase.  Why? Because it’s fun!]

I’m still sticking with the above image for In My Blue World, so if I’m going to use it, all I need to do is purchase the rights from Shutterstock, fiddle around with it a bit, slap the title and by-line on it, and call it done.  I still use Adobe Photoshop to crop it to the right size and adjust the image.  (I’m probably going to lighten it a bit so the title and by-line will pop out more.)  And I still use the PicMonkey website for the text.  Sometimes it takes a short amount of time, sometimes it’ll take a few days before I get it to how I like it.

One thing I’ve learned from doing covers — aside from enjoying the process immensely — is that I should always make sure the cover ties in with the novel in a specific and important way.  It’s not enough to get a badass lady with a katana on the cover…there has to be a reason for it.  In this case, I chose this cover for a few reasons:

–The first half of the novel takes place in forest land.
–I didn’t want the girl to be in an Attack Mode pose, but an I’m Ready for This pose.
–I didn’t want her clothes to be stereotypically frilly or flashy (or steampunk or goth, for that matter).
–I wanted there to be at least some hint of blue sky in the background.
–It needed to have a decent amount of space for the title; in this particular instance, I like how the text not only balances it out, it intermingles with it.

This is also why I used the cover for Meet the Lidwells! that I did; it was a straightforward concert poster-stapled-to-lightpost image that is pretty much universal for any band starting out.  They say that the cover often pre-sells the book, especially if it’s eye-catching enough from across the sales floor (or legible in thumbnail online, for that matter).  Don’t think of that as needing a flashy action shot, or a crafty written-in-chalk image.  Look at other covers you thought were innovative or creative.  Look at the ones that made you stop and pay attention to it; then look at the cover as you would a piece of art…why did it make you stop?  And how can you use that on your own covers?

Just like my writing, my cover art has changed and evolved and advanced, little by little.  The more I practice, the more fake covers I make, the bigger my portfolio that I can use later on if I so choose.  And I would like to expand on it as well; for the Apartment Complex story I’m thinking about commissioning an artist — specifically a webcomic artist.  I already have a few images in my head that could work.  I’d still do the text, but I’d like a unique image this time out.

I know there’s a lot of self-publishing advice out there stating that you should never do your own cover, but I’d probably amend that: don’t do it if you don’t want to do it, or if you don’t have the ability.  On the other hand, if you have the artistic chops?  Go for it!  It’s a hell of a lot of fun and you can get really creative with it.

Repost Because It’s Needed: Brothers and Sisters

This was written and posted on 11 November of last year.  Given today’s appalling actions of the Republican party today regarding the healthcare repeal, I felt it necessary to repost. 

As it stands, I have absolutely no more fucks to give on that party, obviously. 

Thus, I find it imperative that if they’re so bent on the Federal government not being in charge, that they’d rather put lives at risk just to save someone else money, then we must find a way to help ourselves.  Especially where healthcare and insurance are concerned.

Never thought I’d sound like one of those telethons of yore, but please — do what you can.  If this keeps up, we’re really gonna fucking need it.

* * * *

Well.

Obviously you know how I feel about the Fuckwit winning.

But that’s not what I’m going to talk about.

Let’s talk about other writers, other artists, other musicians.  The creative people out there who inspire us, entertain us, move our spirits.

I’m looking pretty far ahead at the moment.  I dearly hope that I am 100% wrong in feeling this way, but I would not be the least bit surprised if over the next four years, life for creative people starts getting harder.  And that life for people who want to be creative — the students and the kids who dream about being writers, artists, knitters, sculptors, musicians and so on — gets harder as well.

You already know how I feel about this; it’s always aggravated and annoyed me that the arts field is always the last on the budget list and the first to get axed when the economy starts tanking.  You can get financial help if you’re a football or basketball player, but you’re not worth much if you sit around trying to create something (that is, of course, unless you create something that’ll make tons of cash for everyone).  Too many people I know are held back from doing what they do and love best because of the Real Life of having to get a secondary job to supplement their income.

I should know. I’m one of them.  Sure, my wife and I are reasonably okay financially, but if I could contribute as much to our combined income using just my writing, I’d drop my Day Job in a heartbeat.

This is precisely why I love this recent vibrant era of DIY creativity.  Self-publishing, pop-up galleries, personal online stores, webcomics, boutique startups, Bandcamp.  It’s more, a LOT more than saying to hell with the establishment, more than saying ‘wouldn’t it be fun to put on a show in the barn’.  It’s saying “I know exactly what I want to do with my life, and I’m going to make that a reality.”

It’s not saying ‘fuck the rules’, it’s completely rewriting them.

So.

I ask all of you now, do me a solid:

Look at your social media timelines.  Look at those webcomics you read every day.  Look at those bands whose music you download from Bandcamp.  Look at that necklace or pair of earrings you bought off Etsy.  Look at those artists whose painting you picked up from their tiny booth at the local pop-up gallery down the street.  Look at those creative people, and realize that this, their creative work is what they do best.  This is what makes them happy.  This is what lifts their spirits.  Your purchases and downloads and reviews are there to say “I love what you created.”

Do me a favor:  in the next four years, if any of them have a Patreon, are running a Kickstarter, or are doing some kind of of fundraising so they can stay in business doing what they do and love the most in their lives, please donate.  Even if it’s five dollars a month.

What you’re giving them is more than money.  You’re giving them a chance to live the life they’ve always wanted to live.  And that is one of the best things you can do for someone.

Eicho d’eichi.

Well.

Obviously you know how I feel about the Fuckwit winning.

But that’s not what I’m going to talk about.

Let’s talk about other writers, other artists, other musicians.  The creative people out there who inspire us, entertain us, move our spirits.

I’m looking pretty far ahead at the moment.  I dearly hope that I am 100% wrong in feeling this way, but I would not be the least bit surprised if over the next four years, life for creative people starts getting harder.  And that life for people who want to be creative — the students and the kids who dream about being writers, artists, knitters, sculptors, musicians and so on — gets harder as well.

You already know how I feel about this; it’s always aggravated and annoyed me that the arts is always the last on the budget list and the first to get axed when the economy starts tanking.  You can get financial help if you’re a football or basketball player, but you’re not worth much if you sit around trying to create something (that is, of course, unless you create something that’ll make tons of cash for everyone).  Too many people I know are held back from doing what they do and love best because of the Real Life of having to get a secondary job to supplement their income.

I should know. I’m one of them.  Sure, my wife and I are reasonably okay financially, but if I could contribute as much to our combined income using just my writing, I’d drop my Day Job in a heartbeat.

This is precisely why I love this recent vibrant era of DIY creativity.  Self-publishing, pop-up galleries, personal online stores, webcomics, boutique startups, Bandcamp.  It’s more, a LOT more than saying to hell with the establishment, more than saying ‘wouldn’t it be fun to put on a show in the barn’.  It’s saying “I know exactly what I want to do with my life, and I’m going to make that a reality.”  It’s not saying ‘fuck the rules’, it’s completely rewriting them.

So.

I ask all of you now, do me a solid:

Look at your social media timelines.  Look at those webcomics you read every day.  Look at those bands whose music you download from Bandcamp.  Look at that necklace or pair of earrings you bought off Etsy.  Look at those artists whose painting you picked up from their tiny booth at the local pop-up gallery down the street.  Look at those creative people, and realize that this, their creative work is what they do best.  This is what makes them happy.  This is what lifts their spirits.  Your purchases and downloads and reviews are there to say “I love what you created.”

Do me a favor:  in the next four years, if any of them have a Patreon, are running a Kickstarter, or are doing some kind of of fundraising so they can stay in business doing what they do and love the most in their lives, please donate.  Even if it’s five dollars a month.

What you’re giving them is more than money.  You’re giving them a chance to live the life they’ve always wanted to live.  And that is one of the best things you can do for someone.

 

*Note:  – Yes, my subject line is in Anjshé.  It means “brothers and sisters.”