I'm a writer. There, I've admitted it. I wonder if there's a 12-Step program for folks like me...

Most of this blog will be about writing for a living. Or maybe about trying to earn a living as a writer. Or maybe about trying to have a life while you write.

And maybe I'll be able to avoid the driving temptation to write about politics. But I'm not very good around temptation, so all I can promise is that I'll try to avoid writing about politics.

But I will write about the software I use, and the software I try out, and what I think about it. I actually spent lots of years in software testing - as a tester and as a manager of testing departments. I actually started work in software development in 1971, so I have a bit of experience with computers to back up what I have to say on this subject.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

“Hog Valley” goes to press -finally

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“Hog Valley” will go to press at the end of next week. I don’t have an availability date yet, but it should be the end of September. The sooner, the better, to my way of thinking.

I have two large events ahead. On 25 September I will be at the Florida Heritage Book Festival in St. Augustine, in the Virginia Room on the 2nd floor of the Ringhaver Student Center at Flagler College. That’s at the corner of Sevilla and King streets. Hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

On October 16th and 17th I will be at the Orange Park Fall Festival. That will be at 2042 Park Avenue, in the Town Hall. Saturday the 16th 9:30am till 6:00pm. with Opening Ceremonies beginning at 9:30am. Sunday the 17th from 9:30am till 5:00pm.

I am partnering with Lydia Hawkes at both events. She is a a writer of Civil War stories and a great writer. By the way, one of her novels is now a movie…

Today was spent catching up on stuff I managed to put off all week long. I spent a few hours with Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 8, making up 3” x 5” cards featuring the cover art for both “The Big Bend” and “Hog Valley”, along with a few reader comments and the web site address.

PromoCard31Jul2010 copy

It took me about an hour, once I had the two covers resized. Photoshop takes a bit of getting used to because the ‘how-to’ is not always clear, but once you figure out how to do something one way, you just naturally figure out other ways to do the same job. There is plenty of on-line help with this product, so there is no need to hesitate. If you’re unsure how to do something, save your work space and go find out ‘how-to’.

The UI has a dark charcoal background so as not to distract you from your work space. All of the tools are easily available and unambiguous. Even with the limited RAM on my computer, Photoshop Elements works like a charm.

Download the trial version and play with it. It’s fully featured and you’ll have plenty of time to put out some nice work. You’ll probably wind up buying it.


Have a great weekend.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Monday all over again

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I got back to Orange Park on Saturday morning. Doing back-to-back book signings make a lot of sense economically, but it sure is a drag have to do all of that driving in two days. I was about as close to being wiped out as I ever want to be.
The event in Gainesville netted me one sale. On the surface that does not come anywhere close to paying for the gas to get there, but I did get to meet and speak with some very nice people. they may not buy right then and there, but they might next week, or the week after. You never know.
The even at “All About Art” in Belleview was a chromatically variant equine entirely. First of all, it took place in a very unique gallery filled with really neat stuff. There were paintings, as you might imagine, and wood carvings, and stained glass, and clothing and books and incense and art classes and yoga classes. Who’d a thought?
And at least one of the owners is a very good cook. We – the authors – had our tables set up in an exercise room, and the we sat around, introduced ourselves and chatted. About books, of course, and the business of being writers. Lynn Abbey was there – she co-authors with folks like Piers Paul Anthony and does a lot of her own writing as well, and Allan Ansorge – he writes mysteries set up north, and Lydia Hawke, she writes historical fiction set in Florida, and several others whose names I can’t for the life of me recall.
The ladies who set up the evening served as a very nice supper.
Visitors started to arrive right at seven and kept arriving until the event ended at nine. I sold six copies and wound up taking one home. But that’s okay, because my sister had it sold long before I got back to orange Park.
There were a lot of very nice people – authors and visitors alike – at that evening. I feel lucky to have been invited.
Now on to software. I will be writing more about Photoshop Elements 8 by Adobe over the next week or so, with comments about the User Interface this time. I really like this tool.
I’ve been using Intuit’s SimpleStart free version of Quickbooks to control and account for my financing, and I am not all that happy with it. So I started looking around to see what else is available. I found an OpenSource product called TurboCash4 at SourceForge.
OpenSource is freeware all grown up. OpenSource is the Matterhorn of freeware.
You will be reading a good bit about TurboCash4 over the next few weeks.
Stay Tuned.
I wish you all a good week.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Before I leave

I’ll be on the road for the next few days. I’ve got a few book signings on Thursday and Friday, and that means a lot of driving in the hot Florida sun.

So be it. I spent a few hours at the local KIA service center in Orange Park this afternoon, getting the driver’s side window back on its track. They also checked the fluid levels and tire pressure for me. If you’re in the area, I can tell you from previous experience that they are good people to deal with.

Since I won’t be posting for the next few days, I wanted to put my opinion of Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 on paper (so to speak). I’ve used Adobe’s products for several years – going back to to the 90’s, in fact. So when I decided to produce my own book cover for “Hog Valley”, I downloaded a trial copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 8. This is a stand-out piece of software.

Here’s the thing about photo editing software that you should keep in mind when you’re shopping. If it’s billed as “easy to use”, it’s essentially dumb. Image editing is by its nature a complex affair. Easy to use image editing software is only easy because the producers restricted the user’s options to very basic functions, to keep the learning curve as flat (and as ‘easy to use’)as possible. If you paid for it, you probably paid way too much for very little.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 offers beginners and professional image editors all of the tools necessary to do their jobs. Beginners will have some trouble figuring out how to do stuff, but the how-to videos and on-line help is right there for you. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, boys and girls. It’s really not that hard to pick up the basics in this tool, and once you have that down, the rest will fall into place.

Professional image editors already know how good this product is, so I don’t have to waste any time telling them.

Adobe Photoshop Elements is a must have, if you want to do anything more than print your photos.

Last week I produced the book cover for my new novel, “Hog Valley”. The publisher provided a “Guide layer” for the Trim Size for my novel, including the spine width, and two outline markers to indicate Minimum and Maximum image height and width, and a colored box on the back cover for the ISBN number/barcode to ensure that I didn’t print any of the back text in that area.

I already had the cover art – my good friend, Mickey Summers, of Silver Springs, Florida is a very fine artist. He does oils and water colors of the flora and fauna in North Central Florida. He took an existing oil painting and added a fish shack and boat for for the cover art. Mickey was kind enough to send me a half-dozen digital photos or the artwork to choose from.


HVBookCover_4_6x9_Cream_370 copy


I used Photoshop Elements to reduce the original image to 6” x 9”, which is the finished trim size for the novel. Then I created a new Layer, titled ‘Face’, and placed the 6x9 image onto the Face Layer and saved it. Then I created a layer titled ‘Spine’. I used the Select Tool to select a portion of the Face image that would cover the spine area of the Guide Layer, chose Copy, chose Move, and eased the selected area onto the Spine. The I saved the project once again. Next I created another Layer titled ‘Back Cover’. I selected the area for the back cover and used the Color Wheel to develop the shade of tan that I wanted. Then I selected the ‘Paint Bucket’ Tool to fill the Back Cover Layer, and saved that. Then I turned off the Back Cover Layer so I could see the Guide Layer beneath it.

I created a new Layer titled ‘Back Cover Text’, selected it, and typed out the text, making sure to stay away from the area for the ISBN number/Bar Code. Once I had that done, I turned on the Back Cover Layer, which appeared beneath the text. As for the Title and Author Name on the Face, they went on separate Layers on top of the cover image, as did the title and author name on the spine. If you look closely at the image, you will notice that text on the face and spine are all just a bit translucent. That’s on purpose, and it’s all done inside Photoshop Elements.

Image editing and manipulation is all done in Layers. At least, it should be. You can create any number of layers, and turn them on or off. For instance, Once I had the cover art completed, I turned off the Guides Layer and saved the image as a *.PSD file. I also saved it in PDF and JPEG formats, all within Photoshop, all without a hitch.

I really, really, love this software.

As far as my wish list goes, way up at the top is my very own copy of Photoshop Elements 8.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Here's to a good week

Let’s make the most of it, shall we? I stopped at a local hair cuttery yesterday. Got a haircut and beard trim. This morning I realized it wasn’t such a good haircut, so I went back and pointed out a few problem spots to the lady at the desk. There are a few cowlicks, you see. I pointed them out to the woman who was going to cut my hair the other day, and told her those areas had to be cut short or the hair would for sure stick straight out like a bristle brush. So when I told the lady at the desk about it today, she checked and said, “Why that hair sticks straight out like a bristle brush!”

Duh. But she fixed it for me, so I’m happy with the place. I reckon I’ll go right back there in another month or so.

I’ve got two book signings this week, which is why I took the time to get myself cleaned up yesterday. And today, I guess. On Thursday, I’ll be in Gainesville at Books Inc on 13th St. and 5th Ave between noon and 2 pm, and on Friday I’ll be at the All About Art gallery on Hwy 441 in Belleview, south of Ocala, between seven and nine pm. There will be six authors presenting their work at the gallery. Tickets for the gallery signing are $5.00, and the proceeds go to support the Florida Literacy Coalition. It’s a good cause.

“Hog Valley” should be going to the publisher next week. Ill confirm that as soon as it leaves my computer.
In a similar vein, I am giving serious consideration to producing audio books of my novels. “The Big Bend” is available on the Kindle platform, and “Hog Valley” will be as well, but I feel I’m missing the boat by not providing my novels as audiobooks. I can’t let folks like John Grisham have all the fun, can I? This isn’t going to happen tomorrow, but soon.

Please have a safe week.