Mar 24 2019

Proof copies are on the way…

Rosemary

I finished the conversion of The Steerswoman to the larger paperback format, recreated the cover, and uploaded the whole shebang to KDP.  I’ve reviewed the result online… but you just can’t trust how things look on the screen, as I found to my chagrin on other books.  So, I’ve ordered some proof copies, to check how things look before I publish.  They should arrive any day now.

And the cover really does worry me… it’s not just an issue of making it bigger.  Since I’m going for a uniform appearance across all four volumes of the paperback, I thought it was worthwhile to try to fix some problems with the original cover.  And for that, I needed to redo it almost from scratch.

Here’s why:

The cover used on the smaller paperback was based on the cover image for the ebook — and that cover was created in something of a rush. I wanted at that point  (for various reasons) to get the ebook out as quickly as possible.  For the sake of speed, I simply took the actual physical version of the map that was used in the book, and plopped down a real gold chain, an actual example of the “jewel,” and a mobius band ring on top of it. Then I lit  everything as well as I could, and took a photograph.  The camera was just a  middling-quality digital camera, but amazingly, the resulting photo was not terrible.  With the help of the GIMP image-editing software I trimmed it to the right size, added a title and author name and voila!  Instant ebook cover.  On sale in time for Christmas.

 

Ebook cover completed in a flash.

Once I had that design, I did the covers for the other three ebooks using the same concept: Map showing where the action takes place; object from the storyline placed on top of the map.  I could not, however simply take another photograph for the other ebooks — mainly because things like redgrass and dragons do not exist in real life.  So I did the whole thing digitally, starting from a professionally-scanned version of the master-chart, and creating adding the elements as needed.

And as you can see, there’s a big color difference between the first book and the other three.  I discovered that it was impossible for me to reproduce the tone of the photographed map, and after much fuss, I finally settled on merely fading the map a bit, to keep it in the background so that it wouldn’t overpower the other cover elements. As ebook covers, they seemed to work okay…

When it came time to do the paperback of The Steerswoman, I went ahead and used the same photograph as the ebook as a base.  I added a black bar behind the title for better contrast — for a physical book, the cover looked too busy, and too bare with the letters sitting directly on the map.  And I removed the heavy shadows on the lettering.  Those shadows seemed to work for a strictly digital image seen on a screen — but on a real book, the effect just came across as sort of hokey.  It was much better without them. And once that was done, I did new covers with similar designs. I found that I didn’t need to fade the map into the background.  I like the result:

But what you can’t see clearly in the photo above (taken with a mere iPhone, after all), is the very real color difference that still remained, between the first book and the others.  It was still impossible to match the tone from the photo and reproduce the same color and tone onto the digital-image covers.  Because it’s a photograph.  I could not just select and block-change.  The color and shading alter, literally from pixel to pixel, in subtle and unique ways.  The best I could do for the other books was to get something close to the color of the top edge of the image, and have the image shade progressively darker toward the bottom.

But now, with a new edition — well, here’s my chance.  I figured I could recreate the cover of the first book digitally, and back-match the color to the covers of the other three.

Right? Problem: The ring, chain, and jewel are still a photograph.

I’m much more nimble with the GIMP software than I was when I first started using it.  I was able to remove the background entirely, leaving the ring, chain, and jewel.  It was insanely painstaking (pixel by pixel), but I got it done…

And then I used the digital version of the master-chart to create the a new background for the cover (with shading toward the bottom), and put the jewel there… add the bar, lettering, and back-cover blurbs,  and  —

 

Yeah, it looks okay on this screen.  But as I discovered with The Lost Steersman something that looks good on a screen can be very different when printed on an physical object.  When I have it in my hands, will the difference between the photographed element and the rest of the cover be noticeable?  Will it just look horrible in person?

And on top of that, the other books were made through CreateSpace, and this one was executed using the Kindle Direct Publishing’s paperback production process.  It’s possible that there are going to be slight differences between the quality of paper, the clarity of printing, even the feel of the book in one’s hand…

Yeah.  Gotta have that proof copy.

Oh, and guess what?

I literally just now realized that I selected the wrong cover finish.  I set it for matte instead of glossy. The other books are all glossy finish.

Damn.  Too late to cancel the proof order!  Pardon me while I go and reset that option to the correct one, and reorder a proof copy. And spring for two-day shipping.  Worth the cost.

 

 


Mar 20 2019

The equinox

Rosemary

Yep, it’s here.  Oops, there it goes.

Don’t worry.  Spring itself lasts for whole months!

 

Via Astronomy Picture of the Day, time-lapse courtesy of geosynchronous satellite Meteosat.   And a very nice view of what a geosynchronous satellite can actually see…


Mar 15 2019

Please don’t download from the pirates!

Rosemary

Periodically, people let me know about pirated copies of my ebooks being sighted in the wild.  Alas, it does happen, partly because I choose to not use Digital Rights Management restrictions on my books.  DRM-free is a moral stance, but you know: being good does not mean people won’t take advantage of you…

I have to send out takedown notices when I learn of pirate sites — so if you spot pirated versions, please do feel free to tell me about it!  (Thanks again, Barbara, for the latest heads-up!)   I have an automatic Google search set up  that often points me at the pirates as they pop up, but it’s not perfect.  It missed that last one in Canada.

And by the way — the most pirated version of my works is the omnibus edition of the first two books, that were combined into the volume called The Steerswoman’s Road.  And the interesting thing about that is that the only digital version that ever existed was one created for blind people using screen-reading software.  Yeah, think about that.    Stealing from authors is bad enough, but scamming blind people to do it?  That’s a new low.

As a general principle:  There are currently no free ebooks of the Steerswoman series available anywhere. If they tell you it’s free, they stole it from me.

In other news: Finally got free of that second bout of the same damn massive cold.  Living on DayQuil and NyQuil for days on end has little to recommend it.  Being weak and stupid gets old fast.

I’m still coughing, but not constantly, thank goodness.  And I made it back to my office  as of Monday, although I wasn’t much use until today, really. I actually wanted to go for a nice long walk on Tuesday, but when I arrived at the local linear trail (the only route I thought I could handle in my weakened state), I was hit with a massive coughing fit. Meanwhile, two women were loading a toddler into a stroller from the car next to me, and I realized that I’d be coughing my way down the trail more or less in tandem with them for the whole way.  I thought this would be unkind; even though I do believe I’m no longer contagious, they would not know that, and I’d inspire all sorts of worry on the child’s behalf and glances askance cast in my direction.  I didn’t want to just sit in the car until they were out of sight, so I gave up and went straight to the office instead.

Alas, my sister caught the cold, too, and has been miserable for the last few days.  I’m trying to be especially nice to her.  At least the pals who jetted to Florida one day after being exposed to me have managed to avoid the plague, and seem to be having a lovely time in the sunshine, according to their Facebook posts.

Meanwhile, I arrived back at the office, where I had left things over a week ago, thinking that I’d be gone just for the weekend.  Dead flowers!  Week-old trash not tossed out!  Piles of stuff everywhere — things I had assumed I’d deal with shortly, but I can now not remember what I intended to do with them.

I spent the last couple of days, as my brain slowly came back, dealing with all that.  Plus financial analyses and bills, before those get out of hand.

Happily, I find that the book cover for the full-size paperback of The Steerswoman was rather farther along than I had recalled, and I should be able to complete it in a couple of days.  And then the acid test of using KDP’s paperback generation software for the first time, which I am not looking forward to.

My next publishing task after that will be to finally update the ebooks with typo corrections!  I’ve been receiving notes from readers for the last few years, pointing out typos (and thank you all for that) and I’ve incorporated those corrections into the paperbacks (since that’s what I was working on at the time).  With that done, I’ll use the paperback files to create better versions of the ebooks —  exactly the reverse of how one usually does these things.  As is typical of me.

And looming: taxes.  Yow.  Multiple revenue streams equals high level of fuss and bother.  Well.  I’ll worry about that next week, when I hope my mental RAM and bandwidth will have recovered more.


Mar 7 2019

Revenge of the return of the son of the not-the-flu-but-might-as-well-be

Rosemary

Inexplicbly, that thing I had in January came roaring back.  I expect to be out of commission for about a week.   Catch you on the flip-side…


Feb 14 2019

Possible can of worms

Rosemary

I’m settling down to the task of recreating the paperback version of The Steerswoman, to match the size of the other three volumes.

Recap of the issue:

As you may recall, when I published The Steerswoman in paperback through CreateSpace, I selected the 8-inch by 5.25 inch size.  I actually put a lot of thought into this choice, taking into account the page-count, font-size, and finally, how the book would actually feel in the reader’s hand.  8×5.25 seemed like it would be just right: a good-sized, substantial book, not too big, but not too small.  And when the proof copies arrived, I was pleased with the result, certain I’d made the right choice.  Even though the smaller size meant more pages, and the cost of printing was based entirely on the number of pages — even though it raised the print costs and cut into my profit — I thought the result was worth it.

Excellent!   With that done, I went on to production on Volume 2…

One problem:

The Steerswoman comes to about 97,000 words.  The Outskirter’s Secret? 138,000.

At 138,000 words, the page count went up to around 500 pages, and the production cost was so high that not only would my profits drop to zero, they’d actually go negative.  That’s right: I’d have to pay Amazon extra every time someone purchased a copy.  Alternatively, I could raise the price of the book, but charging over $30 for a trade paperback would severely decrease my sales.  To, that is,  approximately nada.

Obvious solution: bigger format.  At 9 by 6, the problem goes away completely!  Bigger pages = more words per page = fewer pages = lower costs.  Voila.

And by now I was familiar with CreateSpace’s process, and with its excellent user interface.  So I ramped up, and got the other three volumes out –but  in the larger size. So, not really a matched set…

But I knew I’d be returning to the issue later, and would re-do the first book to match the others.

And I’ve now decided that February is the time to do it!

Slight problem: CreateSpace no longer exists.

CreateSpace has been owned and run by Amazon for a while now, but during that time the Kindle  service started adding an option to create paperbacks as well as ebooks.  They actually streamlined the process so that you  could create your paperback from the ebook pretty easily.  But I had compared the two services, and chosen to go with CreateSpace for very good reasons, including a higher royalty, better distribution to non-Amazon markets, and faster payment.

But a few months ago, Amazon warned us that they were about to axe CreateSpace, and all our books were going to be shifted over to Kindle Paperback.  And in general, that’s not a bad thing.  They’ve actually adopted a lot of the CreateSpace advantages, and it’s nice to have all my sales on one report.

But they really want you to create your paperback from your ebook, and they tossed out the lovely CreateSpace paperback-creation interface.

And now I have to do more work by hand.  Fortunately, I can; I’ve got the chops.  But it is more fuss-intensive, because of the reformatting to the larger size and all.   But I also worry — is the paperback created by the Kindle paperback process going to look different from the CreateSpace books?  In subtle ways, perhaps, like quality of paper, thickness of cover-stock, color saturation on the covers?  There’s just no way to know until I do it.

Thus: possible can of worms…

Now, you might ask: Since Kindle wants you to make your paperback from your ebook, and you alread do have an ebook of The Steerswoman, why not just let Kindle do the work?

Well.  Two reasons.

First, the paperback covers are different from the ebook covers.  And for good reason: Something that looks eye-catching as an small image on a glowing screen might look like crap when it’s printed out in physical form.  I specifically made the ebook covers  uncrowded and clean-looking.  But that openness doesn’t work for a paperback; it just looks empty.  So I added the black bar background behind the title, to give it more presence, and to differentiate it more clearly from the map. But creating paperbacks automatically from the ebooks would put the ebook cover on the paperback.

Second reason: The paperbacks have all the typo corrections!  A lot of you have been alerting me to the typos (and thank you for that), and all those corrections went into the paperback versions.  And after this, I’m going to be recreating the inside of the ebooks using the text of the (hopefully) typo-free paperback versions.

But that’s a whole other task.  Right now, let’s get that large-format edition of The Steerswoman going.  Which, by the way, will involve recreating the cover, which is actually more difficult than resizing the text pages.

In other news: That non-flu cold thing knocked me back pretty hard.  I’ve been over it for a while now, but it pretty much ate up January for me, including my plan to have another internet fast.  I couldn’t just shift it on to Feebruary, because I had plans that involved a lot of internet accessing.  I felt that the internet fast did me some good, and I really do want to solidify that.  So… March?  Maybe?

News about people who are not me:

Have you seen this?

That’s right: Chad Orzel‘s latest, Breakfast with Einstein was featured in the New York Times Book Review, in a shortlist of new physics books.

“The nuclear physics of breakfast may not sound particularly appetizing, but Orzel is determined to put it on the menu. A physics professor at Union College, he is (rightly) concerned that quantum physics usually conjures up images of the bizarre and exotic, when its effects are in fact with us every day. ‘Even the most ordinary of activities, those that make up our morning routine, are fundamentally quantum,’ he reminds us.” — New York Times Book Review, Feb 9, 2019

I love it when good things happen to people I like.

Chad also writes science articles for the online edition of Forbes magazine.  If you love science, and want  layman-friendly news about what’s up lately in quantum research (like what’s all this fuss about a crisis in physics?  and do we really need another collider?), you should add him to your blog feed.

He also has his own website, of course, with all the info you might need or want,  including a personal blog.   You know, life of a scientist/science writer: family, non-science musings, dog pictures – the whole shebang.   If you think that real scientists are all  like Sheldon and the guys on The Big Bang theory — well, Chad’s blog can help you get over that.

Seriously.  Get over that.

 

 

 

 

 


Jan 19 2019

Not the actual flu after all.

Rosemary

Still, it knocked me back for most of a full week.  Exactly when I’d planned to go offline and shut out the world in general, and wrestle the first dozen or so ragged chapters of Book 5 into something smooth and satisfying. 

I’ve been back at the office the last couple of days, but not actually useful in any real way. I’m still coughing, and running at less than full power. So, just reading, musing, and managing to play some guitar (but not singing, due to the coughing). I’m trying to learn Frank Christian’s “From My Hands.” I’m working from the live version on the Fast Folk Musical Magazine Volume 4, Number 4, which I love, rather than the title track from his album, a version that makes me wince. Even though the live track gets a bit over-accelerated, that’s the version that has all the crazy juice. The studio version was been sanitized, metronomicized, and light-jazzified away from any semblance of passion.

Meanwhile, out in the world, Mary Oliver has passed away, and everyone is talking about that. I so wish that I had found her work decades ago, instead of just recently. I can’t help but wonder how I would have taken her work when I was young, and how (or if) it would have influenced me and my own work?

“Am I not among the early risers

and the long-distance walkers?

Have I not stood, amazed, as I consider the perfection of the morning star

above the peaks of the house, and the crowns of the trees blue in the first light?

Do I not see how the trees tremble, as though sheets of water flowed over them

though it is only wind, that common thing,

free to everyone, and everything?

Have I not thought, for years, what it would be

worthy to do, and then gone off, barefoot and with a silver pail,

to gather blueberries,

thus coming, as I think, upon a right answer?

Here is an amazement– once I was twenty years old and in every motion of my body there was a delicious ease,

and in every motion of the green earth there was

a hint of paradise,

and now I am sixty years old, and it is the same.

From West Wind

And now, of course, the big storm is sweeping in upon us, to do to New England what it did to the other parts of the country that it hit.  Four to eight inches of snow, they’re telling us.  It’s just started falling here now.  I should get home.

 

 


Jan 13 2019

Internet fast cancelled. Just internetting as always.

Rosemary

Due to the flu! I thought I escaped this year, but here it is. A whole new animal, apparently.

As I am good for nothing but staring blearily at screens and taking naps, and cannot currently think my way out of a paper bag, any plans to be actually productive are laughable. Even reading is too demanding. I plan to snuggle up to Netflix and Amazon Prime, plus any audiobooks that I don’t mind falling asleep in the middle of.

I was going to write a blog post today! Ha ha, she laughs: Ha ha.

Oh, wait, I just did. Okay.

Not pictured: Nyquil, Dayquil, chicken soup.

Catch you on the flip side.


Dec 31 2018

Plunged into darkness!

Rosemary

 

 

Real candle plus fake candle.

Gosh, thought I, I have a great idea.  I’ll clean my office!

It was starting to get sort of random, with books and papers in places that books and papers should not be hanging out, largely because those particular books and papers have not been assigned proper homes, so they are loitering in random corners, muttering to each other, and generally wasting their time.   I knew that if I didn’t take care of them, they’d soon be pitching pennies, sassing passers-by and smoking cigarettes.

No one wants to see books and papers go bad.  Get this in hand before it’s too late!

Fortunately  I had a couple of hours free before settling down to my night’s work.  And what better day to do it?  I would come back on New Year’s Day with my office already in order, and be ready to attack my work with vigor and alacrity, with nothing else hanging over my head, and only pleasing vistas and comfort all around.

Also, I could make some tea.  My fave Lapsang Souchong, which I haven’t had lately, as I’ve been trying to do more green tea instead.  Also, hey!  Susan Forbes Hansen’s show, Sunday Night Folk Festival,  on the radio — I can’t tune it in, because we’re in sort of a reception sinkhole, but live streaming on the computer works just fine!  Just the thing to keep me entertained while sorting and cleaning.

Excellent plan.

Step one: take all those recalcitrant books and papers, and put them out into stacks in the corridor. Done.

Step two: take every object off every surface and put them in corridor, too, so I can dust every surface. Done.

Step three: What’s that beeping noise?

And why is it so dark?

The beeping noise my computer’s emergency UPS, doing its job and keeping that computer running so I could save any files and shut it down properly.   Because we suddenly had no power.

It took some doing to find out that it was only this office/business/warehouse complex that had no power, and that the rest of the town was fine. I had to climb on the roof, to look around.

But this is very a big old collection of former mills and factories, and it wasn’t just my building. The whole vast thing was dark.  Nothing here had power.

I saw a police car cruising along, doing a full circle of the whole complex, which was reassuring.  Probably an emergency alarm went off because of the power being out.  Glad they were on the job.

But I had no electricity.

There were emergency floodlights in the stairwells, where they were doing me no good at all — all my stuff, as you may recall, being now out in the corridor.   In the dark.

So I contemplated my situation, found it inexpressibly amusing, threw up my hands, turned on the flashlight function on my phone, and hauled it all back into my office.  I couldn’t listen to Sunday Night Folk Festival while I worked, so I whistled some tunes instead.

I put my tea in a thermos, and then threw everything out of the mini-fridge that I thought might go bad in three days — because, hey, with New Year’s Eve tomorrow, and New Year’s Day the next day, who the heck would be working to fix this?  Could I even try to contact the building owners?  The management office was certainly closed, but would they even check their messages until after the holiday?

With that all settled, I gathered my laptop, some books, the tea, the trash, and hauled it all down to my car, and headed out.  Plans gang agly, as the poet says.

But… just in case, I thought I’d circumnavigate the whole complex.

And around the back, I came across these guys:

“Ah,”  I said to the dudes at work, “this explains it!”

“What, didn’t anyone tell you?” they asked.

“Tell me… what?”

This had been planned for months. They could not believe that no one had bothered to tell me about it!  They were making repairs, had to turn off the power to do it, all scheduled ahead of time!  How could I not have been told?

Well.  I believe they assumed I was an employee of some business there, and that my bosses would have been told, and they ought to have told me.  I didn’t correct them, and allowed them to be outraged on my behalf, which I feel was very kind of them.

But in fact, it’s pretty easy for the building owners to forget that I exist, and that I work on the weekends.  And that Sunday night 9PM, just before a major holiday would be a time and day that I would be in my office, at work, in need of electricity.

With a bit of trepidation, I asked the dudes how long the repairs would take — would they be done, say, by Wednesday?

The were amused.  “Five AM tomorrow.”

So, all is well after all.  I’ll pop back tomorrow and take care of everything.  I’ll probably see the turn of the year at my desk, in my office, watching the countdown and toasting with some Laphraoig.

Meanwhile, tonight I’ve set up here in my kitchen, and am about to have some popcorn and watch Bandersnatch on Netflix to see if it’s as fun as I’ve been hearing.

Tea, fleurs, laptop

I sure hope 2019 is an improvement on 2018, because damn.

However, I have to say 2018 is ending rather well because — remember that Tor.com mention by James Davis Nicoll?

Well, I got a nice bump in my sales as a result.  A very nice bump.   I won’t get the royalties until the end of February, but this is by far my best sales month in years.  I’ve sold, well, let me check… yep.  As of now, just over 500 books this month.

So, that’s a nice way to end the year!

Possibly your year is ending as positively as mine is!  And possibly, though we might not actually believe in omens, we can pretend to, and view it all as a good omen for the possibilities of 2019.

Yeah, let’s do that.

 


Dec 24 2018

Found among my mother’s papers

Rosemary

My sister came across this, while sorting through old files.

Christmas long ago.

The Evening before was always the big time, Weihnachtsabend in Germany.  Santa did not bring our presents, but “das Christkindl,” the Christ Child.  It would slip into your house or apartment, left all the gifts under the Tree, lighted the Candles, and when it flew out the window a little bell would jingle.  Then you could come in and be surprised by the beautiful tree and the many presents.

I remember waiting out in the staircase of our Apartmenthaus with the Neighbor’s children for the little bell to ring.  We tried to guess what we  would get, if our gentle hints had brought results.  Sometimes it worked, but mostly it was a surprise. But we were happy about every little thing we received  Oh, the days of Childhood and I wonder, where did they go to.

I’ve corrected some spelling from the handwritten version, to prevent confusion, but I left the odd capitals — in German, all nouns are capitalized, and some of that impulse still moved my mother’s hand.

I have  no idea what year my she wrote this down.  Ingeborg Hilbig was born in 1927, so her childhood memories of Christmas in Germany probably refer to 1930 through about 1938.  Her command of English is fairly good here, but other notes in the same file, from later in her life, show a much more sophisticated command of vocabulary and idiom.  This might have been written as early a 1963, more than ten years after she and her husband and baby Sabine immigrated to the United States.

One thing that unexpectedly moved me — and it’s particularly a writer’s thing, I believe.  It’s in that very last line.

It says, “Oh the days of Childhood and I wonder, where did they go to.”  But look closely:  that “I” is squeezed in there, between “and” and “wonder.”

It’s so clear to me that she originally wrote: “Oh the days of Childhood and wonder, where did they go to.”  It’s a much better line.

But she didn’t trust her command of her new language, wasn’t certain about the turn of phrase, and she put that “I” in there to be safe.  Mom, your first impulse was better!  Don’t overthink your prose!

Sadly, she’s been gone many years now.  So many stories she never told us…

And now it’s 2018, the actual, hardly-dreamed-of 21st Century.   I’m hoping your holidays are as sweet and memorable as my mother’s were.

As for me, I’m cooking up some turkey stew — always a happy event in our house!  The little Christmas tree (incognito as a mere house plant the rest of the year) has new tiny LED lights that do not weigh its  branches down.

Merriness!

Our best to you and everyone you love.

 

 

 

 

 


Dec 17 2018

And speaking of Tor.com…

Rosemary

Quick note: reviewer James Davis Nicoll  mentioned the series in an article on Tor.com today!  “Five Works of Hard Science Fiction that Bypass the Gatekeepers.”

“Of course, the best example of hard science fiction to date is Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series (The Steerswoman, The Outskirters’ Secret, The Lost Steerman, and The Language of Power). What at first appears to be a straightforward fantasy setting, in which wise-woman Rowan finds herself pitted against a community of (generally quite disagreeable) wizards, is soon revealed to be nothing of the sort. In fact, Rowan’s world is far more alien and interesting than most secondary-world fantasies. Rather than a Tolkienian struggle between good and evil as such, the heart of the series is science itself, the process of unravelling the true nature of the world despite all the barriers placed in our way.”

I could not ask for a better recommendation than that.   And including me with Mary Robinette Kowal, Linda Nagata, Maureen McHugh, and Lee Killough — that’s some good company.