Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cover Art for Star Time

The cover for the new novel Star Time, coming out in about a month, is  unique for me.  As those of you who follow my publishing efforts are aware, I have been lucky to have gotten some wonderful covers for my YA series of books.  And there's no doubt I'll be tapping those same wonderful artists for additional books in that series.

But Star Time is the first book in a whole new series and I had an urge to try for a distinct and different look for the books of The Project Saga.  In fact, I spent so much time visualizing the cover that I realized that, for once, my own Photoshop skills might be enough to put it together.

I have always done a lot of the overall cover design--just not the actual artwork.  I place the text and position the elements and add the logos.  I've also built the series logos, like I've documented before in these blog postings.  It was a step outside my normal comfort zone to do without a real artist this time, and I'll only do this under certain circumstances.  I'd much prefer to pay the money and be tickled by the results as I've done before.

This time, I wanted a clean, nearly photographic look.  For Star Time, the star Betelgeuse is almost a character itself, and showing off its blaze, in the Orion constellation was an easy task in Photoshop.  A skyline of Austin, with all the electric lights blacked out was also doable, although I had Mary Ann's help and her fancy camera there to get the source image.

The final component was the human element, and just for this instance, I had access to a son-in-law who could easily pull off the uber-geek hero that was needed.  I even took a few cell phone videos of that photo shoot.  Take a look at the fun youtube short I composed.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Double Spacing from iPhone Notes to InDesign

Since many of my new stories are created in the Notes application of iPhone and iPad, I just recently ran up against a new issue while formatting the results in InDesign for my latest novel.  My standard text formatting for print uses a single space between sentences.  While composing in Notes, a double-space will add a period at the end of the sentence and capitalize the next word.  This is a handy time saver while composing, but when the text is eventually moved into InDesign (or some other word-processor or layout software) I find that sentences are double-space separated.

One of my regular clean-up procedures is to find and replace double-spaces with a single space, repeating until there are none left.  Unfortunately, this doesn't work with text created in Notes.  You see, that first space is a 'non-breaking space'.  To clean them out, you first have to do a find and replace on them, converting them to regular spaces, before collapsing duplicates.  It's a quick fix, but unless your eyes are on the lookout for resistant double-spaces, you might not even notice that they exist.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Partners in Adventure--40th Anniversary, June 4th

I met her in Palo Duro Canyon, a state park just south of Amarillo.  A church youth group held a picnic and a few dozen of us were there for food and various activities under the sprawling cottonwood trees that lined the creek that wound through the dry canyon.  About mid-day, almost everyone decided to head over to the horse corrals and do some riding.  Not me.  I knew about the caves near the Lighthouse, a stone formation in the canyon, and I wanted to do some cave crawling.  Only one person wanted to go with me.

Mary Ann Marshall was a friend of my sister, but I didn't know that at the time.  We got in my car and drove off the main path and got as close as we could to the Lighthouse.  With my pocket flashlight and more sense of adventure than common sense, we crawled through the channels water had carved through the clay.  I was willing to make some compromises and choose more conservative routes, but she was game to go everywhere I wanted.  We came out high on the side of the cliff and by the time we had to head back to meet up with the main group, I was impressed by her adventurous spirit and toyed with the idea of asking her out.

I was a late bloomer.  We were both in high school, but other than events mandated by parents or school organizations, I had never dated.  It was quite new for me when I asked her out to get something at the A&W drive in.

But adventure was what had drawn us together and that never changed.  Dating was as likely to include long hikes as it was to take in a movie.  Our honeymoon was camping out in a cheap tent in the Colorado mountains.  Vacations were marked by just how many miles we could spin the odometer, from a weekend drive to Florida, to Alaska and beyond.  Our two wonderful kids were raised knowing more about geography than their school teachers and more than once had the confidence to correct errors in the text books.

By now, we have visited all the states, most of Canada, some of Europe and Africa.  Any excuse will do.  We've chased hurricanes, and I've begun to think that they've started chasing us.  A few years ago were great, when we were on the road more than we were at home.  This year is a little slow, with medical problems slowing us down, but it won't stop us.  I'm posting this one to show up automatically on Saturday because we just might be on the road then.  Not sure where.  We tend to take interesting roads as they come.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Preparing for the Loss of Rosetta

All the rumor sites say that the next version of Mac OSX,  ( 10.7 A.K.A Lion) will not have the Rosetta utility that allows the old PowerPC software to run.  While most people won't have any problems with that, I will.  You see, I've been collecting software for a long time, and I still use the old stuff.  For example, my copy of Microsoft Word and Excel are the old 10.1 versions, and those won't work after Lion arrives.  I will also lose the ability to run some of my map generation software, my Topo display, memory card restoration software, drivers for my film and slide scanner, and too many utilities to name.

If you are a Mac user, you can see what software is at risk on your system by running the System Profiler (About this Mac, then click More Info), then in the sidebar, click Software/Applications and in one of the far columns, you will see whether the software is Intel, PowerPC, Universal, Classic, or unnamed.  We've already lost the Classic ones and next week, we'll lose the PowerPC ones.

Now, normal people would just hold off upgrading their computer to the latest version, and that's the advice I'm giving to some people, but I'm addicted to fresh software in spite of my huge list of vintage bits.  So, I'm in the process of creating a separate disk partition with the current 10.6 system, to that when I need the old stuff, I'll have the ability to boot back to a Rosetta capable state.

Unfortunately, I can't find my 10.6 install disk.  My 10.5 install disk is scratched and unusable, and my laptop won't run any of the older versions.  So, many hours have been consumed today (oops, that's yesterday, it's already in the A.M. as I work on this) making a bootable clone of my current system.  Hopefully by the time Lion is made available, I'll have my benchmark system tested and running.  The joys of computer use.