Grill season is back!

I haven’t been to the zoo yet this year. Last year we didn’t have a spring, but this year I’ve passed up at least two beautiful potential zoo days so far—today and last week. The reason: I’m still not walking quite normally yet, and on top of that somehow I managed to hurt my other foot last week—thankfully not nearly as badly, so it healed quickly, but in a similar way. This is killing me, because there’s a good chance I’ll miss out on the zoo this year too because of this stupid injury.

But the good news is, I can grill again. My previous grill was basically falling apart, so it was time for a new one, and I decided this time I’d bite the bullet and have Lowe’s deliver it (at an upcharge) because I am not assembling one from scratch ever again. This grill was on sale, which was a nice bonus. It has three burners, making it more versatile than my last grill which had two (and the one before that, which had only one), with a bigger cooking surface. Best of all, I have a thermometer in the hood again.

So tonight to break in the new grill I made a lovely teriyaki ribeye steak, which I had marinating since late last night; mushrooms with butter, minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and a couple grinds of black pepper; and for my wife (and the kitties), honey mustard chicken from Wegmans.

I’ve had other steaks so far this year, but there’s something special about what comes off my own grill. And steak marinated in Kikkoman teriyaki sauce is one of the great joys in life. There are lots of good teriyaki sauces out there, but that one is far and away my favorite.

I only ate half the steak, because it was a full pound and normally I start to fill up just past 4 oz. For a special occasion I can fit in half a pound, but honestly tonight I probably could have kept going. Probably best that I stopped when I did, though. And the leftovers will be wonderful too.

The only thing I don’t like about my new grill was that I had to wait for it. They couldn’t deliver it last week, so over the weekend when we had some really gorgeous weather (Saturday at least) I was out of luck.

Speaking of waiting, I’m still waiting on that proof copy for my next book. It shipped Thursday, the same day I put in the order, but it’s not here yet. Maybe Amazon has spoiled me, but I would think $3.50 ground shipping could have gotten it here by today. I wish CreateSpace had tracking, so I could stalk the package. I want that book in my hands already!

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The (long-overdue) fall of Roman

Yesterday the Academy kicked out Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski. I give them credit for Cosby alone.

40 years ago, Polanski was convicted of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl, and after he was convicted but before sentencing, he fled the country so he could stay out of prison. And for all the years since, Hollywood has given him a complete pass on that: distributing his films, A-list actors starring in his films, and acclaim and accolades for his films. This is not a debate of whether or not he’s a good filmmaker, but these are films he should never have had the opportunity to make. For 40 years, Hollywood has been complicit in this man’s crime because they were happy to heap praise upon him and keep working with him even though he was—and remains—a fugitive from justice.

A few years back he was briefly arrested and detained by the US while traveling internationally, but that fell through for $ome bizarre rea$on. When this made the news a bunch of celebrities talked about it, with Whoopi Goldberg on The View saying she didn’t think it had exactly been “rape rape”. But it was, Whoopi. The girl said no. Never mind that she was 13, and that’s not okay because a 13-year-old can’t give true consent; never mind that she was under the influence of a lot of drugs and couldn’t give true consent; she said no.

Everyone knew this, except some like Whoopi who chose not to learn about the case before yapping about it on TV. Just like with Weinstein, they all knew. And the only reason they’re finally doing something about it now is because, with monsters like Weinstein coming to light, he’s become a political inconvenience. Plus, Cosby’s conviction gave them cover so they could do both at the same time.

And sure they can say, look at all he’s been through. His parents were murdered in the holocaust. His wife and unborn daughter were murdered by the Mansons, and how does anyone cope with that sort of grief? Isn’t it understandable that he’d go off the rails for years and years, and do something stupid he’d regret?

Well no, not to that degree. Getting lost in booze and drugs and orgies I could fathom, but you don’t invite children to those parties. And this wasn’t even the only incident. He’s been accused of other sexual assaults on minors, not just this one, that happened since then. But Hollywood is okay with that. Or they were, for basically my entire life, right up until yesterday.

These are the people who hector us all the time on whatever topic they wish, claiming to be our moral betters, while they come from a swamp more disgusting than anything you’d find in Washington, DC or Brussels. Their shielding of Polanski for 40 years goes so far beyond cowardice as to need a new word for it. Turning their backs on him now is not a point in their favor, but rather a long-overdue stanching of a wound that festered long ago. It’s good that they did it, but in a very relative sense, like how it’s “good” when a serial killer gets too old for it and hangs it up voluntarily without having faced justice. If they had any backbone whatsoever they would have cut Polanski loose during the Carter administration.

And that’s to say nothing of Woody Allen. Though to be fair, he hasn’t been convicted of anything yet.

The sad thing is, there are even worse monsters still among them. Weinstein was the tip of the iceberg, but we’ll never see the bottom of it. The #MeToo movement was useful in catching a few big fish, but it’s a mob mentality, and mobs have a sustainability problem: they burn out quickly, and they lose energy when they pull in inappropriate targets. Going after Louis C.K. was a dumb move, because from everything I ever read he never did anything without consent; and the Aziz Ansari hit piece was a textbook example of overreach. Weinstein? Lauer? Spacey? Sure, all worthy targets. But others remain. You know they do.

Allow me to don a tinfoil hat for a moment. If you were one of the 98% of sexual predators in Hollywood who hadn’t yet been caught up in the #MeToo maelstrom, what would you do? Trying to stop it would only call attention to yourself. Say nothing? Too much pressure to say something. So you could either speak up hypocritically and hope the fire missed you, or you could feed the flames. Because mobs rely on the indignation and attention span of the public, and people as a group can’t maintain outrage forever unless they’re personally involved.

Make no mistake, Hollywood is cleaning house by stuffing as much as possible into the closet and under the rug. They’re quick to dogpile on those who get caught now because it buys them time to cover up. Polanski was only a tricky case because he was caught 40 years ago and they not only helped him evade punishment but continued to treat him as an honored friend, so they had to find a convenient excuse to throw him under the bus while our attention was largely on something else.

I’m still glad to see him go. But it was a punk move doing it now, not back when I was in diapers.

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Schedule blown already?

Well that was quick. CreateSpace just finished file review so I could order a proof copy of my new book, but with standard shipping it won’t be here till next Monday. No, not this coming Monday, but the one after that—six days before I had hoped to release. I could have expedited that to Wednesday but for $8 I wasn’t willing to spend.

I know the 14th is six days ahead of my release and in theory that’s plenty of time, but for one thing: As soon as I approve the proof, I want to order author copies, and I want to get them here before the release. There’s a reason. So I’d rather hope my proof gets here early and then expedite the author copies if need be, than expedite the proof and maybe end up having to do the same for the copies.

Sure, it’s only 8 bucks, but still. I don’t have anything in particular invested in my May 20 target beyond the fact that I’d rather not do a release Memorial Day weekend like I did last year. Oh sure, that went well, but I think a non-holiday is a much better time. This release will not have any paid advertising to boost the free promo for The Affix that’s going on at the same time, so since I don’t have anything officially scheduled, I’m not going to sweat it if my timetable has to change.

I mean sure, I don’t like it, but it’s livable. And as I recall CreateSpace tends to use the worst-case scenario for their estimated deliveries anyway. I’m pretty sure I’ve always gotten my proof orders earlier than they said I would.

So with that, this is what’s left on my to-do list:

  • Approve proof and order author copies.
  • Register copyright
  • Set pricing for Kindle and paperback editions and go live (soft launch).
  • Create Goodreads pages from the Kindle and paperback editions.
  • Schedule free promo for The Affix for proper launch.
  • Tell Litsy and Reddit about the free promo and launch.

Forgot to put the copyright registry on my list in the last post. It’s a formality, but I don’t mind it.

I can’t wait to see my proof copy. I looked over the digital proof already of course, but it’s a PDF so it’s really no different from the PDF I sent them.

The microspacing looks like it worked well. I saw a couple of lines where it was evident, where it might have made do with hyphenating the next word except that I was very strict about hyphens: they’re only allowed after four letters instead of three. But not bad! It looks professionally typeset. And I still love my scene break macro that knows to use a blank line when it happens in the middle of a page, but use asterisks at the end of a page, and also change the preceding paragraph to pull a few lines down if the scene break would have happened at the top of a page.

At this point I’m also waiting on a couple of things besides the proof, although they don’t impact my schedule at all. CreateSpace has yet to get back to me on my request to set the series info for The Affix, which wasn’t part of a series when I finally created the paperback edition last year (but you can’t change it, which is stupid), and I’m trying to get Litsy to change their listing for the same book where they forgot “The” along with all the paragraph breaks in the blurb.

But bumps in the road aside, it’s getting closer!

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The sequel is boarding!

At last I have the rest of the beta notes I was waiting on for The Well of Moments, and I’ve incorporated the appropriate changes along the way. Moreover, I’ve worked out the kinks of the hyphenation and microspacing algorithm I was trying to do, so I can get a better presentation with this paperback. All that means I can get the ball rolling on the actual release!

My to-do list looks like this:

  • Finish up the afterword.
  • Include the microspacing in the main convert-to-good-typography macro. (There is currently no remove-microspacing/hyphenation option.)
  • Update the ligature macro to skip any spot where extra space has been added between letters.
  • Export the full text to HTML and make the appropriate changes for that format.
  • Build a new EPUB in Sigil from the HTML (and document so I can make the process quicker next time).
  • Run the master typography macro on the main document, export to PDF, and do not save changes.
  • Determine spine width from number of pages and finalize cover.
  • Craete new entry on Amazon KDP and upload the EPUB.
  • Create PDF file from cover graphic because stupid CreateSpace can’t take a PNG like a grown-up.
  • Upload to CreateSpace and wait for proof copy.
  • Approve proof and order author copies.
  • Set pricing for Kindle and paperback editions and go live (soft launch).
  • Create Goodreads pages from the Kindle and paperback editions.
  • Schedule free promo for The Affix for proper launch.
  • Tell Litsy and Reddit about the free promo and launch.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. The main hiccup is going to be waiting for CreateSpace to send me a proof, so I need to jump on this stuff soon. It’s too soon to release this coming weekend and next weekend is Mother’s Day, so currently I’m aiming for May 20 for the hard launch. (Sundays are apparently very good, Friday and Saturday not so much.) We’ll see how that goes.

I’m really proud of this book. It carries on the funny, off-kilter weirdness that started in The Affix, but in a different way that properly feels like a different character’s story. The cast of villains is appropriately diverse in both personality and degree of oddity. The good guys are more of an active set than in the first book, more involved in trying to shape events. There’s also an emotional depth within that I hadn’t anticipated when I started writing it. And Jasmine was so much fun to write, far more so than the first book where she played only a supporting role.

This is gonna be fun.

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Infirm on a sunny day

I have been healthy exactly two days this year: January 1-2. Since then it’s been an absolute train wreck. I came down with a cold I picked up New Year’s Eve, that left me with a nasty cough. That developed into this weird hypersalivation issue where I get short of breath at the same time, and we still haven’t figured out why (although I have at least been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia). Right after that started, my wife got the flu and I started catching it too, although fortunately a preventative round of Tamiflu kicked it right in the teeth. Since then I’ve been dealing with the salivation/breathing thing, and then around the end of March I sprained my foot.

My foot has been slowly getting better, but every so often it has a bit of a relapse. This Saturday night it was being a little troublesome, and then early Sunday morning my foot was back in agony; as far as I can tell it was being set off by a leg cramp. Only sitting on the couch, which helps the leg cramps, made everything calm down. Since then I’ve been taking it easy again, because it feels like I backslid by about a week.

The biggest reason that sucks is that today, we have our first halfway nice day of spring. Big Dip has been open for three weeks, and it’s been too disgusting out to make an ice cream run. Now it’s beautiful out, or at least beautiful enough, and while the thought of being out in a nice day makes me giddy the prospect of standing in line and potentially doing my foot further harm does not. For this same reason I also didn’t make a lunch run, even though I very much wanted to.

This sucks.

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No it’s not summer, Traci

One of the local car dealerships has a commercial that opens like this: “It’s summertime. The livin’ is easy, and so are the deals!”

Who wrote that ad? They should be hit with a brick.

It’s not summertime. It’s not even close to that. After Memorial Day, fine, I’ll go along with saying it’s summer. But in the middle of April? It’s never even spring in Syracuse in the middle of April.

It snowed today, Traci. Snowed. Again. Some of it actually stuck. We’re well into the latter half of April. The weather hasn’t even thought about turning nice, not even for one day. When someone told you to say that line you should have hopped into one of those brand new cars and run them over.

No seriously, I want to hit the copy writer with a brick. And so does every other person in the viewing area.

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The microspacing problem

I miss cooking. While my foot continues to recover, I have tended to use it less and stay out of the kitchen for long periods because wearing slippers has been bad news and the floor is way too cold. Hopefully that will change, but it snowed today. A lot. In the latter half of April.

Apropos of nothing, I found an old post on cooking steak tips sous vide, and now I want steak tips and mushrooms like they have at the Fair. I kinda want them right this moment.

But the main thing I wanted to talk about was justification. Not for my future plans to nuke Redmond, for which I discovered newer reasons this past week, or anything of that sort. I’m talking about typography, a subject near and dear to my heart that despite its nearness and dearness I know hardly enough about.

It’s like this: I’m very, very close now to pulling the trigger on The Well of Moments. I’m proud of the book it’s become and since my first beta reader feedback it’s all the better. I’m still waiting on more notes, but I don’t know that I want to wait too much longer. However, there’s one minor problem that’s bugged me in all my paperback releases: text justification.

With full justification you can end up with lines that have too few letters to soak up the space, so the space between words grows by quite a lot. Hyphenation would fix that, but I disable hyphenation in my books because automatic hyphenation in word processors is absolutely terrible. OpenOffice (although I now use LibreOffice) does a much better job and lets you fine-tune all sorts of things, but at the end of the day you basically have to hyphenate by hand if you want it done right.

Plus, even then you sometimes have a lot of space left over that you need to use. Professional typesetters handle that with something called microspacing, adding a little extra space between letters on lines where nothing else works. You’ve probably seen it in a paperback. When it’s done badly it’s really noticeable, but done right it could make all the difference. And there are some lines in my book that would benefit from that difference.

So as part of my formatting macros, which handle things like ligatures and fixing the EM dash and a number of other niceties (including, for this series, doing an outer alignment on the chapter titles), I now want to have a macro that will go line by line, finding lines that have way too much added space, and automatically apply hyphenation (if feasible) to just the word on the following line, and then the appropriate amount of microspacing to the entire adjusted line. Ligatures will have to be avoided on lines that do this, but I can live with that.

It’s a bit of a puzzle to work out the right way to go about that with the macro language, which is as easy to work with as a wolverine, and recently I have more demands on my brain that have kept me from pursuing the implementation properly.

But for the love of good typography, and to make those few lines that need this stand out so much less, I really want to give it a go. I put a lot of care into my paperbacks, and after three of them I really want the fourth to be better still. It’s the perfectionist in me.

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