Discovery, Rev 3, Ch2, Sc 3

Here we go. Seems as though late is becoming the pattern, rather than the anomaly.

Melancholy Baby Troll

The Gabrielle Dolly

The dolly’s education had been thorough. The knowledge and wisdom of the ages had been crammed down her intellectual throat, both while her body was growing to maturity in antistasis, and, since her Genesis, she had been loaded down with an academic burden that would have staggered the most precocious over-achiever (which, in truth, she was). Yes, were the exams available, she could have passed with flying colors any equivalency exam for PhD.-level learning in several diverse disciplines. However, there were gaps — even serious gaps — in her knowledge.

For example, she was clinically depressed, but didn’t know it.

Continue reading

Discovery Rev 3, Ch2, Sc 2

A LITTLE LATE AGAIN today. Had a plumbing not-emergency (It’s been a problem for months, but I finally decided to come to grips with it this morning.) to deal with, which took all my time and energy until nearly now. About 1600 words this week. A long one. But a buildup toward a major set piece which will unfold over the next two-three weeks. You’ll see. A tearjerker.

Privileged Character

The Gabrielle Dolly

Baby Troll — the dolly — was a privileged character; everybody knew it. She got away with stuff all the time that would have gotten somebody else a chit for punishment detail, without doubt. And it wasn’t just because she was Aphrodite’s special pet. After all, Nana ‘Dite was a Man God. That sort cut no swagger in Troll country.

No. There was something else. Part of it might have been her slight stature combined with her toughness of spirit. (Though, here lately, she seemed to have been being a bit of a whiner. She mentally kicked herself for that and resolved to do better.) The former reminded the great, hulking frekun ang of the sheltered, diminutive billilaala, the latter of the kind of spirit and strength of will the Trolls tried to breed into themselves and train into their soldiers.

Continue reading

Discovery Rev 3: Ch2, Scene 1

LATE AGAIN THIS WEEK and with the same “excuse” — no time during the week just passed to prepare the post in advance. And: yesterday was Krogering day, which always wipes me out, though I’m taking steps to prevent that in the future if I can.

This week, we tramp out new ground. You have, (except for Jaime), seen none of this before. It’s also a shorter snippet. I’ll make that up to you next week, with a longer one. But this is key to the entire Chronicle, as it tells the tale of how Dolly came to be called Baby Troll, and gives hints as to one source of the Trolls’ deep affection for the little doll. More about that later.

Also. Though I can tell from Google Analytics and other logs, that folks are visiting. And sticking around long enough to read the snippets. Nobody is commenting. Would it kill you to comment? Speak up, please.

Chapter Two

Callsign Baby Troll

The Gabrielle Dolly

When she and Aphrodite first arrived in Camp Meander via teleport, in September of ’97, the recruit company had been already a week into its training cycle. The dolly had, therefor, considerable catching up to do. She imagined and was subsequently told that there had been much debate as to whether it was wise to put her in such a position. It was seen by some as setting her up for failure. But Aphrodite was antsy and wanted her charge embarked on some activity — and meaningful activity at that; make-work was unacceptable. She asserted that the dolly would suffer far greater developmental damage from inactivity than from any possible failure. Further, she claimed, the dolly would not fail in any case.

An assessment with which the dolly was rather in greater agreement before she embarked on her training than she would be later on.

Continue reading

Get Some on Ya. More Usually Does the Trick


I STOLE THAT. FROM MYSELF. it’s a line of dialog from my main character, Dolly, and it reflects her idea toward life. In turn, the “get some on you” notion comes from local Cincinnati celebrity, WEBN leader and Jelly Pudding personality Bo Wood, who used the phrase describing his diving into the crowd at Woodstock. He was hesitant, because it plainly was a muddy mess, but he reckoned it was an historic occasion and he should get some of it on him as long as he was there.

I think the notion of getting some on you is illustrative of people who live life to the fullest. Dive right in, heedless of the mud, or the wet paint, or whatever might get you “dirty” and require a bath later, and — to quote another celebrity sage — git ‘er done.

I added the “more usually does the trick” in Dolly’s case because she’s a person who believes that anything worth doing is worth overdoing. As Billy Idol put it, “Oi! Too much is never enough!”

I tell you that, to tell you this: When you’re designing your covers, don’t be a pussy, as the so-aptly pseudo-named FAIL, a commenter at Sarah’s blog t’other day advised, when he said, essentially, “Don’t try anything fancy.” when it comes to type design. No-no-no. He’s wrong. Dead wrong. So wrong he’ll never see right. Dive in. Swim in it. Get some on you.

I’ve been doing design work — to get to the broadest category, I’m a commercial artist — for 30 years. Well, (counts backwards on his fingers, which takes a few moments), actually, 34 years, now, plus odd jobs before I got my current one, and school, and playing around with art and type and design and photography. I mean, I was drawing naked ladies in Latin class in the eighth grade. Yeah. I’m a lifelong confirmed art nerd.

The 34 years part is all one job. Designing in-house for a specialist printer — Otto Printing and Entertainment Graphics, the original and still leading provider of pass-access security systems and related service print to the touring musical industry. My personal client brag list includes The Charlie Daniels Band, Martina McBride, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, The Moody Blues, U2, Rush, Bob Dylan, Sting, The Police, Michael Jackson, and myriad others.

Perhaps more significantly, I have worked with the art of and collaborated to some degree with Aubrey “Po” Powell, Storm Thorgerson, Hugh Syme, A West, Roger Dean, and Spencer Drate. Which means I’ve learned from the top designers in the music industry. And, here’s the kicker: the book cover business as well. Spencer Drate having designed covers for DAW, including some recent installments in CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series. I knew him when he was doing album covers for John Denver.

Apologies for the links, rather than actual images. I encourage you to follow them. One more brag point. If you google or bing images on “backstage passes” with or without the name, you’ll find most of them are ours — Otto. The little oval bug is our trademark. You can see it a lot of places. Since most of what Otto has produced over the years has been of my direct design, or art direction, or by artists whom I have taught how to make backstage passes, such a search is likely to show you my bona fides. The curated images on my Pinterest or on Otto’s site (which, it appears, is munged behind a man-in-the-middle attack the site is still recovering from) are clean, at least, and illustrate the concepts discussed below.

What I’m getting toward is the design and functional similarity between book covers and backstage passes. There are differences, without doubt. The substrates are utterly different, for one, which affects design choices more that you can known. But both have the feature of size — they are small. Designers can get to feeling cramped and limited by the size. I call it postage stamp design. You have a very, very small canvas, which allows you to convey one simple idea and requires that you arrange your design elements for maximum impact. (Although when you’d make any art for low impact, I have no clue.) This limited area demands that you keep your choice of elements spare. An image of a person is better cropped tight, detail kept large, and possibly allowed to bleed off the edge. Decorative elements should be kept subtle. Large, fancy scrollwork should be considered most carefully before being used and I would advise it be abjured. There is a fashion currently for semi-transparent and translucent floral overlays, which can be most attractive. OVerlays are your friend. They let you add detail that would otherwise be squeezed out of frame.

If you click around my Pinterest boards, you’ll discover links to boards by my colleague, Caroline Heekin, who is more enthusiastic than I about playing with this stuff. She also runs our Facebook Page, which reflects her enthusiasm.

I’m not kidding. She is enthusiasm personified.

When she came on board, the rest of us had at least ten years in, and more were closer to twenty. And then there was me. The old gray man, who’d been there forever, done it all, seen it all, telling war stories in the dusty afternoons while we waited for quitting time. (Not really, but the hyperbole is attractive.) She went around the place, dug into the racks of shelves of boxes of samples of old work, bringing stuff to light not seen in, sometimes, decades. She went, “Are you kidding! This stuff is GREAT!” and pushed all of us to do more.

So should you. You should be enthusiastic in what you do. Do it for joy, because it’s fun, because you love it, because it’s sexy and it turns you on. After all, if it doesn’t turn YOU on, how is it going to appeal to a potential reader, probably bored out of her mind, scrolling down the endless listings of fantasy ebooks on Amazon looking for her next read. Yours has to jump off the screen and bonk her on the forehead like in the V8 commercials. “Hey! YOU! Buy me! NOW!”

And you’re no going to do that with images and designs you don’t love, that you won’t fight for, that are flat and timid and eschew fancy type effects. That you held back on because you might fall flat on your face. Because some guy on the Internet told you so?

OK. So I’m just some guy on the Internet. But. In Real Life, I’m this almost-famous guy who designs what the rockin’ world wears on their jeans. And has for over three decades.

And I’m telling you. Joy will transmit itself far better than restraint. Restraint has to hit EXACTLY the right note. Like (I think.) the pass I did for Petty a couple years back. Gold and red on black. Elegant, simple, clean. Only a touch of white might have added to it. The 3D bubble of the heart logo… so cool.

By all means — and I do mean ALL means — test for legibility. Print it out. Pin it on your wall. Stare at it until it talks to you. Make sure it’s absolutely magic. Reduce it until it’s literally the size of a postage stamp. Can you read it? If not, go again. If it doesn’t work, turf it. Be ruthless. You are seeking satori. Absolute truth. The Way to the Light. The ultimate orgasm. Sky-rockets in flight. But there’s no reason for you to avoid pretty and sexy effects, so long at they don’t interfere with legibility. But that’s ALWAYS been the rule in design. Although I seem to recall some album covers in the ’60s that didn’t always meet the test. Might have been that they were designed for a different light environment. OR… that the designers weren’t afraid to fail.

A short while ago, somebody posted a video on Facebook of fireworks shot from a drone that was flown THROUGH the fireworks. It seemed to me as though it was raining during the shoot, because the images were blurry, but whatever: it was magical. And the commenters right away started snarking that, “Yeah, he must be able to afford it throwing the drone and the camera away if it was in the middle of one of those explosions.” Which I reminded all present, is errant silliness. All great art is made with tools and materials that cost … something. And sometimes a lot. The presses used to print my designs sometimes ran as much as a half-million dollars. Of course, nothing I ever did broke one of them, but the cost of the tools is immaterial. You have to be willing to fail. Because, believe me, the viewer can sense your hesitation like a dog can smell fear. You have to go all out. As the saying goes, balls to the wall. Put everything you’ve got on the canvas. And, yes, get some on you in your enthusiasm.

Discovery: Chapter 1 Rev. 3 Scene 3

Not Same Place; Not Same Time

The Gabrielle Dolly

The dolly put two and two together, made a leap of the imagination, and came up with five. Bobbo had come to Meander to summon the Colonel. There must have been a reason they couldn’t just call on the phone. A security reason. They didn’t want communications intercepted. She’d had a class on that. OpSec — Operational Security. It really hadn’t been a discrete class, more a theme throughout all her training. Don’t Talk About It — whatever it was. Better yet, or simpler: Don’t Talk.

A lesson she might have learned too well, for she felt isolated among these aliens.

So the Regiment was going back to campus. It must be, she thought, that the other regiment — Boeotia, she remembered — had decamped, leaving it for Arcadia to take up station again as the garrison-slash-police force for East College. As she remembered, six months back, being on campus, before fleeing here to Camp Meander, that placed her in time.

And she realized; yesterday had been her birthday. And everybody had forgotten. She herself included.


Continue reading

Discovery: Chapter 1 Rev. 3 Scenes 1 & 2

An Eighth Story Job

Marduk the Babylonian

“Aphrodite said,” explained Marduk the Babylonian, “That there were six altogether. Here’s my plan. I transport a mischief in…”

Freya the Aesir interrupted Marduk at that point. “How? Have you been to this dwelling?”

It was a reasonable question. In order to teleport to a given location, the God doing the teleportation had to have an image of the destination locus firmly fixed in his mind. The easiest way to get that was to have previously visited the place.

“No.” Marduk answered candidly. “I am availing myself of an album of photographs taken at a soiree Doctor Drummond hosted last year.”

“I see,” Freya said. “Proceed.”


Continue reading

You’re Gonna See This a Lot

THIS INDEPENDENCE DAY WEEKEND. It’s about a major conflict in the creative arts that’s been bubbling below the surface of total public awareness for some time. For some time, as you may have seen happen in the music business, artists have been disintermediating large-scale manufacturing companies, causing those companies to asymptotically approach business collapse. In the letters industry, this means authors have been publishing their own work, cutting out several layers of “middle men,” some of whom you might think are purely purposeless parasites. You might, if you were unfamiliar with the publishing game and how it has grown since the 19th Century when Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, and myriad others published their own works.

You may have read a trilogy in the last couple of years called Wool. It’s been a big bestseller. It was written by a fellow name of Hugh Howey. What you may not know is that it is independently published by its author. He has since signed on with Simon and Schuster and decided not to do that (sign with a major publisher) again.

So Hugh Howey has written this and posted it for indie writers to quote, cite, repost, blog about, and discuss. But the bottom line is — and it does need to be said — a big, hearty, THANK YOU to you, our dear and gentle readers. Because without you, it doesn’t go.

You probably aren’t aware of this, but the majority of your favorite authors can’t make a living off their book sales alone. Very few authors could when New York Publishing was in charge. That is changing now that Amazon and other online retailers are paying authors a fair wage.

You may have heard that Amazon and Hachette are having a dispute about how books are sold. The details are complex, but the gist is this: Amazon wants to keep e-book prices affordable, and Hachette wants to keep them artificially high. Higher than for the paper edition of the same story.

The rest of this letter explains more of the details. It explains why a boycott of Amazon would mean hurting authors, Hachette and otherwise. It explains how your decisions have granted more authors their independence than we’ve had at any other time in human history. You’re welcome to read our points, but keep this one key item in mind:

Major publishers like Hachette have a long history of treating authors and readers poorly. Amazon, on the other hand, has built its reputation on valuing authors and readers dearly. The two companies didn’t simultaneously change directions overnight.

I’m new to this, with only one novel out there, and — frankly — no shorter works in the pipeline. My novel’s been on the market for nine-plus months and is a pure dog in terms of sales. Not complaining — much. I never expected this to be a short haul. I know it’s a marathon, and nobody wants to hear from you until you have ten books out there. Best advice is to write the next one, which I am doing. And I know that only losers give up before they’ve won. But still, in the deep depths of the wee small hours, it’s hard to keep your courage up. At this point, to me, every reader is a precious thing. Not so much for the money — It only adds up over decades at this rate — as it is about knowing that SOMEbody is reading. At this level, I can almost read along with you and imagine you meeting the characters, experiencing their pain and fears for the first time.

So, thank you for being there.

Wouldja Hate Me Forever

IF I WAS TO change horses here in mid-stream? If what you read here was to allofasudden, change direction so hard your teeth rattled?

Y’see, I had a writer’s epiphany. An ideer for a better opening hook and an improvement for overall pacing. The plan is to open with more action and push the introduction of Dolly’s situation back and pull forward parts of the story you haven’t come to, yet.

In essence, a big, “Nevermind!” Jaime and I are over here in a corner discussing it sotto voce. If she ratifies the new direction, (I suspect she will; it would be a big improvement.), I’m going to have to post a new scene and probably re-post the re-jiggered first chapter.

Fortunately, we’re not all that far along, yet.

Reporting on Progress

I DIDN’T MAKE MUCH PROGRESS this weekend. It was a grocery weekend, and those always take it out of me. THey Gibbs slap me up back of the head and remind me that 60 is NOT the new 20 — fer realz. I end up sleeping for the time I’m not schlepping groceries around around and up and down and in my lady’s chamber. Well, not that last — not often, at least. Cat litter and toilet paper mostly.

The word count on Discovery is up to 38,000. I didn’t make much forward motion this past week. No excuses. No mitigating accomplishments. I just didn’t get much done. I dream of the time when I can do this full time and have whole days — several in a row — where I have no commitment but to put butt in chair and bang on the keys. That day will come sooner the more my gentle readers buy my books. And, of course, I have to write them to sell theme.

There is that.

Discovery: Chapter 1, Scenes 6 & 7

Weekly SnippetNumber Four. Comments forever solicited. This one is shorter than previously barely 1,000 words. Doing that because we start a new chapter, next, as events pick up pace. As usual, the disclaimers: This is a work in progress, copyright ©2014, Mark Philip Alger, published 2014 by Dreamflower Works. All rights reserved.This is a first draft and substantial changes will be made prior to final publication.

If you want to start over from the beginning, click on the The Origin Conjecture category link in the right column.

It’ll Be a Hot Mess Tonight

The Gabrielle Dolly

The dolly found herself dropped into an emotional funk. Everybody was dissing her. Ignoring her. Dismissing her presence, her opinion. Wasn’t she supposed to be the reincarnation of the most successful Childe ever? OK, so she still couldn’t remember a thing — well, except for occasional scratchy, black-and-white flashes, like cuts from a movie she barely remembered seeing — not at all like memories. And they made no sense to her. But didn’t the bare fact of her miraculous existence merit her getting cut some slack? But no! She was recruit this and “Hey you” that. And she had, at one point, gotten heartily sick of being called a baby Troll.

Continue reading