Adventures in Self-Publishing : Cover Stories

rotscover

It’ll do

I am not a visual person by any stretch of the imagination.

When I was in college studying computer science back in the 90’s, people would occasionally ask me if I could make websites for them.  The conversation would go something like this:

Person: “Can you make a website for me?”
Me: “Yeah, I can code one, but it’s going to look like a computer guy made it.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s going to look terrible.”
So yeah, I didn’t make any websites.

Given that I’m self-aware of my lack of design sense, I don’t know what possessed me to make my own book covers when I started self-publishing short story collections.  It comes even more perplexing considering that I knew artists that could do quality artwork.  Ego may have had something to do with it; the notion of doing everything on my own.  Maybe I didn’t want to pay for art at the time.  Whatever the reason, I figured some text on a solid color background would be good enough.  I did three covers like that, and it honestly only worked for The Rules of Tech Support.

cf1cover

A picture! Yay!

I like to think I made the most of my limited skills with my Nine to Five Lives ‘clock face,’ but that may have been too clever for its own good considering its low sales (it’s free now!).

At that point I figured it was time to get some actual artwork done.  My friend Damon Cone provided some artwork for Con Fluff 1, which I used to make a faux ‘con badge.’  I thought about making similar ones as promotional items for the book.  That never happened, but it remains an interesting idea for future use.  The character on the cover is me, which seems a little conceited, but at the same time, why the heck not?

cf2cover

SO PRETTY

I commissioned an artist friend who goes by Padunk for Con Fluff 2 and she knocked it out of the park.  She was also kind enough to put the title text on the artwork, which made it look really nice.  Future volumes have also featured artwork, and with the exception of The Rules of Tech Support, most of my collections featuring my early awful covers have been put off-sale, though you can still see them here.

While I have been happy with all of the artwork (Faeries, Fantasies, and Furries is another favorite) there are a few that need a do-over:  As the first book in the series, I don’t want to pull Seven Super-Short Sci-Fi Stories, but it does need a facelift.  Funny Animals, Funny People kind-of works, but I have a better concept in mind I’d like to see for it.  I took the easy way out with Fuzzy Words by plastering a picture into the middle of a (wait for it) solid colored background.

I’ve since commissioned new cover art for the printed version of Fuzzy Words from an artist named TinyBunner.  After spending the day arguing with CreateSpace I think everything is ready to go for printed copies.  I’m very excited at the prospect of having an actual printed book, but that’s a post for another day.

300 Seconds Episode #85: “Self-Checked Out”

Listen to this podcast episode here!

You are listening to ‘300 Seconds with Eduardo Soliz,’ and this is episode number 85: “Self-Checked Out” so let the 300 Seconds begin!

After hearing good things from friends about the movie Coco for the last few weeks, I decided to finally watch it the other day.  I don’t go to the movies very often, and when I do, I like to go early in the morning to avoid the crowds.  Also, the fact that the tickets are cheaper is also a nice bonus.  I woke up and got dressed a little too late to catch the earliest show that was nearby, so I thought I’d catch the next one which was a few miles away.  The theater was one that I hadn’t been to since I moved out of that area a number of years ago, and it was a little bit of a drive.

It was eleven o’clock in the morning and I hadn’t had breakfast yet, and I’m a breakfast guy.   Whataburger is my usual go-to in the mornings, but I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ that comes in just after breakfast hours asking for breakfast.   As a quick side note: Honey-butter chicken biscuits and BoBs would be great any time of the day, Whataburger.  I’m just sayin’

I remembered there was also McDonald’s on the way and thought a sausage biscuit would at least  get me through the movie.  Unless I’m in a huge hurry, I don’t like using the drive-thru window.  Since I spend nearly all of my workday sitting behind a computer and then go home and…sit behind a computer, I like to get on my feet whenever I can, so I parked my car and went inside.

I had never been to this McDonald’s before, but I figured it that it would be like most of the others I had been to.   I mean, it’s a McDonald’s, you know?  I walked in and the first thing I noticed was four giant screens to my left, beckoning me to use them place an order.  The second thing that I noticed was that nobody was using them, and since there w ere a few people in line, I thought I’d walk up to the touch screen and get a taste of The Future!

I have to admit, it was pretty neat ordering, it was like using an app on a really big phone.  Since there was nobody waiting behind me in line, I could take my time looking over the menu.  There was also an option to customize my order, which I didn’t really need but something to check out for later.  A card reader just below the screen allowed me to pay, and my receipt popped out of a slot to the left of the screen.  I placed my order, then walked away from the screen to wait.  Was it faster than going to the register?  Probably not, because not only did I take my time looking over the menu, but I had to learn how to use the system.

As I stood and waited for my order, a woman walked into the restaurant and also walked up to one of the screens.  She stared at it for a few seconds, tentatively poked at the screen a few times, then turned to ask somebody:  “Do I have to use the screen?”

The other customer told her ‘no’ and pointed to the register.  With a sigh of relief, the woman said “Oh, good” and she walked over to wait in line at the register.  I smiled.  Clearly, The Future had not arrived for her just yet.  I was genuinely surprised, because the woman was not very old.  Now don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t very young, either, but to me, at least, she appeared to be young enough to go: “Okay, maybe I’ll give this a shot.”

For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about how automated kiosks and self-check-outs are going to put people out of work, I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.  Lots of folks, like the woman I saw in that McDonald’s, just aren’t going to be willing to try the new thing, and for people that are willing to try it, there is going to be a learning curve which will take some time to work through.  Let’s also not forget the people that do try it and get stuck, which I know all of you have witnessed if you’ve spent any time in a grocery store self-checkout.

As for me, I look forward to taking the opportunity to avoid any unnecessary human contact, because, well, I’m a computer guy, and that’s what we do.

This has been 300 Seconds, the next episode will be posted after my I pre-order my tickets for Wreck-It-Ralph 2.  I am Eduardo Soliz, if you’d like to hear more 300 Seconds subscribe via iTunes and check out my website at Eduardo Soliz dot com, and thanks you for listening!

27 Things I Won’t Miss from my Job (and 5 Things I Will)

workI’m being laid off from my job next month, so I thought about what I will and won’t miss from it.

I won’t miss:

  1. Idiot coworkers
  2. Idiot customers
  3. Incompetent manager
  4. Jerkface department head
  5. Idiot temporary employees trashing the place
  6. Carl (there’s always a ‘Carl’)
  7. That guy that tries to justify the crappy things the company does
  8. Our crappy software
  9. Our crappy websites
  10. Our crappy apps
  11. Our crappy phone system
  12. Having to tell customer our crappy software doesn’t work because it was made in 1999.
  13. Having to tell customers our crappy websites, apps and phone system are down…again
  14. Having to tell idiot workers to do their jobs
  15. Telling idiot workers how to do the job they have been doing for years
  16. Workforce (mis)Management
  17. Waking up early
  18. Traffic
  19. Lousy parking
  20. Half-hour lunch
  21. Lousy places to eat in the area
  22. Timesheets
  23. 2% raises…when there ARE raises
  24. Shagnasty coffee
  25. Overpriced vending
  26. Having to bring my own coffee
  27. Insulting ‘contests’ from management

Things I will miss:

  1. The nice gal from Legal
  2. The ‘office mom’ (there’s always one!)
  3. The metalhead guy (there’s always one!)
  4. Money, but most importantly…
  5. Health Insurance!

62 Things I Noticed at San Japan 009

San Japan (totally not Cyborg) 009 happened last weekend.  Amidst the new venue and new date, I noticed some things.  If I took your picture (I was the dude with bear ears, see below) you can find it here!

  1. It's YUUUGE!

    #16: You are…somewhere?

    THURSDAY NIGHT – Went in the old entrance of the Gonzalez Convention Center out of habit…oops

  2. New space is YUUUGE
  3. My fursuiter friends are already complaining about all the walking they’re going to be doing over the weekend.
  4. Artist alley is HUMONGOUS
  5. Dealer’s room is INSANE
  6. They ARE going to turn on the escalators in the Dealer’s room, right?
  7. Autograph area setup looks like what I see set up at comic-cons, hmm
  8. Located in the back corner, milk and eggs and all that
  9. If Labor Day does take a bite out of attendance, we’ll really see it on Friday, IMO
  10. Me gusta bigger panel room for Furry 101! About fuzzing time!
  11. The halls remind me of PAX South Year 1 but with the lights on
  12. Seriously, the HBG felt like a cavern back then with all the lights turned down
  13. Spiffy new booths for registration, ooh
  14. Badges are less nice this year, a little more papery.  Hope they hold up.  Compared them to last year’s badges after the fact and they’re the same.
  15. Press badges get the same art as volunteer ones? BOO!
  16. The YUUUGE maps were just a bit confusing.
  17. Didn’t help that they put teensy ‘You Are Here’ stickers that were near-impossible to find.  Maybe some gold stars or Pokeball stickers next time, guys?
  18. FRIDAY-This is my free day: No panels and my freaks aren’t showing up until late in the afternoon
  19. Arrived at 11 and easily found parking at the Houston street lot, wonder if that’s a sign
  20. Random person also walking to San Japan asked if the tin of Altoids rattling in my pocket were dice. OH HELL NO

    20160902_185752655_ios

    #28: Overestimate much?

  21. Walked into the Henry B. via the main entrance this time. Is niiice!
  22. Finally found someone pickier than Alvin Von Devious to try and help with their fursuit. Came close to (metaphorically) flipping the table.
  23. Customer service tip: Just answer my question without the lame jokes, please.
  24. So who gets to be the under/sideboob/cheek checker?
  25. Escalators in the dealer’s room are shut off, no bueno.
  26. One dealer’s display had ALL THE BOOBS.
  27. But that’s okay because they’re just cartoons…right?
  28. “History of Anime in the US” got the biggest panel room and about 50 people showed up. Yes, I counted.
  29. Good panel, but come on, I had that many the first time I did Furry 101 three years ago at RealmsCon.
  30. Do they even check to see how many people actually show up at panels?  Seriously.
  31. I kept waiting to hear one word at History of Anime but it never turned up: “Japanimation” That’s what we called it in the 80’s, kids!
  32. Friend and I did our good deed for the day getting a friend out of a jam.
  33. It took me a half hour but I had to claim the top spot on the Time Pilot game in the game room. EDS is on top where it belongs. *flex*
  34. Somehow I got pegged as the guy ‘running’ the furry meetup and some folks freaked when I showed up late.  THAT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS, GUYS
  35. SATURDAY-Easy parking on Houston St again, which has me slightly worried
  36. Saw displays made out of free Priority Mail boxes in the dealer’s room.  Classy.

    Clearly there is underboob here.

    #26: Under….side…ALL THE BOOBS

  37. Only the first 100 people get an autograph? Interesting.
  38. “It is up to the artist whether 101+ get an autograph” There has to be a better way to say that without making the artist look like a complete tool.
  39. The Taito Groove Coaster video game calls the Space Invaders alien a ‘crab’ IT’S AN ALIEN GUYS
  40. I keep thinking ‘Spock ears’ whenever I see pointy ears
  41. An anime con is one of the few places where you can lose a fursuiter
  42. Need to mark the lanes in Artist Alley, which one is ‘Row 5’ again?
  43. Arrived too late to the Bitforce concert to take advantage of my press badge, pbbt
  44. Wonder if they had technical problems; we could see the lead guitarist was shredding his fingers off but could barely hear him.  Otherwise, good show!
  45. Except for the game room, the air conditioning seems to be holding up well.
  46. Good thing too, because I was soaking after the occasional three-block walk to my car.
  47. The paleta man is back, woo!

    #X: Hello, old friend!

    #47: Hello, old friend!

  48. Nearly filled up our medium-sized panel room for Furry 101, w00t.
  49. 45 minute time limit threw me off, though, may have to reorganize things for next time.
  50. I only have two cosplays (Professor Utonium and Soos). I didn’t wear either, and saw the perfect people to take pictures with (The Powerpuff Girls and Giffany)! ARGH
  51. 18+ maid cafe was fun!
  52. Tipsy elevator normies were…interesting.
  53. Tipsy normie asked: “WHY YOU WEARING MOUSE EARS?” I’m not going to debate with someone holding a drink in public, they won’t remember anyway.
  54. SUNDAY-Less parking at the lot, but still no problem finding a spot; be interesting to see the attendance this year (It was down 12%)
  55. Been seeing a lot of ‘robot guts’ shirts around, guess they’re a hit.
  56. Hey panel door guy, the door opens when I say so, capisce?
  57. Noticed a lot of Judy Hopps cosplayers, bunny ears, Nick Wildes, and even an Assistant Mayor Bellweather. YAY ZOOTOPIA!
  58. Overwatch was also popular. I don’t even play the game, but for my friends it’s always HIIIGH NOOOON.
  59. Left early because the show just isn’t as fun without my friends!
  60. Mizuumi-Con is now “Otaku Fair” That’s good.
  61. Otaku Fair decided to not make any further announcements about their new event at THE BIGGEST EVENT IN THE CITY FOR POTENTIAL ATTENDEES. That’s not good.
  62. Observation:  Labor Day weekend works great for older folks like myself. For the youngn’s, though, not so much.

In Defense of Gordon Ramsay

1I had a ‘conversation’ the other day with The Boss about how I address people at work.  I am a blunt, no-nonsense person there and I do not suffer fools gladly (think Zootopia’s Chief Bogo).  I had made a simple request to some new folks we had hired.  Two hours later, I had not received any replies from them.

I walked over and made my request in person, only to be met with a blank stare in response.  Not exactly the best way to endear yourself to leadership.  I then got a little short with folks, which ultimately led to the ‘conversation.’

On to Ramsay, then.  I’ve had the pleasure of watching a few of his shows on the breakroom television at work.  Like many of you, I wonder why he famously gets so angry at the people on his shows.  I did a bit of soul-searching during lunch and realized something:  I got upset for the same reason he does.

Call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first) but like Ramsay, I have high expectations for people.  I like to think that the people that The Boss hires are good techs.  Given my recent experience, I’m reconsidering that, but that’s a conversation for another time.  Now, I am realistic: I don’t expect people to be kicking tail and taking names off the bat, but I should at least get competence.  Most of the folks on Ramsay’s shows (and on my team) should be professionals, and when they don’t work or do things the way professionals do, it is very aggravating, hence Ramsay’s wrath.

Mediocrity has become the accepted norm at my workplace.  While leadership seems to be okay with this, I have not lowered my standards or adjusted my thinking along those lines.  God help me, but I want to work with people that are great at their jobs.  If they aren’t there yet, I would like to help them get there, but if I can’t trust people to perform a simple task, I don’t know that I can trust them to do more complicated things.  Because of this, work is incredibly frustrating for me.

While I can’t explode in anger like Gordon Ramsey does, the next time I see him on the breakroom TV, I will certainly relate.

33 Things I Noticed During Jury Duty

1

#11 Too cool fur school!

  1. Despite what you are going to read, I am happy to do my civic duty.
  2. Indeed, I’ve been tagged multiple times in my life already
  3. Weirdly enough, working on a short story about a trial right now, go figure.
  4. Took a wrong turn, got stuck waiting for a train. Thank you, San Antonio.
  5. Not late, but there was a line for parking.
  6. Just realized I forgot to take my Vitamin C this morning, it would suck to have survived Comicpalooza only to catch ‘jury duty crud.’
  7. Dude behind me in line at the courthouse is standing just bit too close. Can I get a little personal space here?
  8. Forgot to take the change out of my pocket, officer got snippy at me in Spanish. THAT’S PROFILING MAN
  9. At least I don’t have to hear coworkers brag or whine about how Golden State blew it
  10. This beats work any day, fewer stupid people
  11. Felt cool to pin a white ‘juror’ button to my shirt.
  12. Can we  get a nice ‘register to vote’ sign to put in front of the bench? The one there is made from poster board and looks like some kid made it.
  13. That said, if the judge’s kid DID make it, I rescind my previous statement.
  14. Cell phone ringers going off should incur a fine or at least a kick to the shin
  15. Court cafeteria tacos ain’t bad.
  16. Lack of coffee started to kick in at about 10AM, took the first opportunity to grab a cup soon after
  17. Court cafeteria coffee ain’t bad either
  18. One panel called for an Eduardo (not me) and an Edward. THAT’S GOING TO BE CONFUSING, PEOPLE
  19. It wasn’t until 1045 that I got bored enough to start playing Fallout Shelter on my Android tablet.
  20. Or not, back to the jury room!
  21. Got called to a panel!
  22. I’m sorry, but wearing a baseball cap with a suit is THE DORKIEST  thing I will ever see.
  23. Gal that cut my hair a few weeks ago was on the same panel, small world!
  24. A two hour lunch break…thaaaanks.
  25. TVs are tuned to judge shows BECAUSE IT’S A COURTHOUSE GET IT HA HA HA
  26. Grilled ham n’ cheese hit the spot for lunch
  27. Okay, now I can play Fallout Shelter
  28. $1.35 for a 20 oz. soda? I may have to take one for the road!
  29. Back to the jury room, here we go.
  30. Waiting for a while after lunch, hopefully it’s a good sign
  31. Sent home at 2 o’clock, woo-hoo!
  32. WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE TO GIVE BACK MY JUROR BUTTON?
  33. Now to go wait some more while the oil in my car is changed! 😂

Some Neat Stuff I Saw at HavenCon 2016

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Con loot!

Instead of my usual ‘things I noticed’ list, I’m going to take a different approach with this post-convention blog post. At every convention, I see lots of neat artwork from independent artists. Sometimes there are independent game studios showing their wares, and they will often have some pretty cool demos to check out.

This past weekend I attended HavenCon in Austin, Texas. HavenCon bills itself as “the first geek and gaming convention in Texas to focus on the LGBTQIA and Ally communities,” and indeed there was a variety of things to see and do.

So without any further ado:

I purchased some nice X Files-themed prints from Megan Kluck featuring artwork similar to this.  Her art can be found at tasteslikekeys.tumblr.com

This print from Robby Cook will be hanging in my home soon.  His wonderful artwork and mash-ups can be found at robbycook.com

I bought a zine from Bis Thornton (bisthebox.com) and E. S. Mahoney named “Singularity: Contraption” that contained some neat stories about robotics.

“Redemption,” a comic written and drawn by Veronica Kathryn, is the story of a girl who’s trying to make up for the fact that she ENDED THE WORLD.  Oops.  It can be read at redemption.smackjeeves.com and her artwork can be found at bobo-kitty.deviantart.com

There were a few indie game developers there with some neat games, such as Black Ice, a funky Tron-inspired first person shooter with RPG elements by Garrett Cooper.  Finji knocked my socks off with a turn-based survival game called Overland, which is currently in development.

I had an enjoyable weekend at HavenCon, made even more so by these folks and their wonderful work!  I hope you check them out, and thanks for reading!