A WHOLE NUTHER THING:
What is this Blog?
Below are pluckings from my stream of consciousness, unpolished.
Thank you very much for visiting.
Friday, January 18, 2019
I want a slammy sandwich.
NOT A POEM
This is a pome.
Free Range Taxi
Monday, May 14, 2018
In a dream I hailed a cab and got in and the cab peeled out. No ordinary ride. Ninety miles per hour through town, getting huge air, up on two wheels around cornersbut somehow I had complete trust in the driver, who was pulling it off in perfect style. Then I noticed the driver was a chicken. No problem. Anybody who can drive like that is a hero.
Carefree in the Garden
Friday, April 13, 2018
A songsterish gardener named Zuhning
Thursday, February 8, 2018
On the cold peak of Pigne d'Arreau
Tautologies for Tots
Sunday, January 28, 2018
If you’re asleep, you’re not awake.
Saturday, January 27, 2018
Polly put the kettle on,
Fire. Without flame the whole thing couldn’t happen; the kettle won’t boil. Fire is an ancient beloved ally and a connection, right in front of our eyes, between us and the odd atomic magic.
I hear the kettle's whistle, and see the steam, little shafts of sunlight in the steam. The sun's fire grew the wood that burns in the stove that boils the kettle. It's all together every which way, and together we'll all have tea.
"Thank you, Sun," says the whistling steam.
This verse holds pure depths. And if it weren't widely beloved since the 1700s, if it had been written yesterday, I wonder if even one current editor or agent would give it a second look.
A Bowlful of Jelly
Sunday, December 24, 2017
Merry Christmas! The Nuther sends good-hearted wishesbut keep an eye on your gifts when that Nuther is in the neighborhood!
And Happy Holidays to my friend Jade Fang who made this image...
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Writing you've already done, however rough, gives you something to expand or revise when you’re uninspired. The more you've written, the more likely you’ll find something in there that sparks you anew.
Write when you can. When you can't, rummage through your unfinished manuscripts, outlines, concepts, titles, interesting names, bits of dialogue, odd phrases, anything.
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Are you a writer? If you’re talking with someone about writing and they ask to read something you’ve written, do you have something to show ? If yes, you’re a writer. Good writer, bad writer? That’s a separate question, endlessly debatable.
Nor can I guess what David Elliott's dog might think:
Photo by David Elliott
Still, We Smile
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Happy Fall! Here's a note of optimism, of sorts, from Bertrand Russell:
"All's well that ends well; which is the epitaph I should put on my tombstone if I were the last person left alive."
Better that sort of optimism than none at all.
On rare occasions, spam does more good than harm. I recently got this email: 'Pancake Rocket, the All-in-One Pancake Batter Blaster'. I wasn't dumb enough to open it. That subject line put a smile on my face so I quit while I was ahead.
But I'm curious about the 'All-in-One' part. How many different ways are there to blast pancake batter? And do we really need to blast it?
Or maybe this is supposed to be better than their competitor's 'All-in-Two' blaster. Or does it do something more than mere blasting? Can it launch pancakes into orbit? That would be nice, in case stranded astronauts get hungry. Or for hungry rambling aliens, or in case any dogs get stuck up there. Dogs like pancakes.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Matter creates space and bends it.
there is no art.
Without black there is no white.
It's all here.
'Nuther' makes Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2016
Saturday, December 31, 2016
A Whole Nuther Thing has been named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2016. This makes me super happy, because Kirkus is a tough and significant reviewer. Illustrator Jade Fang deserves huge creditshe is an amazing artist and person.
Let it Roll
Friday, December 30, 2016
“Soon Earth will cover us all. Then in time Earth, too, will change; later, what issues from this change will itself in turn incessantly change, and so again will all that takes its place, even unto the world’s end. To let the mind dwell on these swiftly rolling billows of change and transformation is to know a contempt for all things mortal.”
For a Fellow Climber, with Love
Thursday, December 22, 2016
Up highthe ice, the snow, the sky,
Tuesday, December 20, 2016
I like plain soap. No oils, lotions, perfumes, oatmeal, corn flakes, creams, dyes, speckles, caffeine, or laudanum. I buy simple soap at our local hardware store just around the corner. It comes in a block of just the right size and proportions and color so when I cut it into two piecesone for the sink; one for the showereach piece looks like one-half of a stick of butter.
Spew the Books, Please
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Yesterday morning in the park it had rained, and there were puddles here and there on the walkways. As I sat on a bench with my coffee I watched a three-year-old noodle along. She encountered a perfect little puddle, and stopped, and studied the puddle for a moment. Then she hopped up and stomped the center of the puddle.
Arting in Babylon
Friday, November 25, 2016
It feels awkward, trying to be a writer/artist while the populace all around us happily splashes in a deluge of pop schlock. Doing it alone is tough. I struggled solo for a year and then found the Writers Loft, miraculously close to home. The people at the Loft have been priceless supports and catalysts for many good things that have happened for me as an indie publisher.
The Echo Test
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.”
What’s a blog? It can be almost anything. Every day each of us holds a vast churning universe in our hearts and souls. What shall we pluck from the maelstrom, to write about? Where to aim the Hubble telescope?
A Whole Nuther Thing
Friday, September 2, 2016
A new children’s picture book, by myself and illustrator Jade Fang, is now part of this world among the thousands of other books springing into existence every day. A Whole Nuther Thing is the title. You may buy it from Brookline Booksmith or from Amazon. Here’s the riff:
I've noticed that most people say, "a whole nother..." rather than "an whole other..." or "another whole..." Do you think that editors should include the word "nother" in their dictionaries or make people stop saying "a whole nother...?" I foresee enforcement difficulties with the latter. What is your opinion?
And two years ago when the book-making bug bit me, this Nother thing popped back up and squawked for attention. (The phonetic spelling, Nuther, better suits my own aesthetic, and I'm the publisher, so there it is!)
Big thanks to the brilliant Jade Fang and her ace agent Wendy Mays. And to Brookline Booksmith for giving A Whole Nuther Thing a bit of precious shelf space.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
“O the consolation of being able to cast aside every tiresome intrusive impression, and in a trice be utterly at peace!”
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Ages five through thirteen I lived in Hampstead, New Hampshire, where our wonderful librarian Mrs. Whitehead enhanced my life. Recently I went back to the Hampstead library to offer them my first two books as a gift. The person at the desk said she’d give the books to the librarian. A week later came a friendly phone message which said thanks, but the library was not able to accept the books, and said:
p.s. I wonder what Mrs. Whitehead would have said. I'll never know.
A Small Irony
Monday, March 28, 2016
Two nights ago my friend Art Illman shot this photo as I inscribed a copy of Red Boots for him outside Wellesley Books, my lovable neighborhood bookstore. I told him, “There are things in this book most people won’t notice, but I expect you’ll notice.” I meant sub-themes of death and rebirth, chaos and creation. Only today when I saw the photo did I notice that the handy writing-desk I had chosen was a trash can. So this new copy of Red Boots started its new life with a new friend in contact with the waystation to its eventual death and rebirth as a looser and looser assemblage of atoms spreading farther and farther, like a little re-expanding universe.
Bonus feature: My facial expression resembles the facial expression of the Box image on the trash can. I wonder what that means.
Monday, March 7, 2016
Book Reviews Yikes!
Last week I offered my not-yet-released hardcover picture book, Red Boots and Assorted Things, on LibraryThing as a Member Giveaway. One hundred LibraryThing members requested a free copy of the book, and twenty-five winners were selected by an algorithm. I mailed out the free books and requested reviews in exchange.
On the same day as that review, the same book was enthusiastically accepted by a bookstore that won the Best Bookstore in Boston award in 2015 and in many previous years. And the second and third LibraryThing reviewers both awarded five stars (best possible) in GoodReads.
p.s. For self-publishers who consider paying Kirkus or anyone else for reviews: my research suggests that it’s probably best not to pay for reviews. You might feel differently, or things might change.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
In most enterprises, a good team is a joy. A bad team is a curse, and no team is nowhere. The four posts below this post focus on some of my teammates. Without them I could not have launched my young publishing enterprise.
Finding an Illustrator / Victoria Usova
While I was scouring online illustrator portfolios for an artist for A Whole Nuther Thing, I stumbled onto Victoria Usova. My lucky day! Her magical work wouldn’t fit A Whole Nuther Thing, but instantly inspired a completely different book concept. My Muse jumped up and danced. Overnight I slapped together a sample PDF for the concept and cold-emailed Victoria. She loved it, and we were off and running. Just like that. Natural teammates! Victoria’s art is the heart and soul of the book: Teapots and Assorted Things. And now we’ve finished a second book together, Red Boots and Assorted Things. It’ll be delivered from the printer soon. Thanks Victoria!
Finding a Printer / PrintNinja
As of today, I have done three print runs with PrintNinja, an Illinois-based offset printing broker whose production is in Shenzhen, China. Their website provides more helpful info about making books than any other dozen websites I could find all put together. Templates for all kinds of book interiors, endpapers, covers, and dust jackets. Simple fast pricing calculators. Great pre-press advice. And I could not find one single bad word about PrintNinja anywhere. So I jumped in, and I’m glad I did. Disclaimer: none necessary. I have no relationship with them except as a happy client.
PrintNinja does an astounding job supporting quality oriented self-publishers. They have made me, a newbie, feel like a real publisher. They care about me. I can feel it. And I can feel good about presenting my beautiful books to the world.
Artists’ Agent / WendyLynn Agency
My third book, A Whole Nuther Thing, is illustrated by Jade Fang, represented by Wendy Mays of the WendyLynn Agency. These two pros agreed to work with me, a new self-publisher. That was a risk for them as I said above, rookies in any industry often make things difficult because they don’t understand the process. But Wendy and Jade have been patient, helpful, jolly, and relentlessly professional.
Finding an Illustrator / Jade Fang
Jade Fang has nearly finished the art for my third picture book, A Whole Nuther Thing. How did Jade and I end up working together? I was a rookie self-publisher with no network. I looked at hundreds of online illustrator portfolios. I bookmarked the ones I liked, and emailed the artists one by one, with my book manuscript in the email. The artists all referred me to their agents, and their agents politely said they were not interested in working with me. They worked only with well-established publishing companies.
Monday, February 15, 2016
Between the Brushstrokes / A Wormhole to the Words
If inspirations pop into your head out of nowhere, it might be smart to consider them divine gifts.
Friday, February 5, 2016
My Book ISBNs
"If you can't find it, where is it?"
I'd like people to be able to find my books by ISBN. Here they are. These buy links go straight to my books on Amazon. If you'd prefer to buy from an independent bookstore, please click one of the bookstore links at the top of this page. Thanks!
Teapots and Assorted Things (hardcover) buy
Thursday, February 4, 2016
My Friend the Universe30862
"Life goes on within you and without you."
We are members of an ultimate community, as are all animals and plants, matter and energy, life and spirit, galaxies, all of space, and other things we don’t know about.
For solace in sad times, I think of this community of everything. It’s with us always and everywhere. It never goes away. It's infinitely tiny and vast, with destruction and rebirth every which way. In this context, are my problems really so bad?
Everything goes on within me and without me. Inside me and outside me. I’m part of it, and it’s part of me. This is true even when I forget it. But I feel better when I remember it.
Friday, January 29, 2016
Dreams of Riches
Edison's big one: "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Edison himself provided the inspiration and the perspiration. How about somebody who has one inspiration and then, for the rest of his life, gets richer and richer not by his own sweat, but by the sweat of others who can barely put food on the table? That’s no genius that’s a self-complacent shallow thinker. A genius would have the brains to see that it’s wrong. A genius would see that such an approach ends up steering the whole world straight down a path to misery.
Monday, January 18, 2016
Amazon takes a lot of business away from brick-and-mortar bookstores, so it’s no surprise that bookstores don’t like Amazon. But as Joe Konrath says, “Amazon offers authors unprecedented opportunity to reach readers, and offers readers the widest selection at the lowest possible prices coupled with good customer service.” That’s why Amazon has huge market share.
Right now Amazon has one brick-and-mortar bookstore, in Seattle. I don't know its purpose. I don't know what good purpose it would serve for Bezos to build more. If anyone can explain it, please email me. I don't blame Bezos for supporting Uber, because for decades American cabs have been filthy stinking rattletraps, the worst taxis I've ever seen in any country. But why on earth would he further undermine independent bookstores, some of our greatest cultural treasures? Is he after all just another smiling megalomaniac?
I offer big thanks to the independent bookstores who have accepted my first book. It lifts my spirits to think of my book in those beautiful shops, being watched over by such good-hearted people. They work hard with no hope of getting rich, just to make the world a better place. If those folks aren’t heroes, no one is. Let's help them as much as we possibly can, because they do so much for our communities and for the human spirit. And if they can't supply what we need, we can get it on Amazon or somewhere else. That way, everyone wins.
Monday, November 9, 2015
Nudged by the Company you Keep
I'm learning. A lot has happened since July 17, when Teapots and Assorted Things found its first bookstore. The book is now in several more fine bookstores, and one gift shop, and would be in a lot more if I had the time to visit them. Hand-selling books does take a lot of time, but can be a wonderful experience, especially when you start to get a feel for your niche.
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Turtles All the Way Down
This morning I feel inclined to discuss things other than my rookie publishing struggles. Warning: I am no scholar. Just an honest dilettante.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation," said Thoreau.
Otherwise what do I do? Make books! Everything takes me twenty times as long as it used to, but that's OK because I work at home, with no one looking over my shoulder, and no deadlines. I can make a hundred forty-seven mistakes every day and fix them all, and then fix the mistakes I make when I'm fixing the first mistakes, and in the end I can still do a pretty good job.
Friday, July 17, 2015
Trains and Tickets
Last weekend my wife and I went to my nephew's wedding on Cape Cod. At the reception dinner, we had a table by the window. Across the street sat an independent bookstore of Dickensian splendor, staring straight at me. "Hey you with the book," it seemed to say, "Are you going to try me or not?" In my car were a bunch of copies of Teapots. I would never forgive myself if I didn't cold-crash the place and try to sell them my book.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
How to Be the Best Proofreader in the World
Sometimes the mountains are difficult. Focus or die. Sometimes you have to move one foot to just the right spot and then put all your weight on just one part of that foot. Or change your balance at the right instant to put more weight on the other ski, or to lift one ski. Or keep going when you're injured and exhausted. Or a lot of other little things.
Monday, June 22, 2015
A Word to Agents and Editors
Please keep an eye on the publishing industry as it changes, and think about your place in the industry. The whole industry, not just the Big Five. Maybe now or later it might feel appropriate for you to try something you couldn't try before. Or maybe you might walk away from the office and create your own team. You know so much. As the big picture morphs, you can repaint part of it and make something happen. Something that couldn't happen without you.
Saturday, May 9, 2015
We Don't Need No Stinking Rules
"Critics are too apt to forget that rules are but means to an end; consequently where the ends are different the rules must be likewise so. We must have ascertained what the end is, before we can determine what the rules ought to be."
As I begin to learn about children's picture books, I hear of more and more rules that we must follow to have any chance at marketability. And I try hard to remember my own rules for picture books when I was four years old. I'm one of those people with tons of clear memories from my early life. And I know that those memories are mostly accurate, because I astounded my parents and friends hundreds of times in later years.
I remember being four years old. I don't recall having book rules. Books were around, and I looked at them. I didn't care how many or how few words they had. I didn't care if the words were big or small. I didn't care if the story had an arc. I didn't care if the book had a story at all. I didn't care if the book had one character or a hundred forty-seven characters. It never occurred to me that anything in particular was supposed to be going on, in the book. I didn't need to be told what was going on, or to be told what I was supposed to learn from it. I liked looking at the pictures and words. I could feel things going on somehow in mysterious ways, maybe like what dogs feel when they watch TV or stick their heads out the car window and look around. It was engaging and inspiring and I always wanted to do it again.
Sort of like our universe, hey? How many adults can say THEY know what's really going on? The ones who claim they know are the ones to watch out for.
Also when I was four my room featured a rocking chair with a cushion. The cushion was a faded quince-blossom red, with a repetitive pattern depicting the interior of a cottage, with a rocking chair and a hooked rug on the cottage floor. That scene was endlessly fascinating to me, like a portal to Creation and every dream since. No story. No charactersnot even a cat on the rug. No lesson, no moral, no humor. Zero educational value in the Gradgrind-McChoakumchild sense or in any mainstream religious sense. You could argue that the rocking chair depicted on the cushion of the rocking chair might work as a springboard into philosophy, but to me that wasn't important then, at least not consciously. For me, the point is this: the image on the cushion loaded my brain, imagination, and heart with a sublime something that defies description. Figure out how that works, and you'll win a Nobel Prize or get thrown in an asylum, or both.
SO my first self-published book, Teapots and Assorted Things, presents an artist who gives me that same sublime feeling. This book breaks almost every rule I have found.
Maybe it's best to first know all the rules so well that we get sick of them, so it doesn't bother us to break them when necessary. If we're not sure exactly what we're trying to do, maybe we could start a project and follow no rulethen after a few drafts, rewrite the same project following every rule. Or the other way around. Then compare the two versions, pluck the best words from each, and consolidate them into a new draft. We might end up inventing some new rules that keep us true to ourselves. That way lies uniqueness.
Rules have an important place in art. Keep the rules in their place. Your imagination is a party, and rules can be party poopers.
Friday, May 8, 2015
Preparing to Sell my First Book
A few copies have arrived, air-FedExed from China. The rest will arrive by container vessel and then UPS from Long Beach, California. Some morning soon, before they arrive, I'll grit my teeth and open an Amazon Seller Account. I already have the shipping materials. When I have the big shipment of books in hand, will I activate the Amazon account and then, like most self-pubbers, watch my sales soar to maybe 27 books per year?
Monday, May 4, 2015
Isabel on the New York Train
Three days ago I drove to my local FedEx warehouse to pick up fifty expedited air-shipped copies of my first book, fresh from the printer. An hour later my wife and I were on the Amtrak train to NYC, and in my bag were a few of my books, as gifts for NY friends. As the train started moving we could hear a little girl behind us, reading a book aloud, and it struck me that I should offer her one of my books. So I stood up, and said, "Please pardon my interruptionyou are a good reader, and I have just published a book, and I'd like to give you a copy as a gift. And you will be the first person in the world to read it." The little girl, Isabel, and her mother were impossibly gracious and charming and appreciative. As soon as I gave Isabel the book she read it out loud twice, and laughed, and said, "This is a cool book." She talked with her mother, and a few minutes later asked me to autograph the book. I wrote, "To Isabel, the first person in the world to read this book, and a very nice young lady. Best regards, Warren Ross." This episode felt like a wonderful start for the book. The very best possible start. Thanks Isabel!
Monday, April 6, 2015
I'd Rather be a Fool than a Bore
Recently in the middle of the night, I lay awake thinking what a fool I am to spend so much time and money on this new hobby of self-publishing. Then I thought "I'd rather be a fool than a bore." Then I wondered how many other people felt that way, and so I got up to google that sentence. Before I googled it, I thought for a moment and figured a lot of people must feel that way, and I guessed that I would get eight thousand hits. I got ONE hitin song lyrics from a Canadian musician named Valdy.
Sunday, April 5, 2015
Bad Good better than Good Bad
I intend to make books I like. I'd rather not skew myself toward someone's idea of market trends, unless my Muse happens to lead me there. My hope is to make books that little kids like, and to find people of all ages whose likes overlap mine, because those people could be my friends or colleagues, and we could help each other grow our work. And that way I'll be a real artist, even if I'm a bad artist. I'd rather be a bad real artist than a good phony artist.
Of course the phrase 'real artist' either has seven billion definitions or has no definition. But inside myself, I know what's real and what isn't. Sometimes it takes a little work to figure it out.
Kurt Cobain said he'd rather be hated for what he was than loved for something he wasn't. And I recall Elmore Leonard saying that he wrote his books for money, and did not consider himself a serious writer. I liked him better after he said that. I got the impression that he would have been embarrassed by his books if he looked at himself as more than a commercial writer.
Saturday, April 4, 2015
An Illustrator is Not Just an Illustrator
When it was time to write the text for the book's back cover and dust jacket flaps, my first drafts flowed out in three minutes. This text provides tantalizing clues that tell the reader there's a mystery AND an extra puzzle, and also helps solve that puzzle, if help is needed.
The parallel plot and extra puzzle allow the promo text to be far more enticing than it would have been. And the whole story has more dimension than before. Thanks Jade!
Monday, March 23, 2015
My Muse came skipping by today,
Sunday, March 22, 2015
"Fun is good."
How about little throwaway picture books sort of like flash fiction? Ebook only. Minimalist art. Sketchy even. Super low illustration budget. You could sell these for 99 cents or give them away as promo nuggets. You might want an artist like Peter Reynolds who can say a lot with few lines and do it fast. The story and text would have to make it easy for the artist. Maybe fifteen pages, or fewer, whatever the concept requires.
Call these things Flashies, Twinklies, Firecrackers, Peebees, Dinglebookies, Fun Grenades, or who knows what. Take a wild guess which name I like.
Maybe some good artists would do this if they like the story and text, and if the rights are right. Or maybe it's been done nine hundred times already and I don't know it because I'm new to the game.
Just a thought.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Kerning Title Text
Have you noticed that some logos or book titles or words in a magazine ad have a definitive look like a perfect creation of nature? Some designer spent a lot of time fiddling with those letters. Kerningincreasing or decreasing space between adjacent charactersis one step in this process. But with some designs and some typefaces that's just the beginning.
Yesterday I finished adjusting the title text for the revised dust jacket of my first book, Teapots and Assorted Things. Four words. I had worked on that title for about ten hours, in spurts, a few weeks ago. Sometimes I thought it was perfect, but I'd get up the next day and see one or more inelegancies and tweak it some more. When is it really done? No such thing, maybe. Art is process. A physical book is one moment of process.
Monday, March 16, 2015
Eating Chicken Vindaloo
I wish Dee Dee Ramone could be here to help me write this thing.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
About This Website
Now on the brink of 2015 I still rent a server from the same people. I'm still running GoLive 7.0.2, Illustrator 11.0.0, Photoshop 8.0, and Acrobat 6.0 on my old MacBook 2.4GHz, OS 10.6.3. If someone calls me a dinosaur, I don't mind.
Peace and Bacon to you! But maybe you don't eat bacon. So peace and figs, or peace and plums. Or a cup of coffee.
Friday, December 26, 2014
It Takes a Lot of Loafing to Write a Book
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Not In It for the Money
My research makes it clear that I'll be fantastically lucky to break even in this self-publishing enterprise. And luck alone can't do it. As my more-experienced peers always say, the hard work begins after the book is published. They also say it helps to have a good book at a low price. What a concept! No joke, though, it has taken me ten months to reach this strategy. A good book at a low price. Of course goodness of content and design is partly in the eye of the beholder, but that's not worth worrying about after you've sent your book files to the printer. I'll just pay the printer for high-quality paper and binding, which are things I can control. If I'm going to lose a lot of money, at least I'll have a nicely-produced book to show for it.
Friday, December 19, 2014
PCIP and ISBN Bar Codes
First post. I have three books in process, with three different artists. Why three? Because I'm scrambling to obscure the inobscurable pains of life, or nurture my spirit, or have fun, or make something to leave behind. I wish I could find the Albert Einstein quote about artists being sad about the world and trying to make a world they like better. And maybe that effort might help artists find new friends, and then enjoying the new friends might help them feel better about the world they were sad about in the first place.
I have no books in print, yet. I'm very happy that one of my books, Teapots and Assorted Things, is almost ready for the printer. One of my final prepress tasks is to confirm that the bar code/ISBN I bought from Bowker will print clearly on the cover. Here is one of many rookie conundrums! This little graphic seems to come loaded with more software than a satellite. I wish they could just make a simple image to size and place. I suppose if they did that, half of self-publishers would somehow screw it up so their books wouldn't scan. I wouldn't screw that up because I have some Adobe Illustrator experiencebut I have screwed up other things. A picture book looks simple. It's not. [update: I took the cover file to my local small printshop; they printed the cover in its proper full size, and the bar code came out super clear. I guess when my home printer resized the image to fit 8 1/2 x 11 paper, something went awry.]