Friday, January 25, 2013

Self-Publishing my Novel

I have embarked upon a journey of discovery; another one. I wrote previously about publishing on's Kindle Direct Publishing platform. I discovered that, with some effort, it could be done. And it's fine for those satisfied to see their work represented only in the electronic ether. For those for whom a book in the hand is worth more than a potentially infinite number in digital space, self-publishing is becoming the preferred alternative to endless rejections from the brick and mortar world of harried agents and risk averse publishers.

In self-publishing, one may work almost entirely on their own to create his/her book, or use one of many services to do so. I've chosen to use CreateSpace, the publishing engine of Amazon. Although there are other Do It Yourself (DIY) publishing engines, Lulu, for example, I found CreateSpace to be the most intuitively straightforward, with their step-by-step process. In addition, even for those competent enough for an all-in DIY effort, help is available. As an added benefit, the CreateSpace team will make my physical book available on alongside its Kindle cousin. A very detailed rundown on the CreateSpace process can be found here.

I chose CreateSpace's Total Design Freedom Standard package ($728) because I want help formatting and designing the interior of my novel, The Lion and the Sun. I read a great deal, and I know how important the right choice of typeface is, both to facilitate reading and to convey the theme of the story. Whereas your romance novel might look terrific in Emanuela, the same font would look silly in your hard-boiled, noire crime novel.

For the Total Design Freedom Standard process, I submit my manuscript as a Microsoft Word file, with the manuscript written in Times New Roman 12 pt. font. My CreateSpace project team will design the book interior using a font that they feel reflects the genre and general tenor of my novel. I filled out a questionnaire on the CreateSpace web site that provided my input on this.

I had my first consultation with a member of my design team today. Seven days from now I'll be sent a mock-up of the interior of my novel to review and approve. I'll also be sent a cover design. I was given ample opportunity to provide my ideas for the cover (see above), and will have two rounds of review before coming to a decision. After the mock-up and cover concept are settled, it will take the team 10 days to fully format the novel, and I should receive a physical copy of the book 15 days after mock-ups have been approved. After that, I have one more chance to provide feedback.

I'll document my experience using the CreateSpace service here, just in case anyone is interested in self-publishing and would be interested.

Monday, January 21, 2013

One Today

Richard Blanco, Inaugural Poem, January 21, 2013
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper -- bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives -- to teach geometry, or ring up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches 
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind -- our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.
Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across cafe tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me -- in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound 
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always -- home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country -- all of us --
facing the stars
hope -- a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it -- together

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Chapter 22: The Final Chapter?

Rove on the Run
“Look, uh, uh, look, Megyn, Mitt Romney was the man in the arena. Yeah, we can second guess ourselves about our candidate, what we did, what we should have done, but, uh, uh, in the final analysis, Romney ran a good campaign, he ran a positive campaign. But yeah, Obama bet that he could go negative and win and, and... Megyn?”

Karl Rove took his cell phone from his ear and stared at it. Either his phone had dropped the connection, or Megyn Kelly had hung up on him. No matter, he’d said what he’d wanted to say. “God, what a bitch!” Rove said, shoving his phone in his pocket.

The cold, grey day matched Rove’s mood. Obama’s reelection had been both a disappointment and a surprise to him. A shock, really. How Obama won in this economic climate was amazing to Rove. He’d predicted Obama would be a one-term president. Now he had to eat his words.

Rove had watched a rerun of Fox News election night coverage and his comments during the program, seen in the cold, hard light of the next day, were embarrassing. But he’d been so sure. Oh, well, onward and upward.

Rove pulled his overcoat around him as the Metro pulled into the Capitol South Station. He exited the car and walked hurriedly towards the escalator. He glanced at his watch. His meeting at the Capital Hill Republican Club was at 10 am. He had just under 10 minutes to make it.

The National Republican Club of Capital Hill

Rove hurried across 1st Street and walked to the entrance of the club. He showed his ID to the doorman, dropped his overcoat at the cloakroom, and made his way to the Taft Room. The club’s decor’ reminded Rove of an outdated Ritz Carlton. Something that might have been inspired by the original Mrs Auchincloss.

The Taft Room was one of the smaller meeting rooms at the club. Plenty big enough for the dozen or so Republican strategists, if that was the word, meeting this morning. Rove counted nine people standing around a buffet table trying to balance drinks and small appetizer plates, and talking with their mouths full.

He walked over to Ed Gillespie and patted him on the shoulder. “Hey Ed, did you do a sweep for hidden cameras?”
“Hmff,” Gillespie managed, swallowing a oversized bite of some canape’ in phyllo dough. “Karl, didn’t know you were participating in our little confab.”

“Wouldn’t miss it, Ed,” Rove said, with an edge to his voice. Why the hell wouldn’t I be here? he thought.

Gillespie was a super luminary in the Republican leadership. He’d been a special counselor to former president George W. Bush, brought on board to help raise Bush’s flagging popularity. After he left the White House he got with Rove and founded the super PAC, Crossroads GPS. During the campaign he was Mitt Romney’s senior advisor. Now he was angling to get Republican governors and attorneys general elected to office.

Gillespie took a bite of a carrot stick and Rove walked to the temporary bar and ordered a Bloody Mary. “Double it up,” he said to bartender. “And please dispense with the celery.”

The bartender built Rove’s drink and slid it over to him. “Eight-fifty, sir.” he said

“What? We’re paying for our own drinks? What’s that about?” Rove said, looking around at the room for someone to whom he could complain.

The bartender just shrugged. Rove fumbled with his wallet, sorted through his paper money and handed the bartender a five and three ones. Then he dug in his pocket and came out with a quarter, two dimes, and three cents. He put it on the bar and started searching in his pocket again.

“That’s fine, sir,” the bartender said.

Rove had spotted Rich Beeson, Mitt Romney’s political director during the campaign and walked over to him. Beeson was still looking like he did the evening of the election; bedraggled. “Hey Rich, how’s it going, buddy?” Rove said. Beeson looked at Rove over a bourbon on the rocks from which he was taking a long drink. Ice slid down and splashed Beeson’s nose and he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Hey, Karl. You part of this cluster fuck?”

“Oh, yeah,” Rove said. Was Beeson drunk? “We need some quality time on this, don’t you think?”

Beeson just tilted his head to the side and raised his eyebrows. Rove raised his glass to Beeson in a kind of salute and turned to leave. “Our ground game worked just fine, you know. We hit our fucking numbers.”

Rove laughed nervously and moved away. Beeson had had one too many. Besides, Rove wanted to circulate a bit before the meeting. A few more people had come into the room and he was interested to see who was there for the postmortem and strategy session.

Rove saw Mike Murphy in a huddle with a couple of Tea Party people,  Amy Kremer, and Jenny Beth Martin. Both were talking at the same time. Murphy was standing there stroking his white beard, a benign expression on his face. 

Rove saw a large women with disheveled blond hair standing at the buffet table piling food on a plate that was too small for the load. When she turned, he saw that it was Romney’s former deputy campaign manager, Katie Packer Gage. She looked stricken, and was apparently going to drown her sorrow in egg rolls.

Kevin DeWine, the former chair of the Ohio Republican Party was there talking with Phil Musser, a strategic communications guru. He headed up New Frontier Strategy, and was essentially a rival of Mike Murphy’s Revolution Agency; they both supported GOP clients.

“We need to broaden our appeal to minorities,” someone was saying in a whiny voice. Rove turned and saw Hogan Gildey, Rick Santorum’s former senior staffer, talking with Sharon Day, the co-chair of the Republican National Committee.

Rove knew Day to be a super aggressive woman, who was as responsible as anyone for stifling the recount in Broward County, Florida, during the 2000 election. She was dressed in one of her bright red outfits, and wore a wide gold necklace that must have weighed a ton. Day wrinkled her nose and gave Gildey a smile that froze him in mid-speech. “We need to stop these misogynistic assholes from talking about rape,” she said, her high nasal voice racketing around the small room. Gildey made a project of straightening his neon green tie.

The Chair of the Republican National Committee Makes an Entrance

Just then Reince Priebus burst into the room looking frantic. As he pushed open the door, he dropped a three-ring binder he was carrying. I wonder if it’s full of women, Rove thought.

Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to stare at the Chair of the RNC, who was stooping down gathering up the binder and loose papers that had fallen from it. “I got on the wrong side of the Metro and ended up in Rosslyn,” Priebus said.

Priebus gathered up his binder and moved to the U-shaped table in the middle of the room.

Ed Gillespie walked over to Priebus and whispered something to him. Priebus looked over at the bartender. Then he walked over and said something to the bartender, who turned and left the room. Priebus checked over the top of the bar and then went back to his place at the table. Rove smiled. Apparently his message about hidden cameras had made an impression on Gillespie.

“Okay, let’s take our seats and get started,” Priebus said, with an embarrassed smile.

People started taking their seats, but Gildey and another guy Rove didn’t know walked over to the bar and started rooting around looking for booze. Just then the bartender came back with a helper and started breaking down the bar. Gildey had a bottle in his hand, which the bartender took from him. Gildey started complaining, but the bartender shook his head, said something, and he and his helper wheeled the bar out the door.

Gildey turned to the room and holding his hands out to the side said, “What, we can’t have another drink?”

Ed Gillespie said, “We’re going to have a sober discussion uninhibited by the suspicion of being videotaped.”

The Meeting Starts

The meeting discussion was fairly wide ranging, and wasn’t so much a postmortem on the election, as a strategy for 2014 and 2016. Everyone around the table seemed anxious to forget what had gone wrong, although some people were intent on defending their actions, or taking others to task about what they saw as their failures.

In one heated exchange between Mike Murphy and Amy Kremer, the chair of the Tea Party Express, Murphy lashed out, “Look, god damn it, you Tea Party hard liners are polluting the conversation on immigration reform! You’re alienating that demographic. You need to moderate your message and get your constituents under control,” Murphy fairly shouted.

Kremer, her double chins waggling, had shot back that the Tea Party had no racist agenda -- Jenny Beth Martin was glaring at Kremer -- and simply wanted illegal immigrants off the welfare roles.

“You and your country club cronies are the problem, Murphy,” Jenny Beth Martin said, interrupting Kremer. "You handpicked what you thought was a moderate candidate, someone you didn’t think was offensive, someone you thought independents could vote for, and what you got was a weak candidate that stood for nothing!” 

The men around the table looked at Jenny Beth with ill-disguised disgust. Katie Packer Gage hissed something that sounded suspiciously like “bitch.”

Rove Gets in His Two Cents

Rove’s contribution to the proceedings was principally his idea about using the entertainment industry to push the conservative agenda. He said, “Look, people don’t read anymore. Especially young people. Their reading range is three character words and forty character paragraphs. It’s all social media, video games, movies, TV. That’s where we make our pitch. And we do it every day, all the time. For the next four years. Not just during election years.”

"I like that idea," said Phil Musser.

“All that takes money, Karl,” Priebus said. “A lot of our big donors are kind of disappointed right now, and...” he didn’t finish his thought, but Rove knew where he’d been headed.

Rove had responded, “Look, we’ve gotta get the big money working for us again. Okay, so they’re pissed they didn’t get the return on investment they wanted. Tough shit. It happens. I mean, what are you betting on in the market these days, AIG?”

Rove thought that little aside went over pretty well.

No Compromise

“Maybe we need to compromise a bit,” Mike Murphy said. Our 'just say no' strategy alienated a lot of the electorate.

“Compromise my ass,” said Jenny Beth Martin. That would be a big compromise, thought Rove. “No god-damned compromise!” Little beads of saliva were spitting from Jenny Beth's mouth. “We need to stand by our principles. Cut the size of government. Get government the hell out of our business. In any case, it's impossible to negotiate with an ideologue.”

Priebus opened his mouth to say something, and Jenny Beth cut him off. “We should refuse to raise the debt ceiling until we get equivalent spending cuts. Period! End of story.” Jenny Beth slapped her hand down on the table, making Hogan Gildey and Amy Kremer jump.

This resulted in what Rove saw as a pointless discussion about the pros and cons of refusing to raise the debt ceiling. Finally Phil Musser cut in and said, “Aren’t we supposed to be discussing our strategy for the future? The debt ceiling debate takes place in the next two to three weeks. Our thinking should be a bit longer term, don’t you think?”

That’s when Priebus brought up the issue of the primaries, and there was a general agreement that the long, drawn out Republican primaries had eviscerated the party.

Katie Packer Gage said mega-donors like Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess kept financing Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, which forced Romney to the right and made him less attractive to independents. “Then, once he was the candidate and running against Obama, he tried changing his tune and sounded wishy-washy,” Gage said.

“He sounded good in the debates,” Gildey said.

“Well, in the first debate, anyway,” Beeson said, his words sounding slurred.

“Yeah, but you’ve got people voting before any of the debates. In September, for crying out loud. It’s an advantage to an incumbent president that everyone knows,” Gage said.

“You’ve gotta be kidding,” Sharon Day interjected. “Americans knew Obama, and they din’t like him very much. At the end of October his approval rating was only forty-seven percent.”
“Where have I heard that number before?” said Ed Gillespie.

Martin went on, “Romney hadn’t even had the opportunity to be introduced to the American people--”

“We get your point Jenny,” Priebus said.

But she went on, “You look at so many elections where information has come out in the last 10 or 14 days that might have actually changed somebody’s vote.”

“Yeah, like a fucking hurricane,” Beeson said. Everyone turned and glared at him. He smiled and took a drink from a glass that seemed to have only ice left in it.

Discussing the Issues

There ensued a discussion about Obamacare and how to generate a negative buzz on what a disaster it would be. This didn’t lead to any convincing points that could be easily messaged, and so the discussion veered to abortion, gay marriage, and finally gun control.

“We need to feed the paranoia about the government taking away gun rights,” Kevin DeWine said.

“And how do we do that?” Rove asked.

“Well, didn’t you say you wanted to shoot Todd Akin?” DeWine said, laughing.

There was a brief discussion about gun rights and how the mass shooting of kids in Newtown might work to the Republicans advantage, but the general consensus was that gun nuts were firmly in the GOP camp and there was little marginal return trying to gin up outrage over gun rights. “These fuckers are outraged all the time, anyway,” said Ed Gillespie.  

Sharon Day brought up the women’s vote, and Hogan Gildey said, “Fucking war on women bullshit. White women voted for Romney over Obama by a significant margin. I mean, white women are just as afraid of a black man in the White House as white men, if not more.”

After more fruitless discussions about the economy and jobs, the deficit, energy policy, and other topics, for which no one had a cogent message, Ed Gillespie held up his hand and got the meeting attendees attention. “Let’s get down to brass tacks,” Gillespie said.

A More Practical Approach

“We’re going on the offensive,” said Gillespie. “A two-pronged approach. One, we’re going to moderate our message on immigration. Republicans are going to be out front on resolving the immigration issue, and it won’t be by building fucking 700-mile fences along the fucking border with Mexico. Two, we’re going to continue our effort to ensure only legally registered voters can vote. And three, we’re going to--”

“You said a two-pronged approach,” Rich Beeson said, with that same sappy smile.

“Go back to sleep, Rich,” Gillespie said. “Okay, the third thing, and it’s related to voter suppression, is--”

“Voter registration,” Mike Murphy corrected.

“Right, voter registration, is election of governors and state legislators. People who’ll change the electoral map across this nation and mute the minority advantage that Democrats have.”

Reince Priebus held up a sheaf of papers. “This is a rundown of all the voter ID requirements we’re pursuing. We have fifteen states now with a requirement for a government-issued photo ID. All states require some form of ID, and we’re moving to change that to all states requiring photo ID.”

“That will weed out a lot of minority voters right there,” said Sharon Day.

“And we have a lawsuit pending to prevent states from issuing provisional ballots when voters refuse to show a valid ID,” Priebus continued.

“And getting back to what Katie said, we’re moving to cut way back on early voting,” Gillespie said. “We have the support of the True the Vote group in Houston, and the Heritage folks, of course.”

“It would be great to see some scholarly reports coming out of Heritage detailing voter fraud,” Rove chimed in. “Something like von Spakovsky’s book.”

Everyone nodded as if they’d read the arcane book promoting conspiracy theories about blatant voter fraud.

There ensued a spirited discussion about how to make voting more difficult; a topic people around the table could their teeth into and one that resonated with Republican constituencies.

A New Electoral Map

Then Gillespie rapped his glass on the table to get attention and said, “I’ve been saving the best for last.” He paused and looked around the table. “We're working on something now that if we’d had it in place this time around, Mitt Romney would be making his inaugural speech next week and Mr. Obama would be on his way back to Chicago with Michelle and the girls.”

“Listen up, people. This is important,” Priebus said.

Rove smirked. Priebus wanted everyone to think he was in the know, in control.

Gillespie nodded at Priebus and went on. “Republicans now control over half the state legislatures. Our goal is to gain three, maybe four more states in 2014.” In addition, we hold the governor’s seat in thirty states. Hell, we almost won Washington, and that state hasn’t had a Republican governor in over 30 years. Do you know what that kind of state-level control means?” Gillespie said, looking around the table.

“More parties?” Beeson said. He was ignored.

“Redistricting,” someone said.

“Not only that,” Gillespie said. “We win at the state level and then gerrymander the hell out of the state. Then we change the allocation of electoral votes so that they’re allocated to the candidate that wins each individual district, rather than the state as a whole.” Gillespie paused to take a sip of water. “If we’d done that in 2012, Romney would’ve won the Presidency.”

“Tom Corbett tried to do that in Pennsylvania,” Rove said. “It was seen as trying to rig the election.”

“And your point is?” said Gillespie. Everyone around the table laughed, except Beeson, who was resting his head on his forearms and snoring softly.

Katie Packer Gage raised a pudgy hand, as if she were in a college classroom. Gillespie nodded at her. “Uh, hate to sound stupid, but how does that work?”

“With the district method, a state divides itself into a number of districts, allocating one of its state-wide electoral votes to each district. The winner of each district is awarded that district’s electoral vote, and the winner of the state-wide vote is then awarded the state’s remaining two electoral votes,” Gillespie explained.

“But how does that advantage just Republicans?” Gage asked.

“Well, we don’t do it across the board. Just in battleground states where our restricting favors us,” Gillespie said.

“You think we can get away with that?” Phil Musser asked.

“Yeah, I think we can,” Gillespie said. “At least through the next presidential election. After we regain the White House, and with state governments mostly in our hands, no one's going to challenge us.”

Rove had to agree. If you can’t beat ‘em at their game, change the rules.  

Ronald Reagan

Reagan National was humming with activity. Lines at security checkpoints were endless, cafes and bars were packed, and everyone seemed to be talking on a cell phone.

Karl Rove walked into the US Airways Club, checked in at the desk, and found himself a semi-secluded corner to wait for his flight to Florida. He got himself a drink and some snacks and sat down to review the notes he’d taken during the meeting.

The plan Ed Gillespie had laid out was the highlight for Rove. You could talk until you were blue in the face about changing the GOP’s message, getting more people under the tent, or whatever, but the trick to winning future elections wasn’t in increasing votes, but in decreasing them, and then tilting the playing field through redistricting and electoral college changes. And with more Republican governors, the campaign against unions would gain momentum. It was the path forward.

At the same time, Republicans in congress would keep pounding Obama on spending, block stimulus bills, and use the debt ceiling fight to create market turmoil. Republican operatives would continue to prevail upon CEOs to hold down job growth, pushing it overseas, if necessary, and overall, keep the anemic economy on the front burner. This might trigger another recession, but it was worth the risk. It would set the stage for 2014 elections, where Republicans would gain in the House and take over the Senate. And after that, setting the table for 2016 would be a cake walk.

That thought made Rove hungry for something sweet. He went to the buffet and checked it out. Picked out a piece of chocolate decadence cake and headed back to his little corner table.

He was starting to feel good about the coming election.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, or used fictitiously, and any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.