San Diego Comic Fest

This is not the San Diego Comic Con, it’s better. Smaller but better.

I had a blast and learned stuff.

They had a full schedule on Friday starting at 10:00. That meant I had to leave the house at 5:00 AM. I made good time through all the traffic jams in LA, Long Beach and Orange county until I slowed for traffic accident about 7 miles before Santa Fe ave 10 or 20 miles north of San Diego. One lane closed and traffic slowed to 5 miles an hour. Took 20 minutes to get around the blockage.

The first talk I attended was by Ryan Magnusson on Basics of Digital Illustrations. He did get into a side talk about working in digital art and how free over time was asked for and demanded at some of the companies. Also, work is being out sourced to Asia and he talked about the glass ceiling at the big houses. He stressed that shops are looking for people with specific talents, like inking. They don’t want artists that are versatile. A versatile artist can free lance (and know what the market will pay) and can quit and go work for someone else for higher pay, start their own business or try to move up in the ranks. The shops just want to pay the least they can. I think Indie publishing never looked so good.

Chris Fox gave a talk about 3 D printing under the name of Moving From 2 to 3 Dimensions. He had many samples to show. They were better than the home machine made things that I have seen, but still had lines and lumps in them. Chris said that, for jewelry he would go to a commercial site and have them make the object from a file he sent them. He could have it made in gold or stainless steel. Some shops will make a wax positive and then mold the object in gold or what you want it cast in. Other shops will laser sinter the object.

This being a smaller convention I was able to get some one on one time with an artist and heavy user of Photoshop, Tom Luth, along with some time with another person who knew the insides of Photoshop. With an engineering back ground I don’t think like an artist.

Simple problem, I have asked five digital artists what the multiply command does and I got seven answers. With Tom going over and over (I attended two sessions) I got a feel for what multiply does. I have problems with blending and these guys were a major help.

On Friday there was not a big crowd, but those that were there were hard core. I ran into two guys that drove in from Las Vegas, and I thought I had a rough drive.

A couple of digital artist commented that they liked to make their own brushes. The ones they showed were roughly round. They like the effect that that gave the edges of a line drawn with a rough shaped brush. Some of the personal brushes were squarish shaped. Having some exposure to traditional oil painting and a painter that said “I can do everything you can do with a air brush. With a number two sable, and faster.” I just use a round brush or a G4 pen, except for drawing grass or leaves. I bought a brush for leaves and grass and it saves a ton of time.

I got some serious information on how to shade in Photoshop that I can use in Clip Paint Studio.

Got more shading information form Anthony Washington. He likes to start with a blob shape and turn it into something. Something I saw Frank Kelly Freas do. Some of Tony’s drawings have over 500 layers (thick?). He showed how to take a picture of a cloud and make it into a fog background. He works with very short and hard time limits to get drawings done, so he needs all the short cuts he can find. He has a disk full photos he has taken of rocks/cliffs, clouds and buildings that he can modify and include in pictures.

In the panel on Saturday on Jack Kirby it was mentioned that Jack wanted to be an editor. I think he could have given Stan a run for his money. They talked about how the Hulk was gray in the first issue and green form there on. It was speculated that he was made green because Frankenstein’s monster was green. Was Kermit the frog green because of the Frankenstein monster?

There was a panel titled Killer B’s. It was not on Bees but a group of San Diego writers whose names can be construed as having a B in it. The four authors were Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, David Brin, and Vernor Vinge. Mr. Benford said he was 77 years old, that’s after he mentioned that he had four books in the works. That puts a lot of young authors to shame. Brin has a coming book I think it’s titled Chasing Shadows with a theme of everyone is so connected and knows what’s going on. It’s taken from a non-fiction work.

Greg Bear is doing a fantasy book The unfinished land.

David Brin mentioned that there are more sword makers now than in the middle ages.

Vinor Vinge is plotting a Singularity. A group of home owners out law the Internet of Things. What happens if they have to go into the connected world.

Gregory Benford wrote the Berlin Project. An alternate history book about the Manhattan Project. The General in charge of the Manhattan Project had to decide between separating uranium 235 from 238 by gas diffusion or centrifugal diffusion. He had the best scientist in the world arguing about which way was best. He chose gas diffusion and is now blamed for delaying the program a year.

In the book he chooses centrifugal diffusion and they drop the bomb on Berlin.

The poor General, and engineer. The brightest minds in the world can’t figure it out, but it’s the engineer that gets blamed when the project doesn’t work right.

Next year the Bowl of Heaven series ends with a book by Larry Niven and Benford.

There is an Author C Clark center for the Imagination at UCSD.

They got into a discussion about Libertarian and how the definition of the word has changed.

They agreed among themselves that Pohl Anderson wrote the first post singularity story.

Vinge wrote Bookworm Run. I remember reading that when it came out in Analog. They need to write more books like that. Benford read the story and recognized the author’s name. He walked down the hall to Vinge’s office at UCSD and met him.

Robert A. Heinlein came up with the word sci fi.

Brin, I think said that there is a 35 year limit on copywrite being held by a publishing company. He is going to offer all his books to the next company that gives him a contract, since his books are over 35 year with the publisher.

More on 3D printing. There are free models on Thingiverse. You take a model as a base and change it to what you want.

Heroforge is for gaming figures.

If you get a 3D printer get one with a metal frame. That’s his advice.

If you get a ABS printer get a heated bed and it should be enclosed. ABS warps. PLA is a better beginners material.

Mars rover.

2000 sols (Mars days) five years and 11 miles. Mars sky is not black because of dust.

The pictures he showed were color balanced so rocks would look like the rocks on earth.

Cameras have had pixel damage, but it is not bad.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

ConDor convention and the Play in Sandbox panel

“Play in Sandbox” is a Fan Fic (Fan Fiction) term that means writing in someone else’s story world (their World is your Sand Box). Fan Fic is writing about or in stuff you don’t have a license for (characters, settings, background, story ideas).

A librarian on the panel got into Fan Fiction because the children using her library were into it.

Pro Fan Fic, (making money off other people stories?)

Kindle has a list of stuff that can be licensed. It’s a small list. If you buy a license is it Fan Fic, there are commercial authors writing in other peoples worlds (the 1632 series or in story worlds where the founding author has passed away and the current author is allowed to write in that story world).

It’s Cosplay if it’s not for pay.

AO3 is a site where you can download Fan Fic. Carries better written Fan Fic.

Mary Sue. The term came up again along with her left cousins Gary Stu and Marty Stu. You can have other characters in Fan Fiction without it being a Mary Sue.

The panel recommended taking a look at the story “How to Wreck a Mary Sue Character”.

Write on, draw on.  Professor Hyram Voltage.


ConDor convention and the Arduino and the Computer Security panel

If you have been reading this blog long you know I don’t like software or programers. I do use the stuff so I went to the panel on using the Audrino computer.

It’s a cute little computer but quite powerful.

I won’t bore you with the details but I fascinated my lab partner my typing in the code from the booklet and having the complier screw up. I copied it right out of the book.

The panel on computer security was one of the best of the convention.

One of the panelist relates an old science fiction story where a man comes to an abandoned town. The town is very nice and run by a computer. The man goes into a house and it’s nice. The house cook the man a meal but the man wants to go outside. The computer says OK but after I worked so hard to make the meal. The man runs away from the passive aggressive computer that has driven everyone else out of the town.

Panelist stated that countries around the world will not use U.S. security programs if they think there are back doors in the programs, even if it’s a government required back door.

He feels that the only way to go is an open security organization with no secret black box. Other countries could go with that and they would know that everyone would be trying to crack or break into the security program.

Someone mentioned watching the program ‘The Good Wife’ for a more realistic computer security view.

The Internet of Things (IOT) means a hacker can do suicide bombers without the risk of blowing himself up.

Panelist recommended Last Pass or One Pass as password programs.

Life Hacker was mentioned as a good VPN (virtual private network) provider. Many people in the room raised their hands when asked if they use a VPN.


Write on, draw on. Professor Hyram Voltage

ConDor convention and the Hero: The Good, the Bad, the Anti panel

Here are some notes on the panel.

The guest of honor sat on the panel.

A bit of self promotion, the book The Desert and the Blade sounds like fun.

A line from the movie Mammoth, ‘Heroes are not made they are cornered’.

On being a hero. If a anti hero is forced to be a hero every day he will become a hero.

One panel member related a time he told a fire fighter he was a middle school teacher. The fire fighter told him he couldn’t do it. He would rather run into a burning building.

Comment from the panel, Anti heroes are fake bullies.

S. M. Stirling comment, classic heroes are harder to write. Anti heroes have lots of faults, (equals lots of things to write about). Anti heroes have become popular because they are easier to write.

Comment form the panel, in fan fiction the mother side of the author comes out, meaning they want to write characters that they can fix.

Comment form the panel, in Fifty Shades of Gray she is only with him because he’s rich. What he lived in a trailer, it would have been a CSI episode.

If you got to have a stainless hero then give him a flawed friend.

Comment form the panel, it’s much more fun to write the bad guy.


Write on, draw on.   Professor Hyram Voltage



ConDor convention and the Making Magic Believable panel.

Another hour, another panel. The panel was split on the Twilight books and movies. Some liked the books some liked the movies, and some didn’t any of them. I’ll let you guess who writes vampire books.

One panel member talked about how his wife was reading a book to their child. It was about a snowman that came to life. The snowman plays with the child, plays games and runs around. When the snowman flies the wife couldn’t handle it. There is a line and if your story crosses the line then the story is no longer believable. If the reader falls out of the story you the author have lost. That line is different for every reader.

One panelist brought up the term Mary Sue. The panel defined it as when the author inserts themselves into the story (usually as the hero) with lots of power and no explanation of where the power came from. You run into this in fan fiction a lot.

Another panelist mentioned a person with multi-personality disorder that when one personality took over the person’s eye color changed.

They also talked about Magic Denial. Common in urban supernatural stories.

They did not talk to much about having rules for a magic system such as the Randall Garrett’s books. In them a magician could do some things but there was a cost and a process.

Also they did not talk about having a ridiculous magic system or a magic system where there were rules but the rules are never given away such as the Terry Pratchett books. Mr. Pratchett’s books are funny and that makes up for a lot.


The workshop on telescope making.

it’s been years since I’ve made a telescope. Things have changed. The parts are cheap and available on ebay. I think the instructor made it look and sound too easy. Still for much less than I paid for a lens alone you can make a usable telescope. It did throw people that most telescope users see the havens upside down.

Personal story. My friend built a 6 inch mirror type telescope (a Newtonian). This was long before Dobsonians style telescopes were invented. When he finished the telescope we set it up in his drive way to adjust it. For a quick test I told him to sight on the brightest star he could find and adjust things till he got a pin point of light. He had measured things carefully and built the telescope and its base well so it should have been close and need little adjustment. After trying for a while he gave up saying that the star would not come to a point. I tried for 20 minutes then I noticed that there was a gap in the image of the star. A little bit of adjusting and I had an image, it was Saturn and I had spotted the gap between the rings and the planet.

I have had plenty of fun with a three inch telescope and binoculars so don’t thumb your nose at a small scope.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.

ConDor convention and the Visual Story Telling Panel

At the ConDor convention I also attended the Sex and Sex panel and the Visual Story Telling Panel

The Sex and Sex panel was kind of Meh. Did have a couple of take aways. It’s the character that determines if it’s exploitive. Does it exploit the character or is the story true to the character.

One panel member pointed out that the Lara Croft character in the original Tomb Raider video game had her bust accidentally set to 50% bigger than it should have been. The designers decided to keep it. They sold a lot of games.

Female panel members think Darth Vader is sexy. He doesn’t take bull from anybody, he flies his own ship, and the voice.

Me, I think sex sells books, just look at the book cover of most romance novels. There been a couple of science fiction novels with Venus on the half shell on the cover to.


Panel on Visual Story Telling.

One panel member pointed out that IDW was good to work with. They are not so good on the front end but very good on the back end.

Tip from another panel member. If you are considering a Kickstarter campaign first come up with a list of people who will likely donate and send them a campaign preview. Then ask them to donate in the first few days of the campaign. If you get some funds in the first few days you are more likely to have a successful campaign.

Don’t do war in OZ , Evil scarecrow, or bring back the evil witch. Go with something original.

One panel member recommended reading Blueberry, a French comic about an American.

Another recommendation is read Squirrel Girl.

The librarian member of the panel said that just because a memoir is fill of lies that is not a reason to pull it from a library.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.

ConDor convention and the e-publishing panel

Attended the ConDor science fiction convention in San Diego on the weekend of March 13 through 15, 2015. I was looking for answers to getting a book published and whether I should publish it traditionally or self publish or even ebook publish. Ended up with more questions than answers.

One panel I attended was on publishing and here are some quick notes from the panel.

One panel member had taken two stock photographs and spliced them together for his cover art. He showed how it was legible in the thumbnail view while a commercially made cover was not easily readable in the thumbnail view. Commercial graphic artist don’t always get it when it come to cover visibility at a distance or when it’s a thumbnail. He also showed that the title and author’s name have to be in contrasting colors and big letters to show up in the cover thumbnail. Covers sell and the first glance a reader might get is your cover as a thumbnail at the bottom of someone else’s Amazon page.

Converting your word document to epub format is a lot of work. One tip was don’t write using tabs. Tabs will cause epub conversion programs to blow up or do strange things when they hit a tab in your file. Use search and replace to get rib of tabs. Before starting out to write your story in Microsoft Word set the preferences to indent after carriage return. Now after years of typing I have to train my hands not to hit the tab key after a carriage return. That’s years of habit to un-train.

Use hard page breaks between chapters not a bunch of carriage returns.

Word software puts hidden  bookmarks (almost randomly) in the document as you type. You got to clean them out. Turn on reveal bookmarks and look for bookmarks with funny character in them and delete.

You got to hyperlink your table of contents to the text in your story. It’s not that hard to do.

Another recommendation is use New Times Roman font. There plenty of people out there that will not do this and you will make your story look bad if you don’t. Try Garamond font if you just got to use something other than Times New Roman.

Your going to need blurbs for your book. At least two blurbs, one short and one long. The long blurb can be the short blurb with words add to the end of it.

You got to market your book so think about how people will find your book. Some people use blind browsing and they stumble upon you book. That’s where a good eye catching cover comes in. Other people use keywords. Make sure you have the book or story genre in the keywords and blurb. It’s OK to put the titles of your other books in the keywords.

Then there is SEO = Search Engine Optimization. They didn’t go to much into that. It’s a rapidly changing area that people are always trying to game. Don’t game your reader or they may never buy another one of your books.

Metadata should be your name, the book’s title, blurbs, and tags.

Over and over it was stressed that you got to write a good story/book. Then you got to write a lot of them. Writing a series is good, if they liked the first one they will want more. Get on Facebook and twitter and all the other social media things. (I keep hearing this but there is not enough hours in the day to that and get the writing on the book done. A lot of people say this but I can’t do it.) Then keep your social media up to date.

The key point is that word of mouth is what sells your book. Give the social media visitors something to come for not just come-ons to buy your book. In the past authors have said that pictures of their cats (dogs don’t work as well) do draw visitors.

One author showed that regular publishing (in paper) got him three to four dollars per book while epublishing got him two to two dollars and fifty cents per book and he didn’t have to warehouse a bunch of books. He still has a few paper books printed up to show people, just not thousands.

Smashwords seems to be the winner. The other epub site is harder to use.

Tips from a panelist;

1. Your first goal is to build a fan base and get your name known

2. Don’t price a short story at $9.95.

3. Make the first book free.

4. Indies have to complete on price and quality. Remember quality cost you, the author, time and money (for example; editors, beta readers and rewrites). If anyone knows of a good editor that’s not too expensive let me know. I’ll also do beta reading for you if you will beta read my stuff.

5. The sweet spot for ebook price is $2.99 to $3.99.


Getting a book through Smashwords and on to the WEB can be fast once it is submitted. Smashwords has to vet the book but they turn them around.

If you got graphics in your book get a pro to help publish it.


Write on, draw on. Professor Voltage

Non-Human senses, a panel from Conjecture Con 2014, notes on

A few quick note on the panel. Panelist; William Stoddard, Vernor Vinge, Jean Graham, James Hay

William Stoddard mentioned a book called Animal Eyes, and yes it’s about animal eyes and vision. Some scrimp can see colors humans can’t.

Comment, it’s not x-ray vision if superman can see through a wall and see the color of the object on the other side of the wall.

Vernor Vinge called his story about a shape shifting demon hard fantasy. He attempted to keep the biology as real as he could. Used the term “explicit biology of fantasy”.

James Hay pointed out that animals devote a large part of their brain to the dominate sense. (Can smell well but can’t see worth a darn.)

James mentioned that when staking an animal if animal looks at you freeze. Many animals are sensitive to motion. He failed stalking class twice.

Vernor had a friend that put an Infer Red sensing camera on his glasses and changed the output of the camera to audio and piped the audio into his ear. He could tell if the lawn needed watering even if it looked very green to everyone else. Can Google Glass do that, if it could you could sell it to gardeners all over the world.

William Stoddard said the book on animal eyes reported that birds are now following roads. It’s lazy and messing up the scientist that study migration.

Jean has seven cats. Great for writing about senses. (she must have tons of followers on Youtube and draw lots of people to her Facebook page with all the cat pictures and stories. Which would help sell a lot of books).

They got to talking about races or creatures that had dominate senses other than sight. You would end up with saying in the creatures language like “I know it like the smell of my rear end.”

Write on, Draw on. Professor Voltage.

San Diego Comic Fest not to be confused with Comic Con

Last weekend (Oct 17, 18, & 19 2014) I attended the San Diego Comic Fest at the Town and Country hotel on hotel circle. It was a great convention.

Under I was wrong. When I got the preliminary schedule I researched the different presentations on the web (who are they talking about, should I know this guy). I was disappointed that there were not many presentations on making comics. I was wrong. There were plenty of presentations by writers and artist on making comics. This year there were also several presentations on Kickstarter and doing Kickstarter campaigns. The Kickstarter talks drew good crowds.

There were unscheduled talks including one that went till after 10:00 PM Saturday.

I heard other attendees say that the presentations were good this year so it’s not just me that thinks it was a good con. I go to find out how to make better comics and it is always a relief to find others are having the same problems I am having. Now if I could find someone that would warn me of the problems before hand.

There were many presentations on other subjects but hey I’m focused.

Besides where else can you go and have Spiderman as your IT guy, complete with Google Glass. Your costume rocks AV tech.

You could get a ride in a Ghost Buster’s car.

Artist alley was packed. A friendly busy bunch. There were the occasional shouts of where is my brush pen and buy my book.

Plenty of Steampunk costumes.

Lots of music, with live band.

I had family commitments and had to skip Sunday but if Sunday was anything like Friday and Saturday it was a great conference.

Conjecture 2014 & ConChord 26 fantasy conventions

I’m more into science fiction but I enjoy conventions and had never been to this one. Besides it don’t take much to keep me happy. I do miss listening to authors talks since the Mysteries to Die For bookstore closed.

Got to hear many authors talk. Several of the authors I have never heard give a talk before.

It’s a small convention and those are the best. You can talk to the speakers and other attendees unlike the very big cons where the lines are too long and the crowds too big.

The dealers room had a small number of vendors but I bought a couple of items, support your vendors. Could have used more vendors and the competition between vendors is limited with the small number of them.

The last panel of the day was always the funniest.

There was the usual confusion at the beginning of the con, you don’t notice it in the big cons they have enough support people to smooth thing out.

All in all a good con.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.