Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lighthouse via drone

While I should have been laboring on the as yet untitled sixth Steve Martinez novel, I have been playing with my Phantom drone instead. (My fellow Phantom pilots insist that it be called a "quadcopter UAV," but everybody else in the world calls it a drone, so I will as well.)

The other day Bruce Johanson, president of the Ontonagon (Michigan) Historical Society, invited me to bring the Phantom out to the old Ontonagon Lighthouse, the society's crown jewel, and get some video and photographs of the place. It wasn't terribly windy, but it was gusty, and the video turned out to be jumpy and shaky, not very usable.

But I also programmed the GoPro camera the drone carries to take still photos every ten seconds, and here are two of the better ones. (Click them both on for large, detailed versions.)

The one above looks toward the south. It was midafternoon, so the sun was not on the front door of the lighthouse, but I used Lightroom to open up the harsh shadows as well as straighten out the horizons, sharply curved because of the GoPro's semi-fisheye lens.

The one below faces north toward Lake Superior. One can see how the Ontonagon River silt built up the shoreline until the lighthouse, once directly on the lake, became landlocked more than 200 yards to the south.

Not a bad way to spend an afternoon, but I really should get back to work on that book.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book jacket elements

While the fifth Steve Martinez novel, Tracking the Beast, goes through the hoops at Five Star Mysteries, I'm fooling around with possible jacket elements.

There must be four basic elements for the cover: the title, an illustration, a background, and the name of the author.

The title and illustration together set the theme: homicide involving railroad cars, specifically covered hopper cars. So, for the announcement of the book on my website, I cobbled up a new home page with the title printed on a hopper car and a human skull replacing the railroad company herald.

Knowledgeable readers will notice that that's not an illustration of a real hopper car, but a photograph of a HO scale model car. That'll work for the website, but not for a book jacket. I'm sure the designers will come up with something entirely different, as well as professional—and maybe not with the same elements.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Steve Martinez No. 6 in the thinking stages

Now that Steve Martinez Novel No. 5, Tracking the Beast, has leaped the first hurdle at Five Star Mysteries and is in the hopper for presumable publication some time in 2015, I've begun work on No. 6.

It hasn't got a title yet, but it will deal with race and murder in the Upper Peninsula. Right now I'm shaping the character of the victim. Creating a personality out of whole cloth is fun, but the devil is in the details.