Jul 052013

First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July.  Ours was pretty uneventful, other than the fireworks making the dogs nervous all evening and most of the night.  It wasn’t too bad on them, but they pretty much refused to leave my wife’s side from about eight or nine, until well after bedtime.  :)

Now, truthfully, I started writing this entry a couple of days before the 4th, and at the time I started, I had book covers on the mind.  It was a topic that had been on my mind quite a bit, since I went through so much on the cover for Streets of Payne (read about some of it here).  Then I think back to the issues I had with the cover for Half Past Midnight.  HPM was my first venture into writing, so I suppose mistakes were to be expected.  But even taking that into account, there were plenty of problems.  And that gave me the idea that some of the rest of you might have encountered similar issues.  Or perhaps you’re coming up on that part of your work in progress and you’d like to see some of the pitfalls I went through so you can (hopefully) avoid making the same mistakes.  Or, maybe you just want a good chuckle at my expense.  :rotfl:   Hey, I don’t blame you.  Looking back on some of what I did, I find it pretty amusing, too.

But let’s make this a lesson entry.  That’s what this blog is supposed to be about, right? Doesn’t it say so right at the top of my blog? “JL Brackett – Learning to Write“.   So here we go…

I’ll start by looking back at my first novel, Half Past Midnight.  I made several mistakes with that one, spending much more than was necessary to get it published.  But it was a learning experience, and it was fun.  Specifically addressing the topic of the cover, I have to shake my head.  I probably put that poor cover artist through hell before we finally got something acceptable.  I mean, all the poor guy knew about my book at the time was that it was something about a nuclear war, and it was post-apocalyptic.  And armed only with that limited amount of knowledge, here are some of the first cover samples he submitted to me:

Walk on a roof edgeWalk on a roof edgeWalk on a roof edgeWalk on a roof edgeNeedless to say, I was disappointed.  How could he miss the mark so completely? Didn’t he know what I was trying to accomplish here?  It was almost as if he hadn’t read the book at all!  And that was when I realized… he hadn’t.

It was a rookie mistake.  I assumed either the publisher or the cover artist had read my book and would know what artwork would work best.  That is NOT the case!  If you’re an indie, and you’re hiring freelancers to do your cover art and publishing, they will most likely never read your work.  That leads me to:

Cover art lesson #1 – Don’t be timid!  Get involved in every aspect of your book.  No one knows what you’re trying to accomplish better than you do.  It’s up to you to carry that vision forward from beginning, to end.  All the way to the end!

So I contacted the artist and we discussed why these proposed covers just weren’t going to work.  He was extremely understanding, and taught me how to go to various stock photo sites and create light boxes with pictures that I thought incorporated part of what I wanted on my cover.  I spent the next several days going over picture after picture, until I found something that I thought incorporated the “feel” that I wanted on my cover.  It was a picture of a young woman with an AK47 resting on her shoulder.  She stood in the middle of an empty field, and she looked dirty, bone weary, and down-trodden.  She reminded me of the character of Megan in my book.  I sent that to him and told him what I had in mind.  That was when I learned what a decent cover artist can do with photo manipulation.  I spoke to him about backgrounds, and the fact that in the book, Megan used a crossbow, and that a lot of the fighting took place under cover of darkness.  After a few conversations, and a couple of final tweaks, he finally created this outstanding cover.

In the meantime, though, the editing was complete, and the publishing files were done.  I had waited too long to have the cover art done, and now I had a book ready to publish, and had to wait for the cover.

Cover art lesson #2 – Learn to manage the timing of publication.  There are some tasks that are prerequisite to others.  For instance, the book must be written before it can be edited, and it must be edited before it can be formatted for publication.  However, the cover art can be done as soon as you know your novel’s theme, tone, setting, and characters.  Once you have a feel for what you want on the cover, I recommend that you begin working towards getting your cover done.  This will eliminate the frustration of having your novel written, edited, and files ready for publication while you have to wait on your cover.

Megan w crossbowSo I finally got the artist everything he needed and within a matter of days he sent me a preliminary cover.  A few tweaks, and we had a cover I was happy with.  Did I say happy?  I was thrilled.  It was awesome!  But I wanted to make sure other people agreed with me, so I posted a preview of it in a few writing forums.  The response was overwhelmingly positive.  I had a winner of a cover.  I went to work, put it on a few print galleys, and started gearing up for the e-book distribution.

Then came the question that I should have headed off at the very beginning of my polls – What is your book about?

What’s it about?  Well, it’s a post-apocalyptic story about a small group of people who survive the nuclear aftermath of a war, only to find that there are still crazies in the world, and….

Wait, wait, wait!  You mean this isn’t a YA story about vampires?

Ummmm, what?

Well, you have a young girl, with a crossbow, at night…

Oh, crap!

I pulled that cover immediately.  As I recall, there are less than ten copies (I think there are six, actually) of the paperback version of HPM that have that cover.  If you have one, who knows?  Maybe it will be a collector’s item when I’m a world-renowned author!  LOL.

Cover art lesson #3 – Make sure your cover tells what your story is about.  It’s not enough for it to just look really good.  A potential reader needs to be able to look at the cover and get a pretty good idea what the story is about.  If I had gone with that original cover and people had begun buying my book thinking it was a YA vampire book, I can’t imagine how many folks I would have disappointed.

But now I had to come up with something quickly.  Something that told the reader immediately that this was not a YA vampire story, but an adult story set in a post-apocalyptic world.  I went hat in hand back to the artist, explaining my dilemma.  We went back to the drawing board, and finally came up with the cover that stayed on HPM for a year or more.  The mushroom cloud over the cityscape…

HPM final coverIt didn’t have all that much to do with the story, but someone looking at it definitely got the idea that this was a post-apocalyptic novel set after a nuclear war.  It worked well enough for about a year.  I did find out one minor problem with the cover during that time.  It turned out that the licensing for the stock photos used in that cover were only good for cover art.

Now, you may ask yourself, so what?  That’s all you should need it for anyway, right?  Well, as it turns out, no.  At least, not if you want to create promotional items like t-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads, etc.  As a result, I have a drawer full of t-shirts and mouse pads that I can never give out.  So…

Cover art lesson #4– Make sure of your licensing for the artwork.  It may cost a little extra, but if you ever want to give away any promo items, you must make sure you can legally do so.

Now, while I was learning these lessons, I wasn’t idle.  During that time, I wrote a short story for the Explorers: Beyond the Horizon anthology, and a novella “companion piece” to HPM called The Road to Rejas.  It was the story of one of the minor characters in HPM, and how he came to be in the novel.  And when I went to publish R2R, that brought me to…

Cover art lesson #5 – If there is any possibility of your story becoming part of a series, you must remember to bear branding in mind.  If you have several written works up for sale, the reader should be able to look at the covers and immediately tell which ones are part of the same series.  Unfortunately, it was going to be difficult to do this with the HPM cover I had at that time.

So I spoke to another cover artist.  Now, I had nothing against the first artist, but he was attached to a company I had decided not to go with again due to monetary considerations.  I had found that much of what they did, I could do on my own, and what skills I didn’t have were available for hire at a much more reasonable cost.  So I contracted with Glendon Haddix at Streetlight Graphics to do the cover for R2R, and to redo the cover on HPM, with the understanding that there would be another novel coming in the future.  Half-Past-Midnight-Print-Cover-6x9 The-Road-to-Rejas-6x9They came up with the fantastic covers that HPM and R2R have today, and there is already a preliminary for the upcoming sequel, Y12.  So look at these two covers.  Is there any doubt that the stories are related?

I don’t think so.  Color scheme, font style, symbols… all of these were used to great effect to link the stories in the reader’s mind.

So with all this history, you would think I would know what I was doing when it came time to get cover work for my next book, right?  Well… I’ll give myself a little credit.  At least I didn’t make the same mistakes I made the first time around.  No, this time I came up with completely new mistakes. :footmouth:

First of all, Streets of Payne was going to be completely different from HPM and R2R.  It was a different genre, different theme, targeted a different audience… it had a totally different feel.  So I knew I wanted it to look completely different from my other covers.  I also knew that I wanted a different kind of cover.  I was interested in getting some more expensive digital art.  Unfortunately, that was something that my previous cover artist didn’t do.  So I started the search back in July of 2012, when SoP was still a work in progress. I figured that would give me plenty of time.  I was determined that I wouldn’t be caught sitting on a practically finished manuscript, waiting on a cover before I could publish.

A fellow author put me on to an amazing digital artist she had found.  This woman didn’t stop at photo manipulation, she did digital art at another level.  I got contact information and told her what I had in mind.  She explained that there were several people ahead of me, and that it might take a while, but at that time, I anticipated that I wouldn’t likely be ready for the cover until the end of the year.  Since I had planned so far in advance, time was not an issue for me.  I told her that I didn’t anticipate completion of the novel until the end of the year, so that wouldn’t be a problem.  We exchanged a couple of emails, worked out details, and she sent me payment information.

Cover art lesson #6 – Never EVER pay in advance by Western Union.  If someone tells you that is the only way they will accept payment, find someone else.  There are other artists out there.  Payments via Western Union are non-refundable.  It is the equivalent of you handing cash to someone, without knowing them, or where they live, or what they will do with the cash once they get it.  You have absolutely no recourse if the deal goes south.

Now, you may ask, why did she need payment via Western Union?  Simple – she lived in Croatia, and it was the only way she could get money from the US.  Okay, maybe I was naïve, but I bought it.  I’m usually one to give people the benefit of the doubt.  And hey, I had plenty of time to work through any issues, right?  ?:-)  So after a few months of not hearing from her, I caught wind that several other writers were having trouble getting her to respond to email.  Then rumors started that she had been involved in an accident, and was starting to get back on her feet.  There was a thread on Kindle Boards wherein several authors expressed their dissatisfaction with her lack of response to their queries.  Some had missed deadlines and had to find other artists.  And then she posted on the thread herself.  She apologized, said she had been in a motorcycle accident, and had been unable to work for several weeks.  But she assured everyone that it was all behind her, and she was getting back to it.

Of course, she was way behind, but if we would all just be patient with her, she would get caught up in a few weeks.  Again I waited.  After all, plenty of time, remember?  By the time October rolled around, I was starting to get concerned.  I sent her several emails, none of which were answered.  I finally decided to put a little pressure on her.  I posted on that same thread in Kindle Boards all that I had been through with her.  That did two things… it brought the problems everyone had had with her back to the top of the forum again, reminding others that she had been a problem, and showed that I was still trying to contact her.

It worked.  She responded with an apology, indicating that her old email service had been canceled and that she had a new email account.  She sent me a private email, and promised me

Streets of Payne 06DEC2012

Streets of Payne 06DEC2012

preliminary work within a week.  It was November 27 when she finally got me something, but when she sent me the work, I was amazed.  We went back and forth a few times with minor changes I wanted, until she finally sent this cover in early December.  There were a couple of minor changes that she still hadn’t gotten, so I asked her to make them, and send me the licensing agreement so I could use the cover.  That was the last I heard from her.

She never responded to any other emails or chat requests.  Ever.

Cover art lesson #7 – No matter how talented the artist may be, if they have no business ethic, you can’t work with them.

I was SO frustrated!  Here was this absolutely fantastic cover, and I couldn’t legally use it.  I asked around, and no one else was able to get a response from her either.  It was like she had dropped off the face of the earth.


I later found out that she had sold another cover to a friend, then someone else bought the exact same cover from her!  Someone told me that this is legal in many European countries, that the artwork remains the property of the artist, and can be sold as many times as they want.  I have no idea if this is true or not.  I’ve already determined that I’ll never work under those circumstances again, so it isn’t of enough concern to me that I would spend time looking it up.  However, if you are…

Cover art lesson #8 – Make sure you know the licensing laws and other legalities involved in using the cover art you contract.  If you hire an artist outside of your native country, check to see if there are any international laws regarding the use of the artist’s work that might impact your novel.

By this time, I was getting pretty concerned.  What had started as a six month cushion, had dwindled to a matter of a few weeks.  In the meantime, I began corresponding with another author whose acquaintance I had made on a forum.  He had recently published his first book, and had been taken to the cleaners on editing.  I contacted him, letting him know how much I liked the story, but recommended that he get it professionally edited.  I put him in touch with my editor, and when he mentioned he also wanted to explore getting a new cover and having the manuscript reformatted, I recommended Streetlight Graphics.  I made an introductory call for him to Glendon, and during the course of our conversation I mentioned the problems I’d been having with the SoP cover art.  Well, it turned out that the type of digital “painting” that I’d been looking at was something he was interested in learning.

I was back in business!  I knew that Streetlight Graphics was completely trustworthy.  I knew they valued their clients, and their reputation, and were doing everything in their power to SoP001grow that reputation.  And I knew the way their licensing worked.  I showed Glendon the cover I had commissioned before, and told him how much I liked it.  But I knew I couldn’t simply have him go out and replicate the same cover.  I didn’t want there to be any possibility of some sort of copyright infringement.  So we went through a few false starts, and finally came to what you see here to the left.

I was torn.  I liked it quite a bit.  But something just didn’t feel right about it.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but Glendon made it simple.  He said if I couldn’t look at the cover and say, “that’s what I want on my book”, then he didn’t want me to accept it.  We kicked around a few more ideas, and he explained that he thought we might be focusing too much on a particular scene or character.  He suggested going more with a concept piece, and started asking some questions.  A few days later, he presented me with a cover that blew me away.

Cover art lesson #9Streets of Payne 800 Cover reveal and PromotionalTrust your gut.  If something doesn’t feel quite right, figure out why.  Or, if you can’t figure out why, step back and punt.  It may be that you’re so focused on a particular idea that you’ve got tunnel vision, and are missing a wonderful idea that’s waiting just around the corner.

I know I’ve already shown the cover, but this post would be incomplete without finishing the evolution.  So…. there it is – the stories and lessons I’ve learned (so far).  I hope some of this might just help some of you avoid similar mistakes as you travel your own road to success.

And in the meantime, I need to get back to work on the newest work in progress.  Watch for an upcoming collaborative novel by yours truly and Edward Lorn, wherein we will explore the world of post-apocalyptic horror.  Chucklers – coming to a nightmare near you.  ;)

Dec 162012

First of all, I’m not going to address the terrible tragedy in Connecticut.  I’m tired of the sensationalizing and politicizing of such a tragic event before the families of the victims have had a chance to mourn properly, and I refuse to be a part of it.  All I will say is that my heart goes out to the victims and their families.

I will also mention that it has caused me to question exactly where my policy on not talking about politics here ends, and my freedom to address current events begins.  But again, that’s a topic for another time.

In the meantime, I had the two-day giveaway of The Road to Rejas at the beginning of the week.  It was an interesting experiment that has pretty much proven to me that Amazon is no longer interested in promoting that particular marketing strategy.  Their algorithms no longer seem to take into account your title ranking before you went into “free mode”, but instead start you over once you come out.  When R2R went free, it was ranked just under #17000 on Kindle.  Afterwards, it shot off to an abysmal ranking of more than #69000.  It is finally coming back down to where it was, but it was a scary few days.  It was bad enough that I have to conclude that the ONLY advantage to putting a work out there for free is that it briefly gains a little attention, and gets your work out to a few new readers.

And speaking of which, I seem to be at a quandary here.  I’ve gotten a few reviews on R2R, and for the most part, they are good.  However, a consistent complaint is that the readers thought they were getting a full length novel, and were bummed to find it was only a novella.  I’m not really sure what I can do about that.  I put the fact that it is a novella in the book description on Amazon.  And I put a subtitle on the cover that says “A Half Past Midnight novella”.  I’m not sure what else I can do to let people know.  Ideas, anyone?

On the Streets of Payne front, I’ve made some good progress, getting another two thousand words in this weekend.  The bad news is that this is turning into another of those stories where the more I write, the larger the story grows.  I had originally envisioned it coming in at a bit over eighty thousand words.  It is beginning to look like it may be closer to one hundred thousand, instead.  And of course, I haven’t heard back from the cover artist since December 8.  The work she’s done so far has been phenomenal, but it’s still not completed. (sigh)

Ah!  And I’m participating in a giveaway on Goodreads.  The “Apocalypse Whenever” group is throwing a Mayan Non-Apocalypse Giveaway, and I have volunteered a signed proof copy of HPM, as well as three kindle copies of R2R.

All right, that’s enough for now.  I say it almost every post, but it’s especially apropos this week.

Be safe everyone.

Dec 092012

Hello all,

Yeah, it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted anything.  Things have been pretty busy at work, and there are the holiday preparations, and I can make all sorts of other excuses.  But the fact is that I’ve just been off my game and haven’t been keeping up with my blogging.  Sorry guys.  But I’m trying to get back into the swing.

Streets of Payne is coming along and it looks like the cover work is almost done.  You know, when I published HPM last year, I had the book completed and ready to go for several weeks before it actually published.  The hold up was the cover.  I was so new to the business that I didn’t fully understand all the various pieces that comprise the publishing puzzle.  I concentrated so much of my effort on the writing, editing, and publishing aspects that I didn’t realize I had overlooked overseeing the cover art.  So when I got to the end of the “assembly line”, I found there was a key ingredient missing.  Talk about your “DOH!” moments.  :shock:

This time around, I’m going to have the opposite problem (if you can call it a problem).  The cover work is almost done.  The artwork is pretty freaking awesome, and I can’t wait to do a cover reveal once the finishing touches are in place.

Unfortunately, the book is still at least a couple of months away from being completed.  And you don’t want to do a public cover reveal months before the book is ready to publish.  Do that, and it’s like a big tease for people.  It’s just cruel, isn’t it?  Guess I need to think about how to approach the whole thing.  If you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to tell me.  Either comment here, or you can email me privately at jlb.author@gmail.com.

On another front, I’m participating in a Red Adept Select giveaway.  Follow the link and enter, or enter on Facebook for the chance to win all ten of the Kindle books listed.  Ten books!

Go, enter.  And I wish you all the best of luck.

Be safe everyone.  :waving:

Oct 112012

Just a quick post to announce that The Road to Rejas is now officially published.  Technically, it went live late on October 9, and has sold all of four copies!  LOL.  To the four friends or family who bought those, thank you.  :-D  I ran the math, and it turns out that I will have to sell 1815 copies of R2R to make my break-even point. (sigh)  So if I subtract the four units currently sold, I only have 1811 to go!  Woohoo!!! :-/

Oct 092012

I’ve been intentionally delaying this post, hoping that I would be able to put up the big “R2R is published” headline.  Unfortunately, that’s not going to be the case.  Here I am on Tuesday of the week right after I posted about how I was going to make it a point to be more timely with my “weekend” blog postings.  And yes, I’m late again.  (Maybe I need to stop setting deadlines that I don’t  know I can keep?)  Does it help if I do a cover reveal?  Those of you who follow me on FaceBook have probably already seen it, but for the rest of you… ta-dah!!!

First of all, I was nervous about publishing R2R to begin with, since I’ve never done the actual publishing on Kindle before.  For HPM, I hired a publishing company, and that was part of what they did for me.  People kept telling me that it was simple enough to do, especially compared to uploading the manuscript for the paperback version in CreateSpace (which I did do on my own, because I couldn’t afford to pay the publishing company for both electronic and print publishing), but I had my doubts.  I’d had no real problems with the CreateSpace formatting, so I didn’t see how KDP could be any simpler.  CS formatting was tedious and time-consuming, but far from difficult.

But I tried to tackle the KDP publishing this time on my own.  Not the formatting, mind you.  I’m not crazy enough to dive into that.  No, Glendon Haddix at Streetlight Graphics handled that for me.  He formatted the manuscript, and handed it over to me with instructions on how to upload it to Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.  He also told me that the actual publishing process was simple.  So I figured it would be easier to learn with a novella than a full-blown novel.  Besides, if I didn’t go ahead and tackle it now, I would never learn.  So I tried to publish R2R last Sunday.  In a way, everyone who told me how simple the process was on KDP was right.  It was a very straightforward process of filling in a few fields, uploading the cover, and the manuscript, then pressing “go”.  I began to get excited.  I had the crazy idea that I would be able to publish, make the announcement, and all would be right with the world.  I should have known better.

First of all, Amazon KDP was acting squirrelly and wouldn’t save my work.  Each time I tried to save a draft on the site I got some unhelpful message that indicated that there was a problem, and asking me to try back later.  There was no real indication as to what that problem might be, just a suggestion that I try again later.  It might as well have been a Microsoft Windows error message.

Monday was a little better in that KDP allowed me to upload the cover and manuscript.  It even allowed me to choose my BISAC settings and my keywords for metadata search parameters.  Then it asked me for the description.  That was when I was once again reminded how new I am to the writing game.  I had forgotten to write a blurb for R2R!  In the immortal words of Berke Breathed’s Bill the Cat, “Ack!”

Yep.  My Rookie Mistake of the Week.  And it had to be this! (sigh)  You see, I HATE writing book blurbs.  HATE IT!  I find the idea of attempting to condense the goings on of a story into a few lines to be incredibly intimidating.  Don’t ask me why, but it is.

Nevertheless, I wrote what I thought would be a clever little paragraph that I thought linked HPM to R2R, and let the reader know that this was a companion piece for HPM.  I shot it off to Red Adept Publishing for approval (because I have learned one thing at least, and that is to NEVER publish anything without running it past a good editor), whereupon my editor politely pointed out my obvious mistake.  I had spent so much time trying to show the link to HPM, that I’d pretty much neglected telling what R2R was actually about!  Basically, if you hadn’t read HPM yet, there was nothing to interest you in the blurb – nothing to make you want to read the novella.


So I wrote another blurb, and late last night I sent it off to the editor again.  Hopefully this one will work better and I’ll be able to publish later today (assuming there aren’t any more “gotchas” in the publishing process.)

Other writing news – I finally figured out why Streets of Payne has been giving me so much trouble.  It turns out that there was a subtle plot flaw that was evidently gnawing at my hindbrain.  It was a matter of a character having conflicting motivations that I hadn’t noticed.  When I correct those motives for the character, it turns out that he’s not the character I thought he was at all.  I thought this guy was the main antagonist, but it turns out he’s actually a good guy!  So I asked him, “What’s the big idea?”  He explains that there is a plot twist that I completely missed, that he wasn’t the guy that was behind it all, and the person that is behind it is a sneaky little SOB.  So there is some rewriting to be done on SoP and some clues need to be highlighted a bit to keep the big reveal from looking like a cheap, sneaky trick.  I hope I can pull it off properly.

On other news fronts – we found a car for Baby Bird.  It’s a nice looking Toyota Corolla.  The dealer was asking $8600 and we managed to talk them down to $7300.  I thought we had done pretty well until we took the car to our mechanic.  Bad brakes, filthy transmission fluid, battery that won’t hold a charge, and worst of all, a belt tensioner that was about to fall apart made it obvious that there may have been a reason the dealer came down on the price so easily.  I won’t go so far as to say we got taken, because the car is now really sound.  But it wasn’t the steal we initially thought it was, either.  Basically, most of the savings we thought we had gained at the dealer’s table, we ended up spending on the mechanic.  C’est la vie.

Last weekend was the neighborhood garage sale.  We live in one of those restricted neighborhoods where we are only allowed to have garage sales twice a year.  On those dates, the neighborhood turns into a giant flea market, with everyone bringing their goods out to the driveway.  The streets are clogged, and people stroll up and down the sidewalks for hours.  Only not this time.  Usually, you can barely get into the neighborhood, and if you do, you can barely drive for all the people wandering the streets.  This time?  Not so much.  We still managed to sell most of the large items we were trying to sell, but the attendance was abysmal when compared to most of the previous sales.  I don’t know if it was the fact that everyone is beginning to feel the pinch of the economy, or if it was simply that there were several other events going on that same weekend (Texas Renaissance Festival, Greek Fest, Buzz Fest, and the Komen Race for the Cure all started on Saturday).  Whatever the reason, it just wasn’t what it used to be.

And Sunday I ended up working with my son on the brakes on his truck.  One of our neighbors came over and lent a hand, and we were able to do both sides at once.  On mine, I had to really put some “oomph” behind the wrench when I took the lug nuts off, but did manage to get them off.  Once we were finished, we put everything back in place, and he took it for a test drive to make sure there was no air in the lines and that everything was running all right.  It was, and I figured we were finished.  A few minutes after he left he came back to the house saying that the truck was making a funny noise.  He put it back up on the jack and noticed that the lug nuts on the side I’d had so much trouble with were only finger tight and the tire was loose.  I felt terrible!  If that tire had come off while he was driving it could have been disastrous.

Well, yesterday, I pulled into the parking lot at work at 6:15 AM, and just as I shut off the engine, I got a call from my son.  The truck was making that same noise, and he didn’t have a jack.  He was a few miles down the freeway, so I headed down there and sure enough, the lug nuts were loose again!  I had him keep my jack until we can figure out why these things won’t stay tight, but I’m afraid someone tightened them too much previously and stretched the threads.  If that’s the case, we may have to replace the actual studs (sigh).

Okay, that’s it for now.  Stay safe, everyone, and watch for the R2R publication announcement.  It really is close.  I promise!  :bye: