Ebook distributor Smashwords is running a promotion through July for authors to discount or give away their publications.

Readers of my non fiction (by Andrew Means) and fiction (by A.L.Means) can take advantage by going to links as follows:

Non fiction: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/AndrewMeans

Fiction: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ALMeans

The non fiction titles are biographical works about novelist and essayist George Orwell and rock group Pink Floyd, and a memoir about country music great, Marty Robbins.

Fiction features my novel Shine Like The Sun, children’s story The Trouble Upstream, and short stories Foreign Ways.

Additionally, I’m listing someone close to me, Notlyn Sneam, whose short stories and other ramblings can be downloaded free at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NotlynSneam

In watching Roger Waters saunter across the stage during his current presentation of The Wall, perhaps the most striking thing about him is he seems so genuinely affable. Body language, facial expressions and exclamations to the audience suggest he really is pleased to be here and anxious to connect with the masses.

Quite a turn around for a performer/composer who got the idea for this iconic rock opera some 33 years ago after becoming disillusioned with the vast, impersonal, commercialized, egotistic scale experienced by major touring acts. This is a man, after all, who admits to spitting at a fan during a performance back then and who fantasized about lobbing bombs into the auditorium.

The central idea of The Wall — that of alienation, of being constrained by barriers — is permeated with nuance. It’s a psychological statement as well as a political one, sociological as well as personal. And Waters has exploited that flexibility over the years by adding elements. There’s a backdrop, for instance, of portraits and personal details from the never-ceasing roll call of victims of war. Soldiers killed in action, such as his father, are memorialized along with human rights martyrs. Local kids wearing tee shirts emblazoned with “Fear Builds Walls” troop on stage to sing one of The Wall’s perennial anthems, “We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.” A motto-inscribed inflatable pig buzzes the floor seats, reminiscent of the one that hovered over London’s Battersea Power Station all those years ago when Waters was an integral member of Pink Floyd. Who could miss the message? War, what is it good for? And, at the root of that, restrain your socio-political minders.

Despite familiarity (and its transition from a Pink Floyd to a Waters production), The Wall still packs quite an impact. The best of the songs combine mesmerizing riffs, melodies, themes and catch phrases with a power and universality that make The Wall a signature work for this era. Critics may caution that its material is overly juvenile, but who among us is not influenced by childhood experiences? And how often do those authority figures of early years morph into the tyrants of adulthood?

Could this be the final outing for Waters’ rendition? No matter, one can well imagine his creation being a fixture for generations to come.

At its conclusion, the bricks that separate the audience from the musicians tumble down with symbolic finality, and Waters and his accompanists file out of sight for a well-earned rest before assaulting the next arena. The scale of the operation is indeed impressive. Quite a contrast indeed with Floyd’s early years when oily bubbles in a slide projector constituted the state-of-the-art light show.   

Meanwhile, we who watch and applaud filter out to buy our $30 souvenir hats and $40 tee shirts. Underlying it all is a faint suggestion that, as in Waters’ long-ago audience-bombing fantasy, “people getting blown to bits would go absolutely wild with glee at being at the centre of all the action.”

Us and them? Maybe that’s just the human lot.

As an independent writer with limited financial resources and a desire to take advantage of electronic publishing, a major challenge is coming up with designs for book covers. I’ve managed OK, at least in my opinion, with some short story collections I’ve put on Kindle and Smashwords. But when it came time to publish my rock bio, A Brief History Of Pink Floyd, I was unsure how to do it without running foul of copyright laws.

I didn’t want to risk any conflicts with photographers or music business entities that might result from simply using images from the Internet or from media kits — although, come to think about it, isn’t publicity what those media kits are for anyway?

In any case, I wanted to do something a bit more challenging. The visions in my head were of iconic images from Pink Floyd’s history. The cows on the Atom Heart Mother album cover. The moon, of course, from the title track of The Dark Side Of The Moon. The strange dreamscape from the soundtrack album More, with the windmill as the one defining object.

As a graphic designer, I knew I couldn’t match Storm Thorgerson who, with his company Hipgnosis, did so much to imprint the visual portrayal of Pink Floyd on the popular consciousness. But perhaps I could put together a cover that would strike a chord with fans of the group.

My initial inspiration was a combination of cows, as referenced above, and the sleeve design for the album Ummagumma. Instead of portraying the four group members, as on the original Ummagumma  sleeve, I’d use cows. As on the original, I’d re-arrange the cows for each of four pictures. So, just as guitarist Dave Gilmour moved from the front of the group in the main photo so that he was progressively further back in the other three, so the cows would move from front to back too.

For good measure I threw in an LP sleeve, substituting Syd Barrett for the Gigi soundtrack on the Ummagumma cover, and a glass (actually plastic) bottle as in the original.

In homage to the More cover, I set the cows against a background of rather parched landscape complete with a windmill, and then solarized everything.

The overall concept is undoubtedly better than the execution. As I said, I’m no Thorgerson. But hopefully my book cover will resonate with the group’s fans. And if all it does is generate puzzlement, well it won’t be the first time Floyd-related material has done that.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005TPFLLE