2016-09-25

Random Thoughts

Update
Peacekeeper Pathogen is now at 33,473 words. For a brief moment last week, I was stuck. Every so often, I will end a chapter knowing exactly where I want to go starting with the next but having no clue how to do it. When that happens, I usually just set the work aside and stop thinking about it. I watched the new version of Jungle Book to take my mind off the writing. By then, my wife was home and it was time to focus my attention on her. Later that night, as I was showering before bed, the solution came to me--I just needed to tweak the ending of the last chapter just a bit.

Random Thoughts
Some weeks it's a struggle to come up with anything at all to put in these weekly posts. Others, I have too many things to say. I've been trying to keep these a bit shorter and this week is one of those weeks where I have lots to say. I'll just pick the important ones.

Networking
If you're a writer, you should work at creating a network of writing contacts. Use this network to help you improve your craft and write better stories. You can also tap into their knowledge when needed. Most writers don't write for a living and those that do most likely began their working career in a different occupation. As a collective group, they will have knowledge and experience you can use. Over the years, I've had the honor of becoming acquainted with a large number of very good writers. We are all members of a Google email group. When one member has a question they can't find an answer to, they send out an email. The responses begin coming in almost immediately. For instance, we recently had a fascinating discovery of what would happen to blood on the surface of Ceres. One great forum I used to haunt (don't have the time anymore) is the SFF World discussion forums.

Our Changing Society
Growing up, I watched Star Trek and I imagined a world where anyone could achieve their full potential. It was a world where poverty did not exist and greed never reared its ugly head. Our society does not appear to be heading in that direction. A couple we are friends with have been going to Vegas every year for the past 22 years. They've noticed how greed has taken over and it has soured their experience to the point where they were actually talking about not going back. There is an ancient saying that "money is the root of all evil". I disagree because money cannot determine its own destiny. I say "greed is the root of all evil" because it takes a person to bring greed to life. It's an insatiable monster that will ruin this world unless we can find a way to kill it.

I remember back when I was a child living in a society where gas stations competed amongst themselves to see who could provide the best service (I'm talking about full-service gas stations--something that is no longer found). We left our house unlocked and our neighbors could--and did--just walk right in, get themselves a cup of coffee, and visit while my mom cooked. We could trust our neighbors to watch over our house while we were gone. It was a time when people actually talked to one another. Today's society is a very different place and it's not getting much better.

As a science fiction writer, my job is to try to predict the future. Of course, this is impossible, but we try anyway. If you look at how society has changed over the past 40 years and predict that trend into the far future, we are headed for a society where people fear each other unless they are almost exactly like us. We will live next door to someone and never speak to them. Our "friends" will be people we talk to via text or send a funny video to. Our electronic footprint will be under constant attack and only those with the knowledge and money to protect it will be able to do so. A few powerful individuals, driven by greed, will rule the world. Excessive? Perhaps. Possible? Frightenly so!

2016-09-18

Curse or Gift

Update
Yesterday was a great writing day. Even though I had to stop and do some research, I managed to surpass 3,000 words. This morning, I hope to continue that pace. Peacekeeper Pathogen now stands at 30,355 words. I normally set my target at around 95,000 words. Eighty-thousand is my normal minimum.

Last week, I received an odd email from a stranger asking me to call. She gave me her home phone number. My wife is very good at finding information on people using the internet and she looked this person up. She lives not far from me and is in her 80s. When I called, I learned that she had wanted to attend the self-published writers panel that was held at a local library several months ago but could not get out of the house (wheelchair bound). She called the library and they graceously sent her the papers I had passed out. After reading them sent me the email. Apparently, she has a small writers group that meets at her house every 3 months and she invited me to come talk to them. She was concerned though about how much I might charge. Now why would I do that? I told her there was no charge. She was delighted.

I enjoy talking to people about my self-publishing experience and helping others do the same is part of the joy of writing. Charging for it--especially since it's local--just does not seem fair. If I did, I would hope someone would accuse me of being a hypocrite because one of my biggest pet peeves is greed.

Curse or Gift
Being able to share my experience, knowing that I can actually write a book, hearing people tell me how much they enjoy my stories, and interfacing with other writers is part of the gift of being a writer. It is such a wonderful experience. But, having the gift of being a writer can also be a curse.

Writers must write--that's all there is to it. If you're a writer and you take a break from writing you know what I mean. The itch to put words together and form a story is too strong to ignore. But that's not the true nature of the curse. The curse is that writing can become all consuming. It starts with you no longer watching television or surfing the internet. You withdraw from society and lock yourself away in a quiet room so you can write. You even stop reading so you can have more writing time. You carry a pad of paper around so you can add another paragraph while you're in line at the grocery store. Some writers feel the need to be with other writers, like wolves needing a pack. They spend money going to conferences and conventions. But the curse follows them there as well. Instead of hanging out with writers, they keep themselves locked away in their hotel room with their fingers banging away on the keyboard.

If it gets really bad, spouses will leave you and you won't notice. Your weight will drop until you are but a ghost of your former self. You'll snarl at people if they try to disturb you. Your pets will go hungry and you'll skip sleep. People will avoid you when you do venture out into the realm of the non-writers. You'll start to hoard pens and paper because of the fear that you might not have enough. In the final stages of this curse--you'll die at your desk but your decaying corpse will continue writing, oblivious to the fact that there's a bright light calling you. Well -- maybe not that bad.

Writing is a gift. Nurture it. Learn everything you can about the craft. Hone your skills and gratefully accept the advice of more experienced writers. But don't let it become an obsession. Balance your writing with the rest of your life. You only have one life to live, so enjoy it while you can and do the things that will cause others to remember you with fondness in their hearts long after you've gone on to the big writing conference in the sky.

So now, while my wife is sleeping and my cats are watching the birds outside, I will continue adding words to my next novel. When the cats need feeding and after my wife wakes up, the writing gets put away.

2016-09-11

Focus

Update
No, I have not dropped off the internet. No, I have not given up my blog. I've shifted my focus to what is important--family and writing. Putting out a blog post every Sunday morning was beginning to chew into my writing time. Because I had less time to write, I was making time by taking time away from my wife. Time to change my focus.

I will continue to post updates in this blog but I'm not going to do it every single Sunday. I would rather spend my time writing a new novel or editing one I'm getting ready to publish. This also means I no longer have many plans to attend cons or conferences. I had a lot of fun going to them, but they cost money, take away writing time, and my wife is not a fan of the crowds. Perhaps some day when I'm retired...

Speaking of new novels: I've been working on Peacekeeper Pathogen lately and I've made pretty good progress. As of this morning, the book stands at 26,626 words and is moving along quite well. Initial feedback from a few readings at my writer's group have been positive.

I was very disappointed to learn that the possible alien signal is not as possible as the initial reports suggested. Someday, we might actually find a real signal. That will be a world-changing event.

Advertising works! Thanks to an author acquaintance I met at Launch Pad, I have an Amazon ad campaign running. It has not cost very much at all and it seems to be generating results. I was very unhappy with the low sales figures a few weeks back (namely zero) and I mentioned this in a blog post as well as on a few social media outlets. Jake Kerr provided me with a helpful tutorial on how to get Amazon advertising to work. I'm still making some tweaks to the campaign settings but so far sales have returned to an average of 2 a day. Not stellar, but far better than the big ZERO. I'm happy with a low but steady number. More, of course, would be better, but consistent sales greater than zero is all I need to keep me happy. Thanks Jake!

That's about it. In keeping with my new philosophy on spending more time writing and less time blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, etc. I'm going back to working on Pathogen.

PS. If anyone out there is looking for some help in the self-publishing area, please let me know. I would rather help someone get their book published right than spend time telling them how to correct it after the book is released. The first is positive feedback and the second is negative. Positive is much easier to deal out and it is received much better.

Until next time!

2016-08-21

Publishing with CreateSpace

The print version of Dragonverse Origins is now available on Amazon. The pre-order period for the e-book ends on August 27 and the book will be live. Please help get this book off to a good start by placing your pre-order at: https://amzn.com/B01IU96X4O.

If you want to see how to make a printed copy of your book, you can watch the entire process from beginning to end on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/2z0uYaaS6Ro. I took screen capture videos of the process while uploading Origins

I've also opened an ad account with Amazon and I will be monitoring the effectiveness of placing ads on Amazon. I want to thank Jake Kerr, science fiction author extraordinaire and fellow Launch Pad alumni for some tips on how to use Amazon promotions. I'll let you know how this pans out in a few weeks.

2016-08-14

Not Quite WYSIWYG

Yesterday, I uploaded Dragonverse Origins to CreateSpace so I could have a printed version. One of CreateSpace's cool features is the formatting check it does on your interior. I'm getting pretty good at doing the formatting right and so I was surprised when three errors were reported. Opening up the online previewer, I found that a blank page had been inserted after the copyright page. I assumed CreateSpace had done this. I tried again, and it was still there. I must have uploaded four versions until I went and looked at the PDF file I was uploading. The extra page wasn't coming from CreateSpace, it was coming from Word!

Looking at Word, I have my cover page, then the copyright page, and then chapter one. This puts chapter one on a right-facing page as you're supposed to do. But when I generated the PDF, Word inserted a blank page. Clicking on the pages and looking at the bottom of the screen, I noted that what looked on the screen to be page 3 was identified as page 4--so where was the missing page?

A quick search on the internet provided a clue but not an answer. If you set your document for mirrored margins, Word will insist on starting page 1 on an odd numbered printed page. If you format your book correctly, your first chapter will be separated from all the front matter by a section break and you will tell Word to start counting pages there at page 1. This is pretty cool as it leads one to believe that Word will do some of the formatting for you. Unfortunately, in my case, Word was putting page 1 on an even page--not odd. No matter what I did, chapter one was starting on a left-facing page.

The solution, after almost two hours of frustrating trial and error, was to open up the page formatting option window, tell Word to apply to the entire document, de-select mirror margins, and then apply. Then, go back and do it all over again only this time ensuring your margins are correct and mirror margins are turned back on. Apply to the entire document and the blank page magically vanished even though the setting I ended up with are the same as what I started with.

I did make a series of video clips of the entire CreateSpace process and I will be taking some time to stitch them together into an informative video that I will be uploading to YouTube in the near future. I'll let you know when it's done.

During our writer's group meeting yesterday, I mentioned the severe drop in sales. One of the writers suggested it might have been caused by the roll-out of the new Harry Potter book. Although I have my doubts, I have noticed a small increase in sales since the book's release but the numbers have not recovered much. I will continue to monitor this situation.

Finally, please don't forget about doing some verbal promoting of Dragonverse Origins. If you like dragons as well as a light sprinkling of science fiction then you will enjoy Origins. Please consider putting in your pre-order at: https://amzn.com/B01IU96X4O

You can also see my book on the SFWA site. Here is the link: http://www.sfwa.org/featured-books/

Pass the word and help Dragonverse Origins get a good start with as many pre-orders as possible.

Have a great day!