2016-06-26

ID2

Get the Word Out
I'm putting this first because I'm asking everyone who reads this to do me a favor. Over the next few days, please put out the word on as many social networking sites as possible and at least once a day for a few days, about this bundled ebook offering from https://storybundle.com/scifi. There are two reasons I'm asking this: 1) Launch Pad gets some of the profits from the sales; 2) I have a short story in the Launch Pad anthology.

The bundle of science fiction stories is something you will be able to enjoy for a long time. The pricing is exceptionally good. And, best of all, some of the proceeds will go toward supporting Launch Pad.

Update
My wife is making fair progress on Dragonverse Origins. Her intention was to do quite a bit of proofing yesterday at the bookstore after we saw Independence Day Resurgence. As we sat down with our coffee and snacks, a friend of ours that we got to know in the bookstore appeared. The rest of the time was spent talking and no proofing got done. That's life. Proofing for my wife is not a full-time job. She stays pretty busy and she fits proofing in when she can. It's sort of like my writing -- I fit it in when I can.

IDR was, in my opinion, a good movie. Like most science fiction movies, you have to turn on part of your brain so you can enjoy the movie. There were many totally bogus scientific screw-ups -- enough to give those who know plenty to rip the movie to shreds. But that's not why I go to see movies like this. I think it would have been much better if the science was accurate, but most people don't know what good science looks like. Spacecraft do not fly anything like airplanes. Giant ships like those depicted in Independence Day (especially in Resurgence) are predicted to be impossible to build and can devastate an entire planet simply by orbiting them. But, all that aside, I enjoyed the cool alien weapons and technology used in the movie. I just pretended the ships involved were much smaller.

As for work on PK3 (Peacekeeper Pathogen), like my wife, life tends to get in the way. That's not to say that I haven't made any progress. I've added a couple thousand words since my last post. But I have also been doing a lot of thinking about this book and I've solidified the story in my mind. This is important because I wasn't exactly too sure how the book was going to play out. I have a good plan in mind now.

My writing style is known as the SOP or pantser style. This means I typically start a book with only a vague idea as to where it's going. Some authors are outliners -- they will outline each chapter from start to finish before starting on the book. Some are in between. But even a die-hard pantser will admit that they at least have some idea what they want to do with the book. If they didn't, then they wouldn't have started writing the story in the first place. I start with a central theme, an idea of what the story will revolve around. For the original Peacekeeper, it was all about what becoming a peacekeeper is like. For Translight, it was about mankind's first interstellar ship and first contact. All stories must have a goal even if it can't be put into words. A writer will take the central idea -- the core of what he or she wants to write about -- and develop a story that uses that central idea to achieve the story's goal.

Time to get back to writing.

2016-06-19

Planning ahead

Update
I have made no progress on Peacekeeper 3: Pathogen due to other priorities. All of the recommended changes to Dragonverse Origins that my wife has suggested so far as part of her editorial/grammatical review have been entered. I’m hoping she finishes up by the end of next week. I’ve also managed to spend some time working on a very short story called either The Lives I Touched or The Bridge (I haven’t decided which yet). This is a short story that I’d started, read at one of our writer group meetings and then forgotten about. The other day, several members of the group asked if I’d finished the story – apparently, they really enjoyed it. So, I’ve dusted it off and I thought I would see if I could finish it. I’ve made progress but it’s not done yet. I’m not sure what genre to put it in though. It doesn’t really fit into any specific genre.

Planning ahead
Last Friday, I attended a retirement lunch for a fellow worker who decided that it was time to move on to the next phase of his life. I’ve been seeing a lot of these recently and one of these days it’s going to be my turn. That started me thinking about long-range planning. There are too many people I know who never look beyond tomorrow. Many have a hard time looking more than a few hours into the future. If you don’t have a clue as to what you’re going to do in the coming days, then you’re going to be in serious trouble in the future. This applies to almost every aspect of life from finances to health.

I asked the man retiring last week what his plans were and he seemed to know what he would be doing during his retirement years. Keeping busy, keeping your mind active, and knowing where you are going are all important things to be doing. If you have no plan for your life when you retire, then why retire in the first place? Like most of my coworkers, he’s been putting away money into various accounts over the years and now he can enjoy the benefits of years of hard work. That’s financial planning and it’s something that many people today seem to lack.

This sort of long-range planning can be applied to your writing career as well. Do you know what your next story will be? Do you have a notebook of ideas for future stories? Are you always looking for ways to improve yourself? Do you listen to your readers? All these – and many more – are part of what a writer should be thinking about. If you don’t have a plan, you’re just fumbling around in the dark without any guidance.

Let’s say your next story gets the attention of enough people and it begins to rapidly climb the Amazon charts. You hit the top 100 for a week and sales slowly begin to drop off. If you’re one of those who have no plan, you might take that huge royalty check and go buy a new car. You might even quit your day job because, after all, you’re a top-selling author! Your attitude might change and pretty soon you believe you’re better than other authors. Admittedly, this is an extreme example, but it’s possible. So let’s see what happens as time continues to march forward.

Sales continue to slowly fall. Since you want to remain a top-selling author, you rush to finish your next book. You fly through your editing, slap together a cover, and upload it to Amazon. Sales rise but only for a few days. Next year, when it comes time to pay your taxes, you discover you don’t have the money in your bank account to cover what you owe the IRS for those few big royalty checks you spent. Book sales are still sliding. You call up your old boss and he sadly tells you that your old position has already been filled. Desperate, you crank out another book while living on Raman noodles and coffee. The reviews for your last book are terrible and sales continue to fall. Soon, you’re living on welfare without any future.

Okay, that’s an extreme example, but it’s entirely possible. People who get ahead look toward the future and keep the past in mind. Even professionals continue to work to improve what they do. No writer is perfect and the skill of writing can always be improved. Read books on how to write, listen to what your readers have to say, ask for honest feedback and actually hear what they tell you. Think about what you will be doing next week, next month, next year, and for the next hundred years. A hundred years? Why not? Medical technology is advancing rapidly and there may come a time in the not too distant future when human lives can be extended. So why not start planning for that eventuality now?

If you’re smart, you should continue to plan for what will happen to your legacy when you move on to the next plane of existence. What will happen to your royalty checks (they're not going to stop just because you're dead)? Who will manage your website? What about all those stories you have laying around that were never submitted? Can your wife or your executor get into your phone, your bank account, your computer, or the hundreds of other online accounts you have scattered all over the internet? Will anyone even know you have those accounts?


Plan for the future. Plan for how you will live out the rest of your life and plan out how what you’ve done in life will be taken care of when you die. If you don’t plan ahead, you may as well just be walking along with your eyes shut.

Right now, my plan is to finish Dragonverse Origins so I can see sales go up at least a little. I'm also working on Peacekeeper: Pathogen. Sales have been done and the only way to see them rebound is to get a few more books out there. Time to end this post and get back to writing.

2016-06-12

Home

Update
In case you're counting, Peacekeeper Pathogen now stands at 13,538 words. Since returning from Launch Pad, I've not added a single word. After being gone for a week, I've decided to spend a few days playing catch up. That's done now and soon I will be back to writing. But first, I might follow the desires of my writers group and finish a short story I started and trunked last year. For some reason, this story has stuck in their heads and they have asked me twice to finish it. It's time I untrunked it and took a close look at where this short story can go.

My trip back from Laramie was an interesting one. On the way back to Denver, we ran into a major traffic snarl caused by an accident. Although I never saw any signs of an accident, the massive traffic jam that it caused was evident. We were delayed almost 45 minutes in our trip. Later that day, the plane backed away from the gate, taxied a bit, then sat. The tower had shutdown the airport due to microbursts from severe weather. After 15 minutes, we moved again and again were told we had to wait. This happened a few more times and then the pilot announced we had to go back to the gate to get more fuel because we had used up our reserve driving around the tarmac. We eventually made it into the air and I arrived home a bit over 2 hours late. I don't fly all that much and this is the first time such a thing has happened to me.

I had a wonderful time at Launch Pad and I met another fine group of writers. It is refreshing to be able to sit around a table and talk writing shop and science fiction with others who share the same passion. That's probably why so many writers attend conferences and conventions -- to be among their own. I've taken a hard look at convention going and I've decided that it is just not cost effective for me to attend these events. Some of my writing friends will disagree. But being self-published does sort of change things.

If you're a traditionally published author, your publisher will most likely ask you to attend certain conventions. They might even fly you there. They should pay your entrance fee and provide you with books to sign. This is a promotional opportunity and it makes good business sense to attend. While there, you will be able to interact with other writers, agents, and publishing people. But for a self-published author, conventions and conferences are not cost effective. A self-published author must pay everything out of their own pocket and the return on investment doesn't justify the expense. Airline fare, meals, entrance fee, table space fee, book inventory, and hotel rooms all add up. Unless you sell several hundred books, you will never recover the cost of attending.

Several writers suggested I attend a writer's conference or a workshop. I considered it but, again, I must decline for business reasons. Both of these events will cost money but none will help to sell books. There is one situation, however, when a self-published author should seriously consider attending a conference. If you're an outgoing person and your writing skills need improving, then a workshop or conference might help -- it depends on how you learn. I prefer to learn by reading and doing. Some get more out of sitting in a class.

Unless you have a degree in writing or you have a natural talent for prose, you should be doing whatever it takes to improve your writing skills. For me, this means reading lots of books on how to write and edit. It also means doing a lot of writing. Don't forget reading as well. Read widely and as often as you can. Read for pleasure but if you encounter a particular passage that you find interesting, slow down, read it again, and perhaps write it down for further reference. Your brain is an amazing instrument and it is constantly learning, even if you don't realize it. Reading will help you improve your writing.

There are some writers who have a powerful presence on the internet. These people spend their lives promoting their books. I often wonder how they have time for anything else. Writing and maintaining a strong web presence takes a considerable amount of time. If you're self-published, you most likely have a day job meaning at least 9 or 10 hours a day are devoted to that activity. If you have a partner in life, then that person will want your time as well. And then there's life itself and all that goes along with being a member of the living. Cleaning, eating, socializing, yard work, hobbies, and home maintenance all take up a part of your time. Writing is often something you sneak in when you can. Full-time writers, of course, don't have this problem.

Writers have an itch that must be scratched. But scratching too hard will break the skin and can cause an infection. If you have the itch, by all means scratch it. Write as often as you can. But leave time for everything else as well. It's a balancing act and once you become good at it, you'll walk the beam as if you've been doing it all your life.

2016-06-05

Launch Pad

Hello from Launch Pad! This morning's post is a bit late because I am in Wyoming attending Launch Pad with another fine group of writers. Last night, we made the trip up Jelm Mountain to see the WIRO telescope. The night was clear and the students staying up there were doing science. We also got to watch the ISS pass overhead – first time I've seen it. We didn't get back until very late last night. I managed to wake up just in time to walk over for breakfast.

Update
Peacekeeper 3: Pathogen currently stands at 11,955 words (if you’re counting). The proofing of Dragonverse Origins is moving along. The goal is to have a completed manuscript sent off to my final beta-reader/proofer by the end of this month. While he does his reading, I will be finishing up the cover and doing a bit of promotion.

Last Wednesday I left Ohio and flew to Denver. There, I met up with a group of writers headed for Launch Pad. This is my 5th year going to this fantastic event. In 2012, I was an insecure self-published writer who had never met a published author. Today, I’m on the Launch Pad support staff and confident in my writing abilities.

I did have one embarrassing moment as we were preparing to leave Denver. I always bring my TomTom GPS to make the trip easier. When you drive a long route only once a year, you need some help. My particular TomTom is an older unit and I recently updated the maps. Unfortunately, its memory capacity was not sufficient to store the entire United States and I was forced to select an area to download. I assumed (wrongly) that the upload would include details of the selected area and major roads for the rest of the country. I was shocked when I powered on the GPS and discovered that it had no concept of the State of Wyoming! Luckily, one of my passengers fired up his cell phone GPS and we arrived without incident. The first thing I did after check-in was to make a trip to Walmart to purchase a new GPS. Lesson learned – never assume – assumptions are often wrong. Life should be lived based on facts.

Networking
Wednesday was a very long day for me. I was up at 0300 Ohio time because I had to run and enter data for a report at my day job. I can’t run it until the first of the month and it’s due by the 5th – two days before I return. I left Cleveland at 1030 and arrived in Denver at 1355 (1155 Denver time). Keeping the time-zone locked on Ohio time, I arrived in Laramie at around 1915, checked in, and then went to the dining hall to eat. After dinner, I took a group of people to Walmart so they could purchase supplies. One of them had to buy a shirt because his bag never made it to the United States (he flew in from the UK). Back at the dorm, we hung around and chatted until the rest of the attendees arrived and then spent a couple hours going around the table doing introductions. By the time it was over, it was after midnight Ohio time and I had to get some sleep.

Launch Pad is an event where I get to network with fellow writers. Going to breakfast with a group of like-minded individuals, talking about science, science fiction, and cultural issues that are of interest to writers is one of the main reasons I love coming back to Launch Pad year-after-year. Writing is a lonely art and being able to interface with fellow writers is something that all writers need – even if it is only once a year. For me, Launch Pad isn’t just about learning science – I’ve been through all the classes several times – it’s about being with a group of fellow writers and experiencing the camaraderie that develops as we get to know each other.

This year’s group includes many talented individuals with impressive resumes. One grew up in a house where Asimov, Heinlein, and Bradbury were frequent guests. Another developed the X-Men Evolutions movie concept and has been heavily involved in the creation of the X-Men characters. Another has written episodes for Star Trek. Yet another is the author of a series of books based on the Firefly television series. We have Hugo and other award winners. One of the attendees is an orbital mechanics engineer and he presented a lesson on his specialty. And then there’s myself. But I don’t feel like an outcaste despite the tremendous amount of talent I’m with. The vast majority of writers treat other writers with respect. It’s a wonderful feeling.

There are people who join clubs and work their way into the company of other individuals so they can leverage these contacts to further their own agendas. There are some who form contacts so they can promote themselves. These are the self-centered “look at what I’ve done” or “look at me” type of people. The individuals I’ve met at Launch Pad do not fall into this category. We are all equal and we are here to share our experience and learn from each other.


I’ve had people who are not writers suggest that I leverage my more well-known author contacts to help promote my books. If I tried something like that I would quickly find myself without any writer friends. Promoting my books, asking people to read my books, or begging someone for a review is not why I return to Launch Pad. These people are my friends and fellow writers. They are not stepping stones to be used for my benefit or anyone else’s. If someone want to read one of my books, then that person will decide to do so on their own. If someone wants to give me a signal boost, it will be something they decide to do without my prompting. Being a “look at me” kind of person or someone who uses others for personal gain will get you quickly labeled as a person to be ignored.

2016-05-29

Building an Alien Culture

Update
Peacekeeper 3: Pathogen currently stands at 9,411 words – not much of a change since a week ago. I’ve been concentrating on building my knowledge base of the Omel. By the time I’m done, I will know quite a bit about this alien race including a good number of the cultural oddities that set them apart from other species. I’ve also been doing some detailed research so I can get the facts straight in the novel. Writing science fiction often involves having to research existing technology and, unless you work in that field, it can take quite a bit of time.

One does not have to go very far to find odd cultural behaviors. Earth has plenty of them. What is common and considered polite behavior in America can be considered incredibly rude in other countries. Experienced travelers will do their research prior to making a trip to an unfamiliar country. Cultural differences can easily ruin what could be a great trip. For instance, tipping in the United States is expected. In Japan, tipping of any sort can be considered as an insult. People forget that what is believed to be okay to them might be very rude to someone from another culture. If we have such diverse behaviors among humans, imagine how hard it would be to integrate into a society of multiple alien cultures.

On Wednesday, I will be traveling to Denver and from there driving to Laramie Wyoming to attend Launch Pad 2016. This will be my 5th trip and I’m looking forward to meeting another fine group of authors. Each time I go, I make new friends and contacts. Knowing a diverse circle of writers is a benefit that all writers should have. Here’s why in my particular case:

Building an Alien World
During my quest to create a detailed description of the Omel, I will need to build their homeworld. This means selecting a properly sized planet orbiting a proper star (or stars) at the correct distance and calculating the planet’s rotation around that star based on the choices I made. It also means having to determine how long the planet’s day is as well as a general description of its geology. Each choice determines the type of world that is being created. Make the star too small and the planet must be so close that by the time life becomes intelligent the planet is tidally locked with one face always staring at the star.

Luckily, several of my Launch Pad acquaintances are astronomers. One of them has provided me with a great tool to help develop the Omel star system. Once I have all the parameters down, I’ll have her run a sanity check on what I’ve come up with. This makes for a very believable starting point for creating an alien race. I’m also reading up on the various cultural differences found here on Earth. I’ve found an interesting website to help me out - http://www.yukonhostels.com/customs.htm Check it out if you’re interested.

My wife is making good progress in her editing of Origins. I’ve entered the changes she’s suggested so far (all of them very good) and I should be able to enter some more before I leave for Laramie. The book is coming together quite well and I hope to publish soon. Before publication, while I finish up the formatting and putting the final touches on the cover, the book will be read one more time by a reader in Germany. This will ensure I publish a book with as few grammatical errors as possible.

As a self-published author, having this team of people behind me (my cover artist, my wife, other writer friends, and readers who like to help out) allows me to do what the big publishing houses do to one of their books. I lack the marketing department but in today’s world, most authors published through one of the big houses will never see a dime spent on marketing their book. Although I’m not against big publishing, I don’t see any advantage to approaching them to publish any of my own books.


I have more research to do so it’s time to close this blog and get to work.