Peacekeeper Pathogen now stands at 42,723 words. The story is moving along quite nicely and I don't foresee any additional roadblocks preventing me from sailing to the end of this novel. But in writing, as in life, there are no guarantees that something might pop up.

I purchased a new HP laserjet printer for the writing business. This is something I should have looked into doing a long time ago. Laser printers have gotten much cheaper and far more user-friendly the last time I even considered buying one. My little writing area (the chunk of our computer room I claim as part of my writing business) did not have much room for a printer. Luckily, I had a long ethernet cable as well as a spare port on my network switch. I installed the printer on a section of my old entertainment center that used to serve as the charging station for my laptop. Now, I need to find a new place for the charging station. I look forward to printing out my next manuscript on a laser instead of an inkjet. Should be much faster and much cheaper--plus, it does double-sided!

Some time ago, I mentioned in this blog that my sales were severely declining. An author I met at Launch Pad suggested I try Amazon advertising. Since my books are enrolled in Amazon's KDP Select program, setting up an advertising campaign was a snap. Selecting the keywords according to the instructions given to me by Jake Kerr) took up most of the time. The results? Sales have picked back up and I've been very happy ever since.

A couple years ago, I tried sending out flyers in the mail. I had little to no success and the ROI (Return On Investment) caused me to abandon this idea as a viable means to promote my books. Likewise, attending conventions, writing conferences, and other such large-scale events also provides little to no increase in sales. Setting up a table at an event such a flea-market, library event (which is the only free event), or convention might net you some instant sales, but the cost of renting the space makes generating a profit from these events difficult to impossible. One must also figure in the cost of gas, time, food, etc.

In the end, I've learned that the best way to promote my books is through Amazon's advertising program. I am still considering signing up for a BookBub promotion but that costs money and the ROI there is a big unknown. It's still a possibility though. If I do decide to give it a try, I will share my results on this blog.



Peacekeeper Pathogen is up to 39,729 words as of this morning. I've solved the major plot snag and I'm moving along. I did have another snag last night but it was more about how to word something I needed to say than an actual plot issue. The best way (for myself anyway) is to forget about it, think about it as I'm going to sleep, and, usually, the solution appears in the morning. My brain did not let me down and I will be rolling along again as soon as this post is finished.

My heart and prayers go out to those caught in the path of Hurricane Matthew. My wife's cousin lives on one of the barrier islands off the Georgia coast and he posted a Facebook video after the storm passed. He's head of maintenance at an elderly community and had to remain because many of the residents could/would not leave. His area sustained only minor damage.

My brother lives in Virginia Beach. He called after I had gone to bed last night and said the water in his house was at 3 feet and rising. I'll be watching the news for a bit this morning as soon as this is posted to see what The Weather Channel has to say.

Years ago, I used to watch the news every night. There was even a time when I read the newspaper a few times a week. But being constantly barraged with how horrible humans can be to each other caused me to abandon that practice. Today, I catch an occasional news article or hear a conversation now and again that I then look up on the internet. But instead of getting better, it seems as if our species is getting worse. It's depressing.

I will be the first to admit that I am a privileged white man. But that does not give me the right to act that way. Yesterday, the writer's group I attend diverted from the discussion of our various writing projects to a discussion revolving around race relations--specifically, the problem between our police and those who are not white. I am well-aware that this is a problem and I am also aware that there are those who insist on trying to use this issue to create a larger divide between people. Instead of trying to be part of the solution, there are those from both sides who use an incident as an excuse for doing violent acts.

As a science fiction writer, I live in a fantasy world where humans and aliens interact with one another in a peaceful society. Imagine how different an alien culture would be from our own! If we can't get along with our own species, how are we going to get along with a culture from another planet? I believe there are aliens out there. I think they may be aware of our existence. And I'm positive that if that's true, they are unwilling to make contact with us because they know how they would be treated.

Ignorance is something we should all be aware of and be willing to change. Allow me a moment to explain exactly what I mean by this. This is only an example and is not meant to be offensive. Let's say I grew up learning that all Native Americans greeted each other by raising their hand and saying "How" and I was taught that all women Native Americans were referred to as squaws. This could come from my parents, history books, television shows, or even role-playing while growing up. Now, imagine I find myself in a job where I need to interact with Native Americans for the first time. It could be a disaster or a learning experience depending on how I and those I interact with react to my ignorance.

My first reaction would be that the person I'm meeting does not look like what I think an 'Indian' should look like. Thinking I'm being respectful of their culture, I greet this person by raising my hand and saying "How". In an ideal situation, it should be calmly explained to me that my greeting was considered rude. My proper response would be to admit I'd never met a Native American before and to apologize. I would then learn from this and never do it again. I would then begin to question everything I thought I knew about their culture. The incident would de-escalate and life would be better.

On the other hand, things could get very ugly. I could instantly be labeled as a racist and the interview terminated. I would most likely have no clue what I had done wrong and my beliefs regarding the culture of Native Americans would not change. My attempts to apologize could be viewed as stalking or harassment. I could be physically attacked and verbally abused causing me to believe that all Native Americans are intolerant. Labels would be applied by both sides and it could take years before the problem was resolved.

I could also react to a gentle admonishment by rejecting the person's attempt to correct me. Instead of recognizing my own ignorance, I would try to force my own cultural beliefs on others. To understand our differences, both sides must be willing to at least try to educate the other. Ignorance is something that can be corrected as long as it is recognized as such. If I unintentionally offend anyone, I would want that person to correct me so I can learn. Intentionally offending another person is a sign of a mental disorder and such people should be put in their place.

Time to check the news, eat breakfast, and get back to writing.



Dragonverse Origins is now at 35,799 words. I managed to get some writing in during the week. I am fast approaching a point in the book where I need to solve a couple of major problems facing the Peacekeepers. At the moment, I have no clue how they are going to solve this problem. I need some detailed information on biotechnology and I've sent out a request to the network of authors from Launch Pad looking for an expert in the field. I believe I've found one.

I'm sure you've heard the saying that a book is sold by its cover. There's a great deal of truth in this. On the flip-side, you don't want to judge a book by its cover either. A book could have the slickest cover imaginable and be filled with words that make no sense. A well-designed cover will entice a reader into looking at what's inside. The formatting, grammatical correctness, and how well the first few pages are written will determine if the reader makes the purchase. Plot, character development, and the story itself will determine how the reader judges the book and his or her subsequent review (if one is written).

The point is, all of the pieces that make up a book must be done correctly or your novel is going to be a flop. It's the cover that starts this entire process. Word of mouth plays into this as well but the cover is ultimately what get's the ball rolling towards building a following.

With that in mind, I decided to make a tweak to the cover of Dragonverse Origins. The original had a pinkish sky. The dragon did not stand out as much as I would have liked. Photoshop came to the rescue. Using the recolor feature of Elements 14, I altered the color of the sky from pink to blue. That made the dragon stand out much better. You can see the results at the end of this post.

I did this yesterday instead of writing. Sometimes, you have to work at the mechanics of self-publishing instead of focusing all your attention on putting out the words. I made the cover changes for a very important reason--I've submitted the book to the SFWA for consideration in the 2016 Nebula awards. This is the first time I've ever submitted a book to any sort of award contest and I was unsure if I should do so.

I've always been a believer that if people found my books good enough, they would have submitted it to compete for an award. But, believe it or not, most of your everyday readers have never heard of or simply don't care about what awards a book has won or been nominated for. So, I decided to submit a book and see what happens. This submission does not mean it is nominated. I've simply made it available for anyone who is a member of SFWA to read the book. Someone else will have to actually nominate it.

Here are the before and after book covers for Dragonverse Origins:


Random Thoughts

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.

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!


Curse or Gift

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.