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2014-11-16

Taking a Writing Break

I would like to remind everyone about my short Guide to Self Publishing that's available on my website. It provides a good kick-starter for getting started in the self-publishing business. If you are a writer and you haven't published your first book yet you should still read this little guide. What most people don't realize is that writing is a business. And as a business, you are entitled to certain tax deductions. Several members of my writers group did not realize this. One of them recently purchased a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 which is used exclusively for writing. She did not know she could write that off as a business expense. You don't have to have a book published to be in the business of writing. All you need is a plan to publish and you can call yourself a business.

I am taking a break from writing for the next few months. I have tons of things that have been set aside while I was working on Peacekeeper 2 (which is now available from most retailers). Lee Dilkie and I will be corresponding, deciding on what my next project will be and bouncing overall plot ideas between us. I have a YA Medieval dragon story I'd love to sink my teeth into but there are other projects that could be just as fun. As with everything I do with my writing, I'm interested in what my readers say as well. Any ideas or requests?

I was having a hard time getting Peacekeeper to pass Smashwords test for ePub compliance. They use an ePub validation website set up by the International Digital Publishing Forum. It can be found at: http://validator.idpf.org/. After a book is submitted to Smashwords, the author can download the ePub version and run it through the validator. If it has no errors, you're good to go. No matter how closely I looked at Peacekeeper 2, it kept coming back with errors. Mark Coker's excellent book on how to properly format a book for electronic publishing (The Smashwords Style Guide) provides what he refers to as the "nuclear option". It's a way to strip all formatting from a document and start over. I did this and now Peacekeeper 2 has passed the validation check. So how did this happen?

I write using Scrivener. I used to do my last few editing passes in Libre Office because it would automatically return to where I was at when I last closed the document. Libre Office is not 100% compatible with Microsoft Word and so I would export to Word-97 format and then run through it one more time to get things formatted properly. I believe Libre Office introduced hidden formatting codes that are virtually impossible to locate and screw up Smashwords conversion routines. I was using a very old version of Microsoft Word (2003 to be exact). I am now using Microsoft Office 365 and this problem should hopefully never return again. I'm lucky in that the nuclear option takes me about 2 hours to complete. A more complex book would require far more time.

If you've seen the movie Interstellar, then you will enjoy reading Christian Ready's blog post on the science behind the movie. Christian is one of the regular Launch Pad instructors and his astronomy-centered blog is informative and enjoyable to read--I visit it regularly.

2014-11-08

Peacekeeper 2 is available

Please share this with your science fiction reading friends.

Peacekeeper 2 was uploaded to Amazon, CreateSpace, and Smashwords on the morning of 11/07/2014. It became available on Amazon-US around noon yesterday. It is also available on Smashwords main site. If you are overseas, it should be available soon. If you prefer to use Barnes & Noble, Apple iStore, or others, I'm afraid you will have to wait a short time. I'm having an issue getting my document to pass Smashword's rather stringent ePub verification. I'm also delaying a second upload to Smashwords because one of my readers is finding small mistakes that were missed by three proof-readers.

These mistakes are not major show-stoppers: A few formatting errors; 'Hanger' used instead of 'hangar'; and other minor mistakes. These will be corrected in the Amazon version as soon as Ekkehard Flessa finishes his reading.

I have also finished my little document on self-publishing. It can be downloaded from my website at:
http://www.dougfarren.com/Self_Publishing.pdf. This document has not gone through any review process so there will most likely be mistakes in it as well. I plan on periodically updating this document and when I do I will let you know through this blog. If you find I've missed something or you think I need to clarify something in the document, please let me know.

2014-11-02

BSinSF - Scorpion

Peacekeeper 2 has been formatted for printing. During the formatting process I found and corrected two additional errors in the text (breath vs breathe and a stray word left over from a previous correction). I am now awaiting the results of the final proofing before I upload the final product to Amazon. If my plans pan out, the book will be available by next weekend.

I am almost done with my guide to self-publishing. As soon as I put the finishing touches on it I will send it off. I won't bother anyone with another email - I'll most likely include it in the weekly blog post reminder next week so keep an eye open for it.

I woke up this morning with the first signs of a cold. One of my coworkers came to work sick and I'm pretty sure he's the one who gave it to me. Started on the anti-flu homeopathic cures we keep in the house this time of year. Unfortunately, this is one of the weeks I absolutely cannot take off from work. Mondays I run a report for my manager. I am one of only two people at my site who have the security to log into the server that holds the data needed for this report. The other person is gone on maternity leave. I also must complete a monthly report that is viewed by corporate. I am the only one who knows how to gather this data. Luckily, I've automated the process as best as possible so now instead of taking 4 days to finish it, I can have it done in 3 hours.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen a tweet a few days ago concerning Scorpion. The show had potential but they blew it in the science department--so bad in fact that I've cancelled all future recordings and will no longer watch the show. This is a very good example of very bad science in the media and there are people out there who actually believe some of the stuff that appeared in the show. The episode that put me over the edge involved a nuclear power plant. Okay, I have an advantage because I work at one, but they were so far off into left field that they couldn't even see the stadium anymore. Here are some examples of what this show has portrayed:


  • Commercial aircraft would not be able to land because someone uploaded a flawed version of the flight software into a terminal and this software then automatically uploads to the aircraft. Even if the software was faulty, the pilots can still land the plane. One of the planes in the show was able to buzz the airport, clipping the tower with a wing in the process. Should have crashed because of that but of course it didn't. They flew to within 25 feet of the ground, wheels down. So why didn't they just land?
  • It is possible to  drop a network cable from an airborne jetliner through the wheel-well to a moving car below and in seconds download the software. Come on! This isn't even close to being possible. Nothing in that scene is even remotely possible.
  • You can prevent a bomb capable of bringing down a building from doing its job by encasing it in quick-hardening epoxy. I'm no bomb expert, but the amount of epoxy used in the program would probably not have had much of an effect on a bomb of that size. In fact, the configuration of the epoxy and the bomb would most likely have focused the blast upwards causing even more damage. These guys are supposed to be super-geniuses, you can see the detonator caps sticking into the C4. Couldn't they just pull them out?
  • Nuclear power plants that are to be decommissioned are left unattended. The only people around in this episode was a military guard. Nobody left to maintain the equipment that was keeping the core cool. Nobody in the control room. Sorry, I hope the public doesn't believe that one.
  • An ancient computer can be overloaded by running a 'circuit check'. According to the show, the overload triggered a fire. I hope the next time I try to run to many things on my computer that it doesn't explode on my desk.
  • A computer is the sole device keeping the core from melting and this computer suddenly stops working because the software is out of date. What? Better keep up with all those security updates on your home PC or it will suddenly stop working. Nuclear power plants have multiple backups--equipment that will fire off and run without any human interaction. These systems do not rely on a single computer to operate properly.
  • The core temperature suddenly went from 'green' to 'red' (over 2,000 degrees if I remember right) when one of the geniuses pulled a box full of wires from inside a control panel and announced he had found a blown fuse. Absolutely everything about this is wrong and I won't bother to explain any further.
  • Computer geniuses can hack into virtually any network, gain control of the internal camera system, and read encrypted data files within a few minutes of connecting to the system. No, no, no. Yes there are hackers out there who are very good at breaking into systems but it takes time and effort. Most internal camera systems are on a separate network. Planting a trojan requires intimate knowledge of the type of operating system and security measures in place. Enough said.
I don't mind a few blunders in the entertainment industry but I will no longer continue to watch a show that is filled with errors so bad that the entire episode or the entire premise of the movie is impossible. Edgy science is okay because one never knows what we humans will develop in the future. But doing the impossible, especially in a show that's supposedly based on today's technology, and doing it all the time and in such a bad manner is something I will no longer stand for. I just can't enjoy a show with such bad science. The writers could have made Scorpion a very good program because they also had the human element woven into the plot but the extremely poor science has turned me away. When will the entertainment industry learn?

Finally, I bought my membership for the 2015 WorldCon. I learned that one of the member of my writers group will be going as well. Many of the people I've met at Launch Pad will also be there. I'm looking forward to seeing them again.