2014-01-26

Thoughts and Peacekeeper progress report

Today is Sunday and I'm actually posting on time - well, sort of. I prefer to have my post written and ready to roll on Saturday night but I was actually so busy writing that I didn't get around to it. That's fine by me because while I'm working on a project, it has priority--especially when the creative juices are flowing and the words are hanging off the tips of my fingers waiting to be converted into electronic perfection. I did some more writing this morning (769 words) and Peacekeeper 2 now stands at 19,484 words. Progress.

I have a Twitter account and I'm very picky about who I follow. I simply don't have the time to stay current on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ as well as reading all the blogs I like to try to follow. I work a lot of hours in my day job and that leaves very little time for actual writing. Something has to take a back seat and that's usually the social networking stuff. Virtually all of the people I follow (33 at the moment) are people I've met from Launch Pad.

Recently, Jamie Todd Rubin wrote the following tweet: "The sound of snowplow blades on cement, prowling the night, feeding on freshly fallen snow, lumbering beasts, always hungry." I love this style of writing and I wish I had the mental alacrity to create passages like this. It requires a different way of looking at things. Who would think of describing a snowplow like it was some sort of animal? I mentioned this to my wife and she said that of all the books she's read recently, she thinks Nova Ren Suma is a master at this form of writing.

I've often wondered if there was some type of course I could take to help kick-start the mental process required to create such prose. If you know of one--please let me know. My mind tends to be stuck in the literal mode meaning I describe things as they are without the use of much metaphor. I work at a nuclear power plant in a very technical department and I am an avid fan of science. These activities reinforce the literal mode of thinking.

On a personal note: I've applied for a new job position at the power plant. This one will involve sitting at a desk writing the work packages that my current peers will be following to perform their work. I decided to do this because I'm finding that I am having a harder time climbing up 30 feet of ladder in 120 degree heat dressed in heavy protective clothing. I'm also not as limber as I used to be and that tends to make climbing around equipment out in the plant more of a challenge. I don't mind what I do, in fact I enjoy it, but age is making it less and less enjoyable. I have a good computer background and 25 years of experience so I think I have a good chance of landing this new job. It won't give me much more time to write because planners work as many hours as the technicians. I will keep you posted.

2014-01-20

Progress

Yesterday's blog was delayed due to having an overnight guest and then a houseful of additional guests for a birthday party. I normally prepare my blog post the day before but I was at work on Saturday and actually managed to get a serious amount of writing done - blog excluded.

So enough of the excuses. I don't have anything important to write about today so I'll just drop an update and leave it at that. Peacekeeper 2 now stands at 16,085 words. I am in training this week and I have my netbook sitting on the desk in front of me. During breaks (which last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes) I can flip open the sleeping machine and put more words into it. Today's schedule was pretty packed so I only managed to write 475 words. Other days I may be able to write more, maybe less. But, progress is being made.

The secret to being able to write when you're trying to hold down a demanding job working 12-hour days and sometimes 12-hour nights is to write when you can, wherever you can. I have an Aspire One netbook for this purpose. I am pretty much a Windows user (mostly because that is what powers my home entertainment system and it's what my wife is used to) so I'm using Scrivener for Windows to do the writing. It's a wonderful program and I highly recommend it--especially if you have an Apple machine.

One more item before I have to close - I received an interesting ad in my email that really made me sit up and say, "I told ya so!" HP, one of the largest manufacturers of PCs on the planet, is bringing back Windows 7 machines because people keep asking for them. Microsoft made a HUGE mistake when they created Windows 8. It is such a divergence from the normal way of doing things (something that has been working now for a long time) that most people absolutely hate it. I do and I won't use it. If I ever have to buy another machine it will either be an Apple or an Ubuntu powered device. As far as I'm concerned, unless they fix Windows 8, it's a dead OS for me. You can't even install the VLC media player without having to tweak the group policy settings! Now how stupid is that?

I would also like to publicly congratulate Geoffrey Landis on his winning of the 2014 Heinlein award.

Until next week...

2014-01-12

Good progress being made on the next Peacekeeper

I have been working 12-hour nights for the past 3 days and along with that comes a mixture of good as well as bad. I am a morning writer, meaning I write best early in the morning right after I get up. There's a few reasons for this: I'm well rested; The house is very quiet; There are no distractions. In the days leading up to my having to actually go into work I stay up later and later at night making the transition easier. One would think that after my wife goes to bed that I would be able to sit down at the computer and get some writing done in the quiet of the night. Such is not the case though. My body wants to go to sleep and I find it nearly impossible to concentrate on writing. So, instead of making progress, I watch movies.

My long night shifts run from 6:30 pm until 6:30 am. I usually get to bed around 7:30 in the morning and sleep until 2:30 pm. It is not possible to get any writing done from the time I wake up until the time I have to go to work. Night shift however, can offer significant opportunities to write. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights are usually very quiet with hardly anything to do other than sit around. It is during these late hours when I can write. The last few nights have been quite productive and Peacekeeper 2 now stands at just over 13,000 words. If you're familiar with word counts, a good-sized novel runs around 80,000 words.

If you follow this blog, you will also recall that I do not outline before writing. When I begin a novel I do so with a general idea of what the story will be about. I may have a few scenes firmly in mind that I need to work toward but other than that the story pretty much writes itself. This has led to some interesting surprises for myself which, when you think about it, is pretty amazing. You would think that an author could not be surprised by the twists and turns the story he is writing can take - but it happens. Ideas pop out of nowhere; little things that appeared earlier in the story suddenly become very important; characters do the unexpected; and events don't turn out like I thought they would. I let my subconscious do what it does best - tell a story.

One of the most difficult parts of writing this latest novel has to do with creating an alien culture. This is not as easy as one might think because we have no reference to base things on other than our own culture. As a writer, especially as a writer of science fiction, one should have at least a little background knowledge concerning the wide range of cultures that exist on this planet. Some of them might seem as bizarre as something you would see in an alien culture. For example: Mixing the ashes of your new years resolutions with wine and drinking them; Cutting up the body of a deceased individual and leaving the pieces scattered around a mountaintop for the animals to consume; Belching loudly as a sign that the meal just consumed was of good quality. If one looks closely enough, one can find alien cultures here on Earth.

The point I'm making with this is a writer must learn how to broaden his knowledge of culture. If you write mystery, don't focus on reading it. If you write science fiction, you will need a very broad range of knowledge in many sciences as well as many cultures. If you write romance, read about the dark side of falling in love as well. Continue to expand your horizons beyond the narrow field of your own specialty.

Never stop learning.

2014-01-06

Copyrights and taxes

I'm a day late with this post - sorry. The copyright issue with Scribd and Dragonverse has been resolved. Apparently, their text scanning algorithm mis-identified my book as having been nearly the same as another. Not sure of the details because Scribd did not share them with me. The whole incident did serve a purpose though in that it got me thinking and researching about copyright issues. For a very informative discussion of why every author should pay the $35.00 fee to register their novel with the U.S. Copyright office, please take a look at this blog post by Sarah Bird. I registered all 8 of my novels yesterday using the Copyright office's electronic submission process which you can find here. As government websites go, this one is pretty easy to use especially if you create a template and use it to register each of your novels.

It's coming up on tax season and I thought I would share some interesting information you should watch out for. If you sell books on Amazon and some of your sales are overseas, you will need to keep very accurate records. Here's why: Last year, I had a rather large discrepancy between the 1099s I received from Amazon and total of the actual payments received. It took some back-and-forth with Amazon before I discovered that the difference is the fee Amazon charges for currency conversion. This is about 3.33% of the total foreign sales. What's surprising is that the amount of this fee is never disclosed! Here is how the Amazon agreement reads:

5.4.3 Payment Currencies. ...If we pay you in a currency other than the Sale Currency, we will convert the Royalties due from the Sale Currency to the payment currency at an exchange rate we determine, which will be inclusive of all fees and charges for the conversion.

The full text of the agreement can be found here

Because Amazon does not tell you how much you're being charged for this conversion, the only way to find out is to compare your 1099 numbers with what Amazon actually deposited into your account. I have a problem with this because there is no proof from Amazon that this is indeed why there is a difference. If you're audited by the IRS then you might have a problem. I urge every author to write Amazon and ask them to begin disclosing this fee when they inform you of a pending payment.

In other news, I've started work on Peacekeeper 2. That's the title for now until I come up with a better one. Peacekeeper had some pretty mixed reviews and I'm hoping to address them in the new novel. I'm thinking a lot of people preferred the big battles and space warfare stories instead of a more character-driven story. I'm hoping to combine the two in the next book to satisfy every reader. If you would like to share your thoughts on this topic please feel free to write me. I am very open to feedback.

Until next Sunday (or there-abouts).