2014-11-30

Thoughts of my next project

Yes—I missed last week's post. Since I'm between writing projects, I've been spending a large portion of my time on non-writing activities. My biggest project of late has been reorganizing the collection of Microsoft Access database applications I wrote shortly after accepting my new job as a database administrator. Instead of a loose collection of programs, I've created what I call "The Plan". It centralizes the automatic database updates into a single program and organizes the primary data repositories into a tightly integrated database system. Data is stored in specific locations with well-defined groupings. These databases are updated using a single application. Three other Access applications make up the various user interfaces each one meant to be used by a specific group of people. This will make maintaining the entire system far easier.

This does not mean I've not been thinking about my next project. It has been a close toss-up between a third Dragonverse novel and a new YA novel involving a dragon and a deformed teenager. If I do a third Dragonverse book I'm going to have to go back and revise the first two to bring them up to my current standards. I've learned quite a bit about writing since penning Dragonverse and if I'm going to write a third book I'm going to want to make sure the first two are updated.

The other possibility is a YA (Young Adult) novel about a dragon and a deformed teenager. I've never written a YA novel before which means the story could be a challenge. The genre has certain formats that must be adhered to otherwise it might be rejected by the readers as not being a true YA novel. Luckily, I will have the help of Susan Forest, an award-winning YA author whom I met at Launch Pad this year. She has expressed an interest in reading and reviewing the story once it's complete. I'm still working on the major pieces of the plot and if I can solve a few issues before the start of next year then this will most likely be my next project. I want the story to teach a lesson as well as present a story to the reader. I will need to develop a large amount of back story—most of which will not appear in the book—in order to make it clear in my mind as to how everything will fit together. I will let you know in this blog how this goes.


In other news: I picked up the recent copy of Locus magazine and was shocked as to how many people I've met are in the magazine. I originally picked it up because of a large article featuring Linda Nagata--another author I met at Launch Pad and someone I've kept in touch with over the years. A quick flip of the pages revealed Jenn Brissett, Ann Leckie, Ellen Datlow, and Eugene Myers—all people I've met at Launch Pad. If you are a writer and you do not have a circle of acquaintances who are published writers, then I highly recommend you do something to change this situation. The above writers are all award-winning, well-known writers in their field. They are people just like you and me. I count them as friends and acquaintances I can talk to if I need advice. We stay in touch via Twitter and an occasional email and we will get together anytime we find ourselves in the same location together. We support each other as all writers should.

Writers need to interface with other writers. I did not really understand this until I attended my first Launch Pad. Attend conferences, join a writer's group, apply to Launch Pad (multiple times if you have to), go to conventions, or watch to see if a writer is appearing in a library or a book store. Introduce yourself to them. Talk to them. But don't think that getting to know a well-known author is a gateway to publication. They've all worked hard to get to where they are. They will give you advice, provide guidance if they have the time, and will answer your honest questions if at all possible. But they will not, and cannot, give you a direct line to their agent or publisher. That's your job. They also don't have the time to read everything every writer asks them to read. The biggest advantage of knowing other writers is feeling like you belong. Listen to what they have to say and learn what they have to offer in the form of wisdom. Eventually, if you treat them like a person and not a means to achieving another goal, you will gain their confidence and eventually their friendship and trust.

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.