2015-02-22

Time

Dragonverse Origins now has a bit over 9,000 words in the story. I have not been writing as much as I would prefer and that’s reflected in the current word count. I’m going to take a good look at finding a way to get at least a little bit more writing done each week. There have been several things that have gotten in the way that I have no control over.

I typically write in the morning. My mind is usually uncluttered with leftover code from my day-job and I write my best stuff during this time. This also means that I normally write only on weekends. Back when I was working a 10-hour shift, this translated into 3 days a week of writing. My new job is an 8 hour a day, 5 day a week gig which cuts the writing down to 2 days a week. Over a long period of time, that’s a lot of writing. I also maintain a computer program that runs automatically every day. If it fails to run, I must drive into work to fix it. Usually, the fix is simple like logging in again because IT rebooted my computer for me or the antivirus update caused Outlook to question if my program had the authority to send emails. But each time this happens I lose at least 1.5 hours.

I work at a nuclear power plant and we periodically shut the unit down for refueling. This takes place every 2 years at my plant and this refueling outage begins on March 9th. I will most likely be working some strange hours (still undefined) so this may impact or help me find time for writing. If my work schedule allows, there’s a chance I could be getting some writing done while at work. I could go in early, come home later, or extend my lunch and work longer. I’m salaried and that means I have a little flexibility in the hours I work.

Having these big gaps between my writing has had a small positive effect though. When I’m not actively putting words into the computer, I’m thinking about what I have already written and what I’m about to write. Sometimes, after a few days, I come up with things I need to go back and change. If I was writing every day, this may not happen. Most writing experts say a writer should write every day. The reason behind this is to keep yourself focused on the story and it helps complete the story in a reasonable amount of time. I typically write one book a year. If I wrote every day, I think I could easily put out 2 or 3 books a year. But, I have a day job and I’m married, so certain things must come before writing.

For another view of finding time to write I will point you to an article by a friend of mine who is a prolific writer. Take a look at this article from Jamie Todd Rubin.

I have embarked on a quest to read at least one book written by each of the authors I’ve met at Launch Pad. I will read them if I have a signed copy in my possession. I recently finished Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett. This book is written in a very different style and it took some getting used to. In the end though, I really enjoyed the book. You can read my GoodReads review here. I am currently reading Fair Coin by E. C. Myers.

2015-02-15

Sluggish start

Dragonverse Origins is off to a sluggish start (from a word-count perspective anyway). But progress is slowly being made. I'm having to stop and do research on what life was like in the Medieval period. Since Origins is fantasy/scifi, I don't have to be 100% accurate, but I do want to be as close as I reasonably can. To me, getting something wrong about the period I'm writing in is a problem that can, and should, be avoided. It's the same with modern and futuristic prose. If I'm writing a science fiction novel set in the far future, I'm forced to think about what life will be like in 50, 100, or even 200 years. That's not an easy task by any means.

Consider what has happened in the span of my own life. I was born in 1958. I can remember the simple dial telephone. Computers have gone from huge machines filling entire rooms to something small enough to put in your pocket. I watched the first man step foot on the moon. I saw the advent of the internet. I can easily remember saying, "I'll never need to learn about this internet thing". Wrong. My very first computer was a TRS-80 (trash 80 for those who remember). My dad gave me a Leading Edge model D a few years later. My first "real" computer was built at a local computer store. I had the technician install a whopping 130 Meg hard disk in it. He asked what I was going to do with such a huge drive. Today, our phones listen to us and talk back. They recognize our faces. If current predictions hold true, computers will be self aware in 25 years. Technology is moving so fast it's is virtually impossible to keep up with it. I love it, and I'm a bit concerned at the same time.

The science part is fairly easy to get right. The known laws of nature should not change in the foreseeable future. If you accelerate at a certain rate for a given time, you will find yourself traveling at a known speed. Mass moving at any speed carries kinetic energy. Energy cannot be created or destroyed. The amount of energy you can possibly get from a given mass is not boundless--it's limited by the famous E=MC^2 equation. But science fiction authors are forced to stretch the limits of known science. We build stardrives; weapons of inconceivable power; create alien races; and talk about these things as if they not only already exist, but are common-place. Fantasy writers live in a slightly altered universe where magic may be possible, bizarre creatures exist, and the laws of nature are not quite exactly how we know them now.

Being a writer is fun because we get to live is these universes and we get to share our vision of such places with those who read our books. My wife made a good point the other day. She said that although it is important to get the grammar right, it's not necessary to always get it perfect. As long as the minor grammatical errors don't detract from the story, the reader will generally forgive the author and publisher. Throw in too many such mistakes though and the reader becomes distracted and the story fragmented. It's not possible to publish a grammatically perfect book. Especially in this day and age when a book can be read by anyone from anywhere on the planet. American English is not the same as British English. Writers do the best they can--and that's all that can be asked of them.

Time to get back to writing.

2015-02-08

SFWA Announcement

This might be old news to some people, but in case you haven’t heard: the SFWA has passed a resolution allowing self-published authors to join. To read their official announcement, click here. Back in 2012 (April 20th to be exact), I posted my first blog entry talking about why the SFWA refused to admit self-published authors (read it). Over the years, I've occasionally mentioned this concern of mine. For a while, I had bad feelings toward the SFWA. But, I also realized they are a large organization and change will take time. That time has arrived. I will be logging in to the SFWA web site on March 1st as soon as humanly possible to sign up to become a member.

Why? Honestly, I don’t know. The SFWA itself admits that their organization has little to offer authors who have been in the field for any length of time. But the same can be said for other organizations and clubs like the Elks, the VFW, etc. There is a practical reason to join—to feel as if you’re part of a community of writers. I’m sure that once I become a member I will find something they have to offer is useful. I will be joining because I've always wanted to be a member—and now I can be.

Dragonverse Origins is proceeding along quite well. My wife read the first chapter (something she’s never done until the book was handed to her for her review) and she said she enjoyed it. I love dragons, and writing about them seems to come naturally for me.

My Goodreads giveaway has ended. 564 people entered to win. I will be mailing out the books later next week. Did it boost sales? I’m not sure. It’s very hard to tell. Is it worth it? Again, I’m not sure—but I think I will do it again.


I’m keeping this post short—I have writing to get back to.

2015-02-01

Life gets in the Way

I don’t have much to blog about this week. I didn't get much writing done because of other obligations. I have a program that runs at my day job that is responsible for keeping my local databases updated and for generating automatic reports. Both Saturday and Sunday of last week I had to make a quick trip into work to restart the program. Once because of a security warning that popped up from Microsoft Outlook and once because of an unknown fault. Believe me, I was not a happy camper to find that I drove 10 miles in a snowstorm just to click “authorize”.

I also met an out of town vendor for lunch Sunday night. He flew in from Atlanta and was here to demonstrate some really slick software my department is looking to purchase. I worked late Monday and Tuesday (12 to 14 hours) so no writing was done. I took Wednesday off thinking I would get some writing done but, once again, I had to drive into work to restart the program. This time I found the fault and have since corrected it. It has been running fine since.

I did manage to get almost 1,000 words written on Saturday both in the morning and while at B&N. So far, the book is coming along very well. I’m hoping to make more time to write in the near future.

I’m also having to deal with a sick cat and a failing hard drive. One of our cats stopped eating Friday morning. Took him to the vet Saturday and found he had a cold. The vet told us to force feed him if necessary. We managed to get him to down a fair amount of broth from a stew we made the other day. Vet said he will be fine. This morning (Sunday) he ate about 1/3 of his normal meal and he's a bit more active.

The failing hard drive is another issue. I use Microsoft Media Center to run my televisions. The computer that drives the system has a quad tuner installed as well as a dedicated 1 TB hard drive to store the movies. A few days ago, we started getting network errors popping up on the kitchen TV. This television is driven wirelessly and so I assumed the router was getting old. Then the same issues began popping up on the living room TV which is hard-wired into the network. Thursday night, just before bedtime, my wife said several shows refused to play. I fired up the hard drive monitor and it identified the 1 TB drive as having sector read errors. My wife deleted a bunch of the old programs taking the count of recorded shows from 122 down to 88. I started moving the 88 shows that were on the drive to another drive Saturday morning before heading to B&N. I dropped my wife off at the bookstore and bought a new 2 TB hard drive.

I do not back up this hard drive. It is in nearly constant use and backing it up would be difficult. The only thing stored on it are the recorded Media Center television shows. I put this system in service in November of 2011 which means the hard drive lasted about 3 years. Believe it or not, this is pretty typical for Seagate drives in a server environment. The computer is on 24-7 and is almost constantly in use. There are times when the system is simultaneously recording 4 channels and playing back two more--all HD television programs. The new drive is a Western Digital which has a better track record in harsh environments. I would have preferred to buy a Hitachi drive but Office Max does not carry them. I will be buying a nice Hitachi 2 or 3 TB drive in the near future and putting it on standby in case the WD fails in a few years.

When I got home from the bookstore, I found the transfer had stopped. Instead of restarting it, I shut down the computer and replaced the drive. I had also purchased a box that converts an internal drive into an external drive. I popped the old drive in it and began moving files. This arrangement actually moved things along much faster than when I was transferring from the computer to my network drive--3 times faster! All but one show got moved. I also discovered that the failed drive is under warranty.

Finally - if you are a writer, editor, producer, or creator of science-related media, you should seriously consider applying for Launch Pad. If you are interested in attending an event you will remember for the rest of your life, then apply. Professor Brotherton has created a unique program that brings together some of the best people you will ever meet for a memorable week-long experience. If you don't get picked, apply again, and again. Once you go, you will want to support this project in any way possible.