2016-12-25

Holiday Update

Updates
Happy holidays! Please remember why so many people celebrate this time of the year. It's not about the gifts. 2016 is a year I would dearly love to forget. It has changed my perception of people and not in a good way. But, there are still islands of goodness out there.

Yesterday, I was standing in line at the grocery store holding a huge tray of chicken for today's feast. When the young woman in front of me had her turn at the register, she turned and said, "I'm paying for his as well." I said, "No you're not!" She turned to the cashier and said, "Ring his up as well." I've done similar things in the past in restaurants but this is the first time anyone has returned the favor. Thank you again, stranger.

With Peacekeeper Pathogen in the hands of my content editor, and me being on vacation for another week, I've got some time on my hands. I have an extensive todo list and I've started working my way through it. Here is what has been accomplished so far:


  • A newly reformatted interior for Dragonverse: The Adventure Begins.
  • A new cover for Dragonverse: The Adventure Begins.
  • A newly reformatted interior for Ishnef's Revenge.
  • A new cover for Ishnef's Revenge.
I'm very proud of the new cover for the first book in the Dragonverse series. I'm including it at the end of this post. The cool artwork was a gift from the wife of my content editor, Corinne Dilkie. I love staring at it and I hope those who buy the newly recovered book will too. The goal is to make all of my covers look the same as far as basic formatting is concerned. It helps with the branding of my books.

Yesterday, I started working on redoing the interior of Off Course. That was when I noticed that back in 2010/2011, I was still putting two spaces after a period. So, I decided to to a complete re-edit. I'm not making large changes, just cleaning it up to bring it up to standard. I hope to be done in a few days. Then, I will work on When Ships Mutiny. That will complete my total reformatting project thus giving all of my books a more professional look and feel.

That's it from today. I have a lot of work to do. Here is the promised cover. You will see it on Amazon soon.


2016-12-18

First Draft

Update
The first draft of Peacekeeper Pathogen is complete! I finished it off this morning. The final word count came out to be 87,450. A couple days ago, I mentioned on social media that I should be done with the book yesterday. But, after sleeping on it, I came up with something I just had to add. The basics were there in the ending paragraphs, all I had to do was to make a few changes and the book's ending shines.

That's the fun part of being a seat of the pants author. I never know when something good is going to happen to my characters. It's a fun, strange feeling when that happens too. A wonderful feeling that the book is practically writing itself. That's when I know I've written something good when the story begins to surprise me.

The book will be converted to Microsoft Word and sent out to my content editor Lee Dilkie for his take on the plot. His job is to read through the entire manuscript and point out any plot blunders, mistakes in how people interact, and other over-arching corrections that need my attention. With the holidays upon us, I don't expect anything back from him until next year. Once I get all his input, I will make the appropriate corrections, write a second draft, and hand it over to my wife for proofing.

She will fix my grammatical goofs and correct my sentence structure. This process can take upwards of a month or more primarily because my wife does not really care much for science fiction. But, bless her heart, she sticks to reading it and will help me turn the final product into a professional book.

As a final check, I will send the book to a fan in Germany. His second language is English and he has been able to find and point out mistakes that everyone else has missed. While all this editing and changing is being done, the first draft will also be passed to my cover creator. She will read the book and based on what she reads will create a cover. The cover creation process will itself go through several iterations until we have the final product.

Finally, the book will be formatted for Kindle (ebook) and Createspace (print version) and uploaded for release to the reading public. The day before, the final version will be electronically submitted to the United States Copyright Office where my book will be officially copyrighted.

As you can see, even though I'm a self-published author, it still takes a team of people working together to create the final product. Sure, I could do it all be myself. But the end product would be a lot poorer quality. I owe it to my readers to produce the best book possible published and formatted as if it came from a major publishing house. Doing that takes many people each one with their own special talent. Without them, I would be just another average writer.

In between all this, I plan on fixing up the rest of my existing books with corrected interior formatting and new covers. I also need to update my website. A writer never sits idle.

2016-12-11

Just writing

Update
Peacekeeper Pathogen now stands at 73,394 words with an estimated 2 chapters to go. The end is in sight! After it's finished, I'll be sending it to Lee Dilkie for his take on the overall story. While he's reading it, I'll be taking a short break from writing to update my website and possibly start working on updating the covers and formatting for the Dragonverse series. Once I have his input, I'll begin the editing phase.

When I sat down to write this post, I thought I was very conflicted about what to write about: Should I talk about how it looks as if our society is becoming less tolerant and common courtesy is not something people are taught anymore? Should I talk about the rising threat of your electronic life? Or should I say something about how losing privacy might not be such a bad thing after all?

In the end, I decided not to talk about any of that. We live in an increasingly depressing world and I want to talk about happier things.

Sales are up. I attribute this to using Amazon advertising. A friend of mine (also self-published) heard I have been doing well and asked me to explain how I did it. His sales are also on the rise. Amazon advertising works as long as you know how to properly use it.

We had our first real winter snow starting on December 9th. It caused a large stretch of interstate I90 to be closed due to several multiple-car pileups and bad conditions. I've used the snow blower 4 times since then to clear mine and my neighbor's driveway. In fact, it's still snowing now and we are looking at snow turning to rain turning back to snow for today's forecast. Lovely.

I will say one thing about your digital security. A large majority of people who use computers, cell phones, and tablets are not well-versed in how to protect them properly. People should be educated on how to use these devices properly. They should all come with instructions and warning concerning how you can lose everything you store on these devices. The warnings should also indicate how vulnerable you become to those who understand the technology better than you do.

To help those who read this post, I highly recommend purchasing MalwareBytes 3.0. Use this in addition to a good anti-virus program. Make sure you keep your computer up-to-date and stay on top of the latest security threats. Don't turn off the automatic updates for products such as Adobe Flash. A recent security flaw was uncovered in Adobe, so make sure you update. Be vigilant with your internet presence and always remember that anyone anywhere can be seeing what you post on public sites.

Time for me to finish installing updates on my computers and then get back to writing.

2016-12-04

Writing a Series

Update
Peacekeeper Pathogen now has 68,279 words. I have two or three chapters left to finish (by my seat of the pants estimate) and that puts the final word count at around 75,000. Not as much as I would like, but a good start. As I close in on the end, my notes of things I need to go back and fix is starting to grow. Most of it involves having to add stuff. But, if the book turns out to be 75k, then it's 75k. I'm not going to add scenes and chapters just to fill the space between the covers. That's what turns a good book into a boring book.

Writing a Series
If you are a new writer, here's a piece of advice: Keep a detailed historical log of what happens in the universe you've created. This applies even if you don't plan on writing a series because your single-story book might very well turn into a series. Plus, having a historical record helps you keep your facts straight. It's very difficult to remember when something happened, who did what, and who was where when, in a complex story that takes place in multiple locations over a long period of time.

I've lived in the universe of my Galactic Alliance series since I was in high school. I actually had a fairly detailed technical reference manual before I became a writer. It's changed over the years, but I had a good place to start. Chroniech was the first complete novel I ever wrote. I finished it while at sea in the Navy back in 1988. I wrote it using WordStar on a CPM machine. The printed version was retyped into a program I no longer remember the name of running on a CPM computer built by my dad. It was moved from machine to machine, translated, retyped, and converted as necessary until it was finally sent to Amazon as my first book in 2009. In between all that time, the book was modified and edited many times. I got to know it very well.

While working on what would become Chroniech, I built up an elaborate history and set of facts for the Galactic Alliance. I turned my Galactic Alliance Technical Reference Manual (GATM), into a collection of facts and then a timeline. I've kept it current ever since and I refer to it very often. Today, I use Aeon Timeline to track the timeline of the entire Galactic Alliance series. So what's in the GATRM? have a look:

  • Distances from one planet to another.
  • Names and descriptions of all the member races.
  • Cultural information associated with the various races.
  • Important dates and events.
  • Details concerning the major vessels.
  • Descriptions of weapon and defense systems.
  • Details of many of the main characters.
  • Other bits and pieces of interesting information (such as converting joules to kilotons).
Having all this information in one location has been a huge help in keeping the facts straight over the years. If I say its xx light years from Earth to a specific planet in one book, it had better match in the others.

I had the GATM on my website at one time but it changes too much for me to continually upload it. One of these days, if I ever decide that the series has worn out its appeal, I will finalize the GATM and make it available.

Writing a series is tough. You have to keep facts, names, places, dates, and all sorts of stuff consistent. If you don't, a sharp reader will point it out! Even though I have the GATM, there are times when I must go back and look at past books to verify a fact.

2016-11-27

Thanksgiving Progress

Update
Last week, Peacekeeper Pathogen stood at 54,864 words. I've been on vacation since then, writing almost every morning. This morning, the word count is 64,070. That's 9,206 words in a single week. When you stop and think about it, those numbers mean something significant and tell what the future will bring when I retire. Provided I can keep up the writing, I could conceivably finish the first draft of an entire novel in about two months. Editing, of course, will take another month or two. Figure in a couple week break to catch up on television and other things and the math claims I could crank out right around two books a year. Assuming I retire at age 70 and I keep writing until I'm 90, that's 60 books after I retire. Figure in an average of one book a year while I'm working, add in what I currently have published, and my lifetime total seems to be around 80 large novels--that's quite an accomplishment!

Those 80 novels could bring in royalties for many years giving someone a small but steady income for the rest of their life. Provided you can make money in this market, this looks like a great plan to help your kids long after you're gone. It's a wonderful dream to have. But this dream has a catch--you must have a plan to turn over ownership of your copyrights to someone who will continue to allow the books to remain published. You do this in a will or by using a trust. If you don't, then who knows what will happen to your legacy when you're gone.

Sales
Book sales have been doing quite well recently. I am very disappointed, however, that Dragonverse Origins has not sold more. I still don't have a single review and reviews are very important. Origins is a wonderful book which was enjoyed by everyone involved in editing and proofing it. My Dragonverse series has never sold well on Amazon, which surprises me because of all the dragons that appear in movies these days. When I sell at conventions or events, Dragonverse sells more than Translight. Perhaps I don't have the book's genre properly identified or people just don't know the books are out there.

I've been focusing on writing and that will remain my goal. But, as soon as I put "the end" on Peacekeeper Pathogen, I will be turning my attention to redoing the covers on the Dragonverse series as well as reformatting the print versions. I will also have time to set up an Amazon ad campaign for Origins as well as work on tweaking the settings in the ad campaigns I have going for the other books. Amazon advertising does work but you also have to put some time into adjusting your settings.

Today is my last day of vacation and the time I have for writing is slipping away. From where I sit, I can envision a long road of time ahead of me filled with words being strung together into new novels. But the road behind is forever set in stone. It is what I do today, right now, that matters, because once the instant of time you are now experiencing passes, it cannot be altered--ever. Plan for the future, live for the moment, but always remember that how you live and what you do will be remembered as your legacy for all time.

2016-11-20

Update

Update
Peacekeeper Pathogen currently stands at 54,864. I am currently working on writing the last few chapters. Since I don’t work off an outline, I have no clear idea as to how much is left—especially since I threw a monkey wrench into the plot the other day. My guess is I have 4 more chapters left. Since I try to keep my chapters at around 2,500 words, this puts the final word count at approximately 66k. That’s short of my standard goal of 80k to 90k. I’m sure the word count can be expanded especially since I need to add a couple additional chapters earlier in the book. I’m resisting the urge to add them now—need to finish this thing first.

On Wednesday, I was all set to help kick off the NaNoWiMo event at one of our public libraries. This library is on my way to/from work so dropping by for a few hours to share my experience in self-publishing was no problem. Another author drove about 45 minutes to attend. The event was for Middle school kids and began after school. Unfortunately, because of some issues the library had had with kids in the past, they required that the children be accompanied by an adult. Nobody showed—nobody. I was fine with this as it did not impact my schedule at all. I felt bad for the other author though.

Even though nobody showed up to attend the event, I found the interaction with the library staff to be quite interesting. Some time ago, the same library had hosted a “Cooks and Books” event. During the event, one of the staff walked around and asked each author to give him their elevator speech. This same person is the one who set up the NaNoWiMo event. He told me that after the Cooks and Books event, he went out and purchased a copy of each of my books for the library. I’ll be getting a picture of them sitting on the shelf the next time I drive by.

Knowing my books are in a library was thrilling but what he told me next put a smile on my face for hours afterward. This staffer also runs a writing primer workshop at the library. He uses a copy of When Ships Mutiny in his class. I never thought I would hear anyone tell me they were using one of my books as part of a teaching class.


Finally, I feel compelled to say something concerning the recent election results. To be perfectly honest, I’ve been in a down mood ever since the results were announced and every time I look at my Twitter feed I get a bad feeling in my gut. Historically, this country has claimed to stand for the freedom and rights of its people and it is actively engaged in bringing those same rights to the people of other nations. We condemn those nations that oppress the freedom of their people to express themselves. Based on what I’ve seen happening, it appears as if our government has become a hypocrisy. Being an American meant you enjoyed being free; free to worship the faith of your choice; free to speak your mind without being persecuted. America is viewed worldwide as a country that will welcome you with open arms. A place where the persecuted can come and live freely without fear. All this is changing. If the writing on the wall becomes reality, we will no longer be seen as the leader of the free world. We will be seen as a nation of greedy, hypocritical, arrogant people who are intolerant of the differences that make us human.

2016-11-13

Sales

Update
Peacekeeper Pathogen is now at 52,259 words. Unfortunately, I seem to be working on the ending. It is not going to be a quick ending though so the final word count of the first draft will most likely be around 65k. That's not too bad, but it does not satisfy my desire for a minimal size of 80k. This is, however, the first draft and there are a large number of items I need to go back and add. What worries me though is that during my editing, I typically remove sentences, shorten them, and generally make the manuscript shorter. Getting the book rounded out to a minimal 80k could be a challenge. We will see what happens as the story continues to unfold in the computer.

Sales
I have several pieces of news to share with you in this department. Let's start with where I was yesterday--the Cuyahoga County Library Indie Author Expo. This was their second year and 53 authors were granted permission to set up in the library auditorium to sell their books. The only requirement for entry was to have published a book within the past 2 years. You send them a copy of the book and if it is approved, you're in. Here is a picture of the event in progress as viewed from my table.


Even though this was only their second year, there was a large turn-out. I did sell an entire set of my Dragonverse series. That might seem like a small accomplishment but events like this are more than just sales. I had printed out several copies of my self-publishing guide and by the end of the 2-hour event, they were all gone. I also talked to a lot off people and handed out a good number of business cards. I also met several of the other authors were there.

Now here's the interesting part: When I got up this morning and checked ebook sales, they were up a noticeable amount. People will go to these events and a few will buy a physical book. But, if you engage with them and give them a good impression as to who you are, they will take a business card, go home, and buy a book online. For me, this event was worth it and I will look forward to returning next year.

Readers of this blog will also recall that I've been experimenting with Amazon advertising. With one exception, I've been pretty happy with it. The exception is the experiment I did in allowing Amazon to automatically choose my keywords and promotional opportunities itself. I've let this run for a few months and the results have been much less than I anticipated. In fact, I have received only a single click event costing me $0.05 the last time I checked. Amazon advertising does work but only if you elect to enter your keywords manually. I will be doing this very soon.

2016-11-06

The Future

Update
Peacekeeper Pathogen is now at 49,343 words. Looking toward the future, I've created a bit of a problem for my characters and right now I haven't figured out how to get them out of issue so the story can come to a satisfactory end. My brain has also been apparently performing internal reviews of the story and has begun pointing out things I missed in earlier chapters. I didn't ask my brain to do this! But, I'm glad it does. I just keep a side-log of things so I can go back and fix them during my first editing pass.

I realized yesterday (which turned out to be a non-writing day) that I have put writing ahead of many things I should be attending to such as: My website is very out of date; Several books require reformatting and cover alterations; Critical off-line backups had not been done; Scanning and filing of household documents had been delayed. I took care of the documents and backups yesterday. The rest will have to wait for when I not only have time to write but time to do other things as well. Prioritizing is often difficult.

The Future
I write science fiction and as such I try to be as up-to-date on all the cool gadgets people are creating these days. We live in an age of ultra-fast advances--often too fast for these advances to be properly integrated into our lives. If our society were different, these advances would be quickly turning our lives into an abundant, thrilling existence. Instead, it often serves a darker purpose.

Take the internet of things as an example. For a disabled or elderly person who finds it difficult to get around, having the ability to remotely control the lights in your house, view what's going on in another room, adjust the thermostat, or see who's ringing your doorbell can make life much better. But when these same devices can be hacked, it can make that same person's life a living hell. Those same devices can also be used by those who really don't need them. Why get up off the couch to turn off the kitchen light when you can pick up your phone, open an app, find the appropriate icon, and flip the light off? These devices, while useful to some, can also end up turning us into couch potatoes of the extreme kind. Too lazy to turn off a light.

Because we have certain types of people in our society, the manufacturers of these devices need to consider what can happen if their helpful devices are exploited by people who have social issues. The devices need to be easy to use but at the same time they need to be secure. But, manufacturers are driven by greed (called profit in social circles) and taking the time and effort to make their devices useful yet secure is not in their business model. Because of that, people suffer. Yet, if the manufacturer does try to do what is right and profits fall, the same people who are demanding they build better devices make the manufacturer suffer by pointing out that their profits have fallen.

We are rapidly moving towards a world where robots will be common, vehicles drive themselves and talk to each other to prevent accidents and increase efficiency, and machine intelligence is used by professionals to make everyday decisions. This is the world of science fiction! But is society ready for this? Have we advanced enough culturally and sociologically to handle what we are now capable of building? Given what I have seen in the news over the past few months the answer is no. After I'm done writing Peacekeeper Pathogen, I'm seriously thinking of writing a darker science fiction story of the near future where people cower in fear of the very machines they thought would free them because others have taken them over for their own purposes.

2016-10-30

Update only

This will be a short update. Peacekeeper Pathogen is now at 47,882 words and moving along very nicely.

Last week, I received an email from one of our local libraries. In support of NaNoWiMo they are hosting a junior write-a-thon for younger writers. They've asked me if I would like to be part of the kick-off. I've been asked to share my self-publishing experience and then answer any questions the young writers might have about what it means to be a writer. Of course I accepted! I look forward to sharing my experience and knowledge with those who will be entering the world of writing.

That's it. Keeping it short and simple so I can get back to writing.

2016-10-23

Geek Expo

Update
Peacekeeper Pathogen is up to 44,428 words. Today should be a good writing day--you should see the word count go up quite a bit next week.

Geek Expo
Several years ago, an Olympic training facility named The Spire was built just down the road from our house. My wife and I use it to walk. The secretary who takes our walking fee knows I'm a writer. Two weeks ago, she pointed out a flyer for an event called the NorthEast Ohio Geek Expo. I'd never heard of it. Interested, I grabbed a flyer. Later that day, I went on the web and found out that it was much like a local comic convention. Unfortunately, the window to apply for a vendor space was already closed. I sent them an email asking to be put on the mailing list so I would not forget next year.

About a week later, I received an email saying they had some spots available and also wanted me to do a panel on self-publishing. Of course I accepted. With the event only 4 days away, I quickly fired off an email to my local author friends and told them I had a table I was willing to share. On the day of the event, it was me and one other author selling out books. We had a great time and I sold a lot of books.

We assumed that due to the location, the event was going to be small. We were wrong. Toward the end of the expo, I asked one of the organizers how many people they believe had attended. I was told that they had expected about 1,400 but ticket sales (although not confirmed) seemed to be more toward 2,000. That made the Geek Expo a fairly large event. As the only authors there, we did quite well. I sold a total of 12 books which more than covered the shared cost of the table and the one meal I ate there.

The self-publishing panel I did went very well as well. Instead of just standing up in front of a group of people, I turned it into a Q&A session. That way, the audience could ask me the questions they wanted answers to concerning self-publishing. One of the people there asked some very pointed questions. I later learned that she is a best-selling romance author who is traditionally published. After the panel, she stopped by my table. That was when I learned who she was. She explained that she asked those questions to get the ball rolling. It helped.

She's also a member of a local writers group. In fact, quite a number of people at the expo including one of the organizers are members. I think I'm going to have to check them out! Here's a picture of me at our table taken by Andi Lawrencovna--the other author who shared the table with me.


The lesson here: Even if the window of opportunity appears to be closed, take a chance and make a polite inquiry. You never know what might happen.


2016-10-16

Advertising

Update
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!

Advertising
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.

2016-10-09

People

Update
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.

People
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.

2016-10-02

Covers

Update
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.

Covers
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:



2016-09-25

Random Thoughts

Update
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.

Networking
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!

2016-09-18

Curse or Gift

Update
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.

2016-09-11

Focus

Update
No, I have not dropped off the internet. No, I have not given up my blog. I've shifted my focus to what is important--family and writing. Putting out a blog post every Sunday morning was beginning to chew into my writing time. Because I had less time to write, I was making time by taking time away from my wife. Time to change my focus.

I will continue to post updates in this blog but I'm not going to do it every single Sunday. I would rather spend my time writing a new novel or editing one I'm getting ready to publish. This also means I no longer have many plans to attend cons or conferences. I had a lot of fun going to them, but they cost money, take away writing time, and my wife is not a fan of the crowds. Perhaps some day when I'm retired...

Speaking of new novels: I've been working on Peacekeeper Pathogen lately and I've made pretty good progress. As of this morning, the book stands at 26,626 words and is moving along quite well. Initial feedback from a few readings at my writer's group have been positive.

I was very disappointed to learn that the possible alien signal is not as possible as the initial reports suggested. Someday, we might actually find a real signal. That will be a world-changing event.

Advertising works! Thanks to an author acquaintance I met at Launch Pad, I have an Amazon ad campaign running. It has not cost very much at all and it seems to be generating results. I was very unhappy with the low sales figures a few weeks back (namely zero) and I mentioned this in a blog post as well as on a few social media outlets. Jake Kerr provided me with a helpful tutorial on how to get Amazon advertising to work. I'm still making some tweaks to the campaign settings but so far sales have returned to an average of 2 a day. Not stellar, but far better than the big ZERO. I'm happy with a low but steady number. More, of course, would be better, but consistent sales greater than zero is all I need to keep me happy. Thanks Jake!

That's about it. In keeping with my new philosophy on spending more time writing and less time blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, etc. I'm going back to working on Pathogen.

PS. If anyone out there is looking for some help in the self-publishing area, please let me know. I would rather help someone get their book published right than spend time telling them how to correct it after the book is released. The first is positive feedback and the second is negative. Positive is much easier to deal out and it is received much better.

Until next time!

2016-08-21

Publishing with CreateSpace

The print version of Dragonverse Origins is now available on Amazon. The pre-order period for the e-book ends on August 27 and the book will be live. Please help get this book off to a good start by placing your pre-order at: https://amzn.com/B01IU96X4O.

If you want to see how to make a printed copy of your book, you can watch the entire process from beginning to end on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/2z0uYaaS6Ro. I took screen capture videos of the process while uploading Origins

I've also opened an ad account with Amazon and I will be monitoring the effectiveness of placing ads on Amazon. I want to thank Jake Kerr, science fiction author extraordinaire and fellow Launch Pad alumni for some tips on how to use Amazon promotions. I'll let you know how this pans out in a few weeks.

2016-08-14

Not Quite WYSIWYG

Yesterday, I uploaded Dragonverse Origins to CreateSpace so I could have a printed version. One of CreateSpace's cool features is the formatting check it does on your interior. I'm getting pretty good at doing the formatting right and so I was surprised when three errors were reported. Opening up the online previewer, I found that a blank page had been inserted after the copyright page. I assumed CreateSpace had done this. I tried again, and it was still there. I must have uploaded four versions until I went and looked at the PDF file I was uploading. The extra page wasn't coming from CreateSpace, it was coming from Word!

Looking at Word, I have my cover page, then the copyright page, and then chapter one. This puts chapter one on a right-facing page as you're supposed to do. But when I generated the PDF, Word inserted a blank page. Clicking on the pages and looking at the bottom of the screen, I noted that what looked on the screen to be page 3 was identified as page 4--so where was the missing page?

A quick search on the internet provided a clue but not an answer. If you set your document for mirrored margins, Word will insist on starting page 1 on an odd numbered printed page. If you format your book correctly, your first chapter will be separated from all the front matter by a section break and you will tell Word to start counting pages there at page 1. This is pretty cool as it leads one to believe that Word will do some of the formatting for you. Unfortunately, in my case, Word was putting page 1 on an even page--not odd. No matter what I did, chapter one was starting on a left-facing page.

The solution, after almost two hours of frustrating trial and error, was to open up the page formatting option window, tell Word to apply to the entire document, de-select mirror margins, and then apply. Then, go back and do it all over again only this time ensuring your margins are correct and mirror margins are turned back on. Apply to the entire document and the blank page magically vanished even though the setting I ended up with are the same as what I started with.

I did make a series of video clips of the entire CreateSpace process and I will be taking some time to stitch them together into an informative video that I will be uploading to YouTube in the near future. I'll let you know when it's done.

During our writer's group meeting yesterday, I mentioned the severe drop in sales. One of the writers suggested it might have been caused by the roll-out of the new Harry Potter book. Although I have my doubts, I have noticed a small increase in sales since the book's release but the numbers have not recovered much. I will continue to monitor this situation.

Finally, please don't forget about doing some verbal promoting of Dragonverse Origins. If you like dragons as well as a light sprinkling of science fiction then you will enjoy Origins. Please consider putting in your pre-order at: https://amzn.com/B01IU96X4O

You can also see my book on the SFWA site. Here is the link: http://www.sfwa.org/featured-books/

Pass the word and help Dragonverse Origins get a good start with as many pre-orders as possible.

Have a great day!

2016-08-07

Backups

I got to thinking the other day about my current backup strategy. I use DropBox for all of my writing-related storage and backups are automatically taken care of. I use CrashPlan to back up my 2.8 Terrabytes of data. This costs $150.00 a year. Not bad considering. But, I also pay $100.00 a year for Microsoft Office. This comes with 1TB of online storage via OneDrive. The vast majority of my backup data is movies. Microsoft also allows you to create an account for a family member who will also get 1TB of storage. To save some money, I decided to drop CrashPlan.

I purchased a portable 2TB hard drive and made a copy of all my movies. This drive is now sitting securely in my bank's safe deposit box. Why not in my firebox in the house? Because it's too close. I want off-premise backups. I've been moving everything else to the OneDrive location and allowing it to be automatically backed up to the cloud. My subscription to CrashPlan runs out on the 17th. I should have everything moved to OneDrive and backed up by then.

Why pay for online backup when you really don't need it? Another cool thing about using OneDrive is I can quickly access it from my smart phone as well as anywhere on the internet. I was worried about using a 1TB account and having the automatic synchronization fill up the hard drive on my laptop but you can selectively synchronize folders. This made things so much easier.

I spent the entire morning on Sunday installing and setting up a new router--one with advanced beaming technology to simultaneously talk to all of my devices. I did a lot of research on all the new routers and settled on an almost top-of-the line Linksys. Although NetGear gets top reviews, their customer support is about the worst I've ever heard of. Linksys has very good customer support and that's important to me. In fact, I was chatting with a technician for almost an hour this morning trying to get one of my XBox 360's (which I use as a Media Center Extender) working on wireless.

All this computer work has meant that I've not written a single word in Peacekeeper Pathogen. Sales have been very bad recently but I knew that might happen when I started on my professionalization project. I also decided to write Dragonverse Origins instead of another Peacekeeper even though the Galactic Alliance series is what sells. But I had a story I wanted to write and I wrote it. I hope to upload the CreateSpace version soon and as soon as it is ready I will early release Origins.

Origins is still available for pre-order at https://amzn.com/B01IU96X4O Please pass this on to your friends. I promise to begin work on Peacekeeper Pathogen in the next few days.

2016-07-31

Impressions

Update
All final editing for Dragonverse Origins is complete. The formatting for CreateSpace (printed) version is also done. That means Dragonverse Origins is now 100% finished. The only remaining thing to do is to upload the final copy to Amazon as well as CreateSpace.

You can pre-order Origins at: https://amzn.com/B01IU96X4O. Please consider making a pre-order. Please pass the word on to your friends who enjoy fantasy. Pre-orders help boost a new book’s ratings so it’s important to have as many as possible by the time the book is released. For less than the cost of a Starbuck’s latte, you will have an exciting book to hold your imagination for several days. When you think about the cost and how long the satisfaction lasts, buying a book is a far better deal!

I would like to thank my wife, Cheryl, for proofing my books. I know she does not really enjoy reading fantasy and dislikes science fiction even more. She did a great job of catching a lot of mistakes. I had a reader from Germany (Ekkehard Flessa) read the final version as well after I made the editorial fixes found by my wife. Ekkehard Flessa is a German engineer who is fluent in English. He seems to have a knack for finding issues in grammar and word usage. Since it never hurts to have a second editor look at the final product, I gave him a copy and asked him to point out every error he could find. He found more than I had expected. Those changes are now in place. Thank you!!!


Author profile
[WARNING—Some writers might not agree with me on this but this is my opinion.]

Not long after attending my first Launch Pad, I joined Twitter and specifically created a name that identified me as an author. I then followed my new author acquaintances so I could keep up with their activities, get posts on their blogs, etc. For a number of years Twitter was an enjoyable place for me. Recently, however, it has been filled with politics, news of violent attacks, and other such information. I rarely tweet anything other than writing-related news—here’s why.

An author is defined by what they make publicly available. This begins with their books. Properly edited, grammatically correct, and well-formatted books show readers you are serious about what you do. If a reader wants to learn more about a particular author, they will most likely head for that author’s web page. If it can’t be found, then the reader might look to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linked-In, or any of the other social media services out there. What they find on those sites will define that author as a person.

As a reader, I’m interested in an author’s writing career as well as a bit about their personal background. Since I’m a self-published author wanting to advance my own art of writing, I also hope to learn from other authors. What I don’t care to read is a slew of reposts, retweets, and links to everything that is wrong witht his world. If I wanted to hear about how corrupt politicians are or all the other wrongs that humans do to each other, I would turn on the news.

Luckily, there are apps available now that can filter out such garbage. They’re not 100% accurate, but ever since I’ve started filtering my tweets, Twitter is, one again, a happy place for me. The number of tweets has also dropped dramatically.

In my humble opinion, if you’re an author and you want to get involved in the political process, then you should create a second account so you can post such unrelated news on that account. If people are interested in that side of you, then they will follow both accounts.



2016-07-24

Copyrighting

Update
Dragonverse Origins is done! If you’ve been waiting for it, you can pre-order it at: https://amzn.com/B01IU96X4O. Please consider making a pre-order. Please pass the word on to your friends who enjoy fantasy. Pre-orders help boost a new book’s ratings so it’s important to have as many as possible by the time the book is released. For less than the cost of a Starbuck’s latte, you will have an exciting book to hold your imagination for several days. When you think about the cost and how long the satisfaction lasts, buying a book is a far better deal!

Copyrighting
One of the first things I did after finishing Dragonverse Origins was to log on to the government’s U.S. copyright office page at http://www.copyright.gov/ and register my novel. The entire process, including uploading the Word version of the novel, took less than 15 minutes. The cost is $35.00 and I consider it well worth the money to have peace of mind that my novel is copyrighted. Some out there might argue against doing this because the odds are against someone stealing your work. If someone did, and you found out about it, you would have to take that person to court. That takes money, and writers are not known to be rolling in money.

But there is another good reason to copyright your work. It’s proof that you wrote something. It shows you're an author. It gives you the peace of mind that nobody else can legally profit from your work unless you give them permission. True, you do not have to spend the $35.00 to have your work copyrighted—it’s automatic. Copyrighting your work though gives you added protection. If you need to take someone to court, the government will be on your side because you have a registration number with the copyright office. If you didn’t spend the money, you’re on your own and the burden of proof lies on you.

It doesn’t cost much to do it and it doesn’t take up much of your time.

While I’m on the subject of money, I should mention that the total out-of-pocket expenses for Dragonverse Origins amounted to a grand total of $115 ($35 for copyright and $80 for the cover art). To recover the cost, I will have to sell 48 copies at the current price of $3.50. The Dragonverse series is not my biggest seller and I might not sell 48 copies. So again, I’m asking you to please let your friends know.

I have some final editing to do so both the Kindle and the CreateSpace versions can be made available by the planned release date of August 27. Time to get back to work.

2016-07-17

Smooth Integration

Update
I've been spending my time building a detailed timeline of the Galactic Alliance universe. While doing so, a few timing errors have been revealed. Luckily, I have complete control over the content of my books and fixing the issue is as easy as a quick update to Amazon. I will be making those adjustments before I finish Peacekeeper 3 – Pathogen. The program I’m using for the Timeline – Aeon Timeline – is easy to use and a wonderful addition to every writer’s toolbox. For a more in-depth review, see last week’s post.

My wife is in the final chapters of her review of Dragonverse Origins and I’m hoping to begin my final formatting very soon. It’s been taking her a long time but after looking at her calendar (more on that in a moment) I can see why – she’s been very busy!

Smooth Integration
As a computer programmer, a heavy user of computer applications, and a science fiction author, I often wonder why computer applications don’t integrate well with each other. Things are slowly getting better, but the user must choose their applications very carefully if smooth integration is something you want.

Computers, like novels, should just "feel right" when properly designed. A glitchy computer program or one that uses an odd way of doing something will quickly become a pain in the neck to use instead of being a helpful tool. A novel that expresses things differently than what is expected, jumps around too fast, or presents the story in poor prose will quickly be set aside. 

All of the Microsoft Office applications seem to work together more or less seamlessly but that’s because they’re all part of the same family and it’s expected they work together. Aeon Timeline integrates smoothly with Scrivener allowing writers to build their timelines as they write the story. For some, this would be a huge help.

Google’s calendar application is an example of a program that works seamlessly across multiple platforms and devices. It’s why I use it as my sole calendar application. The other day, I was decided to put my wife’s calendar on my own. She's a heavy user of her calendar and it is used to remind her of everything from having to call a friend to sending out birthday cards and going to appointments. When I need to make plans, it would be nice to reference my own calendar as well as hers. Putting her calendar on mine was a snap.

When I looked at it though, I noticed that a large number of items were missing. Investigating, I discovered she had somehow began making entries using something called “HTC Sync Manager (Outlook)”. There’s not a lot of information about what this application does but I’m assuming its purpose is to sync your calendar with Microsoft Outlook. Since these events and reminders are not stored as part of Google’s calendar, they’re not displayed on the computer or on a shared version of the calendar. That’s a problem!

One of the reasons I put my wife on Google calendar was to prevent a loss of all her events and reminders if she needed to replace her phone. When she moved from her old Samsung to the HTC, I had to resort to a third-party program to move her calendar data. Never again! I found that HTC Sync Manager is installed by default and somehow my wife had begun using it. Although her events showed up on her phone, they did not appear on any other device – bad news. This told me her reminders and events would be lost if her phone needed replaced.

I spent a few hours manually copying her events to Google calendar and deleting the HTC Sync events. I then I disabled the HTC Synch Manager. Now, when I look at her calendar on my account all her events are there and I know they’re backed up and available anywhere from any device.

This goes to show you that you might have things on your phone that vanish forever if your phone needs to be replaced. I automatically backup my phone’s data to the cloud – one never knows when your phone is going to stop working, get dropped in the water, or stolen. Some people (like my wife) carry their entire life around in their pocket. If you do, make sure your life remains intact if something catastrophic happens to your phone.


Technology should do this automatically. Because it doesn’t, people lose all sorts of important information every day. Not just on cell phones, but on computer hard drives as well as the internet. Never rely on a single storage location. Back up your work – back it up automatically – back it up in multiple locations if you can. Someday, you’re going to thank yourself for doing so.

You should use the same rigor when writing. If the story is not flowing, clashes internally, or is a pain in the neck to simply read – then something's not right and it must be fixed. A story should have a flow to it and read as if it's a natural extension of your mind. If you have beta readers and they consistently tell you the story is good but something seems a bit off about how it's presented – listen to them! Find the problem, dig deeper into their feedback, and then fix your story. Your readers will appreciate it.

2016-07-10

Timeline software

Updates
Words written in Peacekeeper Pathogen = 0. Not the greatest update is it? But, that's not to say that I haven't been busy! I'm on vacation (again) and hope to restart work on PK3 very soon. But first, I need to finish a project I recently started -- creating a full and complete timeline for the entire Galactic Alliance universe. More on this in a moment.

Dragonverse Origins is finally getting very close to being done. I have a possible complete cover and after showing it around at the writers meeting yesterday, I will be making some small adjustments. The feedback was very positive.

Sale!
The first book of my two series (Dragonverse and Galactic Alliance) are both on sale right now for $0.99 each. This sale ends on the 14th. Please help get the word out concerning this sale as I don't do things like this very often. My thanks to those who do so. I don't heavily promote my books and rely mostly on word of mouth to get sales. I hate advertisements, especially ones that continually intrude on my life. I do understand that they are useful -- I've discovered Scrivener and other usefull applications through ads. What I don't like are the people who send out tweet after tweet or bombard their Facebook page with the same post every 30 minutes pushing their book. I did post the sale on my social networking sites twice but you won't see any more.

Timeline Software
I believe I've mentioned this in a couple past posts -- building a useful timeline is not an easy thing to do! In the past, I've resorted to using Microsoft Excel and just laying it out from left to right with dates and events all on separate lines and each cell representing a single day. The length of each event is indicated by changing the color of the cells. I make the cells as small as possible to fit as much as possible on the screen. This works, but it's a bit of a pain. If I needed to track events associated with a single person or place, this would be nearly impossible.

Recently, I ran across a blog post (forgive me if I can't remember who's it was) that talked about a program called Aeon Timeline. What made me take an interest and research further was the fact that the program was written with writers in mind. I did some research, read the reviews, and then downloaded a copy. You can try it out for 20 days before purchasing a copy. I'm about half-way through my trial period and I can tell you I will be buying it before my time runs out. I gave a short demo of the program at my writers group and several people expressed interest. One said it will solve her problem of keeping things straight in her complex fantasy world -- especially when she learned she can create her own calandar!

A concern of mine is that the Peacekeeper series, which takes place between books 2 and 3 of the main Galactic Alliance series, will eventually run into the last book of the GA series. The problem is that I don't have a complete GA universe timeline. I've spent the last week building one. It's going to be a few more days but I will eventually have the entire timeline for the series laid out.

The program was apparently developed for use on the Mac first and then transported over to Windows. I believe it was written by a single person. As a programmer, I can tell you that it takes a lot off work to produce a program of this quality and complexity. Paying the $50.00 to own a legal copy is worth it especially since the developer had to hire another person to move the program over to Windows (or so I read).

The program is also able to interface smoothly with Scrivener so you have access to the timeline from within Scrivener. I have not yet tested this feature but once I become familiar with Aeon I'm sure I will be making the link between the two.

The user's manual is on-line only and for me, this is a problem. I did find a PDF user manual for version 1 and it is helpful. The developer did say he was working on a PDF version of the manual and it will be released soon. I can tell that the manual was written by the developer because it lacks the sort of information a user might be looking for. It does a great job of covering the user interface, what each button does, how to add entities and characters, and generally how to get around the program. What it lacks are the examples of how to apply this program to the real world problems. I'm guilty of making the same mistake in my own manuals and that's why I call them Technical Reference Manuals. A user's manual should contain examples of how to apply and use the program to solve everyday solutions. There are a few, but not many. All that aside, the user's manual is a good place to start to get to know the program.

I've looked into several ways of building a timeline and Aeon Timeline is by far the best one for writers. If you need a timeline program, download it and take some time to play around with it. I suggest you read the user's manual first so you're not eating away at your 20-day free trial period. Play with it. Get to know it. See if it solves your timeline problem.

The below is a partial list of the program's features:

  • Ability to create a user-specified calendar with full control over days, months, years, etc. Timelines can have only a single calendar. (Too bad a multiple calendar feature is not available - I could use it for my Dragonverse series).
  • Assignments of characters, places, and story arcs to each event. You can add more of these assignment items such as adding an entity called "Book" to show where each event takes place in a series.
  • The ability to display the events along with the intersection of characters and other assigned links. This allows the author to identify where a character is throughout the story.
  • Events can use a calendar date or just start at zero and move forward in time.
  • Interfaces smoothly with Scrivener.

2016-07-03

Sales

Update
I have not done much work on Peacekeeper 3 this past week. Blame it on having other priorities or being stuck on the plot -- take your pick. I did, however, solve the plot issue the other day and I should be back to working on it soon. My wife has also not made as good a progress as I'd hoped in her review of Dragonverse Origins. I will be stepping up my 'reminders'.

Sales
Writers write because they are called by an inner voice to do so. But sales are what keeps writers going back to the keyboard with new ideas. I've been struggling with the slowdown in sales now for several months and it seems to be getting worse. This does have an impact on my desire to write. This morning, as I was catching up on Twitter before writing this post, I learned I'm not the only one with this problem. Book sales are falling -- a lot.

Some people will hear that and believe that Amazon is just not reporting all the sales. They will argue that authors really don't know how many books they've sold on Amazon and we have to just take the company's word on it. Those who tend to believe in conspiracies will swear that Amazon is selling books, reporting fewer sales to the authors, and pocketing the unreported revenue. I don't believe that. Amazon's sales system is totally automated and a programmer would have to write the code to cheat the authors out of their due royalty. I'm sure this would not go unnoticed.

So what's happening? I don't know. Maybe people aren't reading as much these days. Maybe they're spending more time on social networking sites, playing games, or any number of other activities that desire your time and attention. But the fact remains, sales are down, and writers are beginning to notice and talk about it.

As a writer, slow sales are depressing. But, knowing I'm not the only one seeing this helps a lot. We writers can be an odd bunch. We spend hours alone, hunched over a keyboard or a notepad spinning lies in the form of intricate stories for other people's enjoyment. Like a child, the story is nurtured and fed. It grows up and matures until it is ready to begin its life in the world as a published work. Because our stories are like our children, because we've invested so much time and effort into preparing them for the rest of the world, we tend to want to protect them and to see them prosper. When they don't, we see it as a sign that we were poor parents. But, if everyone's stories are not doing well, then we can rest assured that we've done the best we can and it's not our fault that our children are struggling.

Sales of my books have dropped but they have not hit zero -- at least not for more than a few days at a time. If anyone is curious, send me an email and I will gladly share my numbers with you. Sometimes being open and honest about sales with other writers (and readers) can help the rest of the community. A lone writer has all sorts of odd thoughts about things. We write alone -- but that does not mean we must become hermits. Knowledge is power -- it can also enlighten us.

Other News
Just a quick note about a new program I've downloaded. One of my main concerns with the Peacekeeper series is maintaining a consistent and accurate timeline. I've tried various ways of doing this and none seem to work out well. Excel has worked best for me but it was a pain to set up and maintain. Yesterday, I downloaded Aeon Timeline. The company's website says the program was written with writers in mind and it interfaces with Scrivener -- the program I use to write. I haven't opened it yet, but the reviews look great and I'm anxious to give it a try. It's a bit pricey at $50.00, but it does allow you to try it for free for 20 days -- a great feature. If the software lives up to its hype, I will gladly hand over $50.00. I will let you know how this program works out in a future post.

2016-06-26

ID2

Get the Word Out
I'm putting this first because I'm asking everyone who reads this to do me a favor. Over the next few days, please put out the word on as many social networking sites as possible and at least once a day for a few days, about this bundled ebook offering from https://storybundle.com/scifi. There are two reasons I'm asking this: 1) Launch Pad gets some of the profits from the sales; 2) I have a short story in the Launch Pad anthology.

The bundle of science fiction stories is something you will be able to enjoy for a long time. The pricing is exceptionally good. And, best of all, some of the proceeds will go toward supporting Launch Pad.

Update
My wife is making fair progress on Dragonverse Origins. Her intention was to do quite a bit of proofing yesterday at the bookstore after we saw Independence Day Resurgence. As we sat down with our coffee and snacks, a friend of ours that we got to know in the bookstore appeared. The rest of the time was spent talking and no proofing got done. That's life. Proofing for my wife is not a full-time job. She stays pretty busy and she fits proofing in when she can. It's sort of like my writing -- I fit it in when I can.

IDR was, in my opinion, a good movie. Like most science fiction movies, you have to turn on part of your brain so you can enjoy the movie. There were many totally bogus scientific screw-ups -- enough to give those who know plenty to rip the movie to shreds. But that's not why I go to see movies like this. I think it would have been much better if the science was accurate, but most people don't know what good science looks like. Spacecraft do not fly anything like airplanes. Giant ships like those depicted in Independence Day (especially in Resurgence) are predicted to be impossible to build and can devastate an entire planet simply by orbiting them. But, all that aside, I enjoyed the cool alien weapons and technology used in the movie. I just pretended the ships involved were much smaller.

As for work on PK3 (Peacekeeper Pathogen), like my wife, life tends to get in the way. That's not to say that I haven't made any progress. I've added a couple thousand words since my last post. But I have also been doing a lot of thinking about this book and I've solidified the story in my mind. This is important because I wasn't exactly too sure how the book was going to play out. I have a good plan in mind now.

My writing style is known as the SOP or pantser style. This means I typically start a book with only a vague idea as to where it's going. Some authors are outliners -- they will outline each chapter from start to finish before starting on the book. Some are in between. But even a die-hard pantser will admit that they at least have some idea what they want to do with the book. If they didn't, then they wouldn't have started writing the story in the first place. I start with a central theme, an idea of what the story will revolve around. For the original Peacekeeper, it was all about what becoming a peacekeeper is like. For Translight, it was about mankind's first interstellar ship and first contact. All stories must have a goal even if it can't be put into words. A writer will take the central idea -- the core of what he or she wants to write about -- and develop a story that uses that central idea to achieve the story's goal.

Time to get back to writing.

2016-06-19

Planning ahead

Update
I have made no progress on Peacekeeper 3: Pathogen due to other priorities. All of the recommended changes to Dragonverse Origins that my wife has suggested so far as part of her editorial/grammatical review have been entered. I’m hoping she finishes up by the end of next week. I’ve also managed to spend some time working on a very short story called either The Lives I Touched or The Bridge (I haven’t decided which yet). This is a short story that I’d started, read at one of our writer group meetings and then forgotten about. The other day, several members of the group asked if I’d finished the story – apparently, they really enjoyed it. So, I’ve dusted it off and I thought I would see if I could finish it. I’ve made progress but it’s not done yet. I’m not sure what genre to put it in though. It doesn’t really fit into any specific genre.

Planning ahead
Last Friday, I attended a retirement lunch for a fellow worker who decided that it was time to move on to the next phase of his life. I’ve been seeing a lot of these recently and one of these days it’s going to be my turn. That started me thinking about long-range planning. There are too many people I know who never look beyond tomorrow. Many have a hard time looking more than a few hours into the future. If you don’t have a clue as to what you’re going to do in the coming days, then you’re going to be in serious trouble in the future. This applies to almost every aspect of life from finances to health.

I asked the man retiring last week what his plans were and he seemed to know what he would be doing during his retirement years. Keeping busy, keeping your mind active, and knowing where you are going are all important things to be doing. If you have no plan for your life when you retire, then why retire in the first place? Like most of my coworkers, he’s been putting away money into various accounts over the years and now he can enjoy the benefits of years of hard work. That’s financial planning and it’s something that many people today seem to lack.

This sort of long-range planning can be applied to your writing career as well. Do you know what your next story will be? Do you have a notebook of ideas for future stories? Are you always looking for ways to improve yourself? Do you listen to your readers? All these – and many more – are part of what a writer should be thinking about. If you don’t have a plan, you’re just fumbling around in the dark without any guidance.

Let’s say your next story gets the attention of enough people and it begins to rapidly climb the Amazon charts. You hit the top 100 for a week and sales slowly begin to drop off. If you’re one of those who have no plan, you might take that huge royalty check and go buy a new car. You might even quit your day job because, after all, you’re a top-selling author! Your attitude might change and pretty soon you believe you’re better than other authors. Admittedly, this is an extreme example, but it’s possible. So let’s see what happens as time continues to march forward.

Sales continue to slowly fall. Since you want to remain a top-selling author, you rush to finish your next book. You fly through your editing, slap together a cover, and upload it to Amazon. Sales rise but only for a few days. Next year, when it comes time to pay your taxes, you discover you don’t have the money in your bank account to cover what you owe the IRS for those few big royalty checks you spent. Book sales are still sliding. You call up your old boss and he sadly tells you that your old position has already been filled. Desperate, you crank out another book while living on Raman noodles and coffee. The reviews for your last book are terrible and sales continue to fall. Soon, you’re living on welfare without any future.

Okay, that’s an extreme example, but it’s entirely possible. People who get ahead look toward the future and keep the past in mind. Even professionals continue to work to improve what they do. No writer is perfect and the skill of writing can always be improved. Read books on how to write, listen to what your readers have to say, ask for honest feedback and actually hear what they tell you. Think about what you will be doing next week, next month, next year, and for the next hundred years. A hundred years? Why not? Medical technology is advancing rapidly and there may come a time in the not too distant future when human lives can be extended. So why not start planning for that eventuality now?

If you’re smart, you should continue to plan for what will happen to your legacy when you move on to the next plane of existence. What will happen to your royalty checks (they're not going to stop just because you're dead)? Who will manage your website? What about all those stories you have laying around that were never submitted? Can your wife or your executor get into your phone, your bank account, your computer, or the hundreds of other online accounts you have scattered all over the internet? Will anyone even know you have those accounts?


Plan for the future. Plan for how you will live out the rest of your life and plan out how what you’ve done in life will be taken care of when you die. If you don’t plan ahead, you may as well just be walking along with your eyes shut.

Right now, my plan is to finish Dragonverse Origins so I can see sales go up at least a little. I'm also working on Peacekeeper: Pathogen. Sales have been done and the only way to see them rebound is to get a few more books out there. Time to end this post and get back to writing.

2016-06-12

Home

Update
In case you're counting, Peacekeeper Pathogen now stands at 13,538 words. Since returning from Launch Pad, I've not added a single word. After being gone for a week, I've decided to spend a few days playing catch up. That's done now and soon I will be back to writing. But first, I might follow the desires of my writers group and finish a short story I started and trunked last year. For some reason, this story has stuck in their heads and they have asked me twice to finish it. It's time I untrunked it and took a close look at where this short story can go.

My trip back from Laramie was an interesting one. On the way back to Denver, we ran into a major traffic snarl caused by an accident. Although I never saw any signs of an accident, the massive traffic jam that it caused was evident. We were delayed almost 45 minutes in our trip. Later that day, the plane backed away from the gate, taxied a bit, then sat. The tower had shutdown the airport due to microbursts from severe weather. After 15 minutes, we moved again and again were told we had to wait. This happened a few more times and then the pilot announced we had to go back to the gate to get more fuel because we had used up our reserve driving around the tarmac. We eventually made it into the air and I arrived home a bit over 2 hours late. I don't fly all that much and this is the first time such a thing has happened to me.

I had a wonderful time at Launch Pad and I met another fine group of writers. It is refreshing to be able to sit around a table and talk writing shop and science fiction with others who share the same passion. That's probably why so many writers attend conferences and conventions -- to be among their own. I've taken a hard look at convention going and I've decided that it is just not cost effective for me to attend these events. Some of my writing friends will disagree. But being self-published does sort of change things.

If you're a traditionally published author, your publisher will most likely ask you to attend certain conventions. They might even fly you there. They should pay your entrance fee and provide you with books to sign. This is a promotional opportunity and it makes good business sense to attend. While there, you will be able to interact with other writers, agents, and publishing people. But for a self-published author, conventions and conferences are not cost effective. A self-published author must pay everything out of their own pocket and the return on investment doesn't justify the expense. Airline fare, meals, entrance fee, table space fee, book inventory, and hotel rooms all add up. Unless you sell several hundred books, you will never recover the cost of attending.

Several writers suggested I attend a writer's conference or a workshop. I considered it but, again, I must decline for business reasons. Both of these events will cost money but none will help to sell books. There is one situation, however, when a self-published author should seriously consider attending a conference. If you're an outgoing person and your writing skills need improving, then a workshop or conference might help -- it depends on how you learn. I prefer to learn by reading and doing. Some get more out of sitting in a class.

Unless you have a degree in writing or you have a natural talent for prose, you should be doing whatever it takes to improve your writing skills. For me, this means reading lots of books on how to write and edit. It also means doing a lot of writing. Don't forget reading as well. Read widely and as often as you can. Read for pleasure but if you encounter a particular passage that you find interesting, slow down, read it again, and perhaps write it down for further reference. Your brain is an amazing instrument and it is constantly learning, even if you don't realize it. Reading will help you improve your writing.

There are some writers who have a powerful presence on the internet. These people spend their lives promoting their books. I often wonder how they have time for anything else. Writing and maintaining a strong web presence takes a considerable amount of time. If you're self-published, you most likely have a day job meaning at least 9 or 10 hours a day are devoted to that activity. If you have a partner in life, then that person will want your time as well. And then there's life itself and all that goes along with being a member of the living. Cleaning, eating, socializing, yard work, hobbies, and home maintenance all take up a part of your time. Writing is often something you sneak in when you can. Full-time writers, of course, don't have this problem.

Writers have an itch that must be scratched. But scratching too hard will break the skin and can cause an infection. If you have the itch, by all means scratch it. Write as often as you can. But leave time for everything else as well. It's a balancing act and once you become good at it, you'll walk the beam as if you've been doing it all your life.