2016-03-27

Happy Easter

Update
Happy Easter everyone! If you are a Christian, please remember what it is that is being celebrated. If you prefer to follow a different faith, please be considerate of those who believe differently.

My content editor has been reading Dragonverser Origins for the past week and so far it seems as if he likes what I've done with it. I'm sure he will have many suggestions for me when I get the manuscript back. But that's the purpose of haveing a second person who is not afraid of voicing their opinion read your novel. The writer is always too close to the story and it sometimes takes the insight of another person to point out where the story needs to be improved.

While Origins is being reviewed, I've been engaged in my professionalization project. I started by re-editing and reformatting Dragonverse: The Adventure Begins. That book is finished and now I'm working on Ishnef's Revenge. Although it's a much smaller book (which I may or may not decide to try to expand), Ishnef's Revenge appears to need a fair amount of re-editing. When I finish will depend on how much time I have to myself. When that book is done, I will turn to Off Course and finally When Ships Mutiny. These last two are not going to have any re-editing done. I will reformat and call them complete.

After all the re-editing and reformatting is complete, I will look into building new covers to make all the cover print look the same. New versions will be uploaded and the professionalization project will be complete. It's been a lot of work, but I firmly believe it's been worth it. I'm not an amateur writer. I've been writing for years, I get good reviews, I've continued my writing education by reading books on writing, and I've become involved in writing conferences, and other activities. And, finally, I'm a member of SFWA. It's time my books look like they were done by a professional.

Thoughts
There are times when I want to rant in this blog about how screwed up humanity is. Today is one of those days. Perhaps it's because I see how we Americans have commercialized our holidays to the point where people often forget what it is we are actually supposed to be celebrating. This gets me thinking about other things and before I know it I'm walking down that dark hallway of human history and looking at the pictures hanging on the walls of today that are showing the horrors of what we've become. It's sad to think that if every person on the planet had compassion for their fellow humans and tolerance for each other's beliefs, looks, and other features, that we could be living in a world where nobody was lacking in anything. But this is not the world we live in.

As you can see, I've started my rant - I won't bother finishing it because people don't seem to want to change and I'm just a tiny little voice among the billions living on this planet. Our leaders no longer serve the people but those who give them the most money. Greed, intolerance, self-indulgence, and lack of compassion seem to be on the rise. Violence is quickly becoming an everyday occurrence and people are becoming used to hearing about it. I, for one, am sick of it all. I no longer watch the news because it continually points out how bad society has become. There are a few good people out there, but our numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate.

As a writer, I write about futuristic societies that are based on rational beings who collectively desire to live in a peaceful, productive world. But I also try to point out the bad in people. In my stories, such people always lose. But things don't work that way in the real world. I try to write books that show what society could be like. Perhaps some day, I will be forced to write a story about what society will mostly be like one-hundred years from now. When I do, I'm not sure how it will be marketed - science fiction or horror?

In closing, I did see Batman VS Superman yesterday. As a writer, I must point out that the story is full of plot holes and inconsistencies. The ending left far too many questions unanswered. If I was an editor reading the story, I would reject it. Far too much of the film takes place in darkened scenes making me wonder if the sun ever comes up in their universe. The entertainment value was okay but if you want to really enjoy this movie you will need to disengage your higher level brain functions, stop asking the obvious questions, and just watch the movie.

Time to get back to editing. Enjoy your Easter!

2016-03-20

Origins

Update
Dragonverse Origins is complete! It is now in the hands of my content editor (a reader who has a knack for telling me where my stories need improvement). Origins is not your typical fantasy, nor is it your typical scifi novel. It's a fusion of both. It serves as a link between the Dragonverse series and another purely scifi book I wrote some time ago - Off Course.

As soon as Origins was sent off to be reviewed, I began work on re-editing Dragonverse: The Adventure Begins. Although this book has been gone over multiple times, it's never really been looked at with editing in mind. I've found a few mistakes and made a few changes. As of right now, while I write this, I'm a little over 50% complete. I hope to have it done and reformatted by the end of next week. I'm not sure if I will be revising the covers or not. I would like to so that all of my books share a consistent look and feel.

After I finish re-editing and reformatting Dragonverse: The Adventure Begins, I will do the same for Ishnef's Revenge and then Off Course and finally When Ships Mutiny. Working as much as I can, this entire re-editing and reformatting process is going to take at least 3 or 4 weeks. I don't have to re-edit the last two, these have been recently looked at by my editor and I feel fairly confident that they are good enough to allow me to skip that phase. The re-formatting process takes about a day though.

As soon as all the re-eding and reformatting is done, I will begin work on PeaceKeeper 3. Well ... maybe. If Origins is back from its initial review, by then, I'll start the editing process of that book. Peacekeeper 3 will have to wait until Origins is in the hands of my wife (who serves as my editor for grammar).

As you can see, I have a lot planned to keep my busy.

Launch Pad
My annual trip to Laramie in support of Launch Pad will begin on June 1st. I will finally get to meet Jim Hines. I've been following him on Twitter for a couple of years now because he is one of the authors (like Kameron Hurley) who has published his writing earnings. I have met Kameron (briefly) during WorldCon last year. We sat on a panel together. I would have loved to have had the time to talk to her in depth, but our schedules didn't line up. She was supposed to go to Launch Pad last year but at the very last minute had to back out. I've never met Jim and this year he is going to Launch Pad. I'm looking forward to meeting him.

I am a huge supporter of Launch Pad for several reasons. The cause is a good one -- educating those people who are in the entertainment industry in science and trying to get them to commit themselves to writing better science fiction. As a young kid, I devoured scifi and it got me interested in science. A lot of people find their interest in science began with reading. That's why it is so important to try to make the science in scifi as close to reality as possible.

But there's another reason I support Launch Pad. It's what launched me on my path to being a professional writer. When I first attended Launch Pad in 2012, I was a successful self-published author with no ties to the writing community. I had never met another writer and I was operating in a complete vacuum. Launch Pad introduced me to a dozen people who I have grown to think of as friends. Although I was just a self-published author, I was treated as one of their own. I felt as if I had become part of an exclusive community. It was a wonderful feeling.

I went to DragonCon because of Launch Pad. While at DragonCon, I reconnected with several of my Launch Pad contacts. That's when I met Stu Segal, a friend of one of these contacts. Stu is the person who asked me to go to WorldCon last year and WorldCon is where I finally felt I was a professional writer. The series of events all started with Launch Pad.

This also helps to point out just how important it is for a writer to become involved in the community of writers. Our day jobs tend to isolate us from the writing community. We spend 8-hours (or more) a day doing non-writing related work. When we get home, there's all the other non-writing activities that must be attended to including spending time with your spouse. Writing often takes a back seat. Being involved and getting to know other writers is what will help you as a writing professional.

If you don't have a circle of writing friends (or, at least, acquaintances) then go out there and get involved. Find a writers group and join. Go to conventions and mingle. Look for programs and activities where writers hang out and make the effort to go there. Yes, it will cost you some money. But the experience of being involved and getting to know another group of writers is well worth the effort. Writers work in isolation but that does not mean you should be isolated from other writers.

I have learned more than I could possibly write down from my association with my writing friends. We are a unique community. If you're a writer, I urge you to join us.

2016-03-13

Time

Update
Dragonverse Origins now stands at 94,708 words. If all goes well, the first draft will be complete in a few days. I've already sent what's been written to my content editor (at his request) so he can begin reading. I had to explain to him that it's still a work in progress and I will be making known changes to several scenes near the beginning of the book. As soon as the first draft is complete, I plan on starting work on Peacekeeper 3. The plot for that book is not yet 100% solidified but I do have enough to begin work. That's one of the advantages of being a seat of the pants (or SOP) writer - I can just start writing with only an idea as to where I'm heading. Once the words begin flowing, the book usually writes itself as I watch it unfold in my mind.

News
The founder of the writer's group I regularly attend in Mentor was not at the meeting yesterday. I was informed that she had had a heart attack. We were told she was doing fine and was actually on her way home while we were meeting. She said she will see us all next month. The only other person at the table who holds an MFA took over as interim leader. We had a productive meeting.

One of the readings produced a good discussion concerning point of view (POV). This is perhaps one of the more difficult tasks for a writer to accurately perform. For instance; if the reader is inside the head of a person and that person walks away from an argument, gets in his car, and drives away, there's no way he can see his girlfriend grab his picture and fling it into the fireplace. Even though this is a common scene and in movies it's easy to show, in writing, you must remain in the head of the boyfriend. The only exception to this is if you are writing in omniscient POV and the reader is aware of this. In this style, you can jump from one viewpoint to another as long as you don't confuse the reader.

Entire books have been written on POV. There are many ways to write the same story and POV sets the tone for everything the reader experiences. It's a rather complicated subject and all writers except the most experience should periodically review the various styles of POV. Fact is, I read something at the same meeting and I was guilty of suddenly switching POV. The group pointed it out and I will be fixing it as soon as this post is done.

Thoughts
Last night (or early this morning depending on your POV) we began daylight savings time. This is an event designed to help you identify how many clocks you have in your possession. While wandering through the house to reset the 12 clocks we own, I was struck by how time-centric our lives have become. There are clocks on stoves, coffee pots and microwaves. We have wall clocks and desk clocks. The 4 active computers we have each have a clock that resets itself (I did not count these in the 12 manually-set clocks). We have clocks dangling from out belts and strapped to our wrists. Our pocket computers (some call them cell phones) all have clocks. Later on, when the sun actually comes up, I will be resetting the two clocks in our cars. We are, indeed, a time-driven society.

This point is often lost when writing. Science fiction writers especially must be aware of time. It is not a constant of nature! If you travel fast enough, time slows. No two planets rotate at the same speed or round their sun at the same rate. Colonists will measure time differently on Mars and companies will have to develop a Martian clock for them to use. Even the way we split and combine time will differ on other planets. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months are all artificial creations of a representation of a set period of time.

In my Galactic Alliance series, people who routinely travel from one planet to another use a programmable timekeeping device. Upon arrival at their new destination, the timepiece can be reprogrammed to account for the local method of timekeeping. If you're a businessman and you tell a client you will meet him at 11, you had better understand exactly what that stands for in the locality you are visiting. Failing to do that can have dire consequences such as a lost deal.

Even here on Earth, with our standardized timekeeping units, there are problems. Last year, I attended WorldCon. Prior to leaving Ohio, I programmed my pocket computer's calendar with all the times when I needed to be at a certain place to sit on a panel. Spokane is 3 hours behind Ohio time. When I arrived in Spokane, my cell phone automatically adjusted. It also decided to automatically adjust all the times in my calendar! I was about to tweet this when another writer friend of mine tweeted the same problem. A moment later, she posted a solution. I made the same setting change in my phone and the problem corrected itself.

Later this year, I will be going to Laramie to attend Launch Pad. I am currently taking some medication that should be taken at the same time each day. That's easy while I remain in Ohio but when I travel, I must remember to adjust my time accordingly and that means taking the medication at a different time than normal. This example is different than the WorldCon one in that I want to continue to mark time as if I was in Ohio whereas when I was at WorldCon I needed to mark time based on the local time.

So, even on our own little world, timekeeping becomes complicated. I haven't tested it yet, but looking at my phone's calendar, it appears as if I can set a timezone for each and every event. There is an overall setting that can automatically adjust everything in the calendar as you move from time zone to time zone. Turning this feature off, locks each event to the timezone in which it was programmed and that can be altered. If this works the way it should, I can set my appointments in every time zone to be based on that zone and they will remain accurate as I move about the country. The point is though, that making those appointments in advance will require a few more steps to make sure I tell the phone which time zone to use for those events.

This entire discussion was triggered by a simple change in time. These are the strange things that writers think about when doing things that others just simply perform without thinking much about them. Being a writer means looking beyond the simple mechanics of living. As a writer of science fiction, I often look at a typical human activity and wonder -- would an alien species do something like this? What would it look like? Simple things, like kids swinging or sliding down a playground slide. An alien based on a reptilian body might not be able to get into a swing, climb into the seat of a car, or do many of the things we take for granted. It's hard enough being disabled or even left-handed in a world of humans who seem to ignore the fact that there are people out there that are different than themselves. If we can't tolerate differences between ourselves, how can we think an alien species would believe we can tolerate the differences between them and us?

2016-03-06

Self-Publishing - Librarys

Updates
Dragonverse Origins now stands at 91,048 words. I estimate I have around 4 chapters left to write. Even though I set my word count goal at 85,000 words, that’s the low count I like to hit. Peacekeeper 2 came in at around 93,000 words and I believe Dragonverse Origins is going to come in at around 100,000. But, this is the first draft.

I’m not sure if you could tell, but I was a bit down on myself in my last post. Everyone has their up and down days and I just happened to have my down day on the day I wrote my blog. There are times when I look at sales and the blog view stats and I get a little discouraged. Writers have the itch to write because they want their stories to be read. I know my writing income will never be able to replace my day job but, that does not matter to me at all. Sales, however, are what drives writers to write. If sales had always been very poor, I would never have continued to write. I would have found another activity to keep myself busy. But I've had good sales and when you look at the long-term, sales have actually been good.

There are days when the writing flows and others when I sit staring at the screen wondering what to type. Every writer out there goes through the same ups and downs. It’s such a wonderful feeling when you’re “in the zone”. It’s a form of natural high. I get there at times when I’m writing computer programs. Time slows when you’re “in the zone” and before you know it, you’ve written hundreds of lines of code or thousands of words and hours have gone by without you even knowing it has passed.

Sharing
On March 3rd, I had the honor of sitting on a self-publishing panel at the Madison Public Library. There are several libraries all within less than an hour’s drive from my house. Two of them are known for heavily supporting local authors. The Madison Public Library has a section devoted to local authors and they routinely support events to help local authors meet the public. The self-publishing panel last week was one such event.

Even though it was a snowy evening, at least 20 people showed up for the event. I was the only science fiction author on the panel. The others have written fiction as well as books dealing with local attractions. The evening went very well and I had a great time. There were plenty of questions and great discussions on several topics. I handed out my simple guide to self-publishing (also available on my website) and (more importantly) I learned a few things.

I love interacting with people looking to get into writing. Before the event started, I had an elderly gentleman come up to speak with me. He was working with CreateSpace to produce his book using one of their paid programs. He’s 92 years old! Another individual sat in the far back of the room. He listened intently and (as did many others) made notes of what was said. I’m not great at guessing ages but I believe he was in his 20’s. It doesn’t matter how old you are; if you want to write – you write!

A few weeks from now, I will be back at the same library. The event is called “Cooks and Books”. Authors are provided a table to set up shop and sell their books while others set up around them and sell baked goods. I went to this event years ago when I had only a single book published. I’m looking forward to doing it again as an author with a lot more experience under my belt. I'm also planning on making it an annual event.

The other library I know of that is a heavy supporter of local authors is the Willoughby Public Library. It's about a 45-minute drive from my house and I haven't been there in years. I haven't had time to check it out, but they host a large author signing event that has gotten the attention of the local news in the past. As soon as I post this I plan on doing the research to learn more about this event. It's a few months off but it fills up quickly and now is the time to apply.


There are some authors out there who don’t believe events like this are worth their time. I don't believe in this philosophy. I did not expect to sell any books at last week's event. I went there expecting to answer people's questions. I did come prepared and I sold two books, but that was not the purpose of the event. If I get to talk to people interested in meeting authors, then it was worth my time.

I can understand that authors such as Steven King might not want to sit at a local library because they would be inundated with people. It would also detract from the other authors trying to make a name for themselves. But, if you’re a run-of-the-mill author with a face or a name that doesn't cause a crowd to form no matter where you go, then take the time to support your local library. The administrators work hard to provide a place where the public can come and enjoy themselves. If you’re not an author and you’ve never set foot in the library just down the street – then perhaps now is the time for you to do so. Pick up a flyer, get on their mailing list, and look to see what programs they offer. You might find something that interests you.