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.