2017-04-30

Peacekeeper Pathogen

Peacekeeper Pathogen is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Pre-order sales do not become active until the day the book is officially released. In my case, this is May 29. On that day, all of the pre-orders hit my Amazon indicator and my book will start off somewhere near the middle of the pack in the ranking instead of at the bottom. That's why it's so important to collect as many pre-order sales as possible. If you're interested in reading this book, please pre-order and help give me a boost.

Sales have been okay recently but there has been a clear downward trend again over the past couple of weeks. I've had several people recommend that I raise the price of my books--I could not disagree more. I am a firm believer that this country is heading for disaster and it's all driven by greed. Just because I can charge more does not mean I should. I do treat my writing as a business and businesses are gauged by their profitability. I don't charge the business for my time to write a book. I am totally self-published and my only costs are what I pay to have an artist build a cover. My actual cost to create a book is very minimal.

There are other costs associated with my writing business:

  • Mileage linked to attending meetings, selling books, getting to the airport for business trips, etc.
  • Partial cost of the internet to my house.
  • Business card printing.
  • Paper and other office supplies such as software license renewals and purchases.
  • Writing-related trips (Launch Pad in particular).
  • Magazines and books associated with the business.
When it is all compiled at tax time, my writing business has a variable record. I took a loss three years ago and broke even the last two. This year, because I'm limiting my trips to only one (Launch Pad), I will show a profit.

Raising my prices might bring in more royalty payments but it could also have the opposite effect. If I raise my price too much, then people will be less inclined to buy a copy. Since I don't rely on my book sales to support myself and my wife, I can keep my prices low enough to cover my business expenses and make my books affordable at the same time. I would rather see a large number of sales than a large royalty check. It's the thought that there are large numbers of people out there who are enjoying my books that keeps me writing. That is why I write.

I haven't been working on my next book at all this past week. I've been concentrating on learning how to build web pages. I'm almost done with one book and I will be starting on another soon. I have prepared an older computer to be set up as a local web server (Ubuntu operating system and full LAMP install as suggested by several author friends). The long-range plan is to hand-code my author website and have it fully tested and ready to roll out on a new host when my contract with my current host is up for renewal.

2017-04-23

Dilemma

 My current day job is doing Microsoft Access programming. I love to write code! The joy of seeing a program you've written running, generating the data you asked it to produce and functioning correctly is hard to describe. One might think that after work I would rather spend my free time doing other things--like writing. Not so recently!

I've embarked on a quest to learn web programming. This involves becoming familiar with many different technologies. For now, I'm focusing on HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Using just those three technologies, a person can build some incredibly sophisticated websites. Recently, I've been torn between continuing my web studies or writing. It's been a tough choice.

Writing at one level is a lot like programming. Both work within the semantics of a specific language. Both involve stringing together the small pieces of that language in a specific pattern to produce a final product. Both require the creator to think ahead--often far ahead. Rewrites are common and mistakes can cause the whole thing to stop working. I love writing and seeing a final product available for purchase and seeing the good reviews is also a thrill that's hard to describe. When programming and writing both become a priority, a dilemma is created.

Why am I working on learning web technology? Several reasons: As some of you might recall, the power plant I work at could be sold or closed within the next 18 to 24 months. Learning a new programming skill will help if I need to find a new job if I'm laid off. I also would like to revamp my author website. Right now, that website is being hosted by a company that insists on forcing the subscriber to build websites using their proprietary web-builder software. Although it's pretty slick, there are now things I want to do that can't be done on this host. I plan on moving my site to a different host where I can hand-build my website as I see fit.

I did manage to finish the first chapter of my next book though. It's a sequel to Off Course and it will provide a hard link between that short 2-book series to my Dragonverse series. Science fiction and the world of dragons all come together--who could ask for more? It's not going to be an easy book to write because one of the primary characters is an AI. Once I get past the first few chapters though, I think things will begin to move along quickly.

Speaking of books, Peacekeeper Pathogen should be on its way to my second-level review very shortly. The first round of proofing is nearly complete with only three chapters remaining. I'm hoping to have it in the hands of my German reader by the first of the month. I also just got back the revised cover art and it looks perfect. That will allow me to begin working on the cover. If all goes well, you will see it when I post next week.

2017-04-16

Spring

My wonderful wife is nearing the end of her review of Peacekeeper Pathogen. She has only a few chapters left. If all goes well, I will be entering all her changes and sending the book off to my final proofreader in Germany. While he does his review, I will be working on finalizing the cover and formatting the interior for both Kindle and Createspace (ebook and print version). When I'm not actively working on Pathogen, I will be working on my next book or continuing my studies of HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript.

I don't have a name for the next book yet. I'm thinking of titles such as: Back On Course, Weapon, and Psycho Ship, but so far none of those seem to fit. I've had to restart the first chapter of this book three times before getting it right. The first writing was all wrong and it just didn't work. The second revision's timeline just didn't work and it would have required too much explanation as to why the crew of the ship did things they way they did. Finally, I got it right yesterday morning and now the book can move forward.

While working on the second revision the other day, my MalwareBytes suddenly decided to identify Scrivener as ransomware! It moved the executable into the quarantine folder and refused to allow me to move it back until after I rebooted. I then had to tell MalwareBytes that Scrivener was not malware. I was then able to restore the program to its correct location so I could continue writing. What's odd about all this is Scrivener has not had an update in a long time. Very odd. At least I know my MalwareBytes is working to protect me, even if it is a bit overzealous.

Last Monday, I attended the annual Books and Cooks event at one of our libraries. This was my third time and, as like the other times, I sold no books. But events like this are not just about sales. It;s about supporting your local library and making yourself available to the public. Although I didn't sell any books, I did add some names to my mailing list and I got to talk to some people who were interested my reading my books. Since the library is only a few miles from my house, the only thing I lost was a few hours and none of that is what I would consider as wasted. I sat next to another wonderful author I've known for several years and we had a very good discussion concerning author-stuff.

The title of this post is Spring. Spring is when most people spend a considerable amount of time cleaning the outside and the inside of their house. It's where the term Spring Cleaning comes from. I took the opportunity to build a new edging around the mulch bed at the front of the house. Last weekend, I cleaned up the back porch by putting the cat houses away, power-washing the cement on the side of the house, and swapping the lawn mower and the snow blower. I also spent some time going through my computer and cleaning out all the old junk that no longer needs to be there.

Spring cleaning for me also involves going through all my writing materials and getting them organized. I empty the desk drawers and reorganize them, getting rid of things that I no longer need or filing things that were just put somewhere with the intent of being filed later. I go through my books and make a prioritized list of which ones I will read next. I like to live an organized life and doing a good Spring cleaning on my writing life is something that certainly helps.

2017-04-09

I'm Back

It's been a month since I last posted here. During my absence, I was working 6-days a week 12-hours a day. Obviously, that does not leave much time for writing or blogging. In case you're curious, here's what I did during the last month:

I work at a nuclear power plant and we shut the unit down every 2 years for refueling and to perform maintenance on items that cannot be accessed while the plant is running. Prior to taking my current job position, I was a technician in the instrumentation and controls department. During outages, we would perform many duties, some of them I no longer enjoy. Dressing out in an anti-contamination suit and climbing up a 60 foot ladder in 90 degree heat combined with high humidity is no longer something I want to do. I did it for many years and now I have a desk job.

My duties during an outage are to support the needs of the OCC. That's the Outage Control Center where a group of skilled managers direct the activities to keep the outage schedule on-track. My normal day began with getting up at 0200 and arriving at my desk around 0300 each morning. We use a collection of computer programs that read our schedule and generate a plethora of reports for use in the OCC. It is my job to assist in making sure these reports are generated without any issues. I also have a series of reports that I have developed that I run throughout the day to keep the OCC staff informed.

I'm also available to provide anyone in the OCC with ad-hoc data-mining requests. I also run a series of programs I developed that others in the organization use and it is my job to ensure that these programs continue to run without any issues. When problems arise, I am there to correct the code or figure out why the data is not being processed in a timely manner.

When I'm not actively supporting the OCC, I spend my time writing Microsoft Access database programs for the Work Management department I work for as well as other departments throughout the company. My major project this outage was the completion of the conversion of a Visual Basic 6 program I'd written in 2003 for our simulator group. This program tracks the configuration of the simulator down to the location of every wire as well as tracking all work that needs to be performed to keep the simulator in compliance and functioning properly. I am happy to report that the simulator program (called SCMS or Simulator Configuration Management System) has been successfully converted to Microsoft Access and is currently being tested.

We also broke a record during this outage. The plant was offline for 29 days 10 hours and 41 minutes making this the shortest outage in the plant's history. Having worked there for 30 years, I was very happy to see this record being made.

Now that the outage is over, I can get back to working on writing. But writing might not be as high a priority as before. With the possibility that the plant I have worked at for so long could be closed, I decided I need to boost my computer skills in case I need to seek employment elsewhere. I'm an expert Microsoft Access programmer but having just that one skill is not enough these days. I have started learning HTML, CSS and JavaScript. I also plan on becoming more experienced with how to program Microsoft Excel and Word.

Peacekeeper Pathogen is still being proofed by my wife and I hope to have it ready for a second proof by my friend in Germany in under a month. I have a preliminary cover but after having it peer reviewed by other authors I'm going to ask my artist if she can't make a few changes. In the meantime, I plan on working on my next book. It's a sequel to Off Course.

Time to get back to work!