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2018-12-02

December 2, 2018

Climate Change Report
The day after I saw the news that the latest report on climate change was out, I downloaded a copy and started reading. It's a massive work with every scientific fact backed up by references to the original data. There were a lot of other things I could have done, but the report was important and I wanted to know what was in it. Even though I just read the highlights and some of the selected details, it still took me several hours to digest. It is an eye-opening report. You can get your own copy from the official government website. Our planet, the only home humanity currently knows, is in danger. I'm almost 61 and many of the changes that will take place will become starkly visible in my lifetime. Those changes will become worse and my kids will have to live in a world that is becoming hostile to life. It's depressing.

New Cell Phone
About six months ago, my 3-year-old HTC 10 smartphone (which was the flagship phone for HTC when I purchased it) began to reboot itself when it hit 25% battery level. It would enter into a continuous reboot loop and required a hard restart to fix. Battery life began to rapidly decline. About a month ago, I started to get fed up with it and began researching for a new cell phone. For a long time, I had my eye set on a Google Pixel 3 but the cost was prohibitive. Last week, my HTC battery was discharging at a rate of 1% every 1.5 minutes and even starting from a full charge would not last the night in standby mode. By this time, my dad had purchased a new phone after doing a bunch of research and he settled on the Moto G6. The specs looked good.

The Moto G6 processor is actually less powerful than my older HTC 10. But, the phone runs near stock Android. Now, I'm a tech nerd and I've always enjoyed owning high-tech stuff. The practical side of my brain was telling me I did not need the power of a flagship phone. I had to remind myself that today's phones are built to become obsolete in 3 years because of the nonreplaceable battery. That pretty much ensures that someone will need to buy a new phone every 3 to 4 years. Did I really need a $1,000 flagship phone every 4 years? The answer is no. I bought the G6.

Phones in the Android One program run near stock Android. My phone was clear of bloatware and even though it has the same memory capacity as my HTC I have more room remaining after reloading all of my apps. It is snappy and runs everything I've thrown at it (I don't play games). My only complaint (which was easily corrected) was the fact that the phone was so slippery I couldn't set it down on any cloth surface without it slowly sliding to the floor. A nice rubber case solved that problem. I will be sticking with Motorola Android One phones from now on and I will never buy a flagship phone. I can't justify the cost and I don't need the insane specs of a high-end phone.

Book Sales and the Itch to Write
A couple weeks ago, I said that the itch to write was gone. I also said I was going to drop the already low prices on my books to $2.99 (the lowest price I can set and still make 70% royalties). The drop in price has caused a small uptick in sales. I've been spending my time learning PHP and enjoying my time off. The itch is beginning to return but my desire to complete my website developer education is overriding my desire to get back to writing. I will finish reading this book on PHP and MySQL and then I will consider getting back to writing. Unlike a romance writer, I don't have a fan base that is anxiously awaiting the release of my next book. There's no hurry. Nobody has been sending me emails asking me to please hurry up and write another book. I like to write, I like to see my books in print, and I love to see a sale because I know someone is reading my story. But I also love computer programming and learning new technologies and languages. For now, the writing will be taking a back seat while I satisfy another itch.

2018-11-25

November 25, 2018: What our nation could be

I realize this blog has a low following, but this is the best platform I have to express myself to the public. This morning's Twitter feed produced a report on the near absence of cash transactions in Switzerland. Over breakfast, I mentioned this to my wife and she wondered why we Americans still relied on cash as much as we do. The answer is fairly simple--we have never implemented a standard.

Here in the U.S. we have Google Pay, Chase Pay, PayPal, iPay, and (because Walmart won't accept anything else) we have Walmart Pay. The ability to use these payment methods is based on a standard called NFC which is available on almost every single cell phone in use today. But the actual payment systems are incompatible and can't communicate with each other. If I want to use my phone to pay for something, I need multiple apps installed and I would need to know which one is accepted at the store I'm in. Also, as far as I know, there's no easy way for me to accept electronic payments if I'm selling books at a convention.

Switzerland has implemented a standard and it's working. My wife then asked a simple question, "Why haven't we done something like that?" Why indeed? This kicked off a whole series of thoughts as my scifi brain created an alternate history of the United States. A history where we had a government that actually used its authority to benefit the people instead of lining the pockets of the rich who don't really need any more money. So where did this take me? Allow me to share a dream with you.

Instead of a nation with multiple types of electronic payment systems, the government steps in and calls for the creation of a single standard. There may be multiple e-pay companies, but a person can choose to use any one of them and they will all work anywhere. If you can't afford to buy a cell phone, you can purchase a small pocket device with the application pre-installed so you can make electronic payments. Problem solved, no more money, no more bank robberies, and robbing a store is no longer profitable because there's no cash to be had.

That was simple. Now let's expand on that a bit. Instead of allowing greed to rule, the United States decides to implement universal health care. Doctors are paid a good wage and take care of anyone who walks through the doors without having to worry if the patient can pay. Drugs prices are fully regulated with the cost of the drug based on the cost of development as well as the cost of the materials instead of how much the drug companies can extort the people who need the drugs. Laws are passed and strictly enforced: Speeding is detected by a network of cameras and people who refuse to slow down have their license revoked. A standard put in place scans a person's driver's license to ensure it is valid and if not the car refuses to start.

Living conditions are guaranteed and slum-lords are severely punished. Companies compete for the loyalty of customers but share information that benefits the nation as a whole. Monetary transactions and business dealings are fully transparent and violations of the law are swiftly dealt with.

Given this type of government (for the people, by the people) and a nation of people who care for each other and work towards the common good instead of fighting over racial and cultural issues, this country would be unstoppable.

But, it's a dream and I know it will never come true except in one of my books.

2018-11-19

November 19, 2018 - The Writing Bug

The writing bug, that constant itch to start a new story or finish the one currently under construction, is gone. I can't say that writing, for me, was ever a hobby. It was a passion and I threw myself into it with everything I had. I bought books on plot and character development. Read numerous articles and books on how to improve my prose. And, I wrote. On my days off, I spent the entire morning hammering on the keyboard of my computer in the rush to get the next book done. I enjoyed the editing process and the thrill of seeing my hard work in print. I kept up this pace cranking out 12 books at the rate of about one a year. But now, the bug is gone. The adrenaline kick of producing a story so others can enjoy it is no longer there. For the past few weeks, I've been wondering why.

To be totally honest, I don't know. But, I have a few ideas. One of the biggest is the pitiful sales that I've been seeing of late. One of the thrills involves knowing that the stories I write are being enjoyed by others and seeing a sale is what keeps that thrill alive. It has become a habit for me to look at Amazon sales every morning. I was happy with one or two new sales a day -- I'm not greedy. When sales and pages read started dropping far lower, the desire to write followed suit. In an effort to boost sales, I've decided to drop the prices of all my books. I will be doing so as soon as I post this.

But sales are only a part of the reason. Writing is a lot of work; it takes away from many other pursuits. I like to read science fiction and books on astrophysics, quantum theory (for the lay-person) and other technology-related books. I'm also on a quest to learn more about website development. Mornings are also when I am able to watch the science fiction shows my wife does not care to watch. Sacrificing these things is part of scratching the itch. But when scratching begins to result in bleeding it's time to reexamine your priorities.

I've been to a number of events as an author. Sometimes I sell a lot of books. Other times I sell nothing. I've been to conventions, a few of them as a writer. In fact, I'm scheduled to attend another one next March. One thing I've learned at these conventions is that my personal skills are not as finely honed as that of some of the other authors I know. I don't like to brag and I don't interrupt people when they are talking. From what I've observed, to be noticed as an author, you need to be almost rude to garner attention. That's not me.

I will never be nominated for any sort of award. I will never have anyone recognize me in a crowd because I'm a published author. I will never be able to make a living writing books. Believe it or not, I'm perfectly fine with all that. I never wrote because I wanted to win an award or become a famous author. I never published to get rich because I'm practical enough to realize that most writers need a day job to support themselves. I wrote because I had the itch. The itch is gone.

So, after all that, what are my plans? Starting today, I'm putting my 2 current writing projects on indefinite hold. I'm going to start doing some of the things I haven't been able to do because I've been spending time writing. I have no doubt that the itch will return. When it does, I'll start writing again.

2018-11-04

November 04, 2018

I have not posted anything in this blog for several months -- here's why:

I decided to take a short break from writing. I've been spending my time watching movies and science fiction programs that I haven't had a chance to watch. I've been learning more about how to build websites. I've been working on home projects I've been wanting to do for a long time. And, I've been reading -- something I dearly love to do but always set aside when I'm actively writing. The need to write, though, is still there and as of a week ago, I finally began working on a new novel. This one will be the 4th in the Peacekeeper series.

Writing takes time away from a lot of things -- family, other learning desires, and doing things a person just simply likes to do. This time around, I'm going to try my best not to become obsessed with writing. I'm promising myself to take time out to do other things.

I have signed up to attend the 2019 Cleveland Concoction convention. This will be held in Aurora, Ohio from March 1st through March 3rd. I went last year and had a good time. This year, I plan on spending far more time sitting in Author Alley where authors showcase their books and readers can come in, talk to the authors, and buy the books. As long as an author participates in at least 3 panels, they can attend the event for free. It's not a large convention, but it is local and I will get to mingle with some of my author acquaintances.

I missed attending this year's Geek Expo because my wife and I were visiting my dad in South Carolina. We had intended to go earlier but mother nature decided to throw a hurricane at us and we canceled the originally planned trip. Unfortunately, this was the last year for this relatively popular local event. In the past, I did quite well in book sales. No reason for the event's discontinuation have been given by the organizers.

Even though I've been continuing my education on how to build a website, I haven't applied this new knowledge to updating my current site. It does not get much traffic and other priorities have gotten in the way. Someday (soon, I hope), the website will have some additional features added. When I do this, I will let you know.

Right now, it's time to head outside because we have a ton of leaves on the ground that need to be moved to the street. They weren't there when we left on vacation. It's also been raining since we got back and now the leaves will have to be raked instead of blown. Oh well -- off I go!

2018-06-24

June 24: What's Next?

Collision Course is done and is just sitting on Amazon's server collecting prerelease sales until July 9th when the book becomes available. The print version is done but has not yet been uploaded. I'll do that after the ebook is released. So, what's next?

Even though I write computer programs at my day job, I've been finding myself wanting to learn more about website programming. Sales have been pathetic so the incentive to write is just not there. So, I think I will be turning my attention towards learning some more about jQuery and then PHP and MySQL which are the final technologies I need to build some really cool websites. If you haven't been to my author website recently, please check it out. I will be adding a ton more pictures in the very near future so keep checking back.

Why are sales so low? Well, I'm not the only author complaining. Amazon is named after one of the world's largest forests and rightly so. There are literally millions of books available on Amazon. Unless you have the advertising power of a large publishing house or a huge fan base that constantly look to see when your next novel is published, getting noticed is difficult. The winners of this year's Nebula awards have been released. You won't find a single self-published story in the list. There are self-published authors, but the stories that were nominated are those that have been published in a magazine or by one of the large publishing houses.

I'm not complaining (well, not too much anyway) because I've had a really good run so far. But, when sales drop too low, the thrill of publishing a new novel and seeing a spike in sales is just no longer there. If there are competing interests (such as website programming for myself) then such interests become more important than writing for a shrinking audience.

This does not mean I will be abandoning writing or that I will never self-publish another book. The urge will return and I will open up Scrivener and start my next novel. What it will be is anyone's guess since I have nothing in mind at the moment. And as for when ... only time will tell.