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!


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.


June 17: Next novel is done!

Collision Course is complete! It is available for pre-order now.  Please consider pre-ordering the book as pre-order sales help a new book get off to a good start. The cover is at the end of this post.

Grammatical corrections from my wife (who has 27 years of newspaper experience) were entered during the week of June 4th. On June 9th, the manuscript was emailed to Ekkehard Flessa in Germany for his final proofing. English is Mr. Flessa's second language and his English is impeccable. While I waited for his comments, I began the process of formatting the book for printing. This involves setting the size of the page, adding the page headers, and adjusting the layout so that chapter headings all appear on even number pages.

Formatting a book for printing takes a considerable amount of time and patience. Page numbering starts at the first page of chapter 1 which is page 1. All chapters must begin on even-numbered pages. The first page of each chapter does not have a heading but all other pages do. Even-numbered pages get the author's name and odd-numbered pages show the title of the book. Margins are set for mirror margins to allow for the size of the binding and the header of the odd pages and the even pages are not only different in what they contain by how they are aligned.

I also look at where each chapter breaks. If there are only a few lines on a page, the line spacing is adjusted by tiny amounts to either shrink or expand the text to make the final page of the chapter either blank or filled with more lines to make it look better. Other formatting issues are taken care of by the styles I use when creating the book. For example, the first paragraph of a chapter or after a scene break is always left-aligned. Using styles to format a book makes things so much easier, especially when it comes time to alter that format for export to Kindle.

Once the manuscript is properly formatted, it is exported to PDF. I then go through it one more time to verify the book has been exported correctly and looks good. The two-page, side-by-side view is especially useful here. Since I make some corrections to the manuscript when it is formatted for print, I need to take all these corrections and roll them into the Kindle version. A copy of the CreateSpace version is made for this.

I apply a new template to the document and alter the page size to quickly put most of the text into the correct format. The new template alters the formatting as well as the font used throughout the entire manuscript. The final formatting step is to take the rough Kindle version and alter it so it can be converted to Kindle format by Amazon. All headers and section breaks are removed. A page break is inserted at the end of each chapter. The front matter is adjusted to a font size that will look better on e-readers and all tabs are removed (tabs do not translate).

Now that I have a PDF version, I know how many pages are in the final version. This is used to download a template from CreateSpace that is used to create the cover. I use Photoshop to assemble all the artwork and other elements to create the final cover. Since I've done this before, most of this can be accomplished by dragging and dropping the elements from a previous cover into the new one and then altering the text. This gives all of my books the same look.

As you can see, self-publishing a book takes a considerable amount of time. Please share this post with your friends who enjoy science fiction. Ask them to pre-order it; the cost is only $3.50. These sales will give the book a boost when it becomes available in a few weeks. Thank you! And, here is the cover:


June 10--Post Launch Pad

The Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop is over. I met another fine group of people and had a wonderful time. Unlike all past workshops, the transportation arrangements for this workshop did not go smoothly. The vehicles that had originally been rented turned out to be far too small and all three drivers were forced to upgrade. The rental company charged us $50.00 a day for the upgrade cost. In addition to this, the cost that is quoted online does not include a bevy of added charges that quickly put the total cost of each vehicle at well over twice what Launch Pad has paid in the past. The line to pick up the vehicles was long and it took the drivers almost 45 minutes to pick up the vehicles. If you ever have a need to rent a vehicle--you would be wise not to choose Advantage.

 My wife has finished her grammar check of Collision Course and the manuscript is now in the hands of my final proofing editor for his review. I will be making a final editing run on the book after I get all his comments as well as starting work on the formatting of the book for CreateSpace and Amazon Kindle. Once I have a completed manuscript, I can build a final cover. With luck, the book will be out in another month or so.

Sales have been very disappointing of late. This does have an effect on how enthused I am about getting this next book out. I have other things I enjoy doing and if people aren't buying my books, why should I spend a lot of time working on writing them and getting them out for publication? Seriously, if there's no incentive to publish, then I'll turn my attention to other things. I'll still continue to write and publish, but it won't be with the same enthusiasm I would have if I was selling more.

One of my other interests is in learning how to build web pages. This involves learning HTML (done), CSS (done), JavaScript (mostly done), jQuery (in progress), and PHP (not yet started). Even though I now know enough about JavaScript and jQuery to build a decent web page, I'm not proficient at it. Being proficient will require practice. Right now, I have a good start on my website and it's only going to be getting better in the future. If you're interested, please check it out. Just point your browser to Dougfarren.com and take a look. Comments are always welcome.

Some of you might recall that I work at a nuclear power plant. The company I work for has been in the news recently because they've filed for bankruptcy protection. The Trump administration is also pushing to keep the nuclear and coal plants open. As of right now, the company plans on closing the plant in May of 2021. I should still be able to remain employed until at least a year after that date putting me within striking distance of full retirement. I believe nuclear power should have a place in our energy supply matrix. I am not a fan of any fossil fuel generators unless they have a way to reduce their carbon emissions. Granted, nuclear power must be treated with extreme respect because the results of failing to do so are disasterous (i.e. Fukashima). But, done right, it is a viable source of power.

Time to post this and get back to working on editing my book ... or maybe I should spend my time updating my website ... or maybe ...


May 28: Launch Pad

It has been some time since I’ve posted a blog entry—mostly because I’ve not had much to report. Proofing of Collision Course is nearly complete and I expect to have it ready for publication in about three weeks. I might delay that a bit to see if I can’t get some pre-orders lined up. The artwork is complete and ready to be turned into a cover.

I leave for Laramie on the 28th to attend another Launch Pad. This will be the first time the workshop has been held starting on a holiday. I wonder what the airport is going to be like? This trip is also unique in that I will be sticking around at the airport until the last person arrives. I will be coordinating which authors will depart with which drivers. We do have one author that has a very tight (36 minutes) layover in Salt Lake City. He also happens to be one of our drivers. If he misses his flight, we will have to designate another driver. This could get interesting!

I’m also getting ready to roll out an update to my author website. I’ve already made some modifications based on my new knowledge of JavaScript and jQuery. This update should be rolled out sometime while I am at Launch Pad.

If you enjoyed Off Course, I think you will enjoy Collision Course. If you’ve read my other novels (especially the Dragonverse series) you will find a pleasant surprise towards the end of the book. Keep your eyes open for an announcement in the next few weeks. Pre-order sales help get a new novel kicked off on the right foot.