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12-30-2012: Getting the math right

I have to agree with a fellow writer whom I got to know while attending Launchpad earlier this year - the holiday time sure puts a major crimp in productivity.  (You can see his post here: I thought I would get some writing done this weekend but only managed less than 1,000 words.  This morning I unexpectedly slept in later than I thought possible and then encountered problems when we got to the bookstore.  Problems?  Like what, you might ask.  Well, since you asked, let me explain.

I prefer to keep the numbers I use in my books as realistic as possible.  For example, if I say I want to be traveling past a certain point at a speed of 15 Km/sec then I had better be correct when I say how much acceleration I will have to apply and for how long to achieve that velocity.  I have a spreadsheet that I rely on to do the math.  Today, I found an error in it and it took me most of an hour to figure out which one of the equations I was using was wrong.  Instead of writing, I spent time fixing the spreadsheet.  Still curious?  Okay - here's how it all went down...

A fleet is poised to attack a planet.  They are stationed 50 million kilometers away.  I first dumped in some numbers wondering how long it would take them to get there at 300G's acceleration.  Simple - divide the distance in half (for acceleration and deceleration time), punch in 300 in my magic spreadsheet, and BINGO, the answer appeared - 3.6 hours.  Multiply that by two for total travel time.  The maximum velocity attained by this calculation was something on the order of 12% light speed.  Too fast for me.  So, I decided to just let them boost at 300G's for an hour and then coast for awhile and then decelerate at 300G's at the other end.  I have a different set of equations for that.  Total travel time turned out to be 1.3 hours - What?  How can using less acceleration get me there faster?  Red alert - red alert - red alert.  Error - Error - Error.  Must analyze.

It took a long time to find the problem and a longer time to run the numbers against several websites to ensure they were correct.  The spreadsheet is now fixed.  If you're interested in the spreadsheet I plan on putting it up on my web page in a few days.

Speaking of my web page.  I will be uploading the new Galactic Alliance covers there as well as my spreadsheet.  I've not had the time to update it recently (the darned holiday again).  Check back in a few days if you're curious.

Happy new year!  I hope 2013 treats everyone well.


12-17-12: New covers are out

Today I uploaded all new covers as well as minor updates to all 3 Galactic Alliance books (Translight, Chroniech, Honor Thy Enemy).  The updates take care of a few additional grammatical errors discovered by a few readers as well as myself.  The new covers are available now on (U.S.) and should be available on Amazon's foreign sites in a few days.  I've also done the same with all the other distributors via Smashwords.  It generally takes them a bit longer to upload changes so if you're a Nook or iPad user you won't see the new covers for a few weeks.

I keep a list of words I have a tendency to screw up; words such as: border vs boarder, ore vs oar, loose vs lose, its vs it's, accept vs except, and their vs they're.  For some unknown reason, I like to mix those up.  I've also been guilty of over using the dash - you know - the little line you can use to break up a sentence - like this.  Not to mention the fact that I don't quite use it right--you're not supposed to to have a space surrounding it.  Another blunder I tend to make is to always put 's after the name of an alien species when referring to them.  "Tholtaran's are an interesting species."  I cleaned up a few of these hanging errors in the new release.

I want to thank Heather Zak, wife of my very good friend AJ (Arnold J. Zak) whom I've known since high school for doing the new covers.  Her artistic skills with a computer are very good.  If you want her to do a cover for you let me know and I'll put you in touch with her.  Price is VERY reasonable.

In other news, Peacekeeper has passed 60K words.  I've ironed out the last minor wrinkle in the story and it's smooth sailing from here.  All I need do now is to finish putting the words down.  Then it's back to the beginning for a second run through.  I hope to have that done before the new year hits although it's going to be very close.  Of course, I'm not sure why I'm working so hard on this since everyone knows the world is going to end on 12-21-12 anyway.  Anyone know of someone who's throwing an end of the world party?

Comments on the new covers compared to the old ones are welcome.


12-12-12: Peacekeeper update

It's the middle of the week and I just remembered I had not provided an update for some time.  Current word count is 57,900.  Looks like I'm on target for finishing the first draft by the end of the year.

I've started doing something I never thought would work out for me - I've been carrying a notebook around with me so I can write a few paragraphs when I have some idle time.  My job often has periods of idle time. In the past, I've used this time to work on problems of my current project in my head.  Recently, I decided to start carrying a notebook around with me.  Yesterday was a particularly slow day and I managed to write nearly 900 words!  All I had to do was to type them into the computer.  Now that's a good use of time, so guess what I'll be carrying around with me from now on.

Last night, I visited a mentally challenged individual who lives in an adult care facility around the corner.  He had seen the article in the newspaper about me and wanted to see me.  A nurse at the nursing home where my mother-in-law stays also works at this other place.  She talked to my wife and the arrangements were made.  I presented him with two books and we sat and chatted for about an hour.  He has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic with complications.  He seemed very intelligent and well-versed in science fiction.  He seemed pleased to see me and this morning I learned that he talked about the visit for hours after we left.  It's good to do something like that for others.

Today I received two packages that have made my day.  I am now the proud owner of every episode of FarScape as well as Star Trek The Next Generation.  Lots of things to watch when I decide to take a break.

Finally, I thought I would include the new covers for the first two books of the Galactic Alliance series.  Heather Zak, the wife of my best friend from high school, has been working very had at creating new covers for the entire series.  She is working on the last one now and I hope to have them all out by early next year.  So, here they are:


12-02-12: 50,000 words and counting

I am making good progress on Peacekeeper with 50,000 first-draft words complete.  This morning, I was up at 0430 so I could get some writing done in the morning.  Later today we are going to the bookstore where I should be able to throw more words into the electronic box.  Unfortunately, I don't think I'm going to be able to publish the novel until around May of 2013.  Before you start screaming at me, let me explain how this works.

The hardest part of writing a novel is getting the first draft done.  Once that's complete, you have an entire story written.  I hope to finish this part by the end of the year.  Next comes the rewrite.  For me, this is a very important stage because it allows me to go back and fix parts of what I wrote earlier to better conform to what was written later.  I have a to do (todo?) list of things I need to enhance, change, and fix.  The entire rewrite can take a month or longer depending on how much time I have to work on it.  Let's assume the best and it takes me a month - now we're into February.

At this point I have a fairly complete, well-structured novel.  Since changes have been made, I will read it again and make more editorial changes.  That usually doesn't take more than two weeks.  Next, I read it yet again but this time at high speed to ensure that the entire storyline holds together.  Once that process is done the book is pretty much complete.  Two final steps remain.  My wife (who is also my copy-editor) does her magic on my sometimes terrible grammar.  I am getting better though and she finds fewer and fewer mistakes to fix.  She is not a science fiction fan and her detailed look at the book will take a month.  This puts us at the middle of March.

In March, the nuclear plant I work at shuts down for a refueling outage.  I shift into 12 hour days, 6 days a week, for about 2 months.  During that time I will not get any writing or proof-reading done.  Immediately after the outage, I will incorporate my wife's changes and make a final pass through the book checking with her before any other changes are made.  Then it can be published.  Oh - hopefully by then I will have a cover for it as well.  The wife of my best friend from high school days is redoing all my Galactic Alliance covers and she will also be doing the cover for Peacekeeper.  I'm sure she will have it ready by the time I'm ready to publish in May.

Sorry - but that's just how things are turning out.

One more item before I go back to writing.  One of the unique advantages of being an indie publisher is I can count daily book sales as well as monthly totals for each book.  I used to use an Excel spreadsheet to track these and generate graphs.  As the number of books I tracked rose, the spreadsheet became more of a pain and I shifted over to using an Access database.  Graphing from Access wasn't working out and so I looked for alternatives.  Since I use Quicken to track the financial end of writing I thought I could use it to track book sales.  I created two accounts, one for Amazon and one for Smashwords.  At the end of each month, I simply make an entry for each book (Translight, Chroniech, Dragonverse, etc.) in the appropriate account and put down one dollar for each book sold.  Quicken graphing can now show me graphs of monthly sales by book or by seller.  When tax time comes, I hide the accounts.  I still use the Excel spreadsheet to track daily sales.

Okay - enough blogging.  Back to writing...