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It is Sunday morning (0500 if you’re curious) and I’m writing my blog post from work as I wait for a test program to finish running. I've been working from 0300 – 1200 the past couple of days and that’s why this post is a little late. I’ve been working these hours because of the refueling outage going on at the nuclear plant where I work. The outage is officially over but I will remain on early hours for the first part of the week. Lucky for me, I’m a morning person and I don’t mind these hours at all.

I received a huge surprise in the mail on Friday. My content-editor Lee Dilkie sent me a picture his artist wife created. Here’s a picture of it as well as where it now hangs:

Incredible! Lee was one of my more outspoken fans and a little over a year ago I asked him if he would be interested in taking a look at Peacekeeper 2 before I published it. He agreed. But instead of just providing limited feedback, he gave me some very good advice on specific elements of the story. In other words, he became my content-editor. He will be helping out with Dragonverse Origins as soon as I have something I can send him.

I was going to fire off what I've written so far but the other day I found myself going back and making some changes to early chapters. That means things are still in a state of flux and I would rather send Lee something that won’t be drastically changing after he reviews it. He’s not my copy-editor or proof-reader; that’s my wife’s job. Lee’s part in all this is to take what I've written and tell me where I've gone wrong. Having another person review your writing can be scary because it is YOUR work. But, if you are open to suggestions (as you should be) and you get the right person involved, having a second opinion concerning the plot is a huge help.

I once thought that I could go it alone as a self-published writer. Please do not make this mistake! Writers, especially new ones, need to have someone else who is willing to tell you where you are wrong look at your work. Thinking you can go it alone is a huge mistake and it’s where most self-published writers fail. Releasing a book to the public that has a poor plot, is filled with grammatical errors, and is generally poorly written is what has given self-publishing such a bad rap. The “self” in self-published does not mean you are going it alone. Taking the time to properly edit your novel will earn you some respect from traditionally published authors. Do it!

Traditionally published authors have their books reviewed by an editor hired by the publisher. I friend of mine was traditionally published and then put out a fully edited self-published novel. That novel went on to be nominated for an award which caused her former agent to give her a call. The book was picked up by a publisher and re-edited. There were changes made – some of them significant. And this is a book that was written by a well-respected author and already edited.

Self-published authors have a duty to their readers to make sure their novel is as polished as one put out by a traditional publisher. At a minimum, you should have your novel looked at by a good editor. Listen to what they have to tell you. In my case, I have a content-editor who looks at the story from a high-level and steers me in the right direction. I have a copy-editor who corrects my spelling and use of grammar. I pay someone to produce a reasonably good book cover. These are up-front expenses for most self-published authors. But, if you’re serious about your novel and you want to be respected by traditional authors, it’s something you have to do.

Origins now stands at just shy of 30,000 words. This is going to be a fairly large book. If you enjoy dragons with a bit of science fiction thrown in to take the edge off the fantasy aspect then this book is for you. I’m not sure how I’m going to position it though. It’s part of the Dragonverse series but it takes place far before the first book of the series. I don’t want to make it a prequel because it provides a link between Dragonverse and one of my stand-alone novels (I’ll let the reader figure out which one). Still noodling on this one.


Thoughts on Awards

Dragonverse Origins update: The first draft now stands at 26,030 words. I’ve actually some pretty good progress over the past couple of days. Yesterday, I worked from 0400 until about noon. I met my wife at the car dealer so she could drop her car off and then we went to Barnes & Noble for a few hours. I wrote over 1,100 words. After B&N, we went out to dinner and then home. I had just enough time to say hello to the cats before heading to bed. I started work today at 0430 and once again met my wife at B&N right after noon. After writing another 400 words it suddenly occurred to me that today is blog day.

Origins is coming along quite nicely. The manuscript is working its way through a slow spot and I’m trying to figure out a way to give it a little more of an interesting twist. There is a lot of information and setting up that needs to be done before the main story can kick in. Milus (my protagonist) is a young boy with some problems that need to be dealt with before he can grow. I know quite a bit about how things are going to progress but I’m not exactly quite sure how I’m going to get there. A major breakthrough is about to occur – if I can figure out how to set up for it.

I read a very interesting article that was posted on Twitter concerning the perceived benefits of winning an award. There once was a time when I thought that being nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, Clark, or other award would be the ultimate achievement. In the past, this might have been true. But these days, with self-publishing on the rise, I’m not so sure. Of course, being nominated would still be a tremendous ego-booster, but would it affect sales? My answer is no – the same thing the article said. Try this with your science-fiction reading friends. Ask them if they know what the Hugo, Nebula, or Clark award is. If they say they’ve heard of it, ask them who one recently.

Books are nominated for awards by other writers – not readers. Yes, writers are also readers, but I think you know what I mean. Most readers these days have no clue that the book they are looking at to buy has been nominated for an award unless it says so prominently on the cover. And even so, they most likely don’t care. As a writer, being nominated for an award would make me happy beyond belief because, to me, it means other writers have found my books to be equal to their own. But, in the end, I’m also happy to watch my books continue to sell on Amazon and Smashwords.

I have seen two writers publish their income from writing numbers on the internet. While some might think this is a ridiculously stupid thing to do, I applaud their willingness to share this information. How else can other writers know how well they are doing? I’ve published my book counts which comes close to telling how much I’ve made from writing. I’m considering publishing my actual income as well. Traditional publishers do not like to hear that self-published authors are doing well. Perhaps more of us should share our numbers. If you run across other authors who are sharing their income numbers with the public please send me a link to the article.

I will be back to working 8-hour days next week. That means more time for writing. I will keep you posted.


Not enough hours in a day

Dragonverse Origins update: The first draft now stands at 23,611 words. That’s not as much as I would have hoped to have by now, but the book is coming along nicely. I don’t want to rush things because rushing is how you end up with a plot that’s such a mess you have to rebuild it by throwing half of it away.

I did read one of the chapters from Origins during this last weekend's writers group meeting. When I was finished, people were saying all sorts of things I didn't expect to hear like "Wow!" and "I could see everything - it was like I was there." And this is just a rough draft! Not that I'm bragging (well, maybe a little) but comments like those sure make a writer feel good.

Speaking of plots, It's strange how some things hit you when you're least expecting it. I wrote Off Course about 2 years ago and since publishing it, I haven’t looked at the novel at all. Yesterday, out of nowhere, a plot snafu in the book set off a small nuclear explosion inside my cerebral cortex. After I calmed down, I realized that nobody out there has caught it. I'm glad too, because fixing it would have changed the entire course of the book! Unfortunately, now that I know it's there, it's going to bother me. I don’t think it's something your normal reader will pick up. Only someone versed in political intrigue and subterfuge would wonder—why didn't they…? I have no intention of trying to fix it either.

With the crazy hours I've been working these past few weeks, I haven't had time to get on my SFWA account and update it. When I have a few hours to myself, I prefer to spend it writing. I get like that when I'm working on a project (which is most of the time). I will delay watching television programs (except Agents of Shield), skip the internet, and put all sorts of things aside to have time to write. If I'm stuck, then I can indulge myself.

From the looks of things, there's going to be a large number of Launch Pad alumni attending this year's WorldCon. I’m hoping we can find a time to get together and have a bit of a reunion. I've been going since 2012 and I've met many people I would love to connect with again in the flesh.

That’s about it from the writing end of things. If you’re interested in what I've been doing at my day job, keep reading. I’ll keep it short.

I am an Access database programmer—one of only a very few at the plant. Actually, to my knowledge, there isn't anyone else who actually writes VBA code using Microsoft Access. I work in a group called Work Management and my primary job is to maintain the Primavera database as well as build applications to make my department more efficient. They were without a DBA (Database Administrator) for almost 4 years and the old applications my predecessor had developed no longer worked. I scrapped all of them and started from scratch building my own set of applications. So far, I've taken a report that used to take 4 days to complete and automated it so it can be finished in under 3 hours. I've automated a lot of what people used to do manually.

My expertise in database applications has come in handy while the plant has been in a refueling outage. I have a program that displays the status of each job, whether or not it is working to schedule and if the schedule is in jeopardy or not. I have another one that helps the Outage Control Center track emergent work and I produce daily reports for most of the managers and directors. The bottom line here is that I love to code and I couldn't be happier. From the feedback I've been getting, the people that are using my programs are just as happy which makes me even happier. Life is good.

Time to start writing again. Until next time.


SFWA (active) membership approved!

I am now an official member of SFWA! As an indie author, this is a big deal for me. It’s like an artist having one of their paintings chosen to be displayed in an art gallery. When I put my first book on Amazon, I had a realistic view of the future. Making a small income from book sales was all I expected. Of course, humans love to dream and I had a dream that one day I would be making a decent income from writing and be a member of SFWA. When my book sales began to take off, I actually thought my dream could become a reality. I went to the SFWA website and read the requirements to become a member. I was disappointed.

To become a member of SFWA prior to March 1st 2015, you had to have published a novel or two short stories with a select listing of approved publishers. Self-published authors were therefore forbidden access. Even though I made a lot of money in sales, joining SFWA was to remain only a dream. And then a miracle happened.

Stories that use a line like that are a sure sign of a poor writer, but in this instance the miracle was a vote by the SFWA members to allow self-published authors to join their ranks. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of doing so. If you follow my blog, you know the story from that point on. The email confirming my membership made me a very happy man. The way I see it, it’s not all about how much you make but rather what sort of recognition you receive that makes it all worthwhile.

In other news: I'm now using a new keyboard at work. Some time ago, E. C. Myers (a fellow Launch Pad attendee) posted a picture of his new writing area. I spotted an ancient IBM model M keyboard on his desk – you know, the kind with the clickity-clack sound and tactile feedback. I asked him about it and he told me about a company that sells them; not old or refurbished ones—brand new ones! I ordered one the other day and now I’m clacking away at work and loving it. My nearby cubical attendants haven’t said a word about the racket so I’m happy. If you’re interested, you can purchase one here.

The list of 2015 Launch Pad attendees has been released by founder Professor Mike Brotherton. I have not received the final word concerning if anyone wants their name withheld from the public so I won’t be posting the list here. If you applied and were not accepted this year, there’s always next year. As always, I’m looking forward to participating in this year’s event and getting to meet another group of fine people. I've already sent out my greeting email and have started building my information document on the attendees. I do this because I am terrible at remembering names and faces. There have been times when I can't quickly recall the name of people I've worked with for 20 years. Embarrassing.

Work on Dragonverse Origins stalled last week due to my working hours and other events which I won't go into here. But that doesn't mean I haven’t been thinking about how to proceed. The soon-to-be wizard is about to begin his learning. The issue here is how detailed should I get? I don’t want to skip over too much because the reader will wonder what happened in the intervening time. I don’t want to go into the day-by-day details because the reader will become bored and set the book aside. I have to find a happy middle where the reader can stay engaged and interested as things move along. This part of the book is a challenge for me because I’m not exactly sure how to proceed. There are a lot of little details I need the reader to have before the real meat of the story begins.

As of right now, the novel stands at 21,159 words. I did manage to get in some writing time yesterday as well as this morning. With the nuke plant shut down for refueling, I've been working from 0400 (and occasionally 0200) until 1200 or later. When I have a day off, I get up way before my wife does and that gives me the time to write.