In case you're counting, Peacekeeper Pathogen now stands at 13,538 words. Since returning from Launch Pad, I've not added a single word. After being gone for a week, I've decided to spend a few days playing catch up. That's done now and soon I will be back to writing. But first, I might follow the desires of my writers group and finish a short story I started and trunked last year. For some reason, this story has stuck in their heads and they have asked me twice to finish it. It's time I untrunked it and took a close look at where this short story can go.

My trip back from Laramie was an interesting one. On the way back to Denver, we ran into a major traffic snarl caused by an accident. Although I never saw any signs of an accident, the massive traffic jam that it caused was evident. We were delayed almost 45 minutes in our trip. Later that day, the plane backed away from the gate, taxied a bit, then sat. The tower had shutdown the airport due to microbursts from severe weather. After 15 minutes, we moved again and again were told we had to wait. This happened a few more times and then the pilot announced we had to go back to the gate to get more fuel because we had used up our reserve driving around the tarmac. We eventually made it into the air and I arrived home a bit over 2 hours late. I don't fly all that much and this is the first time such a thing has happened to me.

I had a wonderful time at Launch Pad and I met another fine group of writers. It is refreshing to be able to sit around a table and talk writing shop and science fiction with others who share the same passion. That's probably why so many writers attend conferences and conventions -- to be among their own. I've taken a hard look at convention going and I've decided that it is just not cost effective for me to attend these events. Some of my writing friends will disagree. But being self-published does sort of change things.

If you're a traditionally published author, your publisher will most likely ask you to attend certain conventions. They might even fly you there. They should pay your entrance fee and provide you with books to sign. This is a promotional opportunity and it makes good business sense to attend. While there, you will be able to interact with other writers, agents, and publishing people. But for a self-published author, conventions and conferences are not cost effective. A self-published author must pay everything out of their own pocket and the return on investment doesn't justify the expense. Airline fare, meals, entrance fee, table space fee, book inventory, and hotel rooms all add up. Unless you sell several hundred books, you will never recover the cost of attending.

Several writers suggested I attend a writer's conference or a workshop. I considered it but, again, I must decline for business reasons. Both of these events will cost money but none will help to sell books. There is one situation, however, when a self-published author should seriously consider attending a conference. If you're an outgoing person and your writing skills need improving, then a workshop or conference might help -- it depends on how you learn. I prefer to learn by reading and doing. Some get more out of sitting in a class.

Unless you have a degree in writing or you have a natural talent for prose, you should be doing whatever it takes to improve your writing skills. For me, this means reading lots of books on how to write and edit. It also means doing a lot of writing. Don't forget reading as well. Read widely and as often as you can. Read for pleasure but if you encounter a particular passage that you find interesting, slow down, read it again, and perhaps write it down for further reference. Your brain is an amazing instrument and it is constantly learning, even if you don't realize it. Reading will help you improve your writing.

There are some writers who have a powerful presence on the internet. These people spend their lives promoting their books. I often wonder how they have time for anything else. Writing and maintaining a strong web presence takes a considerable amount of time. If you're self-published, you most likely have a day job meaning at least 9 or 10 hours a day are devoted to that activity. If you have a partner in life, then that person will want your time as well. And then there's life itself and all that goes along with being a member of the living. Cleaning, eating, socializing, yard work, hobbies, and home maintenance all take up a part of your time. Writing is often something you sneak in when you can. Full-time writers, of course, don't have this problem.

Writers have an itch that must be scratched. But scratching too hard will break the skin and can cause an infection. If you have the itch, by all means scratch it. Write as often as you can. But leave time for everything else as well. It's a balancing act and once you become good at it, you'll walk the beam as if you've been doing it all your life.