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Holiday Update

Happy holidays! Please remember why so many people celebrate this time of the year. It's not about the gifts. 2016 is a year I would dearly love to forget. It has changed my perception of people and not in a good way. But, there are still islands of goodness out there.

Yesterday, I was standing in line at the grocery store holding a huge tray of chicken for today's feast. When the young woman in front of me had her turn at the register, she turned and said, "I'm paying for his as well." I said, "No you're not!" She turned to the cashier and said, "Ring his up as well." I've done similar things in the past in restaurants but this is the first time anyone has returned the favor. Thank you again, stranger.

With Peacekeeper Pathogen in the hands of my content editor, and me being on vacation for another week, I've got some time on my hands. I have an extensive todo list and I've started working my way through it. Here is what has been accomplished so far:

  • A newly reformatted interior for Dragonverse: The Adventure Begins.
  • A new cover for Dragonverse: The Adventure Begins.
  • A newly reformatted interior for Ishnef's Revenge.
  • A new cover for Ishnef's Revenge.
I'm very proud of the new cover for the first book in the Dragonverse series. I'm including it at the end of this post. The cool artwork was a gift from the wife of my content editor, Corinne Dilkie. I love staring at it and I hope those who buy the newly recovered book will too. The goal is to make all of my covers look the same as far as basic formatting is concerned. It helps with the branding of my books.

Yesterday, I started working on redoing the interior of Off Course. That was when I noticed that back in 2010/2011, I was still putting two spaces after a period. So, I decided to to a complete re-edit. I'm not making large changes, just cleaning it up to bring it up to standard. I hope to be done in a few days. Then, I will work on When Ships Mutiny. That will complete my total reformatting project thus giving all of my books a more professional look and feel.

That's it from today. I have a lot of work to do. Here is the promised cover. You will see it on Amazon soon.


First Draft

The first draft of Peacekeeper Pathogen is complete! I finished it off this morning. The final word count came out to be 87,450. A couple days ago, I mentioned on social media that I should be done with the book yesterday. But, after sleeping on it, I came up with something I just had to add. The basics were there in the ending paragraphs, all I had to do was to make a few changes and the book's ending shines.

That's the fun part of being a seat of the pants author. I never know when something good is going to happen to my characters. It's a fun, strange feeling when that happens too. A wonderful feeling that the book is practically writing itself. That's when I know I've written something good when the story begins to surprise me.

The book will be converted to Microsoft Word and sent out to my content editor Lee Dilkie for his take on the plot. His job is to read through the entire manuscript and point out any plot blunders, mistakes in how people interact, and other over-arching corrections that need my attention. With the holidays upon us, I don't expect anything back from him until next year. Once I get all his input, I will make the appropriate corrections, write a second draft, and hand it over to my wife for proofing.

She will fix my grammatical goofs and correct my sentence structure. This process can take upwards of a month or more primarily because my wife does not really care much for science fiction. But, bless her heart, she sticks to reading it and will help me turn the final product into a professional book.

As a final check, I will send the book to a fan in Germany. His second language is English and he has been able to find and point out mistakes that everyone else has missed. While all this editing and changing is being done, the first draft will also be passed to my cover creator. She will read the book and based on what she reads will create a cover. The cover creation process will itself go through several iterations until we have the final product.

Finally, the book will be formatted for Kindle (ebook) and Createspace (print version) and uploaded for release to the reading public. The day before, the final version will be electronically submitted to the United States Copyright Office where my book will be officially copyrighted.

As you can see, even though I'm a self-published author, it still takes a team of people working together to create the final product. Sure, I could do it all be myself. But the end product would be a lot poorer quality. I owe it to my readers to produce the best book possible published and formatted as if it came from a major publishing house. Doing that takes many people each one with their own special talent. Without them, I would be just another average writer.

In between all this, I plan on fixing up the rest of my existing books with corrected interior formatting and new covers. I also need to update my website. A writer never sits idle.


Just writing

Peacekeeper Pathogen now stands at 73,394 words with an estimated 2 chapters to go. The end is in sight! After it's finished, I'll be sending it to Lee Dilkie for his take on the overall story. While he's reading it, I'll be taking a short break from writing to update my website and possibly start working on updating the covers and formatting for the Dragonverse series. Once I have his input, I'll begin the editing phase.

When I sat down to write this post, I thought I was very conflicted about what to write about: Should I talk about how it looks as if our society is becoming less tolerant and common courtesy is not something people are taught anymore? Should I talk about the rising threat of your electronic life? Or should I say something about how losing privacy might not be such a bad thing after all?

In the end, I decided not to talk about any of that. We live in an increasingly depressing world and I want to talk about happier things.

Sales are up. I attribute this to using Amazon advertising. A friend of mine (also self-published) heard I have been doing well and asked me to explain how I did it. His sales are also on the rise. Amazon advertising works as long as you know how to properly use it.

We had our first real winter snow starting on December 9th. It caused a large stretch of interstate I90 to be closed due to several multiple-car pileups and bad conditions. I've used the snow blower 4 times since then to clear mine and my neighbor's driveway. In fact, it's still snowing now and we are looking at snow turning to rain turning back to snow for today's forecast. Lovely.

I will say one thing about your digital security. A large majority of people who use computers, cell phones, and tablets are not well-versed in how to protect them properly. People should be educated on how to use these devices properly. They should all come with instructions and warning concerning how you can lose everything you store on these devices. The warnings should also indicate how vulnerable you become to those who understand the technology better than you do.

To help those who read this post, I highly recommend purchasing MalwareBytes 3.0. Use this in addition to a good anti-virus program. Make sure you keep your computer up-to-date and stay on top of the latest security threats. Don't turn off the automatic updates for products such as Adobe Flash. A recent security flaw was uncovered in Adobe, so make sure you update. Be vigilant with your internet presence and always remember that anyone anywhere can be seeing what you post on public sites.

Time for me to finish installing updates on my computers and then get back to writing.


Writing a Series

Peacekeeper Pathogen now has 68,279 words. I have two or three chapters left to finish (by my seat of the pants estimate) and that puts the final word count at around 75,000. Not as much as I would like, but a good start. As I close in on the end, my notes of things I need to go back and fix is starting to grow. Most of it involves having to add stuff. But, if the book turns out to be 75k, then it's 75k. I'm not going to add scenes and chapters just to fill the space between the covers. That's what turns a good book into a boring book.

Writing a Series
If you are a new writer, here's a piece of advice: Keep a detailed historical log of what happens in the universe you've created. This applies even if you don't plan on writing a series because your single-story book might very well turn into a series. Plus, having a historical record helps you keep your facts straight. It's very difficult to remember when something happened, who did what, and who was where when, in a complex story that takes place in multiple locations over a long period of time.

I've lived in the universe of my Galactic Alliance series since I was in high school. I actually had a fairly detailed technical reference manual before I became a writer. It's changed over the years, but I had a good place to start. Chroniech was the first complete novel I ever wrote. I finished it while at sea in the Navy back in 1988. I wrote it using WordStar on a CPM machine. The printed version was retyped into a program I no longer remember the name of running on a CPM computer built by my dad. It was moved from machine to machine, translated, retyped, and converted as necessary until it was finally sent to Amazon as my first book in 2009. In between all that time, the book was modified and edited many times. I got to know it very well.

While working on what would become Chroniech, I built up an elaborate history and set of facts for the Galactic Alliance. I turned my Galactic Alliance Technical Reference Manual (GATM), into a collection of facts and then a timeline. I've kept it current ever since and I refer to it very often. Today, I use Aeon Timeline to track the timeline of the entire Galactic Alliance series. So what's in the GATRM? have a look:

  • Distances from one planet to another.
  • Names and descriptions of all the member races.
  • Cultural information associated with the various races.
  • Important dates and events.
  • Details concerning the major vessels.
  • Descriptions of weapon and defense systems.
  • Details of many of the main characters.
  • Other bits and pieces of interesting information (such as converting joules to kilotons).
Having all this information in one location has been a huge help in keeping the facts straight over the years. If I say its xx light years from Earth to a specific planet in one book, it had better match in the others.

I had the GATM on my website at one time but it changes too much for me to continually upload it. One of these days, if I ever decide that the series has worn out its appeal, I will finalize the GATM and make it available.

Writing a series is tough. You have to keep facts, names, places, dates, and all sorts of stuff consistent. If you don't, a sharp reader will point it out! Even though I have the GATM, there are times when I must go back and look at past books to verify a fact.