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2018-02-25

Feelings

The editing of Collision Course is slowly proceeding. I'm making some minor plot changes and a few corrections to how my characters are developed. The ending will also need to be revised. These changes will result in a slightly longer book which is fine by me. I have also received the first pieces of possible artwork to be used for the cover. My cover artist has given me a tough choice this time and once I have a few minor changes made I'm going to be shopping the pictures around to see which one people like the best.

I will be going to the Cleveland Concoction Convention which runs from March 9th until March 11th. All of my books will be on sale and I will be sitting on three panels (all on Friday). When I'm not sitting on a panel, I will be found either wandering around the rest of the convention or parked in the hotel bar getting some writing and editing done. I decided to get a room for the first night since my last panel ends at 9:00 PM and it's about an hour drive home. Now, if someone wants to chat after the last panel, I can do so and not have to worry about the long drive home.

Sales have been okay. Back in 2009, when I self-published my first book, I was thrilled when I sold my first book. That thrill continued for every sale especially when I had more than one in a week. As you can see, I set my expectations pretty low back then. Sales began to pick up until a miracle happened in 2011/2012 and I was selling books so fast I could have updated the counts every hour and seen a change. Sales then began to slowly drop until they've steadied out at their current levels.

When you've had a run where you were selling tens of books an hour, you tend to raise your expectations and lowering them is very difficult. Book sales are what authors live for. It's why we sacrifice the things that others take for granted and spend all our free time writing. It's a rare author who can say they make a living writing. Most of us have other jobs that provide our main family income. When the sales began to drop, so did the thrill of writing. But, for most writers, sales don't always remain high. So, I've lowered my expectations to more realistic numbers and I'm happy again.

Last year at Launch Pad, I met an author who has become very successful in the romance field. She has made enough in her sales to afford to pay for a professional translation of her books into German. I am human and, of course, I envy her sales. But, I am also truly happy for her success. Not everyone can have such success. Ann Leckie, an award-winning science fiction author whom I've also met, recently posted a series of tweets concerning how authors feel about their fellow authors. I can't quote the entire text here (mostly because I can't find it) but the gist is that authors must acknowledge they have feelings and will feel things like envy towards their fellow writers when they are nominated for awards and you are not. It's perfectly natural and part of what it is to be human. But being envious should not prevent one writer from also feeling good about another writer's success. We are complex beings and often have to deal with complex and conflicting emotions. How we deal with them is a reflection of who we are as a person.


2018-02-18

Editing and revising

I have started another editing pass on Collision Course and I believe I have a plan to address some of the issues identified by Lee Dilkie, my content editor. I might not be able to address all of his concerns, but I can at least fix a few of them. Collision Course is a unique book as it's a mixture of science fiction with a hefty splash of fantasy. The fusion is hard to do correctly. After this second editing pass, the book will be in the hands of my wife who will check it for grammatical errors. If all goes well, it will be available for publication sometime in May.

While I was thinking about how to fix the story, I was continuing my studies of JavaScript. I've been reading a massive book titled JavaScript: The Definitive Reference. I've finally gotten to the point in the book where the author is talking about JQuery. I've known for some time that JQuery is a powerful library for JavaScript and I've always planned on making use of it. I now know just how useful it can be and I will most definitely be re-writing my website using this powerful tool.

As a long-time professional programmer, I also realize there are standards and best practices that have become part of the language. Even though it is possible to write code that works, that does not necessarily mean you've written the most professional looking code possible. I reached out to a JavaScript programmer and received some good feedback on my coding. As in my writing, I have no problem with receiving constructive feedback from people concerning how I do things. That's how people learn.

There's a huge difference though between constructive feedback that's meant to teach and destructive feedback which is little more than ranting and raving. For example; Say a reader believes an author's character development is a bit weak. The overall story, though, is a good one. A proper feedback would point this out and provide some constructive feedback such as "I would have liked to have gotten to know Mary a bit better". Another reader might just say "The character development in this novel is terrible". A writer can learn from the first but will disregard the second as being offensive.

This sort of constructive feedback applies to all aspects of our lives as well. The problem is, people become offended and their first reaction is to lash out at the person who offended them because they feel that person is being deliberately offensive. In some cases, this is probably true and such people should be ignored. They are doing it to provoke a fight and will not listen to constructive feedback. In many cases, however, the person might not realize he or she is being offensive. This can be due to the person's cultural background or simply a lack of knowledge.

A recent example was the use of a Christian cross to honor the students killed in the recent Florida school shooting. Many of the students were Jewish and the use of the cross is considered offensive in the Jewish community. I'm sure the people who placed those crosses were not trying to be offensive. The reactions from some members of the Jewish community, however, were swift and damning. They blasted the crosses and condemned those who placed them there. This doesn't help solve the problem!

The correct response would be to point out that the use of a cross was offensive and politely ask that they be removed. Those who placed the crosses should apologize and then immediately respond to correct their error. They should then take the opportunity to understand why the cross is considered offensive so they don't repeat their error. Ignorance can't be helped because nobody can know everything. But when ignorance is pointed out, it should be taken as an opportunity to learn. Ignorance has become a bad word and it should probably be replaced with something with fewer negative emotions attached to it such as "lack of knowledge".

Humans are a diverse people with thousands of different cultures. It is not possible for a single person to know everything that everyone will consider as being offensive. If you're visiting China and someone gives you the middle finger, don't explode and start flinging a string of four-letter words back at them. In China, the middle finger is used to point because pointing with your index finger is highly offensive.

Humans need to become more aware of the fact that not everything everyone does that's offensive to one person is done in an effort to actually cause offense. They might just not know any better. Politely correct them. If they refuse to learn, then they are being offensive on purpose and then it's okay to lambast them. Tollerance should be practiced first.

2018-02-04

Collision Course Feedback

The person who creates my cover art reported she very much enjoyed reading Collision Course. My content editor had a slightly different take on the book. He enjoyed it, but he wanted more. So, I'm going to spend a few days (or maybe a few weeks) trying to come up with some ideas on how to improve the story. As of this moment, I'm coming up blank. I know what he's after--I just don't know how to get there. But, I've been in this situation before and just letting things simmer in the old gray matter for awhile usually produces unexpected results. In the meantime, I'm hitting the JavaScript hard.

There is a huge difference between knowing and understanding a complex computer language. I started off programming using the original BASIC in high school. I eventually learned Z80 assembler. Neither of these was much of a challenge because of their simplicity. I then learned C back when DOS 3.2 was king. C was a bit of a challenge but because I had started with assembler it wasn't long before I was writing complex code in the new language.

My next language (if you can call it that) was a database programming language called DB2. I developed all sorts of applications while in the Navy and was involved in modifying and upgrading a DB2 program that was used to manage a group of retirement community apartments. When I started work at my current place of employment, programming was set aside as I had nothing to program. But, the itch to write code is just as bad as the itch to write and I found myself learning VBA in an ancient version of Microsoft Access (2.0 if I recall). After many years, I've become very good at VBA programming.

Now, I'm trying to learn JavaScript. The problem with this language is you need to have a very good knowledge of HTML and a lot of CSS in order to make sense out of it. Compared to the other languages I've learned, JavaScript is a very different sort of beast. I'm nearing the end of a massive book on JavaScript and I can now read a lot of the code I see. But actually understanding how the code functions is something I'm finding difficult. JavaScript is nothing like any other language I've ever used before. I have the book knowledge, but translating that into actually understanding what the code is doing is proving to be a challenge.

I have hand-coded my website and it does have a chunk of JavaScript powering the equations. But I'm sure a professional JavaScript programmer would have some unkind words to say about how I wrote the code. The transition from novice to professional programmer is going to take a lot of work. It's sort of like reading a book on how to drive a car. If you've never driven a car you can have all the knowledge possible but I would not recommend getting behind the wheel unless you have someone else there to guide you. There is a difference between knowing and understanding. Understanding comes with experience. When you can do something, or look at a piece of code and understand at a glance how it all works, then you can say you understand. That's where I want to be.