Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 2, 2011

End of NaNo, but not the novel

Well, National Novel Writing Month is over, and I finished.

So, 51,187 words of the first draft of "Threat From The Past" are now done. That's the fastest I've ever written anything, and it was a tone of fun. The novel isn't finished yet, and that's what I'm working on now.

I'm guessing it will take a couple of weeks or so to finish the very rough first draft. After that, I'm going to do some more editing on "A New Threat". There's some plot points that desperately need some sanding. ;) After that, I'll start on the second draft of the second book. I want to get both of these books polished, then I'll have them up for sale.

More tomorrow (or possibly Monday...) of my thoughts on what it was like to write that much that fast.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Update on "Threat From The Past"

This will probably be my last post for the month... but it will update everyday and show how I'm progressing on writing the next book in the Guardian Chronicles.


Total progress (toward the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words):

My progress over the month:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo... so far...

So far, so good. I need at least 1,667 words a day to get to 50,000 by the end of November. So far, I'm averaging 1,800 and some.

And now, for the not so boring part... what I've written so far. Enjoy Chapter 1 of Threat From the Past.

(Disclaimer: This is a first draft. There are LOTS of mistakes, as it hasn't been edited at all. The final version may not resemble this draft at all.)

Threat From The Past

Aaron DeMott

Chapter 1

Evelyn walked down the hallway of the transport. She wanted to run. The transport had arrived late at it's destination, the Alpha Centari Space Station. Evelyn had just graduated from UGAL Academy and was supposed to start her first assignment as the backup helm officer of the UGAL Goddard.
Running in the crowed hallway, however, was impossible. There were about two hundred people on board the transport, and it seemed like all of them were disembarking at the Alpha Centari Space Station. It wasn't like the Goddard was going to leave without her. There were actually a few other fresh graduates on transport that were assigned to the Goddard too, if Evelyn remembered correctly. She didn't see any of them now, but then about the only thing she could see was the backs of everyone in front of her.
Evelyn crowded her way toward the side of the connecting tube and looked out the window as she slowly shuffled along behind everyone else. She could see the white arms of the station spreading out from the central hub. Most of them had various space craft docked at them, and every once in a while a ship would leave, or a new one would come in and dock.
As the central hub for transportation, the Alpha Centari Station was one of the busiest ports in the galaxy. Most of the ships looked like mining ships or cargo vessels, but there were a handful of transports too. Evelyn didn't see the Goddard docked at any of the arms, or any other cruisers for that matter. She wasn't really surprised though, she could only see part of the station where she was.
Evelyn finally reached the airlock at the end of the gangplank tube. She pressed her hand against the reader set into the wall beside the door, and proceeded forward after it beeped and turned green.
The crowd was starting to thin out a little here, as some people headed into the central hub of the station, and others headed off down side corridors. Evelyn headed over to a free access terminal and scanned her palm.
"Computer, where is the Goddard docked?" she asked.
A schematic of the station came up and showed the path from her current location to docking arm four on ring seven. She stared at it for a while, memorizing the route she would need to take, then took off down one of the corridors on the far side of the hub.

There was a short line of people, all in blue UGAL uniforms, in the docking arm leading to the Goddard. Both doors of the airlock were open, and she could see the gray of the Goddard's hull at the other end. Two armed men in dark red marine uniforms were standing at either side of the airlock door.
"What?" Evelyn blinked. A girl with brown hair and blue eyes was staring at her. "Oh, hi. I'm Evelyn. I didn't catch your name, sorry."
"That's okay. I'm Abigail." She giggled. "Don't worry, they're not letting anyone board until everyone's here." Abigail looked around and lowered her voice. "Don't worry, you're not the last one."
"Oh good! I was worried, my transport's departure was delayed."
"Could be worse," Abigail said, rolling her eyes. "I got dropped off two days ago. There is NOTHING to do on this station!"
"Two days ago?" Evelyn raised her eyebrows. "There wasn't another transport before then?"
"Well, I couldn't afford anything except cargo class, and you can't really choose your schedule that way..."
Evelyn raised an eyebrow. "What, did you have to ride in a cardboard box?"
Abigail giggled. "We're going to get along great! Actually, I'm transferring from another ship, so I'm lucky they could drop me off here that soon."
"Oh!" Evelyn peered at the rank tab on Abigail's left collar. "Sorry Lieutenant."
"Hey now! None of that, it's lieutenant, junior grade, actually, so I barely outrank you. Don't make me order you to call me Abigail."
Evelyn laughed. "Okay, I'll..."
She was interrupted by a knocking sound from up ahead. A man with black hair in a commander's uniform was standing in the airlock.
"If I can have your attention please," he said. "It looks like everyone's here now--"
Evelyn glanced back over her shoulder and saw a few more people were in line behind her. She recognized some of them from the Academy.
"-- we'll go ahead and board the Goddard and have a brief orientation," the commander continued. He turned and entered the ship, nodding to the marine on his right.
The marine waved everyone forward. One at a time they each stepped through the airlock. Evelyn finally got up the ship and stepped through. She placed her hand on the scanner just inside the door, then waited for it to beep before she followed the others through the inner airlock door and into the ship.
A large room was on the other side of the airlock. The commander was standing in front of a door at the far end of the room. Another officer was sitting at a table piled high with equipment in front of him. The other new crew members were standing at attention in rows about a meter away from the table, facing the commander.
Evelyn quickly stepped up next to Abigail. She saw Abigail wink at her out of the corner of her eye.
The officer sitting at the table pushed a button, and a recording of a boatswain's whistle played.
"My name is Commander Neil Dennings, first officer aboard the Goddard--" He was interrupted by a short alarm, and the sound of the airlock door closing.
"As I was saying," Commander Dennings said, "The Captain would be here to greet you, but we've just received an emergency distress call from a mining freighter, and we're leaving immediately to respond, as we're the closest UGAL ship. Anyway, you've each been entered into the ship's computer when you boarded. In a moment, you'll be asked to step forward and receive a Goddard patch for your uniform, and a Multiple Function Communication and Computer Access device, or comm for short, which is used just as it's full name implies. Please keep it with you at all times, on or off duty.
"Also, you should be aware that the Goddard is equipped with a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence named Eliza. Feel free to ask her anything you need to know. Again, I apologize for the brief orientation, and I look forward to getting to know all of you over the coming days."
The Commander saluted, then turned and left the room.
"That was by far, the shortest orientation I've ever heard of. I think I like emergencies."
Evelyn turned and started a Abigail. She wasn't quite sure if she was serious or not. She shrugged and got in line to get her comm unit.
After playing with most of the options, she looked up and saw that most of the others had left already. She looked around for Abigail, but didn't see her. She didn't recognize any of the others who hadn't left yet, so she headed to the door and stepped out into a hallway that had the same gray walls and beige floors as the room she had just left.
"Lovely color scheme," she muttered, looking up and down the hallway. She pulled out her comm unit and pulled up a schematic of the ship, but it didn't seem to have a 'you are here' function, and she wasn't quite sure which airlock she was standing outside of.
"Hmm." she stared at the schematic for a moment or two longer before she remembered the ship had an A.I..
"Eliza?" she asked the open air. She wasn't sure quite how to interact with it, but she assumed it would work something like Gail, the prototype A.I. that the Guardians had been testing four years ago.
"Yes, Ensign Mills, what can I do for you?" a pleasant-sounding voice asked.
Evelyn looked around. She didn't see anyone. The prototype A.I. had projected a hologram whenever you activated it.
"Um, you can call me Evelyn. And do you have a holographic avatar?"
A full-color hologram of a red-haired woman that looked to be about her age, and wearing a UGAL uniform appeared in front of her.
"Yes, I do, but most people prefer just the voice interface most of the time. It can get kind of distracting, having people pop in and out when you're trying to work you know."
"Yeah, I bet in can. Anyway, this says I'm supposed to drop my stuff off at my quarters and wait until the next shift before reporting for duty."
"Oh, okay, how can I help?" Eliza asked.
"Well, I'm not sure where my quarters are."
"Oh, that would be a problem! Let's see..." Eliza leaned over Evelyn's shoulder and looked at her comm unit. "Ah, there you are, follow me, and I can lead you right there." Eliza turned and walked off down the corridor.
Evelyn started at her for a moment, then ran to catch up. "Do you have to read my comm unit to know where my quarters are?"
"Of course not." Eliza turned and smiled at her. "But it's just a bit creepy if computer knows everything, no?"
"Hmm, I suppose so. Um, I'm not taking up too much of your time, am I?"
"Let's see," Eliza pulled a comm unit from her pocked and checked it. "Fusion reactor to monitor, logs to record, sensor readings to monitor, holy bit-buckets! I've got a whole ship to run!" Eliza cocked her head at Evelyn, a hint of a smile tugging at her lips.
"Thims had fun programing you, didn't he?" Evelyn asked.
Eliza stopped. "You know Thims?" she asked.
"I've met him once or twice. He's pretty busy though, so I didn't see him that much."
Eliza looked up at the ceiling for a moment. "Oh, that's right, you worked as a page in the Guardian building."
"Yup. But how'd UGAL end up with a smark-alec A.I.?"
"Well, apparently," Eliza lowered her voice, "Captain Trenton got to interact with Gail during her prototype testing, and he specifically requested 'not to have a fuddy-duddy computer.' And, well, you know Thims..."
"Yeah," Evelyn said, laughing.
"Oh, here we are."
They stopped in front of a door that was identical to all the other doors along the corridor. Evelyn looked up and down the hallway and tried to remember how they had gotten there. They had taken at least one lift up a few levels, and made a few turns around identical looking corridors...
"I've taken the liberty of turning on the location feature on your comm unit," Eliza said. "So it will show you where you are now. Also, if you look closely, the hallways are labeled in itty-bitty print at each junction. Or, you can always ask me for directions until you get to know your way around. Don't worry, it won't take as long as you'd think."


Evelyn took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and pushed the button that would open the bridge door.
"Ensign Mills, reporting for duty," she said as she approached the first officer.
"Welcome aboard Ensign. I know it's in the regulations, but as long as there aren't problems we're not so formal on the Goddard." The Commander smiled at her as he walked with her toward the front of the bridge. "You can go ahead and relive Ensign Smith at the helm."
"Yes sir, thank you sir." Evelyn saluted him then stepped forward to stand next to the helm.
"I'm here to relive you sir," she said.
Ensign Smith tapped a few more buttons on the helm before he looked up at her.
"She's all yours," he said with a grin. "First day on the job?"
"Yes sir," Evelyn folded her hands to try and hide her nervousness. "I'm fresh out of the Academy."
"Ah. Well, you've got nothing to worry about. Actually flying a Hiem class ship is a lot easier than the simulators make it out to be." He stood and saluted her before leaving the bridge.
Evelyn sat down and looked over the controls. They were actually identical to the simulators, with the exception that rest of the bridge was here too. The helm simulator at the Academy was just a tiny box with the navigation and helm console in it.
All operations appeared to be normal at the moment. They were currently traveling at hyper plus five -- the ships maximum speed. No warning lights were on, and nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. Ensign Smith was right, this was a lot easier than the simulator.


Evelyn collapsed into her bunk after she got back to her quarters at the end of her shift. Fortunately, her roommate had taken the top bunk. She felt too tired to climb up there right now. Nothing had gone wrong during her first shift on the bridge, but that didn't stop her from worrying that something might.
A quick cat-nap made her feel much better. She looked around the small room and wondered who her roommate was. She hadn't bothered to check the ships register yet. The mystery person seemed to be rather clean, as their quarters weren't dirty or messy. That was nice. She had shared a room with her sister back home, and also had a roommate at the Academy. Both of them were... messy. Clean was nice for a change.
"Eliza," she asked, "Do you have any of my personal computer files from SatNet loaded locally?"
"Hmm," Eliza sounded like she was thinking about it. "Let me see here... Not there, hmm... one moment... there! I do now!"
"Thanks Eliza. Can you play a random track from my classic electronica collection, please?"
As the first notes thumped out, Evelyn leaned back in her bunk and pulled up the ships operation manual on her comm unit. In theory, every ship used the same operations policies, but in practice, each ship tweaked the protocol to fit its Captain and circumstances.
She jumped when the door opened.
"What in the name of Custer's cat is that?" Abigail stood in the doorway, shouting to be heard over the music.
"Sorry. Eliza, kill the music."
Abigail flopped into a chair across the room from Evelyn.
"What was that?" she asked, "Did the intercom break, did you get stuck monitoring deep-space background noise with faulty equipment?"
"Sorry." Evelyn slouched down in her bunk. "It's old music that used synthesized sounds to create the melody. I know not that many people like it, I wasn't expecting anyone."
"Ah." Abigail dug at her ear with a fingernail. "Well, I got off shift early. I was excited about having you for a roommate until I heard that noise."
Evelyn groaned and hid her face in her hands.
"What's wrong?" Abigail rose from the chair and sat down next to Evelyn on the edge of the bunk. "I didn't mean to offend you..."
"No, it's not that that," Evelyn looked up and smiled at Abigail to reassure her. "I just feel like an idiot... I didn't bother to check the roster to see who my roommate was. I'm glad it's you too."
Abigail laughed. "Yeah, it's nice get stuck with someone you know... most of the time. Did people really use to listen to that stuff though?"
"Well, not many. It was most popular around the twenty-first century, but it was never the most popular music style."
"I can see why." Abigail stood and stretched, then went back over to her chair and started taking her boots off. "How'd you end up misfortunate enough to discover that.... genre... anyway?"
"Oh, Tomed got me hooked on it when I was working at the Guardian building. Hey, do you want to come help me get lost trying to find the mess hall?"
Abigail glared at Evelyn. "You would ask after I got my boots off! Hang on..."
She pulled her duffle bag out of the closet and rummaged through it, finally coming up with a vacuum packed bag. Abigail flourished it triumphantly and pulled the plug. A pair of bright pink slippers shaped like bunnies popped out. Evelyn stared at them in shock.
"Those are so cool!" she finally blurted out. "You, um, wouldn't happen to have another pair, would you?"
Abigail grinned wickedly. "I was so hoping you'd ask," she said, pulling out another package and tossing it to Evelyn.
Evelyn squealed happily as she pulled her boots off and put the slippers on.
"Okay, I'm ready," she said. "Let's go!"
Abigail took a step toward the door and paused mid-stride. "Actually," she said, holding up a finger, "We should change. Wearing awesome slippers won't get us into trouble. Wearing awesome slippers with our uniforms, even while off-duty, though, just might."


Evelyn stared at the positional readout. She was back on-duty on the bridge, and they were approaching the last known position of the mining ship that had issued the distress call. Since this was a pre-programed destination, Eliza should automatically drop the Goddard out of hyperspace, but it was her job to keep an eye on things just in case something went wrong.
The indicator blinked yellow and showed a one minute timer that was counting down to zero as they approached their destination. When the timer hit zero, the indicator flashed green and the ship gave a slight shudder as the magnetic field generated by the hyperdrive engines was powered down.
"Captain, we've arrived at the last-known location of the mining freighter," she announced.
"All-stop, full scan. Let's see if we can find them."
Evelyn glanced around the bridge. Various officers who's names she didn't yet know were busy at their stations. She made sure that the controls were showing an all-stop condition, and, more importantly yet, no error codes.
"Sir," Ensign Materton, who sat at the navigation station next to Evelyn, said. "I'm picking up an ion trail. It's strange though, it's very heavy, and headed straight for the fourth planet in the system."
"Alright, let's go check it out." Captain Trenton stood and came up to stand behind her.
Evelyn entered the destination point that was sent to her from the navigation station, and double-checked it. "Course laid in, Captain," she said.
"Engage engines."
The inertial dampeners all but eliminated any sense of movement as the ship surged forward, accelerating to it's top sub-light speed. An hour later, Evelyn brought the ship into a standard orbit around the planet.
"Full sensor scan," the Captain ordered.
"Sir, I'm detecting debris on the planet."
Evelyn looked up. Lieutenant Whatshisname was staring at the sensor station with a puzzled look on his face.
"Sir," he said, "this is weird. The debris on the surface is definitely the mining ship that sent the distress call, but the ship is mostly intact. It almost looks like someone dissected it."
Captain Trenton went over to stand behind Lieutenant Whatshisname. "Looks like the ion trail is outgoing too. The atmosphere has a polarized trail all the way down to the surface."
"Yes sir. I'm still analyzing it to attempt to figure out what happened."
"Good work, keep me posted."
Evelyn whirled her head back to her console as a dozen different alarms went off at once. A quick look showed that they were being pulled down to the surface. Evelyn entered a course to abort orbit and engaged the engines at full power.
"Instruments show that we're going down to the surface," she said, "trying to confirm."
"Confirmed," Ensign Materton said, "We are losing altitude."
"Engines at full output." Evelyn was having flashbacks from some of her less than happy turns at the simulator. "Locking in emergency power. Navigation, let me know as soon as soon as we're clear of the gravity well so I can bring the hyperdrive online."
Whatever was trying to pull them down to the surface was now also pulling at them from several different side angles, making it something like trying to steer through a cross-current. Someone down in engineering had to be shutting down just about every other system system on the ship, as they were managing to put a little distance between themselves and the planet.
Another sideways pull came out of nowhere. Evelyn fired thrusters in the opposite direction, trying to keep the full power of the engines on gaining distance from the planet.
"We're out of the gravity well--barely," Ensign Materton said.
Evelyn hit the button to engage the hyperdrive. Nothing happened. Well, almost nothing, The controls were showing that the magnetic field was forming, but about a quarter as fast as it should.
"Helm, status report," the Captain asked.
"Uh, hyperdrive magnetic field is slowly coming up to density. Controls show no malfunction. It's almost as is something outside the ship is affecting it." Evelyn thought she felt something akin to a Guardian trying to contact her mind. She brushed the feeling off and concentrated on her readouts.
"That's not good. Captain to engineering, give me everything you've got, and then some!"
The ship was starting to shake now. The hyperdrive continued to power up, and there speed picked up, a large bump announcing every little moment of acceleration.
"Hyper plus one," Evelyn said, relived that they seemed to finally be getting away.
Something exploded behind her, and the smell of smoke filled the bridge. Evenly checked the hyperdrive again. It was set to hyper plus six, and the power output from the reactors was well above redline. They should be going much, much faster.
Damage reports about hull breaches and systems outages were being called out behind her, but Evelyn tried to concentrate on adjusting thrust to compensate for the random sideways pulls, which were fortunately becoming less frequent. Evelyn had tried earlier to have Eliza compensate for those fluctuations for her, but she just got a flashing 'Function not available' message. She hoped it was just because the A.I. was busy with something else.
Eventually, the shaking stopped, and the speed and power readouts stabilized.
"Sir," she said, "Helm now reads normal."
"Navigation also normal," Ensign Materton said.
"Alright, bring us out of hyperspace."
Evelyn shut down the hyperdrive and watched the MHD as the colorful swirling of hyperspace was replaced by a normal starfield.
An alarm immediately rang out.
"Sir," Evelyn said, "We're moving backward."
Ensign Materton looked over at Evelyn. "Right back to that planet."
"At what velocity?" the Captain asked.
"Precisely--" Evelyn glanced at her readout, "--Five KPH and rising."
"Re-engage the hyperdrive, let's put some more distance between us and that planet."
"Yes, sir," Evelyn said, pressing the appropriate controls.
Evelyn kept an eye on the hyperdrive's power consumption. So far, it looked okay.

An hour later, Captain Trenton leaned over her console and stared at the display for a while.
"Anything funny with the readouts, Ensign?" he asked.
"No sir, everything's been within tolerances since we went back to hyperspace." She looked up at him. "Sir, permission to give an observation that has nothing to do with my station?"
"Well, back there when we were in orbit, I thought I felt something kind of like when a Guardian tries to contact you telepathically. Only this was... different... somehow. I don't know exactly how to explain it, but I thought I should report it anyway."
"Not just me then..." Evelyn had to strain to hear the Captain.
"Sir?" she asked.
"Thank you for the report, Ensign. I think I might have experienced the same thing. Drop us out of hyperspace again, and if we experience any drift, re-engage immediately."
"Yes, sir."
The Captain turned and headed to the back of the bridge. "Major Hood, report to my office please," he said as he left.
A few minutes later he was back.
"Status report, Ensign."
"I dropped the ship out of hyperspace, as ordered sir. Drift was from the same vector as before, zero point two one KPH."
Evelyn folded her hands in her lap to keep them from shaking. Whatever was happening, it wasn't good. She looked up at the Captain and waited for orders.
"Helm, drop us out of hyperspace. Navigation, plot a course to Zin. Engage at the fastest speed Engineering will let you." The Captain returned to his command chair and pressed a button. "Bridge to Engineering: You've got five minutes to make as many repairs as you can, then we're going to need as much speed as we can get out of the hyperdrive."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Update for NaNoWriMo

I should have said this last time...

I mentioned that I'm doing the National Novel Writing Month thing for the first time this year. What I didn't mention was what I was writing. I'll be working on a sequal to "A New Threat", titled: "Threat From The Past".

We'll see some recuring characters, as well as learn more about the Guardian's past...

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Novel in a Month??

I'm going to try National Novel Writing Month this year.

This should be interesting, as I usually only write when I get free time between work and family, my usual writing time for a first draft is around four years. (Well, it was four for the first one, and it's been about ten months for An Uwanted Apprentice at 34,000 words so far...)

I'll post my progress here in November, and we'll see how I do! I'll also post excerpts, that should be interesting....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why you need reviewers

I've read my draft of "A New Threat" at least six or seven times. Every time, I spot a minor typo. Until, one day when I thought I'd found them all.

Then I had someone who hadn't read the story before, and hadn't heard any of my thoughts as I was writing read it. And of course, more typo's were found.

In one of the climatic scenes near the end, the bad guy gets caught. Something bugged me about this, but I couldn't figure out what. Everything was in there, it made sense, and yet...
I had a few people read it, and they all liked it, then the above mentioned reader read it, and pointed out something. What I read what was pointed out, I said "THAT'S IT!" (Just like Charlie Brown in "A Charlie Brown Christmas"....)

Looking at it now, the problem was obvious... I'll post the old version of the scene, and the new version once I get down re-writing it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

10 Tips To Help Your Writer Friends

Do you have a friend who's a writer? Do you want to encourage them, but don't know how? Here's ten things you can do to help:

1. Read their work.
This one seems obvious, right? Writers love to have people read their work and give their perspective on it. Most of the time though, people read something, and the writer gets comments like "I love it!" That is helpful, somewhere deep down, every writer worries that what they've written is crap, and it's nice to know that at least someone else likes it. What a writer is really looking for though, is why you like it, or why you didn't. Do the characters sound real? What do you like about them? Does the plot seem feasible? Does something feel "off" about it, even if you aren't sure what? That sort of thing.

2. Give them time to write.
For best results, just like anything else, writers need to write at least a little everyday. Sometimes, it's hard to squeeze the time in. Writing time also needs to be distraction-free. It's hard to explain this, but when you get in the zone, and the muse is good to you, the story just flows. This doesn't happen often. Most of the time, writing is hard work, each word has to be carefully pulled and considered. The worst thing you can do to your writer friend is to interrupt them when they are in this writing trance. Once interrupted, it's almost impossible to get it back. It's worse when your writer friend is trying to edit. He's trying to keep whole chapters in his head to see if he dropped a plot-line somewhere, and then the train is derailed and all he can think about is the grocery bill you just asked about. Now he has to start over from square one and re-load that whole chapter, and try to find the one word he was worried about among the 100,000 or so other words in the book.

3. Remind them to write.
This one goes hand-in-hand with number 2. Writers love to write, but sometimes it can be hard, the words just won't come. Dealing with that is a whole other post, but basically we just need to work though it. Encourage your writer friends to write. Ask what happens next, comment on what you think the characters would do. Writers love it when they've done a good enough job to get people wrapped up in their imaginary world. Keep reminding them to work on it... polietly!

4. Help them avoid distractions.
This again goes along with 2 and 3. Writers these days just about have to blog and maintain a facebook page, and half a dozen other activities to let other people know they exist, and that they might want to read this book.... but that's only helpful if the writer remembers to write the book too.

5. Recommend their book.
If your writer friend has a book published, recommend it to your friends.... as long as you think they'd like it. I've seen posts on the net from agents and book reviewers both that primarily deal with just one or two genres, and they apparently get asked to review books outside of those categories all the time.

6. Be Honest...
Even if your writer friend is a family member, be honest with them. Don't be afraid to tell them if you don't like something, or if you just don't think a concept will work. Don't worry about sparing their feelings, if they're trying to get published, agents and editors will be much more critical that you'll ever be.  If the bad is never pointed out to a writer, they can't get better...

7. ...but be nice while being honest.
Honest feedback is very necessary, but remember to include what you liked along with what you didn't, or put in possible suggestions to how to fix what you think might be wrong.
When a writer writes, he often bares his soul in the writing, don't rip it out.

8. Take your writer somewhere.
If your writer friend is stuck, take him somewhere, like a walk in the park, to the local mall, anywhere that might inspire creativity. Places with people to watch are good; watching people can help if a writer is struggling to get a character's mannerisms just right. Places with inspiring scenery are good too.

9. Make sure he reads a lot.
It's been said that good writers are good readers. One of the best ways to learn is from the best. A writer could learn about writing from a professor who's never published a book, or they could read a best-selling author and see how that author handles a situation that they are having a problem with.
So, if you read a good book, and see a situation similar to one that you're writer friend is having a problem with (whether they know it or not), recommend the book to them.

10. Be Supportive
If your writer friend submits anything, they'll get a rejection at some point. That's one thing friends are there for, right? ;)

Share more in the comments...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cover design prosess for A New Threat

A day or two ago I talked about titles, today, we're talking covers. Specificaly, how I came up with the current cover for A New Threat.

I knew I wanted a planet on the cover, since most of the story takes place in space. It also lets potential readers know right away that this is a sci-fi story.

I stumbled upon (literally) this site, that had a tutorial for making planets in GIMP:

Using that, I made a planet and basicly slapped a title over it. This was just a placeholder:
I didn't like the white font though, looks too sterile and plain. So I made it yellow and added the series name:

This looked better but still a little "blah". Also, the proportioning is wrong. (Sadly, I didn't even think of this until I loaded the book into iBooks and saw it looked weird...)

For version three, I fixed the sizing issues. I also decided to show only part of the planet, and make it fill the cover. The effect I'm going for here is a similar look to one that you'd get looking out the viewer of an orbiting spacecraft.

At this point, I had friends at The Anomaly look at and comment on it.
Several issues were pointed out. Mostly some spacing issues with the various lines of text, and also that "Meskka" looks funny. I'd applied a text effect to it, trying to make it "pop", but...
At this point I tried out a few suggestions:

For those tests, I fixed the font spacing, and tried out a darker font color.. I didn't like it...
At this point, I also had a discussion about the title. You can read about that in the last post.
And so, the current cover was born:

I might make some more changes yet. I'm thinking about adding some illustrations of two of the characters superimposed over the planet, but I'm not really an artist, and I'm not sure if I really want to do that or not.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Choosing a Title

Choosing a title for a novel is hard. Well, it is for me.

I called the first book in the Guarding universe "Meskka" for quite a while. My thinking on this went something as follows:
The series on a whole is about the Guardians, with more being revealed about them and their history over the course of several books. Each book will be about something else in the same universe, with some of the same characters and some over-arching plot lines tying each book together.

So, the first book in the series was about the Meskka, thus, "Meskka" for a title. The only thing I didn't like about this was that the title just by itself didn't tell you much about the book. Sure, it'd make sense after reading the book, but the title should say something by itself to someone who's glancing at titles on a shelf. There's also the danger of having a made-up word for a title, it really doesn't say anything. Some readers don't care, and some will browse right past them.

I played around with several different titles looking for one that I liked the sound of, fit with the series title (The Guardian Chronicles, Book 1), and described the book. Some examples of the brainstorming process:
"Cats of Alkask" (I thought "cats" was somewhat misleading, and it didn't sound good)
"Allies of Alkask" (I like, except one of the very minor plot points is "are the meskka going to be allies or not?" this title kinda ruins that, or at least creates the impression that it does.)
"CATS IN SPACE!" (I wasn't serious about this one at all, but it popped into my head... too many muppets....)
"A Strange New World" (This one kinda sums it up, but it's already taken ;) )

I didn't really love any of these. Then I thought about it from another angle. I wanted the title to fit in with the rest of the series, and I'd already thought of a title for the second book in the series, "Threat From the Past". Thinking about this gave me the title, "A New Threat" for the first book, that sums up a few different plot lines in this book. I like it, and people I've ran it past seem to like it too.

Anyone else have title tips to share?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New cover for "Meskka"

I re-did the cover for Meskka a little. Mostly made the planet and title bigger. What do you think?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Point of View

I've left Meskka alone for several months while I've been working on An Unwanted Apprentice. I've decided to go back and re-read it. (Every writing book and published author reccomends doing this after you're finished.) It's a good thing too. I've found several point of view errors that I somehow missed before. Also, I've found a few scenes that I wanted to re-write to do more showing instead of telling. Also, I added a viewpoint scence for Bast during the battle on Alkask. On re-reading it, I found it really strange that this battle is taking place on Bast's homeworld, yet we're in Tomed's viewpoint for most of it. So I added a viewpoint that shows what Bast was doing, and what she was thinking about the process.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

epub: Hyperlinks in ePub Books

I also have a site at where I talk about how to make ePub files by hand. I'm going to do some blog posts here with bits and pieces about the ePub format that don't fit in the guide. I thought this might be of interest, since I've almost decided to self-publish.

Anyway, today's topic, links in ePub files.

I've gotten a few questions about how to do links inside of ePub books. This question is both easy to answer, and complicated.

The easy answer is: Just like you would in a normal web-page. This is complicated by the fact that the ePub specification does not give any usage guidelines on how to handle links.

iBooks, Stanza, and Adobe Digital Editions all handle it this way:

If you have an eBook with two files in it, say, "chap01.xhtml" and "chap02.xhtml", and they are in the same sub-folder in the zip file, adding a link is easy:

<a href="chap02.xhtml">Link title here</a>

Put that code somewhere in the chap01.xhtml file, and it'll jump you right to it. This is handy if you want to include a Table of Contents, or link to annotations or something similar. (Yes, if you use the TOC.ncx file, the ePub book will have a Table of Contents, but only through the menu. If you want one to show up as part of the book when you're paging through it, you have to make a separate page with links.)

Also, note that all links in ePub files are relative links. If your folder structure looks like this:

  - title.xhtml
  - chap01.xhtml
  - annotations.xhtml

You can link between title and chap01 by just using the filename, not the full path. If you want to link from chap01 to annotations.xhtml, your link would have to look like this:

<a href="../extras/annotations.xhtml">link text</a>

(Please note that while you can put files in different folders like this, it's not recommended.)

Linking outside of the book can be interesting. The standard link:

<a href="">Link</a>

works in iBooks, Stanza, and Digital Editions. I'm not sure if it works in others, due to limited testing ability. (I don't have a Sony Reader or Nook.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Top 9 things you MUST mention if you write a Star Trek SCE book

I've been reading the Star Trek: SCE books lately. (Starfleet Corps of Engineers)
I love them, they're so nerdy even most Star Trek fans probably don't even like them (yes, that's a generalization that I've done no research on...).

One thing that has popped out at me is the number of cliches specific to this series (yes, some of them are on purpose referencing other Star Trek cliches.)

So, just for fun, I present the top 9 things you MUST mention if you write a Star Trek SCE book:

1. P8 Blue's "specially designed chair" -
This phrase must be used at least once per book, as entered. preferably, it should be used anytime a character goes anywhere near the briefing room.

2. Hawkins has to get hurt -
Hawkins is a member of the security team. This is actually a referance to redshirts on TOS getting killed off all the time. He gets at least a bump on the head in every novel.

3. Captian Gold has to use at least one Yiddish word.
This one actually makes sense, but it still counts...

4. Beat the reader over the head with Bart Faulwell's homosexuality -
Sensitive topic for some, most authors beat the reader over the head with it with all the finesse of a Klingon.

Bonus Points:

5. Sneak in a mention of Core-Breach's family axe -
If you do, you MUST quote the full text of the inscription.

6. Mention Gomez spilling hot-chocolate on Captain Picard at least once -
they've gotten better at this as the series has progressed, but at the beginning it was in EVERY novel.

7. Only Scotty's seventy-year out-of-date knowledge can save us!

8. Soloman talks in binary code, the other characters marvel -
for extra points, recount again for the reader how he got his nickname

9. Beat the ship up so badly that in real life they'd scrap it... then fix it all up for the next book

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What was I thinking?

I've been at a tractor show for the past week, and when I got back I sat down to start writing some more (I know, I could have, and should have been writing AT the tractor show, but that's a different matter...), and thought, "What was I thinking?"

The last sentence I had wrote was:

"He hoped the Natas weren't here. Or, if they were, that they could at least get luck before they had to face them."

I have NO idea what I meant. Obviously, there's a typo in there somewhere. I'm going to blame the iPad's auto-correct for replacing whatever word I meant to write with "luck". I'm still not sure what I meant to write though...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A good excuse... um, er, reason for not posting much..

Okay, it's a lame excuse, but I found this list of myths about introverts interesting:

I'm surely an introvert myself.

How does this apply to writing? It's easy sometimes to make all the characters do what you would do in a situation, but that doesn't feel real, and would make a boring, flat story.
In Meskka, for instance, Tomed and Bast are extroverts, and Nilre is an introvert. Rrrark is more of an introvert, but he can be outgoing if he has to be.

In An Unwanted Apprentice, Kendra and Alenk are introverts (it's a bit of a cliche to have a collage researcher and student be introverts, but that's a different topic...) Tannin is definitely an extrovert... and not just because he won't shut up. ;)

That's just one of the fun things I like about writing, exploring different personality types.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Busy season...

I'm back from Washington.... okay, I've been back for a while. August is a really busy month. Both of my day jobs are keeping me busy. I just got back from the steam show in Mason, MI, and week after next I'm going to the Gas Tractor show in Oakley, MI.

On a sci-fi note, NPR has a poll where you can vote for your favorite sci-fi and fantasy books.

What are yours?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

On a cross-country train trip...

My wife and I are taking Amtrack across the country to go to her sister's wedding. Coach fare is cheaper than airfare, and we'd never traveled on a train before.

You got to see a lot of the countryside when traveling by rail, much more than you see on a plane. You also spend a lot of time in the train. Our trip is taking four days. We couldn't afford a sleeper car, and I've confirmed again that I really need to be laying out flat to get a good night's sleep. My Dad would love it though, he sleeps in a chair anyway, and he's fascinated by trains.

We've also learned something interesting things about the train, such as the speed limit for passenger trains in the U.S. is 79 miles per hour. Also, some of the windows come apart to serve as an emergency exit. They say "caution: steep drop". Yeah. We're on the second story of the train. I'm pretty sure I'd bread a leg if I had to get out of the train that way.

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? I've seen the following bit of advice on many different writing sites: Get as many different experiences as possible, because it immensely enrich your writing if write from experience. Even in fantasy and sci-fi, something that is relatable, and sounds like you know what your talking about will suck the reader in. conversely, something that doesn't ring true will halt the story, as the reader says "Wait, no way!"

I think I'm going to put a train in the book I'm working on now...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


OK, here's an excerpt from "An Unwanted Apprentice". Please bear in mind that this is a first draft, so it's full of errors. Hopefully, it'll make you want to read more...


The wind eventually died down, and Creina opened her eyes. One of the men was laying face down on the bridge, the other was standing next to him, sword drawn and scanning the horizon.
The clouds had dissipated and the weather was now back to normal for a springtime afternoon, except for the light mist covering the river. Creina strained to see through it, but couldn't make out the opposite bank. It slowly dissipated, leaving the surface of everything around them damp. It seemed to be taking a long time to clear as far as the other shore. The young woman who had helped her out of the river jumped up from where she was crouched in front of her, and the air around the two of them stopped rippling.
"The other bank," the woman said, pointing, "it's not there."
Water stretched back beyond where the opposite bank had been. A large crater was further inland, and the river was slowly filling it.
"So much for this ford." the young man with the sword said as he stared at the crater. "What happened?"
The woman bent down and felt the unconscious man's neck. She sighed, in relief, Creina thought. Apparently he was still alive.
"Alenk used a spell," the woman said.
"What?" the young man glanced down at the other, Alenk, the girl had called him, then back at the crater. "I've never heard of one powerful enough to do.... that!" he said, gesturing at the remains of the riverbank.
"Excuse me..." Creina said, her voice coming out barely above a whisper.
They both turned to look at her.
"Oh no!" The woman whirled around and rushed over to her. "I forgot all about you! I'm sorry! I'm Kendra, this is Tannin, and the unconscious one is Alenk."
She cleared her throat and forced herself to sound not as afraid as she felt. "Will he be okay?"
"Oh, he'll be fine," Kendra waved a hand dismissively at him, "he just used too much energy."
"Pardon me," Tannin interrupted, "but how shall we address you, miss...?"
"Creina," she said, "My name is Creina. And... what just happened? Are you wizards? Are we in Rogim?"
Kendra looked over at Tannin.
"Those two are Wizards," he said, "I'm a knight of Rogim, and we are currently on the border. I'm not quite sure what happened myself."
"Good," Creina took a big breath. "If you're a knight, you're just the person I need to talk to. The military recently executed the king and took over, they're looting the countryside, and plan on invading Rogim."
"It's worse than we thought then," Tannin said, glancing at the carriage still parked farther back along the trail. "We should warn the capital immediately."
"Yes, but the fastest way to do that is to wait for him to wake up." Kendra said, jerking a thumb back at Alenk.
At that, Alenk moaned, and slowly sat up. "What hit me?"
"Class one restricted battle spell from the second dynasty, I believe." Kendra said.
Alenk looked at the crater. "Oh."
He was silent for a moment then looked over at Creina. "Are you okay?" She nodded.
Kendra quickly filled him in on what Creina had told them.
"I'll let the the Council know about it." he said, and walked off into the forest.
Creina wasn't quite sure she wanted to know how he was going to do that. She'd heard stories about wizards. She'd never met one of course, it'd been years since anyone in Caradan had seen a wizard. So far, the two in front of her weren't what she'd expected. If one listened to the Natas, wizards were mean, evil creatures with pale skin, black hair and even blacker eyes and a black soul and cruel heart to match. These two were about as far from that stereotype as you could get. That didn't exactly surprise Creina though, from the way a Natas mystic changed the subject every time someone asked about wizards, she gathered that the two groups had some kind of disagreement in the past.
The other stereotype description of wizards that she'd heard stated that they were kindly old crones who traveled the countryside preaching about some strange foreign god and practicing magic to try to convert people to their belief. Creina didn't give much credence to either view; both sounded like they had been watered down over time by many different people--none of whom had probably ever actually met a wizard.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Well, the website is back up. I have to do some more stuff behind the scenes to make sure it stays that way...

Also, I've done a little more writing in An Unwanted Apprentice. I have a scene that I just wrote in Kendra's veiwpoint, and I went back and changed it to Criena's. I think it works much better that way. Normally, I don't do any editing until I'm finished with a first draft (all the experts tell you it works better that way too...) but as I was thinking about where I wanted to go with the story, it needed to be from Criena's point of view before I could continue on.

Friday, May 27, 2011


It's been one of THOSE weeks. And yes, the rest of the site is down... trying to get it back up...

In writing news, I've done a little more work. We're coming up to a battle scene shortly... I hope to have an excerpt up tomorrow or so...

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Title for "A Wizard of Arade"

I've finally come up with a better title for "A Wizard of Arade".

An Unwanted Apprentice

So what do you think?

I think it captures more of the opening of the book, and I think it sounds more compelling as well. I've decided on the series name of "The Land of Arade" (yes, there will be a sequel or two, as well as more books set in the same land.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Have a "Galaxy Quest" mentality

A couple of encouraging things today, both for me, and for any other aspiring authors out there who might be reading this.

A quote from Ira Glass:

"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through."

. . .

It takes 10,000 hours of practice, and you'll become an expert at anything you really work at.
More here:

Oddly enough, it's encouraging for me to hear things like this, and that Brandon Sanderson wrote 13 different novels before he got one published.

Why does this encourage me? After reading all the odds of getting published, it's nice to here at least somewhere that hard work will be rewarded. Oh, and the title of this post? One of the quotes from the movie Galaxy Quest: "Never give up, never surrender!"

Friday, May 6, 2011

Christian Fantasy?

Today I want to talk to you about Christan Fantasy. No doubt some of you are thinking, "What?", some are thinking it's all bad, and some love it.
I want to talk about three things today:
  • History of modern Fantasy
  • Is Christian Fantasy any good compared to regular fantasy?
  • Is Fantasy good for Christians to read?

First, I want to say that I hope my writing is enjoyable to everyone. That said, every authors writing is influenced by how they think about things. Many writers put a deliberate message into their works, and some don't, but you can still see how they think based on what they write. My writing has a deliberate Christian message in it, hopefully not the kind that says "I'm better than you, quit doing all that wrong stuff" (sadly, there are lots like that). I'm aiming for more the "God loves you, and their is hope and purpose in living" kind of writing. How can the Fantasy genre do that?, is the question many ask.

History of modern Fantasy
There's tons of more detailed sources on the web, so I just want to gloss over this. You'll see why later in the article.
First, what is fantasy?
Fantasy books generally have magic as some kind of plot element, and take place in a fictional world. It's very similar to science fiction, except magic is often used instead of scientific or sudo-scientific explanations for the imaginative goings on.
Fantasy as a genre has it's roots in various fairy tales, modern fantasy started with the work of George MacDonald. It really didn't become popular until the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were published.

Is Christian Fantasy any good compared to regular fantasy? 
Why ask this? Because the general opinion among readers is that materials created strictly for a "Christian" market are of lower quality.
To counter this point, I'd like to point out that both Tolkien and Lewis wrote about Christian themes in their work (Lewis more-so...)
I'd also like to point out the works of Stephen Lawhead.
Sadly, these are about it for christian fantasy. There are a few others that very few have heard of. This leads into our next point.

Is Fantasy good for Christians to read?
One reason there isn't much christian fantasy is that there is an opinion among some that the fantasy genre is "evil".
See the link below for a summation of this position:

To sum up that position, the Bible says magic is evil, and so we shouldn't have anything to do with it at all, period, even if it's pretend.

Obviously, I don't agree with this position. (Since I write fantasy and all...)
I think there is a difference between "magic" in the real world, and "fantasy magic"

First, the Bible does say that magic is evil: Acts 8:9-25; Acts 19:19; Rev. 9:21; Eze 13:18; Rev 21:8; Rev 22:15; Lev 19:26; Isa 3:3; Eze 13:23; Mar 3:22; Jer 27:9;

So if magic is evil, why is it OK in fantasy? We need to define magic here:
1. the art that, by use of spells, supposedly invokes supernatural powers to influence events; sorcery
2. the practice of this art
3. the practice of illusory tricks to entertain other people; conjuring
4. any mysterious or extraordinary quality or power: the magic of springtime
5. like magicvery quickly
Reading that definition, and then the verses were magic is used in the Bible, we see a few things:
  • Magic is either fake power, or comes from the devil
  • Practitioners thereof attempt to control or do something without God
So how is this different from magic as used in fantasy books?
Quite frankly, sometimes its not.
In christian fantasy, however, magic is either used as an analogy for God working through someone, or power is given from God, to accomplish his goals.

I'm going to pause here a moment. Go read 1 Corinthians 8:1-13.
Some people have a big hangup about the word "magic", and can't see it as anything but evil. If this is you, I think that Fantasy as a genre is not for you. If you know someone with this opinion, I'd say don't try to talk them out of it, and don't try to get them to read fantasy.

So to sum up, I don't see anything wrong with "magic" if it's using the bottom three definitions from above, or if its an analogy or allegory for God's power.
Where do I find in the Bible that analogy and allegory are okay?
Jesus taught in parables all the time: Luke 5:36-39; Luke 6:39-45; Luke 8:4-15; Luke 10:25-37; Luke 12:13-21; and many others... (John Chapter 7 has some interesting and macabre metaphors...)

What about supernatural things happening in the Bible (People using God's power to accomplish things that could be seen as "magic"), can such things really come from God?
Luke 11:14-23; (Most of Exodus); Joshua 3:15-17; Joshua 10:12-27; and, some of my personal favorites: 1 Kings 17:1 - 2 Kings 8:15

In summary, I think reading and writing fantasy is fine as long it's done in the right way, for the right reasons.
If you're not a christian and reading this, I hope you've found it interesting anyway and that you'll find a few new good books to read.
If you are a christian and reading this, I hope it's helped you in some way.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Magic Systems in Fantasy

Magic of some sort is a staple in Fantasy books. If you've read a lot of fantasy (and I'm assuming you have, or you probably wouldn't be reading this blog... No, wait! Don't leave!) you'll notice that there's always a system to the magic, certain rules that it has to follow. The literary reason for this is there would be no conflict, and thus no book if any and every problem could be solved in a *poof*.
Lots of writing sites talk in depth about this, so I want to outline the magic system that I'm using in A Wizard of Arade.

(By the way, if anyone reading this has a better idea for a title, please share it in the comments...)

Magic in the world of Arade isn't the same as the magic found in most fantasy books. Religion is a major part of the book,  and the magic system is tightly integrated into it.
A Wizard is someone that Ard (an analogy for God in the book) has given the ability to manipulate the natural world. (A person can also get power from evil-- that will come into play later in the book.) This ability is limited by two things: an individuals energy, and their knowledge about what they're manipulating. (If I did my job right, this is all explained in the book as part of the story..)

So in this case, if someone is very tired, or doesn't know how something works, they either can't use magic, or can only do very limited things with it.

Yes, I know, this an awfully sc-fi way of dealing with a magic system, but hey, I like sci-fi and fantasy. ;)

If any of this sounds interesting, you can read the first draft of the first chapter... there's a link over to the left.

Tomorrow (hopefully...) I'll talk about Christian Fantasy...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How not to handle bad reviews:

First, I know everyone is posting this, but still...

Wow. I promise myself and any readers I might have that I will never handle a bad review like this:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Writing excuses...

Wow. I haven't posted in a while.
It's one of the things you read all the time, writing excuses and how to overcome them, work interfering with life...

My problem is that I get very passionate about a particular hobby, and really immerse myself in it for a while, then move on to another hobby, and so on. Eventually, I always get back to each of them. The nice thing about doing this, is that I have many fun hobbies, and I don't get bored of them. The problem, is that things take FOREVER to get done. I've done the math, if I push myself, I can easily get around 4,000 words done a day. Taking weekends and various lengths of books, planning, etc, into consideration, and I should be able to finish a very rough draft in six months, no problem. Yet, it took me about three years to finish Meskka.

What I need to do is stop thinking of writing as a hobby, and more like a part-time job. (It'd be a great full-time job, but one step at a time...) As part of that, I'm going to work at posting more excerpts as I go along in the draft, and see if I can get some nice people to pester me in the comments if I don't post them frequently :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

DRM is Bad.

Presenting the Readers Bill of Rights:

The Readers' Bill of Rights for Digital Books:
1. Ability to retain, archive and transfer purchased materials
2. Ability to create a paper copy of the item in its entirety
3. Digital Books should be in an open format (e.g. you could read on a computer, not just a device)
4. Choice of hardware to access books (e.g. in 3 years when your device has broken, you can still read your book on other hardware)
5. Reader information will remain private (what, when and how we read will not be stored, sold or marketed)

More over at:

And now, some thoughts on why I, as an author, am against DRM.

First, I'm a reader too, so knowing what makes me frustrated as a reader, why would I want to deliberately inflict that on someone else?
There's a lot of talk about whether it's better to get money from every copy, or "languish in obscurity" because no one knows about you. My thought on this, is that it depend on how popular an author one is.

If an author is selling a lot of books, they don't have to worry about people finding out about them. Word of mouth from happy readers will do that. On the other hand, if they aren't selling many books,  people are much more likely to try an unknown author for free that to pay for a book they've never heard of.

I've also heard read about authors who've thought this way, tried it, and changed their minds.
All of that is only a side issue for DRM though. Some pirates use the above to justify stealing books. I don't agree with that. I think it should be the authors choice whether or not to give out a free book. I think almost every publisher and author would agree with me on that point.
And so, most publishers encode their books with DRM to "stop piracy". Only it doesn't work. All DRM is easily hacked, or will be soon enough. All it really does is anger pirates, who then, out of a twisted sense of morals, have a personal grudge against the publisher; and irritate readers, who don't understand why they have to buy three different copies of the same book to read it on their Android, iPad, and Kindle.

As an author, I'd a lot rather people have an overall positive experience reading my books. And while it'd be nice to think I was still in print (now I'm being optimistic! ;) when the next technology comes along, that's most likely not the case.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What I'm Reading for Read an e-book Week

For read an e-book week, I'm reading: "The Last Pendragon" by Sarah Woodbury.

I don't remember where I got it, but it's available at smashwords here:
(Also at the Amazon and iBooks stores, and Barnes and Noble, etc)

It's a historical fiction/fantasy book about ancient Wales, set a few decades after the King Arthur times.

I'm only a few pages into it, and I'm already hooked on the characters. Characters are what really drives a story for me. I've mentioned before that no matter the plot you come up with, someone has done it before. This is part of the reason why I like character driven stories. The other part is the characters are who you really identify with and care about.

Anyway, go check out the book, it's really good. Also, read a sample chapter or two from my books, links are to the right...

Happy Read an eBook week everyone!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Excerpt from "A Wizard of Arade"

Some of what I'm working on right now....


Alenk peered over the top of a small ridge to look into the valley below. The trees in the valley were cleared away, leaving a maze of stumps and kindling covering the valley floor. The cause of the destruction was apparent; an orange dragon the size of a small inn sat in the center of the valley, snarling and spouting flame at something hiding behind the remains of an oak tree. As Alenk continued to watch, an arrow flew out from behind the stump and hit the dragon in the neck. It roared in pain and as it reared up on its hind legs a young man raced out from behind the stump. He slashed the dragon’s leg, and ran back to the stump, rolling behind it just as the dragon bent back down to flame at its assailant.

“We should probably go help him,” Alenk whispered to Kendra as he slid back down out of sight of the dragon.

Kendra popped her head up over the ridge for a quick glance.

“Yeah, before he gets himself killed.”

“Well, I doubt he’ll be killed,” Alenk said as he pulled her back down, “And try to be a little quieter please.”

“Oh, yeah, sorry,” Kendra whispered, “And how do you think he’ll NOT be killed?”
“Well it’s just not that serious of a threat.”

Kendra stared at him for a moment. “What do you mean ‘it’s not that serious of a threat.’ You’re kidding, right?”

“Well, there will be some serious injuries sure, but look at them.”

“Exactly, they’re severely mis-matched!”

A loud roar interrupted them. “Did that sound closer to you?” Alenk asked.

Kendra slapped a hand over her mouth and nodded.

“Well, in that case I’ll go save the dragon before he really gets himself into trouble.”

Kendra stood there with her mouth open as Alenk climbed over the ridge.

“Wait!” she finally managed to say, “What do you mean save the dragon, what about that knight that’s about to get barbequed?”

Friday, February 25, 2011

More to come....

Busy, busy, busy lately.

This weekend, I'll hopefully have some time to write. If I do, I'll post an excerpt of what I'm working on for A Wizard of Arade. (Also, if anyone has ideas for a different title for it, let me know!)

Oh, I don't know if I mentioned this or not, but has a contest where you can enter your novel and the top prize is an edit by Del Rey's chief editor, and possible publication!
I entered Meskka, and we'll see what happens!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Reading Euphoria

As I said in my last post, I'm reading Mistborn.

I haven't had enough time to read lately...

Reading is one of life's greatest pleasures. I feel pity for those who prefer TV for "the visual richness".

For me, reading is so much more than mere words on a page, it's more like stepping into a holodeck from Star Trek, especially when reading a realy good author.

Most people these days don't seem to understand this. I'm not quite sure it's something one can be taught.

Anyway, the point is, that a good author doesn't let writing get in the way of telling a good story. A good writer uses words to make the story come alive and allow you to effortlessly play in their "holodeck", instead of impressing you with their prose.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Listen to the Pros...

In many of the editor/agent/etc. sites and books, they say that little stylistic errors and such can get your manuscript rejected before they're even finished reading it.

At first glance, this seems harsh. There are probably lots of really good stories out there that just need good editing.

I do see the point though. This was recently driven home for me when I was reading a book I downloaded from Feedbooks.

The characters yelled, interjected, objected, muttered, whined, complained... I got to page four before I found the word "said".

On top of that, there were perspective shifts, paragraphing issues, and more.

... I was unable to continue. That's a rare thing for me. Most of the time I can cringe and move on for the sake of the story. Not this time, which is a shame, because it might be a good story.

I was reading "Self Editing for Fiction Writers" at the time, and that little example drove home a point about just how important paying attention to the details can be. (Yes, I knew that, but re-enforcing it can sometimes be a good thing.)

So, I quit reading that book (I'm not mentioning the name... I don't want to hurt someone's feelings...) and started reading "Mistborn" by Brandon Sanderson... wow, now there's some good writing...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Where do you learn all this? OR How do you know that, you're not even published yet?

Today I thought I'd post some resources that I used/am using to learn about the publishing industry. Post more in the comments if you know of some more!


The First Five Pages, by: Noah Lukeman
Self Editing for Fiction Writers, by: Renni Browne and Dave King


Agent and Publishing stuff:
Nelson Literary Agency Blog
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (oddly enough, many places recommend to join the author guild for your genre, but you can't join until you're published...)

Writing Stuff:
Author, Author (They have some publishing stuff too.)
Grammer Girl
For the Love of Writing

Also, check the web page for your favorite author, they often have good stuff there.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Why the website and all when the book's not out yet?

No one's really asked me yet, but I imagine at least a few of my thousands of readers (boy, do I have an imagination or what....) are wondering something like "Why not wait until after your book is published and people have read it to have a website and stuff on the books?"

Or, if no one's wondering that, I'm going to tell you anyway, because it's either this or another boring word count post...

Well, for one, sci-fi apparently isn't selling big right now. Despite that, sci-fi is what I love most, so that's what I write. I also know at least a few people who like sci-fi, so I want to know if anyone else is interested in what I'm writing.

If the book gets published, I'll have at least a few people eager for it to come out, and make the initial sales numbers better.

Or, failing that, I know I'll be able to sell at least a few copies if I self-publish. (And no, I'm not going to stop writing if the book doesn't sell. I'm having a blast doing this, and absolute worst-case scenario, I've got a fun hobby.)

I think getting people excited (hopefully...) about the book before it's available is just good marketing. Apparently, I'm also not alone in this, as this post over at Lit Coach says.

And that's coming from a successful literary agent, so I must be at least close to the right track.

Coming up next (day, week, soonish...): Where does someone new to writing with no industry connections learn all this stuff?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Inspiration, Part 2

I've talked a little bit about inspiration in the past, but since I don't have anything else interesting to say at the moment (I could go into detail on the process for where I'm at in A Wizard of Arade, but right now it's just getting characters from point A to point B without being boring, and trying to work in some character development while doing in so as not to make the process boring and pointless) I'm going to talk about some specific ideas and where they came from today.

Anyway, more on where I get a few of these ideas.

The interesting thing about ideas is that different people can get the same idea at different points, as is the case with today's two examples.

One concept I love from both fantasy and sci-fi is a way to instantly transport people from one place to another. It's a fun idea to play with, and makes the plot speed up too. I've loved this idea since I was a little kid.
My brother and I would play with our action figures from an early age. We started out with Batman, Wolverine, and a stuffed orca and dolphin. We had fun both telling stories with these characters, and challenging each other with ways to explain how two characters from vastly different universes were interacting, and have it make sense. Even at around age eight or so, I think we did a better job then almost all of the cross-over books of any kind I've ever read.

Probably the weakest link in our imaginary universe was that the dolphins and whales were from Pluto... that led to a whole new set of story and continuity challenges once we took elementary astronomy.  Long story short, the dolphins were incredibly technically advanced, and one of their devices was called a Water-wall. It worked EXACTLY (down to effects and all) like a Stargate, with the exception that the dolphins could project the wormhole anywhere within a certain range. Imagine our shock when about ten years later we saw our idea in the Stargate movie, and later in Stargate SG-1.
I'd always intended to use this idea in another story at some point, but now had to modify it, or people would think I was just ripping off Stargate. (I will admit our idea may have been influence by the Iconian Gateway fom the Star Trek The Next Generation.)

Another device the dolphins in our imaginary universe had was a Sharkbuster belt. It featured the familiar fantasy plot of a small pouch that can hold an endless number of items. We thought, again, that we'd come with that idea on our own, but I've since seen it in a number of places, both older and newer than us. ;) (We did have a system all worked out for how it worked, basically a pocket dimensional portal...)

I 'm also re-cycling this idea in A Wizard of Arade, but trying not to focus on it for much other than comedic effect or convenience, since it isn't such an original idea after all.

So that's where two ideas come from, and an illustration of how ideas can not be so original after all. They say to read a lot before one writes, and this is one example of why. Knowing what's been done before can challenge you to stretch your imagination. "There is nothing new under the sun," but it's sure fun finding new ways to tell old stories.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Quotes on writing

I read a quote by C.S. Lewis a while ago that perfectly summed up how the writing process works for me. Unfortunately, I can't remember it. So I tried to look it up, and found a few more quotes on writing that I thought I'd share.

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.  ~Toni Morrison

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.  ~Mark Twain

What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he's staring out of the window.  ~Burton Rascoe

Ah-ha! I've found the quote I'm looking for:

"With me the process is much more like bird watching than like either talking or building. I see pictures. Some of the pictures have a common flavor, almost a common smell, which groups them together. Keep quiet and watch and they will begin joining themselves up. If you were very lucky (I have never been so lucky as all that) a whole group might join themselves so consistently that there you had a complete story; without doing anything yourself. But more often (in my experience always) there are gaps. Then at last you have to do some deliberate inventing."

That's more what the writing process is for me.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Making up words?

I read an article the other day about making up words in sc-fi books. I don't remember where I read it... wait, found it:

Anyway, the author of the article was strongly against making up fake words for ordinary things just to make it sound science-fictiony. To a point, I agree with her for the reasons she lists, but it got me thinking. Now, she does have a disclaimer at the top of the article, and that's kind of where this post is going... in a round-about way...

Specifically, when she mentioned calling something "klaa" instead of coffee.  I hit a mental speed bump right about there. For those who have not read Anne McCaffrey's Pern series, stop what you're doing right now and go read Dragonflight.

There's a good reason "coffee" is called "klah" on Pern. That makes it OK then, right? Apparently it does (to me at least) for two reasons:

1. Anne McCaffrey is a best selling author and has won just about every sci-fi writing award there is.
2. It fits in with the story. If they had coffee on an alien planet, that'd break suspension of disbelief more than a funk word would throw me out of the rhythm of the story.

I think the point the article is trying to make though, is that one should think very carefully before just making up a bunch of random words. Famous authors can get away with things that would get an un-known author tossed out of the slush pile. And sometimes it just isn't necessary to put in a made-up word when a regular word would do just fine.

Or possibly I'm just defensive because I have some made-up words in my writing... ;)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Short Story Submitted

I got my short story back from the last reviewer a few days ago. I learned a lot about commas....

Editing has now finished, and it's been submitted to the Writers of the Future contest. So I guess I'll be nervous about that for a while now, until results are announced.

After the contest is over for the year (hopefully), or if my story doesn't make it to the next round (hopefully not), I'll post it on my website.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

Yup, the title pretty much says it all. Not much going on in writing land today.

I have one more person going over my short story before I send it in to the writing contest. My wife is still reading through Meskka before I send that out to agents.

I'm working some more on A Wizard of Arade. At some point I should really think up something more than just the working title, but nothing comes to mind. As to where I'm at in the writing process, I'm just past the plot catalyst now. The dragon has been dealt with, and our friends are about to start the real adventure... lucky them... :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Short Story

I'm still working on the query letter for The Guardian Chronicles, Book 1: Meskka and getting ready to send it off to agents.

I'm also working on a short story set in the Guardian universe, set long before the events in the book. I wrote it a while ago, and it kinda got shoved to the back burner. I'm now working on finishing it, and plan to submit it to the Writers of the Future contest. After the contest, win or lose, I'll post it to the website to read and download for free.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Manuscript Guidelines?

I've been looking all over the web for a nice list of how one's manuscript should be formatted to send to agents and editors. I can find parts of the rules everywhere. Most agent's sites have a tiny blurb with either the most important things to them, or a brief summary, or, most common, formatting specific to them.

I finally found a post at the Author! Author! blog that has it all, all in one post:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Query Letter

OK, here's the pitch paragraph from my query letter for Meskka, what do you think?

When an alien ship lands unexpectedly in the middle of her clan's territory, Bast is sent to investigate as part of her scout trial. After accidentally injuring her paw, she meets these new visitors. She and her senior scout Rrrark are invited to return with the aliens to their home planet to open diplomatic relations. What started out as a simple diplomatic mission is soon complicated when they discover a pirate scheme that might be more than it seems. Only herself, Rrrark, and two of the aliens called Guardians that have strange powers different from the others are capable of stopping the pirates.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Map of Arade is up...

I have the map for Arade posted now,

go check it out!

The map is just a rough draft, it's just done in pencil for now, and since I'm only a few chapters into the first draft there isn't much detail yet. More details will be added later.

Also, if you love fantasy, check out the preview chapter from "A Wizard of Arade"!

(Do remember that it's a first draft, so there are lots of spelling and grammatical errors and the content may change drastically before the final version.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

4th draft done!

I just finished making corrections to the fourth draft from comments from two of my reviewers.

Now, to finish working on that query letter...

Also, coming up in the future: a sample of the fantasy book I'm writing, and some info for it on the website.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A new map

I made a preliminary map today for the fantasy book I'm writing. I also changed the working title to "A Wizard of Arade" because too many things were sounding the same. (Not that I expect this particular working title to survive all the way through anyway, but I do plan on keeping the world name.

I'll post the map here after I've done some more work on it. Right now it just has basic continent shapes and the two town names that exist so far.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I'm still here!

I had a good holiday season with my family. I didn't get much writing done, but I had fun.

I've been working on A Wizard of Aarde and am now on Chapter 2.

Still waiting for reviewers to get back to me on Meskka. And I've been working on the query letter for it.