Less Than Random Thoughts From a Science Fiction Author and Generally Good Guy [ Fawkes ]

Saturday, January 31, 2015

I Can Learn!

I started writing in about 2000 and began writing seriously in 2007.  For the first few years, I podcast what I wrote on Podiobooks.com, but lately I'm focusing on indie publishing.  Anyway, after four full novels, two half done books, and many short stories, I have to admit that I have finally learned my lesson.  Either that, or I have learned to suppress my Polish heritage and cry uncle.  Either way, my future writing will be more pain-free.

What struck me?  Thanks for asking!  I have learned that while I may be a good writer, I am not a good editor or formatter.  Not surprising, in retrospect, but there it is.  I spent literally days trying to figure out how Smashwords or Creatspace wanted a document formatted for each book.  After child-birth like efforts, I produced acceptable or marginal product.  Recently, it occurred to me to check and I found out I can afford to have someone do it for me!  In a day or two, someone who likes formatting and does it perfectly zips my book back with a ribbon on top.  Of course, caveat emptor.  The price range is fairly insulting, so I had to find someone willing to work for a fair price, but they are out there - thank goodness.

More painfully to ego, I have discovered that, with zero doubt whatsoever, I am a terrible editor. My their and there's stay scrambled, along with my your and you're's (I know, I probably abbreviated that wrong, but, hey, it's my blog!  I can even say its my blog if I want!!).  For my last two books I tried as hard as I could to catch all my mis-edits, and it turns out I left enough to choke even a patient reader.  The problem - or issue - with hiring an editor is that it can be very expensive.  A standard novel cannot be proofed for less than $250 and a more typical rate is $500+.  Fortunately, I don't need story editing - ie, help composing the story and keeping names consistent - otherwise the price doubles.  In the indie world I find myself in, I have to weigh the minimum costs of around $350 for production versus the small amount I'm likely to make.  Fortunately, I can afford the ticket, but not everyone can.  Then again, it is hard not to afford the cost if you are going to release a poorly prepared book.

Ah well, welcome to the brave new world of authorship...

Thursday, January 29, 2015

An Epiphanette

Okay, maybe it's not a real, actual word, but I just had one.  I mean, it was nothing along the lines of an epiphany, you know, when one is struck with a revelatory life-changing notion or insight.  No, it was a little nudge from behind in the right direction, designed to make my life easier - no doubt - but not radically different.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while will have noticed that I tend to whine and grumble about the public at large's acceptance of the marginal and mediocre.  Similarly, I'm always pointing to horrible drives and asking my wife - who is very tired of my observations in this regard - how can anyone be so stupid as to drive like that.

Well, I'm over all that!  An epiphanette epiphanetted me [oh, and now he makes his phony noun into a transitive verb.  Someone get a net!].  I finally realized that, though we are all created equal in the eyes of the law (another subject for another time) we are most certainly not all created equal in the eyes of the Nature.  So are fast, some not fast.  Some are tall, some not tall.  Some are wise, some, ah, less wise.

Bottom line: if you want to eat In-And-Out Burger or Five Guys fries and marvel at their wonder, when, in fact they are lousy, hey, be my guest.  I'll even open the door for you.  If you want to read Maze Runner or watch network reality shows and say they are fine entertainment, so be it - knock yourself out.  Until they pass a law making me watch any CSI, Naked and Afraid. or Psychic Detectives, it's all good with me!  In short, I will no longer worry about the different taste other people have - yes, that's a nice euphemism - different taste.

Seriously, I have realized that we all come at life from different angles with diverse baggage, so I will worry about what resides - hopefully - between my ears and I will monitor closely what I allow in to my brain, but, aside from that - well, unless asked specifically for my opinion when it comes to matters of taste - you're on your own....

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why All The Trash?

No, not the one above type of trash, the one on the right.  Yes, and, as indicated, more arriving several times a day.  Now, I know I can be soap-boxie and, Heaven forbid, even holier-than-thou at times, but really, why do people put up with/accept/eagerly consume - trash?

I am both a writer and a reader.  I doubt very much you can be a writer unless you love books, certainly not a good one.  Great writing stirs the imagination, elevates the soul, and enriches the life.  I often reflect back on a silly scene from Don Quixote or a poignant passage from Bradbury.  Lines like, "A slight chemical imbalance" or "Schlachthof-funf" from the outrageous Vonnegut resonate in my noggin all the time.  And I rarely pass a day when I am not struck - often in the gut - at how today's society is becoming more like the 1984 envisioned by Orwell.  Good stuff!

I am, I say also, a big fan of wine.  A great wine, like a great novel or a great lover, elevates existence.  Metaphorically, those great gifts reach out a hand to raise us mortals from the mire of the pedestrian and the mundane, to a plane much higher than we could achieve on our lowly own.  Great stuff!

So, what's this to do with the thematic trash aforementioned?  Don't get me started.  Not while I'm in the middle of a feel-good buzz.

Darn, the mood has been shattered.  Thanks for bringing me back to the here-and-now!

My wife and I live at ground zero for wine - Northern California.  If you throw a barrel-stay in any direction, you'll hit a winery.  Napa is famous for them, but there are appellations springing-up left and right up and down the state.  There is an old saying in the wine business that all it takes to make a small fortune is to start with a large fortune.  Truer words, my friends, were never spoken.  It costs tons of dough to start-up and maintain a winery.  The production equipment is ridiculously expensive, labor costs are astronomical, and the product is fickle.  Most new wineries are started, or at least under-written, by millionaires out of vanity.

N.B: Only the initials of the entities mentioned below (and in all future) are presented.  I wish to convey that these are real producers, I just wish to overtly offend no one.  My father would, and he is my shining anti-example.  Wait, in saying that, I'm being like my father towards my father.  Yikes, can't have that written on my tombstone.  Let me re-phrase: My F would, and he's my shining anti-example.  Whew, I feel better now!

So, what's my point, with all this great literature and wonderful, expensive-to-make wine talk?  I am reeling still after weekend experiences which were not unique, but were actually nauseatingly all too familiar.  We went to a local winery's "special event" barrel tasting.  As a treat, HHW offered barrel samples of the four components of their Signature Wine (Flagship, Pride-o-the-Port, Golden Child - call it what you will, but it is their darling) along with the barrel blend of the components, which are the 2014 Signature wine.  Before we did the barrel tastings, we all tasted all the wines available for purchase, maybe fifteen each, all told.  Of the fifteen wines, two or three were awful.  One was nice, and the rest were neither good nor bad, but they were not worth purchasing, let alone the calories if consumed.  In the barrel tasting, one component was excellent, the rest, dull and unpromising.  The Signature wine was dull and uninspiring, a value at the $5 price-point, perchance $8, but never in the wine maker's wildest dreams worth the $30 they will be asking.

Also, this last weekend, I began two books from the library.  Recent bitter disappointment in the form of lost dollars have compelled me to rely heavily on the library nowadays.  So, I checked-out FOTS, by D.P. and BHD, part three of a D.W. series (he has lots of them).  I enjoyed the first book of W's series, although I found it annoyingly simplistically written.  The second book was okay, like room temperature tap water on a hot day.  Book three was... more-of-the-same.  Not bad, not good.  Not worth the time to read unless confined to an iron lung, but not dangerous to one's sanity.  FOTS book was completely unappealing to me.  I mean, I'm sure D.P. is a nice guy, pays his taxes and donates vehicles to good causes, but the book is flawed.  However, this omitable book has received one-hundred and thirty-three reviews on Amazon, with an average rating of four and a third stars, out of five possible.  W sells more books than Gideon gives away Bibles and has an actual army of devoted fans.

Let me summarize.  I went to yet another winery jam-packed by adoring paying customers which spent a large fortune and spent a great deal of time and effort in the production of a utterly forgetful panel of wines.  I started - and quickly finished - two novels which are generating both significant coin and buzz each, which are not worth the attention of a decerning reader.  Why, oh why, do people settle for trash?  You see, the alternative to trash, that is to say not-trash, actually good product, is out there, albeit is lesser supply, in both arenas.  Why do alleged "book lovers" consume desert sand when caviar is available at a budget price?  Why do "wine lovers" sip-down swill, when affordable alternative are out there?

Beats me...

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Hard Way - Again!

  I have, oh let's say, been know to do things the hard way.  I blame my strongly Polish heritage  - so does my wife.  So, recently I set-about to upgrade three of my four novels.  So, I re-edited, added suggested changes, and paid (a very good idea!) to have the ebooks and paperbacks formatted well, and uploaded the whole pile.  As I mentioned a post or two ago, I am trying the exclusive Kindle Unlimited route now.  So, every day, I check to see if the new versions are live yet.  I think I understood the changes would be fairly swift.  But every day, I click my bookmarked Amazon links... and nothing.  As with most mega-sites, you can't just call or email them questions - Heaven forbid they should be so burdened - so... I wait.

  Finally, a little voice in my head says, "Hey, search the books on Amazon and see what happens."  Okay, says I in reply.  So, I searched "Books" on Amazon for each one.  Guess what?  Those linked to the refreshed editions.  Ah, but... um... why did the old bookmarks I had not link to the new versions?  Answer, uh, I don't know.  So, I hurriedly doctored-up all my blogs and addenda to my books to reflect the new changes.  What a hassle!  I guess all's-well-that-ends-well, but why didn't Amazon mention something?  Oh well, I'm sorta used to the hard way ; )

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's Really Not That Easy

  Recently I retired form my day job.  That's another story all in itself, so more later.  But, now having joined the ranks of the unemployed, I have a lot more time at my disposal.  Only natural, right?  Forty hours a week plus commute time and over time gone - puff!  Before you actually retire, everyone asks, "So, what are you going to do when you retire?  Travel?"  I developed a standard response - fairly generic - stating that I'd garden, bike, prospect, and write more.  Travel is nice, but expensive and I just took a huge income hit, so the former four are much more budget-friendly.
  So, within reason, I can work a lot on my novels, short stories, and soon-to-come nonfiction.  Great, right?  Well, it turns out it's hard work.  Having written four full novels, sure, I knew bring a good author wasn't easy - by no means so in fact.  But now, I can spend hours composing a theme or tweaking a character.  I have, in fact, made good head-way.  But, like with so many other things I suppose, when I look back at the volume of work I've accomplished, well, I'm underwhelmed.
  Yesterday I hammered a really rough first draft of an important scene in The Corporate Virus.  Actually, when I read the first draft - which I did a few months back - I was surprised I'd written some of it.  I mean, I had a few lines which didn't even make sense to me!  Writing a book is a lot like rafting down a mountain stream.  There are easy patches and white water sections.  I don't know why, but each novel of mine has at least one section where I felt like I was pulling off my own toe nails without anesthesia in slow motion.  The sections turn out fine, in the end, but some are definitely more work than others.
  Anyway, so now I have a lot of time and many fewer excuses, but it is "challenging" to work for hours and only produce maybe ten good pages.  This, of course, does nothing to abate the natural procrastination I am so fondly prone to.  Oh well, if it was easy, everybody'd be doing it, right?
So, enough blogging.  As soon as I feed the dogs and make a decaf and check-in with my wife who's outside gardening and re-check the closed stock market, well, I need to get back to The Corporate Virus - or Candy Crush.  Hey, I just made level 400, which is no mean feat!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Wonder Sometimes

  Sometimes I wonder... things.  If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, how many doctors a day does it take to keep an apple away?  why do pizza and cheeseburgers taste so good while celery and watercress taste so... little?  Why does evil have to exist?  It is easy to say evil exists and leave it there.  Also, one man's evil may be another man's virtue.  To some extent right and wrong are relative, sure.  It is wrong to kill in cold blood, but okay in self-defence.  It is right to save money, but okay to give aggressively to the poor.  I'm, however, definitely of the school that evil stands alone objectively as a bad, regrettable, avoidable force.  Evil is accepted by its purveyor.  The individual understood at some level that it is wrong, it's just that the alternative - to ignore the evil which compels them - is less desirable to them at the moment.

  I refer, for example, to the horrific murders committed in the name of God.  Yesterday "Muslim" terrorists decided their vision of God required them to randomly end a dozen lives in Paris.  The same day, I my town, a purely evil man mindlessly gunned-down a promising young woman whom he was robbing and whose car he was stealing after she left a pub.  Her crime was to run - albeit not fast enough - for her life.   I cannot get from my head the vision of the crazed Abubakar Shekau on video after he kidnapped 200+ Nigerian school girls.  He was so smug, so very proud in his insane defiance.
  I really wish these people did not exist in my world, or in your world for that matter.  But they do.  They have always been around and look to always be around.  I cannot snap my fingers and make them vanish, as nice as that would be.  Did I allow them to be evil - in any way participate in the process?  Probably not.  At maximum warp, I couldn't visit each unfortunate child who is taught to be an evil adult and abort the process.  Moreover, any intervention might be impossible - the person in question might just be... evil.
  So, what an I to do about evil?  Cross myself and then God it did not occur to me or mine?  Should I remark how very despicable it is on social-media and wring my hands together passionately?  Maybe wait a little while and forget about the entire episode entirely?  Maybe I should take it upon myself and act like Jack Ruby, the man who assassinated Lee Oswald after Oswald assassinated John Kennedy.  But none of those courses seem right - morally defensible.  I can always try to do two very critical things when evil thrusts itself upon my awareness.  My first act is to never forget the innocents, never allow their suffering to go un-marked by memory and personal remorse.  Second, I must make myself remember the evil which befell them and cling to this motivation to act with kindness to all those I can.  Does kindness expel the darkness of evil?  No, nothing can.  Does kindness - heartfelt, personal, random kindness if need be - wash away the evil?  No, nothing can.  So what is the good of kindness?  Two things.  One, it is with each application a minuscule counter balance to evil on the scales of humanity.  Second, and more importantly, it is all we who are not blind can do.
  Please go out of your way to be kind.  Fight back!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Making Headway!

  Okay, alright!  I'm busy getting things done and it feels great.  As a regular reader will know, I have four novels in print now.  The quality and distribution of the books has been disappointingly sporadic to me up until now.  I created and released the books sequentially, clearly, as they were completed.  My learning curve ans the explosion of technologies has made the playing field uneven, as it were.      But now I am lining-up the ducks.  With the exception of Anon Time, I will soon have all my current and any future books available as both paperback and e-books.  I have also cleaned-up a lot of minor and not-so-minor changes which vexed me up until now.  I also took the easy road and paid for Kindle and paperback formatting.  I've tried with variable success to format my work before.  What I have definitely learned is to pay someone who is both good at formatting and likes doing it.
  So, I have submitted all the documents and info updates to make WRITE NOW!, The InnerGlow Effect, and Time Diving live on Amazon.  Now I can focus on promoting them feeling excellent about them.  Also, I can really sink my teeth into The Corporate Virus, my work in progress.
2015 is lookin' good!