Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Desperation, inspiration

I've struggled with the Mars outline.  I've already mentioned that.  I think I'm on the right track now, but I still have lots of hammering away at it before I'll know for certain.  I haven't done squat for the last week or so due to the holidays, but hopefully I can get back on track soon.

The problem is that, aside from not having a ready outline, the struggle eats away at my confidence.  It provokes a sense of desperation, as if I must finish it soon or the whole thing will slip between my fingers and shatter on the floor.

On the other hand, inspiration can hit when you least expect it.  Though Mars has proved elusive, the idea for my next series has come crashing into my consciousness like a tsunami.  I've already sketched out a setting, characters, and plot points for nine books.  Yes, a nine-book series.  Ambitious, I know.  And meaningless until I write full outlines.  My hard drive is full of undeveloped ideas that may never see the light of day.

Nevertheless, it's nice to know that my creative juices can blank out in one area and overcompensate in another.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

When your outline just ain't right...

...you make a new one.

That's what I'm doing with Mars.  I wasn't happy with the story as planned out, so I'm totally re-vamping the thing.  That's the great thing about outlining, though--you can go in a completely different direction before committing to putting a lot of words on the page.

Better to have a bad outline than a bad book.

I've also started making notes for my next series.  I had thought about doing a fantasy series, but it looks like that won't happen yet.  The next one, like the Free Space trilogy, will also be science fiction.

Unlike Free Space, though, it won't be hard SF.  And it will have a metaphysical/supernatural component.

Of course, all plans are subject to change at any time.  ;)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

First draft is done

Mercury is now ready for revision.  It currently stands at 56,088 words.

It took about two months, which isn't great, but understandable given the season.  This time of year is simply too full of distractions.  I can't write at the same pace that I can in June.

But I got it done, and that's what counts.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Progress Report

I'm at about 51k words in Mercury and nearing the end.  I should have the first draft wrapped up in a few days.  I expect the final draft to be longer, of course.  I tend to add more during revision than I subtract.  During first drafts, my mind tends to race through the story faster than I can type, and things just get left out.  So I have to go back and connect the dots.

I've also started working on the blurbs for the trilogy.  I've got some pretty good ones, I think, for Venus and Mercury.  I'll wait until the first draft of Mars is done before I write a blurb for that one.  After all, I'm still outlining it, so I don't really know what the story's about yet.

I've been experimenting with a lot of different cover designs, and I think I've finally settled on one.  I just have to make a final decision on the typography and a few minor details.

So that's where I'm at.  It's gradually coming together.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Some days...

...are better than others.

I had a good day yesterday.  I wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of 2000 words.

Today, I'm struggling.  I've written maybe 200 words. 

I think it's because I added in a scene that's not in my outline.  The result is that I don't know how to get the story from point A to point C.  There's a point B to be found, but I haven't nailed it down yet.

That "point A" scene is pretty cool, though.  :D

I'm definitely getting tired of the story.  I'm close to being done with the first draft--I've got just over 48k words in, and only a few scenes left to go.  Once it's done, I can go back and add in all the stuff from my notes.  (I don't like going back and making structural changes until after the first draft's done.)

My goal is to have the trilogy up some time next fall.  I may finish by next summer, but I think fall's a better time to publish, so I'll postpone it until then.  That's the plan for the time being.

In the meantime, here's a little post-apocalyptic awesomeness from The Sword:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What am I writing...

It's been several days since I've had a chance to work on Mercury.  It's the season, you know.  All sorts of Christmas-related stuff going on.  Plus I've got other things to do.  Anyway, the last time I wrote anything was Wednesday.  I think.

So I opened the file today to get back into it.  I scrolled to the bottom and skimmed the last paragraph to see where I left off.  The first phrase that caught my eye was "They charged into the rape mob..."


It's really not as ridiculous as it sounds when read in context.  At least, that's my hope.  *fingers crossed*

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Back to the grind

I survived Thanksgiving.  Now I just have to get back in the rhythm of writing.  I haven't worked on Mercury since, uh, Tuesday, I think.  If not for my outline, I'd probably already have forgotten what the story was about.

I'm also trying to think up alternate titles.  I've been using Venus, Mercury, and Mars as working titles, and I suppose they'll do okay as official titles, but I don't want to leave any stones unturned.  I also have to consider cover design and how the length of the title will fit.

In the meantime, here's something totally unrelated: Ned Beatty talking about the primal forces of nature:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Progress Report and other news

I've broken through 40k words.  I haven't written as much as I hoped when I began the draft, but I'm closer to the end than the beginning.

This draft is ending up a little shorter than I envisioned.  I'm not sure if there's enough story left to punch through 50k.  I've still got a lot of things to add in--my works tend to grow during the revision phase--but it's still looking like it'll be a 60k or so work when it's ready for beta reading.

I guess we'll see.  *shrug*

In other news, Hugh Howey is back in the New World.  I'm glad to see he didn't get swamped by a rogue wave or anything while he was sailing around the Atlantic.  Welcome back, Hugh!  :)

Also, there's a somewhat disheartening piece at The Passive Voice about Amazon's review policy.  Just part of the ever-changing landscape for indie authors, I guess.  To paraphrase Leon Megginson, the winners in the e-book revolution won't be the best authors, or the cleverest authors, or the friendliest authors, but those authors who can most quickly adapt to changing circumstances.

Finally, Thanksgiving is coming up in a couple of days.  Be sure to take a few minutes to consider all the blessings in your life.  Be thankful for them, because things could always be worse.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Progress Report

First draft stands at about 37k.  I'm not pleased with the progress I've made this month.  And I'm probably not going to finish the first draft by Thanksgiving.

The good news is that I've taken a fair number of notes about changes that need to happen.  Those changes are necessary, because the story currently sucks.  :(

I've also got a preliminary outline for Mars.  It still needs lots of fleshing out, though.

Anyway, that's where I'm at. 

In the meantime, here's a cool video:

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Added Mr. Wilson to Goodreads

I know, I know... I should have done that a long time ago.  Well, better late than never.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Synced the blog with Goodreads

My posts show up there now.  Not sure if anyone gets any kind of notification or anything.  I doubt it, but I'm not really that adept at navigating Goodreads, so who knows...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

New release notifications from Draft2Digital

Got an email today from D2D.  They now offer new release notifications to readers.  What this means is that they'll put a button in the back matter of your book that the reader can click.  Then that reader will be notified whenever I publish something new on D2D.

I logged in to the site and got the message pop-up about it.  I clicked on the "find out more" button.  Two clicks later, Mr. Wilson had the button added to its back matter.  (So they said, anyway.  I didn't find anything to indicate it on the story's layout page.  But I'm sure it's there, or will be soon.)

That's why I love the guys at D2D.  They make it all so easy.  And they're constantly trying to improve their service.  As far as "author-friendly" goes, they're the best around, period.

Next on my wish list: full mailing list functionality.  :D

Monday, November 9, 2015

Progress Report

Broke through 25k today.  If I was doing NaNoWriMo, I'd be halfway to the finish line.

I'm at about the 40% mark of my outline, so I guess the book will be about 60k.  The first draft, anyway--I usually add to the word count during revision.

I've started outlining Mars.  Just the bare bones so far, no real scene descriptions.  I'll gradually fill it out with time.  I outline in layers like that.  *shrug*  Seems to work, since it keeps me from writing myself into a corner.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Progress Report

Up to nearly 17k words.  That's after two weeks of writing, so a little more than a thousand words a day.

This is not good.

I was hoping to have a higher rate, but it just hasn't happened.  And that word count may shrink in the next few minutes, because I'm not sure about the latest scene.


Oh, well.  Off to go crunch out some words.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween is upon us

Let's get in the mood with a little creepy music.


Had to delete several hundred words.  That's what I get for not thinking through the scene before I start writing it.  You'd think after all that time I spent on the outline that I'd actually pay some attention to the thing.

We all make mistakes, but this was a stupid mistake, and I hate feeling stupid.

Rant over.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Progress report

I'm over 11,000 words so far for Mercury.  Not as much as I'd hoped, but not terrible.  Still hope to complete the first draft by Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 19, 2015

100th blog post

For my 100th post, I would like to announce that I've begun writing Mercury.

Already about 1500 words in.

I'd love to finish the first draft before Thanksgiving.  The first draft of Venus took five weeks, so I think it's a doable goal.  We'll see, I guess.

My long-term goal is to get the trilogy published by midsummer.  That may be too ambitious, though.  Again: we'll see.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


I'm working on the outline for Mercury, the second book of the Terrestrial Planets trilogy.

So far, it's up to 4863 words.  Not bad for an outline, right?  I'm hoping that the more details I use to describe each scene, the easier and faster it will be be to write the story.  Basically, I just want to "fill in the blanks" when I start writing.  Sort of like painting by numbers.

I hadn't planned to do NaNoWriMo, but I may accidentally do it.  I'll be starting the first draft soon, so we'll see.  I may cheat and start it in October.  We'll see.  I won't start it until I'm completely satisfied with the outline.

My plan for the trilogy is to publish all three books on consecutive days.  That way, all three will be on the "hot new releases" list at the same time.  Will this make a difference?  Who knows...

I have no idea when the whole trilogy will be finished.  I'll go as fast as I can.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The future...

...as envisioned in the 1920s.

They got the "streamlining" thing right, at least as far as modern yachts go.  And the man carrying a telephone on his person is a fact of life today.  They totally whiffed on all those propeller-driven aircraft, though.  The jet engine was an early concept in the 1920s, but the ideas and theories were there, and the extrapolation could have been made by the futurists of that era.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The children in the woods

I had a strange dream last night.  In my dream, I was in some sort of urban setting--a library, perhaps, or some other building one might find on a college campus.  I remembered hearing about the tunnel nearby that others had explored before, and I decided to give it a try.  I descended the stairs into the building's lower level and entered the door to the tunnel.

The tunnel wasn't exactly a tunnel.  It was more of a half-pipe kind of thing--a tunnel with the top half removed.  There was a bank on each side, and trees and brush visible over the lip of each bank.  The floor of the tunnel was granite, but it had strange patterns in it, flowing, organic tool marks, almost like Art Nouveau.  They were too regular to be natural, and I could only conclude they must have been made by men.  There was sparse grass mixed in with the granite, like weeds sprouting up between paving stones.  The surface was hard and unforgiving, and I was thankful I wore tennis shoes instead of something less cushiony.

I walked down the tunnel, which wasn't a tunnel, and remembered (at that point) that it used to be a rail line.  The rails were gone; recycled for some other purpose, I supposed.  (Remember: this was a dream.  It doesn't have to make sense.) 

I eventually came to a fork and took the proverbial "path less traveled."  The banks on each side declined until they no longer existed, and I was on a mostly dirt path in the woods.  I say "mostly" because there were still bits of granite popping up here and there.  To my left was a creek, and the path ran alongside it.  I continued on into the woods, leaving the tunnel behind.

A log cabin soon appeared on my right.  It was very small, like one of those one-room dwellings the early American frontiersmen used to build.  It had a door, but no windows that I could see.  I was curious, so I left the path and approached it. 

I was a little hesitant to just go barging in.  After all, it might be someone's home, right?  You never know.  So I stood just outside the door and poked my head in.

And that's when something grabbed me.

It locked on to my right arm and pulled it inside.  I grabbed the door frame with my left hand to keep from being yanked all the way in.  I couldn't actually see anyone in the cabin--it was empty as far as my lying eyes could tell--but there was definitely a presence there.  Two presences, actually, in the form of children.  I could "see" them in my mind.  At least one was a boy--I never really focused on the other one.  But they were covered in dirt, absolutely filthy, and had the strength of chimpanzees.  They laughed and tried to pull me inside.  I resisted.  Even thought it was just a dream, I still knew something bad was brewing.

Another presence began to make itself known.  This one was adult.  It wasn't quite inside the cabin yet, as if it took a lot of time and effort for it to conjure itself.  I knew this new guy was bad news.  I had to get away before it was completely "there."  It was a terrifying feeling, and it gave me the motivation I needed.

I managed to get my right hand on the door frame too, and pulled as hard as I could.  The kids grips were strong, but my adrenaline was in charge now, and I jerked free of them.  I ran down the path as fast as I could towards the tunnel.  I glanced back once, but nothing followed.  I thought I heard the faint sound of children's laughter coming from the cabin.  Then I entered the tunnel again, and I knew I was safe.  I slowed my pace and walked back.  And that was it--the dream ended.

I usually don't remember my dreams.  This one was a rare exception.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fun fact about Mercury

It suffers from magnetic tornadoes:

During its second flyby of the planet on October 6, 2008, MESSENGER discovered that Mercury’s magnetic field can be extremely leaky indeed. The spacecraft encountered magnetic "tornadoes" – twisted bundles of magnetic fields connecting the planetary magnetic field to interplanetary space – that were up to 500 miles wide or a third of the radius of the planet.

Pretty cool, huh?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Amazon recommends...

Buddy and Mr. Wilson.  How 'bout that.

I wasn't expecting to see this in my email:

I wonder if anyone else was recommended my stuff.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Clicked the "enroll" button for Buddy

It should be back in KU before long.

I'm not expecting a lot as far as sales and borrows go--it's a short story, after all, and those simply don't sell much--but I am looking forward to seeing the KENPC stuff.  That's some real-time data that I've never had before.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Going to put Buddy back in KU

I've removed the non-Amazon links for it and delisted it on the other vendors.  Once I'm certain it's been removed from everywhere, I'll enroll it in KU.

And I've removed Mr. Wilson from Oyster since that retailer is apparently going out of business.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Buddy no longer free

Don't ask me why.  Amazon did it, not me.  But Buddy is now $0.99 in the paid Kindle store.

Will I try to make it perma-free again?  I don't know.  I'll think about it.  I'm tempted to take it down on other vendors and give it whirl in KU.

I just wish they didn't do this sort of thing.  I hate surprises.

Pair Production (a love story)

“Father, why must I leave the Sea?”
“It is the way of things, son,” Photon replied in a gentle voice. “All things must begin, and all things must annihilate.”
“But I want to stay here with you and Mother.”
“I know you do. So say all who are alive yet unborn. But the cycle of life demands action. To live, one must move.”
Positron frowned. It seemed pointless.
“Never fear, son.” Nucleus smiled. “You will always dwell in our hearts, and we in yours.”
“Please don't make me go.”
“It's time, son.” Photon struggled to remain composed. “Your bride is eager to meet you. She waits in the Mirrored Land. Like you, she waits to be born.”
Positron began to cry. He was scared of the Mirrored Land. It was a part of the Sea in which he had never been and could not go. He didn't want to meet anyone from there.
“Come, my love.” Photon took his wife's hand and caressed it. “I can wait no longer. My desire is too great.”
Nucleus gave her son one last smile before turning away.
“No!” Positron wept. “Don't leave me!”
His parents didn't seem to hear. They strode away, hand in hand, like old lovers meeting for the first time.

* * *

Pain, heat, and velocity... Positron had never felt anything like them.
He soared from his home at an impossible speed. Speed... the concept was new and terrifying. The horror of Time struck him to his core. Its grinding sensation wore away his existence, racing him towards some unknowable doom.
He was hot, but also cold, and spinning, and tumbling, and everything around him was so different. It was a new land, a strange land, and beyond his wildest imaginations. He was not in the Sea anymore, nor would he ever see it again.
He stared out into the vast emptiness. “Here I am!” He felt older, harder, less forgiving. Metamorphosis was a frightening thing, but emboldening, and exhilarating, too. He shook a fist at the black nothing. “I am moving! I am alive!”
There was no reply.
“I feel the pull of Time! I have been born anew! I claim this realm as my own!”
Positron lowered his fist. Would he not be challenged? Would no one even meet him? Was there nothing for him in this world?
His parents were gone. No substitute appeared. There were no lovers or beloved. The lonely vacuum enveloped him in cold black arms. He shivered and closed his eyes.
He had been right to fear. The Sea was warm and comfortable. It was home. This strange, scary realm was none of those things, and his newfound bravado quickly ebbed away.
“Excuse me.”
Positron opened his eyes. He wasn't alone after all. There was another in his world, one like him but also unlike him, one whom he could perhaps find some solace. His equal and opposite.
“My name is Electron.” Her voice was feminine and lilting, the music of a thousand suns, and her form lustrous and hypnotic like the life-quanta itself. She smiled coquettishly. “What's your name?”
“Positron.” He swallowed. “You are very beautiful.”
“Thank you.” She blushed. “And you are just what I always wanted in a husband.”
“Yes. I am your bride. If you'll have me.” There was a note of doubt in her voice, and it wavered at the end. Her eyes filled with a desperate longing, a need for something she dare not utter aloud for fear of banishing it forever.
Positron clasped his hands together to stop their shaking. “I don't know how to be a husband. I may fail.”
“I will help you. And you can help me be your bride. We were meant to learn together.” She offered him a delicate hand.
Positron took a deep breath and nodded. “All things must begin—”
“—and all things must annihilate,” she finished.
Positron grinned. They were of one accord. Perhaps the Mirrored Land wasn't such a dark place after all. In fact, how could it be, to produce such a marvelous creature?
He took her hand, and his life ended in a flash of white light.

* * *

Photon awoke. He remembered it all. He had been Positron, but also Electron, and the two had become one. He was both now, but also neither. The substance of his form, and hers, was gone—nothing remained but his new life force, his luminous waveform.
He soared through the blackness at the universal limit and wept. It had been inevitable, yet the deaths of Electron and Positron still hurt. Once again, the loneliness was utter and complete, and it bore down upon him like the weight of the Sea itself.
Forever he flew, for Time no longer existed for him. He could not slow; he could not stop; he could not turn. His vector was fixed as rigidly as any Law or Constant. His life had become binary: soar alone, or collide. It was a despairing choice.
Something caught his eye. He peered ahead into the darkness. What was that? It was something familiar, yet still new. A massive thing, a thing of the substance that he lacked and of which he suddenly realized he craved. He moved closer.
“Hello, my love.” The exotic creature smiled. “My name is Nucleus. I've been waiting for you. So have they.” She gestured towards the Sea.
Positron and Electron swam there on opposite sides, mirror images of one another, oblivious to all that lay beyond their respective nurseries.
Photon watched them with a painful fondness. He looked back to Nucleus. “It will kill me to love you, won't it?”
She nodded sadly. “All things must annihilate—”
“—so that others may begin.” It was the way of things.


Copyright Jeff Tanyard 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Second wind

I've given it some thought, and I've decided not to abandon the story I was working on.  I've changed a few things, and now I think I'm back on the right track.

As usual, my biggest stumbling block lies between my own ears.  :(

But that's the way it goes for us all, right?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Abandon ship!

I'm about 10,000 words into a new story, but I'm already bored with it.  I'm taking that as a sign.

So I'm abandoning it for now.

The good part is that I get to start something new, and that's always fun.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Best James Bond theme song

An article an Yahoo claims Duran Duran performed the best Bond song.  I disagree.

My vote goes to Chris Cornell and "You Know My Name."

Friday, September 4, 2015

G'kar on freedom

One of my favorites.

R.I.P., Andreas Katsulas.

Trying too hard

I think sometimes I try too hard.  I focus too much on outlining or daily word count instead of letting the story happen organically.  I didn't use to be like this.  I think I'm going to try to write more instinctively.  I'll still have a loose outline of sorts so that I know the general direction to take, but I'm not going to flesh it out as much.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The day the blues died

Hard to believe it's been twenty-five years since the fateful helicopter crash that took the life of Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Let's take a moment to remember him.

Stephen Ray Vaughan

October 3, 1954 - August 27, 1990

Rest in peace, man, and thanks for the music.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A favorite movie scene

In the late 1930's, suspicions between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were high, their mutual treaties notwithstanding.  After all, both countries were authoritarian and aggressive, and it's only natural for leaders of such nations to look askance at one another.  War between the two may or may not have been a certainty at that time, but it was a possibility, and the Soviet government decided to psychologically prepare the Russian people for it.  They did this with propaganda movies, including one of my favorites, "Alexander Nevsky."

It's the story of a 13th-century Russian prince who rallies his people to defend their homeland against the Teutonic Knights.  The invaders are not only German, but Roman Catholic, too, and the film paints that religion in as poor a light as possible.  Roman Catholic priests nod with approval as the Teutonic Knights throw naked Russian children into a bonfire to be burned alive.  It's powerful stuff, and I can only imagine how effective it was for a people already predisposed to hate the Germans.

The score is, quite simply, awesome.  It was composed by Sergei Prokofiev, and he really nailed the battle scene.  But don't take my word for it.  See for yourself.  It's incredible stuff.

And now... the Battle On The Ice.

(Psst... crank the volume up.  ;))

Friday, August 21, 2015


Didn't do any revision today.  I needed a break--something to cleanse my mental palette.  So I wrote a thousand words or so of a brand new story.

I know, I know... I should be polishing up things I've already written.  But I'm risking burnout.  I need this.

I think it's already helped a little.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Just watched it for the first time.

I'd been meaning to check out Akira Kurosawa's movies for several years.  I'm just now getting around to it.

What impressed me early on was the use of music to create the mood.  I thought it did an excellent job.  The juxtaposition of the present-day downpour and the sunnier skies of the recollections was a nice touch, too.  The swordplay was amateurish.  I expected such from the bandit, since he's a commoner and supposedly untrained and all, but I was hoping for something a little more polished from the samurai.  Ah, well.  Perhaps I'm spoiled by modern action movies and the works of the Shaw brothers.

Anyway, I enjoyed it.

Splattering alien guts

Yeah, I'm gonna do it.  That will probably be the thing I do after Terrestrial Planets.  A nice "space marine" sort of thing.  Not in the conventional sense of military SF, of course.  I never served, and I don't want to try to get all the military-related minutiae correct.  Easier if the "space marine" is the only human in the story.

In the meantime, I'm still working on Buddy: Evolution.  And I'll start on Mercury at some point.  Don't know when.

I'll also need to squeeze in my Wool fan-fic piece.


So much to do...

The caffeine crash

It sucks.

That is all.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

In a fog

Woke up with hives.  Don't know why.  I've got a huge insect bite, too, and it itches.

I took an antihistamine, and I've been "comfortably numb" all day.  Unfortunately, my brain is in no shape to write or edit or anything.  :(

I hate feeling useless.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Beta reading is under way

I just sent Venus off to be beta-read.

I've been working on that one exclusively for two-and-a-half months.  Now I can finally focus on something else.

Mobi edit's done

Good grief... what a nightmare.  The Kindle had an update while I was doing it, and I lost the last 5% of the book's edits.  So I had to do that again, and of course it's not going to be the same, and maybe not as good.  And I added new scenes and made notes about other new scenes that I have yet to add.

Even without the update, though, the file is still buggy.  The mobis I make in Calibre just don't play well with the Kindle.  I think I side-loaded it.  Next time, I might try using "Send to Kindle" instead.

I'll try to wrap it all up this weekend.  Then it's off to be beta-read.  And then I can get back to Buddy: Evolution, my Amazon author's page, outlining, etc.

Friday, August 7, 2015

When humans and aliens arrive

What if humans and aliens simultaneously arrive at some unsettled planet?  Ah... now things get interesting.

This scenario isn't one-sided like the previous ones.  The two species are both capable of interstellar flight, so they are presumably equally advanced.  It would be the dawn of a new cold war.

Of course, there's a small chance that interstellar travel is just a fluke development for one of the species.  In that case, there could very well be a significant gap in technology.  Harry Turtledove wrote a story with that premise.

But I think the Cold War analogy is the likeliest.  The sides are roughly equal, and there would be a lot of posturing from both of them.  Lines would be drawn, and Berlin Walls erected.  Spying and paranoia would reign supreme.  Most importantly, each side would build up its military as much as it could.

Eventually, one side would begin to pull away from the other.  That's when the real action begins.  If there's a form of Mutual Assured Destruction, making war unwinnable, then the laggard would simply implode, both politically and economically.  If there's not a form of MAD, and the laggard thinks there's a chance, however small, that it could win a shooting war, well... goodbye, cold war, and hello, Interstellar War I.

The good thing about this scenario is that it provides the best ground for fiction.  The humans can win, but we can also lose, and there's the dramatic tension.  As long as the war goes on, we can splatter alien guts with our plasma rifles.  We can nuke their cities from orbit.  We can cleanse whole planets of their filthy hides.

And that's just good clean fun.

When humans arrive

But what if aliens didn't reach Earth first?  What if we beat them to the punch and showed up on their world?

The aliens would almost certainly not be intelligent.  They would be like any other animal, plant, or insect species from Earth.  We would probably not eradicate them just for kicks, but we would try to learn how to manage them.  If they taste good, we'll breed them like we do chickens or cattle.  If they're plant-like, we'll plant them and prune them with aesthetic goals in mind.  If they're insectoid, we'll put up mosquito nets.

But what if, against all odds, they did turn out to be intelligent?  In that case, I think "first contact" would proceed just like it has on Earth.  The human invaders will be greeted courteously, and will be courteous in return.  Everyone will get along.  The two species will become friendly.  They will discuss trade possibilities.  They will have Thanksgiving Dinner together. 

Everyone back on Earth will hear about the success of the mission and be eager about the new opportunities.  And then they will go there. 

They will settle the alien world in massive waves because the aliens don't levy income taxes, or enforce speed limits, or file frivolous lawsuits, or engage in any of the other multitude of things that humans don't like about home.  It will be a lawless frontier, and it will draw rugged individualists, criminals, and naive ordinary people who have no idea what they're getting into.

Over time, as more and more humans pour in, the aliens begin to see the threat.  They see themselves being dispossessed of their land.  They fight back.  But human technology is superior.  After all, we made it to their world.  They didn't make it to ours.  The aliens are eventually pushed to the fringes of their world.

This scenario has played out many times on Earth.  There is no reason to think it wouldn't play out this way on an alien world.  It's not a happy scenario.  Just a human one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

When aliens arrive

Lots have people have speculated about what will happen if alien settlers were to arrive in our solar system.  Some people think they would be super-evolved, perhaps beings of pure energy, who would help us achieve some heretofore unattainable state of enlightenment.  Others think they would see our wars, diseases, etc. and annihilate us out of a sense of moral outrage.  And still others think we would find a way to work together and construct a mutually beneficial bi-species society.

Personally, I think any aliens advanced enough to make it here will be so far ahead of us that they will be to us as we are to an ant colony.  Do we help ants attain higher states of consciousness?  Of course not.  They're just ants. 

Likewise, we don't get outraged over their moral failings.  Sure, they are ruled by a tyrannical queen.  Their societies aren't free at all.  So what?  They're just ants.

We ignore ants until they bother us.  Then we kick over their anthills, or saturate them with insecticide, or douse them with gasoline and set them on fire.  When the ant genocide is complete, we forget about them and continue on with our lives as if nothing happened.

When aliens arrive, I expect them to treat us the same way.  They'll ignore us.  Until we annoy them, that is, in which case they'll simply eradicate us.  Because to them, we're just ants.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Second draft is done

It currently stands at 61,818 words.

The mobi edit is next.  When that's done, it's off to be beta read.

The rowdy one is gone

R.I.P., Roddy Piper.

Here he is in John Carpenter's They Live:

It seems like all the icons from my childhood are passing away.  :(

Friday, July 31, 2015

Amazon's "follow" feature

I think it's a great idea that should have been done long ago.  I don't have a mailing list, so this might be a suitable substitute.  I intend to add a "follow me on Amazon" link in the back matter of my stories.

I'm following myself, so I'll report the results next time I upload something.  I've heard it can take a few days after publishing before Amazon sends out the email to an author's followers.  We'll see, I guess.

Anyway, I'm enthusiastic about it.  :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Real life

It tends to get in the way of writing sometimes.  I haven't written or revised anything since Saturday night.

Did some outlining, though, so I wasn't totally unproductive.  Trying to get back in rhythm now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Back to the grind

I finally got my butt back in gear after a few days of zero writing.  Family stuff can be really draining sometimes.

Anyway, I'm making slow but steady progress.  I'm working my way through the draft, and I'm currently on page 30 of 134 pages in the .odt file.  Current word count is 56,823.

In other news, I'm really digging the new photos of Pluto and Charon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

It's worse than I feared

I've started trying to revise the draft, and man it's bad.  The first part, anyway.  The middle and end are probably mostly okay.  But I've definitely got my work cut out for me.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

First draft is done

The first draft of Venus, book one of the Terrestrial Planets trilogy, is finished.  It stands at 55,409 words.

Now I just have to go back and make it not suck.  Once I've revised it, I'll send it off for beta reading.  I hope to do that before the end of the month.

It took me exactly five weeks to write it.  That's over 11,000 words per week.  I'm pretty thrilled with that average.  Hopefully, books two and three will go as swiftly.  My tentative goal is to publish the trilogy no later than January.  I'm going to publish all three books at almost the same time.  I don't know if that will have any marketing effect or not, but it will be a neat experiment.

Friday, July 3, 2015


Broke through the 50000-word mark on my draft.  I should have hit this a few days ago, but the going has been slow.  I guess it's because I'm at a climactic part, and it's happening from several characters' points-of-view.  It can get a little hairy trying to keep everything straight.

Hopefully, the rest will be a breeze by comparison.  I'll try to zip through the denouement, and then I can start the second draft.  The second draft is where I basically fill in stuff to make the first draft make sense.  I always end up adding more than I subtract during revision.  My mind always wants to race ahead, and so my prose tends to do the same.  I have to force myself to pace the story.

The good news is that I've managed to stick fairly close to my outline.  That means my outline was a success.  Like Colonel Hannibal Smith, I always love it when a plan comes together.

I'll do the mobi edit before I send the story off for beta reading.  Hopefully that will be before the end of July.  Then, while Venus is being beta read, I'll do the final revisions for Buddy: Evolution. 

I'll also outline Mercury.  I probably won't start writing the draft, though, until the beta reads of Venus are finished.  We'll see, though,  That's something to worry about in August and September.

Once the Terrestrial Planets trilogy is finished, I'll focus on the Wool fan-fic that I've had on the backburner.  After that come an urban fantasy series.

That's the plan for now, anyway.  Like everything else in life, it's subject to change without notice.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Added Oyster links

Links for Buddy and Mr. Wilson at Oyster have been added to the sidebar.

They don't work if you have the Ghostery add-on for Firefox, so you'll have to disable that if you have it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Scribd slashes romance titles

Scribd is losing money.  Romance fans are apparently voracious readers, and they are borrowing like Greek bankers.  Scribd has to pay out for every borrow, and the numbers aren't working out for them.  So they are eliminating a number of their romance titles.

Mark Coker of Smashwords blogs about it here.  He takes a guess at how much Scribd will cut, and it's pretty mind-boggling:

Effective immediately, I estimate 80-90 percent of Smashwords romance and erotica titles will be dropped by Scribd, including nearly all of our most popular romance titles.  Books priced at free are safe and will remain in their catalog.

Based on what I've been able to glean, the lower the price and the higher the word count, the better the odds the book will remain.  Few books priced $3.99 and above will remain.  Scribd is not publicly revealing the formulas for what stays and what goes, probably because much of this is still in flux. They're cutting all publishers and distributors with the same blunt knife.

If he's right, they're basically nuking the whole genre.

Now, this doesn't affect me, obviously, because I don't write romance.  I checked my Scribd links on the sidebar, and they still work.  (For now.  *fingers crossed*)  But it's still a seismic event in the self-publishing world.  And it definitely sucks for readers who will no longer have access to the stuff they want to read and for the writers who were supplying them with it.

Maybe Scribd will figure out a way to make their business model work.  I really hope they do.  The self-publishing world is better off with more retailers, not fewer, and I'd hate to see Scribd fail.

Updated some links

Barnes & Noble is in the midst of redesigning their site, and the links I had for my stuff there changed.  I've updated them, so they should work now.

I'll put the Oyster links up when I can.  D2D says my stuff is published is there, and provides me with links, but all I get is a blank page.  I went to the Oyster site directly, searched for Jeff Tanyard, and found my stuff, but the same thing happened.  When I click the links, I just get a white page.  I've sent an updated file for Mr. Wilson in to D2D anyway, so I won't worry about it for a few days.  Eventually, though, I'll need to see the product pages.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Two common firearms mistakes in fiction

There are many "uncommon" mistakes, usually having to do with the details of some obscure weapon or other.  Those are somewhat forgivable, if still undesirable.

But the common mistakes aren't so forgivable because they occur in spite of some very basic knowledge.  There are two of these that seem to happen more frequently than anything else.  The first of these common mistakes is using "clip" instead of the proper "magazine."

This is a clip:

These are magazines:

A clip is what is used to load a magazine.  Easy rule of thumb: if the device has a spring, then it's a magazine.  If not, then it's a clip.

The second common mistake had to do with safeties.  I've read a number of books where the hero flicked the safety off his Glock. 

Glocks don't have manual safety levers.  Neither do revolvers.  There may be rare exceptions to this, of course--there's lots of variation among firearms, as well as custom builds--but they are rare.  If your hero flicks the safety off his Glock, or, heaven forbid, off his revolver, then some of your readers are going to roll their eyes.  They'll think you've never seen a gun other than on the silver screen, much less actually fired one.  And you don't want your readers rolling their eyes at your work. 

So instead of inserting a fresh clip in his Glock and then thumbing down the safety, have your character insert a fresh magazine and then release the slide.  Your readers will appreciate it.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


I've got 45000 words done on Venus, but the going has slowed.  The action is ramping up towards the climax, and I'm trying to get it right, and it's not easy.

I've started thinking through potential plots for Mercury and Mars, the other two books in the trilogy.  No outlines yet--only vague notions of what I want to happen.

I'm thinking about a third Buddy story, too.  That's way in the future, though, and whether I do it or not will depend on how Buddy: Evolution performs in the marketplace.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

D2D added Oyster

Draft2Digital has just added Oyster to its list of retailers.  I've already added Buddy and Mr. Wilson.  I don't know how long it will take for them to go live, but I'll mention it here when they do.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Progress Report

The first draft of Venus currently stands at a little over 37000 words.

Some of that will have to go, though.  I've been reconsidering how I want to set some stuff up.

Anyway, it's getting there.  Once the draft is done, I'll turn my attention to Buddy: Evolution and get it ready for publication.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Are they necessary?  Or are they a relic of a bygone era, a time when an author could ramble on without worrying about boring the reader because movies and television hadn't been invented yet and everyone was starved for entertainment?

Personally, I think they get in the way of my writing.  I prefer to write in scenes with asterisk breaks.  Of course, one might say that I'm essentially using chapters, I'm just not calling them chapters.  But I don't think so.  An asterisk break feels different from a chapter break.  *shrug*

I think there's definitely a disadvantage to using chapter breaks, and that's the fact that they are convenient stopping points for the reader.  With an asterisk break, the reader is just a little more likely to keep reading.  Always try to write a page-turner.

Wherever the truth lies, I think I'll try going writing without chapters for a while.  At least until someone complains.  ;)

1st vs. 3rd

I prefer to write in third-person.  I think it's more conventional and less casual.  In my opinion, it's the proper point of view for a "serious" work.

Unfortunately, I think I write better in first-person. The words just seem to come easier that way.

It's a dilemma.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Awesome news from Amazon

They're tweaking the payout method for Kindle Unlimited.  Passive Guy blogs about it here.  This is the important part:

Beginning July 1, 2015, we’ll switch from paying Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) royalties based on qualified borrows, to paying based on the number of pages read.

Before the change, a reader must have read 10% of a work in order for it to count as a borrow for purposes of paying the author.  It didn't matter how long the work was--a ten-page short story only needed to be opened to the first page, basically, in order to get the payout.  A 200-page novel needed to be read to page twenty to get the payout.  And the payout was the same amount of money either way.

Obviously, this encouraged authors to write a lot of shorter works instead of fewer novel-length works.  This "gaming the system" tactic worked better for some genres than others.  Erotica authors in particular were raking in the cash.

Starting next month, though, short-works authors will no longer have an advantage. 

I think this a long-needed change.  Studies have shown that readers prefer novels over short stories, and this will encourage authors to write more of them.  Authors win, and readers win.  I'll probably start Buddy: Evolution off in KU once I get it up.  We'll see how it does and go from there.

The big question, of course, is how many cents per page will the payout be.  Anything more than, say, three cents per page will be a gold mine for authors who write compelling books that most readers finish.

Progress Report

First draft of Venus is up to 27000 words.

Not the best week ever, but I'm not totally displeased.  I did a good bit of editing, and I rearranged some elements of the outline.  So I've been productive, but not in ways that are reflected in the word count.

Still thinking a lot about covers.  I've already got a trio of covers made, one for each book of the trilogy, but I'm not sure they're good enough.  I want to make several different ones and hope one stands out.  The problem is that I can't just put a generic space scene on the cover because the story takes place in our own solar system. 

Then again, maybe it's better for the cover to look cool than it is for it to be an accurate reflection of the story.  Maybe no one will care that it's titled Venus but sports a picture of the crab nebula (or whatever).

I'm also thinking I should do a third Buddy story simply because a trilogy would be better than a pair.  I have no idea what the plot would be.  Something to think about.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Had to back-track a little

The problem with attempting to write hard science fiction is that you really really need to get the details correct.  Because there are experts out there who you won't fool, and they'll rip you to shreds if you screw something up.

I haven't even got to that point yet.  I may ask some experts to beta read Venus at some point, but that point is still in the future.  Right now, I'm just trying to get the first draft down and have it make sense.

And in the meantime, I've redesigned the city and slightly altered some plot stuff.  Because the science says I have to.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Slow week so far

Venus is up to 22301 words.  Compared to last week's pace, I'm crawling.  Hopefully I can have a productive weekend.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

R.I.P., Dusty Rhodes

The famous wrestler has passed away.

When I was a boy, I used to watch wrestling with my Dad.  I don't remember much of it, since I stopped watching around the age of eight or nine, I suppose, but I remember a few things.  I definitely remember the old Tom Stimus commercials with Dusty Rhodes.  I always thought it odd that Tom pounded on the vans' hoods.  Seemed like a good way to dent them.

Here's another commercial with Tom and Dusty.

Later in his life, Dusty would do commercials for Sinclair Oconee Homes.  At least, that's what my memory tells me.  I can't seem to find one on the internet, though.

He was a colorful character and will be missed.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Progress Update

I've got nearly 17,000 words in for Venus.  Not bad for a week's work.  I'm writing at a NaNoWriMo-winning rate.  If I can keep up the pace, I'll probably finish the first draft before Independence Day.

I received Buddy: Evolution back from the beta reader.  I haven't looked at his comments yet.  I don't want any distractions until I finish the Venus draft.  Once I've done that, I'll revise Buddy: Evolution and publish it while Venus is being beta read.  Cool piece of time management, huh?  ;)

Hugh Howey mentioned on kboards that a screenplay for Wool is in the works.  Since I intend to publish some fan fiction one day, I'll need to keep this in the back of my mind.  I want my story to be up before any movie hits the silver screen.  For now, though, it's still on the backburner.

I'm starting to form an idea for an urban fantasy series.  Very preliminary at this point.  Haven't even started outlining it.  But that may be the next thing I tackle after the Terrestrial Planets trilogy and the Wool fan-fic.

I still need to outline Mercury and Mars.  I've already established the characters and their relationships, so hopefully it will go more quickly than the outline for Venus.  That one took forever.

Well, back to work...

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Making progress

After four days of writing the first draft of Venus, I've got about 7000 words.  Not spectacular, but a decent average.

It's strange how I can spend hours thinking and outlining the story, but some details simply don't take shape in my mind until I actually start writing the draft.  The setting for the first few scenes was always a little hazy to me, but now it has snapped into place.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Started a new draft

I've started writing Venus, the first book of a planned trilogy.  I'm not 100% sure of that as a title, but it's good enough for now.

Meanwhile, Buddy: Evolution is being beta read, so its progress is out of my hands at the moment.

Monday, May 25, 2015

mobi edit is finished

Now I've just got to incorporate my notes into the manuscript.  Then I'll do the audio edit.  After that, only formatting and back matter remain.

It will be interesting to see how well Buddy: Evolution sells.  If it succeeds, then I'll consider another sequel.  If it doesn't, then I won't.  Either way, I'm anxious to move on to something different.  Any more Buddy stories will have to wait a while.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Got an email from Kobo

They're giving me a $5 credit with which to purchase ebooks.  Awesome!

I didn't even know I had a Kobo "reader" account, but apparently you automatically get one when you publish with them.

Thanks, Kobo!

Started the mobi edit

I've started the "mobi edit" for the Buddy sequel.  This is where I upload the story to my Kindle and read through it, making notes along the way.  It's a tiresome, boring process, and no fun at all.  But it improves the book, and I consider it necessary, so I do it.

Actually, there are really only two parts of the writing process I enjoy, and neither involve any writing.  Here's the process I use:

1.  Idea for a story is formed in my mind.  Some notes are taken.
2.  Idea is explicitly outlined.
3.  First draft is written.
4.  First draft is gone over from the beginning and altered in the process, becoming the second draft.
5.  Second draft undergoes the mobi edit on my Kindle.
6.  Story is read back to me audibly and I correct any errors I hear.
7.  Finishing touches such as back matter are applied, and story is uploaded to KDP.

I like coming up with ideas.  And I like the feeling of accomplishment I get when I finish a story.  I like seeing the finished product.  But everything in between?  I really don't care for that.  You know... the actual writing part.  There are times when I enjoy writing that first draft, but those times are always tempered with impatience.  And, in the case of writer's block, frustration.

Does this make me unusual?  Other authors seem to enjoy crunching out the words.  *shrug*

In the end, I suppose it doesn't matter as long as I'm getting the job done.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I used to love reading

It had always been my favorite thing to do.

Since getting serious about writing, though, that has changed.  I'm finding it difficult to remove my editor's hat.  I notice everything I would have changed during revision.  Finding stories that I read all the way to the end has become a challenge.  I give up on most books nowadays, usually before getting to the 10% mark on the Kindle.

Or maybe the stuff I'm reading isn't all that good.  Maybe Amazon's rating system isn't infallible.  Actually, I know it isn't, but still--you'd think something with an average rating of four stars or better would have a fair chance of hooking me.

I used to love reading.  Now?  Not so much.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mr. Wilson is available on Nook

Added the link to the sidebar.

I had to change some of the prices for Europe and Britain.  The auto-convert was conflicting with their pricing policy, so I just set everything to 0.99, whether it's dollars, euros, or pounds.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Amazing stuff

I was reading a post on The Passive Voice about Author Solutions, and the article by David Gaughran is astounding.  My eyes bugged out when I read this:

That’s not a typo, there is one single person to calculate royalties for 180,000 authors and 225,000 titles. One person! And 732 sales reps with aggressive quotas to sell worthless crap like “web optimized” press releases for $1,299, YouTube advertising packages for $4,099, and Hollywood pitching services for $17,999.

I can't believe people are forking out that kind of money to promote their books.  It seems unreal.  Yet, apparently, it's happening.

It makes me sad.

At the same time, though, I'm comforted by the fact that people like Gaughran are out there.  He's our champion, our defender at the wall, our Spartan at the pass.  He's done real yeoman's work on behalf of indie authors, and the world is a better place with him in it.

New cover's up

The new cover for Mr. Wilson is up on Amazon.  Will it make a difference?  Who knows... I feel better about it, though.  I think it's a better cover, and that's justification enough for making the switch.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mr. Wilson is now live, mostly

The cover hasn't updated yet on Amazon, but the story is now available on a few more sites:




I'm also waiting on Tolino to publish it.  For those four retailers, I used Draft2Digital.

I'm going direct with Kobo and Nook.  Neither has published it yet.

Hopefully, the story will be up everywhere within the next few days.

And here's the cover I went with:

I decided to go with yellow type instead of white for the title.  And the white type for the author's name and subtitle simply weren't showing up well in thumbnail size.  And I changed the blurb, too.  Anyway, we'll see if it works.  At least I've got a more "spacey" cover now.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

More retailers for Mr. Wilson

I've just submitted Mr. Wilson to my other retailers.  While on Kindle Unlimited, I had to be exclusive to Amazon.  When the KU term ran out, though, I was free to put it up at other places.  I wanted to wait until I had a new cover and blurb before I did that, but it's done now.  Hopefully the files will look right to any buyers.

For the record, I imported the .odt file into Calibre and converted it into an epub.  Then I used Sigil to edit out the Calibre splash page and fix the table of contents.  I uploaded the finished epub to Nook, Kobo, and Draft2Digital.

I also screwed up.  I accidentally left the Amazon link in the back matter.  I quickly realized it, though, and stripped it out and re-uploaded the files.

I'm not expecting any sales.  Readers generally don't pay for short stories, and Mr. Wilson didn't even get borrowed when it was on KU.  When you can't give your story away, that usually means cover+blurb=sucks.  I've changed both.  We'll see what happens.

But even if it never sells, it's good experience.  This is my first time using Sigil to edit an epub, and it seems to have worked.  I used the validator to check it out, and it said all systems were go.  I'm definitely feeling more confident about the process now.

And now that that's out of the way, maybe I can actually do some writing. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Self-editing with text-to-speech

Having your work read back to you is a great way to catch errors that you have previously missed.  When I was working with the narrator to make an audio version of Buddy, my part in the process was to listen to David's work and make sure everything was cool.  I caught a couple of mistakes while doing that--my mistakes, not his--and immediately updated the manuscript.

Later, I saw some other author (I can't remember who) mention that he played his stuff back using a text-to-speech program in order to help him edit his work.  I already knew the value in hearing your work read back, but hadn't considered using such a program.  After some casual googling, I found this site:

I just copy and paste my stuff into the box and then click the "create audio file" button.  It takes it a few minutes, depending on the length of the passage, but when it's done, you can play it or download it.  And that's it.  No cost, no registration.  Easy-peasy.

Since I'm in the process of making a new cover for Mr. Wilson, as well as a new blurb, I figured I'd go ahead and use this editing technique.  I just finished listening to it a few minutes ago.  I found two errors and corrected them.

So, for indie authors who edit their own stuff, here's the process that I use and suggest:

1.  Eyeball editing.  This is just a careful reading of the whole story on your word processor and correcting any errors you see.

2.  Kindle editing.  This is where I convert the .odt to a .mobi and load it onto my Kindle.  Then I read it carefully from start to finish.  If I encounter something that needs to be changed, then I use the "highlight" function to highlight the part I intend to change.  Then I use the "note" function to record what I need to change it to.  When I reach the end, I sit in front of the computer with the Kindle and incorporate those changes into the .odt.  This is a time-consuming process, but it's totally worth it.  In fact, I'd say it's the most important part of the editing process for me.

3.  Audio editing.  This is the latest technique I've added to my repertoire.  The danger here is that I've never really cared for audiobooks, and it's real easy for me to zone out or doze off.  As already mentioned, though, it has helped me find errors that I previously missed, so it's worth it.

Revision is never fun.  It's the "work" of writing.  But there's no getting around it.  It has to be done, so since you're going to immerse yourself in such misery for a while anyway, you might as well do it as best you can.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Formatting for Kindle Direct Publishing

When I first published Buddy, here's what I did:

I copied and pasted the whole thing from OpenOffice to Microsoft Word.  Then I made whatever adjustments I need to make.  This included things like hyperlinks and page breaks.  When I had it the way I wanted it, I uploaded that .doc to Amazon.

And then I used the "preview" function to check it out.  To my surprise and dismay, the last paragraph was in a different font from the rest of the story.  So I went into Word again, highlighted the problem section, selected the proper font, saved, and re-uploaded the file.

Same problem.

I eventually got it fixed, but it took a few tries.  It drove me nuts.  I basically had to backspace the whole last part of the story and then re-type it. 

The problem, as I later discovered, is that Microsoft Word likes to insert a lot of "junk html" into the file, and that stuff doesn't play well with Amazon's file converter.  So, for Mr. Wilson, I decided on a different tactic.

OpenOffice allows you to save your file as a .doc if you want, so I figured I'd do that.  That way, I wouldn't have to open Microsoft Word at all.

And it worked.  Flawless conversion.

So, for novice users of KDP, my recommendation  is to write in OpenOffice.  The program is a free download, so there's no reason not to at least have it on your computer.  Then, when your file is ready for uploading, save it as a .doc file.  Then upload that .doc.  DO NOT use Microsoft Word to make any changes to the file.

This will save you some headaches.  Trust me.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Twists and cliffhangers

Reading this thread at kboards reminded me of a pet peeve that I have and which many other readers share.  It's the frustration with books that end on cliffhangers.

I hate them.  If a review says that a book ends on a cliffhanger, then I won't download that book.  I don't want to read half a story.  I expect the whole thing--introduction, rising action, climax, falling action.  I expect the main conflict to be resolved.  I don't think this is too much to ask.

Twists, of course, are another matter entirely.  I'll read a story that ends on a twist.  I'll write one, too.  (Buddy ends with a twist.)  That's because a twist doesn't prevent the main conflict from being resolved.  It's a little something extra, not a major something missing.

And that's the important difference.  With a cliffhanger, an essential part of the story is missing.  With a twist, all of the essential parts are there, and then you have this extra piece of misdirection on top of it.  It's a bonus, assuming it's pulled off correctly.

Hugh Howey's Wool is an example of a great story that ends on a twist.  It's not a cliffhanger, though, because the main conflict is resolved: Holston leaves the silo and learns the truth.  A cliffhanger would have been if the story had ended right before the airlock's outer door opened.  Whatever lay outside the silo would have remained a mystery.  If Howey had done that, the story would have failed.

My advice to authors would be to avoid cliffhangers unless you make it clear that you're writing a serial.  Even then, I'd avoid them.  They're just not worth it.  Foreshadow the sequel if you must, but give the story a satisfying conclusion.  Your readers will appreciate it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


First, a disclaimer: I'm no expert when it comes to writing blurbs.  So take my advice with a grain of salt.

Having said that, I've picked up a few things, so I figured I'd share.  If you're having a hard time with your book's blurb, then maybe this will help.

I like to write a three-part blurb, usually one paragraph per part.  The first part introduces the main character and the "ordinary world" the character inhabits.  The second part introduces the conflict and the "call to adventure."  The final part states what the main character must do and what's at stake if he fails.

I also like to put a note at the end listing word count and parental guidance stuff, but that's an author's note, and not really part of the blurb.  The blurb proper is an advertisement.  It is meant to get the potential reader to click the "buy" button.  Because it's an advertisement, the rules of marketing apply, not the rules of fiction writing.  That means that cliches are acceptable in the blurb.  It means that it's not only okay if your blurb is formulaic, but encouraged, because advertising formulas work.  This is sort of a paradigm shift for fiction writers, and probably why so many of them get so frustrated with writing blurbs.

So let's write a sample blurb.  We'll use Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Here's the description of one version of the book on Amazon:

Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so he may find new blood and spread undead curse, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel and invasion literature. The novel touches on themes such as the role of women in Victorian culture, sexual conventions, immigration, colonialism, and post-colonialism. Although Stoker did not invent the vampire, he defined its modern form, and the novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film and television interpretations.

This description is written this way because it assumes that everyone is familiar with Dracula.  But let's assume that's not the case.  Let's assume that Dracula is a completely new story that no one has ever heard of, and then write our blurb accordingly.

First part: introduce the character and the ordinary world.

Jonathan Harker is a young solicitor from Victorian England.  He is engaged to Mina, a school mistress, and is eager to begin his life with her.

So far, so good, right?  Moving on...

Second part: the conflict and the call to adventure.

His plans are interrupted when he is summoned to the Carpathian Mountains.  He is asked to lend his services in support of a real estate transaction for Count Dracula.  But things are not as they seem, and he quickly realizes he has been taken prisoner in Dracula's ancient castle.  He manages to escape and return home, but the Count follows. 

And now for the last part: what the hero must do, and what's at stake if he fails.

England is in peril, and Harker knows only he can expose the Count for who and what he truly is.  With the aid of Professor Van Helsing and some friends, he pursues his elusive enemy.  But he must hurry, because Dracula has plans of his own.  If Harker fails to stop him, then all England will be enslaved to the Count's bloodthirsty will.

 And there you have it.  Not the best blurb in the world, perhaps, but sufficient, I think.

 I hope that helps.  If you decide to follow this formula, let me know how it works out for you.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


I don't often have nightmares anymore, but I had one a few nights ago.  And I know for a fact it was because of something I wrote before I went to bed.

No spoilers, so no details, but suffice to say it was horrible.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  I'm not sure.  On the one hand, it means the scene evokes some powerful imagery.  I imagine Stephen King takes it as a compliment when something he writes provokes nightmares in his readers' slumbering minds.

On the other hand, you risk disturbing the reader to the point where he won't continue reading.

Or perhaps I'm overstating things.  Maybe the scene was worse in my mind than it is on paper. 

I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Yay for Flash Control!

I finally found a new replacement add-on for Flashblock.  It's called Flash Control.  No more video auto-play.

I hate auto-play.

Now if the guys at Mozilla would just stop screwing around with Firefox...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Times New Roman is back

Microsoft apparently patched the patch, so my fonts seem to be in working order again.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Should you self-publish?

This is a question that every writer must ask himself at some point.  The reason every writer must answer this question is because self-publishing is an available option for every writer.  Things like age, sex, race, attractiveness, personal connections, and writing skill are irrelevant.  Anyone can upload a file to Amazon, or Nook Press, or Kobo, or wherever.  There are no barriers to entry.

Traditional publishing, of course, is a different animal.  That option is not available to every writer for the simple reason that it takes two to perform this particular tango, and publishers refuse to dance with most writers.  Only a small minority of writers are offered contracts.

So should you self-publish?  I'm not going to try to answer that, because every writer must decide that for himself.  Instead, I'll lay out the pros and cons of self-publishing, as I see them right now in March of 2015, and let you weigh them accordingly.  (For simplicity, I'll use Amazon as a stand-in for all self-publishing platforms in general.)


No rejections.  Getting rejected hurts, and self-publishing spares you this painful experience.

No waiting.  Your book can be available to consumers the very same day you decide to self-publish it.  With traditional publishing, your book becomes available according to their schedule.

More money.  If your ebook is priced between $2.99 and $9.99, then Amazon will give you 70% of the list price for every sale.  Even their 30% rate (for books priced outside that range) is better than what traditional publishers offer.

More frequent payments.  Amazon pays every month.  Traditional publishers do not.

Real-time sales data.  You can watch the sales appear on your dashboard as they happen.

Cover art control.  As long as it's not something that Amazon finds offensive, you can make your cover look however you want.  You don't have to compromise with some in-house cover artist who thinks his "vision" of your story is better than your own.  You can also change your cover whenever you want.  I'm already on my second cover for Buddy, for example.

Content control.  No compromising with editors who want to make major changes to your work that end up completely changing its plot or theme.

Pricing control.  You set the price.  If your sales slump, you can lower the price of your book at any time.  If they rise, you can raise it.  You don't have to worry about a publisher setting your ebook price at $14.99 or some other crazy figure.

Rights.  You keep them all: digital, print, audio, film, foreign language, etc.  You don't sign any rights over to Amazon when you self-publish.  This also means you can un-publish your ebook whenever you want.  This is important if you ever decide to gafiate.

You still have the option of being traditionally published at a later date.  If your self-published book becomes a huge success, then publishing houses will come knocking. 

And now the cons:

No validation.  This isn't important to me, but it is very important to some writers.  Those writers have a psychological need for someone in the industry to tell them that their book is worthy.  Traditional publishing provides this.  Self-publishing cannot.

You are responsible for your cover.  You can make one yourself in Photoshop, or you can hire a cover artist to make one for you.  If you don't have much art experience, making your own is difficult and risky.  Hiring an artist is easier, but can get expensive.  Expect to lay out at least $200 for a good cover.  Average covers can be had for less.

Your book's blurb.  You are responsible for it.  Because a blurb is an advertisement, it's better to think of blurb-writing as a marketing skill instead of a writing skill.  A great novelist can also be a terrible blurb writer, and vice versa, because prose and advertising copy are two different kinds of writing.

No help with marketing.  If you want to market your book, you must do it yourself.  The easiest way to do this is to buy ads.  This can quickly get expensive, though.  A better way to do it is to get involved in some social media outlet or other.  This comes with its own dangers, though, because if people think you're just there to push your book, then they'll think of you as a spammer.

No in-house editing.  If you want your book professionally edited, you have to pay for it yourself.  This can get expensive.  Expect to lay out at least a grand for a full-size novel.  I edit my own work, but it's not easy, and I've had to learn a few tricks in order to be any good at it.  Even so, I always want another pair of eyes to look it over, too.

No presence in bookstores.  Even if you make a print version available, you will not see your book on a store shelf if you self-publish.

No legal team.  If you run into any kind of legal problem, you must hire your own lawyer.  You will not have the benefit of a traditional publishing house's legal team.

Professional associations.  The one you want to join may not accept self-published authors as members.  The SFWA, for example, has recently changed their stance on this matter, and they now allow indie authors, but if you're dead-set on joining some group, then you'd better read their membership requirements before deciding to self-publish.

That's all I can think of at the moment.  I hope it gives you a better idea of what you're in for, whichever way you decide to go.  Keep in mind that the industry is changing at light speed, and half of this information will be out of date in six months.  Good luck!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Goodreads author

They've approved me, and I'm now an official Goodreads author:

My author page

I'll have to read up on what that actually means at some point.  In the meantime, though, it's pretty cool.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Joined Goodreads

I know, I know... It's probably something I should have done a long time ago.  Better late than never, I suppose.

I also applied for the author account.  I'm supposed to receive confirmation within a few days.  Once that happens, we'll see what kinds of stuff the site offers.  I know I can do free giveaways, but that's the only thing I know of off the top of my head.  Anyway, I look forward to browsing the site.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ice storm, power outage

It's back up now, fortunately.

When the power goes out for any length of time, all of the distractions of life grow silent.  Except, of course, things with power sources of their own, like cell phones.  But what if those things went out, too?  Many books have been written about EMP events that leave communities struggling to survive in 19th-century-style environments.  The main struggle in those stories is usually the day-to-day hardship coupled with some external threat.  For example, the townsfolk have to re-learn how to wash clothes in the creek while also protecting the town from the biker gang that wants to steal all their stuff.

But what if we strayed from the formula a little?  Let's suppose cell phone use is addictive.  I mean seriously addictive, as if our bodies have adapted to (and are now dependent on) some hitherto-unknown form of radiation emitted by the devices.  Or it could be a known form of radiation, but one with undocumented side effects.  Then, in the sudden absence of that radiation, we experience withdrawal in the form of some kind of toxic shock, and our immune systems react in a wildly unpredictable manner.  The end result is a mental transformation that makes us ultra-violent, provides us with super strength, and tosses things like conscience and remorse and doubt out the window. 

Basically, it's like the "bath salts" scare, but it doesn't just affect a small number of drug users.  It affects everyone who uses a cell phone on a regular basis.  Pretty scary, right?

Could that be the start of a cool story?  I don't know.

Anyway, it doesn't really matter anymore.  The power's back on.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Found the problem

I was correct to suspect a Windows update was the source of my font issues.  A little googling led me to this thread and helped me pinpoint the culprit:

I uninstalled "Security Update for Windows Vista (KB3013455)" which impacted TrueType fonts (MS15-010) and my issue is resolved.
Fonts are readable, once again.

I did as the folks in that thread did and uninstalled that particular security update.  My fonts are back to normal now.

Good thing, too.  It wasn't just Times New Roman in OpenOffice that was messed up.  Other fonts suffered, too, including the text in one of my computer games.  And that's just intolerable.  You can't mess with a man's games.

Anyway, all's well that ends status quo ante.  Back to writin'...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My TNR got screwed up

My computer downloaded some updates from Microsoft, including a service pack and a bunch of updates for Microsoft Office, and now my Times New Roman font in OpenOffice Writer is screwed up.  Coincidence?  Here's what a paragraph looks like in TNR (click the image to make it bigger):

Look at the lower-case "e."  It's straight-line part is gone, making it look like a "c."  The "s" is broken, too, along with other curves at the top or bottom of letters.

There's no reason this should have happened.  I don't use Microsoft Office except when necessary.  I downloaded the latest version of OpenOffice Writer, hoping that would fix the issue, but it didn't help.  TNR is still messed up.

So, for now, I'm going to use Cambria instead.  Here's a sample:

I have no idea what I'll publish in when the time comes. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Buddy 2

I'd been toying with the idea of a sequel for a while.  I started it tonight.  I've already outlined it and crunched out over 2000 words.

I don't know how long it'll be.  Probably between 10k and 20k, but I'm not limiting myself to any particular range.  The story will be as long as it needs to be, and no longer.

I'd previously been on the fence about doing this.  I didn't want to waste my time writing a sequel to a story that no one wanted to read more of, you know?  Since making Buddy perma-free, I've been getting a steady number of downloads, but no feedback.  No reviews.  No fan emails.  Nada.  I have no idea if those people liked the story or not.  I know this is typical--only two or three out of every hundred readers end up leaving reviews, on average--but it's still a little frustrating.  My goal is to give the readers what they want, but it's not easy to do that when they don't tell you anything.

Then, a couple of days ago, I noticed there was a new review.  The reviewer liked the story and wanted more.  So I'm giving him what he wants.

There will probably be at least a third part, too.  In for a penny, in for a pound, right?  Anyway, that's what I'm working on at the moment.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

How accessible is your work?

A post on Kboards included a link to this site.  Apparently, successful authors tend to write at a 4th-9th grade level. 

Want to know where your own work falls?  Here you go.  Just copy your text and paste it in the box.

I put in a selection from Buddy and scored at about a 7th grade level.  I input a different selection and scored at about a 4th grade level.  Obviously, my work varies a little from paragraph to paragraph.  So, to get the most accurate score, I figured I'd run the entire 10,000-word story.

Here's what I got:

I'm pretty satisfied with that.  And, believe it or not, I make a conscious effort to "streamline" my prose during revision.  My sentences tend to be shorter and simpler after editing.  It's nice to know that my efforts are paying off in the form of a high readability score.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


The more I write, the more I realize just how important it is to plan out the storyline before starting to actually write the story.  It's this stage, the outlining and brainstorming and whatnot, that makes all the difference.  The actual writing is secondary in importance.

For that reason, I really want to get this outline right.  The temptation is to rush it so that I can get to the actual writing part, but I've got to resist that urge.  I've got to be as careful and deliberate as I can and make sure the story's skeleton is as good as it can get.

I also need to get back to my Wool fan-fiction piece.  I haven't done any work on it since before the Christmas holiday rush.  It's probably about half-done.  I don't plan to publish it until after I get a full-length novel up anyway, so there's no hurry, but I'd still like to get it under my belt.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The difference a day makes

Almost as soon as I made the previous post, things started to come together.  I've now got the gist of a story worked out.

My goal, once I finalize the outline and start writing the actual novel, is to crank out the first draft in six weeks or less.  It won't be easy, but I think I can do it.  Anyway, it's a goal to shoot for.

I also need to start playing around with Blender.  If I'm ever going to use it to make images for book covers, then I'll need an idea of what I'm doing.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


I'm working on an outline, but I'm stuck. 

That's the problem with the whole Thanksgiving-Christmas season.  It saps all your momentum.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Been reading lately

...so I haven't been doing much writing.  I have been thinking, though, and going through plot ideas in my head.  There's a story I've had in mind for a while, and I've started assembling its skeleton.

No hints, though.  ;)