Sunday, December 18, 2016

Finally added a new start for Mercury

A beta reader told me the story started out too slow.  He suggested I cut a good bit of the beginning out.  I didn't want to do that, yet I agreed that something had to be done.  So, instead, I'm doing an Ice Monster Prologue type of thing.  I'm adding a new first chapter that will hopefully serve as a hook to keep the reader reading until the action cranks back up again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Started designing a magic system

I've started thinking about the epic fantasy series I plan to do at some point.  It's just preliminary brainstorming for now--I won't start on the first book for at least a couple of years.  But it takes time for ideas to percolate in my head, so I'm doing some rough sketching.  I want to have a decent magic system, so I'm putting thought into it now instead of trying to rush it later.

In the meantime, I'm trying to write some short stuff, too.  And I'm working my way through the Mercury book, trying to fix its flaws.  Nothing is finished, though, and that's frustrating.  It's one of my weaknesses--I start out strong but fade at the finish.

On the plus side, my Christmas shopping is done.  So there's that.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Winter blues

I tend to get a little melancholy this time of year.  I think I've got Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I try to sit in direct sunlight when possible for as long as possible, but that's not always feasible.  And it's been cloudy and rainy for the past several days anyway.  So I've had the blahs for a while.

So that's why I haven't been very productive.  It's totally not because I'm lazy.  Yeah... it's Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Not laziness at all.  That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Another crappy update

Firefox updated recently, and now the browser is having problems.  I don't know if it's a memory issue or what, but it's slow and things don't always load.  My Flash Control add-on is now unreliable, too, and I've turned it off.

I'm getting sick of this company constantly screwing things up.  It's like they're trying to drive me into the warm embrace of another browser.  And it may happen.  I may try one of the Firefox forks again.  I tried Pale Moon once, but didn't stick with it.  Maybe I'll try Brave or something.

/rant over

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Nook links are updated

They're the D2D links now.  I haven't closed out my account with Nook Press, but I'm planning on using D2D for the foreseeable future.  Barnes & Noble still seems to be trying to figure out what kind of company it wants to be.  It's chaotic, and I don't want to deal with them directly until they get themselves sorted out.  I'd love for them to really put some effort into competing with KDP, but they haven't shown much interest in doing that yet.

I updated the Buddy file to include D2D's new-release notification thing.  I don't know if the link will change or not.

The holiday season is in full swing.  I like the holidays, but I sort of hate them, too.  I never get much done in December.

At least we got some rain.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

First draft is done

I met my self-imposed deadline.  The first draft of Neutral Ground is finished.  It came in at just under 79k words.

Now I'm going to try to enjoy Thanksgiving.  No writing or revising or anything.  And I may take Friday and Saturday off as well, just because.

Come next week, I'll get back to the Free Space trilogy.  I'm not looking forward to it.  I've been working on those books for two years now, and I'm ready to be rid of them.  My goal is to get all three polished and ready to publish by the end of the year.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Don't kill off the cool guy

Sometimes we authors decide to get a little too edgy for our own good.  We want to shake things up, or surprise the reader, or whatever, and we kill off a beloved character.  We think we're oh-so-clever.  When fans see a beloved character die, their reactions are often not pleasant.

I read a book series once where the author killed off the coolest character in book three or four (can't remember which).  After that, the series was bland and boring.  The protagonist was a good guy, mostly, but he just wasn't cool.  He wasn't badass.  I learned a lesson then as an author: don't neuter your book of its most interesting character just for the sake of shock value, or to artificially raise the status of the main protagonist, or for any other reason.

Remember: you can always take a character off-stage for a while.  There are many ways to do this.  But death is sort of final.  Don't kill off the cool guy.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Three elements of a good hero

Some fictional heroes are good.  They resonate with us and inspire us long after we have finished reading or watching.  Luke Skywalker, for example.

Other heroes aren't so good.  They're forgettable or, even worse, turn us off to the point where we abandon the book or walk out of the theater.

So what makes the difference?  I think it's three things:

1.)  The hero should be a decent human being.  He shouldn't be a dick.  He shouldn't be cruel.  He should have a conscience.  He should be motivated by positive, uplifting desires, what is best in all of us.  Basically, he should be a role model, more or less.  Most readers would rather be inspired than stare into the abyss.

2.)  The hero must be sufficiently challenged.  If the obstacles of the plot are too easily surmounted, then the story is boring.  Anyone can "overcome" when it's easy.  Heroes overcome when it's hard.  That's what makes them heroic in the first place.  If your hero never fails, or never gets injured, then you're doing it wrong.  Luke Skywalker got beaten and knocked out by Sand People, was thrown across the cantina by ruffians, got zapped by the Force-training remote on the Falcon, and was strangled and half-drowned by the garbage monster before he actually accomplished anything important.  In short, he took his licks.  Make sure your hero does, too.

3.)  The hero must solve the main plot.  Too many books end in cliffhangers nowadays.  I don't like it.  I think it's disrespectful to the reader.  If a reviewer mentions that a book ends in a cliffhanger, then I won't download the book.  It's as simple as that.  I want stories with beginnings, middles, and ends.  If you must have a hook at the end for the next book, then do it in the form of an epilogue.  But always solve the main plot.  Give the reader a satisfying conclusion first.  Then you can hook him for another book.

These seem like pretty simple criteria.  And I suppose they are.  But I'm constantly seeing authors who flout one or more of them.  Those authors are often oblivious as to why their works aren't more popular.  I think such authors would find that adhering to these three rules would make a world of difference in their books' success.

I've been guilty of breaking these rules myself.  Writing good craft is a never-ending struggle.  But I know my weaknesses, and that's the first step in overcoming them.  Hopefully my readers will think I've succeeded.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Going indirect to Nook

I'm going to streamline things a bit.  I'm going to de-list from Nook and then re-list via Draft2Digital.

Monday, November 14, 2016

I wish I'd gone to this school

I could have been a rock star.  :(

That aside, these kids are pretty awesome.  Check it out:

The kid on the drums is a maniac.  In an awesome way, I mean.  :D  \m/

Thursday, November 10, 2016

In remembrance

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt.-Col. John McCrae

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Production has faltered :(

It's the election, mostly.  It's too distracting.  I can't focus on anything anymore.  I spent most of tonight killing bloons instead of doing anything worthwhile.  That's the kind of mush my brain has become.

The good news is that I'm about at the halfway point in Neutral Ground.  Word count is somewhere around 43k, I think.  Poor Jerry is in a tough spot.  He's been ordered to do something that is basically suicidal.  But a Rifleman does his duty, regardless of the risks.  For Homestead!  :D

Another person volunteered to beta read Hostile Planet.  I'm pleased.  Can't have too many betas.  Well, you can, I suppose, but I'm not in that position yet.

I finally figured out how to make folders in my gmail inbox.  Google calls them "labels" instead of folders, but they're basically the same thing, it seems.  I feel like an idiot for not figuring this out sooner.  :S

So that's where I'm at now.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Story within a story

Story within a story:

The inner stories are told either simply to entertain or more usually to act as an example to the other characters. In either case the story often has symbolic and psychological significance for the characters in the outer story. There is often some parallel between the two stories, and the fiction of the inner story is used to reveal the truth in the outer story.

I've got a scene in Hostile Planet where I do this "story within a story" thing, and I'm writing one now in Neutral Ground.  A few characters are telling stories around the campfire.  (Yes, they're literally in the woods and sitting around a fire.)

It's a cool device, and it's fun.  I just hope it works.  Only my beta readers know for sure, so we'll just have to wait and see.

Neutral Ground currently stands at 37,000 words.  My goal was to finish the first draft by Thanksgiving, and I'm still confident I can do that.

Friday, October 21, 2016


I've got 25k words written for Neutral Ground.  That's over 3k per day on average.  I'm pleased with that.

I bought my domain name.  I also set up some free Zoho email stuff.  It was kind of a bear, but I finally got it to work.  This is in preparation for setting up a mailing list.  I'll be getting a P.O. box in January for that purpose.  For now, though, I've got and I've got a couple of email addresses for that domain.

Firefox updated, and suddenly the "back" and "forward" buttons on my browser got all wonky.  I couldn't click "back" without getting the drop-down menu showing all the sites I had visited during the session.  It was a real annoyance.  I finally discovered that the BetterPrivacy add-on was screwing with it, so I disabled that add-on.  The buttons work normally now.  Even better, the developer for the add-on is working on a solution.  So hopefully I can turn BetterPrivacy back on soon.

Today was the first day that really felt like autumn.  It was cool and windy, and the leaves are starting to come down in earnest instead of just a few per day.

Once this draft is done, I'll have to focus on revision for a while.  I'll have to start lining up advertisers, too, because they all have different requirements for submissions.  Once the new year gets here, I'll start working with the cover designer for the Free Space books.  That's in addition to setting up a mailing list.

So lots of stuff going on.  I'm trying to keep it all straight. :o

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Chugging along nicely

I've got 18,000 words written for Neutral Ground.  Not bad for a few days' work, I think.  My brain's starting to get a little crispy, though.  I may have to slow my roll for a day or two.

Another author has read the first few chapters of Hostile Planet and praised it.  That's encouraging.  I have self-confidence issues, and encouragement helps tremendously.

I've had to build a space navy from scratch along the way.  I've got the following classes of ships in the Agrarian Commonwealth Navy at the start of the series:

Patrol craft

I've got armament listed for each, and the ranking of each ship type's commanding officer, but that's it.  No further details.  I'll add more as necessary, but I don't want to get bogged down in minutiae.

Once I get this draft done, I'll be mired in revision for a while.  Probably until publication.  *shrug*  We'll see.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Neutral Ground has begun!

I've started the first draft of Neutral Ground, the second book in the Wheel of Fire series.  I've got over 3,000 words in already.

It's all because of the outlining.  It really does wonders for my writing speed.  And it makes the stuff I write better, too, since I've already thought it out.  I hate trying to think while I write.  I'd rather get all the thinking out of the way during the outlining.  Then it's basically just "paint by numbers" from there on out.  I outline with my right-brain.  I write with the left-brain.  And never the twain brains shall meet.

I'd like to have this draft done by Thanksgiving.  And I'd like to have the book ready for beta reading by the end of the year.  Those are my goals.

Speaking of beta reading, Hostile Planet is now being beta read.  :D

It's not easy juggling all this stuff at once.  That's five balls I've got in the air: the Free Space trilogy books and the first two books of Wheel of Fire.

Tentative plan is still to publish the trilogy in February and then Hostile Planet a month later.  After that, I'd ideally like to put out a new book at least every three months.  It would be great if I could wrap the whole series up by the end of 2018.  But lots can happen between now and then.  For now, I'm just focused on my 2016 goals.

Anyway... that's all for now.  Back to work.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Good deeds feel good

It's nice to feel like you've really helped out another person.  An author on Kboards needed help with his cover, so I volunteered to play around with the typography.  To be honest, I never really know if what I make is going to be awesome or fall completely flat.  It was great to get such positive feedback from the others in the thread.  And Steven seemed to be thrilled, so everyone won.  :D

Anyway, this was Steven's first cover attempt:

And this was his second:

Then he emailed me the artwork, and I came up with this:

I was quite pleased by the reaction it received.  This cover design stuff isn't easy for me, as I said in the thread, so it means a lot when I get praise from others about something I've whipped up in Photoshop.

I'm not letting it go to my head, though.  I know my limitations, and I'm still hiring a pro to do my Free Space covers.  ;)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Neutral Ground outline

It might just be done.

I've deleted a few scenes near the start that I thought might slow the action down.  And I've added an action scene to a later part and tweaked a different action scene to make it better.  I'll know when the outline feels "right."  Then it'll be time to start the draft.

My goal is to publish at least the first three books of this series in 2017.  That's in addition to the three books of the Free Space trilogy.  So at least six total for the calendar year.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The beauty of outlining

Something's been eating at me.  No, not literally.  All my pieces and parts are intact.  I mean figuratively, and it's because of my outline for Neutral Ground.

It just wasn't quite right.

The great thing about outlines, though, is that they're not whole novels.  If I was a pantser, then I'd be looking at major revisions involving thousands of words.  But with an outline, preforming major surgery on a novel's structure is fairly easy.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and a thousand words of outline is worth ten thousand of novel.

So I rearranged a few things.  Instead of having Character A and B have a conversation in Setting X, I now have Characters A and C having that conversation much later and in Setting Y.  And I may trim down some other scenes, too, that I fear may bog the story down in the beginning.

For me, this is the "creative" part.  This is where I do my thinking.  Once I start the draft, I don't want to think anymore.  I want the actual writing to be more like filling in the blanks.  The prose shows what the outline tells, more or less.

I don't when I'll start this draft.  All I know is I won't start it until the outline is right.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Second draft is done

I just completed the second draft of Hostile Planet.  It clocks in at just over 92,000 words.  So I added about 3,000 words between drafts.  That's a much smaller percentage than usual, and I chalk it up to my more detailed outline.

I still have to go back and separate it out into chapters, but that's no big deal.  And the cover is almost done, too.  I was seriously flirting with hiring a cover designer, but I think the one I made myself might just be good enough.

I suppose my next step is to finish up the Neutral Ground outline and make sure it's as perfect as it can be.  And I'll need to start working on a cover for that book, too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Using weather to set the mood

Weather is a great tool to use to set the mood of a scene.  It doesn't come naturally to me--I have to remind myself to do it--but I think it almost always improves the text.  And, in cases where the mood might not be otherwise spelled out, the weather can solidify that mood in the reader's mind.

For example, consider this scene:

Killian stood in the midst of the mourners and watched Jenny's casket disappear.  The gravediggers cranked the mechanism, and the straps unspooled, lowering her into the ground.  Above them, a gentle rain pitter-pattered on the green canopy like some funereal drumbeat. 

Killian had no umbrella, and his hair was matted. Drops of rain rolled down his face.  He didn't wipe them away.

The others sniffed and coughed, but exchanged no words.  There was nothing to say, really.  A bright, beautiful young woman was gone forever, and for no good reason.

Killian shivered.  He was soaked, and the cold and damp was leaching into his bones.

Now consider the same scene, but with different weather and reactions to that weather:

Killian stood in the midst of the mourners and watched Jenny's casket disappear.  The gravediggers cranked the mechanism, and the straps unspooled, lowering her into the dry, hard-baked soil. 

Killian wiped the sweat from his brow for perhaps the millionth time.  His undershirt was soaked, and he undoubtedly had sweat stains.  For that reason, he kept his suit jacket on.  Taking it off wouldn't have helped much anyway.

Some of the others swayed in the heat, but no one exchanged words.  There was nothing to say, really.  A bright, beautiful young woman was gone forever, and for no good reason.  It was as tragic as death got, and enduring the sweltering day was just another part of the social contract.

Killian began to get dizzy.  He stuck a finger inside his collar and tugged, trying to loosen its grip on his neck.

And one more variation:

Killian stood in the midst of the mourners and watched Jenny's casket disappear.  The gravediggers cranked the mechanism, and the straps unspooled, lowering her into the ground.  All around, wisps of fog curled around suit-legs and panty-hosed calves, shrouding the land in cloudy mist.

Killian couldn't discern many details from where he stood.  The gravediggers were only shapes, wraiths moving back and forth under the canopy's shadow.  The fog condensed wherever it could, and he felt soggy, like a wet sponge.  Drops of condensation occasionally rolled down his face.  He didn't wipe them away.

The others sniffed and shuffled their feet, and the sounds were alien in the fog... malevolent, even.  Many eyes darted around, wary of the twisting shadows and their ghostly noises, but no words were exchanged.  And there was nothing to say, really.  A bright, beautiful young woman was gone forever, and for no good reason.

Killian shoved his hands deeper into his pockets and scowled.

In the first example, I was going for a sad, solemn mood.  In the second, I wanted to add a little tension.  And in the third, I wanted to make it mysterious and a little scary.

Did I succeed?  Well... that's for the reader to decide.  ;)

If you're not using the weather to help set or bolster a mood, then consider giving it a try.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cleanest first draft ever (so far)

I'm working on the second draft of Hostile Planet, but I'm not finding a lot of fault.  I usually do some major surgery on first drafts--moving entire scenes around, adding new scenes, and so on--but this book has been different.  I think it's due to the more detailed outline I started with.  I simply didn't have to conjure up much stuff along the way, so everything fits well together.

Conclusion: the more detailed the outline, the better the first draft.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Back in the saddle... sort of

I've mostly gotten over my illness.  I still have a bit of a cough, but that's it.  I'm trying to get back into my exercise routine.

Mercury and Mars are out for a round of beta reading.  I've started working on the second draft of Hostile Planet.  I've also been going over titles and book covers for the trilogy.  And I've got an 8,000-word outline for Neutral Ground, the second book in the Wheel of Fire series.  Not sure if it still needs any more work, though.

Tentative plan is to release the trilogy books in February on consecutive days.  I don't want to do all three the same day--too easy to screw something up.  Once the trilogy books fall off the Hot New Releases list, then I'll put up Hostile Planet.  It would be great if I could get book three, Fever Pitch, up soon after the trilogy books hit the 90-day cliff, but that's optimistic.

At some point, I'll need to go over the various promotions and decide which ones give me the most bang for my buck.  My marketing budget is limited, so it's basically just going to be the small-fry mailings at first.  Unless, of course, I get a Bookbub, in which case I'd beg, borrow, or steal to scrape up the cash.  Nothing beats Bookbub.

So that's that.  Lately, I've been browsing the internet for images I can use as spaceships.  The trilogy covers will just be the planets, but the Hostile Planet cover needs to have some space action, and that's where I'm not sure I can deliver.  But we'll see, I guess.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Still sick

My sinuses are better, but I've got a persistent cough.  It's been two weeks.  I was hoping I'd be back to normal by now.  :(

I did a little reading--Algernon Blackwood's The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories.  Some were good.  Some had weak endings.  All were good at creating a creepy mood.

I'm almost ready to send Mercury and Mars out for beta reading.  Obviously, my illness has delayed things.  But hopefully I'll have this bug beaten soon.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hurricane Hermine is here

The outer bands, anyway.  It has just begun to rain here.

I'm far enough inland so that it's nothing to worry about.  It'll be a few days of on-and-off rain, and then it'll be gone.  My thoughts go out to those in Florida, though.  Best wishes, y'all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A wasted week

I'm still sick.  I haven't done anything writing-related at all.

I thought I was getting over it on Sunday, but then I must have relapsed or something.  I threw up a couple times today.  :(

I'm not going to die or anything, but it still sucks.  With the various medicines I've been taking, I simply don't trust my brain to make good writing decisions right now.  I really hope this bug goes away soon.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

And... I'm sick. :(

I've got a fever or a cold or something.  I don't know.  Right now I've got a bloodstream full of pseudoephedrine.  I haven't done anything productive all day.  I'm in danger of dozing off before I can publish this blog post.

Ah, well.  Such is life, I guess.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The sword is not yet obsolete

Even in the age of firearms, there's nothing quite like a good blade:

Cashier defends his store with a sword

The only thing that would have made this video better is if there had actually been a sword fight.  I guess criminals don't have the guts to stand their ground when it looks like they might get sliced up by a guy wielding a scimitar.

Can't really say I blame them.

Soviet superheroes

The Russian movie Guardians comes out next year.  Here's the trailer:

I like the bear-man with the gatling gun.  :D

Monday, August 22, 2016

Practice map is done

I've finished my fantasy practice map.  I didn't bother labeling any cities or rivers or anything since this is just a proof-of-concept experiment to see if I can do it.  I think it turned out pretty good, though.  Better than I expected, actually.

I learned a few things along the way:

1.)  Take note of the codes for whatever colors you use.  For example, the dark green is 016e04, the brown of the mountains is 775504, and so on.  Then you can just copy and paste the codes into the Photoshop palette field.

2.)  Use separate layers for each feature.  Absolutely essential.

3.)  Using separate layers allows you to use adjustment layers for each feature.  For example, I altered the brightness and contrast of the mountains without changing anything else.

4.)  Rivers go on top of all other layers.  On this map, the rivers were made by deleting the base layer of land so that the water layer showed through.  This was a mistake.  If you zoom in and look closely, you can see places where the green (or whatever) shading spilled over onto the rivers.  Next time, I'll just draw the rivers on with the paintbrush.

5.)  Take note of pixel size for whatever you're doing.  You want uniformity.  You don't want one city to be 29 pixels and another to be 43 pixels.  (Or whatever.)

6.)  Adjust the opacity to about 50% for the shaded areas.  That gives it a more organic look.  I didn't use the blur tool, but I might try that next time, too, in places where one color of shade meets another.

7.)  The upper-right continent ended up resembling an upside-down vagina.  That was unintentional, but an important lesson to learn, I suppose.  Next time, I'll be on the lookout for unfortunate resemblances throughout the process.

8.)  Make the file large so that the cities and towns don't look pixelated when you zoom in.  In order to make specific areas visible on a Kindle, you'll have to have zoomed-in maps of those specific regions, and that means you need a large file to start with if you want those maps to be crisp.

Anyway, I'm calling it a success.  As the features take shape, my imagination starts to conjure up stories of the land and its people.  The history doesn't quite write itself, but making the map first definitely gives one a solid foundation.

And it was fun, too. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Designing a space navy

I'm working on it.  :D

Not much space action in Hostile Planet.  That story mostly takes place on the surface.  That's probably obvious from the book's title.  But there will be plenty of space battles in the series, and that means I need navies.

For the Commonwealth, I've got this so far:

Patrol craft are named for the counties of the worlds they patrol, commanded by Lieutenants
Corvettes are named for men, commanded by Lt. Commanders
Destroyers and frigates are named for weapons and tools, commanded by Commanders
Battlecruisers are named for planets, commanded by Captains

I'm going with a mix of American and British conventions.  And some things aren't based on anything other than the needs of the story. 

I'm still on the fence about drones, but I'm leaning towards not having them.  Machines breaking other machines just seems dull.  It's more fun when people fight one another--when lives are at stake on both sides.

I'm revising the outline for the second book in the series, Neutral Ground.  Once it's done, I'll finish whatever revisions need finishing, send stuff out for beta reading, and then get started on the first draft.

I hope September turns out to be more productive.  I feel like I've wasted August.  Too much going on.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Wrestling with the gray planet and other distractions

I'm trying to whip Mercury into shape.

I'm at about the halfway point and am struggling to figure out what to do with a fight scene.  As a result, my progress has been slow.  I really, really want to put this trilogy behind me and get back to the Wheel of Fire.  Writing Hostile Planet was the most fun I've had writing in a long time.  Probably due to the battle scenes.  I don't think I've ever written battle scenes before.  Which sounds crazy, because I love that stuff.  :S

I've been playing around at cartography in Photoshop.  I've always loved fantasy maps.  I use to draw my own when I was a kid.  Now I can use the computer.  Yay, technology!  Here's a practice map:

I haven't gotten around to the smaller land masses--just the main one.  But this is just for practice anyway, so it doesn't matter.  The point was to see how the brushes I downloaded would look and if I could make something that didn't look terrible.  I've still got more features to add, but I think it's coming along so far.  *shrug*

Just to be clear, I intend to write an epic fantasy series someday, but that day is far in the future.  I'm putting the finishing touches on the Free Space trilogy and I've started the Wheel of Fire series.  That one is planned for eight books.  After that, I intend to delve into urban fantasy--modern day, first-person point-of-view, etc.  The usual tropes.  Only after that would I think about starting an epic fantasy.

But making maps is fun, so I'm doing it.  :D

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Olympic distractions

Yeah, I've been watching.  *sigh*

I really shouldn't, since I've got better things to do.  It's cutting into my productivity.  But at least it only lasts a couple of weeks.

Anyway, good luck to all the athletes.  I hope you all do your best, and may the best of you win.  :)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

R.I.P., Jerry Doyle

Just found out about this.  Mr. Garibaldi has joined the First Ones beyond the Rim:

Renowned talk show host and actor Jerry Doyle passed away at the age of 60, wherein his family reported that he was found unresponsive in his home in Las Vegas.

I actually met him once at a Babylon 5 fan event.  He seemed like a down-to-earth fellow and was very patient considering the long line of people waiting to meet him.

We'll miss you, Chief.  :(

Friday, July 29, 2016

First draft is done!

The first draft of Hostile Planet is finished.  It clocked in at just under 88,000 words.

I'm feeling a little wrung out right now.  I think I wrote at least 5,000 words today.  If so, that's a new personal best.

My next task is to go back to the Free Space trilogy and work on revising those books.  I won't do that tonight, and maybe not until Monday.  I've earned a break.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


I've got over 75,000 words written for Hostile Planet.  I'm nearly done.  I expected to finish this draft by August, and I can still do that.

This one's a little more bloody than stuff I've written in the past.  I suppose that's what happens when you give your main character a sword.  :o

Hopefully, by the time I'm done, my brain will be refreshed enough to tackle the Free Space books with renewed vigor.

Friday, July 22, 2016

99-Cent Novellas

On July 22nd and 23rd, Lazy Saturday Reads is promoting shorter works designed for quick summer reading.  All works are priced at 99 cents.

One of those works will look familiar to readers of this blog.  ;)

So, if you're in the mood for an inexpensive story that doesn't take too much time away from fun in the sun, then check out the promotion.

 Who knows?  You might discover your new favorite author.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sorry, Bram. I tried.

I've abandoned The Mystery of the Sea by Bram Stoker.  I made it almost halfway through, but I just couldn't take any more. 

I wanted to like this book.  I liked Dracula, after all.  I think no other book does such a wonderful job of building mood and suspense as Dracula.  I thought the ending was weak, but my overall impression of it was positive.

But The Mystery of the Sea was a different matter.  It has a couple of fatal flaws, and I couldn't overcome them.  The biggest flaw was the character of Gormala MacNeil.  She's an old Scottish woman who possesses a psychic gift.  None of that is the problem.  No, the problem is that she speaks in a thick Scottish dialect, complete with vernacular, and Bram Stoker writes it all out.  Here's an example of her dialog:

“Ah! to them that have seen the Doom there needs but sma’ guidance to their thochts. Too lang, an’ too often hae I mysen seen the death-sark an’ the watch-candle an’ the dead-hole, not to know when they are seen tae ither een. Na, na! laddie, what I kent o’ yer seein’ was no by the Gift but only by the use o’ my proper een. I kent not the muckle o’ what ye saw. Not whether it was ane or ither o’ the garnishins o’ the dead; but weel I kent that it was o’ death.”

None of that is a typo.  It's copy-and-pasted from the Gutenberg site.  The whole first ten percent of the book is filled with that sort of gibberish.  :|

At about the ten percent mark, though, Gormala exits stage left, and the text reverts back to readable English.  At that point, I began to think I might finally get into the story.  But then the second flaw reared its head.  The narrator meets a girl and spends page after page gushing about her.  This "mystery" story by the author of freakin' Dracula turns into a "young adult" romance!

Nevertheless, I admonished myself to push on.  Surely the narrator can't act like a lovestruck schoolboy forever, right?  Well, wrong.  The romance never really made it to the background.  It remained too close to the foreground, wallowing in its own endorphins and staring at its navel and making me want to claw my eyes out.  But the other subplot--the thing about the Spanish Armada and possible hidden treasure--started to crank up just a little.  I soldiered on, hoping to get some gunfire or some swordplay or something to hook my attention and reel me back into the story.

And then, as if to dash my final hopes, Gormala reappeared on the scene.

That was it.  Last straw.  Book abandoned.  :(

Bram's got a few other books on Gutenberg, so I'll give some of those a try at some point.  But I'm terribly disappointed in The Mystery of the Sea.  I really wanted to like it as much as I liked Dracula.  Instead, I feel like a good friend's dog died.

I suppose the moral of the experience is that any author, no matter how famous, is capable of writing a stinker.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Plasma is good

Back in the day, I loved the plasma rifle in Doom.  It wasn't my favorite weapon--I actually preferred the chaingun due to its greater precision--but the plasma rifle had a space-age quality to it that the chaingun lacked.

I had always wanted to write a story with plasma weapons, but it never seemed the right time.  You can't really do it for hard science fiction due to the physics involved.  Plasma doesn't work in real life like it does in Doom.

But I've finally gotten around to it.  The Wheel of Fire series is science fiction bordering on science fantasy.  The setting is finally right.

Oh, yes... There will be plasma.  Plasma is good.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


I'm about 57,000 words into Hostile Planet.  The going has been slow this week due to my insect sting.  I ended up having to ice my hand a few times after all.  The swelling's all but disappeared now, though, and other than the scab itself, I think the hand and forearm are finally back to normal.

I'm on page 6 of my 11-page outline.  So a little more than halfway.  I doubt I'll end up with over 100,000 words, though.  I think the second part of the outline is more detailed than the first, and it's basically using more words to describe less.  But we'll see.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


I got stung on my hand by a yellow jacket.  It's red and swollen.

The good news is that it doesn't itch incessantly, so I can actually type.  The bad news is I've been on some Diphenhydramine, so my head's a little too foggy to write.

I still hope to finish this draft by August.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


Broke through 40,000 words on Hostile Planet.  It's officially novel-length now, according to some standards.

Still a long way to go, though.  I'm only on page four of an eleven-page outline.  :o  Makes me wonder how long this thing's going to end up.

Sunday, June 26, 2016


I've written about 26,000 words of Hostile Planet.  Not bad for a week's work.

When this draft is finished, I'll go back to the Free Space trilogy and work on revision.  But I definitely needed this break from those stories.  I think I'll be able to tackle them with renewed vigor.  It's sort of a schizophrenic way of writing, I guess, but you have to do what works best for you.

Stanley Brothers reunite at last

R.I.P., Ralph Stanley.

Bluegrass music pioneer Ralph Stanley died Thursday at the age of 89, publicist Kirt Webster announced on Stanley's official website.

Now you and Carter can show those harp-playing angels in heaven what making music is all about.

I imagine it'll sound a little like this:

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Gave in

Yeah, I know.  I'm weak.  I'm a bad, bad man.

I should be revising the Free Space trilogy.  Instead, I've started a new book.  Started yesterday, actually.  Already got over 7000 words down.  And a battle scene!  I can't remember the last time I wrote a real live military battle.  It was really fun.

I expect to finish this draft by August.  Then, hopefully, I'll have the willpower to wrap up the Free Space trilogy and get them out for another round of beta reading.

Until then, though, my weak, bad self will be in the galaxy known as the Wheel of Fire.  For Homestead!

Monday, June 13, 2016


That's me.  :(

I should be revising Mercury and Mars.  I should be getting the whole trilogy ready for another round of beta reading.  That's what I would be doing if I had any sense.

The problem is that I'm kind of sick of the story and the characters right now.  They've all I've been writing about for the past year.  I'd rather go ahead and write the first draft of Hostile Planet and then come back to the Free Space trilogy.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Needed a break

I've almost got Venus sorted out and ready for another round of beta reading.  Then I'll move onto Mercury.  All three books are undergoing significant changes.

Right now, though, I'm sick of this trilogy.  I needed a break, so I'm writing a short story.  I'm about 3000 words in so far.  Not much, but it's a nice change of pace.

When it's done, I'll get back to the Free Space trilogy.

John Galt

Most of us are familiar with the character from Atlas Shrugged, but it turns out there was a real guy with that name, too.  He was a 19th century author.

John Galt on Amazon.

John Galt on Wikipedia.

I went ahead and downloaded Ringan Gilhaize from Amazon.  It's free, so I figured I'd give Galt's work a try.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fun climate fact

Other than Antarctica, every continent has a region of "humid subtropical" on its southeastern side.

Wikipedia's map:

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bligh: Hero? Villain? Something in between?

I recently read Lieutenant William Bligh's account of the breadfruit mission to Tahiti and the resulting mutiny.  It provided a very different narrative than the one seen in the various Mutiny on the Bounty movies.

When determining who--Bligh or the mutineers--is the true villain(s), here are a few facts that merit consideration:

- Bligh was ordered by the Admiralty to take the Cape Horn route.  He protested due to it being the wrong time of year for favorable winds.  The Admiralty relented, sort of, saying that if the Cape Horn route proved too difficult, then Bligh had permission to sail east and approach Tahiti via the Cape of Good Hope.  Bligh followed orders.  He sailed west for the tip of South America, gave it his best shot, found it impossible to round the tip of the continent, and eventually turned east.  It is unfair for him to receive the blame for this--that blame falls on the Admiralty.

- Bligh was a very capable navigator.  His journal is filled with latitude and longitude reckonings, down to the minute, as well as the usual talk of winds and currents, and the narrative paints a picture of a man who knows almost exactly where he is on the globe at any given time.  This is not a man who is blundering his way across the ocean.

- The crew was young.  At the ripe old age of 33 when the breadfruit mission began, Bligh was one of the oldest men aboard.  Fletcher Christian, the hero of the movies, was 23.  The youngest crewman was 15.

- The day of the mutiny, Christian and the others repeatedly warned Bligh not to say anything or he wold be killed.  Bligh ignored their warnings and continued to try to engage them in conversation.  He was threatened time after time for talking, but they were empty threats.  The mutineers don't come across as men of conviction, but rather blusterers who don't have the courage to follow through.

- After the mutiny, Bligh and his supporters were cast adrift in the ship's launch.  One of those men would later be killed by hostile natives.  The rest survived long enough to reach the Dutch Coupang colony on Timor.

- Bligh strictly rationed the food and water aboard the launch in order to make it last the 3500 nautical mile journey to Timor.  A typical meal consisted of an ounce of bread and a quarter-pint of water.  There was also some pork, rum, and wine aboard, as well as the occasional bird or fish they managed to catch, but all those were rare treats.  The men were skin and bones by the time they reached Coupang.  They sailed into the harbor about a month-and-a-half after the mutiny.

- Meanwhile, the mutineers returned the Bounty to Tahiti.  They lied to the local chiefs in order to trick some men and women into coming aboard the ship.  The men were to be a source of labor.  The women were to provide sex and children.  The natives were essentially slaves.  The goal was to establish a permanent settlement on another island.

- Fletcher Christian had a hard time maintaining his authority.  There were gun battles and constant strife.

- The Pitcairn settlement was a disaster.  Almost all the men, including Fletcher Christian, were murdered.  The women, at one point, tried to build a boat and sail away.

- Most of Bligh's men made it back home.  A few died in the weeks after the launch reached Coupang.

- The natives were mostly hostile.  Bligh is never really disparaging of them in his journal--perhaps influenced by Rousseau's idea of the "noble savage" which was in vogue at the time--but the fact remains that those natives were problematic.  The Tahitians were the friendliest, but were still constantly stealing stuff from the Bounty.  Bligh would complain to the chiefs about the missing goods; sometimes they would get the stuff back, sometimes not.  The people of other islands would be welcoming one moment and murderous the next.  Some were cannibals.  During the trip to Timor, Bligh would avoid going ashore on an island if he saw any evidence of human settlement.  The English sailors were basically trying to "sneak" across the ocean, and that says a lot, especially considering the dire straits they were in regarding food and fresh water.

So what can we conclude from all this?

In my opinion, the obvious answer is the likeliest.  Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers, being the young, testosterone-surfeited, and impressionable teenaged and twenty-something-year-old men that they were, were seduced by the easy living and easy women of Tahiti.  The five months they spent there proved sufficient to tear down their self-discipline.  When it came time to leave, they simply couldn't bear the thought of giving all that up and returning to a life of duties and responsibilities.  They "went native" in all the worst senses of the term.

Bligh, on the other hand, was old enough and rigid enough to stay the course.  He was not a cruel man, but he did mete punishment when necessary, and he did seem to have some social difficulties at times.  I wouldn't be surprised if he had Asperger's Syndrome or some similar thing.  His meticulous reasoning and calculations, both when it came to navigation and rationing, would seem to support this.  He was a man who seemed more comfortable with numbers than people.

The resulting chaos and violence among the mutineers speaks for itself.  When you and your pals are murdering and kidnapping people left and right, then YOU are the bad guy, not your disciplinarian captain who would go on to save a bunch of men's lives by successfully leading them over 3500 nautical miles across the open ocean in a glorified rowboat.

The Wikipedia entry says this:

The generally accepted view of Bligh as an overbearing monster and Christian as a tragic victim of circumstances, as depicted in well-known film accounts, has been challenged by late 20th- and 21st-century historians from whom a more sympathetic picture of Bligh has emerged.

...and I agree with those modern historians.  In my opinion, Bligh was unfairly maligned by the descendants of the mutineers and by Hollywood.  He was the hero; Christian the villain.  But Christian was a sexy, romantic villain, and Bligh an awkward, uncompromising hero, and that makes all the difference as far as some people are concerned.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Hand issues

I haven't done much typing over the past few days.  It's hard to type with a bag of ice on your hand due to an allergic reaction.  But the swelling is gone now, so I'll try to get cranked back up.

The feeling that I'm spinning my wheels, though, sucks.

On the plus side, it gave me an excuse to do a little more reading and movie-watching than usual.  I try to break down story structure and stuff while watching movies.  I'm always trying to improve my craft (with varying levels of success).

Anyway, my hand's back to normal now, so back to the grind.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


I'm still working on Venus, trying to get that book off to a more exciting start.  :|

It's been slow going, and I'm getting frustrated and demoralized.

Anyway, that's where I'm at.

Monday, May 2, 2016

I need more beta readers

Tht's not a slam against the ones I already have.  They're great, and I'm fortunate to have them.

The problem is that there's only two of them.  When one loves something the other hates, well, what am I supposed to do?

So I guess I'll try to recruit a few more.

In the meantime, I need to re-write the first part of Venus.  It starts too slow, and I need to grab those eyeballs from the beginning.  I don't even have a plan for this revision yet--I just know it needs to happen.


At times I feel I'll never get this trilogy done.  And I really want it to be done, because I'm sick of it.  I'm ready for something new.  I don't know how guys like Jordan, Martin, and Butcher can spend decades on a single series.  I suppose millions of dollars helps ease the pain.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Second draft is done

Finally.  Man, that took forever.  The second draft of Mars actually took longer than the first.

This draft is 73,000+ words long, so I've added about 15,000 words.  I expected to add a few thousand--I almost always add material during revision--but not quite that much.

Next up, I guess, is the Kindle edit.  Once that's done, I'll send Mars off for beta reading, and then I'll get back to Venus and Mercury.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Watched Excalibur again

...for the millionth time, it seems.  Man, I love that movie.  And it all starts with adultery:

Uther covets Igrayne, wife of the Duke of Cornwall.  Merlin helps him satisfy his lust, and, well, the seed of the heroic tragedy of the Arthurian tale is planted in her womb.

One of these days, I'll do a breakdown of this movie and highlight some of the interesting elements.  Not today, though.  For now, let's just watch and enjoy.  Well... I will make one small bit of commentary.  This scene here, more than any other I've ever seen, is what chivalry and honor are all about:

Both Arthur and Uryens exemplify the best qualities of knighthood here.  Uryens accuses Arthur of subverting the chivalric code by demanding a knight swear faith to a squire.  Arthur realizes he's right.  He takes a leap of faith and hands Excalibur over to his enemy.  He is literally betting his life on Uryens's sense of honor.  And Uryens, to his credit, resists the temptation to take the sword and lop Arthur's head off.  His conscience compels him to knight Arthur.  The conflict is resolved, the two factions of knights are united, and they all set out to quell the land and bring peace and prosperity to the people. 

Both men resisted temptation, humbled themselves, and did the honorable thing.  And, in time, the whole land reaped the benefits.

If only all men were so knightly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Amazon introduces...

...the Kindle Oasis.

From the product description:

The buttons are good.  Having both buttons and touchscreen available for page-turning makes everyone happy.  The charging cover is a nice addition, I guess, but sort of "meh" in my opinion.

But are these new bells and whistles worth the price?

Three hundred bucks for a dedicated e-reader?  :o  That's just crazy talk.

Look, Amazon.  I love you guys.  I really do.  You're my favorite corporation on this entire planet.  But very few people are going to fork out that kind of money for that kind of product.  If it was a full-feature tablet--in other words, an iPad competitor--then yeah, the price ain't so bad.  But it's just an e-reader.

A three hundred dollar e-reader.

I'll stick with my first-gen Kindle Fire.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Congratulations, SpaceX!

They successfully landed their booster on the drone ship:

Pretty cool.  :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Finally got the song written

When I wrote the first draft of Mars, I wrote a scene that involves some singing.  I was intent on finishing the draft, though, and writing a song is time-consuming, so I postponed it.  I just put "song" in parentheses on the page and moved on to the next scene.

So today I returned to the song and focused on writing the lyrics.  The hard part was deciding on a tune to model them on.  I've finally decided to take an Irish ballad (not saying which one) and write alternate lyrics to it.  I've got three stanzas and a chorus, and I think it turned out okay.  Anyway, the song is finished and on paper, so all I have to do is make minor tweaks if I decide it's not good enough.

I'm almost done making the changes according to the notes I took while writing the first draft.  Once I'm done, I'll go back and read the whole thing through and edit it for smoothness of transitions between sentences and between paragraphs.  That will conclude the second draft.  Then it's mobi time.  Or azw3 time.  I may try that format instead.  The mobi files I make in Calibre tend to be unstable once I start using the highlight and note features.  I may try sending a .doc to the Kindle via the Send-to-Kindle app.  It converts it to azw3.

In Wheel of Fire news, I've been working on the backstory.  I've got a good background for some of the characters, but one in particular is proving troublesome.  I'm having a hard time fleshing out her motivation and her reason for being part of the group.

So that's where I'm at.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Goals for April

1.  Finish the second draft of Mars.
2.  Do the mobi edit for Mars.
3.  Go over a beta read of Venus and make edits accordingly.
4.  Go over a beta read of Mercury (if available) and make edits accordingly.
5.  Settle on two cover designs for Venus and start soliciting opinions.
6.  Add some finishing touches to the outline for Hostile Planet in preparation for writing that book in May.
7.  Write a short story or two.

That's it.  Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Outlines are done... sort of

I've got all eight books of the Wheel of Fire series outlined.  Some outlines are fairly complete.  Others are a little skimpy and will need beefing up at some point.  But my momentum has stalled, and it just doesn't make much sense for me to keep at it for now.  I'll come back to the series with (hopefully) fresher eyes at a later date.

So it's back to Mars, I guess. 

I've also been thinking about purchasing book covers.  I don't want to do it, but I'm afraid of how much it could hurt my book's launch if I don't do it.  I'm also considering putting off publishing the Free Space trilogy until next year.  There are several reasons for this, but I'd rather not go into them right now.

I need to write some more shorts, too, just for fun.  I've only posted one flash fiction story on the blog, and that's unacceptable.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Planning the series first

I'm definitely glad I decided to do this.  By outlining all eight books before starting on book 1, I can go back and revise the earlier outlines to better fit with the later ones.  I can foreshadow book 8 events in book 1, and so on.  I'll definitely be doing this for all future series.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Progress Report

I've got the first six books and about half of the seventh book of the Wheel of Fire series outlined.  More or less, anyway.  The outlines still need a little work.  Once I'm done with all eight, I plan to go back and clean them up.

For novels with chapters, I had originally planned on putting the table of contents in the back so as to free up another page or two for the story in Amazon's Look Inside feature.  Now that they've started looking at that sort of formatting with suspicious eyes, I've decided to put the tables in the front.  Naturally, this plan could change at any moment.  Amazon definitely keeps us on our toes with its ever-changing rules.

Still playing around with cover designs.  The good thing is that the three Free Space books will all have basically the same cover, just different titles and planets.  Series branding, you know.  So once I've decided on a design for Venus, I'll use the same one for the other two books.  The Wheel of Fire books will be trickier.

So that's where I'm at.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Progress Report

The outlines for the Wheel of Fire series are coming along.  I've got the first four books outlined, more or less, and about half of the fifth book's outline done.  I've got "hero's journey" arcs plotted out for five characters (including the protagonist, of course) and a villain's journey plotted out for a sixth character.  Those are series-wide arcs, not in-book arcs.  The only character to have a hero's journey for each book is the hero.

Once I'm done, I expect I'll need to go back and revise them all.  I'm sort of learning about the world and the characters as I outline, much the same way one does when writing the first draft.  And even if I make them as perfect as can be, these outlines are still just that--outlines.  Once the actual writing starts, all bets are off.  I try to plan out everything I can beforehand, but I still allow myself the freedom to improvise when necessary.  It makes for a chaotic, sloppy writing process at times, but it gets the job done.

I'm still planning on launching the Free Space trilogy in October.  All three books have been written, and the first two have already seen various stages of revision and beta reading.  I also hope to publish at least the first book of the Wheel of Fire before the end of the year, but that remains to be seen.  I expect to at least get the first draft done.

I've also been toying with the idea of purchasing covers.  I don't want to do that, since it's expensive and I'd rather save that money for marketing, but if my own designs don't suffice, then I may just have to bite the bullet.  I'm still working on my own designs, though.  At some point, I'll probably put a few up on kboards and ask the folks there for their opinions.  If I think I can get away with a homemade cover, then I'll absolutely do it.

So that's where I'm at.  When April arrives, I'll get back to Mars.  My immediate goal, though, is to get these Wheel of Fire outlines done within the next three weeks.  I accomplished my Mars first draft goal.  I think I can accomplish this one, too.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Progress Report

I've got the first three books of Wheel of Fire outlined.  They're loose outlines, and will probably see major revisions once I start actually writing the series.  But that's fine.  The point of having an outline is to have a starting point and a general direction of where you're going and how you want to get there.  Once you dive into the first draft, things get wild and woolly, and the outline gets twisted and beaten like a rented mule.

I've also sketched out a series-spanning hero's journey for five different characters, including, of course, the protagonist.  I've also got a villain's journey.  Heh.  I've got all this stuff on a spreadsheet so I can see who is what point in his/her arc during which book.  Pretty fancy, right?

And I've been toying with cover design, too.  That's not as fun.  I wish I had more talent in that area.  Actually, I wish I could afford to hire people to make my covers for me.  Maybe some day.

So that's where I'm at.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Villain's Journey

I'm in the process of outlining, and I realized I needed a character arc for a villain.  I decided to go with a Villain's Journey that is basically the inverse of the Hero's Journey.

Well, I did a little googling, but didn't really find the results I wanted.  As far as I can tell, there's no 12-step journey for villains like there is for heroes.  If Christopher Vogler wrote one, I haven't found it yet.

So I figured I'd make my own Villain's Journey.  Should be easy enough using the Hero's Journey as an inverse template.  So here's what I've come up with.  I'll list the Hero's Journey (actually Vogler's Writer's Journey) step on the left, and then a slash, and then the corresponding Villain's Journey step.  Then I'll compare and contrast.

So let's get to it.

Ordinary World / Master of His Domain

Yeah, so I went a little Seinfeld-esque with that.  It fits, though.  In Ordinary World, the hero is mostly content but powerless.  In Master of His Domain, the villain is the inverse of that: he is powerful, but not content.  He wants something.  Which brings us to the next step.

Call to Adventure / Initiation of the Plan

In the Call to Adventure, the hero is beckoned by some outside force to enter a larger world.  His pleasant world has been disturbed.  He doesn't want an adventure, but starts to think he has to go on one anyway because it's the right thing to do.  He eventually accepts the call because it's the selfless and responsible act.  In Initiation of the Plan, the villain is the one doing the beckoning and disturbing.  He doesn't need his Plan, but he wants it.  It appeals to his vanity.  It's the wrong thing to do, and he probably knows it deep down, but he doesn't care.  His decision to initiate his plan is selfish and irresponsible.

Refusal of the Call / Hubris

In Refusal of the Call, the hero decides not to go on an adventure.  He likes the comfort of home.  He knows his limitations, or thinks he does, and he doesn't want to exceed them.  He is careful and afraid.  In Hubris, the villain wants the adventure.  He wants to initiate the plan.  He doesn't know his limitations.  His actions are bold but reckless.  He is not afraid, or at least not afraid enough, and it makes him careless.

Meeting the Mentor / Alienating Others

The hero meets the mentor, an ally who will guide him along the adventure.  The hero may or may not get along with the mentor, but he respects his wisdom and experience.  The mentor helps him grow in ways he couldn't on his own.  In Alienating Others, the villain may or may not get along with his peers and associates.  But he doesn't respect them.  He knows better than they, and he'll show them all by fulfilling his plan.  He fails to grow in ways that he might have if he hadn't alienated them.  The hero's mentor is often one of the ones alienated by the villain.  Examples of this are Saruman alienating Gandalf and Vader alienating Kenobi.

Crossing the Threshold / Blind Spot

The hero crosses the threshold into the new world, and the adventure has begun.  He is tepid and cautious.  He knows he's out of his element, and it scares him.  The villain, inversely, has a Blind Spot: he is bold and brash, overconfident and lackadaisical about the small, seemingly unimportant details of his plan.  He knows (or thinks he knows) he's the smartest one in the world, and acts accordingly.

Tests, Allies, Enemies / Challenging the Hero

The hero has to endure a lot of stuff.  This is the meat of the story.  He suffers numerous failures, but keeps on keeping on.  He gradually gains skills and confidence.  In Challenging the Hero, the villain realizes he needs to put some real effort into his plan.  He sends his lackeys out to do his bidding.  He always seems to be on the verge of winning, but can never quite put an end to that pesky hero.  He gradually loses resources and confidence.

Approach to the Inmost Cave / Underestimating the Threat

The hero gets ready to storm the castle.  The villain underestimates him, allowing him entry.

Ordeal / Fatal Mistake

The hero's Ordeal is the big fight that turns the tide of the story.  It's not the climax, but when it's completed, the momentum is on the hero's side for the first time.  The villain's Fatal Mistake is allowing the hero to seize the momentum.  The villain realizes, too late, that he has allowed the hero to become too powerful.  His Plan is now in jeopardy.

Reward / Loss

The hero rescues the princess, or whatever his goal was.  His confidence surges to a new high.  The villain loses something very dear to him.  His desperation surges to a new high.

The Road Back / Desperate Pursuit

The hero must return to the Ordinary World.  Along the way, he is pursued by the villain's agents.  He must maintain possession of what he took from the villain.  The villain engages in Desperate Pursuit.  He wants back what was lost.

Resurrection / Defeat

The hero engages in the final battle against the villain.  The hero wins and is born anew.  He is now master of two worlds--the ordinary world and the special world.  The villain is defeated.  Once the master of the special world, he is now master of neither world, and has indeed been rejected by both.

Return With the Elixir / Bereft of Power

The hero has saved the day.  Women want him.  Men want to be him.  The villain has lost everything.  He is either dead or reduced to an impotent shadow of his former glory.

So there we have it.  A Villain's Journey that is the equal and opposite of the Hero's Journey.  Isaac Newton would be proud.

And visit Vogler's site for more about the Hero's Journey.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

First draft is done!

The first draft of Mars is finished.  Word count is a little over 58,000.  I have some things to add in during second-draft revision, so I'm predicting a final word count in the 62,000-65,000 neighborhood.  This will make it a little shorter than Venus but a little longer than Mercury.  And, of course, all that could change depending on what the beta readers say.

My goal was to complete the first draft in four weeks or less.  I completed it in 24 days.  Mission accomplished.  :D

My next goal is to outline the entire Wheel of Fire series before April 1.  I've already done a lot of world-building.  Last night, I rearranged some of the series arc.  The series is now planned as eight books, not nine.

So Mars is going on the back burner for the next month.  When April arrives, I'll return my focus to the Free Space trilogy.  The year is still young, but 2016 has started out satisfyingly productive.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

I'm past the climax

I've written somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 words today.  I don't have the exact number.  But I made it through the climax, and it feels great.  All that's left is the falling action.

The falling action is always my favorite part to write.  Not just because it means I'm about done--although there is that--but because of the way it makes me feel about the story.  In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien use a certain phrase to describe the after-dinner part of Bilbo's birthday party.  He called it "filling up the corners."  This is when the hobbits have just filled their bellies and are now casually snacking.  They're all warm and drowsy and letting their meals digest while still tickling their taste buds with the things they're snacking on.

That's what falling action is like for me.  It's the "filling up the corners" stage of the book.

Once the draft is done, I'm shelving it for a month.  I'll spend March world-building and outlining the books of the Wheel of Fire series.  I won't even think about Free Space until April.  My hope is to get the whole Wheel series outlined by then.  It won't be easy, but I intend to try anyway.  Once April arrives, I'll switch gears again and start revising Mars.

Anyway, that's the plan.  Let's see if I can pull it off.  *fingers crossed*

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Broke through 50,000 words tonight.  Only took me three weeks.  If it was November instead of February, I'd be a NaNoWriMo winner.

These last 10k words or so have been tough.  My outline wasn't up to the task, so I've had to do some thinking--which I don't like to do while trying to write--and the book has progressed in fits and starts.  I might be over the hump, though, as far as that goes.  I've got the climax and the falling action left, and I pretty much know how that's going to play out.  So hopefully I can knock out the remainder of Mars quickly and easily.

On the Wheel of Fire front, I've continued world-building.  Just a day or two ago I reached the point where the universe suddenly felt "real" to me.  The characters, nations, and peoples are all starting to jell together.  I'm actually a little excited about it.  It will be a serious challenge to get the whole series outlined before April, but I intend to try.  Once I finish the first draft of Mars, I'll shelve it until April.  That'll let me focus solely on the Wheel of Fire, plus the time away from Mars should help me look at it more objectively when it's time to start revising it.

So that's where I'm at.

And now back to work.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

X-Files 2016 - final thoughts

So the six-episode run is over.  Here are my conclusions.

The alien arc stuff seemed rushed.  I didn't really care for it.

The best episode, hands down, was the one about the lizard man.  I especially liked seeing Tyler Labine back as the stoner.  I'll never forget him licking the frog in the Quagmire episode. 

Unfortunately, this was the only truly good episode.  The rest were "okay" at best and cringe-worthy at worst.

Gillian Anderson's voice is... different.  I don't know what happened, but she sounds like she's got emphysema or something.  She didn't talk like that back during the show's original run.  An important part of acting is being able to speak your lines clearly, and her raspy voice detracted from her performances.  If she's ill, then I sincerely hope she gets better.  (Or got better, since the show was filmed before it aired.)

Politics.  The show was always political, but I don't recall it being so blatantly partisan.  Maybe it was and I just don't remember.  But if it was, it wasn't enough for me to notice it.  I noticed it now.  In the show's original run, the whole appeal of the conspiracy stuff was that it was above partisan politics--it didn't matter which party was in power, because the shadowy guys behind the curtain were going to do their thing anyway.  That was what made them truly frightening.  The partisan snark in these new episodes played against that to the show's detriment.

Resurrections.  If the Cigarette Smoking Man can be blown up with a freaking missile but still be brought back to life, then the same can be done with the Lone Gunmen.  I always loved the scenes with Frohike, Langly, and Byers.  They were, frankly, the best characters on the show.  They should have brought back the Gunmen.

Conclusion: It was nice seeing The X-Files on the air again, but not nice enough to make me want a new season.  I enjoyed these six episodes, more or less, but I'm also glad they're over. 

Thanks, Fox Network, I guess.

Now bring back Firefly.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Progress Report

I've written 43,395 words in Mars.  The action is about to start racing towards the climax.  I'm still on track to finish within my four-week goal.

I'm looking forward to finishing the draft.  I like coming up with new story ideas, and I like seeing the finished product, but I don't like the actual "writing" part.  Necessary evil, though.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Progress Report

My goal was to finish the first draft of Mars in four weeks or less.  Two weeks are now in the books.  Two to go.  My word count stands at just over 38,000.  I'm still on schedule to beat the deadline, I think, but I've been losing steam lately.  We'll see how it goes.

I've fleshed out a little more of the Wheel of Fire universe.  I still need to do actual book outlines, but I've got some very basic arcs down for characters and nations.  It's getting there.  Having the whole series outlined by April will be a challenge.  However, as soon as I wrap up Mars, I can devote more time to outlining.  So I'm still hopeful.

So that's where things stand at the moment.  Now... back to work!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Progress Report

My word count for Mars broke through the 30k mark.  I'm somewhere near the halfway point, I think.

I'm kind of dragging, though.  I made some real goofs, too.  Fortunately, I noticed them and corrected them.  But they were the sort of mistakes that make readers roll their eyes at you and snort with derision.  I really hope that doesn't happen again.

Maybe I'm getting burned out by trying to write too fast.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Did some more world-building

In addition to writing the first draft of Mars, I've been doing the prep-work for what comes next: the Wheel of Fire series.

I've stated before that I don't really like to write.  I like seeing the finished product, and I like thinking up new ideas and stuff, but the part in between--the actual writing part--is kind of a bore.

World-building, on the other hand, is fun.

It's going to get a bit tricky, though.  I've planned a nine-book series, so I'll need enough material to fill it.  I'll have multiple character arcs, and even some arcs for nations and peoples and whatnot.

I plan to outline the whole series before starting on the first book.  I can always change the outline later, if necessary, but at least I'll have a road map of where I'm going.

A nine-book series is awfully daunting.  I can pull it off, I think, but it will stretch me to the limit.  And it will occupy the next to or three years of my life.  My goal for the rest of the year is to finish first drafts of the first three books and have at least the first book available for sale.

And now back to working on Mars...

Friday, February 12, 2016

Week 1 results

My goal, as stated earlier, is to finish the first draft of Mars in four weeks or less.  I have three weeks left.  After one week, my word count stands at 20,500.  That's an average of almost 3000 words per day.  I'm roughly a third of the way through my outline.

I'm pleased with my progress so far.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Putting songs in your book

I've seen some authors ask questions about this on forums.  They want to include lyrics from some song or other, and they want to know how much they can use without getting into trouble.

The answer, of course, is "not much."  Copyright laws are far stricter for music than they are for fiction, and the big music companies have teams of lawyers at their disposal.  And, frankly, I think it's kind of pointless to use someone else's work if you can only quote a line or two.  Why not just make up your own line or two?  Authors are supposed to be "creatives," right?  Well, then do that!  Get creative!  :D

"But Mr. Tanyard, I'm not a songwriter.  I don't know anything about it.  I can't write lyrics."

Don't fret, good sir or madam.  Uncle Jeff is here to help.

Writing a song isn't really as hard as you might think.  Just think of it as micro-fiction with rhyme and meter.  First, let's define our terms:

Micro-fiction:  This is a form of flash fiction.  Wikipedia says:

"The terms "micro fiction" and "micro narrative" are sometimes defined as below 300 words..."

In other words, it's just a story that is very short.

Rhyme:  Words that rhyme.  Duh.  ;)

Meter:  From Wikipedia again: 

The familiar type of metre in English-language poetry is called qualitative metre, with stressed syllables coming at regular intervals (e.g. in iambic pentameters, usually every even-numbered syllable).

My suggestion?  Keep your meter simple.  Put the same number of syllables in each line, and stress every other syllable.  You can get fancy later after you've got a few songs under your belt.

So let's give it a shot.  We'll do a fantasy song about a knight going off to kill a dragon.  Let's break the story down into three acts:

Act 1:  The knight is enjoying life in his peaceful town.  Everything's cool until he finds out his lady love has been kidnapped by a dragon.  He sets off to rescue her and kill the offending beastie.

Act 2:  The knight enters the dragon's cave and does battle.  The dragon gets the upper hand, and things look grim for our hero.

Act 3:  The knight digs deep, finds the courage/strength/guile/whatever necessary to slay the dragon.  He rescues the lady and they live happily ever after.

Now let's write out each act in stanzas with equal numbers of lines.  We'll go with four lines each, for a total of twelve lines of song by the time we're finished.  No rhyme or meter yet, though.  Ignore those things for now.  Let's just get the story down first.

Ready?  Here we go...

Galahad was a brave knight in the land of Greenfield.
But his lady love Eleanor was taken by Saurus, a sinister dragon
He resolves to kill the beast for its transgression and rescue his beloved
He sets out on the road to Saurus''s cave

The cave is dark and maze-like, but Galahad makes his way to Saurus's lair
Saurus attacks while Lady Eleanor watches from her cage
Galahad strikes with his sword, but the dragon's scales are too hard
Saurus breathes fire, and it looks like the end for poor Galahad

Galahad rolls across the floor and avoids the fire
He plunges his sword into Saurus's soft underside, killing him
Galahad frees Eleanor and returns to Greenfield to a hero's welcome
They get married and live happily ever after

So now we've got the basis for a song.  All that's left is to add rhyme and meter.  Since rhyme, in my opinion, is more limiting than meter, we'll do rhyme first.  We want the last words of the first two lines to rhyme, and we want the last words of the last two lines to rhyme.  We'll do this for each stanza.  Remember: we're not doing meter yet.  Just the rhymes.  It may require rearranging the wording of the sentences a little, but that's okay.  Once we get the rhymes in place, we can go back and play with the wording to get the meter right.  Don't hesitate to use a search engine, too, to find words that rhyme.  The internet's a great resource.  Take advantage of it.

So here we go:

Galahad of Greenfield was a brave knight and true
But Lady Eleanor was taken by Saurus, and now he must pursue
He'll kill the dragon and rescue his maiden fair
He sets out on the road to Saurus's lair

The cave is dark and maze-like, but Galahad finds the den
Saurus attacks while caged Lady Eleanor watches from within
Galahad strikes with his sword, but the dragon's scales are too hard
Saurus breathes fire, and Galahad might be fatally marred

Galahad rolls across the floor and avoids the fire
He plunges his sword into Saurus's belly, spilling his intestinal mire
Galahad returns to Greenfield with his maiden fair
They get married and a happy life forever share

Okay.  So we've got the rhymes in, with a little re-wording.  Now let's do the meter.  I'm just going to look at the first line first, settle on a rhythm that seems right, and then rearrange the other lines to match.

Sir Galahad of Greenfield was a dauntless knight and true

I've done a little re-wording here so that the stresses alternate.  We now have the following pattern:

a A a A a A a A a A a A a A

Seven stressed syllables, each preceded by an unstressed syllable.

Now we just re-word the rest to match that pattern.

    Sir Galahad of Greenfield was a dauntless knight and true

    When Lady Eleanor was nabbed, he knew he must pursue

    To kill old Saurus in his cave and rescue maiden fair

    He took his sword and left to find the deadly dragon's lair

    The cave was dark and twisty but our hero found the den

    The dragon leaped right at him past the Lady caged within

    Sir Galahad was brave and slashed, but dragon scales are hard

    Old Saurus breathed his fire at him and knight was nearly marred

    Our hero rolled across the floor and dodged the deadly fire

    He plunged his sword into the beast and spilled his guts and mire

    Sir Galahad returned to Greenfield with his maiden fair

    They married in the spring and then a life forever shared

And there we are.  And it doesn't take long at all.  You should be able to crank out a simple song like this in an hour or less.

So stop trying to figure out how much of other people's lyrics you can use without getting sued.  Make your own lyrics and enjoy some peace of mind and the pride that comes with creative expression.  :)

A new personal record

Over 4000 words today.  That's the first time I've ever broken through the 4k mark.  Mars now stands at over 15000 words.  I wanted to write the first draft in four weeks, and I'm on schedule to beat that deadline.

Right now, though, I feel sort of zombie-like.  I guess that's what happens when you crunch out so many words.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Progress Report

I've got nearly 7000 words written in Mars.  Today hasn't been very productive due to the Super Bowl, but I'll make up for it during the week.

Still playing around with cover designs in Photoshop.  One of them seemed cool in my head, but turned out awful once I got around to splicing images together.  So I started over from scratch.  That's the way it is with covers, though, at least for me.  I don't have a natural talent for cover design.  I think I can make pretty good covers eventually, but I have to work at it.

And now for a small rant: during one of the Super Bowl commercial breaks, there was a 10- or 15-second spot featuring Carlos Santana.  It really irritated me.  Why?  Because if they can pay Santana to appear for a commercial, why can't they pay him to do a halftime show?  He could just sit out on the fifty yard line and play his guitar for twenty minutes straight and it would be the greatest halftime show ever.

Imagine a whole stadium rocking out to this:

Actually, you don't have to imagine a huge crowd rocking out with Santana.  It's happened many times.  The guy performed at Woodstock, after all.  ***Warning: half-naked hippies***

A lot of rock stars are getting on in years.  They won't be around forever.  I'd love to see more of them in things like Super Bowl halftime shows while they're still around and able to perform.