Saturday, December 31, 2011

Worst Mistake Ever

What's the worst mistake you've ever made? How did it change you?
I was able to recall that sinking feeling in my last novel at a critical moment. Your neurons fire like crazy to catch up with reality. There's that chill and stomach flop that, even at ten, makes you say, "Oh sh*t." My worst case happened at my friend's house in Alaska. On a military base, all the kids played war. We'd climb up on the car port roof, the dumpsters, and trees. It didn't matter who won; rather, the most spectacular death and best surprise ambush meant the most.
I found an air gun in my friend's room. It was heavier than normal, but available. Mine was still on the porch. He was watching cartoons, not paying attention--sucker. So I snuck up on him. Just before I fired his gun, I called his name. Fortunately, he turned slowly. When I pulled the trigger, it didn't sound right. I had never seen a head wound before. Blood was everywhere. In a blind panic, I got his father immediately.
Then it got weird. While applying direct pressure, the dad reamed him out for leaving the BB gun pumped and loaded. If he had turned faster, he might have (yes it's a cliche) lost an eye. This was the model that could go half way through a phonebook if you pumped it enough. In all the commotion, nobody bothered to tell my father. But that moment of dread when I heard the gun fire will be burned into my brain for the rest of my life. I will never be a hunter. I'm an engineer who pesters his wife to use safety precautions if there's a one percent chance of someone getting hurt.
What was your worst oh bleep moment? Do your characters have one?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Concrete and Jello(TM)

I'm pretty prolific as a writer. When people ask me "How do you do it?" I usually answer, "I have to." That doesn't mean it's always easy. It's like a steady diet of concrete and Jello(tm).

When I got back from my week cruise, I had written 106 pages of Jezebel's sequel by hand, poolside. I'd meant to finish the last 6 chapters of volume 2 of Temple of the Traveler; however, I'd hit a snag over the geography of the final battle. I couldn't write more until I did some research on Alpine rivers and lakes. Still, those are the sorts of weeks you want. And I had the rest of December off!

After a few days of hand-drawing the detailed map for the last battle, I had to edit "Doors to Eternity" for a week--including three rewrites to chapter 8. Then I had to invent my own origami butterfly for the paperback version of Jezebel and buy three kinds of metallic gold paper from an hour's drive away. This week I'm finally back into the groove.
  • Monday: 10 double-space pages to finish the last chapter I did before leaving.
  • Tuesday: rewrite yesterday's chapter and add 2.5 pages on a battle that finished in another part of the world that makes this battle the crux.
  • Wednesday: rewrite yesterday's battle scene, add one page, and deduce that I sent my warship to the wrong place in chapter 3. Fix chapter 3 and every other ship reference in BOTH volumes. Name the flagship the Beauty.
  • Thursday: 6 pages of preparation for the final battle. Everything is going smoothly again, right? NO! At lunch time, my star seeress character (blasted primadonna) gets halfway to her assigned location to fulfill her destiny, and she decides to write a new tenet to her religion -- the whole woman's perogative thing. If it means losing her new boyfriend, screw destiny. She's going to break a few rules. So now, we've got a rogue MC rampaging through the countryside. She's carrying a key component to a ritual the whole book is about as well as the god-forged crown she's supposed to be handing to another main character tomorrow. What's she thinking? The kids will be home by 3:00 and I have to wrap presents!

My plot chart said I only had 4 chapters left; I might have been able to finish that by Christmas Day with the kids home. What the heck, we'll roll with it. Maybe this will work out, or at least she'll get this rebellion out of her system. But now this is going to exceed my target length, requiring more trimming. My point is--every day I chew on a mix of concrete and jello. When I present the finished product, the reader won't know which was which. It's myjob to present a seamless illusion. I've got till February till my line-editor gets the draft.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Snow Leopards

Something to think about: When I took the kids to Como Zoo this summer, I figured out the price for one of their pelts compared to the average annual wage of a farmer. That farmer, his family, and three of his friends would be set for life -- no planting, no worrying about rain, no work ever again. Could you turn down that lopsided trade? Any of us could understand someone taking that risk, even if we don't agree. That's why jewel heist movies are so popular.

However, its not glamorous, and people who get rich quickly rarely hold onto it. Check out Freakonomics: the average drug dealer makes less than someone working at McDonalds and lives with his parents. But man, the chance that you'd be that one success story...

What I wonder about is the sort of rich person who puts a bounty like that on an animal and what they'd do with the pelt. Of course, I also wonder what a CEO could possibly do to deserve a 26 million dollar golden parachute. That's over 8 leopards' worth. What did *they* have to kill?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ask Questions

Someone recently advised when writing a blog to ask questions to get people involved. I have a few rattling around in my brain. The first involves the newest civil rights movie The Help. It's a nice movie about the plight of African-American servants in the south 45 years ago. As I'm watching this on the parent company's cruise ship, it occurs to me that the makers of the movie import people from poor countries to:
+ wait on tourist for NO PAY (except tips)
+ work 7 days a week, up to 18 hour days
+ go 6 months at a time without seeing their families
+ be subject to a rigorous set of behavior and grooming codes that we can't even force high school students to follow.

No one in the company thought this was ironic?
Where's the movie or book about their struggle?
To me, it felt a little like Gingrich trying to impeach Clinton for adultery.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Learning Experience with Other Authors

Since Amazon only lets you see sales figures on Sunday, I have no way of knowing what the effects of the Indie Blowout are. I went into this thinking of it as a passive experiment. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This has opened the door to a much larger Indie community than I knew existed! Think of the $25 entry fee as the convention entry fee. Every day, I get email from someone with similar interests, liking my Amazon page, liking my facebook page, following my blog, or willing to swap reads. It has the same feel as going to a gaming conventions -- storm troopers and elves wandering the halls, odd side room presentations, and seminars.

No one learns or becomes successful in a vacuum. The Indie Book Collective has provided a great opportunity here, regardless of the silly daily book ranking. I've learn more about several aspects of the Amazon experience, including tags and bulletin boards (especially the 99 cent advertisement board). People on the bullentin boards have denigrated review swapping with other authors. However, only 20 out of 250 reviewer blogs downloaded my most popular book and 2 have written reviews for Amazon. How else am I supposed to find out what people like? I'm not going to pay Create Space for a review. In my experience, even people in the crit circle tell you the truth. If it's a bad review (3 or lower), they might just tell you and not post. But I've received far more positive feedback this about what to concentrate on for next book. I've actually had reviewers bump me up in their queues after reading what other writers said.

This is the classroom. Each paper you write is graded by the whole world. Use every tool you can--it's open book.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Indie Book Blowout

I'm trying my first advertizing for Jezebel, $25 for a good site/cause. The 12 days of Christmas book event at
For some reason, everything had to be 99 cents, though. That means I'll have to sell 83 extra books in those twelve days to break even.  We'll see.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Productive Vacation

Last month, I worked like crazy at my programming job, helping my wife with her new office, and to finish up "Where the Heavens Meet the Earth" volume one of my sword and sorcery series "the Temple of the Traveler" -- crazy busy. Time for a break, right?

I just went on a 7 day Caribbean Disney cruise with my family. I intended to finish the last 6 chapters and read a few books. But I hit a problem with the geography of the final temple. That's something I needed internet access for. Since I only had paper and pen, instead of finishing the one I'm on, I handwrote 106 pages of the sequel to Jezebel. Normally, a start like this take 6-8 weeks.I got key plot points, boy meets girl, main conflict, and the UN astronaut school. It just wouldn't stop flowing. Wow, that felt great. Even better, I have the rest of the month off.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Learning from Bad Reviews

I got my first bad rating on Jez today from
I'm going to try to summarize her crits.
+ she liked the two main characters
+ it still kept her turning pages and
+ she wanted to know more about what happened to Daniel and Claudette at the end
+ too many unnecessary characters, in particular,
+ integration of the novella "Icarus Transformation" didn't work for her. (p 221)
+ too long. need to cut all filler not pertinent to the ending. less explanation of abstract ideas and Jezebel's ramblings

Self-check: My wife also complained that the transition to a whole new thread wasn't smooth enough. Are we ever coming back to the Jez thread? I was planning on addressing this when I did the paperback version.
I had one early crit that said I had too many peaks with two stories and not enough to explicitly tie the two parts together.

At this point, I like the second thread. I think it takes the story to another level. Cutting Icarus entirely at this point would  leave the story too short, with holes. But she's correct that the integration could be improved. I've had criticisms about too much techno-babble before (Scarab chapter 1). Non-tech readers reach saturation quickly. However, my wife said it passed her glaze-over test. So I need specifics to address this problem.

I asked for details and got none. So for now, I've concentrate on the transition. I'll probably make Jez ( one of the recipients of the email. By the time she gets PJ's message, she's already on her way to Vegas.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Advice for Beginning Fiction Writers

Jennifer Chonillo on Facebook asked writers to present 250 words of advice for new writers. That was a challenge. I decided to stick just to mechanics pre-release and did it in exactly 250. Free advice, worth what you paid for it.

Assume people are looking for a reason to reject your story, and don’t give them one.
1)      Get professional tools—Webster’s Unabridged, Word spellchecker, and a Chicago Manual of Style 15th edition (used), minimum. For basic dialogue/comma rules Strunk and White, or will help.
2)      Polish the first three chapters till they squeak—no one will read past “It was a dark and stormy night”. If you have to tell us “It gets better later,” then rewrite.
3)      If it doesn’t pay rent, cut it—Stephen King cuts 10 percent of each first draft. Any word that doesn’t need to be there or scene that doesn’t further plot/character/setting, remove. Write a one page summary of your story to help decide what is important. Publishers have a limit of about 80K words for first books, slightly more for fantasy.
4)      Read your book out loud, especially the dialogue—as a side-effect, you could create a Podio book episode of two as advertisement.
5)      Write a killer pitch to sell the story—if people won’t grab a free copy when offered, you’re doomed. This will take 20 or 50 drafts.
6)      Get a professional cover—or no one will read your pitch. is inexpensive and quality.
7)      Get criticism from someone not related or your friends—repeat four times. For those without crit circles, start on in the Brutally Honest Criticism Group.
8)      Get a professional to edit—nothing gives us all a bad name like a simple mistake.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The City of the Gods - Inspiration

I just hit the 98K mark on book 2 - the Question which Must Be Answered. I have the final 12 chapters outlined in a downhill run. At this rate, it should top out at 129K, plus the 136K (unedited) from book 1 = 265K of dark, detailed sword and sorcery. My only rule was : even the bad guys have to be convinced that they're the good guys. This all started from a photo of Mount Girnar and the song “While the Earth Sleeps” by Peter Gabriel and Deep Forest. I've been using them as a touchstone ever since. The one on the right has a similar feel and I've been using it for my authonomy cover.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Blogging about other blogs blogging about me

Here's a link to an Indie article on the value of a good cover, by Stephen Hise. Since I collected data, my books got a mention -- whoo hoo!

Also, Coral (Alchemy of Scrawl) gave me a nice 4 star on her site, Amazon, and  youtube.

Let the buzz begin.

For any interested, this last weekend added 8000 words to Temple of the Traveler 2: the Question which Must Be Answered". This doesn't count the 15 hand-written pages and a napkin I spewed out during time with the kids (4H, sitting between them during math homework to prevent homicides, etc.). The zone feels good, and other stories are trying the nose in as I type.

Monday, October 10, 2011

fantasy maps

After contacting about 6 artists and being summarily ignored, I spent the $44.95 on CampaignCreator 3 (by profantasy), the map CAD tool. The examples looked professional and half the price of a third party.

My Jezebel surge has waned this week: 4 Jez, 2 others, 1 Foundation. but I'm hoping that news of the surge may have bumped me up in the queues for web reviews. One reviewer wants a paperback copy.  Since Tammy should finish her edit of the galley proof tonight, I can order two of the next galley after the changes are in. I can even send a copy to my sister, the librarian in hopes of making the Library Journal. Everything is still exciting.

My working title for book one of Temple of the Traveler was "Houses of the Holy." I'm thinking of changing this to "Where the Heavens Touch the Earth".  I had a Led Zeppelin fan complain. Song titles aren't copyrightable, but I also don't want to hack anyone off. I'm still on target for the December release. I just passed the 80K word mark for the second book in the Traveler series. One of the four threads is done. The characters and places came back easily, even after 10 years. Does that make me a geek?

Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Official

Today, I got my first check from Amazon for May-July - $12.93!  That's DQ Blizzard for the whole family )if we use the coupons). In Smashwords, I almost have my three ISBNs paid off (.97 left). Editing/printing/art expenses are a long way off, but I have officially been paid for my work as an author. It feels fantastic. For the first three months, I sold/gave away about 95 units.

For August, things have taken off, about 60 units so far and my first UK sales (thanks to David Green's blog). Two weeks of "Jezebel's Ladder" is responsible for most of that. Of course, due to the skewed Amazon royalty structure, at 70 profit cents each, one sale of Foundation is worth three Jezebels. For now, I'm not worried amount. I'm just happy that I have non-zero reports I can look at every Sunday.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Critical Mass

I'm waiting to get critical mass on ideas for my last 20 chapters of "Temple of the Traveler" book two, targeted for Feb. Things are already flowing, because I still remember the scenes I painted 11 years ago, even without notes. But there's a reason I never finished it, so I have to break through that. Meanwhile, I'm back on autonomy with Traveler 1 and reviews are coming in for my older books.

Geeky Girl Reviews gave me another five star review.  Thanks!

One reviewer (out of about 100) flamed me for my Jezebel review request mass mailing. She complained that I wanted them to spend 5 hours on my story, but I didn't want to spend 5 minutes on them. Well, I wasn't sorry for that. She, personally, has never spent 5 minutes on me and neither did 95 of her friends. I have to spend my time wisely. However, I do have to apologize for not sending it BCC. She didn't want her email address broadcast to everyone. I will use the same technique with the troop free book mailing next time too.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Jezebel Cover

Well, Renee at has done it again.
After several iterations, I have what I was aiming for -- Stairway to Heaven meets paranormal spy chick.
It's tasteful but exciting. When I showed my church elder neighbor the cover, he said, "Whoa, that'll sell. Is she like the biblical Jezebel who dominates guys and makes them do things?"

Read it and find out.
Reading this alien manuscript changes you; it can make you a millionaire or mad man. At the lowest point in her life, Jezebel is thrown into a conspiracy to collect its pages.

A Vegas magician’s assistant with a drinking problem, Jezebel is being chased by the men who murdered her fiancĂ©. After she reads an odd, golden page, she wakes with the ability to sense other actives within thirty feet. Each page stretches the mind beyond what our civilization has discovered, sometimes too far. Each could give you the next Nobel Prize or a ticket to the psych ward. Strong-willed, smart, and sexy, Jez acquires pages faster than anyone. She uses her new paranormal talents to climb the corporate ladder. Now, companies and governments are killing people to find and keep the secrets that will guarantee supremacy for the next century. Benny, the handsome former actor, is the only one she thinks that she can rely on, but even he has secrets. Jezebel needs to adapt fast if she's going to survive success.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jezebel is close!

I just finished my own final pass to Jezebel. I made a couple goofs that everyone missed, and there were several square wheels I had to smooth out. But I have the Amazon ebook all formatted. It feels good when everything falls into place. We're working on the cover now. I'm as excited as my nine-year-old son when we told him he could paint his room lime green.

For a blog, I'm told I should write about things that instruct or entertain. I suppose instruction for the aspiring writer and entertainment for everyone else. I don't know squat about marketing yet. My only advice on writing right now is do it a lot, and get someone brutally honest to show you your faults before starting again. That leaves me with telling you a story.

I edited this last night and smiled. This is part of a scene where Claudette, an actress friend of Jez, was sent to warn the sister of a main character. In my outline, it was supposed to be off camera. But Sedna wanted just one more scene. The sister, named for the icy goddess of the underworld, takes over here and totally hijacks the original ending of my story.

“You think we’re freaks,” accused the woman in black.
“I can’t fathom how your little sister can screw that often, but you want what everybody wants,” Claudette said, her voice cracking slightly.
“That’s where you’re wrong,” said the assassin, approaching with menace in her stride. The starlet backed against the wall. The pert beauty contestant had been a thin disguise for Sedna, one she had shed long ago. Sedna leaned forward until her lips almost touched Claudette’s nose. In terror, she watched the words as they formed. “I can’t have you following me. Maybe it’s time you found out how the other half lives.”
“I don’t…” Claudette began. The pain lanced through her as the weighted fist pounded into her midsection. She slumped to the floor.
“Stay down,” the assassin threatened. “Or I’ll make it hurt more.”
The victim whimpered as a Velcro pouch opened. “Are you killing me? I came to save you.”
“You’ll provide the necessary distraction,” the attractive Goth said as she removed a cool slip of golden paper. “This is about freeing you from constraints and expanding your narrow mind.”
Ice stung her forehead. The ceiling became a doorway of light, and Claudette couldn’t close her eyes. Her synapses opened to the information.
“Enter your new incarnation,” whispered the dark lips.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Got a Kindle Authors interview!

The delay still throws me. I am about to release book 4 and book 1 is getting onto people's read queues now. But I'm happy with the results so far. The Kindle Author site gets about a thousand hits a day.
Here's a link to my interview.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reading for Writing

Weston has finished his pass over Jezebel. Two other editors are about 100 pages away. The romance reader didn't get past the first chapter. I want Tammy to read it as well (which could take the longest with her schedule). Being an English major turned therapist, she has valuable insights. Once I decide the final name for my villain agents, polish one last time, and get the cover, I'll have another e-book!

I've switched my reading to old Jack Vance and David Eddings, authors who know how to make the land and culture a living part of the story. Then, I'll dissect the first book of Traveler, where the kingdoms are also characters. I split it in two because of Print on Demand. I could have a unified book for $21 or two books for $13 each. My odds of getting a purchase are much better in the second case.

I keep laying awake, though, thinking about the first scene of Hero of Fire, where Aaron comes back to the mortal realms as a lightning bolt.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Falls the Shadow

From T.S. Eliot's "Hollow Men"

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

That's how things feel in the between time when I'm waiting for opinions and criticisms. I am sending out lots of emails requesting reviews for Foundation, and critiquing other people's work in return. Weekends are taken up with the family, week days with work and watching the kids. When I have spare time, I'll make a second pass to crush and refine Traveler book 1, tentatively called Houses of the Holy. There are still major flaws in it but the beauty could still make it work.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Temple of the Traveler

I had an epic fantasy, over 250K words long written between 94 and 2004. This was during the break for kids. It changed a lot from the first draft. Originally, one character was warrior and priest. That made too many superlatives. Splitting the character made much more sense. The seed for the whole story was a picture of the Jain temple on Mount Girnar. Anyone could visit and leave offerings during the day, but at night it was the City of the Gods. I took that idea to an entire empire and pantheon of gods. I even redid calendars and coins. The problem now will be naming the two books which combine to make Temple of the Traveler. I think they will be Houses of the Holy, and the Answer.
I made a first pass at the split and reduced from 139K to 131K words. I have also scheduled edits and art for volume one. I still need to get maps and to finish volume two. Expect this one closer to December.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jezebel Draft One Finished

I just finished the first draft of Jezebel today! It integrates my authonomy posting with Icarus converted to third person 2011. There is way more sex and violence in this book than I intended. But I'm going to need help deciding what (if anything) to cut. Tammy will be my usual first reader. Then, I'll send it to Katy for line edits and consistency. Stacy, a friend who normally reads romances may critique it next. I have to ask DJ to look over the science, and Weston for the overall. The more eyes the better.

Before writing the last chapter, I re-read it all, and trimmed a few loose ends. I wanted to hold it all in my brain while I wrote the closing. Several scenes evoked strong emotions. When I wrote the last paragraph,  the name Benny chose for his daughter actually made me mist up -- Miracle Redemption Hollis. The story ends with girl on the cover of Time magazine with the one word headline "Miracle".
It wasn't the ending I told Weston I had in mind. But the finale I described to Weston was actually the ending of the girl's story. 576 double-spaced pages was enough for this book. For thrillers, I have to learn to focus the scope on what is happening over just a few days.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

the Flood

Foundation for the Lost is officially published in e-book (with age warning removed)! The first ten review copies have "sold". I got the proof copy for the print on demand today and fixed two one word typos.

Scarab has been reduced in price to get more traffic (and spread the sample chapters).
Icarus is shipping to ebook as soon as Tammy looks it over one last time for the techno-babble factor. It's fifty-five pages, but it moves fast.

Jezebel is almost done with the first draft. At 113.7K words, I have about five chapters to go. I just wrote a really cool farewell scene for one of the supporting characters. Only two more chapters to insert and the rest is just kind of wrapping up the loose ends (or denoument as the French say). It was my first female lead, and I think she's one of the most kick butt heroes I've ever had.

What's next: I usually set my first draft aside for a few weeks. I do an outline and then edit for extraneous matter. I generally cut 10 percent or so. That should put the final length at a respectable 107K. Then I fine edit on a line by line basis. Then other people get to read it for big picture changes. Third person line edits come next, and lastly I comb over it for the final formatting changes, etc.  Most of this depends on the time contribution of others I have no control over.

During the set aside period, I intend to prepare another book for publication -- the Temple of the Traveler. It's a completely constructed world. I wrote it for Eos before Devi left.

I finished the first draft of a podio episode of Scarab. That's something else I can do in my "spare" time.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Explanations for Cover Images

All my covers have been designed by Renee at "". I've had friends ask me why I picked the images I did. We wanted to try to tell a little of the story with each cover, as well as grab some attention. Our average is about five drafts till we're both happy.

  1. Scarab is the a blue-green Egyptian scarab beetle, the main character's online handle/logo in the story. It's a little transluscent at the edges because the armored vehicle is invisible. The 1's and 0's are because it only exists in a computer model, and due to the cybercrimes. Add some explosions and viola. By the way, the scarab pushing the sun is the symbol for transformation, which is the core of this Cinderella story.
  2. Icarus uses the space shuttle launch (a great dramatic image in itself) because of the two launches in the story, a symbolic atom/forcefield because that's what the icarus device is, and a backgroup Mandelbrot pattern because Math is part of everything in this story.
  3. Foundation for the Lost uses a chess board to represent Ryoko, the wizard game of power. The parchment background with the mystic symbol of Metatron stands for the instruction manual for the universe written in 1917. The split shows there are two polarized sides in the conflict, two sides of the Tree of Life. The lightning bolt shows magic in conflict, and jazzed it up.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Icarus Soon

I got a line editor for Icarus--Katy Sozaeva. Weston introduced us. She did a great job cleaning up the novella. Katy even found things the professional missed in the first sample three chapters for Foundation. She's looking over two of my old novels to recommend which one I should polish up next.

CreateSpace gave me two choices when I complained: get $120 back or spend another $2404 on a more complete comprehensive edit to get what I really wanted. (Every writer and English major out there just choked.) Don't worry; I took the money back.

I will put out the novella as soon as my wife Tammy reads over it again for techno glaze over detection. I find that I put too much techno-babble in my Science Fiction drafts and need a non-geek to mark where it gets to be too much.

Scarab is out in Print On Demand format.
Jezebel's Ladder is at 94K words.
Foundation is ready to go with the final cover. I swear, it's ninety percent of the way.
This patience stuff is hard!

Monday, June 20, 2011

so close!

This weekend, we hooked up Scarab for print on demand. Tammy wrote my author bio and chose the background colors. She even insisted on/chose the author photo. I should get the proof copy back some time in the next 9 days.
I even recorded the first 30 minute / 2 chapter audio book episode for Scarab, but I need a way to send it to that McAfee will allow. Tammy has offered to read the books aloud with me, a team project.

Foundation for the Lost is all ready to go in every format (smashwords, amazon, print on demand) as soon as I get the cover. Renee started on that officially today. I did all my own interior drawings using a CAD program.

I combed over Icarus again, 55 pages -- better than I remember. I might charge 99 cents. Who knows? I'm waiting for an editor or at least proof reader on this before I release it.

Jezebel's Ladder is at 69 out of the target 80K words for the first draft.

Did I mention that I've started accumulating notes for a sequel to Foundation tentatively called 'Hero of Fire'? Aaron is now an outcast, barred from entering New Salem. He has to find some way to break in before Rose has the twins--no one else would survive the firestorm of their delivery. He has to learn an entitely new set of rules, as well as how to overcome an army of djinn. I usually collect notes for 6-8 weeks before writing the first word.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Edit Day - Foundation for the Lost

I have been waiting for this moment since last Thanksgiving when I finished writing what I thought was my best story ever -- Foundation for the Lost. My manuscript came back from CreateSpace Saturday. The letter with it was very complimentary and professional. I spent all weekend incorporating the changes recommended. The big question: Did I get my $2000 worth? Well, on the plus side, she:
  • Introduced me to the Chicago Style Manual
  • Showed me a few more comma cornercases (without stating the grammar rule I violated)
  • Combined compound words into one in about 50 places
  • Saved me from about 25 embarassing mistakes like Ray said to Ray (that my 7 proofreaders missed)
  • Got me to better explain the action in about 10 places. I need more signposts
On the negative side
  • I found about 45 mistakes in her edits.
  • When I said that Aaron doesn't use contractions all the time, the editor got rid of them all for me (after the second chapter). He sounds like a Romanian now. I don't want people hearing Count Dracula when they read my story.
  • It did not take my writing to the next level. This is all there is--the Wizard of Oz has given me my diploma.
Other than art, this book could be ready to ship today. On the balance, the experience was good education to have once.  I can page through the Chicago Style Guide myself. Until I start selling over 1000 copies a year, the embarassing mistakes could be handled more economically by offering free books/Amazon gift cards to people finding typos like Joseph Devon does. As long as I don't damage my brand, that's what I'm planning to do.

Thank God my wife is supportive.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


My two kids are off school now. I downshifted to 32 hours a week so I could watch them for half each week during the summer. We're all learning the ropes together. I have a whiteboard with the new rules and each day's TODOs.

I'm spending most of the wait time writing Jezebel. I'm up to 64K words and entering the second phase of the story. I originally planned to just drop my novella in as the next 30K, but my writing style has changed so much in the last 14 years it's not working.

I'm not worried about reaching the right length; my characters could expand "a week later" to ten thousand words if I let them. The byplay and problems in their daily lives even keeps me entertained. The problem is "forcing" them to do what I want them to when I want them to, especially with my first female lead.  For example, Jez was supposed to jump the male lead as a reward after he rescues her from torture. But after that trauma and threats of rape she refused to feel sexy. Go figure. They also both had two casts for broken limbs. Try writing that scene. When they got casts removed a month later, she couldn't because it felt rushed and she hadn't fully bathed in a month. After getting officially engaged, she wants to and he wants to wait. Eventually, they end up having really hot married sex, something you don't see a lot in fiction.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Progress Report

Jezebel's Ladder is moving along nicely at 48.5K words. I'm about to write the climactic sex / gang war scene that's been building for 24 chapters. Weston should have the edits for Icarus Transformation done in a few weeks. Renee (the Cover Counts) sent me the draft for the cover, and it (to quote facebook comments) kicks arse.
I got an email from my best friend, Nick, that said the sky was falling. He's an eccentric mathematician who works for the spooks in Washington. It was so big that the server crashed. When I got back from lunch, the FBI was hauling away evidence. Everyone and everything that touched this mail is getting disappeared except a senator's aide. I need to figure it out before they get me, too. It has something to do with Unified Field Theory, and a new equation he called the Icarus Transformation.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Facebook and turbospeed

Thanks to Eric Engel for helping me with my security settings (only friends could "like" my author page) and Renee for posting to Stephen Hise's page. He sent a blastogram that got me about 40 people. I'm offficial now. I was also invited to join two indie book groups. Networking, who knew?
I liked four authors as my author page just to tell people who my fives were on GoodReads.

CreateSpace said editing "Foundation for the Lost" should take under four weeks. I'm in the fast lane now.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Juggling is the art of adding more balls till you almost drop one.

I sent out 152 free copies of Scarab to the troops with the first three chapters of Foundation for the Lost attached. The first taker happened in 30 seconds. After day two, new downloads stopped.

I started my Facebook author page: Scott Rhine, author. When I get 25 people to like it, facebook makes it official. I have about 38 friends so far.

To have a free sample on Smashwords and more to read on podcasts, I'm getting Renee to make up a cover for my 30K word Sci Fi novella "The Icarus Transformation."

Foundation for the Lost update: Thanks to Weston finishing the edits and recommendations for the extra chapters. He gave the new book five stars and laughed a lot. I sent my final draft to CreateSpace for their professional edit: $2000. My hope is that this will be tuition to take my writing to the next level. Everyone I've talked to is skeptical of the price tag. Either way, I'll have something to blog about.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I woke up and it was pouring

We were scheduled to wake up at 7:30 with the kids this morning, as my wife was driving them in. At 6:30, the weather woke us - window rattling thunder and buckets of rain. The kids grabbed chairs and watched our pond from the diningroom window.

It feels like that with writing today. Weston only has about 10 chapters left to edit  for Foundation for the Lost. I need to hurry up and finish the diagrams. Because when he's done, the whole thing goes to CreateSpace for them to do their magic.  The word count is back up to almost 125K. I'm hoping they teach me a thing or two for the price of "tuition".

I've reached the half-way point in "Jezebel's Ladder", completing the climax to part one.
I got my free copy of "Persistent Illusions" from Joseph Devon for finding a typo in "Probability Angels."

Meanwhile, the my welcome packet for Operation e-Book Drop arrived - 6 pages of email addresses, and more every few days. I need to get my new cover installed and add some sample chapters of Foundation to the end. I'll look at the complaint about the lawyer being too superman, but he's supposed to be the fairy godfather to Ethan's Cinderella.

The new Scarab cover looks professional (watermarked sample below). I wanted to go with the same symbolic jewelry look as before, with the beetle pushing the sun across the sky. Renee added a nice computer/predator invisibility touch to the whole thing.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

More Reviewers + Next Steps

They're starting to post like popcorn now. All fours stars so far. I'm sure someone will find something to object to soon, but it's nice to hear people enjoy the book in spite of the flaws.

I was going to try creating an episode of a podio book for Scarab. Since my wife and I read books to each other frequently, this shouldn't be a problem. We'll see how it works.

I just sent the Word doc for my next novel, Foundation for the Lost, to Weston for edit. It has three draft pictures, mostly diagrams. One of them, I may need to get permission for.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Second Favorable Review + Cover Progress

Chantale of Geeky Girl Reviews just gave Scarab 4 out of 5, and posted to some review sites for me.

I just looked at the first draft of the new Scarab cover yesterday! Tammy liked it (anything was better than my 15 minute Word drawing), but I wasn't fan of the orange bug. Blue-green bugs are pretty, orange-brown bugs need to be squished into lemon pudding. Does that make me weird? Renee said she understood.  I got a virus on my PC trying to find a public domain picture for her. It took 10 hours to repair and my explorer settings are still messed up.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

First Favorable Review

Alchemy of Scrawl ( just gave a thumbs up to Weston's "Invisible Dawn" and sent me a nice email letting me know a review is in the works for Scarab next week!
She had some honest feedback about the cover and length of the techno-speak in the first chapter and a half, but liked it. This, I can deal with.

I had my wife proof the first two chapters. Together, we reduced the example combat + techobabble from 2900 words to 2400 words. Everything else, they need to know now. I have an appointment Monday for the new cover.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Monster Lives - Scarab Posts

I was messing around with some equipment in the lab and suddenly, the monster went live on Amazon!

I ran to tell my assistant, Iphonegirl, and she told me that I had my first rating on Apple, a five star!

Days like this make being a mad scientist worthwhile. I shall treasure this memory when the villagers come for me with the pitchforks and torches.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Threading the Maze and Starting Again

Wednesday night, I posted to Amazon myself while waiting for supper to cook. They make is quite easy if you have everything pre-formatted. The hardest decision was the price.  If I stayed with $2, they pay me 70 cents. If I make it $3, they give me $2.10.  Must be one of those IQ tests to filter out robots. Lastly, I went with a raw Word file that I had formatted for Smashwords. These things should be standard, right? Accepted. A day later, it has been Reviewed and sits in the queue for Publishing. The ripening process takes up to 72 hours total.

Oops, I didn't have a table of contents in my HTML, I was missing some tags, and my pitch had dropped a sentence. There is no way to edit even small details on your book until the publishing cycle is complete.  I had to email support to get them to stop the presses and reject it back to Draft state.  After a resubmit, we wait three more business days. Sigh. Good Friday doesn't count.

I wanted to check on the Apple posting, but couldn't see their catalog unless I downloaded their ibook application and searched from inside there. I had to ask my wife nicely if I could put it on her iphone, and then searched. I typed in my name, and nothing happened at first. Then, my book popped up.  There was a moment of great joy when it popped up on the shelf!

The joy quickly faded. The blurb they give people to sell the book at Apple uses the long pitch, not the short one, but only the first two sentences fit on the tiny iphone screen. No one would purchase based on that.  Back to the drawing board.  I will fix that today, and in two to three weeks, the corrected first sentence will appear.  I'd say "like magic" but that would be like the beanstalk in Jack and the Beanstalk being replaced by bamboo.  One type of bamboo grows something like 40 feet in five years, but most of it in the last year. Writing is like that, four years buried in dirt and fertilizer, one year reaching like crazy for the light.

Friday, April 15, 2011

POD people calling

I've been checking my email and smashwords multiple times a day. This morning, I look and there is a a notification that (retroactively), I was approved on 4/13! It shipped to Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Diesel today.  One week till the next milestone.

Yesterday, I talked to the Amazon POD people, the good kind - Print On Demand.  You pay them $758 for design plus 0.19 cents a word for edit and you have a book that anyone can order on line. The profit on my $16 target book, Foundation for the Lost, was about $4.48 a copy. This means 605 copies to break even. I suppose this could also be amortized over the e-books.

From what I gather, advertising helps little for Amazon unless you get a burst of orders on the same day, catapulting you to "best seller" status, however briefly. This loop becomes self-sustaining, because most people only see and order from this list. Once you have enough orders, you benefit from drag - people who ordered this book also ordered X. If I act this month, I get a 15% discount on the edit.

Wow, that means Weston editing the Scarab was really valuable! I'd still want other people to look at Foundation before the editor gets it because I only get one pass. I want the paid comments to be focused on a macro level to make it the best product possible. Perhaps I can use ebook procedes to fund a POD project.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the carriage ride from Shrek

The count is up to 15 downloads.
The premium approval should be this Friday from what I am told.
If they get it stamped in time, it goes out to the channels the same day; otherwise, it waits till the next Friday to ship.  I opted in for all distributors. Once in their hands, it will take another week for Apple and two for everyone else to put it on the shelf.  This is e-commerce, the e standing for electronic. You know, the stuff that moves at the speed of light?

If I were a kid, I'd be sitting in the back seat asking, "Are we there yet?"

That's why it's called Far, Far Away, Donkey.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the fuse is lit

I did all the formatting myself for the book, and posted it to Smashwords. You can pay someone, but I stopped just short of my PhD dissertation in Computer Science, so I figured I could handle it.  The instructions were very well written. The submission queue took over 5 hours. That's okay because it took me longer to decide on the price ($2), and whether I should cut all the swear words (I did). I went to bed right after I verified the automated formatting. My only complaint was that the PDF output doesn't start with the cover page. When I read the manual again, they explained that you can always insert your cover manually, but this generates two covers in the Kindle format. Ick.

When I woke up, I had my first sale! By dinner time I had a second.  It feels fantastic. I haven't disabled the automated email that tells me about every sale. It's like a positive stroke each time I check my mail. Next, I sent out 50 invitations to bloggers to review my story.

I have 12 downloads now, and 2 very nice reviews (4/5 stars). Two more blogs said they would be glad to review me once I'm on the premium sites. That should be by April 10th. I feel like I waiting for a baby to arrive. They come in their own time, and we have no control.

I already have a goverment ID card for the little one:
ISBN: 978-1-4524-9618-4

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

the first step

I write a book a year. I think they're good, and so do a lot of folks on Authonomy. But good luck getting a publisher. So I'm doing it myself.
I'm going to start with the first book I ever wrote, thirteen years ago, the Scarab. It's a near-future PG science fiction piece, inspired by Heinlein's teen books. I intentend to publish on Smashwords.
After my friend (also an author) Weston Kincade did some editing, and other writers made suggestions for a month, I've decided that it's ready.

pitch: "Get paid to play your favorite computer game, bring your friends. But they didn't mention getting shot at, kidnapped, or arrested. "

When Ground Effect Vehicles become common, military and heavy industrial prototypes are too dangerous and expensive to build outright. Instead, each year, major companies put their latest designs into the Super Bowl of virtual races – SimCon. The entries can use speed or weapons to get ahead. The winners in each class get production contracts and advertizing.

Impoverished mechanic Ethan has risen to the top of the gaming circuit as the Scarab. When he invents a new device that makes him rich over night, he is able to enter SimCon like Cinderella at the ball. He invites his high school sweetheart, a cop, along for the ride. Ethan makes a lot of enemies, including a cyber-criminal named Kali. The challenges of a week-long race across Europe are nothing compared to the dirty tricks, murder, and kidnapping that take place off the track. Even though he is an expert, being a severe hemophiliac means Ethan has to keep his temper under control, and think. Anything can be solved with a little help from his friends and the proper application of high explosives.