Jun 272018
 

I’m going to try to make this post a short one.  (I’m really, REALLY working hard to try and finish up the latest Amber Payne novel, and I need to stay after it.  :)   So, some quick updates…

First, remember the mystery I mentioned in the last post?  The Goal Zero solar charger?  Well we finally found out where it came from.  It turns out that some very dear friends (who really shouldn’t have spent anything on me) sent it to me for my birthday.  So a huge THANK YOU to the two of you.  (You know who you are.)  

Also, I think I mentioned a while back that I had been invited to speak at a local seminar on creating audiobooks.  That took place on June 16th, and it went very well.  The primary speaker was WB Ward, a local radio personality.  He is a narrator of several audiobooks (unfortunately, I don’t recall exactly how many… it’s just a LOT), and he spoke on the ins and outs of creating one.  Since he did his own voice work though, he had never had to go through the auditioning process from an author’s perspective.  That’s where I came in.  And yes, there are pictures, so it really happened.  ;)

Writing report –

I’ve found a handy new tool to help keep me on track with the writing.  It’s called “The Magic Spreadsheet” (TMS), and writers have been using it for years.  It’s an online spreadsheet where many writers list their wordcount each day, complete with goals, levels, and a few other things.  The spreadsheet itself isn’t all that unusual, although someone has put a LOT of work into the formulas being used to track everything.  The thing that seems to make it so useful is the fact that it puts your progress out there for your peers to see.  There’s a psychological element in that… it makes you want to keep going – to keep working, so you can compare your progress with that of the men and women you see who are “making it” as writers.  I can see that “Writer X” is writing an average of 2100 words per day, every single day.  And I can see that “Writer X” has days like I do, where you only get an additional 400 or 500 words.  It’s heartening to see that they can have the same setbacks that I do, and still put out that high overall average wordcount.

And then I see that I’m putting out an average of 1200 words per day.  I can look at their numbers and see that most of them work at it seven days a week, where I definitely take it easier on the weekends.  At first, I wasn’t writing at all on the weekends, but TMS has a minimum word requirement if you want to stay in the rankings, so for the last several week, I’ve made it a point to at least hit the minimum, even on the weekends.

And my numbers have been rising.  More importantly, the book is progressing!  Yay!  

 

Here’s how…

Payne and Suffering – the novel is a bit over 86000 words at the moment, and promises to carry on for well over 100K.  However, I have finally realized that I’m very likely going to have to cut a few characters and some sub-plots out of it.  My end goal is to keep the book under 100K in its finished form.  Wish me luck.

IMR – (AKA “the Sekrit Projekt”) I’ve barely started on this one… less than a chapter so far.  I’m torn between wanting to write this one, and having to wait for the contract.  But there was an opening scene that I felt needed a home, so I’ve written a tiny bit.  Of course, I’ve also collated 53 pages of notes for the story so far.  LOL

But it’s time for me to get back to writing.  So I’ll talk to you next time.  Until then, stay safe, everyone.  :bye:

 Posted by at 5:20 pm
Jun 062018
 

As you can see, I finally got the final monitor working.   The external graphic card adapter I bought worked like a charm.  As a matter of fact, if I ever decide to go crazy with them, this particular card is capable of concurrently synchronizing up to six monitors at once.  Of course, you have to buy a new adapter for each one, but it’s nice to have options, right?  LOL

And it seems to already be making a difference as far as the head- and neck aches are concerned, so it looks like this was definitely a good decision.  Thanks, Better Half.  

I have a new mystery.  Not a story I’m writing… a real life, honest to goodness, mystery.  You see, I had an outing last Saturday.  The outing itself isn’t really germane to the story.  But when I got home, there was a package from ‘Zon waiting on the porch.  I was a bit confused, since I didn’t recall ordering anything, but hey, my name was on it so maybe MBH had ordered something & I just hadn’t known it.  I brought it in and sat it on the desk without thinking too much of it for a few minutes.

But when I asked MBH about it, she was as much in the dark about it as I was.  So I opened it up, and found an item I had looked at on Amazon on more than one occasion.  You know, one of those, “if I only had money to spare” kind of things.  It was a Goal Zero portable solar charger and battery core with some USB attachable accessories.  Now, I’ve looked at various Goal Zero products in the past, so I had to make sure I hadn’t accidentally clicked something and ordered it without remembering. (Yes, I’ve done that in the past, so I had to be sure.)

Nope.  Then it occurred to MBH & I that maybe it was an early Father’s Day or birthday present from one or more of the kids.  But they didn’t know anything about it either.  I called my sister & brother-in-law, and they hadn’t done it.  And since my mom lives with them, I checked and she hadn’t bought it, either.

Like I said… mystery.  

The only other thing I can think of is I had just written up a bunch of product reviews for the monitors, graphics adapter, cables, and a bunch of other items I had purchased on Amazon.  I’ve heard that ‘Zon sometimes sends customers items to review.  But if that were the case, wouldn’t they at least send me an email letting me know they had done so?  At any rate, I’ve got a very nice little portable solar panel and charging setup that I’ll be playing with.  And yes, I’ll likely do a full review on it, too.

 

Writing news –

The latest Amber Payne story just keeps going and going.  I’ll probably break 70k by the end of the day, and the characters still don’t even know what the real problem is, let alone the solution.  I have a feeling this one is going to take some serious cutting to bring it down to size.  To give you a comparison, Streets of Payne was right at 90k.  That was my target goal for this one, too, but like I said, I think I’ll probably bust that limit by a considerable amount.

Guess I’ll just have to see where the story takes me.  For now though, it’s time to get back to writing.

Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.  :bye:

May 302018
 

So last year the chiropractor said my x-rays showed the beginning stages of arthritis in my neck, and that this was likely the cause of my recurring head and neck aches.  They’ve been getting more frequent lately, so MBH suggested I order a dual monitor desk mount with the idea that I would get a couple of decent monitors and hang them in a more ergonomic position.

So we went to Best Buy to purchase a couple of monitors that were on sale.  Unfortunately, they were out of stock at the store we went to, but said they had them at another store, and would ship them to the house at no charge.  Yay!

But when they arrived, I realized they weren’t VESA compatible, so I wouldn’t be able to use them on the new mounting system.  Luckily, I realized this before I opened the boxes.  So we went back to BB for a simple and easy return.  Then I found a decent pair on Amazon and ordered them.

And you would think that the problem was solved at that point, right?

HAH!

My laptop is a 17″ Dell XPS laptop.  It’s a real workhorse that came with Win 7, and a GeForce M555 graphics card.  That card has mini-DP, and HDMI output ports and is capable of supporting the laptop monitor and two external monitors.  Now, the laptop came with a mini-DP to VGA adapter, so I’ve always run the laptop and one external monitor.  I’ve never been able to use two externals though, because all my monitors only had VGA and DVI input ports… and I just realized that the IT geek in me is starting to come out.  Suffice to say, the old monitors weren’t compatible with the remaining HDMI port.

But the new monitors both had HDMI ports.  The idea was to be able to close the laptop and run on the two externals, with them both moved into that more ergonomic position I spoke of.  Only when I plugged the HDMI cable into the second monitor, it didn’t work. (sigh)  

No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the laptop to see that last monitor.  So I went online to see if anyone else had come across this issue.  Unfortunately, there were a LOT of people who had.  The problem is, some have the issue, some don’t.  Some claim it is cause by upgrading to Windows 10.  Others claim it’s the push for 3D optimization in Win 10.  Yet others claim the graphics card can only support the mini-DP OR the HDMI port, but not both at the same time.

And yet others have posted pictures showing that they have all three monitors working at the same time with no issues whatsoever.  Bottom line, no one seems to know what triggers the problem, or how to fix it when it presents itself.

So I’ve decided to bypass the graphics card issue altogether.  They sell external graphics card adapters that attach to your laptop via USB port, and they’re relatively inexpensive (about $30 for the one I ordered).  It should arrive in a few days and I’ll hopefully be able to get my writing setup optimized the way I want it.  For now, I still have the laptop monitor, and one of the new monitors that’s hung high enough that I’m able to look up when I’m writing.  I can already tell the difference in how it affects my neck.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the eventual change to properly placed screens will alleviate the majority of the neck aches.

Other news…

Baby Bird had some pain of her own last weekend.  I’ve mentioned before that she’s living in New Mexico now, working on her Masters in Art Therapy.  As such, she’s learning to adapt to a much different environment than she’s been used to in south central Texas.  There’s the temperature extremes and the thinner air at her altitude.  Recently though, she woke up at 2AM to a stinging on her back.  A bit of slapping and thrashing revealed the culprit to be Scolopendro heros, AKA the giant desert centipede.  If you don’t already know (and I didn’t until recently), these little suckers sting like wasps, injecting venom with their front legs.  Baby Bird said she just hopes it didn’t lay eggs in her ear.  LOL  Yep.  that’s definitely MY daughter.

Writing news –

Not a lot to write about here.  The new Amber Payne novel is really flowing now, with a current word count of a bit over 60k at the time of this writing.  I hope to have the first draft complete in the next few weeks.

Let’s see… what else?

Just got an email this morning from Corey Snow.  He says he hopes to have the last of the Year 12 audiobook recorded by the end of this week.  I’ll still have to go through and listen to it and give final approval, so it won’t actually be available for sale for a bit after that, but it’s great to see it in the final stages.

Oh!  guess who’s going to be a guest speaker at an upcoming seminar?  Yep, I was approached as a local writer to talk about my experiences in finding voice talent to convert my written titles into audio books.  It’s funny, when WB Ward (the main speaker for the seminar) approached me, he wanted to know if I thought I would be able to speak for about 20 minutes on the ins and outs of auditioning voice talent for audio books.  At the time, I thought “Twenty minutes?  Am I going to be able to fill twenty minutes?”  I was convinced I would have about ten minutes and then have to start taking questions to fill in the rest of the time.

Then I started taking notes on what I was going to say.  Now I realize why WB was so adamant that I had absolutely no more than twenty.  I’m working to thin it down, but it’s going to be close.  LOL.  Let’s just hope I don’t get up there and freeze.

All right, I’ve rambled long enough.  Amber Payne is calling, so I’d better get back after it.  You all take care, and I’ll talk to you next time.  :bye:

 Posted by at 11:20 am
Mar 212018
 

Wow.  My last post was three weeks ago?  Well, yes, I’ve been busy, but three weeks? (sigh)

Sorry ladies and gents.

Even now, it’s after 9PM, almost past Wednesday completely.  But I really don’t want to miss another one, so here’s a quick rundown of what’s been going on…

I was given the green light to talk about the anthology story I’m working on.  It’s for Severed Press, and is an anthology for their dinosaur market.  Initially, I thought I would write the story of the first group of scientists that came through the Pangaea portal in the Pangaea: Exiles story.  It was briefly mentioned in the book, but never really fleshed out.  Since they said they don’t really want that story, (opting instead for something totally different), it’s a story that may never be written.

So that’s one more thing that I’m working on.

And someone else has contacted me about a sekrit projekt… someone whose writing I really admire, and who I know and respect on a more personal basis.  They wanted to know if I would be interested in co-writing a novel in their universe.  Now let me tell you something here folks – there really aren’t that many series that I get into enough to read (or listen to the audiobooks) of as soon as they come out.  This person writes one of the very few.  As a matter of fact, I had just finished the most recent available audiobook in their series the day before they contacted me.  It’s not firmed up yet, but I have hope that this one will actually take place.

Fingers crossed. 

On the personal front, we’ve had bad news, and then we’ve had BAD news.  First, yours truly ended up blowing up the engine in my Rav 4.  I was going to meet with some friends on Saturday a few weeks back.  It was a nasty, rainy day, and I was traveling down the toll road when I heard a bit of a thump like I had run over a branch or something.  At the same time, I had several warning lights on the dashboard light up, including the battery light.  This made me think I might have thrown a belt.

So I got off the toll road at the next exit, and turned around to take the back road to head back toward home.  I knew I ran the risk of overheating the engine so I kept a close eye on the temperature gauge as I drove back toward town.  I got lucky (or so I thought) in that nearly every traffic light I hit was green, so I didn’t have to stop until I got back into my home town.  That was when I first smelled the steam of an overheated engine.  Still, the temperature gauge showed the engine was cool.

It lied.  There was no way for the engine to be cool, and still produce that smell of steam and hot coolant.  By the time the engine died, it was too far gone.  It had died two blocks from our mechanic.  And since it was a Saturday, I couldn’t have it looked at until Monday.  Even then, I hoped it was just minor damage.

No such luck.  I’d killed the thing.  It would have cost more to fix it than the Rav was worth.    So we’re down by one vehicle in the Brackett household, at least for the immediate future.

But that’s not the BAD news.  You know that old saying about feeling sorry for yourself because you have no shoes, until you see the man who has no feet?  Well, that’s the way MBH and I have felt lately.  We’ve seen some people close to us going through so much worse than what we’re dealing with.  I won’t go into details, because those stories aren’t mine to tell.  Suffice to say that some of what our loved ones are dealing with is truly heartbreaking.  So much so that we feel blessed to only have minor things like burned out ceiling fans, broken fence posts, (a few other minor issues) and car engines to worry about.

And we are SO lucky in so many other ways.  We have friends and family who love us, and are loved by us.  And no matter what happens, I don’t see that changing.  In the end, that’s really all that matters.

So hug your loved ones, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you again soon.  :bye:

Feb 282018
 

Yep.  Another project.  A few weeks ago I was invited to write a story for an upcoming anthology.  I don’t know whether or not I’m at liberty to talk about it publicly, so I guess I’ll have to speak in general terms here. When they made me the offer and told me the subject matter, I was at first reluctant.  Short stories and anthologies historically haven’t done me a lot of good.  At least, not financially.  If you’re an indie, you still have to pay for editing, formatting, and cover design.  Then, since it’s a shorter work, you can’t charge as much for it.  And if you don’t charge at least $2.99, Amazon cuts your royalty from 70% to 35%, even further cutting into what you can make from it.  So yeah, I usually view shorter works as time and effort spent on creating something that takes forever to make your return – time that could be better spent on writing something of longer length that has a better chance of helping to pay some bills.

On the other hand, it’s also excellent practice for learning to write in a shorter, more concise, format… a skill that ultimately pays off in producing better novels down the road.

Still, there’s that money thing…

Wait. What’s that?  This anthology is a paying market?  And the publisher will be handling the cost for editing, formatting, and cover, so no out-of-pocket expenses.  And it’s tied into something I’ve already done?

Well that certainly changes things.  Where do I sign?  

So with an idea for a story already in mind, I replied back that I would love to write for their anthology.  I went to work on the story the next day, getting about a thousand words into it.  I sent them an email, letting them know in general terms what I had in mind, in order to make sure it fit the antho well enough for them to be comfortable.  I was fairly comfortable that it would, but better to be sure, right?

Unfortunately, it didn’t.  Since my story tied into the novel that had garnered me the invitation, I had figured it would be a shoe-in.  I figured wrong.  They wanted something that was more of a stand-alone nature.

Well crap. Back to the drawing board. 

And since I had jumped in feet first with the first story, I was now at a complete loss about what to write.  So I tossed a few ideas around.  I wrote a few hundred words on a second idea, then abandoned it… another thousand or so on a third idea (one that I really liked, actually), but found a problem with the world building for it… as in, there’s no freaking way the world I’m writing in could ever exist.  Then I wrote a couple of paragraphs on a fourth story line that also didn’t work.  I was beginning to think I was going to have to pass on the offer.

Then I finally had my eureka moment a few days ago.  I realized that, while the world I had envisioned in the third story might not ever happen the way I originally envisioned it, it could happen in a more localized environment.  And wouldn’t it be interesting to tell the story of how that disaster began?

So you’ll notice a new progress meter entitled Terrorists in the sidebar to the right.  It’s just getting started, but I think I finally found its feet and it should really start moving now. 

 

Other news –

MBH is doing much better now.  She’s still not 100%, but the illness has gone from killer plague back to uncomfortable flu.  Vestiges of it are still hanging on for both of us, but we’re no longer contagious, and we’re no longer up all night hacking up our internal organs,  So yay for us, right?

Writing news – 

Chucklers – Evidently, CV1 was on sale for a day back on February 17.  I would have made an announcement, but unfortunately, I didn’t know about the sale until February 25.  Not being in control of things like this is one of the trade-offs for being published through a press.  You don’t have to worry about the up-front expenses of publishing, but you also relinquish control of the work.  It’s a fair arrangement, but it makes it harder to track things until after the fact.

Pangaea: Exiles – This one continues to surprise me with how well it’s doing.  Reviews are still coming in, and they’re overwhelmingly positive.  PE currently has a 4.5 rating, and the only negative review is from some poor soul who was upset because the book had humans living in a time when they “didn’t belong”, and killing “the animals that lived there” (dinosaurs).  I supposed that’s a viable view.  I just have to wonder what he thought the book was going to be about, based on the cover and book description.  

And there’s really no other writing news to report this week.  Payne and Suffering is pretty much on hold while I concentrate on this antho story, and I’ve got nothing new to report on the Y12 audiobook, or Crazy Larry.  So, in sticking with my “keep it short” blogging policy, I think I’m just going to end it here.

You guys stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.  :bye: