Category: On Writing…


My Gogger Misses Me

I haven’t posted here for quite some time — pretty much ever since I opened my own domain site for my writing endeavors.  However, I intentionally kept this site open for more personal musings, and this is definitely not writing related.  🙂

Mostly, I just wanted to post this picture that my wife sent me this morning after I left for work. This is my dog, Bella.  We call her, and our other dog (Cricket) “goggers”, after a mispronunciation one of my younger relatives stumbled on several years ago.  Those of you who have kids, or have worked a lot with them know that sometimes a child’s mispronunciation is very cute or catchy, or even logical in some cases.  For instance, when my son was little, he had problems with “yesterday”.  Since the night before was “last night”, then it seemed appropriate in his mind, that the the day before would be “lasterday”.  To this day, we sometimes use the term.

Anyway, that’s it for this morning.  Have a great day.

I lost some of the widgets, and some of the options from the WordPress.com site, but I now have jlbrackett.com moved to GoDaddy.  You will notice some minor changes, but I have tried to make it as close to what I had on WordPress.com as I could.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. New posts on my writing blog at “jlbrackett.com“.

2. Saturday was my youngest daughter’s prom.  There was all the pomp and circumstance – the right dress, the right shoes, the fancy hairdo, etc.  And to top it off, I have the fortune to have a terribly pragmatic daughter, who has similarly pragmatic friends.  They decided to eschew the typical evening of financial irresponsibility – no limo, no hundred dollar meal at an overpriced restaurant… no.  We have always been a home away from home for many of these young men and women, and they decided they would rather have “Mom’s” home cooking.  Even then, all they wanted was one of her pasta meals.  Of course, my wife went all out.  Since all they wanted was a nice pasta dinner, she poured her time into the atmosphere of the event: fancy candles, flower arrangements, nice china, punch… just nice enough to let them all know it was a special event, but simple enough that they wouldn’t need to feel guilty about the work that she put into it.   The woman’s a saint.  I’m in real trouble when she gets her glasses replaced.  🙂

3. Friday, my parents got in from Oklahoma.  My sister put together a nice dinner for the occassion, or so we thought.  It turns out that the whole thing was a surprise belated anniversary party for my wife and I.  See, January was our twenty-fifth anniversary, and we had been toying with the idea of splurging on a trip to Hawaii.  However, between the economy, rising fuel costs and air fares, our daughter getting ready to go to college, and life in general not quite being as cooperative as we would like, we decided to postpone the trip for another year or so.  Now, the rest of the family evidently thought that wasn’t good enough, so they threw us a nice dinner, and pooled their nickles and dimes, handing us a little over a thousand dollars to spend on a trip.  What can you say to that?

4.  Figured out (I think) what part of my problem with my pocast recording of my novel and promo was.  I  was banging my head against the wall on this one for the last few weeks.  I was taking my raw feed from my reads, editing out all the breathing and stammering to get a decent base track, then running it through GoldWave Editor Pro for noise reduction, then running the resulting wav file through Levelator to level the sound, then filling with music and sound effects.  I couldn’t find anything wrong with my process no matter how many times I looked it over.  The sound quality just wasn’t good enough.  I finally noticed on Friday that the mic I’m using was set to record the source in a 16 bit mp3 format.  There was nothing wrong with my process.  I was suffering from a classic case of gigo (garbage in, garbage out).  My process was doing the best it could with the low quality source material I was feeding into it.  I have now set the mic to record as 32 bit wav.  Hopefully that will give me a higher fidelity sound file to work with.  Unfortunately, this means that I get to start all over on the whole thing.  😦

5.  Found out about “Goodreads.com” and set up an account.  Posted two reviews on books I’ve recently read (“The Hunger Games” and “The Second Ship: Book One – The Rho Agenda“).  You can read them on Goodreads.com, or on my writing blog.

That’s about it for now.

Breaking out my writing posts

As of last night, I have another blog for my writing. Since I’m dead set on getting serious with the writing, I’ve registered my own domain.  So from now on, all my writing posts will be put there.  I’ll keep this blog for my personal stuff, but the writing related blog will be elsewhere.

On March 18th, “BigAl” of “BigAlsbooksandPals” reviewed a novel by Jacqueline Howett  on Amazon.com and gave it a two star rating.  Ironically enough, his review was relatively complimentary.  He said her story was “compelling and interesting”, but “spelling and grammar errors, … come so quickly that, especially in the first several chapters, it’s difficult to get into the book without being jarred back to reality as you attempt unraveling what the author meant.”

Not willing to let the review go, Ms. Howett went after the reviewer on his own blog and absolutely lost her mind!  Over the next ten days, her rantings pretty much proved his point, as they were full of the same kind of misspellings and punctuation errors.  Almost immediately BigAl’s blog, his review, and Ms. Howett’s ravings went viral through Twitter and then to various writing websites.  It has been hailed as the ultimate in how NOT to react to a poor book review and was so bad that the poor woman will likely never be able to sell another thing under her own name.

Poor woman.  It almost made me feel sorry for her.

Almost.

Back in the saddle

I’ve been languishing a bit with regards to my writing. I’m in unfamiliar territory here, having completed edits on my novel and now turned it over to my beta readers. That means I have nothing to do on that particular project except wait on notes from them in preparation for the next (and hopefully final) round of edits. Common sense tells me I need to be working on my next project, but I’ve been wishy-washy on determining what that next project should be.

I pretty quickly narrowed it down to one of three that I’m working on –

Behind door number one is Soul Eater. This one is trying to mold itself into a paranormal romance, and I’m not really sure I have the chops with regards to that sub-genre to pull it off. I can possibly rework the story line to bring it in line with more of a mainstream macabre vampire tale, but there’s no denying the very strong romantic angle in this one. As a matter of fact, the romantic angle is vital to the plot of the story.

Door number two contains Streets of Payne, the cyberpunk serialization I was working on before Rebel Tales went belly up. I have 40k words invested in this one, but it’s formatted as a serial, and I think the only way to salvage it is to rework it into a novel (or possibly even a series of novels).  The thing is, that means throwing a lot of it out and reworking the story lines. I know I can do it, but it also means wrapping my mind around a totally new way of looking at a story that I invested a few months into already, and pretty much throwing those months out the window. I know it needs to be done, but I still find myself reluctant to take the plunge.  😦

And behind door number three is Warrior Clan, a relatively new story that I came up with a year or so back. I came up with the idea, did a LOT of research, wrote the opening scene, and then shelved it for later. It has the potential to evolve into a trilogy, but it’s also going to require constant research due to the military nature of some of the story elements.  As I have it currently envisioned, it looks to be a military SF novel based in the near future in which Earth is caught between two alien cultures at war with one another and should encompass a lot of military tech, as well as quite a bit of UFOlogy.

My first thought was to get Soul Eater going again, but I almost immediately hit a wall. Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to get the story working in my head again. I have the thing outlined, and know the various plot points that I need to work towards, but when I opened the damned thing up it just laughed at me. Last night I broke through the freaking wall.

Well… that’s not entirely true. It’s more like I went around the wall. You see, I was having a real problem with a particular scene transition and couldn’t for the life of me get through it. Finally it occurred to me that if the scene didn’t work for me, then it probably wouldn’t work for the reader either. So I girded
my loins, picked up my sword, and slashed a few thousand words of useless prose.  Then wrote a quick paragraph to cover that transition (with notes to myself to come back and fix it later), and picked up with the next scene. The next thing I knew, I was twelve hundred words into a fun verbal sparring match between my protagonist and a minor antagonist.

It still needs a lot of work, to be sure, but it was FUN! 😀 More importantly, it freed me up to make some real progress in the book.  Now I see some more of what needs to be written and it looks like the story may start moving again.

Hooray for progress!

Yep.  Another part of the marketing plan.  Time to find a site to host a real web site.  I’ll need to find something that allows me to build off of this blog, letting me add more as my writing developes.  Eventually, I hope to have a site where folks can:

1. Read the blog (if they’re crazy enough to want to).

2. Download audio podcasts of my writing (if they’re crazy enough to want to).

3. Interact with myself and each other (forum?).

4. Link to the Amazon site that I don’t have yet.  (Hey, I did say eventually!)

That all means that I need to have a site that will allow me to blog, upload and download files via ftp, store said files for an undetermined amount of time, install various widgets such as progress bars and book cover carousels, set up a secure sales point.

It all sounds a little daunting, quite honestly.  But I figure if I start now, I can start small and build it a little at a time.  It’s not like I’m about to start posting podiobooks or selling e-books tomorrow.  I just want to make sure I get a host that can support me when I do get to that point.  After all, why start a site now with a host that can’t handle my plans for the future?

In my initial (uneducated) research, I’m looking at GoDaddy’s “Ultimate” plan for three years.  It comes to roughly $250 for three years of unlimited bandwidth, unlimited storage, 1000 email accounts (though I’m not sure why I would need 1000 email addresses), and a free SSL certificate.  Plenty of research still to do, and I realize I have a lot to learn.

On a related note, after talking with a few new authors, and working as I do in the computer field, I think I’ve decided to begin writing under a pseudonym.  I’ve discussed with the family and together, we’ve chosen a nom de plume.  I’ve checked, and as of this morning, the name is available for domain registration.  Guess that adds another wrinkle to my writing life.  🙂

Just what I need, more complications.  Better that, though, than some of the worries I heard about from some other writers who are beginning to gain some success.  Had one guy who had received some frighteningly “innocent” emails from a fan who sounded more like a serial killer, and another who had been sent a bottle of his favorite scotch from a fan who managed to track down his home address through clues he found on the internet.

That, coupled with some of the things I already know from working in the field, makes me think it’s probably a good idea to take on a disguise.  I guess that also means that “Sm1ley” will have to change some of his blogging habits in the near future.  I may even go so far as to drop this blog completely, and pick up the new persona instead.  I haven’t really thought it all the way through, so I don’t know if I’ll have to go that far.  If I do though, and if I want to do it for security’s sake, then I have to make sure this new persona is completely disassociated with my real name and with Sm1ley, since the two can easily be linked with minimal research.

I guess it sounds a little paranoid, but I don’t want to do anything that could cause any additional worry for friends or family.

Conjour is over

Conjour was a lot of fun.  Even though it was billed as a SF/F/H convention, the way the panels were laid out, I was able to select my own “track” and concentrate on the ones specifically geared for writers.  Panels I attended were: Mining Ideas from Myth and Folklore, Character Development 1, A private reading and discussion by Paul Cooley, Character Development 2, Plot Development 2, Podcasting, Critiquing for Others, Revising Your Work, and Publishing.  I missed the first day, and it turns out that I missed another writing panel on I had intended to attend (Writing 101), but it was from 9:00 to 10:00 PM & I was just too beat to hit one that late – especially considering the hour-long drive I had to get back home.

One of the highlights for me was meeting Paul Elard Cooley, a local horror writer and podcaster.  He was pleasant and down to earth.  Gave me hope, seeing one of the good guys making it.  Oh, and speaking of “it”, here’s a picture of Paul clowning around.

And by the way Paul – the pony tail goes in back.  🙂

Since I’m looking at podcasting my novel, I took the opportunity to talk to Paul and Dead Robots Society co-host, Terry Mixon to glean what I could from those who have gone on before me.  There was a really informative panel on the subject that I attended on Sunday also.  It was hosted, of course, by Paul and Terry, along with author and podcaster Jody Lynn Nye (her profile lists her as the author of more than forty books, including collaborations with Ann McCaffrey and Robert Asprin).  It was a really informative panel.  Topics they covered included the equipment they used, software, and techniques for using them.  There was also a bit of general advice regarding voicing characters and protecting your voice while doing so (something I hadn’t considered).

  I should mention that this panel seemed to have the most active question and answer section of all the panels I attended.  Seemed we all wanted to know something more about podcasting.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time before the panelists were able to get to all our questions.  One of the main topics I wanted to find out about was licensing, and it was of course, one of the things they didn’t have time to get to.  I guess I’ll have to contact Terry on The Dead Robots Society forum for more information when I get ready to go forward on that aspect.  I need to get a better understanding of the differences between copyrighting and creative commons licensing.  Still, for now there’s no need getting ahead of myself.

     Besides the writing “track”, there were of course the typical SciFi, Fantasy, and Horror fan activities.  One of the most interesting groups to me were the Steampunk folks.  I find steampunk really fascinating, and wish I still had access to a machine shop.  Some of the items they had were things I could have whipped out pretty easily back in the days when I had a Bridgeport mill available to me.I saw several folks in really intricate steampunk costumes, and would love to try my hand at creating some of the accoutrements that many of them sported.  A particular item that caught my attention was a “rifle” that one of the dealer tables had for sale. 

If I heard correctly, the thing was going for $2500!  

It sported an after-market paintball gunbarrell, brass gears and fittings, wooden stocks, a bipod, some lights and other electrical doodads.  It really looked cool, but I hope I heard the price wrong.  It was nice, but I don’t know if it’s $2500 worth of nice.  Maybe the maker doesn’t really want to sell it and is pricing high to keep it? 

Who knows?  All I can say is it gave me several ideas on how to make similar devices.

All in all, Conjour 3 was a blast, and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in any aspect of SF/F/H or gaming, from writing to participating.

Finally!  I finished my first rewrite of Phoenix Rising, bringing it down from just over 130K words to just over 115K.  I may be able to bring it down some more, but I’m not really sure I want to at this stage of the game.  Yes, I need to give it another editing pass or two, but I’m less concerned about the word count than I was.  After all, the advice I was following (“new writers should keep their word counts under 100K”) was geared toward the old publishing industry model.  And while I’m not under any illusions that the old brick and mortar model is about to disappear, it is no longer the only game in town.

There is a growing and thriving community of indy writers and self publishers that are actually making money with their work, and I’m leaning more and more towards the idea of joining them.  No, I’ll never be a famous “household name” author like Steele, or King, but a decent writer has a decent chance these days of getting their work out to share with others, and maybe making a bit of spending money at the same time.  🙂

Last Christmas my kids all got together and bought me a Kindle 3 Wireless.  Let me start by saying, if you want an e-reader, and are trying to determine which one to get – I love mine.  I have since read reviews comparing the Kindle, Nook, and Nook color – and the Kindle 3 blows the others out of the water.  Kindle 3 has four weeks of battery life (with wireless turned off) compared to ten days on the Nook, and eight hours for the Nook color!  It also has 4GB storage compared to Nook’s 2GB.  In theory, that allows the Kindle 3 room for more than 3000 novels.  I currently have eight or nine titles on mine (including a PDF copy of my own novel) and it barely registers that there is anything stored on it.

I also love the fact that the buttons to turn the page are so freaking quiet!  Since I’m about to begin recording my novel for podcast, that’s a huge advantage.  I have taken the advice of so many podcasters before me, and have set up a small recording area in the guest room closet that has a mattress and some clothes to act as sound buffers.  In a few practice sessions, the main problems I have run into is the sensitivity of the Zoom H2 mic.  You see, attempting to read in front of the computer picks up the sound of the fans and hard drive.  Granted, in the case of the hard drive, it was an unusual thing.  For some reason, the TB drive on the system I recently built out as a replacement for my trusty old Dimension has a knock in it that you don’t notice at first.  But when listening to a recording made while sitting in front of it, it sounded like a faint tapping on the water pipes.  It took me several sessions to figure out that it was the hard drive.

But I digress.  🙂

Like I said, to get away from the computer sounds I’ve taken to recording in the guest room closet.  The sensitive H2 picks up all sorts of background noise. The closet eliminates most of them, but I have found that I still catch the occasional rattle of paper, since I have been reading off of printed pages.  Using the Kindle should eliminate that.

I haven’t tried it yet, as I am still working on edits for the novel, but I’m looking forward to the experiment.  I anticipate great success.