Author: Lance

Lance Schonberg is an eclectic genre fiction author with more than two dozen stories published or on the way. His first independent publishing adventure,"Thorvald's Wyrd", is due out at the end of January 2019. And he needs a more exciting short bio.
More Learning About Indie Publishing

More Learning About Indie Publishing

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So every step along the way, I learn that there’s more to this whole idie publishing gig than most people think there is, or even than I thought.

I did figure out quite a bit early on just reading, and I had my eyes open going in, I hope, that even though I thought I had a grasp on the various steps, I knew there would be more steps I didn’t know about. That continues to be the case, of course. But I’m also finding that some of steps I knew were there are more involved than the initial presentation.

I have released exactly one thing independently so far and that thing has taught me better preparation and planning the next thing, which I am working on for a release before the end of the month. I’ve actually got the year plotted out so that I’m supposed to be releasing one short or long thing (sometimes both) per month every month for the rest of the year.

This first thing, “Thorvald’s Wyrd”, was, because I have been busy learning new things about indie publishing, significantly later than I thought was going to be. I was, originally, hoping to do it in late January. It’s a novelette, so not gigantic, and I had a cover more or less done on time, and the formatting more or less done close to on time and everything else more or less ready not too late. Emphasis on “more or less”. There were plenty of tweaks and adjustments to make, and since I decided to put it the traditional bits of a book, which aren’t always traditional for an ebook, but mostly, into the mix, not all the things in there were making me happy with the formatting. Surprisingly, e-books and paperbacks are two different things. No sarcasm intended. Well, not much.

But, finally, “Thorvald’s Wyrd” went live on the 10th of March and I’m happy with that. I hope to have the next book up in life by the end of March. From there, my intent is to get to the point where I’m working at least two months ahead, meaning a full two calendar months so that everything I’m going to release in June is ready to go by the end of April.

If I can do that, the indie plan for this year will work fairly smoothly to reach my objective of having a reasonable body of work at there for people to sample and read and, hopefully, enjoy.

But, to effectively work two calendar months ahead, I really need to lock down my basic process for self-publishing from finished manuscripts to pressing go.

Now, I don’t expect ever stop learning, and I don’t expect the process to stay stagnant to make things easy for me, but it would be nice to have things worked out properly so I can mostly just tweak the process from book to book for relevant updates and changes to the way things work. Which probably means I should have made an awful lot more notes as I was going through the process for the first time, instead of working out that process and thinking I’ll remember everything. That’s okay, I can do the second time, or the third, and I should at least avoid having to redo certain things several times and make new mistakes instead.

The plan is to figure out the basic process and how it differs from short fiction to long fiction to fanfiction, because it does differ. Maybe not a whole lot between the first and second categories, but they are a whole bunch of steps that I don’t need for that third category, because it’s fanfiction, and I’m not allowed to make money at it.

For our everyone’s gratification, the copyright page for a work fanfiction needs to be very different, surrendering all rights to anything in the story, and stating that his work fanfiction, and all rights remain copyright holder. It may or may not be legally necessary, but it does show intent and understanding on the author’s part that they’re playing in someone else’s sandbox, and without official permission, even if permission is tacitly granted by the existence of a body of fanfic.

For now, I’m supposed to be finishing up the paperback formatting for “Thorvald’s Wyrd”, and I probably should be looking at the final formatting that needs to be done for Skip to my Luu.

And I’ve got lots of drafting and editing to do while I’m at it.

Be well, everyone.

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Concert Quest

Concert Quest

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So I had a story idea several years, jotted down the first couple of paragraphs of the opening scene and then, as so often happens, left it in an idea file and haven’t really looked at again. Although, it’s one of the things I’m certain is in there. Lots of things in the idea file I don’t remember at all.

The idea was basically that at some point in the near future, the person with the only legal civilian Time Machine mostly uses it to go to rock concerts he wishes he had been able to at the time, some of them before he was born.

I always thought this was in the idea but wasn’t sure where I wanted to take it. I’m still not. Time travel has, at times (ha, ha) been seriously overdone in science fiction, both short and long, and while it’s not necessarily easy to come up with an original idea in any subgenre, it’s incredibly difficult with time travel. I think I’ve managed one the past. Whether this is another or not, it’s a cute gimmick to start story with, but not a story in and of itself.

But, a few months back in an oddball conversation at work the idea of time travel came up and, surprise, surprise, we had to talk about what we would do with a time machine.

I threw my idea out there as a possibility. After all, you have to have some leisure time, and why not spend it on something you truly love.

Thinking, and I may have had this thought on paper before, that there are actually probably quite a few concerts that I would have loved to have seen. A lot of them happened before I would’ve been realistically be able to go to concerts. Some were before I was born.

Examples of that last one: the Elvis ‘68 Comeback tour, an early Beatles tour probably paired with one in the Sgt. Pepper era, a stop on the Undercover Tour with the Rolling Stone.

But why stop there?

Let’s go see some of the bands and artists whose music I’ve loved and see them at their peak. Led Zeppelin, the Doors, BTO, and plenty of other 70s bands were influential in my early tastes. I could make a decent list just based on that.

But it’s nothing like the list I could make for 80s bands and artists. And while a few of them are back touring, or still touring, what would it have been like to see them when their popularity was high and they were making the greatest music? Duran Duran, The Police, The Bangles, The Go-Gos, Van Halen, Poison, Yes.

And let’s not forget Rush. There’s a pretty good chance I’d want to go see Rush on every tour they ever did, but I’d start with Signals, the tour for the album that got me hooked.

Time Travel is, currently, at least, impossible. I’ll never get to see any of those concerts firsthand and that’s just how it is.

But the thought occurred to me that video footage exists of many of those concerts, and, if not necessarily complete, it’s out there if I’m willing to look. If enough of it is in high enough resolution that I could just watch it on a big enough screen, that will be as close as I can get to a lot of them. Not true concert experience, maybe still awesome in its own right.

I don’t know how long that idea has been in the back of my head, but a week or so ago during lunch, I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a post that purported to direct me to a side-by-side comparison of the actor’s performance in the recent biopic Bohemian Rhapsody with the original performance by Freddie Mercury and Queen at Live Aid in 1985.

Now that would have been a concert.

I skipped the link and instead went to YouTube to see if that original Live Aid footage was available on its own.

It was.

And it was spectacular.

Even on my little 21-inch monitor at work.

What would it look like on a full-size TV? 40 or 50 or 60 inches of screen?

The Concert Quest may have just been born.

I think I’m going to see if I can come up with a list of those concerts I would use that time machine to go see. I probably can’t go back much farther than the 68 comeback tour for Elvis, the early 60s Beatles and Rolling Stones might be hard, but it’s out there. For a long time, there was a huge market on VHS and probably DVD for concerts, so I’m betting that a lot of is online now.

Rush on the 1982 Signals tour.

How much of Live Aid is available?

Duran Duran in, say, 1987 or 88.

The Police on the Synchronicity tour just before the breakup.

I have a list to make.

Be well, everyone.

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Psst! Do you like fanfic?

Psst! Do you like fanfic?

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In particular, Star Trek fanfic?

I’ve got two available now. And more on the way.

So far, there are two of seven shorts available, and there will be a novel in there somewhere, too, because it’s going through the final draft reading right now. Mostly, I enjoy working with the supporting and background characters from the series, usually using the Big Three in smaller roles, but there’s a little variability there. It’s a big universe to play in.

Details on this page, but I thought I’d mention it, just in case.

Be well, everyone.

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The Ease of Indie Publishing

The Ease of Indie Publishing

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Stacks of books

Warning: long post.

So diving into the world of independent publishing with your books is easy, right? Finish the story, slap some art on it, save it in the right format, upload, and let the millions role in.

Okay, first, if you’re using the word millions and talking about your independent publishing empire, you’re probably in the wrong field.

Second, easy? Seriously?

When I decided that it was time for me to broaden my publishing efforts into the independent route as well as continuing to pursue traditional publishing, I already had some idea of what I was in for on the traditional side. No matter how good the short story, chances are fairly good that is not going to be the right fit for the first market you send it to, or second, or third, and so on. If the story is good, and you are persistent, it will eventually find a home. For novels, time frames are even longer at every step in the process. Brief reading periods separated widely in time, slush piles that have wait times going deep into the double-digits of months, and agents aren’t a whole lot quicker, although once you have one, certain doors are open that weren’t before.

Worse, in both cases, everyone wants something different. Sometimes a little different, sometimes a lot different, and most of this is to see if you’re paying attention. At least that’s the expression of things. Some significant but not measured by me portion of the time, I honestly think the real reason is that people just want an easy way to reject things to save themselves time. And sometimes, a smaller fraction but still measurable, it’s so that people can be assholes while doing it.

Side trip: I try to read the guidelines thoroughly. I know everyone wants something different. But, an example, if I get a rejection letter back that says, word for word, “I couldn’t be bothered to read your story because you couldn’t be bothered to read the guidelines and you missed this tiny little thing,” I probably can’t be bothered to ever submit to your market again, and while I wish you well, I fully expect you to fail in the next 12 months and won’t cry about it. I have long since decided that if I ever publish stuff that’s not mine, the guidelines are going to be relatively simple and straightforward: double-spaced in a readable font consistently formatted. In the closing days of the second decade of the 21st century, there’s really no need for anything else. I’ll judge spelling, grammar, plot, character, world, point of view and everything else as I read the story. Or novel. Or whatever. But I’ll do it because I’m reading the story not because you missed one blue M&M.

But, we were talking about the ease of indie publishing. And, based on someone of the things I see regularly out there, it is pretty easy. Finish the story, slaps some art on it, save in the right format, and upload.

I don’t think it’s easy to get right, though. And I’m not saying I’m getting it right, but I’m doing a lot of research and figuring out standards and what works and building things as I go, learning the appropriate tools, techniques, and so on. Because there are a lot more than four steps to it, and I want to maximize my chances of getting it right.

Here are the steps as I see them so far:

  1. Finish the story. Yes, this is really important. And finish doesn’t mean publishing your first draft, which I feel like a lot of people seem to do. Somehow, it’s become standard thinking in our society that our first draft is our best draft, our first response is our best response, our first effort is our best effort. Newsflash, the reader can tell. Not going into my process again, but there are multiple drafts involved, and if there’s only one in yours that might be a stumbling point to your success.
  2. Front matter. The stuff that comes before the story. Title page, copyright notice, dedication, introduction, table of contents… whichever of those are relevant to the kind of book you’re putting out. Yes, I’ve read a number of arguments that there shouldn’t be very much between the cover and the story for an e-book, but I don’t think I buy that, not yet. One thing I do like is that realization that frequently people download a whole bunch of e-books at a time and then forget why by the time to get around to reading. So something that might go right after the cover, or right after the title page, is a few sentences worth of exciting synopsis. What, in a print book, would be the back cover copy.
  3. Cover art. These days, there are a lot of online tools to help you find some really awesome low or no cost imagery for your covers (I think my favourite is Pixabay so far). Then there are online tools that give you templates and ideas to (relatively) easily put together your cover. (I like Canva. A lot. Here’s a link directly to book cover templates.) But you need the right image, the right fonts, the right log line (if you’re going to have one), the right layout, and the search for that right image might take some time to find something that really speaks to you and says something about the story.
  4. After that, put in the story itself. Cover art, front matter, story. Consistently formatted, simply formatted, and in a readable font, a font that people will be comfortable having bombard their eyes for the hours they’re going to spend reading your story.
  5. Back matter. Based on my research so far, at the very least this should contain a thank you for reading message, something that suggests that you would love the reader to leave a review for you somewhere, a how to get a hold of you page, and a page with three or four tiny cover shots of other things are published or are publishing in the next few months. Lots of things might fall into this category. I mostly work in fiction, so I don’t really need an index, and if I use alien words that people have a hard time figuring out, I would mostly rather include those and pronunciations in the text rather than having that affect. I probably won’t include a list of characters, even if it’s a very complex story. This is also where you can also include a preview to something else. There are plenty of schools of thought on that, too, but I think I follow the line of “don’t do a preview unless it’s for the next story after the one they just read”. And it’s better if that story is already available. Because, really, have you ever had that experience where you’re 30 or 40 pages from the end of the book and the story suddenly ends? Then you find that there’s this huge long preview of the next book that isn’t coming out for a year? Your mileage may vary, but it drives me crazy.
  6. Now that you got the basic file complete, you need to save it in a variety of formats. There are various preferences out there and a tonne of formats, but I think you need at least three primary formats: EPUB, Kindle, and PDF. I’m still experimenting with a variety of tools to figure out what I like best and what produces the best file.
  7. Okay, now you’ve got the files, where do you upload them? Kindle is easy enough: get yourself to your Amazon author page and start working from there. What, you don’t have an Amazon author page yet? You should probably fix that. And try to keep it up-to-date better than I do. They’ll only take uploads on Barnes & Noble with your EPUB file if you have an ISBN, and those cost money, so are a debate. But, there are plenty of other places to get your e-books up and running. Find the selection that will get you the biggest audience you can.
  8. Seven, you’ve got a website, right? A blog, at least? Probably you should have a dedicated page on that website for the book you’re publishing. A landing page, if you will. One for each book. Cover art, “back cover” copy, and all the important places you can go to buy it.
  9. Is there a store on your website where all of your stuff is available? Something to think about.
  10. While you’re at it, go get yourself librarian status on Good Reads and, not only will this lets you fix those pesky little errors you keep finding in things, it will also let you upload your brand-new book to Good Reads so that people can reviews there as well as Amazon.
  11. I really want to talk about marketing, but this post is already getting too long but, as the independent author, marketing is also your job. Social media is your friend. Find the right ones, the right combination for you, and go out there and be yourself.
  12. Why aren’t you writing the next book yet? Better question, why aren’t you prepping the next book, editing the one after that, and drafting the third one out? By all indications, to be a successful independent author, you need a significant body of work available to your readers, and you need to be adding to that on a regular basis. I’m not saying you need to write and publish four books a year, although if you can, and the quality is good, that’s probably not a bad thing, but there needs to be always something in your “coming soon” section.
  13. And there’s always more you could be doing. More social media, podcasts, video, newsletters, conventions, and on and on and on. What? You’re an independent author. You didn’t think you’re going to get to have a life, too, did you?

Keep in mind, I’m still fairly (extremely) new at the indie gig and I’m working hard to come up to speed. I feel like I’ve been prepping for a long time now and not having much of that show publicly, but when I think I’ve got the basic process figured out, there might wind up being a quick flood of material released in the beginning before I settle into a routine.

Be well, everyone.

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The Zeroth Draft

The Zeroth Draft

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So I’ve written plenty of times before about how my basic story writing process works from first to final draft: story dump, read through, fix what’s broken, make it pretty, read it aloud. I don’t think I’ve ever really written about what goes into things before the first draft.

What makes up the 0th draft?

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was pretty much a pantser when it came to writing. Either I would start with a cool concept or character or situation and write until I found my way to the end or, sometimes, just start writing and see what happened, figuring things out as I went. It was fun, and it worked well enough for me for a first draft, but after that first draft, it got to be a lot more work.

The read through produced a crazy number of notes and things to be addressed, probably twice as many or more as it does now, and in the second draft, where I actually fixed all the problems, I often turned up a whole bunch more that I missed the first time instead of just a handful. That said, although the second drafts took a lot longer than my first drafts, they might have made the third draft part of the process a little easier.

One of the major projects that I’m working on right now is a return to my roots in that method. I started with the scene of a small group of people exploring the wreck of an alien battle cruiser when the partner of someone another team runs up them and collapses. That partner turns at be another, different kind of alien, whom humans are allied with, but who only communicates in the couplets and verses built out of iambic touch amateur.

That scene has led me to how those known aliens form bonds with other species, lost alien colonies, remains of a collapsed alien Empire, and exploring the galaxy far, far off the far frontier. It’s fun, and at this point I more or less have the ending in mind, and have for a while, but the story itself messy, crazy, all over the map, and probably has a whole lot of internal inconsistencies. I think the basis of a good story is there, but it’s going to take quite a few editing hours to bang into a shape words actually readable and flows properly.

Which, essentially, is the reason I don’t really write that way anymore, even when looking at short fiction. In more recent times, I’m an outliner, and, to a certain extent, a plotter. I use what I guess is kind of a semi-snowflake process to get to the first draft. I like the basic methodology of starting with what essentially is a log line, blowing that up into a few sentences of what the key plot points are, blowing those up into chunks a story arc, and then breaking those chunks of story arc down into chapter or scene level bits of description. Those bits usually wind up having 50 to 150 words each in them, so that by the time all is said and done, my outline process has produced a document that is somewhere between five and eight thousand words long.

And that’s before I even start the first draft.

I don’t follow the snowflake method, exactly, even on the plot side of things, and I don’t follow it all on the character side of things. I like the characters to help me tell who they are through the course of the writing, and sometimes that means that I wind up having to adjust the plot here and there, and that’s okay.

After I’ve got that scene level district description document, now it’s time to build the tracking file for the story as well. This is basically a scene or chapter listing, sometimes both, with a prediction of approximately how many words each of those scenes will take to complete. Those are broad guesses, though, even if I frequently wind up plus or -25% from the initial projection. In the final word count, once I reach the end of the read aloud draft, may bear no relation to that initial projection. Just because I write something that I expect to take 1500 words in the first draft doesn’t mean the final draft won’t be 3000, or 500, or, occasionally, disappear entirely with the important bits sprinkled somewhere else in story.

And I do, to the course that first draft, leave myself room for a little pantsing, to explore more of the world than I had originally planned to or because the way the characters have developed indicated something very, very different should happen next. I’ll veer off the plot but figure out ways to get the same basic events and steer my way back to it eventually. Last year, working on the second of what was originally the Troll World Quartet, I had two big deviations that added between eight and 10,000 words each to the story, but both added appropriately to the story I was working on and both became critical to the modified storylines in what were originally the third and fourth books. I overshot the original plot length island by more than 25,000 words, and I think there’s still little bit to build in. That book has a fairly logical split point, so it’s likely going to wind up being a Quintet, but I’m getting sidetracked.

These days, I’m a significant outliner who allows himself space for as much pantsing as he wnats, most of the time.

And I follow the same basic principle of short stories, although it’s a much more compact version of it. Single sentence description of the story becomes thumbnail sketch of story arc becomes a single sentence to describe each scene in the story becomes first draft. There’s probably no Excel tracking involved unless it’s part of a larger, connected set of stories, or my initial expectation is that it’s going to be a novella.

I do find that having the outline, even if I don’t necessarily follow it exactly, or even closely sometimes, helps me keep the end goal in mind, the narrative on or close to track, and makes sure that each scene is contributing to some combination of story developments, character development, and world building. I kind of like it when a scene does all three. Though not all of them do.

So, before I even start the first draft of a novel, there’s usually some significant amount of time spent on figuring out story events, at least in broad strokes, and building the basic structure of the tale. Different writers have different needs of course, and there are different names for this piece of the process. A lot of those come down to something like “pre-writing”, but I tend to think of the various pieces of that as writing as well. You’re still making progress in creating the story, and that counts just as much as editing after story has made it out of your head and into a first draft. It’s still making words.

Be well, everyone.

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Writing Report for February 2019

Writing Report for February 2019

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A good month, although a lot lighter than January, mainly due to doing only a little writing, and that by hand, during the vacation trip to (mostly) to Curaçao that was more or less a diary of the trip. 27 writing days out of a possible 28. Groundhog day got missed completely for reasons.

Accomplishments in February:

  1. Welkiri Corps: now coming in at 49,616 words, and I’ve revised my guess at the word count to 55k. The end is a little farther off than I thought it was, and may still be. We’ll see.
  2. Battlefield: is now coming in at 59.6k and I’m still forecasting a 77k first draft with the 36th (of 46) chapter complete.
  3. Editing: 32 of the 40 Undead stories are at third draft status, with 8 out of 40 at final.
  4. Still editing: the 3rd draft of Fractured Unity is complete. I’m going to let it rest for a while as I edit other things until just before I’m ready to start posting it.
  5. 11 blog posts. A little light, but I was travelling for more than a week. That trip will probably get me a bunch of blog posts down the line. And maybe a novel. Definitely a few short stories.
  6. 23 journal entries, 10 of them from the vacation diary.

Total word count for the month of 47,594 which is a lot lower than January’s 81,661 (but far above the 23k goal), and averaged only 1570 words per writing day. The average month for 2019 is probably somewhere in between the two, but every month is a new one and life happens.

On the publishing side, things were not according to the original forecast, but have caught me up a little to where I want to wind up for the year.

  1. Thorvald’s Wyrd has started posting on Wattpad and the ebooks are in progress.
  2. Cover designs are complete for “Babysitting the Taran-Saurus” (a makeover) and “Breath Control”, a ST:TOS fanfic. Imagery selected for a novella and a novel to publish in the next few weeks.

Next up, Goals for February:

  1. Short Fiction: Welkiri Corps should be complete well before the end of March and I hope to put a short story or two into the short fiction category, finally. Overall word count goal of 10k here.
  2. Battlefield: 21,000 words or to the end of the plot. I’m hopeful
  3. Short fiction editing: moving into the final draft for the rest of the Undead stories.
  4. Third draft of Fractured Unity to be completed.
  5. Non-fiction word count goal for the month is a mere 5000 words.

Switching over to publishing:

  1. 10 short story submissions.
  2. Query letters will go out for Ancient Runes.
  3. Ebooks for “Thorvald’s Wyrd”, Turn the World Around, Skip to My Luu, and “Breath Control”.
  4. Serialization begins for Skip to My Luu, continues for “Thorvald’s Wyrd”, and runs completely for “Breath Control”.
  5. Ebooks for “Babysitting the Taran-Saurus” and “Wolves and Sheepdogs”.
  6. Cover design and layout for Skip To My Luu. I’d like to get this up and rolling as well.

The total word goal for the month is 40k. So long as I continue to work hard and don’t miss too many days, this should be doable. I actually hope it will be significantly higher, though I’m not necessarily pushing for a January total.

Be well, everyone.

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Book Covers

Book Covers

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So it’s 25 February 2019 and, aside from the snow and a minor basement flood, deep February in southern Ontario is pretty much like I’ve grown to expect in recent years.

I know there will be an actual writing update a few days, nut there are a couple things I wanted to talk about a little bit more detail, and in the ordinary writing update, they’ll only get a sentence or two.

This past weekend, I didn’t do a whole lot of editing. Life aside, the time I set up for creative pursuits on the weekend was primarily taken up by cover design. I am a little bit behind where I’d hoped to be at this point in 2019 in terms of e-books and the serial fiction, but then, my goals were pretty significant across the board. They still are. This was an attempt to bring a piece of things back on the track I want.

First, “Thorvalds Wyrd”.

This is probably the final version, which has gone through a few iterations, but, in my search for imagery that suits the story, I did come up with a lot of awesome glacier and snowy things, and an alternate concept that I haven’t taken as far looks like this:

There were also some possibilities using a particular mythological spear, but I couldn’t find one I liked and don’t have the budget at this point to get someone to do properly for me.

Next up, a relaunch of the cover for “Babysitting the Taran-saurus”. I was never really happy with the original cover, because it really didn’t say anything about the story other than that it took place in a large city. And it was built using Microsoft paint. Which, at the time, was about my skill level. Actually, if I’m honest, my skill level hasn’t really progressed a whole lot since then, but I have access to better tools and I have learned a little bit about design in the meantime. On the left, the original, and on the right, the new one, which actually does say something about the story, but you have to read it to find out exactly what.

The last item under the category of complete covers, and, honestly, which took me the least amount time, of the three, the e-book cover for my next to publish Star Trek fanfiction story, this one starring a freshly minted Dr. Chapel in the Motion Picture time frame, or, really, six months or so before it. Having freshly completed her finals for her M.D., Dr. Chapel has accepted a short term assignment as temporary Chief Medical Officer on board the USS Yorktown. It entertained me to make the commander of Yorktown another character that the same actress has played in the Star Trek universe, though earlier. I don’t specifically say that, leaving it to the reader to figure out. This one was just a matter of finding the proper capture I liked from the motion picture that featured Christine Chapel and getting the font where I wanted it. I did start out thinking that it should be the Motion Picture font and color, but this font is closer to transitional between TOS and TMP and the gold wouldn’t show up very well. I think it works, but it might not be quite final yet.

I have also come up with the probable cover imagery, though there are still several finalists in each case, for both Turn the World Around and Skip to My Luu. I’ll share those a little later on when they’re closer to ready.

Technically, “Thorvald’s Wyrd”, “Babysitting the Taran-saurus”, and Turn the World Around have all been serialized before, but only my blog. “Taran-saurus” was the only thing that made it off my blog to Wattpad. This time, everything is also going to become and ebook, though I haven’t quite got all the tools I want to make those effectively. PDF version is easy, but I need a little bit more to work out a couple of major e-book formats – Kindle and EPUB. “Thorvald’s Wyrd”, in fact, was supposed to have been done and beginning to post two weeks ago this coming Wednesday night, but life, always, intervenes. Being a couple of weeks behind on that doesn’t derail the timeline in a big way, just shifts a couple of things a bit.

I set three levels of goals for both writing and publishing this year: the public goals, the stretch goals, and the super stretch goals. I built my background plans with the intent by squeaking in under the wire of December 31 by making the super stretch goals. (And if you think the regular goals are aggressive, well, I’ll share the others as and if I get there.) But I built a plan that way intentionally, giving life plenty of space to intervene, for things to happen. As long as I keep working, keep moving forward, all of the standard goals should be more than doable. Maybe I’ll even get some of these stretch goals in, too. But always reach farther than you think you can, because you never know.

And then there the secret goals. These are things that are technically part of the standard goals but that I haven’t put a timeline of any kind on. Rather, they each hinge on meeting certain other goals. I’m preparing for these in the background, with the appropriate research and skills building has required. There are two major ones that launch when specific publishing goals are reached, and one of them partially hinges on the other. These are things I’m going to do, but will be sort of a surprise for everyone else.

In the meantime, I do still have a fair bit of words to make and editing to do. Lots more.

Be well, everyone.

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Men of a Certain Age

Men of a Certain Age

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Knee painful – skeleton x-ray, 3D Illustration medical concept.

So, post visit to the orthopedic specialist, and the verdict is essentially the same as the prognosis I had for the last run of imaging when I was forty-ish, although little more advanced. I have generalized arthritis spread through that knee, more advanced than his average for my age, but I think I’d probably known that for quite a while, and that’s just a bonus. The right knee, of course, is currently healthy, and not even really a trace of arthritis as yet. So there’s that.

There are also definitely the floaty bits that were there before, they haven’t really ground down, although they may or may not have migrated. It often happens with arthritis, and to the nature of the original injury, they’re completely expected. A little flair up here and there should be expected, but if I have another major event like this past one within the next couple of years, we will probably be doing a scope where we slice open the side of my knee and go fishing for some of those bits. Oh, joy.

In the meantime the essential plan is to treat it properly. Don’t take up any high-impact sports. No running ever again unless I’m being chased by something dangerous. Low-impact activity is an excellent idea. Ice as required for minor flare ups, and stretching, lots of stretching. Most of which I should’ve been able to figure out on my own, I would think, without an extra set of doctor’s appointments. And yet, that doesn’t seem to have been the case. Middle aged stubbornness paired with youthful stupidity, I’ve been saying. The first one of those probably applies in a bigger way.

So, a proper stretching regime, a proper exercise regime. It leaves me karate but avoids any high-impact stuff. So, fewer jumps, more intelligent kicks, and focus on the striking art. I’m not quite willing to let the kicks go away, of course, because I do still very much want several the more advanced kicks in my repertoire: hook, butterfly, axe. But, those are going to have to mostly be with my right leg. Which functions very well. My left will be good for a stable base 99% of time. And I can work hard to keep that number the high 90s for as long as possible.

But getting back to running again is seriously no longer in my future.

More walking, or cycling, both of which I can do indoors, maybe even some swimming. Elliptical is fine. But the marathons I was hoping to get back to someday, the triathlons I was hoping would be my next physical milestones, well, those are gone. And that had a sucks.

But that’s getting older for you.

I’m not that old yet, a mere 48, and expect, if I take care of myself, to get past a hundred. Looking at the advances of medical science and taking proper care of myself, maybe much longer. I might be more than half done, I might not, and I might even be just getting started. But, the older I do get, the more work is going to take to keep myself in a reasonable shape to continue doing things I want to do. So be it.

I do keep coming back to that old poem. Do not go gently into that good night. Rage, rage at the dying of the light.

Or, put in a more modern, social media context, because fuck aging, that’s why.

Be well, everyone

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Coming Back From a Vacation

Coming Back From a Vacation

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It’s hard to come back to work after being on vacation for a week.

Actually, I suppose it’s hard to come back to work after being on vacation for any length of time. Strictly speaking, I was out of the office for 12 1/2 days, arriving to that first day back less than half an hour after I dictate these words. That said, I did continue to reading email and dealing with some things remotely for the first two days of my vacation, treating it like a weekend where I was still at home.

And I’ll be very curious as to the final email total. I have specifically not logged in this morning, choosing to go into the building blind and just let things unfold naturally. I will, of course, have to run a quick report before the managers meeting at 10, so I can know what I’m talking about when it comes to last week’s numbers.

But almost more important to my mental well-being, is the amount of writing I didn’t do while we were gone. I literally took nothing with me to work on other than two notebooks, one pocket-sized to jot things down in in the moment, and one about the size of a trade paperback book to keep a vacation diary in. That vacation diary also included notes on geocaching, a few quickly scribbled poems, and some settings and character notes for what may potentially be a novel that is at least partially set in Curaçao. I’m going to take, partially, the stranded alien theme and mix it with some human trafficking, politics and culture as an external viewer might see them, and probably a few other odds and ends that will just find their way in organically. I don’t yet know if it’s going to displace the next thing I intended to write or not, but it is possible. And yet, the next major thing I’m intending to write after Battlefield is finished is supposed to be Bad Teenage Poetry, a fiction novel set in a small city in the mid-1980s, combining my memories with some research. I’ve got a lot of actual research to do, mostly in the manner of making sure the little details are right and not just fallible human memory, figuring on doing it as I went along to the most part, but so it goes. I am actually having a little bit of luck with working on two long fiction projects at the same time right now, so it’s possible I might continue that, although I do want to write some short fiction this year, and a fair bit of it.

But we’ll see.

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Geek Cinema in 2018

Geek Cinema in 2018

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Image result for the meg

I feel like I might be down a little bit of cinematic geek cred from last year. I really did very few theatrical release movies, either in the theater, or on Netflix or other streams after the fact. I did do a reasonable amount of television, but that’s a whole different discussion. Thinking about all the major releases last year, there really weren’t all that many I got to. Oh, I had a reason for most, but I don’t promise it was always a good reason.


Maze Runner: The Death Cure

I will be honest I was pretty much tired of the whole dystopian society teenage hero motif by the time I saw the first of the hunger games movies. This sub-genre doesn’t do much for me and unless one of my teenagers wants to see it, increasingly unlikely these days, so I’m going to give pretty much all of these a pass. If you enjoy them, great, I hoped they’re work the price of admission.



I didn’t manage to get through the book, finding it ponderous, glacial, and, unfortunately, annoying. I strongly suspect this is one of those rare times where the movie is much better. Cinematic visualization of the strange biological zone that was at the heart book would probably look awesome on screen, but it would also have to rewrite the entire story for me to want to watch it. I need both a story and effects to be worth the big screen so me. Otherwise, I can wait for it to be released to other media so that I can watch it home. Or, in this case, not watch it at all.

Black Panther

I did see this one, and I have seen most of the Marvel moves. I think this is actually my second favorite movie in the cinematic universe so far. Better writing that most and better acting than most, coming together in one film. This is the movie that essentially kept the marble cinematic universe alive for me this year.

The Cloverfield Paradox

This was a sequel, right? I never saw the original Cloverfield, because I don’t typically go in for monster movies unless somebody close to me really wants to see it. Whether the sequel is actually monster movie or not, that’s a question for someone else.

A Wrinkle In Time

I have fond memories the book as a kid, but haven’t read it in literally decades. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. My oldest daughter, however, had heard really good things about it, and was particularly excited to see Mindy Kaling appearing in the film. I was pleasantly surprised, although I did feel like they were big chunks of story missing. That’s the dangerous part about adapting a book and movie, keeping the essential story while still keeping it to a movie time frame.


Pacific Rim Uprising

Pass. The first Pacific Rim was fun even while being a bit clunky and underwritten. I know I just said I’m not much for monster flicks, but giant monsters fighting giant robots, well, sometimes that’s entertaining, at least if the CGI is good. There were certain things there were little too telegraphed, but overall it was a satisfying film. That said, I walked out of it after having seen it with my son voicing the thought that it was fun but I really hoped they wouldn’t make the sequel. He assured me they would. Clearly, one of us was right and it wasn’t me.


I never even heard about this, which might say something about my general media consumption habits these days, or it might mean say something about how much they tried to actually get people interested in this film the first place. I don’t even remember what it’s about at the moment.

Ready Player One

I’ve long since gotten a point in my life where I’m wary of books being converted into movies. In this case, I more or less enjoyed the book, although I didn’t find it as reasonable as everyone else seemed to. I also didn’t see how they could realistically keep the characters as they were and tell the entire story in a two and a half hour movie. So, I passed.

The Titan

Here’s a movie I only heard about because I found it on a list of Wikipedia.


Avengers: Infinity War

I have to admit that I didn’t actually get around seeing this until the very end of the year when it released on Netflix, watching it with my wife and two of my children who wanted to see it. We reach the end and my overarching thought was, well, there were some entertaining fight scenes, and some good lines here and there, but was that supposed to be a good movie? The ensemble cast was little too ensemble, relying on the viewer’s deep familiarity with the entire cinematic universe. Really, the film was pretty much two and a half hours of explosions. There wasn’t an awful lot of story, and the story that was there was actually pretty weak. Depending on the kids I still have living at home when it releases, I may be forced to see the sequel.



Again, a movie I found out about looking at the year’s big screen releases on Wikipedia.

Deadpool 2

I think I’ve made my feelings about dead pool fairly well-known. I’m not really a fan. Take away the superpowers and you’re essentially left with a guy who thinks everything he says is funny and everything that falls it is not the supposed be joke. In that light, I went to high school with Deadpool, I know someone who is married to Deadpool, and I’ve worked with Deadpool more than once. I’m good, thanks. Pass.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

And here’s where everyone cringes. I haven’t seen it yet. Neither of the girls wanted to see it in the theater, my son didn’t come home at the right time, and my wife (who likes Star Wars but only enough to see it because I’d want to see it) and I couldn’t make our schedules work at the time. And then it was gone from theatres. For some reason, I haven’t purchased, downloaded, or pirated it, or even look to see if it was on Netflix. I’m not sure why that is.


Ant-Man and the Wasp

It see it. Actually think that Mr. going by the theaters, and honestly wasn’t too worried about it. Antman was kind of fun, but I was pretty sure it is a cinematic sequel.

Hotel Artemis

Ah, good. Another dystopia. Pass. (Am I getting crotchety in my old age?)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Well, add in the fact that I haven’t actually seen the first of the generation later Jurassic Park movies to the fact that I’ve begun to find Chris Pratt kind of annoying since he started using every public opportunity to tell us all we need more God in our lives, and you might see why I gave this a pass, too.


Batman for a new age. AI implant gives man crippled for life super powers to go out and get revenge. I’m good.

The Incredibles 2

I was so ready for this when it came out, but nobody wanted to see it in the theatre with me, and I didn’t want to be that creepy guy in the back of the theatre at something that’s marketed as a kids’ movie. So I waited for the Netflix release, and enjoyed the hell of it. It wasn’t, quite, as good as the first, but as a sequel it should happened a couple of years after the original. For my money, that first Incredibles movie is the best film Pixar has ever made, it should have been a no-brainer for a sequel. Unfortunately, they seemed to get locked into a decade or more long cycle of making Cars and related movies to milk the concept for as many dollars they could



Rehash of the devastating alien invasion. Missed it.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

While part of me wants to see if Adam Sandler turns in a more emotive performance as a cartoon character than in the last several live-action films he’s appeared in, I haven’t been curious enough to actually pay money to find out.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

The original was fun. Not sure if I needed a sequel. Probably why I haven’t seen it yet.



Another movie I found out about long after the fact, but the mixture of premises could be fun. On the list for watching someday.


The Predator

I have actually had enough of the Alien/Predator franchises. I’m good, please stop, move on.


Small foot: while this looked like it might be entertaining, I am way outside the target market for this one. Maybe if I had grandchildren, which I’m not quite ready for yet.



Yeah, I’m good. While redemption is nice, I don’t actually know if I’m interested in seeing a visualization of Venom’s redemption. To cross the streams, this would be like seeing a Joker movie for me. Or Suicide Squad last year. I have no interest in watching the bad guys unless they’re getting what’s coming to them.


Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

If I were a Harry Potter fan, maybe. But it pretty much only watch the Harry Potter movies because my kids wrenched seen.



I thought Aquaman was a fun hero when I was younger, talking silver or bronze age Aquaman, or the super friends on TV when I was small. I thought the movie could be fun, too, but I just haven’t gotten there yet.

Bumblebee: The Movie

A Transformers spin off movie. Really? Give it a rest, already. Pass.

Mortal Engines

See notes under Maze Runners earlier in the year.

So there it is, my cinematic geek representation last year. It’s not a whole lot, is it? Oh, I should mention that my youngest daughter and I went to see The Meg, which I suppose should technically be classed as science-fiction, in several ways. Jason Statham going head-to-head against the shark was kind of fun, but it’s not something that requires another watch.

So, not a terribly impressive year.

Maybe if we were talking about television, there would be more to talk about. I actually did a fair bit of that in the past year, although almost none of it beyond the first season and a bit of The Flash in 2018, currently broadcasting stuff. It’s in season five now, and I’ve only just caught up.

Topic for another day, perhaps.

Be well, everyone.

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