Monday, September 25, 2017

Sleep? What Is "Sleep"? (With Apologies to Ruumahum)

I've had a hell of a past few days that all came with way too little sleep.

I'm practically sleeping while I'm writing today, trying to get work done when all I want to do is curl up and sleep for at least a few hours. As always, my days start early and end late. Not sure when that situation will end, either.

When you're in public, there is little chance to do something like that. I try to be a bit more polite than that in my daily activities Out In the Real World.

I vaguely remember a time, when I was a whole hell of  lot younger, when I could do the whole "barely get any sleep at all" thing, and not be the worse for wear for doing it. I think that age range went from seventeen to about twenty-one.

Oh so very long ago now.

These days, that's not a part of the equation. Sleep is necessary for me to get anything at all done, unless I really want to present half-assed work, which I refuse to do. I have something resembling a conscience when it comes to such things.

That said, I do miss those days and nights when I could burn the mythical candle at both ends without having to pay the consequences. Spend a day at work, and then go to the Friday night midnight movie, then get together with friends at the local coffee shop (my go-to was Denny's) to talk about the movie we'd just seen for the umpteenth time, talk about whatever had gone on that day/week, and suck down enough caffeine that we'd be ready for whatever we had planned for Saturday, once the sun rose again.

When I've had to pull hours similar to that, these days, I end up having to catch up on a lot of sleep, which, I have read, isn't the most healthy thing to do anyway. At this point, caffeine isn't a treat, it's a necessary food group. Fortunately, it's not actually bad for you, if you're an otherwise healthy person.

I know that eventually, everyone is required to pay the piper, but I really do wish he wasn't so damned loud when he came into the room. I'm trying to sleep.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Making An Office Away From the Office

I don't always have the opportunity write from home, and I do have my favorite places to write from in those cases. I've had to settle for spotty internet from places like Starbucks and Panera, which I know you've read about from me both here and on my Facebook page.

My number one favorite out-of-the-office office is in a data center in downtown Los Angeles. Whether or not I can work there depends on whether or not I can find street parking, which isn't always a given. This is downtown Los Angeles, after all!

While I'm here, I put on a set of comfortable headphones and play music as I write, as it helps to put me in the right frame of mind to write. I try to use music that's appropriate to whatever it is that I'm writing.

For this blog post, it's Cat Stevens.

In this office, which is about 400 square feet in size, I've got a gigabit wired connection and a quiet room all to myself on a rarely visited floor. I even have a locking cabinet in here with me (I have the only key) I can use to store the things that are good to have with me, but that I don't want to have to haul all over the damned place. It makes life so much easier, as I haul enough heavy crap around with me all the time without having to add to the burden.
I've still got to get the proper wiring to connect my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (my workhorse computer) to the currently unused monitor that sits atop the upper level of the glass and metal desk I use here. Of course, that wiring would hit the cabinet when I wasn't around. It would stand too much of a chance of being appropriated by someone else.

As this office is also periodically (though very rarely) used by data center employees for working on computers and servers, it's cluttered and full of boxes and equipment, both working and dead. It's sort of a peripheral computer graveyard, if you're familiar with the concept. I've seen the main graveyard, and it's much more cluttered than this small room.

I've done my best to clear the area I want to work in, although periodically I'll walk in and discover that some asshole has been in here to work and strewn their discarded crap across the workspace I use. Then I remember and practice at least a few of the bad words my father so thoughtfully taught me and proceed to tidy up the electronic and cardboard carnage.

I'm considering putting up some simple artwork on the walls to quietly suggest to those people that they aren't the only ones using this space for something. I clean up after myself well enough that they might not realize that someone else makes use of the space, but you'd think they'd have noticed that the open desk surfaces aren't covered in greasy black dust anymore.

That might be expecting too much of them, I suppose. If you have any suggestions for simple artwork that can be printed up, please let me know. I'm open to new ideas.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Dreaded IRS Scam Call

This scam has been going on for years now, but I only just got my dose of it a little bit ago. I was in an irritable mood at the time, so this lightened it considerably. Yes, I have an odd sense of humor that way. If you know me, you already know this.

I didn't hang up, because I wanted to see where it went. Sadly, it wasn't a real live human on the other end of the call, which was sort of sad-making. It would have been fun to play before I dropped the anvil.

It was a robotic call featuring a "male" voice, threatening me with arrest and a lawsuit over supposed irregularities in my tax return. I noted that the script the robot was using was missing words and using incorrect words, so the scammers are likely not native English speakers.

First, let's deal with the bare facts.

The Infernal Revenue Service isn't going to call you or email you about supposed financial irregularities. They will contact you via snail mail. You now, snail mail. The kind the nice man or woman puts in your physical mailbox, wherever that may be. I know this from personal experience.

Don't worry, it turned out that everything was fine on my end. A previous employer was playing fast and loose with State money and mixing my name and tax information in that ball of shit. I called the IRS when I got that letter and they were very interested in what I had to tell them.

Their next letter said that they had recomputed my tax debt and determined that I owed "$".  It was a very satisfying letter, I must say!

Second, there is a whole bevy of things they do before Court, much less arrest, is even an issue. They don't want to spend any more money than they have to in order to resolve tax issues. Suing someone costs real money. They're like you in that regard. Why spend money when you don't have to?

A friend was recently targeted by these assholes, and I got angry. I decided that when the time came that I got one of these calls, I'd take steps.

Well, ladles and germs, I've put the number that called me today, and that I was instructed to call back by the robotic voice, in the hands of the proper authorities. 

I hope they enjoy the attention. I just wish I could watch the entertainment.

In conclusion, I recommend that if and when you get this call, instead of freaking out, make note of any phone number you are directed to call (the calling number is probably fake) and report it to the Internal Revenue Service as soon as possible.

We need to take these asshats down as quickly as possible, and they go through phone numbers like toddlers through cotton candy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


I usually use my trusty old Surface Pro 3 for my writing, but last night, it decided to get stuck in a boot loop that wouldn't complete. Now I'm facing a complete reformat on the thing and doing a fresh reinstall of the operating system.

For now, I'm using the relatively ancient Dell laptop I refer to "As The Slowest Laptop In The Multiverse" to get anything done, and believe me when I tell you that it's a royal pain in the ass to use. It's so old that there are keys that just plain don't work anymore, and even though I have it stripped down to barely nothing to use RAM, it still plods along like a kiddies' pony-ride pony at the Fair.

I've decided that the next time I have an unexpected financial windfall, I'm going to get a new Surface Pro, whatever that model ends up being. My current one is a few years old, and I know the newer ones are better. It's just making sure I have the money to get the model I want, and not settling for something less. That means it's got to have the i7 processor, at the very least.

As I sit here, I realize that my cell phone (an iPhone 7) is leaps and bounds faster than my first computer, which was a homemade desktop we dubbed Calvin Clone that weighed a proverbial f***-ton (and for some reason, had lumpy/pokey things on the bottom that made it painful to pick up and move) and that moved at the speed of slow. It had two 5.25" floppy drives and I eventually installed a 3.5" drive on it when those became available.

When you played Othello at the "beginner" setting (I played it a lot) it took a minute or two to make its move. If you tried playing it at the "master" setting, it could actually take five to seven days for it to make its move.

I kid you not.

You could turn the thing on and then walk away while it booted and start a pot of water on the stove for tea. If you pushed the "turbo" button, it would move just a hair faster. Not that that meant much. The thing only had 640k of RAM in it. When I finally added more RAM (which had to be paired, mind you), I paid $120 for each stick of 1MB of RAM.

The Bard's Tale ran fairly well on it, as well as Might and Magic (do you remember those original games?), and I also liked text-based games like Planetfall (FLOYD HERE NOW!) and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Now I couldn't pay someone to use the thing as a doorstop. To say it would be obsolete today is the greatest of understatements.

And now I think of all the young people who have grown up never knowing a time when there was no internet. Young people who are old enough to drink alcohol. They really don't realize how good they have it now. They've grown up spoiled by the ease with which they can access information on reasonably fast internet devices.

What will the future hold for us in twenty years' time? What new things wait for us on that technological horizon?

I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Writing Differing Genres

As some of you may know, I write in more than one genre.

I started with vampire fiction, which I began writing after I was unable to find the kind of vampire fiction I'd like to read. I'm not a fan of romances at all, so those kind of supernatural bodice rippers weren't on my list, and I was tired of so-called "monk" vampires who hate who and what they are, so they hide away from everyone. Ultimately, some human comes along and "cures" them of their condition and everyone goes off to live happily ever after.

I could never understand how a vampire could reach the age of one hundred or more, hating him or herself. Why didn't they just end themselves in the way dictated by their particular mythos and just stop being so bloody boring?

Yes, I said it. Boring.

Since I couldn't find what I wanted to read, and I figured others were in the same boat, I decided to write a vampire story about the Irish vampire, SIOFRA, who, although turned against her will in the mid-1600's, is now over four hundred years old and enjoys who and what she is. No emotional bullshit. No self-hatred. No monkish garbage. No, my Siofra really likes herself, and that, to me, is cool. 

As there is no actual romance in my Sumaire Web stories, I've found that the fans of that series seem to come from both females and males, where usually this is a genre that is mostly popular with females.

And then, recently, after much prodding from an old and very good friend, I started writing about a young girl and the dragon she so desperately wants. Her family situation is abusive, which, I am sure, is a bit of a trope, but it's my story, so there.

The result was AYA'S DRAGON, a longish short story that has gone over very well with my readers, which pleases me to no end. I made sure that it was available in both e-book and softcover versions, as some people really like to have the feeling of holding a book in their hands when they read.

I'm currently working on SARA'S FIRE, the sequel to Aya's Dragon. It continues the Tales of the Dragonguard series that this will all be a part of, eventually. At some time in the future, I plan to combine the stories, three or four at a time, into single volumes.

I considered writing the latter series under a different name, as some readers don't like it when an author takes a step in another direction. I get that, but then I also decided that it would be fun to do. I hope you, the reader, can accept my writing in multiple genres, and that you consider reading whatever series I create.

Friday, September 15, 2017

So I Just Finished Writing My Book, Time to Publish It, Right?

Uh, no.

Not only "No", but "Hell, no".

You've finished your First Draft, which is probably rough as hell and contains missing words, spelling and grammar errors, continuity errors and all manner of other issues.

Yes, this means you're going to start on your Second Draft, so it's time to put on your thick skin and send the First Draft off to your most patient and willing Beta Reader, with instructions to go over it with a fine tooth comb and to be merciless about it.

A good Beta Reader will be harsh. A kind one isn't doing you any favors. You don't want kind. You want honesty and brutality, where necessary.

Once you receive the First Draft (with edits) back, go over it and see if you agree with what your Beta Reader has said. Don't brush off suggestions, and be sure to take what is said to heart. Your Beta Reader isn't trying to hurt your feeling, s/he is trying to be sure you present the most polished work possible to your readers on publications.

Now, once you've incorporated or discarded the suggested edits (do this edit by edit, don't do it in one fell swoop), take the time to read the Second Draft aloud. It's one of the best ways to catch spelling errors, word omissions, and the like. We are much more prone to breeze right over errors when we read them silently. I'm not sure why what that is, but that's really a thing.

Fix the errors and send the Second Draft off to another Beta Reader. Fresh eyes are best for something like this. Once it comes back, go over it all over again with the suggested edits. Then read it aloud all over again. Yes, I know this can be monotonous, but that's writing. It's not as easy as it may seem.




Once you feel you have your final version in place, send it off to more than one Beta Reader, once again requesting complete honesty in their response. Take those responses to heart and make changes when and where necessary.

No, you're not completely done yet. Not by a long shot.

You need to make sure you have good cover art for your writing, but I'll leave that to someone who knows more than I do on that subject. If someone wishes to write a guest post about making/designing a cover, please let me know!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Creative Spaces -- Thoughts

Out again in the world, writing from a Panera in downtown Burbank, CA. This one, at least, has a reliable internet connection, which doesn't suck for a change. Being a reasonably thoughtful and polite person, I'm sitting at a tiny one-person table, instead of using a larger table that could be used by multiple people.

When I do something like this, I bring along a larger power strip (IKEA sells a pair of 3-prong 3-outlet power strips called KOPPLA for an inexpensive $3.99 -- thanks for the recommendation, John!) so that others can have access to power if the wall outlet is already taken up. It's the polite thing to do, wouldn't you agree?

It's interesting, sitting here and watching people go about their lives. Some are here solo for a quick bite, others have mini-meetings, and still others are like me and have set up their workspace for the day.

I don't focus on their conversations, so the sounds they make are more of a babbling jumble, mixed with the noise of dishes and pans being moved about in the front and rear parts of the place. Sometimes, a word or phrase will push itself out of the melting pot of sound, but never in a way that offers context.

I haven't decided if these out of the office locations are a boon or a bane to my writing. It's not as though I am writing "real life", so I can't use any of these things for "slice of life" bits in my novels and stories. I just don't think Siofra or Nathaniel is going to be stopping by Panera for a soup and sandwich combo, and Aya doesn't live in a world where coffee shops exist at all.

Do you work away from wherever your dedicated "office" is, and if so, how well do those alternative office locations work for you?

On Writing...

People out there say that anyone can write, and that's true, but it's not true that anyone can write well.

That's not a criticism. It's a fact.

Authors don't just sit down and figuratively spew forth words onto the page or screen. They agonize over every word that is chosen, and agonize when those words don't want to come, even though they know they have a story to tell.

You can usually tell when an author has pretty much phoned it in. When you read what they've published, you find multitudes of spelling/grammar/punctuation errors, and it's clear that they edited their own work.

I've found that to be a mistake. You must have an outside editor. You can't just rely on yourself to get it right the first or even the second or third time around.

But multiple drafts of your work are a subject for another time.

Most writers can find beta readers who will read over what has been written and then give feedback. I recommend asking those beta readers to be hard in their response, and to give an honest opinion and feedback. You don't want kudos, you want brutal honesty, so having a thick skin for criticism is a necessity.

I also recommend reading your work aloud. It's much easier to find those inadvertent mistakes that way. Wouldn't you much rather be embarrassed discovering those errors yourself and then fixing them, rather than having screenshots posted by readers who want to poke public fun at your efforts?

When you write something, you aren't necessarily going to notice the mistakes you make, and you can't rely on Spellcheck, either, as if you've used a homonym for a word and spelled it correctly, it's not going to alert you to the issue. There, their, and they're are prime examples of that. I'm sure you've seen your and you're used incorrectly all the time.

I know someone who writes too instead of to all the time. The day he tried to convince me he was a mutual friend, I knew it was him from the moment he made that error. (I've never confronted him about the attempted deception, as I don't know what that would accomplish.)

In regard to beta readers, if you'd like to be considered as a beta reader for my works in progress, please let me know!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Critters...On Video

In addition to writing, I'm also the happy Mom to a human offspring, two small dogs, a cat, and two Veiled Chameleons.

I've really got to post more videos of them, but if you're interested in seeing a chameleon eat, I've included a video of the female, who we have dubbed Herself, chowing down on a nice juicy, wiggly tomato hornworm. (Not for the squeamish)

These are my two doggie girls on the way to the vet. The little one isn't very happy about it, as you can see. They're both Chihuahuas, but one is a deerhead, while the other is an applehead. Both are very sweet and very socialized. The little one will lick you into submission. She never got the memo about "vicious" Chihuahuas.

And finally, Himself, our other Veiled Chameleon, deciding on which tasty superworm would be the best.

Nothing so far with His Feline Majesty, but I'm working on it. He seems to know when a camera is being aimed at him. No sense of humor.

Writing in "Out of the Office" Locations...Frustrating.

I've been doing some writing in places like Starbucks and Panera over the past several months, and I've discovered that both are becoming more and more Creative Unfriendly.

Removal of power outlets to keep people from plugging in to keep their laptops and tablets charged while working, and either crippling or completely turning off internet connectivity, which affects the ability to do online research while working doesn't make me feel particularly friendly about those places, which until recent times, were self-proclaimed havens for those of us who wanted to write somewhere other than within the confines of an office.

One particular Starbucks I frequent near Koreatown in downtown Los Angeles has a manager who turns off the internet every so often during the day, and then, when approached about the issue, claims he has no control over the connection, which those of us who know even a little bit about how such things work know is bullshit of the most extreme kind. It's not rocket science to turn a modem off and on again to regain an internet connection. He's managed the place for at least the past five years, so I know corporate isn't going to do a damned thing about getting him to pull his head out of his ass on this issue.

This location has also removed the power bar from beneath the long bar at the far end of the shop, to keep people from plugging in there at all.

Trying to find alternate locations in which to work when I'm out this way (I live 33 miles from downtown Los Angeles, and am generally "stuck" out there for an entire day at those times) is quite difficult, and not a little frustrating.

Yes, I'm angry about this. Starbucks and Panera can't have it both ways. They can't claim to be a haven for folks like me, while throttling those resources that help us to do our work.

What do you think? I'd like to see you weigh in on this subject.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

New Stuff!

After much thought, I’ve decided to make lined journals available with cover images from my novels and stories. 

I’ll let you know when they are available. 

They will be at least 100 pages, and have lines that go all the way to the edge of the page, for as much writing space as possible. 

Latest Work In Progress

I'm currently working on the sequel to AYA'S DRAGON. This one is called SARA'S FIRE.

It's been a longer adventure than the first story, as I've had to rework parts of it when things started to wander far afield from where they were supposed to be. That's necessitated gutting it in places and then rewriting where I did that.

Dragons are fun to write about, and dragons and humans working together are even more fun to play with in a literary sense.

I fell in love with dragons when I discovered The Dragonriders of Pern as a teenager. I've lost count of how many times I've read that series, and I've even memorized the "Teaching Songs" Anne McCaffrey created.

By the way, The Fire lizard Song can be sung to the tune of Puff, the Magic Dragon. Now try to get that earworm out of your head. <grin>

I'll try to keep you updated on how things are going with this latest story, and I will, eventually, get the final book in the Sumaire Web series of vampire novels completed. I'm trying to get through some issues with continuity and avoiding plot holes that would annoy me, if I were reading it as a fan.

Wishing you all the best. If you've been affected by the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida, I hope you, your friends, and family are all safe and sound and that you will be inconvenienced as little as possible in the coming days, weeks, and months.