Blimprider Times, No. 16

Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it.  Autograph your work with excellence!”

~ Many attributations

View from the Blimp

I have used that quote extensively over the past couple of decades or so, and have tried with some success to instill it in my children.  In researching the author, I was very much surprised to find it attributed to everyone from “Anonymous” through Vince Lombardi to Jessica Guidobono, who neither I nor Wikipedia have ever heard of.  Regardless, somebody said it, and it is profound.

So, why open with this quote, and why, for that matter, open with View from the Blimp?  I believe the reasons will reveal themselves as I press forward.

I have noticed a little issue I’ve been having since the end of May:  I’ve hardly written anything!  Analysis of this issue points up an interesting coincidence:  At the beginning of June I put this blog on a three-day schedule, that is, a post has been prepped and offered every three days like clockwork.  Now I have to ask whether that is an actual coincidence, or an example of cause and effect.  The only way I can see to determine that is by experiment, so commencing immediately, I will be putting this blog on a four-day schedule, and we’ll see how that affects my writing, or if it does at all.  The experiment will proceed through the end of August, and based on what I find between now and then, there may or may not be further changes.

The point of all this?  While I hope it is apparent through content, I try to provide quality work, to create something that has value as entertainment and as enlightenment; I try my best, in short, to make you think.  Producing any quality product takes time, and an hour I spend assembling this blog is an hour I don’t have to work on The Darklighters, so we’ll see if the four-day schedule returns some quality writing time to my pool.  Wish me luck!

Featured Site of the Week

CogpunkSteamscribe

The featured site this week is that of an Australian steampunk author who calls herself Cogpunk Steamscribe. A note to the sleuths out there:  The name on her books is Lynne Lumsden Green.  Regardless, she is, like so many of us, a struggling indie who cherishes each small victory, and she blogs about the many aspects of being an author on today’s playing field, from acceptances and rejections to the Victorians’ fascination with ferns.  Well-spoken, well-mannered, and an insightful blogger as well, this is another site that is very much worth a read.

Interesting Reads

Since we last talked, I’ve encountered a tremendously insightful blog that the sort of young and novice writers that are my target audience would benefit from tremendously.  It is titled simply Roger Floyd’s Blog, and concerns itself with myriad aspects of the writing Craft in concise, easy to follow articles that deal with a single subject at a time.  He doesn’t waste column inches nor even his header with showy artwork, but names his subject, and launches straight into the nitty-gritty.  He has been at it since May of 2010, which if my estimate is right would put him at around 300 articles, and if his recent work is a representative sample of the quality, this blog must amount to a college course in creative writing.  I don’t know how to state the case any more strongly than that.  If you want discussions to make you give serious thought to the way you’re doing things, here they are.

Reserve

The Reserve by Jordan Greene.  Cooper Bay has dreamed his whole life of acting.  So when his brother Nick surprises him with a leading role in a B-horror movie, Cooper can’t say no.  The only catch is the team’s filming location is off-limits to the public.  Yet, that doesn’t sway film director, Luca Sanchez.  He’s set on trespassing North Brother Island, an abandoned isle in the middle of New York City set aside as an avian reserve for a bird that no longer graces its shores.  Ready to make a movie, Cooper and his new film mates cross the East River to shoot their scenes among the restricted island’s decaying ruins.  But a day into production fellow actor, Riley Cannon, goes missing, leaving only a smear of blood on a nearby tree.  Cooper swears he heard something in the woods before Riley went missing, but no one believes him.  Once the screams begin to rise, Cooper wishes he had never signed up for this real life horror story.  99¢ on Kindle.

NautilusLegacy

The Nautilus Legacy by Lewis Crow.  The stunning revelation that his father became none other than the infamous Captain Nemo shakes a young man’s world to its foundation.  This fictional memoir recounts his life after a tragic war destroys his family and nearly kills him.  Learning the truth about his father years later compels him to make a difficult choice: will he keep his comfortable but unspectacular middle-class Victorian existence or forsake everything to continue Nemo’s work of exploring the seas and aiding the oppressed?  Researched to be true to the spirit of Verne’s source novels (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Mysterious Island) and his original ideas, The Nautilus Legacy moves from Europe to America to the depths of the sea and beyond.  In addition to its literary and adventure themes, it is also the very personal story of an insecure man who struggles with the life of his father and their unfinished relationship.  $4.95 on Kindle.

ArrowsDesire

Arrows of Desire by Geoffrey Household.  It has been seven hundred years since the United Kingdom was destroyed.  In the aftermath of a global cataclysm, the peoples of Europe banded together under a single flag, but the English refused to go along.  Their resistance was rewarded with a genocide that wiped out half the population.  The survivors resettled in North Africa, and Britain was declared uninhabitable.  To celebrate the year 3000, the island is repopulated, to be ruled according to Federation law.  But there are those in the underground determined to begin old battles anew.  A barbarian king rides in the forests, drinking beer and promising to resist the Federation at all costs.  In the new capital, a student takes a shot at the High Commissioner, nearly killing him with an ancient weapon known as a rifle.  After seven centuries of silence, the British are ready to rise again.  $7.99 on Kindle.

Left Foot Forward by the Littmus Steampunk Band.  This is, as you’ve probably gathered, a music album, and you may wonder why I’m featuring it on a writing blog.  Well, one of the songs, The Gadgeteer, was written by an old friend of ours, Karen J. Carlisle, and is based on a character in The Illusioneer, which means she can now add songwriter to artist, photographer, and author on her resume.  You can snap it up for $1.50 right here.

And that’s 30 for today.  Join me Sunday when I’m sure I’ll have thought of something or other to waste bandwidth on.  Until then, read well, and write better!

The Best-laid Plans…

We are all planners; some of us call our plans ‘first drafts.’  Those are the most rigid and meticulous planners of all.”

~ The first part of that I read somewhere; the second part is my own addition made to clarify the truth of it…

As has been discussed before, after a couple of dismal failures on my attempts to just sit down and write a novel off the top of my head, I purchased some how-to-write-books books and learned how to create a proper outline.  I then became an outliner at the far end of the scale, turning out outlines that were longer than some short stories.  I was considered an outlier by serious planners.  Once I found my true calling, the 20-odd thousand word novella, I shortened my outlines from a couple of paragraphs per scene to a couple of sentences, and that is what I’m going to talk about here.

I write in third-person viewpoint.  Each scene is written from a particular character’s point of view.  A novella hasn’t the room for the half-dozen or so characters I used in my novels, and they have been reduced to three.

  1. The protagonist.  In The Darklighters, the main viewpoint comes from the Darklighter agents, primarily “Jinx” Jenkins.  Charles Bender, her partner, has the viewpoint for about one-third of the scenes.
  2. The Antagonist; the villain if you like.  The overarching “villain” is Kraken, an international criminal organization, but one of their operatives is the antagonist with personality, needs, goals, and most importantly, a viewpoint in the story.
  3. The Distraction.  I’ve always believed that stories in which the hero can focus exclusively on the main problem until he has seen it through to completion leave a lot to be desired, so I always provide a rat to gnaw at the hero’s ankle while he’s trying to deal with the wolf at the door.  This, too, is a person with a viewpoint, as opposed to a volcano or a weather front, and they’re sometimes on the same side as the hero, but working at cross-purposes.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

This was my outlining method until a few days ago.  It is, in fact, my outline for The Darklighters.  Down the left side are twenty blocks, each marked with the numbers 1 through 3, corresponding with the characters named above.  Beside each number is a couple of sentences describing the main points I want to make in the scene, and this has been it for quite a while now.  Gone are the full-page descriptions of a single scene; I write from this single page, and it has been working well.  But keeping track of peripheral things has been a handful.

Enter the Word Excel Worksheet.  We all know these.  Many of us create them at work, and many of those who don’t create them have their work guided by them.  Like nearly all writers, I work in the copy of Word I bought for my computer, and Excel has been sitting there unused literally for years.  No longer.

I didn’t invent the idea of using Excel as a writing tool, but once I saw it mentioned on a blog I was reading, the potential of it gradually developed and came together in my mind until I had a working template, which is what I’m going to share here.  I apologize for the graphic.  I spent a couple of days trying to collect a screenshot, but failed.  Luckily, my digital Sanyo just does what I need when I need it, so this is a photograph of the screen.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Left to right, the columns are as follows:

The first is the most basic information, Act and Scene.  I aim for twenty scenes, and highlight each one in green when the first draft is completed.

The second and third are the date and time that the scene takes place.  These columns will ensure that the scenes take place in daytime or night as appropriate, and will prevent that odd occurrence where a character is in Los Angeles, and shows up in New York an hour later.

The fourth column is the viewpoint character color coded by identity; blue for protagonist “Jinx,” light blue for Bender, red for the antagonist, and yellow for the distraction.  This is how you adjust the pacing, and verify it at a glance.

Column five is a couple of sentences that describe the scene you intend to write.  Due to the nature of spreadsheets, you can make this as long as you like, and if you want a couple of paragraphs for planning, go ahead and put them here.

Six is the location where the scene takes place.  Used in conjunction with the date and time, this (and column 7) will prevent any impossible juxtapositions.

Seven is the major characters present in the scene.

Eight is the target number of the total words for the story to this point.  I aim for 1,000 per scene, total of 20,000.

Nine is the number of words in the individual scene, counted by Word with a mouse click.

Column ten totals the numbers in column 9 so far, giving me a running total of the story’s length so far.

This sheet allows me to keep track of every aspect that is important to me as the purveyor of my little action/adventure tales.  If you write romance, you could add a column to track how the love triangle is developing.  A detective writer could track clues, or how close the detective is to making sense of them.  If you decide that a scene would work better in a different order, a mouse click moves it up or down.  This thing is magic!  My goal here is to convince you to give it a try if you aren’t already using it, and see if it doesn’t streamline your desktop.  Stop back later and let us know how it works for you!

View from the Blimp

I must say, I’ve spent a number of days now considering the prospect of offering all of my work for free here, and I do like it very much.  Stress of publishing, gone.  Stress of marketing, gone.  Stress of feeling like I must produce, produce, PRODUCE, gone.  Just thinking about writing whatever I like, at my own pace, without worrying about its marketability is one of the most liberating things I’ve done in a long time.  Independence Day might take on a whole new meaning for me in the future!

The real beauty is that given its zero cost, I can still publish on CreateSpace, buy a dozen copies, keep some for the grandkids and give the rest as gifts, and if another copy is never sold, so what?  I will have had the enjoyment of the writing, and the people close to me will have books to keep and hold forever.  I like the sound of that…

In Other News…

PlotChart

You’ve seen Richie Billing’s name appear frequently here, and there are a number of reasons for that.  Today I present another: What’s the Plot?, part of his ongoing series about The Craft.  In this installment he defines what a Plot is in relation to character and story, and goes in-depth to study its creation and management, including tools to track and develop it, and links to one of the masters of the Craft, Brandon Sanderson.  Very much worth a read if you’re at all serious about writing with quality.

MorningStar

This is author Mark Carnelley’s review of The Morning Star by C.W. Hawes that Amazon mysteriously deleted:

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. June 4, 2018

In this first book of a gripping post-apocalyptic survival saga, author CW Hawes has given the role of leader to Bill Arthur, who while assuming command of his ever-growing band of survivors, struggles with the responsibility.  This is now a world where it is truly survival of the fittest, and those wishing to usurp his leadership will be met with the full force of his group, intent on keeping the “good from the old world” and old fashioned morality.  You would want to have a Bill Arthur in charge should you ever find yourself trying to survive in an apocalyptic event!  This is a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ must read.”

All of us indies have a love-hate relationship with Amazon.  On the one hand, most of us would never have been published without them.  On the other, they arbitrarily decide based on who-knows-what that this or that review is invalid, and you never seem to lose a bad one.  I have lost a few, and I’ve never known why.  So even if you yourself aren’t a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, you may know someone who is.  Strike a blow for freedom against a monolithic dictator, and share this review with everyone you know.  Independence (and independents!) will be deeply in your debt.

Interesting Reads…

In keeping with the theme of Independence Day celebrated by Americans yesterday, I offer some Interesting Reads built around the theme of Freedom.

RoyalAmerica

First up is Royal America by Englishman Steve Moore.  A fantasy Western where the British never lost America.  The British Army make contact with the Apache and Sioux in order to create Native American regiments.  This is a British Western, where Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Chocise, Victorio, Lozen, Queen Victoria and other historical names feature in an alternative history where the Aztec Spanish and the Imperial Chinese try to topple the Royal American Empire.  South West of what might have been… Price reduced to $1.99 on Kindle in honor of American Independence Day.

HeroesOfAeolyne

Next I give you Heroes of Aeolyne by B.P. Baggett.  Grand heroes of Aeolyne, they had been long observed by a mysterious force and led to a land where they all will soon meet.  Warriors and leaders that had suffered much and delivered freedom that is needed.  Soon they will all join the path to help deliver the land from the dreaded Dragon Dorica’lax.  Come meet these grand heroes and see their journey beginnings.  Free on Kindle.

Write… Chase Dreams… Repeat, a Facebook club managed, if I’m reading this right, by author Jennifer Johnson.  What appears there is mostly romance, which I never got into, and don’t promote much because I don’t know how to tell you that this one is of high quality, and that one is somehow lesser.  Other things do appear, such as the fantasy above, but I don’t find much to promote from there.  Nonetheless, they have never declined, deleted, nor even questioned any post I’ve put up there, and I just want to show them some love.  If you’re interested in primarily romance by volume, but basically any genre, be sure to look in here.  This is a busy site with a lot to offer, and they are very definitely on my “A” list.  Just tell ’em the Blimpster sent ya!

And Just for Fun…

EnsignsLog

Many of us had our first inspiration to write science fiction provided by some version of Star Trek.  This monster of a franchise began on television in 1966 and has run through a number of movies and television series to remain in production to this day, 52 years later, and it still continues to inspire.  So, where’s the fun?  Glad you asked.  Two podcasters, Steve Shives and Jason Harding, are currently producing a series of podcasts called The Ensign’s Log.  This follows the adventures of two rookies, Ensigns Barclay and Riker, aboard the Enterprise of Captain Kirk…  Although they certainly can’t call it that!  But if you’ve ever wondered what the junior staff was doing while the heroes were off acting heroic, this is your chance to find out.  They have 12 episodes posted for your listening enjoyment, and they follow in order the episodes of the original series.  So pop open a cola and dig in.  This will get you thinking on many levels!

And that’s 30 for today.  I’ll be back Sunday with more thrilling tales from the Lands that Never Were.  Until then, read well, and write better!

Blimprider Times, No. 15

Featured Site of the Week

Today I give you Metapunk

MetapunkHeader

Metapunk is a ten-year old European blog covering steam-, cyber-, and all the other punks under one fascinating roof.  We have all heard volumes about the GDPR, and seen the endless cookie notifications everywhere we go, but there is more to it than that.  Under the new rules, Metapunk (and quite probably many more personal blogs) found itself classified as a business and subject to stringent restrictions and fees.  Its last post before the current one announced its impending demise, but before that came to pass, the operator, a brilliant young man named Gilman, thankfully decided to jump through all the hoops necessary to keep his rating as a Personal Blog.  This involved removing a decade’s worth of links, and relinquishing his Patreon account, but he did it all for us.  As he stated, he has made $5.12 from his blog over the last eight years, so no great harm was done, but he still had to do all the work of cleaning out the links.

The net, the blogosphere, punkdom, whatever you want to call it, is a little richer today for Gilman’s continued presence, and my hope here is to thank him by driving a little extra traffic his way.  Anyone care to help?  Metapunk!

View from the Blimp

The Darklighters is my current project du jour, though you wouldn’t know it from the lack of progress.  The book is envisioned to comprise five linked novellas of about 20,000 words each.  The first one is done, and I have finished Part I of the second, which is where I have been most frustratingly stalled for at least a week now.  I can point to real-life issues stealing my time, and overcommitment on my part to a number of projects that don’t get words on the page, including this blog, but those are just so many worthless excuses.  The bottom line is that it’s on me to create time to write, and I haven’t been doing that.  I will.

Then there’s this other issue of where I’m going with this writing gig.  In my last article I made it clear that I wasn’t in it for the money, and put my literal money where my mouth is by reducing the price on every book in my catalog to 99¢.  I made it clear that what I want as a writer is to be read.  A number of people commented favorably on that post, and shared it around the internet, but it hasn’t led to one additional sale.  The fact is that despite my relentless marketing on every platform I can access, including Facebook and Goodreads with their tens of millions of subscribers, I haven’t made a sale since April 28th, when the first and so far only copy of The Stone Seekers was purchased.

Here’s what my plan is at this moment; regular readers will know how that goes, but as of this writing:  I’m going to finish The Darklighters.  It seems to move at its own pace, but I’m thinking by the end of the year it should be done and up on Amazon.  Then I’m going to take a vacation, right now I’m thinking 90 days, during which time I will continue to blog and promote as usual.  If at the end of the 90 days I’m selling a book a month, just one book a month, I will continue writing.  If not, then I’m going to close the book on all of these groups and blogs and sites and pages that I run around servicing like my hair’s on fire, and get on with my retirement as a rather more private citizen.  There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to quit doing the same thing over and over, and hoping for different results…

Interesting Reads

VicariousView

Vicarious View by Brian Barr.  With the help of powerful mind-link technology, the bed-ridden Nishiyoka gets another chance at life through the eyes of the attractive actor Tanaka.  Women, drinks, and the glamourous life offered by Japan’s film industry are all at Nishiyoka’s fingertips, which allows the old man to forget the cancer that eats away at his own body in a lonely hospital room.  Just as Tanaka assumes his roles in popular samurai dramas, Nishiyoka can feel everything Tanaka feels, as he experiences life not only in Tanaka’s mind but his body as well.  With such a rewarding second opportunity at life, what could go wrong?  Paperback only, $5.99.

SUVI

SUVI by Prudence MacLeod.  Enslaved as a child, her DNA altered until she was barely half human, Jeannie Sorenson still managed to engineer her escape back to the ship that brought her to that deadly planet.  Could the humans accept her now that she was half alien?  Could she learn to interact with them and still retain her freedom?  And why the hell did they keep asking her for answers when they didn’t want to hear them?  $5.99 on Kindle.

PacificationReeducation

Pacification and Reeducation by Jason Frahm.  For nearly two millennia Humanity has been exploring and colonizing the galaxy.  During their explorations the Star Cruiser Verona discovers a rare gem, a near perfect world teeming with life and ideal for colonization.  Unfortunately it is already inhabited by primitive and mystical peoples and societies bent on eventual self destruction.  A decision is made.  $4.99 on Kindle.

JohnnyOClockCosmicMan

William J. Jackson makes the list again; I won’t apologize… he’s very active!  After a long hiatus, he has returned with a vengeance to his weekly series Atoms & Shadows, his double helping of sci-fi and noir.  This weeks he goes in-depth with 1959’s mysterious sci-fi offering The Cosmic Man starring John Carradine, and 1947’s noir melodrama, Johnny O’Clock, dishing up a healthy helping of noir master Dick Powell.  Both movies can be watch in their entirety right from his blog, so grab the popcorn and settle back for an evening’s nostalgia.  And while you’re there, check the blog for deals.  William is a prolific steam- and dieselpunk author, and always has one sale or another underway.

Jeffrey R. Gund of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writing Collective, is distributing the info on what looks to be a great gathering for folks of the nerdy persuasion, and really, how can my nerdy self not help to spread the word?  Everyone check out the Pre Comic-Con Bash in LA set for Thursday, July 12th, just before the main event.  Make yourself present and mingle with producers, creators, executives and stars, and quite possibly enjoy the time of your life!

And that’s 30 for today.  See you back here Monday.  Until then, read well and write better!