Sunday, February 25, 2024

Voter registration drive and book sale

I know a lot of people are tired of being told that every election for the past decade WILL DETERMINE THE VERY SURVIVAL OF THE NATION!  But it’s true.  The fastest way for the anti-democratic forces to fully seize power is if We The People can’t be bothered to vote.  And the anti-democratic forces already have too much power as it is.  To keep our democracy, we need to vote, in this election and every election.

But in order to vote, you need to be registered.  If you’re an American citizen who will be eighteen by Election Day, November 5th of this year, and you are not registered, I ask you to register.  Your state’s website should have all the necessary details.  And if you are registered to vote, I ask you to check your registration, which you should also be able to do on your state’s website.  The reason to check your registration is that the list of voters needs constant updating as people register, move, and die.  And even without nefarious voter purges, it’s possible for mistakes to happen.  If a mistake is caught early, it can be fixed early, and things can go a lot smoother for everyone come Election Day. 

Democracy only works if the people participate and the first step of participation is to take a few minutes and register to vote.  To help sweeten the pot, starting Monday, February 26th, I’ll be having a book sale for four of my ebooks.  Register, or check your registration, then grab some free books.  Well, there’s no way for me to check if you register, so we’ll just go on the honor system.  And if you aren’t an American citizen, then I’ll just ask that you participate in your country’s political system however you can, because the anti-democratic forces are not limited to the US.

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The following four ebooks will be free to download from Monday February 26th, through Friday March 1st.  I hope you enjoy, and I hope you’ll vote in the next election.

 


Political Pies

Everybody complains about politics, but does anyone do anything about it? My attempt to do something about it is to collect forty of my short stories with a political element into my Political Pies anthology. The stories are either politically neutral or equally condemning of the national parties. Instead of trying to sway you to one ideology or another, my goal is to just get people thinking about politics in the hopes a rose might grow out of all the political manure.



The Most Powerful Man in the World and other stories

The Most Powerful Man in the World and other stories is a collection of five, short, scifi stories to provide a sample of my writing.

A being from the distant future with almost unlimited powers comes back to help Ian Steele make the world a better place in “The Most Powerful Man in the World.” One bookstore customer has an entirely different reason for wanting books in “Black Market Books.” “Motherhood” tells the story of Thomas Gillespie, the surrogate mother for a baby AI. “Storyteller” is about an author thinking his book into existence. And “Deadworld” is about the alien world humans are reborn on – in alien bodies – after we die.



A Man of Few Words is a collection of fifty of my flash fiction stories. What would really happen if a “T-Rex on steroids” attacked a city? Why do science fiction writers make the best lovers? How does a company get to Second Base with VIPs? I explore these questions and more using less than 1,000 words and in various genres from humor to horror and general fiction to science fiction.



An Ounce of Prevention


Like most people, Jason Fisher wanted to make the world a better place, but he doubted he would ever have the chance to make much of a mark. Then a “woman” came to him, asking his help to save humanity by threatening it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Random Writing Tips – Prewrite your bio

 

I recently did something for the first time in a couple of years: I submitted a story.  As of the posting of this, I’m still waiting to hear back.  But the submission process brought back the scourge of many writers: the cover letter.  I don’t care for cover letters.  I prefer sites that just have a form you fill out with your name, story title, word count, etc. and they either take your story or they don’t, and that’s it.  For me, cover letters are like the About Me section on dating sites.  How do I make myself sound interesting without outright lying, and the feeling that no matter what I do, it’s wrong. 

Fortunately, the place I submitted to only wanted a brief bio, which, couldn’t that wait until after they buy a story?  Anyway, some years ago I wrote a couple brief bios so I could pick the best one for the situation.  Which is great, except I couldn’t remember which folder I put them in, so I had to rewrite a bio. 

So my tip is to prewrite a couple bios which you can just copy and paste into cover letters, maybe with some slight adjustments, and to keep them in a place you will remember.

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Image from Pixabay.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Novels in a few sentences

I recently went through some posts on an old blog of mine, and I came across this little gem.  Years earlier, I had heard that a good exercise for creating pitches was to describe your novel in three sentences.  So I tried it with two of my ideas.  For my novel, Damocles, I came up with the following:

Most people go through their day-to-day lives worrying about “important” things: career, money, marriage.  But what if one morning everyone wakes up to learn that in four days there will be destruction on an unprecedented scale killing tens of millions and there is nothing we can do to stop it.  What becomes important then?

But for my novel None of Them Knew the Color of the Sky, I managed one sentence:

Will a treasure from the past be enough to unite the survivors of a nuclear war; or, are arrogance, mistrust, and hatred too akin to cockroaches?

That’s a great exercise, and all, but some ten years after I first posted these, I still only have notes for Damocles, and None of Them Knew the Color of the Sky is still just half-finished.  So I think I’ll try to finish some novels before coming up with pitches for them.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

To scheme, or to write?

I spent a decade or so sloooowly building up a miniscule following on Twitter.  Now, Twitter had issues before Musk bought it, but he didn’t fix the issues I had with it, and he made more.  So I left Twitter for Mastodon.  Is it better?  Well, probably everyone I’ve interacted with on Mastodon Musk would claim is “woke,” so yeah.

The main way I used Twitter, is I had two accounts, one for writing and one for everything else.  But I would post about my ebooks every day, alternating accounts.  The way I worked it, is in one month one account would post only about The Most Powerful Man in the World and other stories, while the other would only post about The Future is Coming, so I could see which account I got more sales from.  Of course, in all likelihood, the only sale I’d have that month would be for Duty, and I’d have no idea how that person found it.

Even with my “audience” on Twitter, my sales weren’t that great.  And then I started over from scratch on Mastodon.  But I didn’t want to just redo what I did on Twitter, where constantly trying to sell your books was … normal.  So on Mastodon I’m trying to just be an interesting person, who only occasionally mentions their books, so maybe someone will be curious enough to check them out.  But that’s a lot of goddamn work, especially for someone as introverted as me.

This has led to a bit of a conundrum: do I spend my time writing new books in the hope that people will somehow find out about them, or do I spend my time scheming ways to sell the books I already have?  Ideally, I’d do both, but as is, I already need an extra day or two a week just to catch up with all the other non-writing stuff I need to do.  Of course, this has led me to thinking of greater and greater schemes trying to come up with a simple act that would have a measurable impact on my book sales.  And while such thoughts did lead to this blog post and my short story “Scheming,” all the time spent on them is less time spent talking to readers or writing.

I know that’s not a very satisfactory way to end a blog, but I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place with no clear direction forward.  If I ever find an answer, I’ll do another blog post.  Don’t hold your breath.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Free story idea – Star Jumping

I have a lot of ideas for stories.  Like, if I wrote a novel’s worth of them every month, I’d still most likely die before getting through them all.  I will admit that some of the ideas probably suck, but I think there are some that a good writer could make something of them.  I’ll just never get a chance to.  So, I give them to the world.  If you can make something of these, go right ahead.  And if these are the ideas I’m giving away, maybe check out the ones I keep.

Here in the real world, you can’t accelerate a mass up to the speed of light.  The closer you get to the speed of light, the more energy you need, and it quickly becomes outrageous.  Thanks Einstein.  But what if you could … negate the mass, or cover it up somehow?  That’s a key element in this story.  I don’t know exactly how it would work – you would need to come up with the basics at least for this made-up physics – but the idea is you build a ship with some device that creates a bubble, or field around the ship.  This makes the ship nearly massless for the tiniest split of a second.  During this time, you fire a laser pulse at the ship.  Now, one of the whacky bits of Relativity is that time – to an outside observer – runs “slow” for things moving near light speed.  So this ship – while nearly massless – when hit by the laser pulse, would fly off at near light speed.  The tiniest split second later, as viewed by the ship, the bubble or whatever would collapse and the ship would regain its mass and screech to a halt.  Hopefully slow enough so that the passenger isn’t smeared into a red paste along the backwall.  To the passenger, it would seem they traveled lightyears in less than a second.  But to an observer back at the laser, years may have passed.  The laser would fire, then eight years later you’d get the message from the ship that they traveled four light years: four years for the outward journey and four years for the message to come back.  I’m sure physics people are banging their heads wanting to explain why all of that is wrong.  As if warp drives and lightspeed engines make any sense.

Anyway, this story follows a star jump test program.  The first issue is how long do you set this bubble or whatever to exist, and how do you fire the laser pulse at the right time.  So basically, you build a robotic probe, call it Interstellar A, and it turns on the bubble, you fire the laser, and two years later you get the message that it traveled one lightyear.  So you do a few more test runs with probes Interstellar B through F to fine tune things, over a couple decades. 

But now they’re ready to send the first human to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri.  The plan is once the Interstellar G mission – with an astronaut and the human-level AI that runs the ship – arrive at Proxima Centauri, they’ll set up a robotic miner on some asteroid.  Over a year or so, it will mine needed materials to build a laser system.  It will also mine materials to build a shield for the craft because space is only nearly empty.  Hitting a dust grain while traveling near the speed of light would cause some damage, so the shield the craft had when it left Earth is very damaged and needs to be replaced.

While all that is happening, the astronaut will explore the system.  The ship isn’t designed to land, so it can only orbit any planet and drop probes.  Some of these probes will return with samples, either just rock samples or maybe some lifeforms, if there are any.  Once the laser is built, the plan is for the astronaut to use it to come back to our solar system with their samples.

I image the story will be beautiful descriptions of alien planets along with long conversations between the human and the AI on the meaning of life, and exploration, and whatever to pass the time.  Along the way, the human will point out that they really don’t want to go back to Earth, they’d much rather keep exploring.  I forget who it was, but I read years ago there was some American pioneer who if they could see smoke from somebody’s cabin, it meant they were too close to civilization and they had to move further west.  This astronaut – with their AI companion – would rather just keep exploring further and further out into the galaxy. 

Fortunately, Interstellar F finally shows up.  While this probe was launched sooner, it wasn’t fine-tuned enough and so only made it 99.9999% of the way to Proxima Centauri.  But, it then fired up its engine and over however many years finally inched its way to the system.  So they load Interstellar F up with the samples, give it a new shield, and fire it back to Earth.  They then build another shield for Interstellar G, and fire it off to the next nearest star system.  They don’t use it to go to the main Alpha Centauri system, because there’s probably already a mission on its way there.  Not to mention, Proxima Centauri will probably soon be crawling with scientists who will also take the short jump to Alpha Centauri.  And our main characters would rather be elsewhere.

They don’t plan to disappear.  At each new star system, they’ll mine resources to build a new laser system to move on, but which later explorers can also use.  They also stockpile samples, and materials for shields.  They also write detailed reports on all they find and beam them back to Earth, and the other star systems they’ve been to, and explain where they are going next. 


But that’s their plan at the end of the story.  As I said, I expect the main focus of the book would be these long discussions about what it means to be a pioneer.  Which, I would find interesting, but I doubt I could write.  So hopefully, someone else will.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Random Writing Tips – Am I just writing gibberish?

 

There is a project I’d like to finish in the next few months.  The idea of the project isn’t that difficult, it’s some essays on a subject I have a great interest in.  So I don’t have to deal with foreshadowing, or coming up with interesting characters, or any of the complexities of fiction writing.  I just have to coherently describe my thoughts on this subject.

Of course, since I first started this project, I’ve shifted the focus three or four times.  That’s not a bad thing, since it was rather unfocused to begin with, but I have now figured out a framework for it.  But that means writing, and reading, and rewriting, and rereading, and rerewriting, and rerereading, etc., the same paragraphs over and over again.  Each paragraph is fine, but with each refocus I need to massage them to fit the new framework. 

So one night, I’m tired, and I’m reading this paragraph for the twentieth time trying to make sure it fits, and it felt like it wasn’t even written in English.  Just words mixed together like some kind of vocabulary stew.  That was an obvious sign to take a break.  I went back to it a few days later, and while there was a bit of clunkiness, it’s nothing a good polish wouldn’t fix. 

And I wondered how many tired, overworked writers saw the “gibberish” on the page and gave up, thinking they weren’t “real” writers?

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Image from Pixabay.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

My writing goals for 2024

 

Four or five months ago, in an attempt to get my act together, I set deadlines to finish five of my projects.  Three of those deadlines are this year.  I want to publish Collection X, my tenth short story collection, a collection of essays on building a lunar base, which I’m still hammering a title out for, and Rediscovery, a novella I started years ago about a writer rediscovering the world and her novels after she lost her memory in a terrorist attack.  Altogether, I’m probably about 50% done on all of them, I just have to actually finish the other 50%. 

Great idea.  Will I actually meet these deadlines?  I guess only time will tell.

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Each Election Year, I’ve reread my old ebooks to update them or fix any typos that have managed to survive all these years.  I still plan to do that this year, I just think that for my first ten or so ebooks – which I’ve already done this to two or three times – it will be the last time.  I’ll still update the front matter to include new ebooks, but I think I’ll stop doing these four-year updates.  They take a lot of time, time I need to be writing new stuff if I’m to meet any of my deadlines.

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Last year, I started my Monthly Stories, where I posted a story on my website each month.  In 2024, I plan to continue that.  I also plan to start posting a story each month on my Ko-fi account, largely because I’m not sure what else to do there.  The Monthly Stories are stories I come up with and write that month, while for Ko-fi I’ll repost stories, or write some and hold on to them for a few months. 

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I guess the last goal I have for this year is to submit some stories to magazines or websites.  There is one site I know I want to submit to, and I’d like to submit to at least two other places.  We’ll see.

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Well, to meet all of these goals, I need to get writing.  Wish me luck.

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Image from Pixabay.