Saturday, December 29, 2012

Zegin's Universe

Mapping Zegin's Universe
My vacation week of writing was pretty successful.  I didn't crank out a full length novel but I did get over a significant hump I was having with Zegin's Abduction.  I would read through what I have done so far, feeling that something just wasn't right.  But I would go ahead and start writing.  Each writing session I would repeat.  Finally, after 3 sessions of writing I decided that I better do something.  After all, if I'm not feeling good with the story then the readers are not going to feel good with it either.

After some in-depth analysis, I finally determined that the story was just dragging.  I put on my editing hat and thought about those chunks of deleted scenes that get added as extras to the "Special Edition" DVDs of movies.  When I watch those I usually agree that they needed to be cut out of the movie to keep from slowing it down.  That's what I ended up doing with ZA.  I cut some major chunks out of it that just were not necessary.  Too much detail can detract from the story.  While it took some time and struggle to chop it up, it was well worth the time.  The story flows a lot better now and I feel better about writing it.  I'm enjoying the writing of the story. ;)

Another step I took was to produce a Zegin's Universe map - a graphical layout of the characters, places, things, organizations, and situations in the world of Zegin.  Since I'm developing a full set of short stories all based on this environment, the map is a great help in keeping everything straight.  I guess it's something that I learned as a programmer.  In order to develop a good application I need to have a road map of the functionality and a diagram of the database.  (Seems a lot of folks are interested in that too since a major portion of the hits to my site are from searches on Entity Relationship Diagrams.)  Sorry, I'll take the geek hat off and put the writer's cap back on.

If you're struggling with keeping details straight about your story (or series of stories) I highly recommend taking the time to build a map of the universe.  After all, isn't world/universe building half the fun of fiction writing?

Social Networking Progress
Wow!  Oh wait.  That's what I said last week.  I just can't help to be impressed with the growth of the statistics.

Klout Score: 44 (+1) Page Loads for the past month: 1025 (+9)
Twitter Followers: 362 (+133)
G+ Peeps Following: 163 (+63)

The Twitter and Google Plus followers have both made significant jumps.  While this is still just a few atoms in the bucket compared with the likes of Marissa Meyer, Stephen Ames Berry, or one of my favorites - David Brin - it's not a bad start for someone who hasn't published anything in the fiction market yet.  It does make for a good experiment and exercise in the value of social network marketing.  Especially with the huge growth of eBook sales and the fact that around one third of the entire world's population is now using the internet.  It will be interesting to see how the statistics improve once something is published.  In the meantime, I like to think that you're all enjoying my postings here and will continue to visit, and allow me to share my ride.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Yoplait   
I love Yoplait Yogurt!  It is soooo smooth and creamy.  I can have a nice satisfying treat without worrying about having to do an extra five minutes on the elliptical (which does feel like an extra lap around the sun by the way).  However, I have a major hate of the container!  Now I can understand some marketing person, or group, coming up with the decision to shape the container in a very appealing way.  Or maybe it's all scientific and the shape helps to keep all those "Live & Active Cultures" from escaping.  Regardless, I don't think there was much QA (Quality Assurance) testing or user testing involved.  I'm sure that the note taking ended before the last 5% of the yogurt eating activity was completed.

The first 95% of the event is pure pleasure.  The gentle fingernail scraping of the foil cap in a circular rotation of the container is a great endeavor for anyone that has engineering genes in their blood.  Removing the cap in a single fluid motion while retaining its flatness is a great accomplishment.  This allows for a complete removal of the sweet yogurt essence from the bottom of the cap in a single flick of the tongue.  Then the process of consuming heaping spoonfuls of the luscious, creamy, and flavorful yogurt is enough to make the eyes roll back and induce a catatonic state of yummyness. (Yes, I made up that word.)  The next process of scraping the inside of the container is also very satisfying.  The gentle scrape of the spoon as remnants of the yogurt are piled into tasteful lumps.  It is at this point that spoon licking begins.  Top, bottom, sides, and even the stem of the spoon are fair game for finding left over molecules of flavor.

But then the pain and frustration begins.  There's still yogurt under the lip of the container!  And regardless of how hard I try with the spoon, I can't get it all.  I pronounce curses of "may your blaster get jammed in a fight with a Bantherdog" toward the engineers who decided to put those four indentations at the top of the container - preventing me from getting a smooth spoon scooping of remaining yogurt.  I stick my tongue under the lip of the top and twirl the container in the hope to gold dig out the yogurt remnants, resulting in a small groove being cut into the tip of my tongue.  I realize that this is the same physics as a circular saw as I withdraw my tongue from the container.  But being tenacious, I go in for another lap around the rim, using less pressure to prevent loosing the tip of my tongue into the container.  And what's with that gap between the walls of the container and the base?  There's still yogurt sitting down there!  My tongue won't reach!  I bet Gene Simmons doesn't have this problem.  And the opening of the container is too small for me to fit my head into it!  The base appears to be welded on and thus prevents me from removing the bottom.  Then I notice the words on the side of the container - "PROTECT WILDLIFE CRUSH CUP BEFORE DISPOSAL".  What?  No comma?  And then I have visions of squirrels digging through the trash with little Yoplait containers stuck to their heads because they were digging for the last remaining bits of yogurt in the bottom.  Well, if the Yoplait folks would let me eat the last of the yogurt we wouldn't have this problem - would we!?!  I gladly crush the container before flinging it into the trash.

I pause to calm down and relax - then reach for a second container of Yoplait.  Yep.  It's a vicious cycle.

Enjoy reading (and your yogurt). ;)


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Writing Week Progress

Baby Steps
I'm making progress this week, aside from the up-cropping of dealing with a auto insurance claim, de-icing the driveway, working on taxes, watching it snow, etc.  I'm actually getting some writing done and taking steps toward getting the first story out on Amazon.  Once I'm done with this posting I'm back to focusing on "Zegin's Abduction".

Zegin's Infection is still out with the editor.  I'm hoping she's done soon but

[The books on my writing desk]
I'm trying not to bug her with a status
email.  I'm expecting to have to do some rewriting and editing, and then get it back to her for review.  Meanwhile, I might have found a cover artist.  Thanks to a friend and coworker, this gent came highly recommended.  I reviewed his website and I liked what I saw.  We've discussed pricing and the concept/theme for the art.   I'm not naming names or providing links yet, until we have a successful release.  I don't think it's necessary to put the added pressure on the editor & artist until the work is done.  If it turns out good, I'll be singing their praises. ;)  Okay, maybe not singing - I don't want to scare the readers away.

I also managed to get two submissions out.  "The Wings of Leonardo" has been sent to Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show and "Invis" has been sent to Daily Science Fiction.  I'm a glutton for punishment.  This is my 5th submission to DSF and my 2nd to IMS.  I figure if I keep trying eventually I'll get one.  I've been spoiled by my non-fiction writing.  It's a whole new ballgame now. ;)

Wow!  I guess the last blog posting was a hit.  The statistics for this week have shown a major jump.  My wife says it's because I mentioned her.  ;)  Could be.  Everyone loves a good story, especially real life.  Some of this stuff you just can't make up.  (see below)

Here are the stats:

Klout Score: 43 (+3) Page Loads for the past month: 1016 (+221)
Twitter Followers: 229 (+95)
G+ Peeps Following: 100 (+10)

Aside from crediting my blog postings I also feel that this has to do with my involvement with several G+ communities, and my Twitter etiquette.  I rarely re-tweet unless I feel it is worthy, I personally thank those who follow me, and my postings are real - not a stream of constant advertising.  I do announce my blog postings and my milestones (submissions, rejections, etc.).  But I only do it once per platform.  (Oh I do wish someone would come up with a nice tool for posting to both Twitter and G+ at the same time.)

Topless in the Grocery Store
Several days ago I made a run to the local grocery store/pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my mom.  While waiting for the pharmacist to come to the counter I notice the sign that says, "Get your flu shot today!"  So, my thinking is that it IS that time of year, my wife has been reminding me how I got nailed by the flu last year (she didn't), and since the grocery store is promoting flu shots then I might as well get one. 

The pharmacist comes to the counter and I give him the prescription and I ask for a flu shot.  I pay for the chemicals and he then instructs me to wait in the seating area.  The seating area is actually more of a small corridor to the side of the pharmacy and has 4 chairs and a free blood pressure testing chair, which if I had been using, would indicate a sudden rise in my pressure.  I just realized that I requested a flu shot and I'm wearing a long sleeve white shirt, a tie, and a long sleeve pull over sweater.  Unfortunately, I didn't outline this flow like I do with my stories.

The pharmacist comes out with his little plastic tray of chemicals, syringes, and swabs.  And he's putting on his ultra thin latex gloves.  Then he states those words that I knew were coming, "I'm going to need an exposed shoulder."  My heart rate and blood pressure rises as I realize that I now need to remove the top half of my clothing. 

I reply with a laugh, "I guess I didn't think this through when I put on all these clothes." 

The pharmacist doesn't even crack a smile as he waits patiently for me to get ready.  Is there a job requirement that states that pharmacists should not have a sense of humor?  I briefly consider asking, "How many pharmacists does it take to change a light bulb," but then I re-consider.  (Just one, but he has to do it for ten days, three times a day.)

With my shirts off, calmly sitting, and waiting for one of my close friends to walk by - the pharmacist quickly makes the poke and is done before I can even think about saying ouch.  I thank him for the shot as I try to figure out how to gracefully tuck in a long sleeve white shirt without undoing my belt and pants.  (It's not easy, but doable.)  I consider asking for a shoe horn but I manage to get it done.

With my composure re-gained and mom's prescription in hand, I make a quick exit from the store.  On the way back home I think about the difference between standing in a grocery store with my shirt off and standing on a warm sandy beach next to the ocean.  In the store I dreaded being seen by any of my friends or associates while if I was on the beach I would proudly suck in the gut and strut on down to the water.  Amazing, what a difference in the venue can make!

Thanks for reading.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Preparing for my Week of Writing

I'm looking forward to next week!  I'll be taking a vacation and spending a significant portion of it writing.  My current goals for that week are:
- Finish Zegin's Abduction.
- Submit some of my short stories.
- Decide on an artist for the Zegin series covers.
- Work on my novel.
- Write a blog update.
- Marketing (improve my stats).
- If the edit comes back for Zegin's Infection, apply the edits and get it ready for publishing.
-  And of course, do some reading.
(Thanks for the pic, James!)

That accounts for half of my week.  For the other half, I plan on some activities with my friends.  If the weather permits, maybe even a hike.  Gotta sharpen the saw if I want to keep cutting through my tasks. ;)

Updated Statistics
I'm seeing some nice progress on my socializing statistics.  I'm finding that with more Twitter follows and followers the flow of messages becomes huge.  There's no way to digest all that information.  However, every now and then something stands out.  I actually bought a eBook from Amazon based on the twitter posting from the author.  I checked out his profile, then his web site.  I was so intrigued that I bought the book.  It's called "The Pyramid Legacy" by Clive Eaton.  You can find his site here: I've not started reading it yet.  It's next in line after I finish "7th Sigma" by Steven Gould. 

Here are the latest stats:

Klout Score: 40 (+1) Page Loads for the past month: 795 (+145)
Twitter Followers: 134 (+18)
G+ Peeps Following: 90 (+6)

With the introduction of Google Communities this week, I expect that the G+ stats are going to start picking up.  Especially, if I can find the time to participate in some of the discussions.  Since this is a new feature, I'm expecting that there will be a lot of groups that start up but then falter off.  I currently belong to 5 writing related groups.  I would prefer to knock that down to 2 or 3.  I'll save that listing for my next posting.

Kindle Upgrade
I gotta admit - my wife has good taste!  Not just because she married me.  (Okay, well, that took some convincing.)  I've been planning on replacing my 2 year old Kindle with the new Kindle Paperwhite device.  Just for reading.  I had a couple coupons from my Best Buy Rewards membership (every geek has this) and the price was good.  As is normally the case, my wife decided to join me (to prevent me from walking out with more electronics than I can fit into the car).  As a man, I tend to shop the man's way.  Walk in the door, walk straight to the item I want to purchase, buy the item, and walk out.  This process started correctly.  We walked in and walked straight to the Kindle Paperwhite display.  A sales clerk came over and I stated that I wanted one of these!  (Men don't describe.  We point at the item and grunt!)  As I started to approach the register I hear this sweet voice in my ear, "Ooo, this is pretty!"  For a split second I was disoriented, thinking that I had somehow ended up in a jewelery store, and that my wife was admiring a nice multifaceted rock of highly expensive qualities.  When I came to my senses I walked over to see what the excitement was about.

"Look at the colors!" she stated.  "The screen is amazing!"  I knew she was hooked.  It was the Kindle Fire HD.  It was twice the price of the Paperwhite but could do movies, pictures, music, games, applications, and dishes.  (  I think I fell in love all over again with her, right there in the store.  "So, you're recommending that I spend twice as much as I intended?"  I was making sure that I wasn't dreaming.  She laughed and agreed that it was unusual.  The rest of the process continued as normal.  We bought the device, added a cover, and left.  When we got home it finally occurred to me that I should've walked her down the iPad isle.  That's okay though.  I'm very pleased with the Kindle Fire HD.  It's an awesome device for less than half the price of an iPad mini.

So, if you know of any great Android apps for writers, shoot me an email.

That my progress thus far.  Keep on writing folks.