What Happens to the Buggy Whip Makers?

When automobiles took over the roads, what happened to the men who made the wheels for horse drawn vehicles? What happened to the men who installed gas lamps in houses when electricity took over, to the men who built ice boxes (that used large blocks of ice) when ice boxes were replaced by refrigerators?

These were skilled craftsmen. They made valuable items. They often made their own tools. It took years to get to their level of craftsmanship.

It was hard when a job that your father and his father did cease to exists. There was no welfare in the past. You could, and did, starve to death. There were handouts from the church, but when a factory closed it wouldn’t be enough and there was always those that were too proud to except a handout.

Their hardships, their story is your story to write. Being fired in the 1800s and early 1900s could be a death sentence. You’re not writing about everyone of them. You’re writing about the one that did something about it.

What would your protagonist do. Hit the road and look for work? Would he call in favors from friends and family, take a job as a clerk in his uncles store. That would be a big emotional let down, going from a craftsman who spent years learning his trade to a clerk. But it was a living. Would your wheel maker turned clerk start making furniture in his limited spare time using the machines that put him out of a job? Would he improve the machines that cost him his job.

It’s hard to start over late in life. When you think you have it all figured out. When you have started planning for retirement, the bottom fall out and you have to start over. There will always be younger men willing to work for less than you.

Would your protagonist become a communist? A fighter for the unemployed. Would he become harden if he found out that he was working for someone that was interested only in himself and exploited his followers and workers?

A person that doesn’t quite after losing his or her job is the first turning point of a great story. It could break the protagonist out of the comfortable rut they’re in. Get him or her thinking about change. Then get them working for change. And if they succeed they would have little tolerance for ones that would not change or do anything about the situation they were in. The “I did it, you can do it” would run strong in their veins.

Stay strong, write on, and write about the ones that change, work for change, invent change.

Professor Hyram Voltage

You Can Get It Right or at least close enough

It will take effort, it will take work, it will take time. You can do it. And if you don’t get it good enough the first time you can always go back and change an ebook.

One audio book producer told me that most of the books he narrates have to have changes to make them to sound better. Can you believe that? The words in an audio book are not the same as the words in the ebook. Warning, audio book narrators/producers are very expensive editors.

You’re sitting there and your book doesn’t sing, doesn’t read right, just doesn’t have it. What do you do? You edit it, you send it to an editor, you round up a bunch of beta readers, you join a critique group and they cut your book to pieces. You don’t have to go it alone, and you’ll do it again and again. Why? Because you are one of the one tenth of one percenters. You not only wrote a book, but you put a book or books out there in front of the world. You’re an author and that what authors do. They work, they feel insignificant, they feel not good enough, and they publish.

I’ve seen articles that say most first books only sell 100 copies or less. If that average includes the likes of J. K. Rowling with her millions of sold copies of her first book then a lot of us will only sell one copy of our first book, if that.

But, we will write another book. We will have learned from writing our first book We will have learned from our professional editor. We will have learned from courses we have taken, from conventions we have attended.

We writers, like our character will have completed an arc. Think of it, your first book is your mini-character-arc. After the first book you are different. If you don’t change, if you don’t do things different then maybe you should change from writing to something else. Change is good, but it hurts. It means that you didn’t and don’t know it all. You weren’t as good as you thought you were. It could mean that the world changed and you didn’t. The perfect world is now different. Adapt or be buried.

I can not help you if you’re paralyzed by fear, or if you feel inadequate or have too many thing going on in your life. No one can help me over come my writing procrastination, my life full of things I need to do (well, if I could afford a personal assistant that would help, so would winning the lottery, I gotta stop dreaming and write). I can urge you to write, I make time to write even in my depressingly overcrowded days. Write, you’re not alone in fear.

I can tell you about the speaker that gives talks to thousands of people at one time. And how, just before he goes on stage to give his talk, he is so racked by uncertainty that he throws up. But he goes out and gives the speech.

So, put on your lucky socks, or go to your favorite coffee shop, and write. But don’t forget to learn and change.

Do it, be one of the one tenth of one percenters, a writer that has a published a book – an author.

Stay strong, write on, and see you on the book shelf.

Professor Hyram Voltage “May your next book sell a million copies.”

Gamma Reader, part 2

Belay my last (Blog). (That’s Navy talk for ignore the last blog.)

Google Text to Speech App has become too hard to use. After talking to an engineer (that has nothing to do with Google) I found out that Google Text to Speech was written by programmers for programmers. And it was made to translate a short script of only a few words. I’m a writer not a programmer. And I need thousands of words converted to speech.

This lead to a search for another program.

I started to use Google Translate. Today Google improved the App and removed the speech function from the app. Way to go Google, take something that’s usable and make it less usable.

Many sites recommend Natural Reader. So I gave it a try. I had trouble getting the program to read my text.

The problem is Natural Reader has a limited number of file types it can handle. Even if I copy and pasted the text there were enough hidden embedded characters from Libre Office Writer to confuse Natural Reader and bomb the App. It doesn’t like the .odt file type.

Also the full version of Natural Writer cost $9.99 a month. Not worth it since I will use it only after I have written a book. So I’m stuck with the free version and 20 minutes a day of conversion.

Sit back and listen to the speech. Be ready to take notes.


  1. You have to read your book out loud. This will show you errors or rough spots in your writing that your eyes won’t catch.
  2. You have to have your book read to you by some one else. Having your not-quite-ready book read can strain a friend ship. Having an electronic Gamma Reader is the way to go. Unfortunately if you’re not secure as a writer the electronic reader can depress you. Don’t give up. You writing is not that bad.
  3. You have to have your manuscript professionally edited.

Writing is work. Editing hurts, hurts bad.

Having your book read by an electronic reader gives you an idea of how a group at a book signing would hear your book if you read a passage at a book signing.

Stay strong, write on, and have your book read to you.

Professor Hyram Voltage

The Electronic Beta Reader or The Gamma Reader

I saw a YouTube video on using Google Text to Speech to convert your writing to audio. Now I can’t find the video. Google search promotes sponsored videos over everything else. It will not give me an exact match or even a close match. Web sites that I go to for podcast often do not have a search function for the web page, or the podcast that they have done.

I read my writing out loud at least three or four times before I send the manuscript to an editor. I usually read the work a chapter at a time while editing, and I do several edits. After the clean up I go back and read the whole manuscript out load another again.

As A final run through I will read the whole book, making marks as I read.

You can get hoarse doing that.

Using Google text to speech is not a substitute for reading out loud, but works as another check of your work. It allows me to concentrate on the works, the sounds, the rhythm of the writing. Things I have trouble doing while I am reading out load. See this link for Google text to speech; https://cloud.google.com/speech-to-text/?gclid=CNCxyYK23-ICFYe3wAodNZMMnA . There’s a sign up for Google cloud services but you get a million letters converted to speech for free every month.

Having trouble reading your own work out loud. Now you have no excuse. Have the machine do it. There will be no friend or beta reader to embarrass you if they trip over a mangle of words that should never have been laid down on paper.

Google advertises that it has over a hundred voices and dozen of languages it can convert. Change the voice (the virtual person that is speaking for verity or a change of perspective).

Still you should read your own work out loud. If you have to hold up in a closet or sit in your car in the middle of a parking lot (outside a Starbucks or Coffee Bean) then do it.

It’s hard to read your own work, it’s work, but it’s work you have to do. It will improve your work.

Stay strong, write on, and read you own work; out loud.
Professor Hyram Voltage

The Great Beef Rib Conspiracy

The fourth of July holiday is coming up and I plan to cook up some beef ribs for the neighbors to celebrate. But I haven’t cooked ribs or even grilled anything on the barbecue in months. The rule of a smart cook is “You don’t serve your first try at a recipe to a guest. That’s what family, relatives, and the ten boxes of Mac-and-cheese in the cabinet are for.”

Hey if you don’t like it you know where the Mac-and-cheese is. Oh, and get a box out for me.

So, I watched a couple of YouTube videos and got feel of cooking ribs back and also got a couple of ideas to try. And the key word is Try. I drew up a list of things to buy and this morning I headed to the grocery store. Four stores and a meat market later I found one store with beef ribs. The ribs had almost no meat on them, it looked like the bones had been scraped clean with a thin bit of meat between the bones. Even the butcher at the store did not recommend buying the ribs.

At the last store I found tri-tip on sale and bought a nice roast. Tri-tip is good, but I had my mouth set on beef ribs. There were plenty of pork ribs, but after watching video after video of people cooking beef ribs, I wanted beef ribs. (Spoiled aren’t I.)

There has to be a reason for all the stores to be out of beef ribs. It’s almost summer and that’s grilling season. Did everyone get the same idea I had and bought all the ribs up? Did the only truck that hauls beef ribs into the county break down or get high jacked? (by space aliens or werewolves?) Is McDoanlds coming out with a Mac Beef Rib sandwich, and they have cornered the market on beef ribs like they did when the Mac Rib (pork) sandwich came out?

People have trouble coming up with ideas. All you have to be is paranoid and observant. Just look around you and see something that’s changed and come up with reasons why it is changing. Change happens for a reason.

Well maybe not, but in a story it has to or you risk turning your reader off. And the change has to involve the main character, even if the villain causes the change. The change does not have to have a logical reason to happen. Most actions by villains are not logical, they’re villains after all.

So next time you see a cosmetic shop closed, try and think of a reason why it closed. Maybe the space aliens that were its biggest customers left earth and no longer need the makeup to hide the fact they’re aliens. Or they’re mad at the xenophobic president and cleaned the store out before they left. Or maybe they took the owner with them when they left to keep him from telling everyone that they were from outer space.

This is how you go from a simple shopping trip to an alien invasion.

Now if you will excuse me I need to go grill a three pound tri-tip.

Stay strong, write on, and grill baby grill.

Professor Hyram Voltage

What if the device doesn’t work?

Time and again I have read a story where the steampunk inventor creates a device, at the last minute or there would be no suspense, that saves the day.

Is this trope becoming a clique? The villain has a time machine that always delivers him to the right time or reasonably close to the right time. The battery never runs down, or the device doesn’t even needs a battery (free energy). Free energy would be worth more than the time machine and without the risk of getting stuck back in time. The past is a nasty place.

How about current technology. You never hear of a gun not firing. Even today handguns don’t always go off. I’ve been on the firing range and pulled the trigger and the gun has not gone off. Do I have a slow burning round. You hold the gun down range and count. Then you unload a round that could go off at any time. They tell you to pick up a round, that could go off in your hand, and check to see if the primer was struck. OK, the primer was struck, the gun did not fail, but I’m holding a round in my hand that could go off at any time.

This was factory ammunition from a major manufacturer. I don’t buy ammo from them any more.

This happens in combat. You are the line in some foreign country. Ten or twelve enemy combatants are dug in front of you. You call up a manpack (a shoulder launched rocket). You pop the covers off the ends of the manpack and sight in. Pull the trigger and nothing happens. On your shoulder is a weapon that cost a good fraction of a million dollars, and it didn’t work

What do you do. You yell for another manpack before the enemy can take off to kill another day, and you may be the one they kill next time. Thankfully the second manpack worked.

Would anybody believe your story if the weapon failed. They might not. Guns always fire on TV. Cowboys always have bullets and never reload. Everyone has machine guns and always hit their targets and never run out of ammo.

There is a true story of a submarine captain firing two torpedoes at a enemy ship. One torpedo went off. He fired ten more torpedoes at the unmoving ship. Only one more went off. His command did not believe he fired competently. A lot of Americans died before they realized that the torpedoes had a problem with the firing pin.

Having fantastic weapons is great, but those weapons will not always work or work only in special cases.

Guns are not magic, and yes a bow and arrow can take out a man with a machine gun. It’s not something you want to do, but it is possible.

Stay strong, write on, and keep your weapon clean.

Professor Hyram Voltage.

Genius is in the mind, Stupidity goes all the way to the bone.