CoKoCon Science Fiction Convention, Second Batch of Pictures

Guest of honor artist Gilead. Took a lazy line and turned it into a dragon.

Steampunk Panel

Steampunk Audience

Guests of Honor

Alexander James Adams, Ernst Hogan, Emily Devenport, and Mr.Ed doing the MCing
Professor Sparks and Gilead

From Professor Sparks show

As seen in the original Frankenstein movie
Also in the original movie and many afterwards

Not so old Tesla Coil

But it makes good sparks.

CoKoCon science fiction convention 2019, Bolg post with pictures

It was a great convention. Of course Phoenix was hot, it is this time of year. We did get some rain and strong wind Sunday afternoon.

I went to many of the writing panels. Didn’t do so well with the page that I submitted to the editor’s panel. I repeat myself, I don’t handle characters well, and keep repeating their names over and over, and they wanted the location of the warehouse closer to the front.

The trouble is I’ve heard this before, on the same piece, from my critique partner.

I’ve tried to do better, and fix the piece and other pieces, but I’m not getting them fixed.

Then I went to the panel on Critiques and one author mentioned that there writers out there that never get better or fix their problems. Now I’m worried that I’m one of those writers. Doomed, doomed, I tell you, to make the same mistakes over and over again.

The show put on by Doctor Sparks was worth it. He had some of the props from the original horror movies. Sparks with ozone, in person.

Phoenix traffic was as bad as I remembered it. No one does the speed limit on I 17 through Phoenix. If I wanted traffic this bad I would’ve stayed in Los Angeles.

We did take some time out to visit Bookmans used book store. Not that far from the convention. Also went through the Brass Armadillo. It is also only a couple of blocks from the convention hotel.

There were panels on moon exploration, bad movies, Filking, AIs, Star Parties, and poison gas.

Pictures starting with Authors

Beth Cato
Judith Staskston
Diana Terrill Clark
Ernest Hogan
Avily Jerome
Arabella Thorne and Ross B. Lampert
In grumpy cat mode
Beth Cato and Gary W. Babb

Voice actor and author
Stepanie Weipport, T. L. Smith, Avily Jerome

Book Sellers and good people

Writing Like It’s 1895

My heroine needs a flashlight. And she needs one bad. It’s 1895 and they don’t exist. After 1900 I could get away with it.

Why didn’t they exist. Not because of batteries. Usable batteries had been developed by 1802 and telegraphs had been using batteries since the 1830s. But dry cells, cheap enough for flashlights would not come along until 1910.

Edison had carbon filaments light bulbs by 1880. But they were delicate and not good for banging around in flashlights. They also needed 90 or so volts and that would take a lot of batteries. Edison thought that tungsten would make a good filament, but the equipment to make fine tungsten wire would not be developed until 1906.

Also there was the problem of vacuum equipment. In 1895 it wasn’t good enough. Any oxygen in the light bulb would react with the filament and shorten its life. That equipment would not be available until after 1900.

People were not setting around. Paid and unpaid inventors, scientist and engineers were working on the light bulb, not just Edison and his lab. There was not just one thing for a mad genius to overcome to make a flashlight in 1895.

How about a carbide miner’s lamp? Carbide is made with electricity. Lots of electricity. The power plant at Niagara Falls would have to be finished before carbide became readily available. That wasn’t until after 1900.

So my heroine can’t just cobble a flashlight up out of things lying around the airship. Also there would be patents fights if she did come up with a flashlight. Just because a idea documented on a patent would never work, that has never stopped an inventor and his lawyers from suing, suing, suing.

There were platinum filament light bulbs. They worked, but they were very expensive. Not practicable, but whoever said the heroine had to be practicable?

Stay strong, write on, and have you checked the batteries in your flashlight lately. Replace them once a year.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Windows Update, Reset; Rant

Caution Rant. This blog is late due to a Windows update.

Last night Windows gave me an ultimatum. Update now or update in an hour. No if, ands, or buts.

I hit the button and launched the update.

All the talk about faster Windows updates and a kinder Microsoft is just talk.

The update took an hour. This is on a couple of year old computer running a core I7 CPU with 256 of solid state disk. It is not a ten year old machine. The connections is Spectrum cable and it still took an hour. If your in the middle of a presentation this is a killer.

The update didn’t end in a endless loop like previous updates. It did complete. I have a traveling computer so I was not down for the hour the update took. Smaller screen and a slower processor slowed work on the travel computer.

After the update, I tried a couple of programs to check out the update. When I fired up the word processor. I could not access the external hard drive. It’s a Western Digital, four terabyte, hard drive. The computer could not find the USB external hard drive.

Device Manager would not show the hard drive being connected. The computer would beep when the hard drive was plugged in, but the drive would not show up in file explorer or in device manager.

I fooled around for ten minutes and then hit restart. Still no external hard drive. Worried I plugged the external hard drive into travel computer. It worked so I did not have a SDF (sudden device failure).

Being lazy and not wanting to spend years to become a windows expert I sat down and tried to think of someone I could call. At a hundred dollars an hour for a service technician I could go buy a new hard drive (on special).

I fought with computer, off on on, for a couple of hours then went to bed.

Next day I fired up the computer and the external hard drive worked.

Stay strong, write on, and make voodoo dolls of Bill Gates.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Rehash of a Rehash

I’m doing better, busy, but I’m not writing consistently.

I read the other day that Millennials are the loneliest generation. If you look around it’s not hard to understand. In a restaurant, a coffee shop, or in the waiting room. Everyone has their nose buried in cell phone. With their shoulders drawn up, bent over, they have their “Don’t Bother Me” shield up. They’re yelling at everyone around them to leave them alone. They’re not going to make new friends that way.

I’m having trouble finding a book that’s grabbing my attention. I definitely don’t want to read a book about someone who sits around staring at a cell phone all the time. Would you?

But would someone that’s a slave to their cell phone want to read a book about someone that’s meeting people, making friends, doing things? Or are they going to read things that are a rehash of a rehash that has been condensed down to a two second sound bite?

Maybe that’s why Millennials are buying experiences rather than things. Their life is so empty they are trying to fill it with trips, and concerts. Still in the middle of a concert I see people with their nose in a cell phone playing games, ignoring the band and the music. The concert is an excuse to be friendly, a reason to interact with the people around them, and they wall themselves off.

Speaking of experiences, I’m going to a science fiction convention in a couple of weeks. It’s a chance to meet and talk to people. To hear authors I might never consider reading talk about their books. And to see the costumes and props that others have come up with.

I’ll end up buying a couple of books and haunt the dealer’s room. I will have a good time. I will not sit across from someone at lunch and stare at my cell phone.

If your there and see someone watching others, it might be an author. It might be me. You could walk up and ask if I’m an author.

The worst that could happen is I might take your picture.

Stay strong, write on, and get your nose out of the cell phone.

Professor Hyram Voltage

P.S. Is it just me or is good, plain, writing getting harder and harder to find. This is a snippet form a financial article:

The next day, a Bank of America (NYSE: BAC) analyst changed her opinion of Weight Watchers from underperform to buy. She also raised her one-year price target to $27, which the stock blew bay later that same day when it crested above $30.

They fired the editor and even the admin assistant, so there is no one left to review the article before it is published on line. The group that posted the article is selling advice. Expensive advice. Would you buy advice from someone that doesn’t have editors, that doesn’t double check the work posted on their web site?

Being lean and mean, means being error prone.

We Don’t Talk Any More

I operate an amateur radio station. I talk to people around the world. Or I use to. The world changed.

I grew up on an Indian (Amerindians) reservation. Our house was a quarter mile from the paved road. You had to go another quarter mile to get to the little village where 80 or so people lived. The next nearest town was across the state line.

As a small child I was forbidden to walk that last quarter mile to the village/town. I could see the houses of the village from where we lived, but they could have been on the moon.

People must have thought I was nuts, I liked school. There were others at school to play with, to talk to.

We had a TV (black and white). I remember watching Zoorama broadcast from the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t have a radio.

When I discovered radio, I discovered that you could not only listen to someone talking, but certain people had radios and they could talk to other people. I was all in.

This was in the late 1950s, early 1960s. The telephone in our house was for business and not a toy. Everything about a telephone cost money. You couldn’t even own a telephone, you rented it from Ma Bell.

So I got into Ham radio. I’ve talked to many people and have a great time.

The radio conditions vary due to the sun in an eleven year cycle. You have a string of good years followed by a string of bad years. We are in the bottom of the cycle where it’s hard to talk to people far away form you. That doesn’t mean I don’t try. I get on the radio and call and call. Lately I haven’t been making any contacts.

I just got back from a radio conference and at the conference I found that I’m not the only one that is having this problem.

Digital has invaded my hobby. It goes by the name of FT-8 and it’s like texting. Instead of talking to someone you type in some basic information. It’s worst than texting. It does allow you to contact people when condition will not allow contacts with the old ways, like voice or with Morse code. But like texting, it’s sterile, impersonal, and you’re only allowed to send a tiny bit of information. It’s just not friendly. It’s one step above junk mail.

Terry Patchett touched on this in his book Going Postal, where the clacks (a telegraph that used light signals) replaced the post office. The line in the story where a letter could be “sealed with a kiss” really stuck with me. It’s a lot more work to pick up the microphone and talk to someone ratter than send them a canned message. Can you care about someone if all you do is send them the equivalent of junk mail?

Would you rather read about someone who talks to the people they care about. I don’t think I would care about a character that just texts the important people in her life. The character need to show they care, and that’s not easy, it takes work.

When you look a child in the eye and say “I Love You”, that counts more than a million texts.

That’s what I want to show in my books.

Stay strong, write on, and you can’t say I love you too many times.
Professor Hyram Voltage

The Rebel – Out to Save Civilization

Study the past and write about it.

The Romans had a problem with employment, and they came up with a solution.

We call it bread and circuses, I don’t know what the Romans called it. (today we call it the Internet and welfare). One of the reason they implemented this was another law that dictated that the son had to go into the business of the father. That was good if your father was a senator, but not so good if your father was a garbage collector.

I have not read if the Roman people rioted against the son must follow the father law. The law would provide stability. You knew your place. But you could not get out of your role in life. Born a shoemaker, always a shoemaker.

This would lock the society in the past, prevent change. People like that. Who could become the gun maker if everyone could only be what their father was and there had never been guns before?

If someone comes along with guns, the whole society would be in trouble.

That law would make entrepreneurs and innovators rebels and outlaws. The kind of characters I like to write about.

I don’t know if anyone saw anything wrong with it, at the time. But we know what happened to the Roman Empire.

The average person would think they were very smart and except the free bread. Why not, everyone else was doing it. Then she would go watch the Circus. It would take a driven person to start something new. A person that would not except sitting around doing nothing. A true rebel. Stubborn is the word that comes to mind.

This person or character would not look different than anyone else. Can you spot a innovator walking down the street? A used car salesman, maybe. Besides the innovator would be in her workshop innovating not wandering around the streets.

There is no stereotype look for an innovator. You don’t have to be a wild eyed genius, or a nut case to be an innovator. It’s the slow steady, hard-workers, that get things done.

We have become obsessed with the image of Albert Einstein. He maintained his look for a purpose.

Your book’s character may have an unusual look and a reason for that look, but the look would have to make the person money, or do something for the character. Otherwise the character would not keep the look. The reason for the look may be as silly as; that’s the way she’s always dressed (think Mortisa from the TV show Addams Family), but it has to cost the character something and may be a point of change for the character.

Your character may also be trying to save his civilization or it is her drive to make a better world is what makes her overcome the plot obstacles. But to do this, do they have to look or be flamboyant?

Stay strong, write on, and make your hero a rebel out to save civilization.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Mid year day, loneliness, disappointment, and change.

It’s the middle of the year and many authors are talking about the progress they’ve made towards their goals. You can’t get away from podcasts about how the successful authors are killing it this year. The ones that failed to meet their goals don’t brag about their failures, despite horrific reasons they were blocked from reaching their goals.

Last week, a friend had a stroke. I didn’t need that. Another good person impacted.

Side note, I like to take photographs. I’m don’t take very good photos. I want to get better. So I bought a couple of books (five old, used, Kodak books, two new ones and a course on photography). Then I went on the Internet. What a time sink. Good information if you can squeeze it out.

I started watching a podcasts. It’s an hour and a half time sink, but I get a couple of things I can use or that are at least interesting out of each broadcast. Well I did. Then the podcast degenerated into more and more rants. If I want rants the are several new programs I could watch or listen to.

Now there are accusations of misconduct by photographers towards models.

I’m not getting any educational value out of the podcasts that apply to photographing people at steampunk events. I have decided to cancel my Patreon subscriptions to the podcasts. They won’t miss my small contribution. I will have more time to write. It’s just my photography will not be getting better.

It’s lonely being a writer. To socialize I joined to a good sized photography club. Members of the club win awards for their pictures. Still, many of them are into landscape photos and other types that are not what I do. I may drop out of the club.

I’m down, but I will get over it. My friend will never be the same.

I’m writing, but my heart is not into it. It will get better. He will get better, but he will never be the same.

There was a 7.2 earthquake north of here. I felt it. It was strong here but didn’t knock anything off the shelves. I was in an 7.0 earthquake years ago. It was only 20 miles from my childhood home where I was living. Splashed water out of the bathtub. I know what it’s like to be in a big earthquake. Rock on, gets a whole new meaning when the house gets up and moves.

Stay strong, write on, and go with the flow. It hurts to give up. It hurts to admit that you made a wrong decision. Sometimes life hurts.

Professor Hyram Voltage

When a Sure Thing Isn’t

You’ve done it several times before. You read the instructions several times. You follows the instructions to the letter. You work hard, and do it right.

And it blows up. And it wasn’t suppose to.

That describes my weekend.

I need to get rid of a block of concrete. It’s 3 feet by 3 feet and extents 4 feet into the ground. A jack hammer is too noisy and a very expensive piece of equipment to rent. It also very hard on the body. So we used a compound called Dexpan (Expansive Demolition Grout for Concrete and Rock Breaking). You can buy the stuff at the big box hardware store.

All you have to do is drill a one and one half inch diameter hole in the concrete. Then mix the Dexpan powder with water and pour the slurry into the hole. We’ve done this several times.

A roto-hammer-drill with a one and one-half inch eighteen inch long drill is much cheaper to rent and a whole lot easier on the body than a double action jack hammer and the compressor to run it. An electric jack hammer isn’t that cheap either.

Five eighteen inch deep holes will hold a packet of Dexpan slurry. In the first set of holes we used an unused left over packet of Dexpan. After it expanded and cracked the concrete we drilled five new holes, mixed up a new packet of Dexpan to form a slurry and poured it in the new holes.

Approximately ten minutes later the Dexpan exploded out of one of the holes. Seconds later harden pieces of Dexpan fell on the roof. Every one tool shelter. The Dexpan kept exploding out of the five holes.

Thank goodness it is close to the Fourth of July. There are so many illegal fireworks going off that no one complained. Dexpan is not made to explode. It has never exploded before when we used it.

What does this have to do with writing steampunk. Everything. In real life things don’t always work like they’re suppose to. Your hero researches the books. Imagine a hero that doesn’t know everything, but has the smarts to look it up. Or he asks the experts. Then he does everything by the book and it doesn’t work. It’s the wrong time of year, the wrong phase of the moon, the wrong brand of stuff.

The hero hires a consultant. That doesn’t work so he hires an expert to do the job and it still doesn’t work. Been there, done that. These are ready made plot points. The consultant was a fake. The expert was on the take of the antagonist.

When the invention that is going to save the day it blow up and damages the town. The town folks run the hero out of town. They pursue the hero to stop him from doing it again, even when it’s their only hope to be saved.

The hero has to fail before he can succeed.

Stay strong, write on, and have a safe Fourth of July.

Professor Hyram Voltage.

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