Seeds, Sprouts and Story Structure

It seems like it takes forever for the seeds to start to come up. Doesn’t it seem like forever to get a book written?

Seeds are like ideas for stories. There’s a little bit of DNA in a seed with lots of food to feed that DNA.

Sprouts are like stories.

They have roots. The roots are like the back stories of the characters. You may never see the roots, just like you may never see the back story of the characters, but they’re there. If a pest or disease destroys the roots the sprout dies. If your character does not have a back story she may do erratic things that make no sense and throw the reader out of the story. She has no roots to guide her actions. That’s why so many recommend that you write down the character’s back story. One it gets it out of you so you don’t fill the story you’re writing with flash backs, and two you can refer to the character’s back story, that you have documented, to keep her actions consistence.

Sprouts have stems, which are story plots. You watch the stems grow and you feel like they could reach the clouds. The stem is the back bone of the plant and holds everything together, like the plot holds the story together. If the stem is weak the plant falls over. If the plot is weak the story falls flat. Beware of the cut worm. They come out at night and chew through the stem and kill the plant. A critic or troll is like a cut worm. They come out at night and cut the author down. I need a good insecticide for critics and trolls. I got one for cut worms and I don’t hesitate to use it.

Leaves are the work horse of the plant. The first two leaves are like cotyledons, and they are not true leaves. Cotyledons are like the start of a story where you see the character’s normal (boring) life. The cotyledons are quickly replaced by true leaves, the plant’s energy manufacturing work horses. True leaves supply the food for the plant. The leaves of your story is where things happen. Get to the leaves, the real action of your story, as soon as possible. Drama, the conflict (and conflict drives action) is the life of your story. Leaves also supply shade for everyone including us bugs the writers.

Flowers are the best part of many plants. If you’re a bee, you head for the flowers that’s where the good (sweet) stuff is. Flowers are like the plot twists, the reveals, the kiss at the end of a romance story.

Don’t forget the seeds. After the plant is spent the seeds are left to make plants next year. If you’re a writer and want to make a living then you need to plants seeds in your story for the sequel. Writing a series is good business. Seeds are the unanswered questions in your story. It’s always good to have a few unanswered questions. It also a good way of finding out if the read was paying attention and getting feed back that the readers want another story in that universe.

Stay strong, write on, and plant a couple of good stories.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Weeding, Planting seeds and making your bed

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Things are getting in the way of my writing. I’ve been doing a lot of gardening; pulling weeds, tilling the ground, and planting seeds. I got a big garden with over a hundred planters/flower pots and a 80 foot long three foot wide raised bed garden. Those two gardens hold a lot of plants. Seeds are cheap, especially since no one is selling pony packs of plants any more. A pony pack is a small tray of six plants and use to sell for a couple of bucks. Now all the hardware stores have are pint sized containers with one plant and it sells for four dollars or more. Four dollars times one hundred containers is expensive.

The other day I saw a video on the Think Media YouTube channel. It’s run by Sean Cannell and he was interviewing Lewis Howes. Mr. Howes talked a little about how making his bed in the morning was a good way to start your day. You get something done and it makes your bedroom look so much better. On top of that, that night when you go to bed having your bed made is so much better.

What has planting seeds and making your bed have to do with writing steampunk? It’s about the future. Pulling weeds will make the garden look better today and keep weeds down in the future. Making your bed in the morning will make your bedroom look better all day long and will be so much nicer that night.

Both are about getting ready for the future. Plant seeds and you’ll have flowers and vegetables in the future. Make your bed in the morning and you’ll have a nice bed in the future.

Writing books is about the future. Whether it’s about future income or leaving a mark or token for those in the future, writing a book is about your future. All these things; planting seeds, making your bed, and writing take time now. But the time you take now will leave it’s mark in the future.

It’s worth it to take that time now to leave something for the future. Even if it’s giving bags of zucchini away to people who don’t want that much.

Even after you’re gone, your book will leave your mark long after the zucchini is eaten.

Stay strong, write on, and are you sure you don’t want some zucchini?

Professor Hyram Voltage

Getting What You Want, Giving the Reader What He Wants

I had a Web Designer build this web site. The gurus for selling books hound me that I need a freebie to get people to give me their email addresses. I don’t fight the advice of authors that are more successful than I am.

The web designer built a pop up that springs up in the middle of the home page.

I don’t like popups. I got a popup on my web page, like I asked for, but it just stays there until the visitor either clicks on it or clicks on the x in the upper right corner to make it go away.

I don’t like this so I got on fiverr and contacted several popup specialists to build me a popup that would popdown after two seconds (two seconds is a long time to stare at something you don’t like) and I wanted the popup to popdown to a smaller verision of the popup window and to dock in the lower left hand corner of the screen.

I got a bunch of ‘can’t do it’ responses. So I figured I needed to hire an expensive wed designer/programmer. I got on the site where the web designers that specialize in the Enfold theme (the theme this site is built from) and who also do email harvesting hang out. I contacted a bunch of them and they all said they couldn’t do it.

I recently contacted a friend that does his own web site work. He said it can be done with a Java script. From what I can find out web site builder use a program to make popups. The popup program has a series of check boxes have you check to make the popup do what you want. There are several places you fill in the time delay for when the popup appears and to position where it appears. There is no check box for making the popup go away after a period of time.

So I was asking the web designers to do work to figure out how to get the popup to popdown. Web designers are programmers and programmers do not work, they program. I have seen programmers go to great lengths not to work. They will spend double shifts or even 24 hours shifts debugging, but will they update the documentation, no. Documentation is work, stuff for the peons to do. They won’t do it even if you pay them. They’re the best ones to do the documentation because they’re the only ones that understand how the program works. Maybe that’s the problem, maybe they don’t understand how the program works.

So now it looks like I have to learn enough of the Java programming language to write the Java script to do what I want. I don’t have time for this, I got books to write.

What has this to do with writing steampunk? Your reader wants to read something different, but the same. He wants something new. He wants you to work and work hard to give him a good story. He doesn’t want a story where you just checked some boxes in template and the program spit out the same old, same old.

You want to sell books, give the reader what he wants. He wants you to work. He wants something different and yet familiar. He wants a good story and he wants it told well. That’s a lot of work. It’s work; good authors, selling authors do.

Stay strong, write on, and work to write a good story.
Professor Hyram Voltage

The Long Hard Slog of Editing

I’m almost finished editing my second book for the tenth or twelfth, or is it the fifteenth time. I approached an editor for a quote on a developmental edit. I sent him a sample of the book, five thousand words. That’s a little more than the first chapter. He sent back an email saying I should get an evaluation or critique edit.

A developmental edit would cost a lot. I did not ask, but I think an evaluation edit would cost about half the cost of a developmental edit. I’m having trouble paying for a developmental edit, it’s a 60,000 word manuscript at two point three cents a word. I asked and the editor thought I would need a developmental edit after the evaluation edit. I want a good edit, but can not afford both of them.

I have had the manuscript gone over by the critique group and sent it to several beta readers. I have a story, even if it’s poorly told.

I looked over the first chapter, heaved a couple of sighs and several expletives, and started another self edit. These edits are not light undertakings. They take weeks to do, I’m busy.

I’m almost done with the edit/rewrite. I have had most of it reviewed by the critique group. Yes, there have been improvements. Some characters have been put to work doing more in the story. A plot hole was filled.

Will I find an editor I can afford? Will this book ever get a professional edit? Will I find an editor that will work with me, and not be a stand off uncommunicative service?

Stay tuned.

Stay strong, write on, and edit.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Selling Your Book: The Carnival Barker and the Writer

I attended the Filmore Steam Train Rail Festival 2018 Saturday on April 28. They had a good crowd. People like riding on steam trains. Of course they had The Frontier Gnnfighters performing regularly scheduled train robberies.

I had just arrived and a lady, with a couple of kids in tow, asked where she could buy tickets to the carousel. Having just got there, I didn’t know. There was a carousel set up at the end of a row of vendor stalls, but you couldn’t buy tickets at the carousel. There were not many vendor stalls and I could not see any sign that said buy tickets here. I was kind of embarrassed that I didn’t know where to buy tickets.

I started at one end of the vendor stalls and was half way down the line of stalls looking for the typical steampunk things. You know; brass, brass gears, gaudy-shiny-sparkly-things and maybe a vest. When two different people came in the stall and asked ask the proprietress where to get tickets for the carousel. She said that the tickets for the carousel were available at the stall next door.

Curious, I stepped over to the next stall and looked for something that said carousel tickets here. There was no banner or sign high up above the heads of the crowd so people could see it. There was no streamer or feather flag banner along side the vendor’s stall fluttering in the breeze to attract attention. I did find an eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper in a holder sitting on a small table near the front of the stall. The crush of the crowd often hid the sign. The sign had colored lettering but was easily over looked.

What has this to do with writing steampunk? You have a book and you want people to read it. It’s just like the sign for carousel tickets. If the future reader doesn’t know your book exists or what it’s about then she’s not going to buy it, or read it, even if it’s free. You got to advertise and advertise effectively.

Think about it. An old time carnival barker on the Broadway of the county fair has to get your attention before you’ll even think about coming into his attraction. He does this by dressing in loud miss-matched clothes, so he stands out from the crowd. He stands on a raised platform, so he can be seen. He talks loudly, so he can get the attention of those with ear buds on and head down looking at their cell phones.

I have seen people in the middle of the Broadway studying their cell phones so intently that they were blocking the flow of other people.

It takes more than loud clothes, garish voice, and waving your arms around. A barker will have over sized pictures behind and around him. Those pictures are designed to draw your attention, to tease you, interest you. To give you a sample of what’s inside. That’s just like a good book cover.

Would a author dress up in a loud garish costume to sell books. If you said no, then you have never been to a steampunk convention sellers room, or to a Gail Carriger book signing.

I recently read a blog where the blog writer complained about a book author at a science fiction convention. The science fiction book author would ask people as they walked past his table, “Do you read science fiction?” The blog author felt that if you are at a science fiction convention you read science fiction. I have to side with the book author a little. So many people now days watch videos and may not read books. That’s their loss, and the book author/seller does needs a better line. He needs a tease, something to interest the passerby, he needs to know his audience better. He needs to find out what his readers want and what will get their attention.

As a book writer you need to think about how a carnival barker does his thing. As we grow up we develop blinders to block out the incessant ads that surround us; the billboards, commercials, videos ads disguised as tutorials. You have to get through those blinders, and it’s difficult. Take lessons from the barkers. Put yourself on display, but let them see who you are as an author. Give them a hint to what your book is about. That will turn some readers off, but those that you turn off are not your type of readers, not the readers you wrote the book for. Figure out what readers of your book want, and work hard to give it to them. And the hardest thing you can do is learn to enjoy being a carnival barker. It’s a fake identity and you complain that you are an author. Will you be an author for very long if you don’t sell any books?

We don’t have trustworthy book reviewers out there to recommend books any more. The reviews I’ve seen lately are from old style book publishers or reviewers that have agendas, at least they don’t recommend stories I like. They seem to recommend stories that are more high brow and literary.

So to sell your book, you have to;
1. Get the readers attention
2. Tease them
3. Offer them something they want.

It’s not easy.

Get readers attention by; being bigger than life (loud dressing, loud talking, loud gestures) not a sheet of paper sitting on a table that everyone walks by. You can offer free samples, or related freebies, give advice or background about the story or lesson you learned from writing the story, tell them stories about yourself, make friends with them.

Tease them with samples of related stories, character sketches, or the first chapter of you book. Give them an outline or blurb of what your book is about without a spoiler.

Offer them something they want, work as hard as you can to make your book the best it can be, hire a editor, study writing, steal like a writer.

Stay strong, write on, dress up like a carnival barker and sell.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Getting in the Mood to Write

Some how between when this was first posted and a week later it disappeared. I re-posted it.

There is a ad in old Byte magazines (a personal computer magazine that no longer exists) from the 1970s. It’s a picture of a father in his pajamas, wearing a 1930s style Buck Rogers helmet sitting in front of a computer playing a computer game. His son looks around the door frame at his father.

Here’s a little music to listen to while you read the rest of this blog.

What’s that got to do with writing steampunk? Plenty, it’s about beating writers block. You know what writers block is. That’s when the muse hands off to you a great idea. You tuck the idea under you arm so nobody can yank it away like the great quarterback that you are. You run for the goal. A hole opens in the scrimmage line. You pour on the speed.

There, standing in the hole, is a 450 pound lineman. To him, it’s not a game. It’s personal, he hates you. He’s going to make a blood smear out of you on the Astro Turf. You’re going to have rug burns so deep that they will be ground into your DNA and you’ll passed them on to your grandchildren.

You freeze. Behind your back, three 350 pound linemen are flying through the air at you and they’re going to pound you into the Astro Truf.

Don’t freeze. Don’t, stopping is the worst thing you can do. Come on, have you ever gotten rug burns from writers block?

What can you do? Two things;

1. Fake your mood. If you write science fiction, cos play science fiction. Dress up like a Jedi or Star Trek communication officer. It doesn’t cost that much and you will be ready for the next convention. Conventions are a great mood improvement for me. Now you have no excuse not to go to a convention. You got the outfit, now go and show it off.

You’re sitting at your computer, dressed as a 1850s card shark, or the captain in the star fleet. Think about the problems that you would have if you were a card shark, or a space ship captain. That conniving ensign that’s wants to become captain and is out to knife you in the back. Yeah, I know, that would never happen in Star Trek. The characters were well adjusted and had the motivation of a Tribble. (being a Tribble isn’t all that bad, they knew how to make love not war).

Put the problems you think you would face as a character into your story. They may not fit or they might be perfect. You will not know till you write them down.

Think about common problems going horribly wrong. The airship is not making any head way. The storm winds are too strong. “But captain we can’t go any higher to get out of the storm, the oxygen generator has been sabotaged.” (How convenient.)

It’s been done where someone beams down and they don’t get to where they were suppose to. Turn it on its ear. What if they get there, but the ship is gone.

Dress up, enter your story world and cause problems. A story needs problems, it needs conflict. If you’re stuck, cause problems. The new problems may be so much better than the old problems that you cut out the old problems and go with the new problems.

Try solutions that don’t make sense. The line from Star Drek comes to mind; Scotty says, “I tried shoving a wiener up the warp drive but it didn’t do a bit of good. Bye the bye, you wouldn’t have a wee bit of mustard on the bridge.” See the video at

The line is around 1:18 minutes.

2. Run over the 450 pound lineman of writer’s block. He won’t expect it. Put a cleat in his face. Do the mamba with your cleats on his chest. Spike him in the back. Make writers block hurt. Hurt your story’s villain. Hurt the story’s hero. You’re desperate. Do desperate things. Pull an Indiana Jones, have your hero do something that looks right, makes him and the reader feel good, but it’s be the wrong thing or turns out wrong. That’s great for a hero that is turning out to be a superman. Heroes need to make mistakes. They’re heroes, they make heroic mistakes.

So put on your helmet, get out your light saber, put on your gears, or wear your corset and write about how uncomfortable that thing is.

Stay strong, write on, and dress to fake it.
Professor Hyram Voltage

San Diego Comic Fest

This is not the San Diego Comic Con, it’s better. Smaller but better.

I had a blast and learned stuff.

They had a full schedule on Friday starting at 10:00. That meant I had to leave the house at 5:00 AM. I made good time through all the traffic jams in LA, Long Beach and Orange county until I slowed for traffic accident about 7 miles before Santa Fe ave 10 or 20 miles north of San Diego. One lane closed and traffic slowed to 5 miles an hour. Took 20 minutes to get around the blockage.

The first talk I attended was by Ryan Magnusson on Basics of Digital Illustrations. He did get into a side talk about working in digital art and how free over time was asked for and demanded at some of the companies. Also, work is being out sourced to Asia and he talked about the glass ceiling at the big houses. He stressed that shops are looking for people with specific talents, like inking. They don’t want artists that are versatile. A versatile artist can free lance (and know what the market will pay) and can quit and go work for someone else for higher pay, start their own business or try to move up in the ranks. The shops just want to pay the least they can. I think Indie publishing never looked so good.

Chris Fox gave a talk about 3 D printing under the name of Moving From 2 to 3 Dimensions. He had many samples to show. They were better than the home machine made things that I have seen, but still had lines and lumps in them. Chris said that, for jewelry he would go to a commercial site and have them make the object from a file he sent them. He could have it made in gold or stainless steel. Some shops will make a wax positive and then mold the object in gold or what you want it cast in. Other shops will laser sinter the object.

This being a smaller convention I was able to get some one on one time with an artist and heavy user of Photoshop, Tom Luth, along with some time with another person who knew the insides of Photoshop. With an engineering back ground I don’t think like an artist.

Simple problem, I have asked five digital artists what the multiply command does and I got seven answers. With Tom going over and over (I attended two sessions) I got a feel for what multiply does. I have problems with blending and these guys were a major help.

On Friday there was not a big crowd, but those that were there were hard core. I ran into two guys that drove in from Las Vegas, and I thought I had a rough drive.

A couple of digital artist commented that they liked to make their own brushes. The ones they showed were roughly round. They like the effect that that gave the edges of a line drawn with a rough shaped brush. Some of the personal brushes were squarish shaped. Having some exposure to traditional oil painting and a painter that said “I can do everything you can do with a air brush. With a number two sable, and faster.” I just use a round brush or a G4 pen, except for drawing grass or leaves. I bought a brush for leaves and grass and it saves a ton of time.

I got some serious information on how to shade in Photoshop that I can use in Clip Paint Studio.

Got more shading information form Anthony Washington. He likes to start with a blob shape and turn it into something. Something I saw Frank Kelly Freas do. Some of Tony’s drawings have over 500 layers (thick?). He showed how to take a picture of a cloud and make it into a fog background. He works with very short and hard time limits to get drawings done, so he needs all the short cuts he can find. He has a disk full photos he has taken of rocks/cliffs, clouds and buildings that he can modify and include in pictures.

In the panel on Saturday on Jack Kirby it was mentioned that Jack wanted to be an editor. I think he could have given Stan a run for his money. They talked about how the Hulk was gray in the first issue and green form there on. It was speculated that he was made green because Frankenstein’s monster was green. Was Kermit the frog green because of the Frankenstein monster?

There was a panel titled Killer B’s. It was not on Bees but a group of San Diego writers whose names can be construed as having a B in it. The four authors were Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, David Brin, and Vernor Vinge. Mr. Benford said he was 77 years old, that’s after he mentioned that he had four books in the works. That puts a lot of young authors to shame. Brin has a coming book I think it’s titled Chasing Shadows with a theme of everyone is so connected and knows what’s going on. It’s taken from a non-fiction work.

Greg Bear is doing a fantasy book The unfinished land.

David Brin mentioned that there are more sword makers now than in the middle ages.

Vinor Vinge is plotting a Singularity. A group of home owners out law the Internet of Things. What happens if they have to go into the connected world.

Gregory Benford wrote the Berlin Project. An alternate history book about the Manhattan Project. The General in charge of the Manhattan Project had to decide between separating uranium 235 from 238 by gas diffusion or centrifugal diffusion. He had the best scientist in the world arguing about which way was best. He chose gas diffusion and is now blamed for delaying the program a year.

In the book he chooses centrifugal diffusion and they drop the bomb on Berlin.

The poor General, and engineer. The brightest minds in the world can’t figure it out, but it’s the engineer that gets blamed when the project doesn’t work right.

Next year the Bowl of Heaven series ends with a book by Larry Niven and Benford.

There is an Author C Clark center for the Imagination at UCSD.

They got into a discussion about Libertarian and how the definition of the word has changed.

They agreed among themselves that Pohl Anderson wrote the first post singularity story.

Vinge wrote Bookworm Run. I remember reading that when it came out in Analog. They need to write more books like that. Benford read the story and recognized the author’s name. He walked down the hall to Vinge’s office at UCSD and met him.

Robert A. Heinlein came up with the word sci fi.

Brin, I think said that there is a 35 year limit on copywrite being held by a publishing company. He is going to offer all his books to the next company that gives him a contract, since his books are over 35 year with the publisher.

More on 3D printing. There are free models on Thingiverse. You take a model as a base and change it to what you want.

Heroforge is for gaming figures.

If you get a 3D printer get one with a metal frame. That’s his advice.

If you get a ABS printer get a heated bed and it should be enclosed. ABS warps. PLA is a better beginners material.

Mars rover.

2000 sols (Mars days) five years and 11 miles. Mars sky is not black because of dust.

The pictures he showed were color balanced so rocks would look like the rocks on earth.

Cameras have had pixel damage, but it is not bad.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Photoshop and Clip Paint Studio bug in Windows 10, caution rant

The April update to Windows 10 has a bad feature in it. If you use Photoshop or Clip Paint Studio and draw fast, after three strokes, the pen or brush tool will change functions and you don’t want it to. I find the pen tool will become the move tool or alternate between the move and pen tool.

I took my Surface Pro 3 to the Microsoft store and they did not know about this problem. The tech there tried three different versions (old, very old, and new) of the pen that goes with the surface. They all gave the same results. He checked my drivers and they were all up to date. They did not have a computer with a drawing program installed other than Microsoft Paint. Microsoft Paint worked fine, so Microsoft knew there would be an impact and spent the time and money to up date the Microsoft Paint program.

At a presentation at the San Diego Comic Fest the presenter had the same problem with a Cintiq drawing tablet. It’s very embarrassing for a professional artist to stand before a crowd and have the equipment go nuts. Makes you look very unprofessional when that happens.

Attending the presentation was a programmer from Adobe. He said to turn off Microsoft Ink. That also turns off many pen functions.

Someone from the audience loaned the presenter an Apple computer and the presentation went on. Microsoft and Wacom lost a user who now is an Apple user.

The Adobe programmer said that Microsoft did not notify any drawing program developers or vendors that they were changing the basic way Windows 10 works with drawing programs. Microsoft did change their paint program. It will take weeks for Abode and Clip Paint Studio to change their programs and make sure the bugs are out of the changes.

This is too convenient and sounds like Microsoft did this to get rid of any old paint like programs. This accident will force users to drop the old programs if the program is no longer supported and go to Microsoft Paint. Microsoft Paint is not a photo editing program and does not have the power or features of Photoshop or Clip Paint Studio. I do not use Coral Painter or GIMP, but I suspect they no longer work correctly. If you are a windows 10 user who makes a living from a paint program you will have to take much longer to do your work. Many users will give up and go to Apple. They don’t have the time or patience to wait for a fix, and there is no guarantee that this will not happen again.

My main computer died and I was thinking of buying a Wacom Cintiq or just settle for Surface note book, but not any longer. I don’t like the over priced Apple computers, but I need a computer that works.

Stay strong, write on, try Linux

Professor Hyram Voltage

The Tortoise and the Hare. The spirit of the turtle is alive and well.

At the WritetoDone (https://writetodone.com/) web site, in her article How to Write and Publish Your First Book 2: Beat the Mid-Way Slump; Create a Book, the author Mary Jaksch (yes, I checked the spelling) writes about a slow and steady runner Cliff Young who beat the young and fast “serious” runners.

I Goggled Cliff and here’s a summery.
Cliff Young was 61 when he entered the Sydney to Melbourne ultra-marathon. That’s over 875 kilometers (544 miles). It takes 7 days for serious, trained runners to make it to the end.
He wore regular pants that he cut holes in for ventilation and his work boots. He was up against 10 young men who ran marathons and wore specialized clothes. His running style is still called a shuffle.The racers run 18 hours and then sleep for 4 to 6 hours. Cliff slept for 2 hours and shuffled on.

Five days 14 hours later with little sleep and a steady shuffle he won the race, ten hours ahead of everyone else.

Cliff did prepare. As a young boy on his family’s farm they did not have a car or truck. He would go out during storms and round up the family’s sheep. This would sometimes require running after the sheep and herding them for two or three days in terrible weather. He claimed he always got all the sheep. Before the race he practiced by herding cows on his farm. I have chased after cows and it’s not easy to catch or herd a cow or a bunch of cows.

The next year Cliff entered the race again. He finished seventh place. Hey, he was now 62 years old and suffered a displaced hip during the race, but he finished his second race and he wasn’t last.
They laughed at Cliff when he entered the first race. Maybe someone laughed at you when you told them you were going to write a book.

Finish your book, that is the best revenge you can get from those who laugh at you. It doesn’t matter how fast you write, how new or fancy your computer is, or even if you have a computer, what counts is finishing. Finish, even if you only have a worn down pencil and the back of an old budget print out from work to write on. Rewrite, edit, learn how to make your story the best story it can be. It wasn’t easy for Cliff (try walking 500 miles in two of weeks, that’s 35 miles a day, not impossible, but a lot of walking), and it won’t be easy for you.

This blog begs the question, “Are you a turtle?” If you were in high school in the 60s you’ll know what I’m talking about. My answer is recorded.
If your wondering, there are no tortoise in Australia.

Stay strong, write on, and shuffle past the hare.
Professor Hyram Voltage.

Gaslight Gathering 2018 report

Just got back from the weekend Gaslight Gathering convention. A nice little convention in San Diego, CA. The drive form Fiasco Manor was not bad this year. No, major stoppage at San Clemente, and the air current were very favorable, I had a tail wind the whole way there.

The gathering was in the Handlery hotel on hotel circle north. Parking for check-in is always a hassle at the hotel. They can only handle four cars checking in at one time and there is no place for anyone else checking-in to park.

The attendance was good. The crowd was very friendly. At the last gathering I was desperate to find out how authors could find Beta Readers. This year I wasn’t in such a panic, but I’m an author and an endless fount of questions.

The vendor area was smaller this year. If you are going to sell clothes bring larger sizes. I’ve got to lose weight.

I did buy several books. As an author I value those who hustle in getting out there and selling their books. Buying their book also gives me an excuse to badger the author with questions. This is quality, one-on-one, face time with someone who is dealing with the same problems I’m dealing with.

I was admiring the large lens of a professional photographer that was at the gathering. Jake Klein and I got to talking about the lens. It’s only f 2.8 but it is a lot of glass and heavy if you have to hold it for a time. He just sent his daughter off to college and she told him to go live life. So, he has sold most of what he had and bought a mobile home. With it he is starting a tour of the country. He’s a friend of Doc Phineas and when the Doc heard he was hitting the road and would be heading for San Diego he suggested, as Doc would, that he stop by the gathering.

Jake said he would post pictures of the gathering, much better than I could take, at www.photogtravels.com. You can also follow him via his web site as he photographs his way across the country.

One of his suggestions was to get a Canon 430 EX flash (refurbished)(I use canon cameras, so the flash works with my cameras). It’s small but throws out a good amount of light. He also had some suggestions for closing down the aperture of the lens (called stopping down) to take better flash photos.

It may not have been about writing but it was good information.

Picked up a couple of books from chief inspector Erasmus Drake and Dr. Sparky McTrowell. Of course I extracted my pound of information from them. These authors are good. I was impressed with the plots they generated. Even when I do it myself, it’s hard to figure out where someone get such a good ideas. I’ve had an audio show broadcaster asking me for short audio, like old time radio broadcasts, scripts and this may help me generate some. I find writing short pieces hard. I use to write short stories for magazines (I got a lot of rejection slips for my efforts). Now I find it hard to write short works.

I have a soft spot for brass. I picked up a small cast metal octopus from the vendors Rae Wolf Designs. I took it over to Shannon at Gears & Roebuck where she painted it to look like brass. One of these days I will get the foundry set up so I could cast my own designs, but that would take away from my writing. I did get a lot of information from Gear & Roebuck about how to color plastic to get it to look like metal. Metal is good, metal is durable, I would build with metal if I had a choice, but metal is heavy, very heavy and very expensive.

They had a presentation with a hand puppet. A fun little show. Got some information on puppets and a couple of pointers on the attitude of characters. You need goons in your writing, not cardboard characters (even if they are part cardboard).

I had a good conversation with Roller Derby enthusiast and Steampunk writer Aidan Caisse. He’s turning out books and I bought one. We talked about roller derby and writing. Got some good information from him. He was working on a tablet during the quiet periods and by stealing minutes here and there he managed to turn out a chapter for his next book.

The ice cream social was good. I like ice cream so there is not much not to like. I got to telling old sea stories to a very young kid. The kid was into computers and Tesla coils. This kid could go places.

The talk on casting objects was way more popular than the presenter thought it would be. He ran out of corn starch that he uses for a hardening agent for the molds he demonstrated how to make. They had to bring in several more tables for all the attendees. The smell of vinegar was strong while everyone was making their mold. A few coin cells and some plastic that melts in hot water (Instamold) and you could be turning out glowing objects by the dozens. When I got back home I found that the Instamold, he was making the finial item out of, is sold as a material to make molds. Great Steampunk idea to use something for the opposite of what it was made for. The presenter used RTV that you can buy from the hardware store, (it has to be 100% silicone RTV), to make the mold and the Instamold to make the object. His secret sauce was to add corn starch to the RTV to get it to harden in a reasonable time. The RTV needs water to make it harden and the RTV forms a skin that stops water from getting to the bottom and center of a blob of RTV. The corn starch has water inside it, so it hardens the RTV all the way through quickly.

I will have more in the next blog.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage