Traditions

At the ConDor XXVI convention in San Diego I attended a talk on Space Navies and Space Marines.

During the talk they got off on the subject of traditions. I felt that one thing they missed is traditions are kept because they are useful.

There’s a simple tradition on board U. S. Navy ships when a rover (a sailor that patrols the ship) hands his weapon to his relief. Although his weapon may be unloaded he never points it at his relief who’s standing in front of him. The sailor going off watch unloads the weapon, checks to see it’s unloaded. Returns it to his holster and then hands the holstered weapon to the his relief.

And yes there have been people shot because they skipped a step. The relief belts on the holster and then repeats the checking of the weapon. There are no bands playing, but this tradition is written into the books.

Other traditions such as ringing the bell to mark time may date from when sailors could not afford a watch and could not read one. You stand a four hour watch and studies have shown that after four hours your efficiency falls way off.

The general discussion was will future space ships be structured like Navy ships or like airplanes. After working for the U. S. Navy there is no doubt that space ships will be structured like Navy ships. Airplanes do not stay in the air for weeks or months at a time. If a light bulb goes out on an airplane the pilot does without till he can land and someone on the ground replaces it. If a light bulb goes out on a ship a sailor requisitions one out of ship’s supply (it’s usually hidden somewhere under a deck plate) and replaces it. A Navy ship carries replacement parts, even a big bomber aircraft does not. A navy ship has sailors on board to repair things, an aircraft does not. If you break down in space you have to fix your craft, or it’s a long wait for a tow truck.

A space craft has to carry as little as possible to save weight (mass). If the person who calculates what could break during a mission to determine what spares a craft should carry and they miscalculate the crew on the ship could die.

It’s called logistics and logistics saves lives.

There will be checklist for everything. In space one mistake and it will kill you. Now and in the future you will have a virtual assistant to make sure you do your checklist and watch you do it. Checklist will be the new tradition.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Don’t Let Goals Limit Your Writing

If you’re like me you celebrate when you reach a goal. That’s not bad, BUT (and there’s always a but) don’t let that limit you.

You’ve accomplished a major goal, go ahead and celebrate, but don’t stop. You’re on a roll. Use the momentum. Push yourself. A break and rest are good, but don’t abandoned the goal. There’s always more to do. Think stretch goals.

If you’re a football player and you have the ball, you don’t stop when you’ve reached ten yards and gained a new down you keep running.

If your goal is easy to reach or it has become routine to reach then increase the goals. If you don’t grow, you don’t strive for better hard to reach outcomes you will be eaten alive.

Look at RCA. It was a huge electronics company. Now all that’s left is the name that was sold to a Japanese company. The letters stand for Radio Corporation of America and now it’s only a label to be stuck on Japanese things. What happened? The company lived off the income from a bunch of patents and when the patents expired they had no new products. They did not have a big engineering staff developing new products not related to the old patents.

Is this what is happening to HP and IBM? They stopped making new and revolutionary products. They fired their development staff to save money, lots of money. The companies are a shadow of their former selves and may soon become labels slapped on someone else’s products. Don’t let this happen to you.

Movie stars reinvent themselves every few years. They do this to keep from being typecasted. To keep fans from becoming bored with them. To explore new roles.

Do the same. Write under a new pen name in a different sub-genre or even a whole new genre. Increase your word count per day goal. Write for an extra hour. Set a goal to write one additional new book this year, up from the number of books you wrote last year. Will this require changes? Yes. Will this be good? Yes. Will you succeed? Who knows, but you will strive and good can come from that.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Now go watch Chris Fox’s YouTube video on motivation at;

Stop Setting Goals

Weeks before Christmas I started getting emails about setting goals for 2019. The authors were saying they used systems for setting goals like the SMART method. There were braggarts saying things like last year was a good year but next year their goal is to make seven figures. There are people like Joanna Penn who said her goal was not to do any speaking in 2019, so she could write more.

She’s set a tough goal, speaking brings in more readers, get you exposure and a chance to travel on someone else’s money. Let’s see if she can do it. She is one tough writer.

I guess the straw that broke the camels back was Chris Fox’s email/video that he sent out today (12-28-2018) link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYbiGJgmxyQ&feature=youtu.be
In the video he said that in his recent book release the ninety nine cent book or free book as a loss leader to attract new readers wasn’t working. He did not say that this was do to the recent changes in Amazon advertising. He did say that he was going to write six books this year. This is slowing down for him.

I can barely get a book out a year. So what I’m going to do is get two books out this year. To hedge my effort I have one book at an editor. I’m afraid this book will require a major rewrite and another trip or two through the editor before it’s ready to be published. I have the second book outlined and am working on editing the first draft. Unfortunately, it can take me a year to edit a book (and you think your first draft is junk).

Even with this head start it may not be enough. I’m busy. I have a fifty five foot radio antenna tower in my back yard that needs to be put up. I have a forty foot antenna tower that I need to find a new home for, along with doing something with the light duty 55 foot tower that I will take down to put the heavy duty 55 foot tower up in its place. For sale; cheap, two towers. Contact me at professor at professorvoltage dot com. I will deliver short distances.

It’s rained here so the garden is full of weeds and I have to do something about them now or they will over run everything.

The living room is so full of stuff I can barely get to the front door.

And I get distracted by any bright shiny thing that comes along.

Also I have to do these blog post every week and I put a lot of thinking into them, even if it doesn’t look like it. I got to get my web page updated and soon. I need a new author bio for Kindle and a better book description. The list goes on and on, and I haven’t finished working on the Christmas lights. Got to get them working before I put them away.

So don’t set goals. Work on your books. Build a process, set a time to write, and then write. Trade time watching TV for time to write. Buy that voice recording app for you cell phone that you’ve been meaning to buy and use it to write your next book. Read more book in your genre.

If things come up, go for it. Do it. Life is short. Do as much as you can. When you look back on the year you may feel sad that you didn’t get enough writing done. But you can look back and feel good about the friends that you helped when they really needed your help. You have no way of planning that they would need your help. You have no way to plan that you will make new friends. You have to get out and meet people. You can’t do that while you’re writing in a closet or even in a coffee shop with your don’t brother me expression/mode on. Roll with the punches, but carry a big stick. And above all, enjoy the good things.

Stay strong, write on.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Loss

A friend lost his house in the fires around The City of Ventura, California yesterday. I offered to help all I could, but it’s not enough. He looked in bad shape the morning after he had to evacuate. He couldn’t get back to his house to find out if it was gone or not. The police still had the area blocked off.

His neighbors saw their house burn. The neighbors house was across the street and up a little on the side of a hill. They could not see my friends house from the spot they saw the neighbor’s house burn. There were no fire trucks or anyone around the house when it caught fire.

All the pain of loss. There are many things in my friends house that can not be replaced. Things that have memories tied to them.

How do I or anyone capture the feelings, of loss, of the heartbreak of not being able to help, of being helpless for someone? How do you put that in a story? How do you make someone feel those emotions?

Stay strong, write on, stay safe. Things can be replaced, but you can’t be replaced.    Professor Hyram Voltage.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before a Steampunk Christmas
And all through the Castle and Keep
Not a creature was stirring
Not even the monsters dared make a peep.

The tree was trimmed
but underneath it looked so bare
waiting for presents
soon to be placed there

The guards were asleep,
in their barracks so quiet.
A couple of Mickey Finns,
insured there would be no riot.

The ice box was full
of good food and beer.
Tomorrow there shall be
lots of good cheer.

And I was in my laboratory
beneath the dungeon so deep,
assembling a child bicycle.
Tonight I would not get much sleep.

Bells rang, siren screeched.
Up periscope to take a peek.
Was it taxman, the swat team?
Was my electric bill over do this week?

Up to the ramparts,
I ran in a mad dash.
Out in the distances,
I saw a bright flash.

I pulled down my goggles,
to shield my eyes from the light.
The glare on the snow was so bright
it blinded my sight.

From the ramparts I saw
such a magnificent sight,
A sleigh pulled by 8 rocket powered reindeer
flew through the night.

The pilot of this missile
this airship dancing on flame,
threw levers and called orders
to the reindeer by name.

Up Rivet, up Washer,
Bank left Pan-head, and Lug Nut.
now right Cross-threat and Grommet,
fly on Set screw, and Wing Nut.

Only one person I knew,
could drive such a thing,
good old Robot Saint Nick,
had come once again.

Through the still of the night
I heard that jolly pilot call
Up to the turret,
now to the top of the hall
There are so many presents
we must deliver them all!

Just when it seemed
they would crash into the wall,
he pushed buttons, threw levers.
and turbo charged them all.

From above I could hear the pounding
of each mechanical reindeer hoof.
Followed by the noise
of a pallet full of toys hitting the roof.

I raced and I ran to the great tree in the Hall,
but I found he wasted not a moment at all.
The gleam of silver hands flashing in the lights,
his bright cheerful garments were a pleasing sight.

A wave of a little vacuum
that made so much huffing and puffing,
all the soot and ashes on his clothes
were gone as if sucked into nothing.

A smoke stack rose from his shoulder by his ear,
up and over his metal hair.
The puffs of white steam made crystals wreaths
in the cold winter’s air.

His eyes were glowing,
his brass cheeks gleaming.
He was quite a pleasing construction
this mechanical being.

There was a life in those eyes
and that shiny metal face,
and the room filled with mellow laughter
as he rushed about the place.

The present he placed with precision and care
he gave the room one sweep of his gaze
turned and bowed
and then with speed that left me in a daze

With pallet jack and bag
into the chimney he went.
He pulled on a cable
and was raised by a winch.

With quick motions he stowed
everything away
and with a hop he bounded
into his sleigh.

With a blast on a steam whistle
he turned and waved.
Then with a rocket blast
he sped on his way.

It’s been said many times
but could be no more truer than tonight,
Merry Christmas to all
and to all a good night.

Stay strong, write on, Merry Christmas.      Professor Hyram Voltage

It’s in the mail didn’t work in the 1850’s

When I was very young, I would stay with my grandmother. Grandfather ran his own business and Grandmother always got anxious when the mailman was due. There could be a check in the mail.

Back then the mailman came twice a day. Once in the morning and again around 3 o’clock.

In the 1850s there were not that many telephones, no radios, and telegrams were very expensive. You had to go see someone in person or send them a letter. You could send a letter in the morning to invite someone to tea and get a response that they would be coming well before tea time.

I haven’t seen a story that implies that the mail was prompt and delivered several times a day. Also there were messengers, professional messengers, not just any old person off the street.

How could they afford to deliver mail twice a day. Estimates for how much a 1850 dollars could buy today range from 33.33 dollars to 4000.00 dollars. I recently saw an inflation article that stated that a dollar in 2014 could only buy $0.13 in 1965. So I feel that a dollar today may be worth 1/2000th of a 1850’s dollar. That’s half way between the $33.00 and $4000.00 estimate. So a penny postcard would cost a dollar of today’s money or several dollars in today’s money.

Don’t forget that train service was good in the past and the mail traveled by train. Mail traveling by ship could take several days but it could beat a messenger.

People that lived before cell phones and telephones could and did communicate, some times weekly or even daily. Without telephones letter writing was the only way to communicate long distances and people took letter writing seriously.

Your story should take letter writing seriously.

Stay strong, write on, write a letter today. Professor Hyram Voltage.

Thanksgiving past

I went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of things for lunch. It’s a straight shot from the front door to the meat section. I headed to the meat case looking for an alternative protein for lunch.

As I was looking for the specials there were several people arguing about turkeys. This one or that one, the neighbors paid 49 dollars for a turkey.

I then realized it four days till Thanksgiving. Grabbed a package of turkey thighs and a box of dressing. I’m good.

I’ve been busy with projects. Time has got away form me. I’ve got friends coming in the day after Thanksgiving. I got to clean up the house, big time.

What’s this have to do with Writing Steampunk?

What was Thanksgiving like in 1880? There’s little information was on the web. Did they eat turkey? Dressing was common with most meals. It was a way to use old bread. You didn’t waste food in the 1880’s. Ice boxes were somewhat common. Ice was shipped in from the Northeast from ice houses where the frozen top of lakes were chopped up and stored. Still long term storage of food was hard to do. Some food could be salted, brined (as in pickled) or dried.

Canning wasn’t common. A lot of canning still used glass containers. Hard to ship the glass jars making canned goods expensive.

Your character could be working so hard on her river going pile driver hoping to win the new bridge contract that she forgets Thanksgiving is right around the corner. She has to make her mother’s famous turkey biscuits for Thanksgiving.

Or the hero is in a race to develop a steam powered crawler that can travel through deep mud to supply remote areas that has had their crops wiped out by floods. The storms and rain are stopping the air ships from making the run, and it cost too much to send food by airship.

Think of having your hero drop food out of an air ship. Supplying cattle trapped in a snow storm. The enemy cattle baron tries to shoot down and heavily damages your hero’s air ship. Saved by the native Americans that the air ship supplied earlier with food (the cattle food is grain and it wasn’t really meant for them). Think of the big show down between the air ship crew with the Native Americans against the Cattle Baron and his army of werewolf gunslingers.

Stay strong, write on, give thanks.  Professor Hyram Voltage.

A Time to Stop Writing

I stopped writing for the NanoWriMo challenge this year. I know you what you are thinking, he wrote for a little over one week and then quit.
I didn’t quite writing. I have two manuscripts setting here that need to go to an editor and they’re not ready for the editor to see. To paraphrase Ben Grimm, It’s editing time. And I mean massive edit and rewrite time.
It’s also time to find more Beta Readers to run the manuscripts by before sending them to an editor. Finding Beta Readers is proving to be a huge time sink. Why is it so hard for me?
I have a four inch pile of print outs, covered with multicolored notes to crank  into the second manuscript before I can start editing it.
I’m a writer of books. It’s time to turn those manuscripts into books. Right now I don’t need another manuscript. So why am I coming up with so many ideas for stories, fascinating ideas. It’s amazing how your mind can sabotage you.
Editing and rewriting is writing, I’m not goofing off. Editing is painful writing. Slow painful writing. Emotionally trying, heart wrenching writing.
I am getting my priorities straight. I have fallen back to the priority of writing books, not to writing manuscripts. I’ve got manuscripts, I need to get some book published.
Could the manuscripts be better? Yes, but as Stephen King put it, the way to write better books is to write more books. That’s books not manuscripts.
I did not quit. I traded my time I would have spent writing in the NanoWriMo challenge for time to edit and get my manuscripts edited and published.
Stray strong, write on, edit more. Professor Hyram Voltage

Write now all yee good writers

 

Now is the best time to be a writer, ever.

It’s not because the internet, Amazon and Kindle publishing, or ebooks has made it so easy to publish a book. It’s because more people can read than ever before. (UN statistics).

Recently Joanna Penn on her Sep 10th, 2017 podcast interviewed author Micheal Ridpath. He said that he made most of his money on foreign translations. He’s a UK author and has traditional publishing contracts for the UK, United States, and Australia.

It is still hard to get a book into overseas book stores. The publishers overseas have a strangle hold on the book distribution their country. This is no longer the case in the United States. So even if you hire a translator it is hard to get the translated book into books stores in the country of that language. I have faith that Amazon will not let that last much longer. Besides there are many people all over the world that speak and read English. Foreign publishers will pick up books in English for translation and sells in their country, but it often takes an agent.

If your going to write a book, now is the time to do it. There are more readers than ever before.

The paranoid among you may be thinking why would I, an author, give away the secrets to writing a novel to you for free. If the secrets were any good you could use them to write a book and take away my readers.

1. Authors don’t own readers.

2. Voracious readers are always looking for another book to read. We can both sell our books to the same reader.

Now let’s look at the math of writing a book. OK, that just turned off two thirds of the audience. (Your all sitting there going I’m a writer not a math teacher)

Surveys show that 96 % of people want to write a book. An often quoted statistic.

Only 3 % of those who start a book finish it. (from Jyotsna Ramachandran of the HappySelfPublishing.com web site).

Of that 3 % only 20 % publish the book. So out of a 1000 people I talk to, who go on to start a book only 3 % or 30 writers will finish the book.

Of the 30 that finish the book only 6 will publish the book. That’s point 6 % (0.6 %) of people that start a book publish it.

If you want to join the 1% go publish a book.

How many people who want to write a book, but never even start, I haven’t found that information.

If you finish your book, don’t give up. Get a professional to edit it and then publish your book. That’s an edit from a real professional, not a relative, teacher, or just anyone off the net. Research editors extensively before committing to one. There are many scams out there.

More bad news. Only a minuscule number of first time authors sell over 100 copies of their book.

Again, don’t give up. Many authors (published writers) I’ve talked to said that you have to write 5 books before you start to produce professional level books. I’ve lost count of the number of book signing I’ve gone to where the author has said that they have 1, 3, 5 or more books in a drawer that will never see the light of day. Those are usually the first books they wrote.

You may say that the author of Wool, Hugh Howey did it. Sold millions of his first book. Well Hugh had an old style publishing contract before he started writing ebooks. He wrote 7 books before Wool.

You say J. K. Rowling did it. Yes she did, but she spent 5 years pre-writing (I consider that a type of outlining) and doing character back grounds (in long hand) before finishing the first Harry Potter book. I think that taking a year to finish a book is about right for a writer with a child and a job.

Ms. Rowling spent five years working to become a better writer. That’s studying, reading, working at her craft.

5 years at 8 hours a day is about 10,000 hours. 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, that sound familiar. (See Malcolm Gladwells book Outliers).

Now go prove me wrong and write a best selling first book.

Stay strong, write on. Professor Hyram Voltage

The 10,000 league Journey of writing a book.

You know the old saying;

A journey of ten thousand leagues begins with a single step.

           Wear good shoes.

That’s good advice. If you get massive blisters before you finish your first hundred miles you may not finish the next 100 miles let alone make it to the end of the journey.

What are good shoes for a writer?

1. A pen that you don’t have to bear down on and will not skip. Pilot G2 is favored by many screenwriters. If you have an old ball point that you have to bear down on to get it to write you’ll end up with a sore wrist if you write a lot with it.

2. A computer. You don’t need a GAMING computer. Dell is going to have a black Friday sale on computers with one for about $130.00. It’s not the fastest, and the hard drive is tiny, but on a computer you can put words down faster than with a pen. You can also make corrections faster. And there will be corrections, it’s called editing and rewriting. Check out the keyboard before you buy. Never buy a computer that doesn’t feel right or you have to fight.

If you can’t afford a computer then go to a public library and use theirs. Get a Dropbox or Evernote account with free storage to save your writing on.

Don’t use Google Docs, the small print says Google can publish anything you write in Google Docs any time they want to. You want to publish your writing for money and/or credit, not to have someone else publish it for free.

3. A quite place. Anything that distracts your brain or mind is slowing down your writing. A distractions can even stop you from writing. Writing is hard enough, don’t make it harder by multitasking. Studies prove that multitasking slows you down. A multitask-er trying to do two jobs at once takes longer to finish both job than if he did one job, took a break and then did the other job. No distractions, no music, no TV, nothing (pets, children, objects) moving around you.

Put your cell phone in another room and put a thick folded blanket or folded towel over it. A study showed that people having a cell phone in the same area when taking an intelligent test made them dumber. (from David Burkus at the Super Connector Summit of 2017)

4. A good chair helps. You’re going to spend a lot of time in it. I’ve seen several writers take seat cushions to the coffee shop because the chairs where you can type get very hard after an hour or more.

The journey of ten thousand leagues begins with a single step.

                  Get a map.

Your not going to want to hear this, but if you’re going to make your living writing books you’re going to have to know where you’re going. That means you need an outline. Outlines make book writing easier and faster. Go buy a copy of 2,000 to 10,000 How to Write Faster by Rachel Aaron or 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox. To put 5,000 words per hour on paper on in the computer you’re going to have to type 84 words per minute. Can you think about a plot line and type that fast? That’s why you need an outline.

People like Stephen King (who does not outline) only has to write one book every so often. You are not him.

Writing a first draft in 21 days is doable, if you have written books before and have the outline done. People doing Nanowrimo (a writing challenge where you write a 50,000 word rough, first draft, manuscript in November) spend all Oct doing their outline. They only have to do 1667 words a day. An outline makes that a lot easier to do. If you only write on week days that’s 2273 words a weekday. Many people competing in Nanowrimo do not get 50,000 words done in 30 days, and they try very hard to do it. Some try year after year. And some have written and published books and they still can’t meet the Nanowrimo challenge.

If you write faster than someone who will not outline then your book will be out there for the hungry reader to buy before the writer who won’t outline (the wandering writer) can get her book done. You get the sale first and you’re started on your next book before she has finished her book.

Writing a book may take longer than you want it to, but you can do it, outline or no outline.

The journey of ten thousands leagues begins with a single step.

               Pack a good lunch.

What I mean is take care of yourself.

Get a timer and set it for an hour or no more than two hours. When it goes off get up and move around. Your body needs to move or you will make yourself sick.

Eat well. You’re doing a lot of sitting. Don’t eat and type, that’s the worst type of multitasking. It will also jam up your keyboard. Don’t over eat.

Sleep well. No sleep equals no think.

The journey of ten thousands leagues begins with a single step.

Talk to someone who’s been down that road.

Join a critique group. Get a mentor. Take classes. Go to conferences. They are a lot of people on the same journey you’re on, support and share with those fellow travelers.

Stay strong, write on, and take that first step. Professor Hyram Voltage

The journey of ten thousands leagues begins with a single step.

               Get a Fitbit

Just how long is a league? 1 League = 14763.7795 Feet or 2.79617037 Miles.

You got to pace yourself. Don’t burn out going to fast at first. Your on a journey of 27,962 miles. It will take time. There will be set backs. Still while you’re fresh and strong you should go faster than an even pace through out the process. I subscribe to not setting goals but have a process. You can go over or under the process limits with no penalty and not feel bad.