Author on a budget

Working on my novelI’ve renewed one of my favorite interests: frugality. It occurred to me recently that I’ve become complacent in my spending, blowing through a lot of money that I probably don’t need to. Instead of eating lunch every day at work, I’m bringing it from home. Drinking tea at work and home is saving me money, not only from the price of coffee, but also by eliminating the temptations that go along with them: Scones, cookies, etc. I’ve looked for fun (free) outdoor activities to occupy my time, like riding my bike or playing disc golf. I’m saving going out for limited occasions.

So in examining all my spending, I couldn’t help but look at my writing. After all, right now it’s a money-losing enterprise. Not a big money sink. I pay my editor, a copy editor I used to work with and fellow sci-fi dork, a friend price to edit my work when it’s finished. I’ve paid for the first four covers of Robot Awareness, so that expense is largely gone. (My short story will need one, so I guess I have one coming up.)

But that being said, should I still continue to sink money into it?

Continue reading

A run of good books II: Hunter S. Thompson’s The Hell’s Angels

hunter s thompson, hell's anges, reading recommendationsMy run of good books, which extended through my trip to Thailand, continued with Hunter S. Thompson. I’d long wanted to read this book, and added it to my kindle after reading an article that referenced it. I’m always curious about how I come across books, because I think it’s valuable when I think about how people might come across mine.
It’s safe to say that Thomoson’s book Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga didn’t disappoint. Thompson has a reputation as a druggie scofflaw, and miscreant known for more for his eccentricities than his writing. That, no doubt, thanks to his portrayal in movies such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the lesser known Where the Buffalo Roam.

And that rep isn’t necessarily unearned. Thompson was as much a part of counter culture as he was a reporter of it. But that only makes Thompson’s book about the Hell’s Angels that much more real. Because throughout the work he combines extensive research with plenty of firsthand experience. He spent an enormous amount of time with a Hell’s Angels chapter, and went on several now infamous runs with them. But he was, of course, never one of them, as he found out the hard way.

Continue reading

A run of great books, starting with Nick Cole’s The Wasteland Saga

the wasteland saga, nick cole, ebook, indie pubI’ve been on a run of great books lately. So I thought I’d share (and will likely post individual reviews afterward).

It really started with Nick Cole. I read the first book of his The Wasteland Saga, The Old Man and the Wasteland. The book focuses on the Old Man (his series tends to use generic names for its protagonist) and his journey through post-apocalyptic America. In the wasteland world, most of America’s major cities were destroyed in a war that we only learn bits and pieces about. In that way, we see the war through someone who doesn’t remember what pre-war America was like.

In his second book, we get that perspective in our main character, boy. Boy, who latched on to Sergeant Presley, a mentor and later disembodied voice he’s not entirely sure he’s imagining, navigates this new wasteland, attempting to see the cities the good sergeant told him tales of.

Continue reading

Inherent Vice: A review

inherent vice, novels, ebooks, movie, reviewThe Atlantic posted a pretty interesting look at Thomas Pynchon, in light of his movie coming out in December. Pynchon has an unusual style that turns some off but draws a pretty good swath of converts.

I’m not sure if I became one of them, but I will say I enjoyed Inherent Vice, if even at the end I wasn’t sure what the point was. As The Atlantic later put it in its review of the film, “It’s about a pothead bumbling about L.A.”

That pretty much sums up this story about stoner private detective Doc as he works to solve the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend and her millionaire new lover in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Along the way he nearly gets killed, gets high a lot, ends up on frantic car chases with a mentally ill woman behind the wheel (the subject of his first-ever investigation, it turns out) and plays a cat and mouse game with his police “friend” Bigfoot.

He solves the case, sort of (it might be better to say that the case sort of solves itself, or maybe turns out to not need solving). Perhaps that’s the point of Inherent Vice, that crime and sin are a natural part of the culture in which Doc exists, and have a way of passively sorting themselves out. As a PI, Doc is the antithesis of the hard-boiled detective of crime noir novels. He’s a hippy bumbling his way through investigations, getting high and having a lot of sex. But like Columbo, the bumbling is at least something of a ruse; he’s more competent than he let’s on (both to us as readers and to other characters). People underestimate him, and that’s both his charm and his schtick.

Did anyone else who read this book think of the Big Lebowski when reading Doc’s exploits?

Robot Awareness: Part II is out!

ebook, robot awareness, robot, sci-fiIt took far longer than I wish it had, but Part II is finally out! If you’ve been reading Part I and couldn’t wait to hear what happened next, please check it out here: Robot Awareness: Part II

One disadvantage in publishing the ebook so long after the first one is that I forgot a lot of what I’d learned the first time. Publishing on Kindle is fairly easy, but not completely. Here’s my process:

  • First I publish the book through Lulu. I never promote it on Lulu because at $0.99 I make nothing (They take a buck off the top of each sale). I use Lulu because publishing through them gives you a free ISBN number. (You know, or you can pay $130 for one.)
  • Second, I select all the options to sell to other sites EXCEPT Amazon. I like to have the book available on other sites, but I don’t actively promote them. Again, I’m mostly in it for the free ISBN.
  • Lastly I publish on Amazon. Why do this last? Not only do I have a nice ISBN to enter in the right field, but I also not have the book in epub format, which I can then convert to mobi, an easy format to upload to Amazon. Amazon gives you a nice reader emulator to double-check that everything looks right.

I still saved a lot of time compared to my first attempt. The formatting through OpenOffice (heading 1 for your chapters and text body is pretty simple, but if you use italics you’ll have to go back through and re-add them).

Now it’s time to sell! I’m working on dropping the price of Robot Awareness: Part I down to free (it’s trickier than you think). Keep an eye out for it to drop, or give it a chance at $0.99. I think either way you won’t be disappointed!

Wrapping up my latest short story, The Sand Runner

The Sand RunnerI’ve been dividing my time lately between editing all the chapters of Robot Awareness that I’ve written, and writing new material. Most of that new material is coming in the form of short stories.

So I’m happy to say that I’m nearly finished with my 10,000-word story, The Sand Runner. I couldn’t have told you how long it would be before today; but now I can, because I only have the ending to finish.

What’s The Sand Runner about? It’s basically the story of a woman training to be a military ultra-runner scout, on a desert planet where earth’s forces are fighting an alien named the Veraqui. The caveat is that a dampening field surrounding the planet nullifies any technology, so the fighting is fairly primitive. But our main character, Gina, discovers the Veraqui may have a weapon that operates in the field. The war may depend on her getting the information to her superiors without her enemy killing her, or worse: capturing her.

Gina is one of my favorite characters I’ve created, because I think she’s very real. She’s driven but full of self-doubt. She’s not the best of the best; in fact, she’s one of the worst in her training class. But she has the heart to keep going, no matter how tough things get. It’s not a story about how she keeps training to become the best; it’s that she trains to become her best, and has to hope that’s good enough.

So, the story should be finished soon. Look for this in early 2015!

Facebook needs to seriously revamp its reporting policies

Facebook stalking, facebook identity theftSo I discovered a Facebook message a friend had sent the night before while laying in bed reading my iPad. Some clown apparently thought it would be a good idea to use my images (along with someone else’s) to creep on women (apparently bartenders at one particular bar, it seems). The message went something like “You’re pretty, why don’t girls like you date me.”

I was more annoyed than anything. One more thing to deal with, I thought. But what I would find later made me realize how Facebook’s reporting policies do nothing to protect women.

What? You’re wondering. How did you make that leap? Read on, good reader.

Continue reading