Adventures around the web August 5-9, 2017

Even though it’s August, the signs of fall are already showing up in Washington, DC.  I went to the farmer’s market in Old Town Alexandria this weekend and the first of the apples were for sale.  It’s hard to believe the summer is almost gone.  It always seems so short!

Kevin Tumlinson on Medium

Self Publishing Destroys the Universe

Post is courtesy of the writer above.  It goes after all the nonsense that self publishing means the books are terrible, or that somehow writing fewer books a year ensures quality.  A lot of silliness debunked.

World War Wings

Rare Footage of the Blackbird’s Last Flight

My father worked for Lockheed in Burbank, the company that developed the Blackbird.  One year, we went up to Palmdale for an organization day, and the Blackbird was on display.   I remember it had a guard in front of it and seemed kind of small.  I recently went to the Smithsonian, where the plane is on display.  It was huge!  I had to ask my father what he remembered, and he thought it was small, too.  So that one many years ago might have been a test model or one for display.   The video shows footage of the jet flying and landing.  Link from Wayne Guenther, Desert Storm veteran.

Helen Sedwick on Bookworks

5 Legal Myths That Writers Still Fall For, Debunked

This hits a bunch of myths floating out there that I’ve heard, like mailing your story to yourself.  The one that stands out most for me is #3.  There was a big lawsuit when a writer published a book with a very recognizable person in it, just renamed.  The individual was so recognizable that people who had read the book were commenting on it to her.  The writer was sued and lost.  Link from Anne Allen.

Orson Scott Card on Galaxy Press

Are We At the End of Science Fiction?

This is an interesting look at the science fiction genre.  It hasn’t sold well for a long time–I’ve seen several resources say the low sales are because they don’t have happy endings.  I’ve found myself passing on a lot of stories because the world has ended and humans are fighting for survival, and it’s such a negative for me that I don’t want to read it.  My own dream–completely outrageous–is that I want to be the writer like J.K. Rowlings who does that for science fiction.  Link is courtesy of the Writers of the Future Contest (I have three honorable mentions).

Tom on Feedreader

Information Overload vs. the Human Brain: Infobesity Causes, Symptoms, and How to Beat It

Overload is something I’ve had to look at because of my day job.  Most of the time management books talk about how to jam more in each day, not on how to push back on the sheer amount of data coming in a warp speed at us.  It’s always good to conduct a review of what we look at and drop anything that’s maybe not worth the time.  I’ve unfollowed sites that got too political over what their content should be, and others because they post way too many articles on a daily basis.

Kristen Lamb

Wonder Woman Vs. Atomic Blonde–What Truly Makes a Powerful Female Character?

I remember seeing one of the first books with this strong (and armed) female character, and it was just magic.  It filled a hole left by characters who whimpered in the corner and did nothing to help themselves.  Somehow it evolved in books to smart-mouthed characters I didn’t like and in movies to characters who seemed to be men in disguise.  This is a good discussion on what Wonder Woman did.  We’ll see if the film industry gets smart…


Adventures around the web July 29-August 4, 2017

Manu Saadia on The New Yorker

The Enduring Lessons of Star Trek

Very interesting article on how Star Trek The Next Generation went away from Star Trek’s original concept.  It mentions one of the things that I always had problems with: people all got along with each other.  That made it hard to do stories that were about the crew, without having some outside influence intervene.  I know that idea originated with Gene Roddenberry, but still…

Joris Nieuwint for War History Online

When His Landing Gear Failed, This Harrier Pilot Made An Emergency Landing… On A Stool

The primary thing the military does is train.  Because in war, training’s all you have when things go wrong.  All the training comes in handy in this video.

Zack Walkter on Do You Remember

Meet the First Woman to Cycle Around the World (in 1895)

This is a pretty cool story–and it’s got photos.  This actually started because of a bet two men made!

Josh Jones on Open Culture

Enter a Huge Archive of Amazing Stories, the World’s First Science Fiction Magazine, Launched in 1926

Writers today tend to diss the pulp writers as “hacks,” usually stories unseen because they produced a tremendous amount of stories.  Somehow speed has become equated with poor writing, though this era produced Dashiell Hammett.  If you haven’t read any of his stories, those are really good.  Link from Harvey Stanbrough (spell checker gave me Gainsborough for his name.  Weird).

Gary Grayson

Gary and the Seal in the Scilly Isles

A charming video from Rhonda Hopkins. The seal wants a belly rub and a chin scratch!

The Importance of Writing Every Day

Writers get admonished all the time about writing every day, like if they don’t do something, it’s a terrible sin.

But the reason for it is simple: It has to be done every day so the habit will stick.

If there’s no habit, it’s easy to drop off it when life gets in the way.

And then months, or even years pass.

And it is hard to do starting out. It can take years to build the habit.

When I worked with a cowriter, it took 2-3 years to write one book. We primarily wrote on the weekends, probably produced a thousand words, finished, then revised the book. We started submitting to an agent, and I told cowriter that we needed to learn how to write a book faster. If we got a contract, we were probably going to get a year deadline.

He poo-pooed it, saying everything was negotiable. I was horrified. I envisioned myself struggling at the last minute to produce a book while he didn’t participated. It hit me that writing wasn’t even on his priority list.

But it needed to be on mine. We parted company, and I tried to write every day.

It didn’t always happen, but I was able to do it most days of the week. Some days I didn’t produce much. Some days I produced a lot. And there were days where I just needed to do something else. It wasn’t perfect, which was okay.

At the end of February, I broke my foot. It was a clean break and didn’t need any surgery (yay!). It was my right foot, so I couldn’t drive. I did medical telework for 10 weeks.

My foot in the boot

I could not believe how tired I was! The first week it was all I could do to get through the day just for work. Writing? Not happening.

I finished work, and then I went to sleep for two hours (in hindsight, I should have done half-days for the first few weeks, but really, I’d never broken any bone before so I didn’t know what to expect).

But every day, I missed the habit of going to my computer and writing something. So when my foot came out of the boot for good, I allowed for about two weeks of being tired, and then I started writing again.

Q&A on Productivity

Andrew Vaughn had a series of questions relating to productivity that I answered here.  I know one of them is not a surprise to the people here, but I still get people (and in fact earlier this week) who are like, “Wait?  You were in the Army.”

Yeah, that comes from being the least likely to join the Army …

Filing, filing, filing

I’ve spent the week cleaning out my files.  This was the result of reading a book called Organizing Solutions for People with AHDH.  I’m not AHDH, but I am right-brained, so there are some similar organizational challenges.  Filing has been a particular headache because it always seems so overly complex, and honestly, the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time on it.

The book focuses on simplifying filing, and also getting rid of what I don’t need.  That’s where I’ve been—going through what I do have and purging.  I’ve had horror stories with filing, so much so that at one point I purchased a filing system.

The system was color coded and worked pretty good, but over time, I began to find it overly complex.  Instead of using it, I started to pile because that was easier.

I’m cleaning out those piles now.  And hitting the folders in that filing system, and in most cases, getting rid of it.

I’m also finding old documents buried in the files, like receipts from 2004.  Yeah, it’s about time I got rid of that.

It’s been surprising to see how easy it’s been to accumulate papers because I might need them one day or I wasn’t sure what to save.  I was reading some message board posts the other day about someone taking very detailed notes from a conference so he could refer back them, and I found a file folder of notes from workshops I’d taken 3 years ago and never touched.

Sometimes it’s best not to let it get in there in the first place.

Quote about Time Management

I think I’ve read about a zillion books on time management.  Partially due to work, because work is sometimes like getting bludgeoned with everything all at once.

I found this quote on Cal Newport’s blog, and it really fits:

At some point, however, you have to put a stake in the ground and say: I know I have a never-ending stream of work, but this is when I’m going to face it. If you don’t do this, you let the never-ending stream of work push you around like a bully.

Writer’s Smart Book

I published three new stories over the weekend, and it made me realize I needed some kind of information sheet for them.  There were a lot of moving parts!

The military had what was called a “Smart Book.”  It refers to a book the trainees were given in Basic Training.  We kept it in our cargo pocket, where it got all sweaty and smashed up.  Any time we stood in line, we were supposed to have it out and be reading it.

What did it contain?  Basic things about the military, like rank.  Designed as a reference for the trainee and easy to read.

I decided I needed a “smart book” for my indie publishing.  The three stories below make ten (woo-hoo!).  Partially, the reason was that the process was starting to get complicated, and I didn’t want multiple files.  For example, I just downloaded an image for Rogue God, my novel.  I haven’t done anything else yet, but I needed to save the cover credit somewhere.

Smart Book.

Then there’s the keywords, which I can dash off at any time.

Smart Book.

So I have all the following:

  • Title
  • Original Title (because I have some stories I retitled, for various reasons.  Devil Winds was originally called The Devil Dances on Whisky Flats.  It sounded too much like a Western, and the new title is a much better one).
  • Type of manuscript (short story, novel, etc.)
  • Blurb
  • Submission History (where I submitted and dates rejected.  I hate, hate, hate keeping a spreadsheet).
  • Epublishing History (includes the price and the dates I published it; the categories for each vendor, since some of them varied, particularly on Foggy Paws; ISBN; Cover Image Credit; Keywords)

I like having it Evernote because it’s not much effort to access it.  I don’t fuss with tags; I just put them in a folder called Smart Book.  Meanwhile, here’s the covers to the three books.

Cover for Foggy Paws showing a girl and a dog Cover for Booby-Trap at Beaver River showing a woman standing on a cliff Cover for Devil Lands showing a desert planet

Password Day

Because I was snowed in by the blizzard, I used some of the time for a password day. The idea comes out a book called Perfect Passwords.

Pretty much, you change all your passwords in one day.

The purpose is to clean house, and especially get the old ones changed.

After so many hacks reported in the press, I wanted to make sure that it would be harder to guess what my passwords are. Unlike what we see on NCIS where they take three guesses and get it right, the hackers use a program to try different words, because most passwords are easy to discover.

Typical things people do:

  • Start with a capital letter (particularly a problem for writers!)
  • Have a number at the beginning or end of the password (no doubt because that’s easier to remember).
  • Use the same password in multiple places.
  • Don’t change it very often, or at all. Passwords have a short shelf life, and bad passwords have no shelf life.

The first thing was gather all the passwords together in one place. I had some in a spreadsheet, some in in my planner, some in a steno pad, and some not even written down. It turned out to be a bigger challenge than I thought.

I have over fifty passwords!

No wonder I was having trouble with them.

As of the writing of this, I’m still finding new ones. It seems like every site requires a password. Especially for writers because we might have Duotrope or Submission Grinder for tracking submissions; Submittable for submitting to most sites; and some sites that have their own password requirement as part of the submission process.

The second thing was to come up with a list of passwords I could use. They’re long sentences (silly in some cases; I had blizzard brain):

“run for it! the snow plows are coming!” the snowman on the bike said.

(That’s from a photo International Thriller Writers posted on Facebook for a contest and not an actual password. But the passwords are like that, and that long.)

Believe it or not, the longer ones with spaces are easier to type, even with the special characters. They’re also easier to remember than some of the typical IT recommended ones: sW$br*FRUcag72uDra. Heck, I’m not even sure I could type that!

Most of the passwords I came up with were such that I could add symbols or numbers, depending on the individual site requirements. I left spaces in where I could, since a space is a special character. A surprising number of sites let me do that.

What’d I do is try typing out the original password and see if the site took it. Not all of them were good about their guidelines, and even the ones that had guidelines didn’t mention that I could use spaces. So sometimes I was pleasantly surprised, and sometimes it was “Grr!” Because the site had a 24-character limit, or you could only use these particular symbols.

But I only got through about 25 passwords—it took a lot more time to do them than I expected, and I actually ran short of them on my list. So my goal is to come up with an ongoing list of potential passwords that I can pluck new ones from. Then I can do the last batch over time, and start the whole process again in six months.