Welcome to the Center of the Universe

This summer my family and I visited the tiny scenic town of Wallace, Idaho. Wallace is primarily known for two things; it’s the town you see in Dante’s Peak that gets destroyed by a volcano and it’s the Center of the Universe. To be sure, you can stand in the middle of the town’s main street, right in the center of the universe and feel like you’re on a bonafide movie set.

Here’s the family selfie we shot with the famous manhole cover. I’ve wanted to come to Wallace and take this picture for years after my wife had done so on a business trip. How cool is it to say you’ve been to the center of the universe? Especially a Sci-Fi nerd like me!

Below is a close up that I think everyone takes in addition to the above selfie.

If you look down the street, this is the view you have, straight out of Dante’s Peak.

Now I’m a huge fan of Douglas Adams and it’s kind of hard to actually go to the Restaurant At The End Of The Universe, but you can definitely go to Wallace and claim that you’ve been to the Center Of The Universe.

Needless to say, we had a great time in Wallace. We toured a silver mine with a retired miner, walked the Polaski Trail and had lots of Huckleberry desserts. If you ever get to Idaho, you simply have to visit Wallace. Find the Prime Minister of Wallace, Rick Shaffer, you can’t miss him, he’s the tallest human in town, and tell him Ken McConnell sent you. Oh, and get a selfie with Rick, because he’s a Hoopy Frood!

 

 

Holiday Post

The holiday break is a busy time for me, not so much with work or family but with regards to my writing hobby. This year I’m cruising through the first draft of a novella. This will be the last Star Saga book I write for a year or so. Next year I’m focusing on editing and marketing. If I write anything, it will probably be another mystery novel. But don’t hold your breath for that.

I have four books that need editing and releasing next year. I don’t even have a real plan of attack yet. So I need to get busy and start finishing them and getting them out. I might just work on them one after another and then release them all at once. Flood the markets with four awesome books at once to see if I can build momentum.

So if I don’t do anymore posts until next year, it’s because I’m busy writing.

Happy Holidays and I’ll see you in January.

Plume Beta Sneak Peek

Thought I’d offer my audience a look at the latest Plume Beta, since it’s really not for public consumption yet. This being Beta software, things are not final and are subject to change. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s see what’s cooking for the next Plume Creator release.

Cyril has been giving the Project Tree an overhaul in an effort to make drag and drop smoother and faster. All his hard work is beginning to pay off, because in the limited testing I’ve done, it’s working great. Another new addition to the Tree is icons for Books, Acts, Chapters and Scenes. Yes, you read that right. Acts is new. As you can see in the screenshot below, your novel or book can now have Acts. Very cool. Kudos to Tushant Mirchandani, the new icons look clean and sharp. Again, things are in flux in this area, so the icons may change before the next release. Tushant is also responsible for the new layout options of the main screen.

PlumeBeta

Below is a screen shot of the Outliner which is now called the Workbench. This is where you are supposed to create your book in outline form. All changes to this Workbench outline immediately show up on the main screen shown above.

PlumeBetaOutline

There are more new features planned and I’ll let you guys in on them as I test them. Rest assured that Plume Creator is still very much in development and is getting better with every release.

Writing Tidbits 31 Aug 2011

1

Sending off the Starforgers manuscript to my editor today. Until I get it back, I’ll be working on the outline for Starveyors. Also doing a bunch of research reading for that next WIP. I’m also going to try and use Scrivener again for Starveyors. I like how that program lets you keep all your notes handy when writing. The author IDE concept is pretty cool.

2

First Thursday signing this week. I’ll be at Rediscovered Books for September’s First Thursday celebration in downtown Boise. Come by and get your paperback edition of my Mystery novel, Null Pointer signed, and chat me up for a while. I’ll be signing as my pen name, Johnny Batch. Not doing a reading, just signing books and mingling with readers. If you don’t have the latest version of Null Pointer, now is your chance to pick it up and get it signed!

3

Social Media thoughts. I’ve been using Twitter for years now. I was apparently an early adopter. I don’t have millions of followers, in fact I follow way more than follow me back. But I do enjoy the informality and spontaneity of Twitter. Especially in how it lets you talk to people outside of your regular circle of friends. But I don’t like how stupid it makes me look when I miss spell something and then have to suffer the inevitable corrections of people who never make such mistakes. Would it be too much to ask for Twitter to have an after the post editing feature like G+?

Speaking of G+, I really like it. If you follow me on G+ you will get longer insights into what I’m writing or thinking about than I can give on Twitter. I don’t see many readers on G+, mostly writers and tech people. I’m still looking for a decent way to connect to readers online that is not the horrific mess called Facebook. I’m all but off that one again.

Progress Meters Updated

The progress meter plugin that I had been using died. I think the author of it gave up on it. I found a new one and now we have colorful, page based progress meters again. I actually like this one much better. Dave’s Scribometer, in case you are curious. It seems to be intended for writers.

Starstrikers Universe Wiki

I’ve decided to start building a wiki for the Starstrikers Universe. When you build a SF universe to set your stories in and then write more than one book or short story in that universe, it gets real hard to keep track of everything. You also wind up with all kinds of notes, maps and pictures of the places you write about.

The best way to organize all of that and at the same time let your readers have a peek, is to set up a public wiki. A wiki is a web site that has all it’s pages linked together. The pages are easy to format and build and can be edited by people with that permission. The most famous SF wiki is the one created by fans for the Star Wars Universe called, Wookiepedia. The most famous wiki of all, is of course Wikipedia.

My wiki will not be that elaborate at first. It will just be me putting up things that I am working on, and over time it will become a valuable resource for me and for my readers.If you go there now, you will not find much at all. But come back in a few months and it could be kinda interesting.

Starstrikers Universe Wiki

Playing With The Netbook

Over the break I was playing around in the bedroom with my HP netbook running Ubuntu and an external monitor. I was trying to write and watch This Week In Google. What was I thinking? I can’t even listen to the show and write. So I just played around with the camera and watched the show.

IMG_0139

How’s this for product placement in my own blog? If only Leo Laporte and company knew about my fantabulous SF novel. Hey, a guy can dream no?

IMG_0142

Being A Writer In 2011

The news continues to be bleak for traditional publishers and big retail bookstore chains like Borders, while the news for e-books and self-publishers is getting brighter. What’s a writer to do? Do you stick with the old school and keep sending your queries out to agents or do you look into doing it yourself? Is there a middle ground?

I believe that the current flux in the publishing business means that writers have to adapt and change. Those that do adapt and change will be successful no mater what happens in the market. Those who don’t change will suffer. The days of writers only knowing how to write are over. Writers of the future will be authors, publicists, editors and publishers all wrapped in one. They obviously won’t be able to do all of these things as well as the professionals who do them now, but they will have to know enough to higher those who do know how and manage their own writing careers.

It’s scary and hard and it means less time to actually write. But that’s the challenge ahead for everyone who wants to be a writer. My advice to you?  Suck it up and adapt. It’s not worth expending your energy complaining about how times have changed. If you want to be a successful writer you will learn new skills.

Some necessary items in your toolbox are listed below. I don’t think you can be successful without having all of them.

1. Website/Blog

2. Social Media accounts at  Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads

3. Digital publishing accounts at Amazon, Google, PubIt and Smashwords

4. Newsletter

All of the above tools help make up your writer brand and define it online. You have to be able to juggle each of them effectively. You have to know how to set them up and use them on a regular basis.

STAY INFORMED

There is another responsibility for writers, and that is the need to stay informed about the business. You need to read what people in the business are saying about the business. Follow editors, publishers, agents and reviewers on Twitter and go to their blogs on a regular basis to read what they are saying. You can’t exist in a news vacum. I suggest using a RSS feed reader like Google’s Reader. It lets you avoid opening a zillion tabs in your browser and still read what people are blogging about.

Successful writers will always have to work on their craft. Take classes, go to conferences and study how other writers apply their craft. I try to read at least two books on writing or the writing business each year. Last year I read: The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, Warrior Writer by Bob Mayer, What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis, The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by JA Konrath, We Are Not Alone, by Kristen Lamb, Successful Novelist by David Morrell and Becoming an Indie Author by Zoe Winters. That’s a bit more than normal, but it was a crazy year in publishing and it took an extra effort on my part to keep up with it all. By the way, all of those books were e-books.

GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

You should be a member of a writing group. Not just a Critique Group, but a writing support group with monthly meetings. Get out of your den and meet other writers and talk to them. Be a positive member of your local writing community. I’m a member of two such groups in Boise.

Other ways to give back are to write about your writing experiences on your blog. Did you launch a new e-book? How did it go? What was the hardest part? What did you learn not to do? Tell us. It helps you learn from your mistakes and it educates other writers.

Go to conferences and participate on panels. Not everyone can be a panelist, but you can give talks to your local writer’s group or at your local independent book store or library.

EXPERIMENT

Don’t be afraid to test the waters. Change things and see what works. When 2010 started, I was not going to sell my short stories. They were intended to be gateway drugs to my novels and I would keep them free. At the close of year, I released 11 short stories as e-books on the Kindle. My opinion changed. I realized that having more product on the market was a good thing, be it more novels, anthologies or short stories.

I also changed my opinion on making POD books. I originally wanted to release the e-book and the POD book of Tyrmia at the same time. Now I have decided to release the e-book first, wait a few months and then put out the POD. E-books are selling far better than paper books for me right now.

I also raised the prices of all my novels from $.99 to $2.99 to take advantage of the better royalty and to build value in the books. This resulted in fewer sales, but I believe it helps build value and it lets me charge a buck each for my short stories. Which is very reasonable when you consider the price of a short story magazine.

OPTIONS

It takes a lot of time and effort to be a self-publisher. You have to learn so many things and juggle so many jobs. It’s not for everyone. But it does get easier the longer you do it. You get savvy to the ways of the business. But there are alternatives. In fact if you get overwhelmed, start small.

Get published by an e-book only publisher. There are lots of them cropping up so you will have to do your research and pick the ones with the best reputations and records. E-book only publishers are thriving and they are accepting great writers at a much better clip than the traditional publishers are.

Don’t want to do everything yourself? Hire out the cover design, editing and ebook creation. It will cost you more than doing it yourself, but if you have a great book and its put together properly, you will do fine. The gamble is that you have to lay out money initially to get a decent product to market. The reason I did so much of my first and second novels myself, was to avoid getting in the hole early. My novel sales are strong enough this year to be able to actually pay my cover artist and my editor. My goal is to make enough to cover those costs and still wind up with money in the bank to grow my business.

I don’t make a living off of my writing. But I eventually want to get to that point. I just don’t expect it to happen anytime soon. I’m two years into a five year plan on that.

However you do business in 2011, I wish you all the best in your publishing efforts.

Newsletter

One of my tasks to complete during the holiday break was to create and start sending out an email newsletter. Using MailChimp, I have completed that task. You will now find access to the newsletter, called Dispatches, in the main menu of the site. The first newsletter will go out on the morning of January 1st, 2011.

I’ll only be sending out these newsletters at the most, four times a year and at least twice a year. Unless something crazy interesting happens. Traditionally, odd numbered years have been good for me, so who knows what might happen in 2011.

Anyway, should you desire to join the newsletter, I thank you and welcome aboard!

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