Bug Out Kit

Here in South Florida, the hurricane season is upon us. With that in mind, I’d like to remind all my friends that even if you live up north or out west, there are lots of things that can happen that might put you in danger. Plan ahead and keep yourself and your family safe. One way is with a bug out kit just in case your home or neighborhood becomes uninhabitable.

This is not designed as a long-term camping solution. Rather, it is intended for a three-day survival pack. The idea is to look innocuous and yet be able to walk to safety without outside support.

Do NOT forget spare glasses and prescription medicines.

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Self-Publishing Tools

Here’s a list of some of the common tools that you’ll need to create your own ebook. I’ll be exploring each category in more detail, in a later post.

Word Processor

This is what is used to actually write the story. Some of the more popular choices are:

  • MicroSoft Word (Part of the MS Office suite of programs)
  • LibreOffice (Free and Open Source Software)
  • WordPad (An unadvertised part of Windows 10)

A quick tip: Do NOT use tabs! Use styles, instead.

Text Editor

At first glance, a text editor looks like a word processor, the difference is that it only handles the raw text. There are no fancy typefaces, headers, footers, notes, page numbers, etc. It is useful to strip all the extraneous code from a document prior to final formatting. The most common are Notepad for Windows and TexEdit for Macs.

Image Editor

This type of software is used for internal graphics as well as cover art.

  • Adobe PhotoShop (commercial industry standard)
  • GIMP (Free and Open Source Software)

Web Browser

A web browser is used for your email, research, backing up your Work in Progress (WiP), and eventual publication.

There are dozens of programs used for web browsing. The most popular are:

  • Internet Explorer (IE)
  • Chrome
  • FireFox
  • Safari.

These four account for most of the browsers in use, worldwide.

Backup!

Let me take a moment to remind you that anything you have stored in one place is vulnerable. If you don’t backup your work, sooner or later, you will lose it.

There are backup options available for Macs, PCs, Linux, and Smartphones.

No excuses. Just do it. You’ll thank me later.

You say you don’t know how? Here are a few Backup Options.

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STATISTICS FOR THE VIETNAM WAR

NOTE: I did not write this. It was shared via email and I decided it needed an entry in my blog. If the original author wishes to contact me, I’ll be happy to credit them.

Here are some updated statistics concerning Vietnam era service. I am surprised at the survivors update at the beginning of the stats.
In case you haven’t been paying attention these past few decades after you returned from Vietnam, the clock has been ticking. The following are some statistics that are at once depressing yet in a larger sense should give you a HUGE SENSE OF PRIDE.

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3D Printing

A Romanian modeler is trying to make a living from selling the pattern files for 3D printed truck models. It is a niche market, at this time. Check out this article, then consider…

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I know a couple of other people, including Ed Traxler, that are making money in niche markets in this manner. No one is getting rich just yet, but I think that companies that make plastic models will soon find themselves downsizing like mad.

We’re going to see 3D printers become common over the next ten years. Like the book publishing industry, the actual creative person will become more important than the manufacturing process. I think the only real value large companies will have is in the editing, advertising, and distribution channels. Large-scale injection molding plants will be shut down. Along with their demise, all their support jobs will go as well.

What do you think?

Gimme A Chance

A few years back, I woke up with a song in my head. Nothing would do, but I had to get up, sit down at the keyboard, and finish it. When I was done, I sent it to a good friend, with the following explanation. Just for the record, I am not a musician.

“I woke up this morning at 2am, with the chorus and about half these lyrics tearing through my mind. I started writing them down and less than an hour later, this was done. I knew from the start, how the tune was going to sound. Before it slipped away forever, I recorded it after taking Bren to work this morning. The MP3 file is attached.”

Here’s the recording.

Gimme A Chance

[spoken slow]

Sometimes, you jes gotta gimme a chance

[steady, driving beat]

Friends an’ family grin an’ laugh
At the awful sounds comin’ outta th’ bath
A basement mike an’ nobody’s home
Ah’m learnin’ time with a broke metronome
Whisper gimme a chance
Oh yeah gimme a chance

Interstate miles go whizzin’ on by
The radios off but ah’m feelin’ high
At th’ sound of th’ drumbeat on the wheel
And th’ musical notes that only ah feel
Jus’ gimme a chance
Oh yeah, gimme a chance

First by a campfire, then in a bar
Then to the passengers in my car
Finally ownin’ th’ tune between my ears
Enjoyin’ the sound ’cause it’s taken years
Singin’ gimme a chance
Oh yeah, gimme a chance

You see th’ music’s locked up deep inside
I cannot run an’ I cannot hide
It ain’t fortune or fame
But escapin’ th’ pain
Jus’ gimme a chance
Oh yeah, gimme a chance
Please, gimme a chance…

Gimme A Chance, copyright 2012, by E.C. Field aka Anthony Stevens

First Lines

I know we’ve all heard at one point or another, that opening lines or paragraphs are crucial to the success of a story. Awhile back, I was chatting with some creative friends and the topic of terrible opening lines came up. Off the top of my head, I invented the following sentence.

Shivering in sodden furs, Koragh peered out of the cave as hurried clouds shed fetid streams.

I was surprised when several people responded favorably to it. After some thought, I put it in the first line of a new story and let it grow. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised at the short story that came from what I thought was terrible. Here’s the first couple of paragraphs:

“Shivering in sodden furs, Koragh peered out of the cave as hurried clouds shed fetid streams.”
Officer Mark Droves tossed the paperback over the seat. “Damn! I can write better than this crap.”
Officer Todd Davis almost choked on his cheeseburger before replying. “Well, why don’t you? Hell, you been braggin’ about knowing how to write ever since I’ve known you. So far, all I’ve seen have been a couple of pretty good short stories, and several hundred arresting officer reports.”

Let us segue to about a year ago. I was in the middle of editing a series of urban fantasy novellas and short stories. The goal was to create a single, cohesive novel with a few recurring characters. That horrible opening line was incorporated into a new urban fantasy novel. Since then, Shifter Shadows has turned into a one hundred and twelve thousand word tale that starts in early prehistory and ends in the near future.

With that bit of background, here’s a list of opening lines from some of my tales.

  • Shivering in sodden furs, Koragh peered out of the cave as hurried clouds shed fetid streams. – Shifter Shadows (urban fantasy)
  • A blacktop ribbon disappeared into the distance between rows of waist-high corn while a distant rumble grew louder and coalesced into a lime-green sports car. – Multiplarity (science fiction)
  • He stared at the bleak landscape and muttered to himself. “Dust. Nothing but dust. I hate dust.” – Multiplarity (science fiction)
  • Damn! It felt great to be alive! – Shibari Sails (modern pirate adventure)
  • Only a slight breeze ruffled the warm waters of the lagoon as the galleon swung free, seaweed and barnacles crusting her anchor chain, broken mizzen still waiting to be repaired. – Tinkerzdamn (fantasy)
  • This Monday was different. The moment her mother hugged her and tried to leave, Inara clutched the young woman’s leg and begged her not to go. –Shadows and Shades (paranormal romance)

What do you think? Do they entice you to read the rest? 

 

The Trouble with Names

Sooner or later, most writers run into a problem finding names for their characters. If one is writing a short story, two to four names are usually needed. A novel generally requires many more and, if the writer is creating series, then a hundred or more may be required. George R. R. Martin, creator of A Song of Fire and Ice, which inspires the HBO series, Game of Thrones, is reputed to have a four-drawer filing cabinet full of character profiles for more than six hundred named characters in his epic series.

With that in mind, I count myself lucky to have only needed a few dozen for each of my series. Even so, tracking them has become a challenge.

The trouble with names comes from two problems. In the first place, the writer needs to come up with new names on a regular basis. The new names should not sound too much like other names used in the same story to avoid confusion. As an example, Don, Dan, and Den, sound way too much alike to share the same paragraph, much less the same book. The same applies to Don, John, Ron, Tom. I’m sure any aspiring author can think of dozens of both male and female examples.

One solution that I’m sure has occurred to many of us is to Tuckerize the book. That means to use the names of family, friends, coworkers, allies, and enemies to fill the gap. This has its dangers as well as its rewards. Background on this can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuckerization

A more common solution is to search baby name websites for the perfect one. Don’t be afraid to mix-and-match names from various ethnic backgrounds.

Currently, I’m working on the last book in a trilogy of science fiction novels. There are characters from several ethnic groups and the last book even requires alien names. Since I’m dealing with some primitive aliens, I took a page from human history. If one looks far enough back into the mists of time, all surnames have evolved from a trade or skill. All the Smiths, for example can trace their linage back to one or more metal workers. I chose a handful of basic sounds to denote different skills within their tribal structure, then added other sounds to denote the individual. The first alien the humans meet is called CheeYok. In their language, Yok denotes a hunter, while Chee is his given name.

The second problem with names is keeping track of all of them. Even in the same novel, it is way too easy for an author to get lost while telling the tale and confuse character names.

There are both Open Source and Commercial programs to help track all the bits and pieces of creative work. Here are a couple of popular ones:

Scrivener is an industry standard. http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

Celtx is an excellent Open Source program used by scriptwriters, comic artists and novelists. https://www.celtx.com/index.html

On the other hand, I’ve found simple works best. My solution is to use my favorite word processor, LibreOffice Writer, to create two files for every novel. One file is the actual work in progress, while the other contains a list of character names and profiles, in order of their appearance, an outline of major plot points, and a list of URLs that have provided research data. When the first draft is finished, I send both the first draft and the notes to my editor.

I hope this is helpful and, as always, I’d love to hear what works for you.

Good luck and keep writing!

The Inner Workings

Introduction

Let me preface this by mentioning I’n a bit of a history nerd. When I started to write a short dieselpunk story a few years ago, I knew the overall background for my tale. I also knew I needed a realistic setting.

The first step was to create a sub-folder under the folder I have my Work-In-Progress and call it research.

Research

A central part of the tale takes place on the coast of south east Australia. Here are some of the steps my research led me over the next few months.

  1. I started with Google Earth and carefully examined the current cities, seaports, and terrain of SE Australia.
  2. I chose an area from the city of Albany, up to Waychinicup National Park, and Bald Island.
  3. My characters needed a fictional community so I had them develop it on the shore of Two Peoples Bay. That was the easy part.
  4. Next, came research on the history of that area from the turn of the 19th century up until WWII. This part of the project turned into more than 26 pages of URLs, notes, and dozens of photographs in my research folder.
  5. Beside humans, my tale also features a dozen or so machines as characters. Two of these are fictional, but based on existing devices. The rest actually existed in that timeframe. Here’s a partial list:
  • Zeppelins – High technology airships between the two world wars.
  • Schnellboot – German coastal warcraft, similar to the US PT boats.
  • Cloud Dancer – Littoral Combat Ship with a trimaran steel hull, two seaplane catapults, and heavily weaponed.
  • Cloud Singer – A huge and well-armed airship
  • Kingfisher seaplanes – Use a lot during WWII
  1. The next item was a detailed timeline of the events. At this point, I planned to cover two generations of the families involved. I didn’t want my readers to be confused by any logic bombs. This was actually a two part process. In the first part, I created a timeline of real events, along with quotes from historicaly figures that would play background roles in the story.
  2. A list of Australian mineral resources was added to my research notes.
  3. A page of notes on the Aboriginal peoples of Australia prior to and during WWII.
  4. Notes on the Indian Empire (British Raj) at the turn of the century.

Captiva Press

The first short story was released in both ebook and print format by Captiva Press as “Crazy Taylor”. I immediately realized there needed to be a sequel. Unfortunately, Captiva Press closed shop due to family and health issues, a few months later. “Crazy Taylor is not available at this time.

Airship Legacy

Crazy Taylor languished on the shelf while I was writing other tales over the next couple of years.

When I decided to setup this website, I worked with an editor to rewrite some of my previous works. A few of them had been previously published and a few have never seen the light of day before.

One day, I reread a gothic horror short tale I had written as a halloween project more than seven years ago. It dawned on me that it was actually the first chapter of a much longer steampunk tale. As soon as I started working on that, I realized it was the steampunk preguel to Crazy Taylor. The die had been cast and I got to work.

The dieselpunk short story has grown into a crossover work-in-progress of more than eighty thousand words. The new title is Airship Legacy and I expect it will be published third quarter of 2015.

The images below are part of my research notes. At this point, I’m looking for some beta readers for Airship Legacy. Drop me a line if you would like a preview.

These images are the original cover for Crazy Taylor, a promotional postcard showing the Cloud Dancer, and my original design for the Cloud Singer littoral warship.

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