Ports of Call

In engineering, logistics, and similar fields there is a concept called “point-source failure.” That is, the proper function of your mechanism, program, or process is ultimately predicated on one single thing working right. If it fails, the entire system fails. This, obviously, is something to be avoided and designed out from a project’s inception or as soon as possible.

When I first self-published my books, beginning in December of 2014, I was on Amazon. It was the only game in town. Later, I learned of Smashwords and have ported many of my ebooks there. More recently, StoryOrigin, where not only can I sell books, but make parts of all available for reviewers (I’m just getting started on that site). Just last week Helen Smith unveiled Helen’s Page with much more than just books. In the wings, I’m aware that Sarah Hoyt is working on yet another such outlet for indie authors.

I say all that to say this: it is just a matter of time before Amazon gets taken out by hackers, broken to pieces by regulators, or – most likely – I’m deplatformed for having heretical views of what the PoMoTranzi Party believes on any given day. In other words, a point-source failure.

Below the fold is one of the reasons I can only upload books to Smashwords twice per year or so. Exasperating.

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Talking, Coughing, Writing

Busy last several days. I have completed and uploaded all twenty-two parts of the audiobook version of “Friend & Ally.” Because ACX demands a square image for sales and marketing – of course it has to be different – I had to reach out to my very talented cover artist to try to turn a normal, rectangular book cover into the damned square they want.

In the mean time, I seem to have caught a seasonal flu. No, not the Chicom Lung Rot; calling off from work – my first time ever at this hospital – with seven of eleven “flu-like symptoms” meant I had no choice but to be tested. So: no BatAIDS but just a mild flu. Because I have a million things to get done at DayJob, I went in Friday for a partial day and again today, Sunday.

With shortness of breath and a dry cough, heading to the basement to start reading “Foes & Rivals” was out. Given that I accidentally made a writing exercise into the prologue of another novel, I decided to see where that may lead. For some reason, of Empress Faustina’s three adult sons, it was Edward’s movie which started rolling first. Below the fold is some of what I have learned about him. I’m going to come up with at least a working title for this stuff…

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Star Chamber Radio Waves

I mentioned this in a previous post, but to reiterate: in less than three hours I shall be live for an interview about my dozen, so far, books of Machine Civilization, on the Star Chamber Show on BlogTalkRadio. If you are not able to listen live, fret not: the shows are recorded and you can get a glimpse into my mind at your leisure. Cheers!

Libel and Slander

The mnemonic I developed for these is that “libel is literary and slander is spoken.” Neither of which has anything to do with this post.

Point One: the 650 raw minutes of the audio of “Friend and Ally” are complete. The first-pass rough editing is complete. Thanks to a friend’s gifted “how to use Audacity” course, it now is taking me 45 minutes to flog a chapter into shape for ACX rather than three hours. Better: I see how I can improve that for next time. The nagging issue is that I AM EFFING SICK TO DEATH OF HEARING MY OWN VOICE! I didn’t really hear it while acting (and audiobooks is voice-acting, not reading) but having to go through this twice…! Sick of it! And Wednesday is almost upon us!*

Point Two: I’d been sitting on the first three paragraphs of a micro-story for two months now. Again with Chief Daniel Hill, but this is at the other end of the telescope, when he first settled his people as the hundred million dead of the Breakup was happening around them. No such things as coincidences, a stranger wanders through their kononia.

*I shall be appearing as the featured guest on the Star Chamber on Wednesday, March 10th, at 2100 Eastern US time. It’s recorded, so don’t think you have to get up early or stay up late.

Below the fold: an unexpected visitor to the tribe of Sardis Lake.

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“Friend and Ally”: audio raws complete

Twenty chapters plus prologue and epilogue… that’s about 650 minutes. At least when I’m editing all that I don’t have to be in my Fortress of Quietude in the 45F basement. Step one will be removing my screw-ups; those are the spikes on the image below the fold, from a typical file. When I flubbed something, I would cough or yell “pop!” into the mic to give me a visual cue of where I need to fix something. Still, I’ll have to listen to everything in its entirety to make sure.

Once that is complete, then I can turn to the technical bits of Noise Removal, Normalization, Equalization, and so on. My target for commercial release is Easter, so I’ve less than forty days to go. The steepest learning curve will be getting things into a format that will satisfy ACX… I recall problems when I experimented last July. So long as my liver holds out, I’ll make it.

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Audiobook waypoint

Having begun recording on January 24th, just today, February 4th, I have completed the raws for Part One of Friend & Ally. That’s about 230 minutes of me yammering into my microphone and pausing Audacity whenever the dogs start barking or someone flushes the toilet upstairs.

Part Two will be much rougher on my voice as one of the tertiary characters is General Tessmer. His voice is based upon that of Admiral Halsey’s from the movie Midway (2019). That should have me mute for most of the rest of this month and into March. How will I manage Part Three?

Writing. It’s a mental illness.

The group blog of Liberty’s Torch is well worth your time and well worth your follow. I think I may have wandered in there via Gab but I drink much and recall little. Anyway. The lead blogger there, Francis W. Porretto, had a post today about writing. Many of my heart-cockles were warmed by it. Rather than hijack his comment section, I hope to take excerpts of his essay, Post Partum, and add my observations.

“It’s a difficult period in any novelist’s life: he can’t go forward while his thoughts are wrapped around the book he just finished, and he can’t go backward with the revisions he’s already thought of until the others involved have registered their various contributions.”

That only briefly happened to me once, at the conclusion of “Echoes of Family Lost.” It was a follow-on to “The Fourth Law” and once complete I had no idea what to do next. Was I a writer? Did I have more stories to tell? Five years ago, I carved out a space here on WordPress and started throwing 800-1500 word-salad at the screen. Some stuck. I kept going. By the time I got a cover design for EoFL, I had met Chris and Kat, from “Cursed Hearts.” A romance/horror? WTF? I hate both of those! I shut up and wrote what they told me to.

“The first requirement of any storyteller is a mating between characters and crises: people upon whom to impose problems they must solve, or at least cope with. I developed a bunch of attractive character sketches almost by accident – I still wonder from time to time where those fictional figures really came from – and immediately found ways to cast them into conflict with one another.”

I take exception to almost every word in this. The first requirement of a storyteller is to tell stories. It is the height of arrogance to think you really know what the characters’ problems really are. As to where these people come from? Well, if you’ve read along these few years, you know how I have addressed that. Further, I’ve never made a single ‘character sketch;’ they walk onto the stage/screen and act. I just write what they show me.

“But characters don’t struggle with their problems and one another in some sort of white space separate from all else; at least, mine don’t. They need a place to be. I had to pick a place, or conceive of one, that would provide a suitable stage on which to act out their destinies.”

My parents married unemployed with no money. I didn’t grow up poor, but summer vacations were KOA’s and the grandparent’s place in Los Alamos, NM. I saw a lot of the US Mountain West. Later, I learned some of the Kentucky/Tennessee regions. All of that curled up in the back of my mind… and waited. When I needed to put ‘boots on the ground,’ I had scores of places to choose, right behind my eyes.

“Of the sixteen full-length novels I’ve written to date, only four have stayed completely outside Onteora County: three far-future science fiction novels and one magic-based high fantasy. The others have wound up there regardless of where they started or where I wanted to put them. Worse, the characters from my other Onteora Canon novels keep insinuating themselves into my new fictions.”

Knoxville, Tennessee is my game park as Onteora County is for him. I’m thinking about moving there in 5-10 years; Knoxville, that is. It will be easier for me than, say, St. Petersburg, Russia… Osaka, Japan… or Mars.

“And by jingo, it happened again! Characters from just about every other Onteora Canon novel started insisting that they belonged in this new one. I managed to fit a few new faces into the tale, but the “old Onteora crew” is there in force.”

This is where I decided to write this huge response. One character leading to another… As I mentioned, “Echoes…” was a natural continuation of “The Fourth Law.” “Cursed Hearts” lead to an unpublishable novella (I set it in someone else’s sandbox). But the two books of The Saga of Nichole 5? That main character shows up in many more books. Three year old Gary, holding little Henge’s hand at the end of “Echoes…” announces they want to be married. Ten years later, they have their own novel, “Worlds Without End.” Writing that, I met Gary’s kid sister, Faustina. Nine years later she puts together a private army and decided to attack the Chicom PLA garrison in Savannah, former Georgia. To-date, I’m finishing a damn trilogy about her, starting to come out in November. The father of the young women from “The Fourth Law” and “Echoes…”? He’s got a book. I’ve dozens of people like this, scattered all over my stories. Just because they do not have their own book today means nothing for next week.

“I don’t feel an urge to go back and “straighten it out.” I plan to publish it essentially as it is. There are a few elements I’ve decided need buttressing, but not to the extent of “de-hybridizing” the book as it stands. I look forward to hearing what its readers will think of it.”

While I cut my SF reading teeth as a kid on the hard science fiction of Niven and Pournelle, and my future history of Machine Civilization is bedrocked on sentient, sapient machines, I admit I take fantastical, Clarke’s-Third-Law leaps with the tech in my stories, so long as it tells the story. I read much, do research, make sure I’m talking about qubits in the right way… but if I need to use handwavium, that is what the story gets. I’m talking about people; some of whom are bags of bolts; some of whom are bags of blood. They are people.

“I can’t help but wonder how many more books I have in me. I’m old, and not in the best of health. But storytelling is an addiction, a tough one to shake. And I imagine that those damned Onteora characters, settings, and institutions will continue to have their way with me. At least, they have so far.”

I am a semi-professional alcoholic with chronic hypertension just turned fifty-four. Once the trilogy of Faustina’s “American Imperium” is released to the wild, I’m spending Winter 2021 recording audiobooks. I’ve no idea how long I have, either, but we have been given a priceless gift: to touch other’s minds with our ideas. I will keep at it until I die, later or sooner.

Having said all that to say this: thank you for your inspiration and your hard work, Mr. Porretto. As Empress Faustina cries to her legions, Deus vult!

“Goddess’ Crusade” begins

After taking July and a little of August off to be older about recording and editing audiobooks, I forced myself to sit down and begin the MS for the final installment of this trilogy.  I had had bits and pieces of this opening scene – which will be the prologue of Part I (of just two, I think) but was quickly shown some little details I’d not noticed before; writing is like that:  it forces you to pay attention.

Wrote most of this out on my deck this afternoon.  Had to flee inside with all the electronics for a squall around 1500, but just now (1600) concluded the exchange at the end of what’s below the fold.  There is much packed into this:  some good news, some bad news.  And one point was news to me, too.  I love this:  writing.  I really do.

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Effing RMS

Here’s the last of the prototype chapters.  I am much older about peaks (Nichole’s sharp voice, here and there), valleys (Mackenzie’s, everywhere), and RMS (the relationship between those levels).  In learning such, I’ve also gotten the volume waaay up from where it was before.  Tanjed near burst my eardrums in the headphones…

With this complete, and taking in any constructive criticism y’all might have, I’m going to try making notes and writing some very raw ideas I have about Faustina and her third novel, “Goddess’ Crusade.”  It is setting the bar a little high, but I want all three of her books and the complete audiobook of “Friend & Ally” out no later than Christmas.  We shall see.