Derek's Blog Page

Can a libertarian curmudgeon survive in a post 9/11 America? Is it possible to create the perfect meal on a Baby Q grill? Will Elaine finally succumb to her innermost desires? Check out my novels - which I am excerpting to separate blogs as I write them. Just click on my Profile button to access their links.

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Location: Citrus Heights, California


Near Space Press presents Net Assets



Tuesday, November 28, 2006

And we HAVE a Winner!

Yep. It's true. I will not tell a lie. I have crossed the NaNoWriMo 2006 finish line. Yesterday I wrote my 50,000th word, along with 93 more, and uploaded my mad scribblings to the NaNo word count validator.

I now have a selection of fine web graphics to place upon my personal web pages and blogs. I also have a nifty Winner's Certificate that I will be printing out and sending to all my relatives and friends. Woo Hoo!

Of course, for those of you following my descent into high-pressure authorship madness, it comes as no surprise that I now enter another phase - the race to complete my novel. Yes, I have won NaNo, but I still have about 40,000-50,000 words left to write before my story finishes. Wouldn't do to try to submit half a story to the publisher's now, would it? I want this book to be published. Therefore I will continue writing, and posting to my "Homebrew" blog, until I write the last word.

I also still plan to then go back and take up the reins of my last year's entry, "With Hesitant Stride" and complete it. With good fortune, I should have two complete novels to edit by mid-February and be able to submit query letters and synopses to the publishers sometime in April or May.

So feel free to keep reading my posts here and my snippets on my other two blogs.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


How time flies when I'm goofing off! Okay. I'm not 'goofing off'. I'm engaging in a rational re-direction of my productivity towards maximizing the reduction of stress through non-goal-specific activities designed to induce a meditative or distractive state.

But it feels so good! I've been sitting at the computer every single day for the last 23 days attempting to cajole, coerce, induce and bribe myself into writing 2,000 or more words on a novel. About mid-morning on the 23rd - that's Thanksgiving Day for those of my (possibly quite few) readers who don't live in the U.S. - I had to take a break. Along with stuffing myself with loads and scads of turkey, I also failed to return to my writing.

Then on the 24th, I chose to 'veg' (assume or remain in a vegetative state) for the entire day. Yes, I managed to get on the computer, but only in short bursts of non-writing-related activity. Haven't written a single word in about two days. I feel wonderful!

Now I have to pick up where I left off and put my heroes into all sorts of crises in the name of winning NaNoWriMo and finishing my first complete novel. Ain't life grand?

BTW, if any of you all wish to help out my fledgeling career by boosting my savings a bit, feel free to click on the 'Donate' button. Worries about my finances have been one of my biggest writer's block issues. And you all love what you're reading, yes? Then please help a poor starving artist.

After that impassioned plea, I direct you to my "Homebrew" blog where you can read all the current snippets of my story. And feel free to stop by my "With Hesitant Stride" blog to read that one. If you have ideas and comments please post them at the relevant places.

I plan on finishing "Homebrew" first and then setting it aside to finish "With Hesitant Stride". Then, in March, I plan to enter NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) and edit them into shape for submission to the publishers. Between the time I finish the stories and the start of NaNoEdMo, I will write synopses of both and cover letters. I would like to see both stories submitted to the various publishers by the first of June.

So let me know what you think of the stories so far.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cover art.

Let's talk cover art. Yep. Cover art. If you go through a mainstream publisher, they'll probably have artists they work with who can provide cover art. Great. However, there's always the problem that the artist may, even after reading the book, not have a clue about your story.

You could ask amongst your friends, family and neighbors if any of them can create artwork. Or you can go to a local college and ask the art department if they will allow students to do cover art as a 'class project'.

And then there's DIY, Do It Yourself. If you're anything like me, you've always felt rather graphically challenged. Photographs? Fine. Writing. No problem. Drawing? Painting? AAAAAAAUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH! The pain! The pain! (Okay, maybe you're not quite as untalented as I am.)

However, doing your own cover isn't as hard as you might think. Get yourself a good graphics package and practice. Here you have two ways to go. Pixel (raster) or Vector. Pixel graphics packages work by creating individual pixels in the canvas area. Each line, each curve is lovingly created by placing individual pixels in their assigned positions. This is great for 'photorealism', but scaling the image larger or smaller may cause the lines and shapes to get the 'jaggies', those annoying jagged edges, as the image is resized. Vector packages, on the other hand, don't do pixels. They work with lines, vertices, edges, curves and fills. Any shape is just a list of points with the associated line/edge modifiers, such as does the line curve between the two points/vertices and what relative thickness and color will the line have. As all this information is stored relative to the dimensions of the final image, the image can be scaled up and down with little or no distortion or 'jaggies'. However, it's a lot harder to get photorealistic images; in some of the applications, it's damned near impossible to just place a single pixel of a specific color into the image.

For pixel/raster cover art, I recommend Adobe Photoshop CS2. However, that may be a steep price for you. Of the cheap commercial applications, you might want to consider Serif PhotoPlus. And then there's GIMP. GIMP is a *FREE*, Open Source raster/pixel graphics application which does a smashing job - although it has few tools for manipulating CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) mode color images.

For vector cover art, I recommend Adobe Illustrator CS2 - you can buy Illustrator and Photoshop bundled as part of Adobe Creative Suite 2, but it isn't cheap. Again, one of the cheaper alternatives is Serif DrawPlus. And then there's the Open Source *FREEBIE*, Inkscape. Don't be put off by the 0.45 version number. This is a great vector graphics art package. And there is a version for Windows which is packaged as a Windows Installer app. No need to figure out which software libraries you need to download and install.

I've included two pieces of cover art I've created using Photoshop with this post. I use the Homebrew cover as an inspiration piece for my current NaNoWriMo entry. The other, I did for a friend's book, "Net Assets".

Saturday, November 18, 2006

More on P(rint) O(n) D(emand)

Yesterday, I mentioned one way for us 'wannabe published' authors to get our books out to our (hopefully) adoring public - LuLu. LuLu's a Print On Demand (POD) printer. They've been castigated for buying the ISBNs used for the books they print, but they're adding one where you, the author/self-publisher owns each book's ISBN.

However, there's another POD printer/fulfillment service out there, Books Just Books(just click on this post's title to reach their site). Their whole procedure is a bit more 'clunky' than LuLu's, but they've always pushed for the author/self-publisher owning the ISBN and the copyrights to each book. And they've got plenty of links to self-publishing resources and informational guides. If you've decided to go this route for your novel, check both LuLu and BooksJustBooks out.

As for my own novel, "Homebrew", it's coming along nicely. I've managed to reach the 35,000 word mark. That means I've written my way to 70% of my 50,000 word goal. And I've got thirteen (13!!!) days left to write. There's a strong possibility I'll top 66,000 words by the end of the month. And I'm revising my total estimated word count for the complete first draft of the novel to 90,000+ words!

Of course, half the fun of writing a novel is editing it into shape for publication. And that's what I'll be doing in January of 2007. Why not start right after completing it in December? Because I'm planning on revisiting "With Hesitant Stride", armed with my hard-earned knowledge of the craft of writing, and finishing that story as well. Who knows, by March of next year, I may well have two complete novels to shop around the publishers!

By the way, Chris Baty is right. Getting past the first week is easy. Getting past the second week is much harder. But it's seeing the word counter reach 35,000 words, that finally makes a NaNo novelist appreciate that 50,000 words is do-able. Gosh! The air up here is mighty fine!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Is POD right for you?

That's a question each and every author has to ask. There are far more novels written each year than get accepted by the major publishers for publication. And if an author can't find a home for his or her Great American Novel... well, the possibility is hardly worth contemplating.

Sure, there are vanity publishers out there which will publish your book - for a fee. And they won't market it, although they usually give you a few dozen copies to hand out to your friends and family. Plus, if you give your novel over to these vultures, they own the book, despite that they have no interest in marketing it. They make all their money charging *YOU* to have it printed.

So that leaves, for the vast majority of us, self-publishing. But who wants to deal with the hassle of registering the ISBN, finding a printer, designing a cover, editing, proofing, binding the final versions, storing the copies and handling the shipping of the books to buyers?

Which is where P(rint) O(n) D(emand) printers come in. Such as Books Just Books or LuLu. (Click on the link above to reach the LuLu site) LuLu's been a POD printer which bought the ISBNs in their own name - meaning they owned the rights to the books - but they've started a Publish It Yourself program where they charge a simple, one-time-per-novel fee to deal with purchasing - for YOU - your very own ISBN. That means YOU own the copyright to the book, and LuLu acts as the printer and fulfillment specialist. It might not be right for every author, but for some, this program could be a Godsend.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Is there anything as difficult as writing...

a sex scene? I don't care if it's an intimate encounter between two people who've grown closer and closer, finally making the decision to take it that next step or if it's two strangers swapping anonymous contact for their own personal pleasure and relief. Writing these scenes is difficult. If you give too much detail, you come across as a voyeur, yet if you give too little, you sound like a prude; as if you're incapable of crossing the chasm separating you from your characters.

Sure, you could stay on the safe side, keeping your distance from the intimate details of the personal lives of your characters. But you're a writer, you're supposed to have a strong personal connection to the innermost feelings and motivations of your characters. If the story calls for revealing part of the psyche of your protagonist and significant love interest, and you choose to get all fumbly; if you refuse to make the bridge to that part of yourself which has similar feelings; then how can you write a convincing enough scene? And how can you sell that scene to your readers?

But it's not just about selling those moments of physical passion. It's about selling all of your story to the reader. At some point, you can choose to enter the lives of your characters, or you can choose to view them as pupppets you drag across the stage. Write one way and you'll have a richness of detail and experiences that will hook the reader. Write the other way and your story, while it may meet the technical requirements of X conflicts, Y resolutions, and Z plot points, but it will never draw the reader into the lives of your characters.

I think that having written the scenes over which I've struggled these last two days has helped me to break through from a dispassionate observer watching a shadow play on a stage to an involved participant of my character's lives. I may not keep part, or any, of the intimate scenes I just wrote. But I have a far better feel for my protagonists now, and I think that connection will help me to write this story in a more believable and interesting way.

Yes, this is just my opinion. I'm sure we've all heard the expression, "Opinions are like asses, everybody has one." But the realization may come to you, as well, that something is missing in your visualization of your characters. So whether it's a sex scene, a hostage scene, or even the terror you feel about visiting the dentist, take the time to impart your own experiences and emotions into what your characters feel and how they react. It may open up whole new vistas of character motivation.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

One of the best things...

about competing in the National Novel Writing Month event (NaNoWriMo, just plain NaNo) is that you get to read what problems, challenges and issues other people face as each participant races to 'finish' the 50,000 words of fiction writing. As so many of us find out, it isn't always easy to come up with new ideas, new dialog, new subplots and new cliffhangers every single day.

And then there are the 'external' reasons for not writing. Me, I had a 'down' day on Thursday. My knees were aching, my back was killing me (I woke up this way) and I just didn't feel like writing. Fortunately, I have been pacing myself and I already had almost 17,000 words stored up - which put me 'ahead' of the pace. So I took a 'personal' day and just kicked back and lay down, propped up my feet and read a good book. It felt GREAT! Come Friday, I was fresh and eager to start back with the competition! I wrote my way to 19,287 words!

And I also 'treated' myself to a movie last night (I watched MI:3, trust me, it wasn't nearly as exciting as the first two Mission Impossible movies. But I got it as part of my monthly Netflix list and I couldn't beat the price.) that motivated me even more to sit down today and write, Write, WRITE!!!

By allowing myself some 'down' time and not getting all guilty over taking it (I ran into the whole 'guilt' issue during last year's NaNo.) I regained a sense of purpose and recharged my creativity batteries. I should top 22,000 words by tonite. That means I will have, by the 11th day, reached and exceeded my total word count from last year's NaNo debacle. I may well reach to 23,000 words! And I've set myself up to reach 25,000 words, (the half-way mark for the 'goal' of NaNo) by tomorrow - three days ahead of schedule!

What I'm trying to say here is, it's important to not just set a goal. It's also very important to know when you've pushed too far, when you've drained your emotional and creative batteries. When you reach such a point, don't just ignore the warning signs, give yourself 'personal' time to get back into emotional shape. Then, even though you may have fallen a bit behind the schedule you've set for yourself, don't play the 'blame' or 'guilt' game with yourself. Acknowledge that you needed the time and cheerfully get back to work. And with that, I'm signing off, posting this update and going right back to writing my Great American Novel - okay, my first science fiction novel. And I'm focusing on finishing this so that you and I can see it in print.

Have a great day.

Monday, November 06, 2006

So I've been writing...

my daily efforts at creativity. If you've not been following along, I'm snippeting my efforts to write a novel in 30 days (or at least 50,000 words worth, according to the rules of the event, National Novel Writing Month). You can read what I've written in one of my other blogs, the one labeled "Homebrew" in the sidebar to the left of these posts. (The link labeled "With Hesitant Stride" leads to my other blog where I have the 21,000 words I managed to complete for last year's event. I hope to finish the novel next month.)

What a difference a year makes! I'm doing two things that I didn't do last year. First, I created, before the contest started, a chapter outline of my proposed story. Second, I joined a group of like-minded authors and we cheer each other to write our daily dose.

Having an outline gives my thoughts a structure, a framework upon which I can hang my ideas and words. It also gives me a constant reminder of what I hoped this book to say. And the same is true for everything we hope to accomplish in life. If we don't have a goal, a direction, a framework upon which we can place our actions, we flop around and wander aimlessly. Quite often, we never achieve our goals and we end up living a life that seems increasingly meaningless.

But just having a goal and a plan or outline isn't enough for most people. Because many times the goals we set are hard. They require effort, learning, resources and tools as well as time. Often the learning and gathering of tools and resources, as well as the marshalling of time to work on the goals can build frustration, which can lead to feelings of depression, loneliness and failure. Which is where friends and support groups come in.

One thing each person gains from a support group is a cheering section. These other people can give encouragement to the person to try harder, to recognize each step the person *has* accomplished, overcoming the person's own belittlement of such successes. The supporters also help the person to see others have experienced the slump and point out that working through the slump will reveal the nearness of the goal's finish line. And these friends and supporters will help the person by allowing the person to bounce ideas off them, giving feedback and suggestions, all of which will create a pool of synergistic energy that will help propel the person further and faster towards the goal.

I encourage you to use both tools in your own chest in life, plans and outlines as well as support groups. But even more, I suggest you buy a DVD, "The Secret", watch it regularly, and apply the principles on it every single day. I do.

The title to this post is linked to the website for "The Secret".

Friday, November 03, 2006

If you haven't noticed...

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, although it's open these days to anyone around the world) has started. We're into the third day. But with 27 more days left in the event, there's plenty of time to sign up and start writing. C'mon! It's only 50,000 words! I've managed to do 2,000 or so words per day; if I keep that rate up, I'll have written 60,000 words by November 30th.

Is this important? It's probably not going to win the war in Iraq, but yes, it's important. This event gives all of us who've dreamed of writing a novel the chance to try. And no one says it has to be a "good" novel, just that it has to be 50,000 or more words long. I've seen some of last year's entries; trust me, those attempts and "good" don't even belong in the same Universe! Yet a few made it to 50K.

It's open to adults and children - although I doubt *young* children have 50,000 words of one story buried within them.

So feel free to check out my "Homebrew" blog for the latest snippets.