Endings, Beginnings, and the Middle of a Big Project.

I finished another rough draft this week. It’s the third in my apocalypse series. You can check out Home for the Holidays here. Zoey and the Zombies is nearly through self edits. A Fishy End is now resting, I will come back in a month or two and re-read it. My plan is to take all three manuscripts and submit them to my editor over the winter sometime and publish them next year. I’m excited about getting this series out.

Home for the holidays web

My next project, the one I am doing for Nanowrimo is Bear Naked Four: the Wolf Council. I have been trying to focus on series, in particular having most of a series done before I try to publish and promote them. In that vein, writing the rough draft to Bear Naked Four means I should go on to write five and six immediately after, wrapping up the entire story arc.

I say should because I wrote a while ago about Big Project Blues. Book four of a six book series, now that’s big project blues. Novels have become old hat to me now. But this series is stretching out of my comfort zone. Hopefully writing book four will bring me back some of the passion of the series, I really love the characters and I love where the story is going. It’s just getting it there.

I can’t complain, though. I love writing. It’s what keeps me going when the rest of life gets hard.

In the meantime I am expecting to get back the second episode of my Sci-fi serial, The Girl in the Tank today and start working on prepping it for publication. Episode two: A Shaky Start should be available at the start of the month, on multiple platforms.

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If you can’t Write Fast, Fake it

I was given this advice, almost word for word, from a fellow writer recently. And surprisingly, it reverberated with me.

Indie writers often advise writing fast and publishing a lot. There are lots of good reasons to do this, if you are able. Publishing regularly keeps your name fresh in reader’s minds. Having lots of published works out allows readers to enjoy one story and then immediately move on to others. Writing fast makes it possible to write a lot, and writing a lot helps you get better at writing. If nothing else, publishing a lot of work means that even if you only have modest commercial success, if you multiply that by many books you can still make a decent income.

Writing fast gets a bad rap because it’s too often associated with writers publishing poorly edited manuscripts or cutting novels into pieces make serials. Those things that do happen, but there are many great writers who put out books regularly without sacrificing quality.

Not everyone can do it, however. Some of us naturally write fast but others do not. For those who do, what can they do?

The answer is to fake it. How do you do that? This writer suggested writing at least three books before even considering publication. Then either publish all three at once or space them out a month apart or so. That way you get the same advantages, bigger buzz and multiple books on the market, without having to write a book a month.

I write fast. But I also tend to write scattered. I have several books in progress at any one time. I have several series up in the air right now. The third Bear Naked book will be out very soon. There are three more in the story arc that aren’t written.

Meanwhile I have the next Gilded Empire book almost done. It’s the beginning of a trilogy. I have the Galactic Consortium serial running on Wattpad and the first Mondamin apocalypse novel on that site.

The Bear Naked hasn’t performed as well as I expected. Part of it, I think, is that readers don’t like to start series that aren’t complete, or at least well under way. There is always a concern that the author will abandon the series uncompleted. We have been conditioned by the availability of so many series that it’s hard to get traction with one book. Hopefully, The Hunted will give the Bear Naked series that kind of traction.

In the meantime I am thinking of taking this advice to heart. I have temporarily tabled The Banner of Kash until I can finish at least the rough draft of books two and three. I have a second Mondamin book in editing stages and a third in planning. Once the Banner of Kash is completed I will come back to that series.

What do you think? Will you read the first book in a series if the others aren’t completed yet?

Technology, OpenDyslexia and Asym

Life is funny sometimes. We create technology to solve a problem, only to create a new problem. Then we create more technology to solve those problems.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by a difficulty reading. It is not a sign of laziness or low intelligence. In fact many dyslexics are very bright and highly creative. The list of famous people with dyslexia is prestigious.

Dyslexia is a brain disorder. It’s not that they can not see or read the letters in front of them, it’s that they have trouble converting those symbols into words. Dyslexia runs in families. Their brains are slightly different on MRI scans and they use different portions of the brain to compensate for the way their brains are. (Please note, different does not imply better or worse.)

Dyslexia is a man made disease. Writing is a technology and a recent one at that. Our brains simply didn’t evolve to read. We have to learn to do it. There is nothing natural about the process.

How recent is writing?

Sumerian cuneiform is generally recognized as the first written language, originating around 3100 bce, over five thousand years ago. There is a yet undeciphered Harappan language that might predate it by a few hundred years.  Counting and trading tokens predate actually writing and may go back nearly nine thousand years. While nine thousand years is a long time in history, it’s a blip in human evolution.

This kind of symbol processing is new to our brains. If you do not have dyslexia, that’s pure luck. You happened to have the right neuro-pathways in your brain to complete a completely unnatural mental task. You should really quit telling dyslexics they have a disorder and admit you got lucky.

Even though writing has been around for more five thousand years, widespread literacy is much newer. For most of history, writing was kept for an elite few. Broad public education for the masses was a notion that only became common in the 1700’s. Even then many labor class children dropped out of school early to work. Throughout the 1800’s for example, literacy in Great Britain hovered around fifty percent.

The biggest change in the last century, the change that has led to a rise in dyslexia in the western world is not just a rise in literacy, but a rise in it’s importance. The dwindling labor economy and growing service economy of the late twentieth century and today require literacy.

This is not only true of dyslexia, but also for ADHD, Asperger’s and many learning disorders. A hundred years ago having a learning disorder limited your academic life, but there were many other avenues to having a good life. Gone are the days of apprenticeships, learning skills hands on from a master craftsman. Gone are the days of making a decent living without an education. My point is not that people didn’t suffer from dyslexia before the twentieth century, but that it wasn’t the same barrier to success that it is today.

None of these disorders are diseases in the medical sense. They are differences in brain chemistry or make up, but they make it incredibly hard to succeed in our highly specialized society that demands reading and academic achievement of every citizen.

So what are we going to do about them? That’s always a good question. Technology has recently provided some interesting answers to the question of dyslexia.

open-dyslexia-is-a-font

Dyslexics often have difficulty translating letters into the correct mental meaning in their minds. Certain letters offer a greater challenge than others. Flipping letters, perceiving a b as d or vice versa, is a common symptom. It was probably not surprising that someone would decide that maybe we should look at the letters themselves, instead of the brains of dyslexics. Open Dyslexic is a font created for dyslexic readers. The letters of Opendyslexic are shaded in such a way as to help readers avoid flipping or inverting them. The creators admit that it doesn’t work for every single dyslexic, but it can be a godsend for some. If you or someone you love has dyslexia, you can download the font here.

Once the font is installed on a computer, using it with any word processors should be a snap, so if you can get editable files from school or wherever, you can convert them to this font. For ereaders it might be tougher. The Kobo allows custom fonts. Epub files, like Apple and Kobo can include custom fonts. If you are a little bit of a geek, you can use Calibre to add Opendyslexic to your favorite epub books. As of right now, Kindle doesn’t allow custom fonts but maybe someday they will, or at least include Opendyslexic in their fonts.

This page will show you how to change your fonts on most web browsers. With so much of our reading being done digitally these days, there is hope that we can adjust that reading to suit the reader, rather than forcing the reader to adjust themselves.

But there is more to reading, and reading issues, than the shape of the letters. Another interesting development is Asymetrica. This article talks about how the spaces between letters affect reading comprehension and engagement. A web browser tool can be found here.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-4-35-20-pm

Human beings have a real knack for changing the environment around us. Unfortunately we often create as many problems as we solve in this way. Writing has been one of our greatest inventions of all times, and has revolutionized our world many times over. However for an estimated one in ten people that have dyslexia, it has made life a lot tougher. They struggle to learn what is increasingly an essential skill. They may be told they are stupid or lazy; lies that simply hold them back.

Hopefully the same knack for changing the environment can be turned to good. As we learn more about this disorder and as we come to rely more on digital technology, changing the reading environment to make it easier for dyslexics to read seems like a life changing idea. Hopefully we can get the word out about these projects and others like them.

In my science fiction serial The Galactic Consortium, humans living in the consortium don’t have dyslexia, ADHD, or any of the learning disorders common on earth. At first they wonder why this is, they aren’t so different from us after all. The truth is buried so deep in their history that they’ve forgotten it. Their educational system and digital environment was adjusted millennia ago to accommodate a wider range of human neurology. Their script has been optimized for comprehension and their educational system is flexible and works with many different learning styles. I can only hope our real world systems will learn the same lesson in our near future.

Read more about the Galactic Consortium here.

Read more about the Galactic Consortium here.

Aliens are Coming!

The aliens are coming!

Well, they’re sort of aliens and they are sort of coming…

To my Wattpad page.

My next Wattpad project is going to be the first season of The Galactic Consortium.

The Galactic Consortium

This is a sci-fi serial about first contact with an alien race, except they are not truly alien, rather Simian — from the same genetic line as humans. They arrive in space above us in the present day, announcing that they terraformed our planet, sent settlers (us presumably) and now they are back, ready to begin the exploration of our galaxy. What happened in the last forty thousand years, why we don’t know any of this, is a mystery.

The Girl in the Tank

My Working Cover*

My Working Cover*

Less than five months ago, lights appeared in the sky. Days later the ships started to arrive. They call themselves the Consortium. They are human, or at least Simian, descending from the same genetic line as humans. They terraformed this planet centuries ago, sent settlers a mere forty thousand years ago. Now they are back, ready to begin the exploration of this galaxy.

For Cheyenne Walker, Chief Petty Officer aboard the Cambridge, a USS destroyer, the arrival of the Consortium is just one more obstacle to finishing her final tour of duty and getting home to her kids. The political upheaval forces the US into an uneasy alliance with the Consortium against China, and puts the Cambridge on the edge of a nuclear blast.

Cheyenne wakes to find herself aboard the Corelean, a Consortium Medical Evacuation ship. Floating in a medi-tank, she wonders if they really can’t repair the wreck of her body, whether these newcomers are friends or foes and most importantly, will she ever make it back to children?

I will be posting on Sunday, Wednesday and Fridays. There are eight episodes, ranging from 12,000 words to 25,000 words. Each episode has it’s own storyline but they build on each other. Eventually this serial will be published on Amazon and elsewhere, but for now the only place to read it is on Wattpad. Enjoy this exclusive sneak peek.

*The above cover is a working cover. When I go to press I hope to have the funds to hire the wonderfully talented Aidana Willowraven.

Drum Roll, Please…

I have been trying to decide what to do next on Wattpad, now that I’ve put Bear Naked up, or if Wattpad is even worth the time. I posted a survey on my website but haven’t gotten much response. Thankfully, the Saturday Writers came through with an almost uncanny synchronicity. Before I even posed the question, several members asked about a work in progress I had mentioned at a past meeting, wanting to know if it was available in print.

It will be now.

The series is about Mondamin Court. It’s a small quiet middle class block in Des Moines, Iowa. The residents are a mix of middle class and working class families. Each story in the series starts with the same location and the same characters. Each story has a different apocalyptic event that occurs. Who survives, who doesn’t, who they pull together or splinter apart, depends on how events unfold.

The first project I am releasing in the series is Home for the Holidays.

My rough draft blurb:

Zoey Scott, a nineteen year old trans woman, planned to come out to her mom over the holiday break. She did not plan for a deadly flu outbreak, a virus that kills over ninety percent of those infected. She did not plan to watch the world crumble. Can she find the strength to go on?

Holly Wheatsfield is a barista at a local coffee shop. All she wants is a quiet holiday with her partner Nicky and maybe, just maybe, for Nicky’s conservative aunt Helen to keep her mouth shut this year. Instead she’ll find herself lost, homeless, in an increasingly hostile world. Can she survive with her humanity intact?

Home for the holidays web

Home for the Holidays in the first in the Mondamin Court series, a series of stories that explore how an average group of Americans might survive in apocalyptic times.


I will be posting chapters, relatively rough, as they become available, both on my website and on this blog. I am actively encouraging readers to share and comment on the story in progress. Stay tuned for more information. When the project is completed I will work on editing and possibly publishing it.