Announcement – I’ve set up a mailing list.

I’ve been asked a few time whether I have a mailing list and up to now the answer has been no. But with the final run up to book three underway I have decided it is time to get one started. If you would would like to receive email updates from me, please leave a comment at the bottom of on this posting. All postings on this blog have to be moderated by me before they become visible to anyone else. So please put your email address in the comment, which once I have taken a note of it, I will then delete so it doesn’t become visible to anyone else.

 

Regards

 

PS: A number of people have expressed an interest in being added to the list but haven’t given an email address, so don’t forget to leave me an address – I need something to work with!

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Filed under Book Three of the Nameless War, Self Publishing, Writing

Amateur or Professional?

As previously mentioned last weekend I was at Shamrokon – the Eurocon for 2014, which saw my debut as a convention panelist and something else I might be mentioning at a later time. But what I’d like to talk about the question of when does the amateur become professional?

To date in a little under three years the combined sales of my three titles are over fifteen thousand copies. It is always hard to get any serious data on what constitutes average sales. There was a report in the media a year or more back that suggested that the average self-publisher makes less than $500 from their books, which assuming it was true then or now, would put me well on the far side of that particular bell curve.

I’ve always referred to myself as an amateur writer but over the course of the con I got into conversation with a number of other creators, who felt that the word isn’t one that I should really be applying to myself. The argument was put that once being paid, a writer should call themselves a professional.

Before going any further let me to introduce the accountancy concept of materiality. It tends to be a big deal especially in auditing work, but basically it means at what point does a sum of money or figure matter or become material? For example ten thousand euros/dollars/pounds would likely be a material amount for an individual or small business but not so much for the Microsoft corporation.

Why do I mention this? Well my definition of professional writer has been: where writing represents the individual’s primary revenue stream – or in other words it is where they get most of their money. Clinical but it does get us to why call myself an amateur – my day job is the one that pays my bills, the writing income is a supplement.

Still, I do know writers who have number of titles to their name – through traditional publishing – who still have day jobs because that is what is necessary to bring in the necessary funds. But because it has gone through traditional publishing, no one would question their credentials as professional authors. Self publishing doesn’t have quite such a clear line and for my tastes as-soon-as-being-paid fails the test of materiality. Ten sales doesn’t make you a professional, nor does a fifty but a hundred thousand does. Where is the line? I’m not sure but think I am a bit close to it than ever expected.

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Filed under Random Rants, Self Publishing, Traditional Publishing, Writing

Home Again – Loncon

Home from Loncon 3 – the world science fiction convention and boy am I tired. First big con I’ve been to and a good time was had. The one interesting observation I have the energy to make is that there were a couple of panels on military matters and in both cases they were heavily over subscribed. A failure perhaps to appreciate that it is a popular area?

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Onward and upward

I’ve finished the last draft of book three. I now have to do the last major adjustment to the text –  basically drop the whole thing into Notepad to strip out all the formatting, along with any nonsense MS Word has seen fit to add and then reformat from start to finish. If you are wondering why I would want to do such a thing, a friend recently also publish a book, one based around Napoleon’s 1812 campaign in Russia. He tried dropping his work directly from Word into the upload program. Somehow it bollixed up the word ‘Cossack’ – which in anything to do with 1812 is going be a word used at least three times per page. So, no avoiding it. Ah well, onwards and upwards.

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Filed under Book Three of the Nameless War, Self Publishing

The winning typo of Book Three (I hope)

Typos: the bane and torment of the self publishers. Book Three has now gone through, multiple edits by me, plus through two test readers, a professional editor, one final proofreader who hadn’t seen any of it before and still the on one creeps through.

This week I think I’ve found the winning typo for book three (at least I hope I have). There’s a line where a character is drifting off to sleep and it is supposed to read ‘his eyes flickered shut’ except the U from shut was an I.

Whoops. That character might want to see a doctor about that!

 

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Filed under Self Publishing, Writing

Shamrokon – my Eurocon Schedule

New_Shamrokon_Web_0

As some of you know this year Dublin is hosting Eurocon, named Shamrokon it going to be held from the 22rd to 24th of August. I have been invited to join three of the panels which are as follows:

 

Made In Ireland: Come To Ireland, We Have Tax Breaks

Friday 16:00 – 17:00, C. Ground Floor 1 (Double Tree by Hilton Dublin Burlington Road)

Learn all about Ireland’s tax exemption on income from works of cultural merit, and how this affects this careers of Irish residents.

 

Self Publishing: Career Progression Post Publishing

Saturday 21:00 – 22:00, E. Room 1/2 (Double Tree by Hilton Dublin Burlington Road)

“Next Steps in Self Publishing”
You’ve written the novel, designed a fantastic cover, and deciphered Amazon and Smashword’s Byzantine upload and tax instructions. Now what? Our panelists will debate the merits of multiple covers, writing in multiple genres, signing with The Big Five, POD, and series vs standalone

 

Self-publishing: Getting Feedback

Sunday 15:00 – 16:00, C. Ground Floor 1 (Double Tree by Hilton Dublin Burlington Road)

The differences between editing, beta reading & copyediting. Do our creators prefer The Compliment Sandwich or the Red Pen of Doom?

 

 

This will be my first time on panels so if you are there, then please be gentle!

 

PS details might be subject to change.

 

On a related note I’m also attending Loncon the weekend before – but only as an attendee.

LONCON3_logo_270w

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Ships of the Fleet – Coms Ship Grace Hopper

Background

Since the first satellites broke Earth orbit, one of the inherent complexities of space travel engineers, scientists and later ship crews have wrestled with, is transmission delay. The speed of light is 299 792 458 metres per second, if a transmission is sent from Earth to Mars then, depending on their positions relative to each other, the signal will arrive between four and twenty four minutes later. In the period prior to first contact, when human scientists explored the solar system via robotic probes, this presented a significant engineering challenge. Instructions when issued from the ground, had to be sent well in advance, to allow for them to arrive before the probe needed to take action. If an unforeseen event occurred then the probes were forced to operate on effectively autopilot. Given the limitations of these early machines, this often resulted in the failure of a mission.

In the aftermath of the Contact War, as the first jump capable ships began to venture beyond Earth’s solar system, this limitation suddenly presented a real danger to life. A radio transmission from even the next closest solar system would take years to reach Earth. One means of summoning help was quickly developed – the emergency message drone or EMD; basically a small jump drive with a basic engine, these could be used to dispatch a mayday should a a vessel get into trouble. As a means of providing emergency communication for a ship to summon help it was just about acceptable but of little use for a home base to contact a ship. For Battle Fleet in particular, this represented a significant challenge. When a ship jumped out, it effectively passed beyond the reach of ground side commanders and the only way to call a ship back, would be to send another ship after it. Given the fleet’s extremely limited resources, this presented a significant strategic risk, with the danger that the fleet might, in the event of attack, suffer defeat in detail. In many respects this was a situation not unlike that faced prior to the invention of the telegraph during the nineteenth century. Fortunately there was a potential solution. Among the technologies obtained at First Contact was a Faster-Than-Light (FTL) receiver. Ehile this device was returned to the Aéllr at the end of the Contact War, its very existence proved the possibility of FTL  transmitter.

In the run up to and during the course of the Contact War, humanity had successfully adopted a range of technologies, thus with misplaced confidence the leaders of the FTL transmitter project predicted that the first prototype would be ready for testing with four years – a prediction that would come to haunt them. Unlike jump drives, fusion reactors and the various other technologies Aéllr, no human had even seen an FTL transmitter, much less been able to study one. The FTL receiver that was examined had been about the size of a domestic refrigerator, the researchers mistakenly assumed that the transmitter was of a similar size or slightly larger. This assumption would cost the project ten years and result in the removal of several project leaders. It was only in 2045 when researchers in University of Washington, proved mathematically that the transmitter had to big to function, with a resonance chamber that would needed to be at least twenty meters across that progress began to be made.

While this breakthrough ultimately resulted in the successful development of an FTL transmitter, the size and mass of the equipment – several hundred tonnes – was far from the ‘two refrigerators’ volume requirement that the fleet had originally been told to expect. Not only was it clear that the fleet’s existing ships could in no way incorporate such equipment, but that no conceivable warship could absorb such mass and bulk, without hopelessly compromising all other aspects of its functionality. With this in mind it became clear that the only reasonable course of action was the development of a new category of ship – the Communications or Coms Ship. At this point FTL transmitter technology was still very much in development and a coms ship built at this stage might well be rendered obsolete is a fairly short time frame. However the fleet was eager to gain experience and it was felt that a single ship would allow it to ‘test water’ without committing too deeply.

Grace Hopper Views

Design

Faced with the introduction of the very new and unproven transmitter technology, the decision was taken to use a proven design as the basis for the ship itself. The Antonov SK-10 mid range transport was chosen, The drive section was altered to accept a larger more powerful reactor, which resulted in the reduction of fuel stores and the heat sink being displaced forwards into to the command section. The bridge structure was enlarged to provide a control compartment for the transmitter.  Midships, in what had originally been the cargo bays was subject to massive alterations, with the entire space occupied by the transmitter equipment. The most obvious feature being the transmitter dish mounted on the dorsal hull. Even with such a large volume, the transmitter itself could not be omnidirectional, instead would be mono-directional, which would mean that the transmission would have to be at least roughly ‘aimed’ at intended message recipient.  Since the vessel was a prototype and frequent access into the hull was expected to be needed, several large access panels were added. The reduction in fuel and stores significantly reduced the ship’s effective range but since it was assumed the vessel would either spend much of its time close to base or in the company of other ships, this was seen as acceptable.

Grace Hopper 1

Service

Christened in 2052 Grace Hopper after the pioneering American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral, the ship was seen primarily as a prototype and testbed. As such much of her first five years of service was spent engaged in tests and time in dockyard hands being adjusted. Among the discoveries in this period was the fact that the mono-directional transmissions, while acceptable for communicating with planets  was difficult to aim with sufficient accuracy at a ship as the beam’s spread was even narrower than projected. The experience gained from these tests would be fed into the design process for the section generation of Coms Ships.

While not intended as a line vessel, the Grace Hopper would be involved in a number of fleet operations – most notably the search for the transport St Mary and as the coms relay during the second Three Planet’s Talks. Additionally the ship provided communications support during the early days of the settlement of Landfall.

Grace Hopper 2

Grace Hooper was superseded by the Emmy Noether Class and in 2062 was reduced to reserve. While it is understood that a number of commercial and private groups have expressed an interest in obtaining the ship, to date the fleet has not indicated any desire to dispose of her.

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Filed under Ship design, Ships of the Fleet