Friday, May 31, 2013

Low motivation, Procrastination, and other types of creation stagnation

Writing is a very vulnerable thing.

Very vulnerable.

You, as the writer, have a story to tell.  You clearly value this story, you are taking the time to write it, after all.  You're excited about it.  You love it.  In Sci-Fi, you love the gadgets your mind has invented, the expansiveness of your universe, the characters you've brought to life.  When I write my mind actually plays the movie for me.  I can sit in front of my monitors and write a paragraph, then see it unfold.  The action, the drama, the conflict, and the pain all play out in perfect technicolor in my head. 

The effort is to get that from my head into the words you read on paper, and that is, sadly, not always as effective as I'd like it to be.  It's hard to write that perfect sentence that encompasses all the emotion, action, and drama of your story.  It's virtually impossible to write 80,000 words filled with such perfect sentences. 

At times I'll read what I've written, sigh in disgust, and walk away.  THAT is not what I want to say!  The keyboard betrayed me.  LOL.  At that moment I tend to get up, walk out to the garage, and weld on a sculpture, or tinker on the car.  A step back may help to bring clarity, I hope.  Last night I played a computer game for four hours instead of writing.  I thought about my story, but none of it made it to written text.  I ask myself, are these things procrastinating or are they healthy pauses in the creative process?  I guess that depends on what you feel when you step back into that process.

It's easy to get frustrated with a less than stellar output.  You read the, pardon me, 'crap' you just wrote and worry if you're a writer or just a pretender.  But as a writer you have to keep telling yourself that what you put on page the first time, the second time, or the tenth time isn't necessarily what you'll submit to the world as your masterpiece.  I completely deleted and rewrote chapter 2 this week.  A complete deletion isn't always necessary, but in this case it was.  It might be again, I'm not content with the rewrite either.  The second version may be able to be edited to acceptability, however.  We'll see.

You can expect a list of other motivational hits as well.  Family is a huge factor, I'm finding my biggest anchors to be the attitude my family can display at time.  They can tend to think this is a hobby, not a job.  I can understand that opinion, even if I think it's a very shortsighted one.  If you're the family member of a writer, constantly interrupting them and expecting them to conform to your schedule is not helpful to their success.  "Oh, he can do it, he's just writing," is not a valid thought process that will result in the success of your family member.  If you love them, support them just as you would an athlete, a musician, or an artist.

When a person is writing, motivation gets hit by your own frustration with your writing, critiques that might not go as expected, or simply because you get a bit fed up with trying to get the story on paper to fit what is in your head.  If you let that dominate you, it will.  You will then fall into procrastination, something I might be doing right now by writing this instead of another chapter of my book.  Something I might have fallen prey too last night by playing a computer game instead of writing. 

I've made a commitment.  Six hours a day toward writing, five days a week.  That includes this blog, research, and time spend just sitting and thinking about the storyline.  It also includes time spent at writing group.  I've discovered that many days I do eight hours, but then I allow myself two hours off a following day if I like.  Lately I've been putting in well over six hours a day.  So I have a standard, but not a slave driving standard.  It's helped to make that commitment to myself.  Not to my writing, but to myself.  This book it being written with the hopes that you like it, but I am writing it to satisfy a need within myself.  If the book is successful, then I get to write for you.  But the first one is for me.

If you can beat the factors that stomp on your motivation, if you can make a commitment to dedicate a certain time to the writing process, you can get past the things that slow you down. 

This blog may or may not be intelligible.  The writing of this particular entry has been very stream of consciousness.  I hope it worked.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What's involved, at least for me.

I think that when someone hears a person say, "I'm a writer" they think of someone punching words into a word processor via a keyboard, or the more romantic might think of an industrious individual laboring over reams of paper with a pile of wadded up failures next to them on the floor. 

Writing involves more than that, as I am rapidly discovering.  Online research.  Learning techniques.  Ferreting out your strengths and weakness.  Dealing with your own uncertainties and reservations... and much more. 

I've always been considered intelligent, but if there was ever a poster child for ADD, it's me.  The great thing about writing is that I can write when I please, get tired, and quit until it next pleases me.  That also works with having kids, and life issues.  I carry my iPhone all the time in order to record any ideas I might have so they won't be lost. 

I also found a group of like minded individuals who also either desire to be published or already have.  Encouragement from others who share your dreams as well as their honest opinions about where you are weak is critical to your success.  Your Mom will tell you that your writing is fabulous even if it is second grade material.  Your friends might do the same.  But your critique group?  When you hand over your drafts expect to get them back well marked. 

I've seen that happen to people, they fluff up and act like you've offended them, the greatest writer the planet has ever seen or will see.  How DARE you not absolutely adore their generosity at allowing you to be graced with their written word?  How DARE you submit that their plot might be weak or their character boring?  Some people will make excuses for why they get a critique they don't like.  You're just jealous.  You wouldn't know good writing if it bit you on the rear.  You're a dolt, a simpleton, a pretender. 

I try not to laugh when that type of thing happens, but inside I'm a 12 year old boy, so I let slip the occasional giggle.  I laugh at people behaving badly at times, and I think fart jokes are funny too. 

No, you had best be thick skinned if you seek out a writers group to critique you.  The key is to find the people within that group who give you constructive honest input.  Use the hell out of those people, without wearing either their generosity or your friendship thin if you can.  I try not to be a pest, but I'd love to have some of these people on 24 hour retainer to critique my efforts.  But they have lives too.  Why can't the universe be all about me? 

I meet with my writers group tonight.  I will try to pass back the help to others that some have offered me.  With that in mind, I will not get to writing about orbital mechanics today, unless it's very late.   I hope to share that with you soon.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


So if you were the Captain of a crippled ship, with only one island within range before your vessel surely sinks, what would you name it? 

Captain Dayson names the single K4 class orange dwarf star her crew finds to be close enough to reach "Destiny".  Disclaimer:  Names may be changed at any time if the author finds them too hokey. 

Class:  K4 class orange dwarf star
Absolute Magnitude:  7.1
Lifespan:  40-60 billion years.
Luminosity:  .18 Sol

Mass:  .71 Sol
Diameter:  .69 Sol  The diameter of the Sun is 1,392,000km, so the diameter of Destiny is 960,000km. 

With a star of this size and luminosity, a planet would have to orbit at .43AU to receive the same energy from this star as Earth does from the Sun. 

DISCLAIMER:  I'm not an astronomer or a mathematician.  Please feel free to correct me.

The formula for determining if a star is visible to the naked eye is:

m = M - 5 ( 1 - log10 D )

m is the apparent magnitude (invisible to the naked eye if number is greater than 6)
M is the absolute magnitude
D is the standard measuring distance of brightness of 10 parsecs.  A parsec is 3.26 light-years

In my book the crew of the Michael Stennis first observe Destiny from 82 light years.  Is the star visible to the naked eye?  Nope.  Our Sun, five times as bright as Destiny, is visible to the naked eye out to about 55 light years, or 16.87 parsecs.  Destiny would be invisible without a telescope much closer than 55 light years. 

If my math is right (very questionable), at 82 light years the apparent magnitude of Destiny would be 9.1, far above the 6 that limits the visibility of a celestial object to the naked eye. In fact, a magnitude 10 star is at the limit of  7x50 binoculars.  So Destiny is dim indeed. 

Please feel free to offer any corrections or suggestions. 

Tomorrow I will describe the Destiny solar system and I'll slaughter the math involved there too.

First words

Here is the first half of Chapter 1. 

This is SciFi, so if it's not your cup of tea, I apologize.  But it's what I am, a creative scientist.  Writing SciFi perfectly fills my need for creative expression and research.

For the record, I'm not looking for a fan club per se.  I will revel in the positive comments, but that's not solely what I expect.  If you have constructive criticism, I'd love that as well. 

I'm working on my second draft of Chapter 2 today, I have first drafts of 7 chapters.  It's amazing what utter CRAP you turn out with your first efforts.  I'd like to thank my friends Anita, Roberta, and Tim for critiquing me last Sunday and pointing out that I write in passive voice and it needs to be active

I made another decision for my blog today.  No modern politics.  No modern religions.  We can discuss anything in historical context or in regards to how these things might work in the future, but I believe the current state of these subjects to be something that none of us will change individually, and this is not the place to discuss them.  Please respect that.

With those things said, here is the first 6 pages of "On the Shores of a Dark Sea."


Far below the idyllic clouds of Hamor cast shadows across a continent on fire.  Cities burned in radioactive fury, millions of dead turned to vapor by the atrocities of the enemy.  Pillars of smoke rose from the ruined cities, darkening the atmosphere.  As the Michael Stennis orbited Hamor, the daylight terminus passed below and cities once lit by electricity now glowed the deep red of nuclear firestorms. 
The nine Alliance fleets that were assigned to protect the planet had failed.
Captain Sarah Dayson, strapped into her command couch could feel each impact the Michael Stennis suffered.   As the impacts from enemy and friendly fire occurred, Sarah walled off the part of her that knew her crew was dying with each shudder of the ship.  She was buried in the acceleration couch as the thrusters of the Stennis burned furiously to push the ship out of the way of an incoming nuclear barrage.
            A nuclear missile struck the Samville, a troop shuttle carrier assigned to the small fleet that Captain Dayson commanded.  When the Stennis first arrived on scene, seventeen ships rode in with the Stennis’s warp bubble.  Now eleven of those smaller vessels remained, and the Stennis suffered from heavy damage as well.  The Samville ripped in two as the nuclear explosion vaporized its midsection. 
            “Brace for impact,” her navigation officer said with a calm belying the urgency of the event.  “The front of the Samville is going to hit us.  We’re already pushing hard to port, the best we can do is shift the impact to the aft third.”  Peter Corriea, her navigation officer, was young but extremely competent. 
            “How long until impact?”
            “Forty seconds sir,” Corriea replied.
            “Roger.”  Sarah turned to her left to speak to her first officer.  “Mr. Gilbert, advise the Admiral that we may be out of the action.  Stand by to re-assign our escorts to other ships as ordered.”
            “Aye, Captain.”
Sarah turned back to the main screen.  The Samville, struck amidships, was destroyed.  Two large pieces tumbled away from the detonation along with thousands of smaller pieces and a cloud of expanding gas.  ECOMS, the Enhanced COmbat Management System, sounded the collision alarm throughout the Stennis as soon as it calculated a collision was imminent.  Sarah knew that throughout the ship automated systems were taking action to minimize the coming disaster, but the collision was going to be catastrophic. 
As she stared at the main viewscreen, the remains of the Samville could be seen tumbling. Each second passed as if it were a dozen.  Indicators on her holo displays showed that all starboard thrusters were firing to minimize the damage to the Stennis.  Sarah transferred the camera view of the Samville to her station, and then zoomed in on the wreckage.  She saw broken girders and deck plates twisted and distorted by the heat of the nuclear weapon.  As the hulk rotated she saw relatively undamaged sections that might still contain survivors, not fortunate enough to have died immediately.  She wondered if they were aware of the impending collision or if they were too irradiated to care.
The external camera followed the hulk as it moved past the midsection and FTL drive of the Stennis.  The remains of the destroyed vessel struck her ship just forward of the fusion engines.  Sarah watched as the remains of the Samville flattened against the hull of her battlecruiser.  Flames erupted along the side of her ship.  The impact of the hulk behaved like a water balloon, flattening before bursting through the outer hull of the Stennis.  Fire alerts dotted her damage control display.  Most of the Samville debris flowed around the cylindrical shape of the Stennis, but some parts punched through and blasted outward from the hull on the other side.   The Stennis was, however, still largely in one piece.  What parts of the Samville weren’t absorbed into her ship now dropped lower toward the planet, falling into the upper atmosphere of Hamor.
“Status,” she barked.
“Damage control reports coming in now, ma’am, emergency crews reporting to stations.  Some are already purging areas aft to extinguish fires.  Mostly crew facilities, although medical has been hit hard.  The purged areas are…”    He paused almost as he began.  “To tell you the truth, ma’am, I don’t think you have time for the full list.  Most significantly, the starboard defensive railguns are all offline.  If we take fire from that side, we are dead.”
Sarah nodded at Harmeen.  “Mr. Corriea, can we rotate the ship?  We need to put the starboard side of the Stennis toward the planet.”
“Rotating now.  Maneuver complete in twenty seconds.”
“Mr. Harmeen, status of the FTL drive and fuel tanks?”
“Fully online and operational, Captain.  Fuel tanks are undamaged.”
“Mr. Corriea, start spinning up the core.”  She turned to her first officer.  “Mr. Gilbert, bring our fleet to bubble range, I suspect we’re leaving and taking them with us.  The Alliance can’t afford to lose this ship.”
“Aye, sir.”
“Lieutenant Seto, get a direct line to the Admiral for me.  Visual.”
“Sir, Admiral Heyden on visual.”
The image of Admiral Heyden appeared on the main screen.  Smoke trails lined the ceiling behind him.  The command carrier Binogi had also suffered some damage.  “Captain Dayson, status.  Sensors report nukes going off in your section.”
Sarah took a deep breath.  “Admiral Heyden.  That’s correct, four nukes detonated nearby, one of which scored a direct hit on a troop shuttle carrier.  No expected survivors.  Large debris from the Samville has impacted the Stennis.  Our starboard defenses are down, we’re calling in our escorts close to provide cover on that side, but that will take a…”
A flash of static filled the screen, followed by a momentary glimpse of flames on the wall opposite the camera.  The view screen returned to displaying status panels for the Stennis. 
Sarah looked at her communications officer.  “Seto, what was that?  Get the Admiral back.”
“I’m attempting to reestablish communications, Captain, but First Fleet is not responding.  I’m not getting anything from the Binogi or any of her escorts.”
The tactical situation was deteriorating rapidly.  The battle was lost.  Sarah made a command decision to retreat without permission from First Fleet.  “Mr. Gilbert, notify all fleets that Seventh Fleet is retreating to rendezvous position gamma.”
“Roger, position gamma.” 
ECOMS spoke on the bridge channel.  “Defense systems firing.”
Sarah could feel a continuous slight vibration begin as railguns along the side of the ship began firing into space.   
“Status,” Sarah demanded.
“Sensors reporting gravity lens flares at two seven three mark two nine zero,” Corriea responded.  The port railguns are engaging at full efficiency.  Fourteen flares noted.”
Sarah watched the viewscreen as streams of red tracers raced away from her battlecruiser.
 She knew the guns fired the first shot at the location predicted to have the highest probability of a hit, and traced an expanding circle of one kilogram steel projectiles from that point.  The incoming missiles weaved in an attempt not to be destroyed before reaching their target. 
The projectiles, red hot by their rapid acceleration away from the Stennis, cooled off enough to become invisible within a kilometer of the vessel. The ship looked like bees swarming from a hive when firing.  If the railgun slugs hit a missile, it was a sure kill.  The slugs were accelerated to several kilometers per second, and would strike their targets with the force of a meteorite falling from space.
EF2358 is also firing on the inbounds.  Computer says just under four minutes until hostile detonation.”
“Tactical on main screen, Mr. Corriea.”
The main screen changed from an external view from the ship to a gridded display of local targets.  Friendlies were green indicators.  The expected locations of incoming missiles were displayed as red.  Expanding fans of blue traced out from the Stennis and the EF2358 illustrating the coverage of the railguns. 
“Mr. Corriea, once the railguns stop firing, align us for jump.  The singularity better be ready.  I want to go on my word.”  Sarah turned her head and looked at her first officer.  “Mr. Gilbert, how long until we have the escorts in range?”
            “The Yascurra and EF2358 are in range now, along with the freighter Palino.  The other ships are straggling in.  Next is the Menin which will be in range in four minutes, the last to arrive are the strike gunships.  They’re a good twenty or more minutes away.”
Sarah cringed.  The Menin might get left behind, there was little hope to save any of the other ships farther out.  She shook her head at her first officer as a gesture of her regret.  “Tell the Menin to give it all they got, Mr. Gilbert.” 
“Status of targets, Corriea?”  Sarah looked at the main screen and noticed numerous red targets.
“The first fourteen have been destroyed.  Approximately twenty more bogies dropped into realspace nearby, and the railguns are engaging the new targets.”
“It’s the best I have.  Aft sensors are destroyed, fore sensors are responding intermittently.  Twenty is my best estimate.”
Sarah noted the determined look on the young man’s face, mixed with frustration.  “Then it is the best estimate, Mr. Corriea.  How long until first impact?”
“Just over four minutes, Captain.”
“Mr. Gilbert, advise Mr. Corriea when Menin is riding the bubble.”  Before he could answer, the Captain pointed her finger at her nav officer.  “And Mr. Corriea, your orders are to jump immediately once that ship is in bubble.  Understood?”
“Yes sir,” they answered in unison.
Sarah took a few minutes to think.  Across her ship the crew was tending to weapons, assisting the wounded, securing the dead, and fighting the fires on board.  Heroic acts were saving lives, but young men and women were still dying.  Her ship carried nearly eight hundred crew members when fully staffed.  The Stennis had entered this battle with slightly over six hundred.  There would be a lot less after today. 
She scrolled through the holo displays in front of her.  Over the course of the battle her crew had launched seventy-eight nuclear weapons at the enemy, and the fleet ships assigned to the Stennis fired another one hundred and four.  Of those, seventeen had found targets, two of which were capital ships like the Michael Stennis.  But that wouldn’t matter to the enemy.  The Alliance could kill ten times as many ships as the Hive, and still lose the war.  There were simply too many of the enemy, it required the kill rate of alliance ships to be far too high, far beyond any reasonable expectation. 
She knew she was fighting on the losing side.
Mr. Corriea drew her back to the moment.  “Spin up complete, Captain.  We can jump anytime.”
She nodded.  “Save the Menin.
She’d made the decision to retreat, a choice that would either end her career as a Captain or potentially see her promoted to Admiral.  Time would tell.  Her fleet had lost six escorts and the Stennis was at least partially crippled.  Another seven ships were about to be left behind to die at the hands of the Hive.  Only four would leave with the Seventh Fleet.
ECOMS broke in again.  “Undestroyed enemy missile detected.  Brace for proximity nuclear detonation.” 

“Mr. Corriea, jump the goddamned ship.”

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A first step toward Refuge

It seems like there should be something monumental about creating a blog to put your experiences into writing.  I'm actually putting my experiences about writing into writing. 

I've decided to take the step that so many take and write a novel.  Three in fact.  I know the odds are against it, but I do have the fire in my belly so to speak, so I think I will have a go at it.  I have been told that 1 in 10 will try to write a novel.  1 out of 10 of those who try to write a novel will complete it.  1 out of 10 of those will get it published.  1 out of 10 of those will write a second novel.

So let's see, that's 10% of 10% of 10% of 10%.  So if what that person told me is true, 30 million American want to or will start to write a book.  3 million will write it.  300,000 will get published.  30,000 will write a second book.

My question then is what percentage make their living at it?  I suspect that's quite small, although I know a few successful writers. 

I'm a very lucky man.  My wife is a nurse, and a quite successful one.  So I get the luxury of being a housedad and bum for a few years to see if I can step up to the plate and get a book published.

I'm going to try to post about my experience three times a week.  I am writing science fiction so there is a lot of research into science, of course.  I am learning a phenomenal amount.  So far I've had to research orbital mechanics, some math, and a bit of biology. 

I'll be posting about what I've researched and learned.  I'll be posing questions to you, the educated reader, to see what your opinions are.  In fact, I have one situation to post this week that I'd like to hear responses about.  At least once I have some followers. 

Let's say that humans colonize a K4 class orange dwarf star.  These humans live on a planet that is much larger than Earth, although less dense so the surface gravity is 1.16g.  The atmosphere is thicker, therefore more efficient at keeping out UV light than ours.  The K4 star already produces significantly less UV to start with.  The planet orbits at about 65 million kilometers.  10-12,000 years pass.  What evolutionary events will unfold during this time?  Here are the ones I've thought of.

Since the UV count is significantly smaller, the population would lose the pigmentation that protects from UV light.  Very white skin, blonde hair, and very albino features.  Do you think this would be the evolutionary result?  If not, why not?

The peak light of a K4 star is shifted toward the red end of the spectrum from our own Sun, would the eyes of the inhabitants of such a planet potentially move their visible light perception range lower as well?  Would violet be invisible to them just as ultraviolet is to us?  Would they have lower frequency colors, something below red?  Let's call it low-red.  Is 10K years enough to facilitate this?

They'd probably be shorter and stouter with the 16% increase in gravity.  Would their respiratory system change with a thicker atmosphere that has a lower oxygen content? 

The planet is less dense than Earth, it doesn't have the Thea impact that created the moon in its history.  Metals are far less common in the crust.  How would that affect the biology of creatures?  Would they be anemic or would they have adapted to a lower concentration of iron in the environment? 

How would Earth plantlife behave in such a world? 

My next post I'll share a bit more about myself and my intentions with these novels. 

I wish I had a prize for my first follower, but I think I'll just say Thanks.  Learning all sorts of science and discussing the future of humanity will be your reward.

'til next.