I'm a writer. There, I've admitted it. I wonder if there's a 12-Step program for folks like me...

Most of this blog will be about writing for a living. Or maybe about trying to earn a living as a writer. Or maybe about trying to have a life while you write.

And maybe I'll be able to avoid the driving temptation to write about politics. But I'm not very good around temptation, so all I can promise is that I'll try to avoid writing about politics.

But I will write about the software I use, and the software I try out, and what I think about it. I actually spent lots of years in software testing - as a tester and as a manager of testing departments. I actually started work in software development in 1971, so I have a bit of experience with computers to back up what I have to say on this subject.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

“Twisted Key” in Kindle format

I have been placed in the unenviable position of having to make an executive decision for which I find myself criminally ill-equipped. The MS for “Twisted Key” has been ready to go to the publisher for some time, and I have had the photography of the cover art (painted by my good friend Mickey Summers) for the last few weeks. But a few unfortunate delays have pushed out the publishing date for the paperback version until July.

However, the Kindle beckoned.

My hope was that I would produce the Kindle version at the same time the paperback version became available. I could not rationalize waiting that long before making the Kindle version available for those who own Kindles.

So that’s what I did with my day (so far – it’s only ten am and there’s no telling what kind of trouble I’ll get into later on). I sized the cover art to 6” X 9” and added a title and author name, as you can see below:


TKCoverArtFinal Kindle


Then I cleaned up the *.doc file and uploaded the two files to the Kindle Publisher. It should be available for sale at www.amazon.com some time in the next few days. I’ll provide a direct link in my next blog post. In a few days, say Saturday or Sunday,  do a search for my name in the books section of the Amazon site. That should bring up all of my published works, including the Kindle version of “Twisted Key”.  Just so you know, it’s priced as $9.95.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the three readers who had access to the completed manuscript all said it is a very interesting and edge-of-the-seat story.  One reader, Kathy O’Donnell, the owner of the “Well Loved Books” bookstore here in Orange Park, read it in six hours. When I asked how she did that, she said one of the reasons was that Spike is back in the story line. That’s right, the six-toed marina cat is back, and just as feisty as ever.

Have a good week.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Busy is as busy does


I spent much of the last two weeks building stuff and moving furniture. It’s a nice break from sitting in front of the computer and pretending to work for a living, but that does not excuse my failure to post to my blog. Please accept my apologies.

My brother-in-law lost his father a few months ago and has spent much of his time clearing up the estate and selling off housewares and getting ready to sell the house. I built three tables for the garage sale and helped to move stuff around and sort out what would stay and what would go. He’s got a storage locker, so much of what he and my sister wanted to keep had to be moved into the locker. We did that last weekend, and brought some of the stuff into our apartment. That included what must be the world’s heaviest refrigerator and the world’s heaviest 6000K generator. Not to mention that the tires on the generator were flat and we didn’t have a compressor with us. But we did okay for two old farts.

Admittedly, it took both of us a few days to recover. But it’s done, now.

“Twisted Key” is ready for the publisher. I’ve even got the cover art, but it will be some time next month before I can pack it all off. “Lonesome Cove”, the fourth novel, should be ready for the editors about the same time. There are a few plot-related issues I have to resolve and then I can finish the first draught.

Windows 7 has a few issues, as well. It tends to drop the ‘Always On’ internet connection at odd moments. This is a known issue, but the microsofties have yet to provide a fix for it. I keep the Control Panel open to the Networks section and check the connection each time I open a browser window. It’s the only ‘Fix’ I’ve been able to come up with.

If you’ve got a solution for this, please let me know.

Have a good week.

Monday, April 11, 2011

New computer hassles, software issues


Moving from my old (7-10 years old) Dell 2350 with 1 GB of (really slow ) DDR2 RAM running Win XP SP3 to a new Compaq Presario (who makes up these stupid names?) with 2 GB (much faster) DDR3 RAM running the 64-bit Win 7 Home Premium amounted to culture shock on a world shaking scale.

I’ve never met anyone who wished he had a slower, older computer. If I ever do, I’ll sell him mine. My only complaint with the Presario is that it only has 4 USB-2 ports on the back plane, and both the keyboard and mouse connect to the computer via USB. Which means that my wireless adapter, mini-cam, UPS and printer all competed for the other two ports. Until I got fed up and paid $15.00 for a 4-port unpowered USB hub, which hangs ignominiously from its USB connector trailing three or four USB cables where nobody can see it.

Later this month I’ll purchase another 2 GB of DDR-3 RAM for about $43.50. All of my 32-bit software installed and ran without a problem and seems to run just fine, thank you very much.

I think Microsoft has finally figured out how to write OS code that actually works the way the user expects it to work. Not that I’ve got Win 7 figured out. I don’t. Yet. But it appears to be very well organized and other than dropping the wireless connection at odd moments, it works just fine.

We brought the new machine home Sunday night from Best Buy. I had a short job to do Monday morning, but around 2:00 that afternoon I started to set it up. I had backups of my backups from the old machine, and printed out all of my passwords and product keys, and then I backed up everything all over again, just to be sure.

The biggest hassle – 2 hours’ worth – involved configuring the wireless adapter in Win 7. I still don’t know how I managed to get it done, but the OS finally recognized the home network and when I entered the passkey it all clicked just like it was supposed to do.

After that it took another day to install all of my software apps and system tools and get them configured. I use QuickBooks SimpleStart accounting software to track my expenses and sales (yes, I have both, technically, kinda-sorta. I am a writer, after all, and selling books is the whole idea). It’s a small business since I don’t have to do more than track the internet sales and record whatever sales deals I close with retail buyers or consignments to indie booksellers.

I’d like to purchase a copy of QuickBooks Pro because it includes sophisticated stuff like inventory tracking. SimpleStart by definition does not. So inventory just goes into a spreadsheet I have to update for changes. It works. It’s admittedly a kludge, but what’s a boy to do?

Unfortunately, Intuit no longer offers a downloadable desktop version of SimpleStart on their web site. They’ve figured out that they can charge people $13.00 or so a month to access SimpleStart on the web. Well, that is a good marketing decision for them I suppose, but I want my data on my computer, not on their servers where I have to pay to play with my own business data. But that’s just me.

Anyway, I got in touch with one of their reps via the chat tool on the Intuit site and she was kind enough to send me the URL for a download page where I could access the desktop version again.  Thank you very much for that, Intuit! Truly, thank you.

Intuit makes good, serviceable products and they have a great reputation for standing by their customers. And SimpleStart is a good, easy-to-understand and logically well laid out program. Not only that, but Intuit has a very large community of users whole will jump in and answer any questions you may have about using their products.

You just can’t go wrong with this company.

Win 7 has lots of nice features, and a lot of the features carried over from XP are much more robust. I thought I use the magnifier in Win 7 so I turned that on, but it quickly became an infuriating nuisance, so I got rid of it. If you’re legally blind and really need it I am sure it will prove a valuable tool, but I’m not, so there.

All in all, after a week of moving software and configuring this and swapping out that I finally have a reliable machine to carry on my writing. It’s not a whizz-bang machine with super-cooled over-clocked quad processor running 16 Gb of RAM and quad RAID backup drives, but that’s okay. I’ve got an uninterruptable power supply and a few more USB ports than I need right now. And I’m gonna get another two GB of RAM in a few weeks.

Have a good week

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sales are up, I am happy to say.


Internet sales of “The Big Bend” and “Hog Valley” were both up for the month of March. The best month in this new year to date. That’s for both paperback and Kindle, by the way. I very much hope that “Twisted Key” will be out soon, and that should go a long ways toward improving relations with my bank manager.

I didn’t get to do much on “Lonesome Cove” this week. Some editing was done at the beginning of the week – I’m up to page 204 in the  manuscript, which means it’s time to go back and massage all the bits into place before I write the final one hundred pages of the story.  But some time on Tuesday I began to feel a bit ill – passing kidney stones at first, then a cyst on my back began to get a bit fractious and then an abscess began to form behind one of my molars.

Aha! Said I, as a pattern began to make itself apparent.

That’s when I realized I needed to see a doctor. So the cyst has been drained – twice, and I’m on three types of antibiotics. No more kidney stones flowing painfully through places they have no right to be, and the abscess behind my molar is beginning to shrink. Getting old is not as much fun as the adds on television say it is.  But at least I’m still here to write about it.

I was supposed to drive down to Silver Springs this weekend to photograph the artwork for the cover of “Twisted Key”,  but what with being nibbled into an early grave by that infection I had to put it off. I hope to do that Tuesday morning. Mickey Summers, the artist who does all of my cover art, says it’s a lovely picture and photographs very well. I’ll try to get a photo posted when I get back.

One of my favorite authors – Simon Winchester – has a new book out. It’s titled “Atlantic”. Simon writes about real stuff. “Krakatoa”, “A Crack in the Edge of the World”, “The Map that Changed the World”. Fascinating stuff, and he writes in absolutely gorgeous English. Not only that, but you can actually understand what he’s saying. His writing is clear and engaging and the subject matter is truly fascinating. If you have any interest in how this planet of ours works, about how we as humans cope with this earth and its changes, pick up one of his books. You won’t be disappointed.

I’ll be back to work on “Lonesome Cove” on Wednesday and try to get the editing done by the weekend. Then I start on the final third of the story.

Have a good week. Stay safe.