Thursday, June 13, 2019

Networking

Like most writers, I'm an introvert. Strongly an introvert. I'd rather stay home and read or watch T.V. than do most anything else.

But, in my corporate days, I was forced to be more gregarious. And since I've become a freelance writer and author, that has helped me. You see, nearly all the success I've had as a writer has come from networking, i.e., knowing people and talking with them. I found my publisher through another writer I'd met. I got my freelance jobs from knowing people.

Yes, this meant talking to people (shudder) and sometimes strangers. The one thing I hate about freelance writing is calling strangers and asking for some of their time. But I force myself to do it because that's part of the job.

So get out from in front of that computer screen and look for opportunities to talk to people. You never know what possibilities you might find.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does that affect your life. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Author Interview: Stephen Coghlan

Stephen Coghlan
Today we have an author interview with Stephen Coghlan. Welcome Stephen, it's great to have you here!

Hailing from the capital of the Great White North (i.e. Canada), Stephen Coghlan spends his days erecting buildings, and his nights reveling in the dreamscape. Since 2017, he has produced a myriad of flash fictions, short stories, novellas and novels, including, but not limited to, the GENMOS Saga, the Nobilis series, Urban Gothic, and has had his works read on podcasts and featured in anthologies.

Genmos



After disappearing from existence, Devlin Keper returns from his eight-year exile in order to gather his children, bio-engineered weapons known as Genmos, in an attempt to protect them from the government that wanted them destroyed.

Links for Genmos:

http://scoghlan.com/?page_id=109
https://www.amazon.com/GENMOS-Gathering-Genetically-Modified-Species/dp/194524710X/
http://thurstonhowlpub.storenvy.com/products/21740411-genmos-gathering-storms


Nobilis



When her family of intergalactic hippies are brutally murdered before her eyes, a young woman inadvertently recruits the help of a grizzled veteran turned janitor, an exiled alien princess and her indebted human husband, four enslaved children, a genius scientist with not one social grace, and a giant alien that contains her brother’s soul, in order to help her maintain her freedom and her life.

(Nobilis is still a work in progress)

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Well… Kind of, yes. I always had an idea of writing a book, and back in the early days of my youth I hammered away on an old Underwood typewriter whenever I found one, and I wasted quite a few sheaves of paper making “books” that held “stories” and full-color “Illustrations”.
Thinking on it, I might not have always wanted to be a writer, but I did want to be a storyteller.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your novels?

I have two novels coming out this year. Firstly, is Nobilis: Seedling, the debut novel in my space opera series. It’s a deep sci-fi adventure where humans are far from the dominant species, corporations control every aspect of the galactic sphere, and where a space-hippy tries to escape the most dreaded pirates with the help of some unwitting friends, and a giant, mysterious, living machine.

The second novel I have coming out this year is a sequel to my first ever published book, GENMOS (The Genetically Modified Species): Gathering Storms, and it's called GENMOS: Crossroads.
The Genmos series is a cross-Canada YA action adventure series that focuses on 15 animal/human hybrids as they attempt to be recognized as living beings. Book 2, Crossroads, starts immediately where book 1 ends, and deals with cliques forming, infighting, and how to deal with a possible spy among their ranks.

What brought you to these genres?

For Nobilis, I’ve always enjoyed series where you can watch characters evolve over time. That's the entire point of Space Operas. You, the consumer, develop a relationship with each well-informed character until you feel you have to know how their lives turn out. Science fiction, meanwhile, allows the creator to explore modern day themes. I live on the Ontario/Quebec border, so I'm right in the thick of Anglo/Franco relations. In Nobilis, there are two primary dialects, and not every character has learned both. Also, I might take a satiric stance on capitalism and racial tensions.

Genmos was the first series I ever wrote, so it's kind of my first literary baby.  I actually began it because I fell in love with some anthropomorphic webcomics and thought, hey, I would love to try making a story that's half as good as what I'm reading.

Admittedly it took me years to get there, but I feel like I managed my own goal. It helps too, that I reached out to those who inspired me, and one of them has even written a forward for book 2.

What inspired you to write these particular books?

Genmos was inspired by two particular webcomics. Namir Deiter, and the Cyantian Chronicles. (https://www.namirdeiter.com/ and https://cyantian.net/ respectively) Between study breaks, during my college years, I found myself enjoying reading the online adventures, and I wished to be able to create something as amazing as the worlds that I read. Being only 18, I realized that I could tap into the feelings of my very recent youth, and, taking advantage of it, hopefully write something that would connect with YA readers. Overtime, I worry that many edits have lost some of my connection with my younger self, but at the same time I do think my added maturity has brought more depth and realism to the stories.

Nobilis, on the other hand, was created because of my love of ongoing stories where characters grow and develop. Babylon 5, Star Trek (DS9 onwards) and Robotech all fueled some part of the story telling. But, that’s not all. When I first penned the rough outline, I was going through a kind of Giant-Robot phase, (Gundam, Zone of the Enders, Brain Powered) and I wanted to really play with the dynamic of something alive, familiar, yet alien all in one. Since I was coming into adulthood, I began to make satirical jabs at corporate ownership, which, sadly, seems even more prominent now than ever to me. Lastly, I play around with language barriers. I am an Anglophone, but I live and work in Ottawa and Gatineau, so I often hear French being spoken. Sometimes, heck, oftentimes, the conversations in French are too rapid-fire for my limited language skills to follow, and I wanted to reflect that difficulty, hence why there are two separate primary languages.

Are any of your characters based on either yourself or people you know?

Yes, quite a few… I try to draw inspiration from the world around me whilst paying homage to much of what I care about. The father figures in my works are oft-idealized versions of family, or myself , while other characters have traits of those near and dear to me.

How do you react if/when you get any negative reviews?

So far I haven’t had a negative review, per-se, and that might have to do with the fact that all my work that’s been made available, had been through small presses, so every piece has been refined and edited by amazing teams of dedicated editors.

I’ve had some constructive criticism come my way, and that has been exceedingly valued. I’ve been blessed to avoid trolls, so far, which is a blessing of not being too famous.

Where can people find out more about you and your books? (eg blogs, websites etc)

Oh, time to plug my website and blog, which I TRY to keep up to date. http://scoghlan.com, which also has links to my other social media accounts. Now, to be honest, you can almost always find me on Twitter as @WordsBySC.

Are you working on anything else at the moment?

Yes, and it's taking a toll on my emotions. I had an idea to write a Gender/Cyberpunk story based on an American parolee in the near future. So, I started my research by contacting some people who've experienced the penal system first hand. 

Holy Crud, I am so happy to be Canadian. I know Canada's penal system isn't a walk in the park filled with unicorn farts, but what I heard from those who replied is far more depressing.

Do you have any advice to other authors who would like to be published?

Be willing to accept criticism. Writing is a craft, an art, and it can take time and help to create something clear, concise, emotional, and vivid. My ego stopped me from being published for over a decade until my wife slapped some sense into me when she told me that the opening to my first book made no sense.

Others had informed me of similar flaws, but I had ignored them because how Dare someone tell an artist how to hold their brush! The thing is, language is a fickle beast and must be treated delicately. If your words do not convey an idea in a way that can be understood, than no one is going to be able to follow your ideas, your characters' actions, the plot, the politics, etc.

Where do you write?

Honestly? As a father of young kids and a full time technician for building automation, the answer is wherever I am when I have a spare moment, which in turn often means… while I’m on the toilet where I can lock the door.

Hey, it gives me a good excuse if people find my writing a bit crappy…

If you could be any paranormal or have any one supernatural talent, what would it be? Why?

Telepathy. I would love to be able to move things with my mind. I don’t need to know what others are thinking. I don’t need to fly. I don’t need an independent super-healing power… Let me be a living crane. I can do so much more supporting construction, or lifting debris off injured people, or tearing apart a burning automobile to rescue those trapped inside.

Chocolate or Ice Cream?

Double chocolate Ice Cream?

You’re in a horror film. You’re in a house and a bad guy is chasing you. Do you run up the stairs?

If I’m in the basement…

What’s your favorite music?

Metal, where you can clearly hear the singer and their lyrics. I love metal, but I’m not a fan of growls and grunts. Give me something where the vocals are clear and concise and I can understand the meaning.

Thank you Stephen! It was great to learn more about you and your writing and your novels. Good luck with your future writing endeavors! 









Thursday, May 30, 2019

My Dream Computer

I got a new laptop a while back (first part of April). My eight-year old Dell was dying. In the end, it simply refused to boot. Luckily, I'd already gotten all the files off of it so I didn't lose anything. It's rather ironic because I took good care of it and it looks brand new. But it doesn't work.

My new computer is simply a laptop. I got a docking station for it so I could use it like a desktop with my large screen, large keyboard, and my printer.

But I have a dream of the perfect computer. I want it to act like a desktop when I'm working at my desk, like a laptop when I'm working somewhere else, and a tablet when I want a tablet.

Now, I know the Microsoft Surface comes very close to that. There are even docking stations available for it. The thing I didn't like about the surface was its keyboard and its hefty price if you needed a large amount of internal storage. And I do.

But here's the kicker that may be impossible. When I'm not using my computer, I want it to be a phone. That is, the same size as a smart phone and work like a smart phone. So it needs the ability to become smaller. As I said, that's probably impossible.

Well, I do know they are working on foldable displays for phones, so they can unfold almost the the size of a tablet. So maybe not quite impossible.

But a man can dream.

What do you want in a perfect computer? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Changes in Attitude

When I traveled on business to South American about 12 years ago, I noticed something: there was litter everywhere. Okay, maybe not everywhere, but it seemed to be a lot of if.

And it reminded me of when I was a kid in the U.S., there was litter almost everywhere. That was the 1960s (yes, I'm old). But two things happened. 1) they made it against the law (or increased the penalties) to litter and 2) they started an ad campaign against littering. That included this iconic commercial. And people's attitudes about littering changed and now you rarely see much litter in the U.S. (Go to Canada, there's zero litter.)

Same thing happened with seat belts. When I was a kid, no one wore seat belts. That continued into the mid 1980s. Then, once again, attitudes changed. There were ads about the benefits of wearing seat belts and states passed laws making it illegal to not wear them. Now I wear them religiously (feels weird to be in a car and not wear them). My kids have never known a time when you didn't wear seat belts.

Drunk driving use to be a joke. Then, once again, attitudes shifted when laws were made more draconian and there were campaigns against it. And drunk driving deaths have fallen. Again, when I was in South America, drunk driving was no big deal. A customer driving me to dinner said his car was a hybrid. I asked how that was possible (it was a Hyundai minivan-like thing not sold in the U.S.). He said, "gas in the car and alcohol in me." Believe me, I wore my seat belt on that trip.

So public attitudes can change. I've lived long enough to see it happen. Or maybe people just don't want to pay the penalties.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Math

Back when I was studying at the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), I took a class called "Fluid Dynamics." It was the hardest class I've every taken. We did differential equations all the time. I was literally doing them in my sleep. Luckily, I'd had had a class in differential equations and loved it because the math actually reflected the real world.

Unfortunately, like all knowledge, it's use it or lose it. I haven't done differential equations since leaving college. Nor calculus. I know the theory behind them but not the mechanics. I can still do algebra fairly well.

In this novel I'm writing (the second of a planned trilogy that is a prequel to Treasure of the Black Hole), I found an occasion when being able to differential equations would be helpful. But, of course, I don't remember how.

So, instead, I did an Excel spreadsheet.

Here's the situation. The bad guys fired missiles at the good guys. The missiles were accelerating at 100 times the force of gravity (gees). The good guy's ship was accelerating at ten gees toward the missiles. Even though this was taking place in three-dimensional space, I simplified it to being on a line. The captain of the good guys ship asked "How long until the missiles are in firing range." And that's when I realized I had to do the math.

The ship and the missiles were approximately 1 AU apart (98 million miles). I set up a spreadsheet that would at each second calculate how far the missiles had gone and what speed they were going and did the same for the ship, calling its velocity and acceleration negative. I ignored relativity (even though the missiles would be going 5% the speed of light when they were close to the ship).

So I set up my equations (which used the data from the previous equation to do the math) and copied them down (and down and down) until the ship and the missiles were close together on my line. And that happened at 16,653 seconds. or about 4 hours 36 minutes.

And all that work because one character asked a question.


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Pour Out that Water Bottle

I try not to use disposable plastic water bottles because I think they are ridiculous. Get a glass of water. But sometimes it's unavoidable (unless I want to go thirsty, which I don't).

The biggest issue I have with plastic water bottles is something someone once told me. If you throw out the bottle with water still in it, and the cap on, that water will be sequestered and out of the environment until the bottle decomposes in a thousand years or so (according to this website, it takes about 450 years or more).

Why is this a problem. Well, according to this website (an anti-plastic bottle site), Americans throw out 38 billion plastic water bottles a year. There are 12 billion recycled according to that same website, so almost a quarter of them are recycled. But if each of those 38 billion bottles not recycled end up in a land fill with an average of only one ounce of water in them, that's 296.9 million gallons of water. That's almost 450 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

If there's an average of 2 ounces, that's almost 900 Olympic-sized swimming pools. And that water will not re-enter the environment for 450 years, at least.

So if you're not going to drink all the water in your water bottle, pour the water out. Pour it out on the ground, pour it down a sink. Anything other than leaving it in the bottle. And throw the bottle out with the cap off so the little bit of remaining water can escape.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Writing Press Releases

In my freelancing life, I am often sent press releases for events. And I am often shocked by how much information is left out, leaving me to email or call to fill in the details. If they remember to include an email or phone number, that is.

In writing a press release, you want to remember the "Five Ws" (plus one "H"). That is:


  1. Who
  2. What
  3. When
  4. Where
  5. Why
  6. How
Who is doing (or did) the thing? Remember to include an email and/or phone number.

What are they doing (or did they do)? Details are important.

When will (or did) it happen? Date AND time.

Where will (or did) it happen? Be specific and include an address.

Why will (or did) it happen? Again, details are important,

And how will it (or was it) done. Details detail details.

If you remember the five Ws and one H, you will do a much better job writing a press release. And I won't pound my head on the desk in frustration.