ConDor convention and the Play in Sandbox panel

“Play in Sandbox” is a Fan Fic (Fan Fiction) term that means writing in someone else’s story world (their World is your Sand Box). Fan Fic is writing about or in stuff you don’t have a license for (characters, settings, background, story ideas).

A librarian on the panel got into Fan Fiction because the children using her library were into it.

Pro Fan Fic, (making money off other people stories?)

Kindle has a list of stuff that can be licensed. It’s a small list. If you buy a license is it Fan Fic, there are commercial authors writing in other peoples worlds (the 1632 series or in story worlds where the founding author has passed away and the current author is allowed to write in that story world).

It’s Cosplay if it’s not for pay.

AO3 is a site where you can download Fan Fic. Carries better written Fan Fic.

Mary Sue. The term came up again along with her left cousins Gary Stu and Marty Stu. You can have other characters in Fan Fiction without it being a Mary Sue.

The panel recommended taking a look at the story “How to Wreck a Mary Sue Character”.

Write on, draw on.  Professor Hyram Voltage.


ConDor convention and the Arduino and the Computer Security panel

If you have been reading this blog long you know I don’t like software or programers. I do use the stuff so I went to the panel on using the Audrino computer.

It’s a cute little computer but quite powerful.

I won’t bore you with the details but I fascinated my lab partner my typing in the code from the booklet and having the complier screw up. I copied it right out of the book.

The panel on computer security was one of the best of the convention.

One of the panelist relates an old science fiction story where a man comes to an abandoned town. The town is very nice and run by a computer. The man goes into a house and it’s nice. The house cook the man a meal but the man wants to go outside. The computer says OK but after I worked so hard to make the meal. The man runs away from the passive aggressive computer that has driven everyone else out of the town.

Panelist stated that countries around the world will not use U.S. security programs if they think there are back doors in the programs, even if it’s a government required back door.

He feels that the only way to go is an open security organization with no secret black box. Other countries could go with that and they would know that everyone would be trying to crack or break into the security program.

Someone mentioned watching the program ‘The Good Wife’ for a more realistic computer security view.

The Internet of Things (IOT) means a hacker can do suicide bombers without the risk of blowing himself up.

Panelist recommended Last Pass or One Pass as password programs.

Life Hacker was mentioned as a good VPN (virtual private network) provider. Many people in the room raised their hands when asked if they use a VPN.


Write on, draw on. Professor Hyram Voltage

ConDor convention and the Hero: The Good, the Bad, the Anti panel

Here are some notes on the panel.

The guest of honor sat on the panel.

A bit of self promotion, the book The Desert and the Blade sounds like fun.

A line from the movie Mammoth, ‘Heroes are not made they are cornered’.

On being a hero. If a anti hero is forced to be a hero every day he will become a hero.

One panel member related a time he told a fire fighter he was a middle school teacher. The fire fighter told him he couldn’t do it. He would rather run into a burning building.

Comment from the panel, Anti heroes are fake bullies.

S. M. Stirling comment, classic heroes are harder to write. Anti heroes have lots of faults, (equals lots of things to write about). Anti heroes have become popular because they are easier to write.

Comment form the panel, in fan fiction the mother side of the author comes out, meaning they want to write characters that they can fix.

Comment form the panel, in Fifty Shades of Gray she is only with him because he’s rich. What he lived in a trailer, it would have been a CSI episode.

If you got to have a stainless hero then give him a flawed friend.

Comment form the panel, it’s much more fun to write the bad guy.


Write on, draw on.   Professor Hyram Voltage



ConDor convention and the Making Magic Believable panel.

Another hour, another panel. The panel was split on the Twilight books and movies. Some liked the books some liked the movies, and some didn’t any of them. I’ll let you guess who writes vampire books.

One panel member talked about how his wife was reading a book to their child. It was about a snowman that came to life. The snowman plays with the child, plays games and runs around. When the snowman flies the wife couldn’t handle it. There is a line and if your story crosses the line then the story is no longer believable. If the reader falls out of the story you the author have lost. That line is different for every reader.

One panelist brought up the term Mary Sue. The panel defined it as when the author inserts themselves into the story (usually as the hero) with lots of power and no explanation of where the power came from. You run into this in fan fiction a lot.

Another panelist mentioned a person with multi-personality disorder that when one personality took over the person’s eye color changed.

They also talked about Magic Denial. Common in urban supernatural stories.

They did not talk to much about having rules for a magic system such as the Randall Garrett’s books. In them a magician could do some things but there was a cost and a process.

Also they did not talk about having a ridiculous magic system or a magic system where there were rules but the rules are never given away such as the Terry Pratchett books. Mr. Pratchett’s books are funny and that makes up for a lot.


The workshop on telescope making.

it’s been years since I’ve made a telescope. Things have changed. The parts are cheap and available on ebay. I think the instructor made it look and sound too easy. Still for much less than I paid for a lens alone you can make a usable telescope. It did throw people that most telescope users see the havens upside down.

Personal story. My friend built a 6 inch mirror type telescope (a Newtonian). This was long before Dobsonians style telescopes were invented. When he finished the telescope we set it up in his drive way to adjust it. For a quick test I told him to sight on the brightest star he could find and adjust things till he got a pin point of light. He had measured things carefully and built the telescope and its base well so it should have been close and need little adjustment. After trying for a while he gave up saying that the star would not come to a point. I tried for 20 minutes then I noticed that there was a gap in the image of the star. A little bit of adjusting and I had an image, it was Saturn and I had spotted the gap between the rings and the planet.

I have had plenty of fun with a three inch telescope and binoculars so don’t thumb your nose at a small scope.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.

ConDor convention and the Visual Story Telling Panel

At the ConDor convention I also attended the Sex and Sex panel and the Visual Story Telling Panel

The Sex and Sex panel was kind of Meh. Did have a couple of take aways. It’s the character that determines if it’s exploitive. Does it exploit the character or is the story true to the character.

One panel member pointed out that the Lara Croft character in the original Tomb Raider video game had her bust accidentally set to 50% bigger than it should have been. The designers decided to keep it. They sold a lot of games.

Female panel members think Darth Vader is sexy. He doesn’t take bull from anybody, he flies his own ship, and the voice.

Me, I think sex sells books, just look at the book cover of most romance novels. There been a couple of science fiction novels with Venus on the half shell on the cover to.


Panel on Visual Story Telling.

One panel member pointed out that IDW was good to work with. They are not so good on the front end but very good on the back end.

Tip from another panel member. If you are considering a Kickstarter campaign first come up with a list of people who will likely donate and send them a campaign preview. Then ask them to donate in the first few days of the campaign. If you get some funds in the first few days you are more likely to have a successful campaign.

Don’t do war in OZ , Evil scarecrow, or bring back the evil witch. Go with something original.

One panel member recommended reading Blueberry, a French comic about an American.

Another recommendation is read Squirrel Girl.

The librarian member of the panel said that just because a memoir is fill of lies that is not a reason to pull it from a library.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage.

ConDor convention and the e-publishing panel

Attended the ConDor science fiction convention in San Diego on the weekend of March 13 through 15, 2015. I was looking for answers to getting a book published and whether I should publish it traditionally or self publish or even ebook publish. Ended up with more questions than answers.

One panel I attended was on publishing and here are some quick notes from the panel.

One panel member had taken two stock photographs and spliced them together for his cover art. He showed how it was legible in the thumbnail view while a commercially made cover was not easily readable in the thumbnail view. Commercial graphic artist don’t always get it when it come to cover visibility at a distance or when it’s a thumbnail. He also showed that the title and author’s name have to be in contrasting colors and big letters to show up in the cover thumbnail. Covers sell and the first glance a reader might get is your cover as a thumbnail at the bottom of someone else’s Amazon page.

Converting your word document to epub format is a lot of work. One tip was don’t write using tabs. Tabs will cause epub conversion programs to blow up or do strange things when they hit a tab in your file. Use search and replace to get rib of tabs. Before starting out to write your story in Microsoft Word set the preferences to indent after carriage return. Now after years of typing I have to train my hands not to hit the tab key after a carriage return. That’s years of habit to un-train.

Use hard page breaks between chapters not a bunch of carriage returns.

Word software puts hidden  bookmarks (almost randomly) in the document as you type. You got to clean them out. Turn on reveal bookmarks and look for bookmarks with funny character in them and delete.

You got to hyperlink your table of contents to the text in your story. It’s not that hard to do.

Another recommendation is use New Times Roman font. There plenty of people out there that will not do this and you will make your story look bad if you don’t. Try Garamond font if you just got to use something other than Times New Roman.

Your going to need blurbs for your book. At least two blurbs, one short and one long. The long blurb can be the short blurb with words add to the end of it.

You got to market your book so think about how people will find your book. Some people use blind browsing and they stumble upon you book. That’s where a good eye catching cover comes in. Other people use keywords. Make sure you have the book or story genre in the keywords and blurb. It’s OK to put the titles of your other books in the keywords.

Then there is SEO = Search Engine Optimization. They didn’t go to much into that. It’s a rapidly changing area that people are always trying to game. Don’t game your reader or they may never buy another one of your books.

Metadata should be your name, the book’s title, blurbs, and tags.

Over and over it was stressed that you got to write a good story/book. Then you got to write a lot of them. Writing a series is good, if they liked the first one they will want more. Get on Facebook and twitter and all the other social media things. (I keep hearing this but there is not enough hours in the day to that and get the writing on the book done. A lot of people say this but I can’t do it.) Then keep your social media up to date.

The key point is that word of mouth is what sells your book. Give the social media visitors something to come for not just come-ons to buy your book. In the past authors have said that pictures of their cats (dogs don’t work as well) do draw visitors.

One author showed that regular publishing (in paper) got him three to four dollars per book while epublishing got him two to two dollars and fifty cents per book and he didn’t have to warehouse a bunch of books. He still has a few paper books printed up to show people, just not thousands.

Smashwords seems to be the winner. The other epub site is harder to use.

Tips from a panelist;

1. Your first goal is to build a fan base and get your name known

2. Don’t price a short story at $9.95.

3. Make the first book free.

4. Indies have to complete on price and quality. Remember quality cost you, the author, time and money (for example; editors, beta readers and rewrites). If anyone knows of a good editor that’s not too expensive let me know. I’ll also do beta reading for you if you will beta read my stuff.

5. The sweet spot for ebook price is $2.99 to $3.99.


Getting a book through Smashwords and on to the WEB can be fast once it is submitted. Smashwords has to vet the book but they turn them around.

If you got graphics in your book get a pro to help publish it.


Write on, draw on. Professor Voltage

Writers Block and Where to Get Writing Ideas

Here’s a quick way to beat writers block or to find new ideas for a story, novel or whatever.

Get a book of trivia and read it. Make sure the book covers the time period and location your writing about.

This is my secret and it works, try it.

Even better book is one from the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader series. The ‘Wise Up’ volume is good source. Did you know that around 1800 the Russian prince Alexander Kurakin taught the French the concept of eating a meal in courses. The idea of the Russians teaching the French how to eat is full of conflict and a story in itself.

I remember reading Tom Sawyer and how Tom commented of how he liked eating his food all mixed together. Sounded like Mulligan stew to me but the term had not been invented back when the book was written. No worrying about the peas touching the corn with that kid.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage

How do characters write in Steampunk

I needed to have my character write a report.

First I had to find out what people used to write with in the time period. Once I know that, then I can take it to extremes.

Did they use fountain pens in the late 1800s? Yes, they did but people still used ink pens with metal nibs. Fountain pens costs much more and they had problems and were messy to fill. This was a period of rapid change in the pens and the inks used with them. I was not able to find out if they made and used graphite pencils during this period.  Is this where the use of pencils came to be looked down on? Ball point pens did not become popular until the 1940s.

Of course I took the easy way out and had a retro character that still used metal nibs quill pens, like the ones used by artist today.

You can spend way too much time researching things like this. You can also end up writing to much about pens instead of writing about the story.

What could a pen have to do with the story? Well the ink bottle is filled with nitroglycerin. Gives her writing a bang.


Write on, draw on.     Professor Voltage

The end of home solar energy as we know it

I’ve been for solar energy since before the energy crisis of the 1970s.

A power company in the state of Arizona is going to start charging $50.00 a month to people who have installed solar cells (solar energy) at their homes. They didn’t say if they would also charge people that had solar water heating or wind turbines. The reason for the charge is that people with solar electricity need to pay their fair share of maintaining the power lines, distribution equipment and other maintenance of the power company.

This is like telling people to use less gasoline and then charge them a special yearly tax for buying an electric or hybrid car.

Arizona is hot. It is not unusual for people living there to pay $200.00 to $600.00 a month for electricity for air conditioning in the summer. In the winter you have to pay the fee even if you don’t need the solar electricity.

I grew up in the desert and it was 100 degrees at midnight many times during the summer so solar cells may only cut your power bill by half. At $200.00 a month that means saving $100.00 a month in electricity then the power company comes and takes $50.00 of that $100.00. That’s optimistic numbers.

The power company will get $50.00 a month for tens to a hundreds of thousands or more users is like getting free money for doing nothing more than they usually do, they are not going to give this fee or TAX up without a big fight.

Other states have said they are going to implement this fee for home solar installations.

Will the air base in Arizona that has the largest solar installation of any base have their uniformed members living in  base housing start getting charged for having solar power?

Will this will drive the home solar power companies out of Arizona and put a lot of people out of work? To the power company it’s profits first and the government of Arizona is very pro-business.

Me, I live on a fixed income and use less than $40.00 worth of electricity a month. Will the power company start charging me a minimum of $50.00 because I don’t use enough electricity to pay for my share of the distribution of the power?

The same power company in Arizona just raised its rates for everybody so it sounds like they are in big financial trouble and trying to milk money out of their customers any way they can. The cost of oil and natural gas is way down they should be lowering the price of electricity.


Write on, draw on.  Professor Voltage

Novel progress

The novel I’m working on is now up to 15,000 words. Not bad but I’m mostly through the outline and running out of things to write about. This could end up being a short book.

The Novel is a quick read anyway.

No artwork inside this novel just on the cover.

She shot the bad guy but doesn’t yet know how bad he is.

Listening to Ghost Riders in the Sky. Next up is Flight of the Valkyries. Fast music equals fast typing.


Write on, draw on.   Professor Voltage