Windows Killed My Acer Computer

It doesn’t matter what computer you write on as long as you write, but my Acer tower computer and I have been thorough a lot. It has i3 core cpu and was running windows 7 when I got it. I manage to get it upgraded to Windows 8, then Windows 10. The latest major Windows 10 update did it in. The major Windows 10 update would not load. Ended up downloading a Windows program that forced the update onto the computer. There was no working on the computer while as the update loaded, but it loaded.

For a month the major update had been trying to load, but never would fully load. Sometimes It would get to 98% installed then hang, forever. I left it on overnight but it never got pass the 98% mark. Other times it would act like it installed, then within hours it would start the update over again. During all these previous updates I got no error messages, no indication that the update loaded or not.

Once the major update was loaded the machine worked for a full day without Windows updater trying to force the major Windows 10 update on my machine.

Then I got an update alert. A security update was going to be loaded on the machine. I had no options to delay the update or to do as Windows advises to make a back up of the latest install.

The update demanded a reset. The computer screen went black, the machine beeped. The hard drive is doing something, but the screen remains black. For hours it remains black.  I turned the machine off then back on. Just a black screen. Not the blue screen of death, it’s black. Day after day I would turn the machine on, but no change.

My computer savvy friends say; install Linux.

I have a backup computer. It’s a laptop and newer than the Acer. I haven’t been in a Starbucks in months. I eat out once a week with friends for $10.00 dollars or less. I get one glass of ice tea at the writers weekly  meeting and bring a doughnut if I haven’t had lunch since the coffee shop is too expensive for their treats.

By cutting back I was able to buy a low end i5 laptop with a previous generation cpu. That’s what I’m writing this on. Windows has not stopped me from writing.

When I get the time I will load Linux on the old machine, but it won’t be the same. You can write and do a lot of things with the Linux operating system.

Still I miss the old machine. It was big, slow, but it came through and a wrote a lot of words on that machine.

Stay strong, write on, and I miss you old friend.

Professor Hyram Voltage


The Steampunk Idea Treasure Map

To find an idea for a book you need a map.

When I was a kid (I was never a little kid) I went out into the desert to find treasure. There were lots of stories of lost gold mines and the treasure of De Anaza and I was going to find some. One minor rescue later I was back home without a treasure.

The point, if your looking for something you need to have an idea of what your looking for and you need to do some research for before you start looking. Real treasure hunter look in libraries. Often going to old archives to look for all the information on ship wrecks, robberies, and any information they can find on where treasure may be. They also look at what others have done. Why search places where others have combed over a dozen times.

You don’t go out into the middle of the ocean and drop a submersible and hope to find a sunken ship on the first dive. You start with an idea of where the ship could be then check with sonar.

I’ve come across a wandering writer out here in the middle of the desert.

PV; Mr. Wandering Writer what are you looking for?

WW; How’d you know I was a writer?

PV; You’re caring a laptop, six pencils and seven pens. But I think it was the thesaurus that tipped me off.

WW; Think you’re Sherlock Homes, huh. Why do you think I’m looking for something?

PV; You’re not writing.

WW; Mhum, You haven’t seen an idea around here have you?

PV; What type of idea are you are you looking for.

WW: I need an idea for a book.

PV; There’s several near by.

WW; What? Out here in the middle of nowhere. Quick tell me where.

PV; You’ll need to do some work.

WW; Tell me, I’m desperate.

PV; I’ll have to draw you a map. Now, what type of idea are you looking for?

WW; I told you I’m looking for an idea for a book.

PV; OK, but that’s a little vague. That’s like going out into the desert saying you’re looking for something valuable. There’re bunch of valuable things in the desert, but you got to know what you’re looking for. Have you considered what type of book you’re looking for an idea for?

WW: I’m looking for an idea for a science fiction book.

PV; Better, but there are a lot of science fiction books out there. Is this going to be a stand alone or a series.

WW: I’m going to write a science fiction trilogy.

PV; Great, now I know how big an idea you’re are looking for, but science fiction is a broad genre. What type of science fiction do you like reading, space opera, adventure, mystery, hard, fantasy, space war, or exploration science fiction? What do you like writing?

WW: Hey, hold on, when are you going to tell me how to find an idea for my book? I’m in a hurry.

PV; We’re well on the way. If you just start out brain storming for an idea all your worries about the next doctor’s appointment, your kids teacher parents meeting, the bills you need to pay, whatever will crowd out any energy you need for finding/generating ideas. You so far have narrowed it down to a book about science fiction that will go on to be a trilogy. Now, do you want to write about a space ship captain?

WW: No, I want to write about fairies.

PV; Do you like stories about fairies?

WW; No, but my friends like them and they’re hot sellers.

PV; If you don’t thrive reading them your writing will become a drudgery and the book will drag on and on or never get finished.

WW: Well I like Steampunk.

PV; Great, what type of heroine do you identify with.

WW: Huh?

PV; Do you see yourself as an inventor, a mad scientist, a world conquering genius, or her faithful side kick Igorita?

WW: Harry Potter with a wrench.

PV; Bad choice. Don’t pick an all powerful super being with no flaws to be your heroine. Rey in the star wars movie could do anything with no instructions, no help and she had no flaws. The fans were not impressed with the Disney light saber wielding princess. And no orphans. It’s been done to death.

WW; Then what?

PV; Do the opposite. Make the heroine the 10th daughter of a candle maker. She can burn it at both ends.

WW; You got a dirty mind.

PV; And you have been wandering around the desert for a week without a bath.

WW; Call it a tie, so where do I find this idea about the tenth daughter of a candle maker?

PV; Hold on. You got to have this heroine doing something. Is she on an airship?

WW; I’m afraid of heights.

PV; Is she on a train.

WW; No, one ran over my dog.

PV; How about an 1885 steam powered motor bike?

WW; No, my ex loved his bike more than me.

PV; How about something way out, like she’s on a steam powered wagon that has sails. A real prairie schooner.

WW; Wind surfing in Nebraska. I like it.

PV; OK, now we need a problem. Got to have a big problem. What if your heroine invented or her father invented the wind surfing wagon and she is trying to run a cargo delivery service with it. She has enemies, trains. The captains of the railroad are trying to put her out of business. Throw in the standard good looking bad guy henchman.

WW; Hold on there, that’s a stereotype.

PV; OK, make it a henchwoman.

WW; Get your mind out of the gutter. Now give me that map, I got a book due. Hey this is an outline.

PV; The last line says to get on Wikipedia and find out everything you can about land wind sailing. Then look up Annie Oakley.

WW; But.

PV; Do it or I’m writing a story using that idea.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Nostalgia, Steampunk writing and saving the past

I’m nostalgic, but I don’t glorify the past.

A friend of mine lost his house and almost everything he had in the Thomas fire in Ventura, CA. That got me to doing a photo inventory of every thing I own. And I mean everything including the box of tooth picks in the kitchen drawer.

Part of this inventory is scanning old photographs. It’s a slow process to scan in shoe box after shoe box of photos. I have big feet. I haven’t worn size 13 shoes since I was in junior high and my feet have only gotten bigger. But at least I don’t have to wear a Nike NBA player size 19 shoe. But with the photos scanned and saved to a thumb drive that is stored in a plastic bag inside a metal box and in a safe place I will have the photos come fire or flood.

When I scan these old photos in I can’t help think back about how almost everything I knew is gone or has changed so much as it is almost unrecognizable.

I had a reason to visit the city near the old reservation I grew up on, so I took a quick trip to visit the grade school I went to as a little kid. It wasn’t the same. Almost all the old building were gone or over shadowed by new buildings. It’s good to see a poor school get new building and to have expanded for more room. But I miss the old tree that sat in the corner of the school where we had Easter Egg hunts, or sat under for some special classes. The school was not air conditioned back then and it was cool under that tree. You can’t have a tree on school grounds now, some kid will climb it and fall and hurt himself.

Building don’t make a school. I remember when I was very young and the cook for the school retired. The food quality went way down. She cooked like my mother cooked. When she retired the food became plain simple food, not a meal. For some of the kids in the school that was the best meal of the day. My mother got her recipe for salmon patties from the cook. At school when we had salmon patties if you found the bone in your patty you got a quarter. That was a lot of money back then (two and half comic books).

The freeway bypasses the little town, I grew up outside of, now and the town is fading away. There isn’t a gas station in the town any more. Gasoline is so much cheaper just across the state line a quarter of a mile away.

There is still a remnant of the business my father built from the ground up, but it is fading away too.

Do I think the past was better than now. No. As my cardiologist told me recently. Twenty or thirty year ago, she used to spend over half her time in the hospital trying to save the lives of people that were having heart attacks. She wasn’t able to save many. It hurt her. Now she can try and stop people from having a heart attack in the first place and if they have one there is a good chance she can save them. I’m alive today because of those changes.

Still, I don’t want to lose those memories preserved by those old pictures. Even the simple things like a couple of old black and white pictures from high school.

The past wasn’t so good, but like today we can, step by step; difficult steps, make it better. We can make the whole world better. But it will take work.

Stay strong, write on, and work for a better world.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Filling in story plot holes in a Steampunk book

My critique partner pointed out a plot hole that my Beta Reader found and I haven’t fixed yet. That’s not a good way to write a Steampunk book.

She also found another plot hole I missed.

It is not easy to fix plot holes. It takes work and time. I did not come up with the ideas needed to fix these holes in an hour or a day. It took a couple of weeks.

I did not sit around for weeks waiting for ideas to come to me, nor did I work writing and rewriting everything I could trying to fix the plot holes. I had plenty of other edits I needed to do to the book, plus I was working on the next book.

What I did do was; step one. Define what type or style of idea I needed.  The heroine of the story needs to find or be given some information that she doesn’t realizes what it means till the end of the book but is of vital importance. The villain, the greatest assassin on the Continent, is trying to blow up Castle Windsor. But she is doing it not to kill Queen Victoria, but to kill emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II (OK I know that Kaiser and emperor mean about the same thing but how else am I suppose to say it when I am trying to emphasize that an emperor out ranks a queen). This would upset Queen Victoria greatly, she doesn’t play second violin to anyone, even an emperor. Besides most people who tried to kill her used a hand gun. Anna, my villain, the Lithuanian widow maker, is going to use tons of gun powder not just one barrel of it like Guy Fox.

Step two, know the limits of the idea. My heroine has her limitations. She is a spy in training. There is no school for spies. Spies are the scum of society. She doesn’t have year of experience like James Bond, and is not a genius like Sherlock Homes. I have too many characters in the book to have a new one pop up and tell her the Kaiser is coming.

Step three, make a list of ideas, mash up ideas, kick around ideas. Follow the thread of an idea and see how the fallout of something happening would impact the heroine.What would happen if the Kaiser was coming for a visit? The Kaiser was the grandson of Queen Victoria. He did visit England often even thought he hated the English. What would be the normal things a big shot would do?

He would send scouts to make sure things were acceptable for his arrival. He would send a cook. The rick can afford to have a home cooked meal on the road. Back in the late 1890s people would visit for months at a time. The problem is why and how would the heroine meet the foreign cook. Would the foreign cook even speak English, he’s Prussian? Introducing the cook adds another character to an already crowded story.

Step four, what would make the idea plausible? Using real people and facts, helps a lot. I went and looked up who cooked for the Kaiser. Did the Kaiser have food taster? Found information on what Prussian’s eat at the time of my story, but nothing on the cook for the Kaiser.

I went over the part of the story where the heroine breaks into Castle Windsor, gets caught and escapes looking for a place where she could meet the cook. There’s not any room for her to meet the cook, she’s trying to escape not visit. She doesn’t stay long enough for dinner. Well she does but she is locked up and not fed during her stay. I have a bad crutch of having the characters eat a meal together and exchange information at the meal. A bad case of telling.

The heroine escapes in the back of a milk truck with the help of a couple of prostitutes. What are prostitutes doing in Castle Windsor? You’re going to have to buy the book to find out. The driver of the milk truck tosses an empty milk can into the back of the truck. He sees them in the back and locks them in the truck and drives off with them for his own nefarious purposes.

How can I change this to show (show is the key) the heroine getting information that the Kaiser is coming? If she couldn’t meet the cook, then what if she saw some of the food that was being sent for the Kaiser’s visit. What if instead of a empty 5 gallon milk can the driver tossed in two boxes of food marked for the Kaiser? What if the cook was selling the food as a side hustle, he always made sure he had too much food just in case the Kaiser decided to stay longer than planned so he would have food to spare and sell? Everyone had a side hustle back then. We call it embezzling, they called it saving for retirement.

How would the heroine know the food was for the Kaiser? Well big shots like to stamp their name on everything so the boxes would have the Kaiser’s stamp on them to warn people not to mess with the boxes.

That fills in the plot hole, now for some embellishment. What if the crazy lady prostitute was the daughter of a minister for the Bismark of Prussia (she doesn’t like the Kaiser, he caused her father to live in semi-permanent exiled)? I needed someone who could read the Prussian wording on the boxes. This also fills in some back story of the prostitutes. Two birds with one stone, or box of food.

So I have filled that plot hole. Steam rolled it flat and painted a stripe down the middle of it. Now on to the next plot hole.

Notice there are a lot of “what ifs” above. There are many more what ifs that I tried and threw them out when they didn’t work.

This is work, but it does work.

Stay strong, write on, and try a few “what ifs,” but know what you’re looking for.

Professor Hyram Voltage