Gaslight Gathering 2018 report

Just got back from the weekend Gaslight Gathering convention. A nice little convention in San Diego, CA. The drive form Fiasco Manor was not bad this year. No, major stoppage at San Clemente, and the air current were very favorable, I had a tail wind the whole way there.

The gathering was in the Handlery hotel on hotel circle north. Parking for check-in is always a hassle at the hotel. They can only handle four cars checking in at one time and there is no place for anyone else checking-in to park.

The attendance was good. The crowd was very friendly. At the last gathering I was desperate to find out how authors could find Beta Readers. This year I wasn’t in such a panic, but I’m an author and an endless fount of questions.

The vendor area was smaller this year. If you are going to sell clothes bring larger sizes. I’ve got to lose weight.

I did buy several books. As an author I value those who hustle in getting out there and selling their books. Buying their book also gives me an excuse to badger the author with questions. This is quality, one-on-one, face time with someone who is dealing with the same problems I’m dealing with.

I was admiring the large lens of a professional photographer that was at the gathering. Jake Klein and I got to talking about the lens. It’s only f 2.8 but it is a lot of glass and heavy if you have to hold it for a time. He just sent his daughter off to college and she told him to go live life. So, he has sold most of what he had and bought a mobile home. With it he is starting a tour of the country. He’s a friend of Doc Phineas and when the Doc heard he was hitting the road and would be heading for San Diego he suggested, as Doc would, that he stop by the gathering.

Jake said he would post pictures of the gathering, much better than I could take, at You can also follow him via his web site as he photographs his way across the country.

One of his suggestions was to get a Canon 430 EX flash (refurbished)(I use canon cameras, so the flash works with my cameras). It’s small but throws out a good amount of light. He also had some suggestions for closing down the aperture of the lens (called stopping down) to take better flash photos.

It may not have been about writing but it was good information.

Picked up a couple of books from chief inspector Erasmus Drake and Dr. Sparky McTrowell. Of course I extracted my pound of information from them. These authors are good. I was impressed with the plots they generated. Even when I do it myself, it’s hard to figure out where someone get such a good ideas. I’ve had an audio show broadcaster asking me for short audio, like old time radio broadcasts, scripts and this may help me generate some. I find writing short pieces hard. I use to write short stories for magazines (I got a lot of rejection slips for my efforts). Now I find it hard to write short works.

I have a soft spot for brass. I picked up a small cast metal octopus from the vendors Rae Wolf Designs. I took it over to Shannon at Gears & Roebuck where she painted it to look like brass. One of these days I will get the foundry set up so I could cast my own designs, but that would take away from my writing. I did get a lot of information from Gear & Roebuck about how to color plastic to get it to look like metal. Metal is good, metal is durable, I would build with metal if I had a choice, but metal is heavy, very heavy and very expensive.

They had a presentation with a hand puppet. A fun little show. Got some information on puppets and a couple of pointers on the attitude of characters. You need goons in your writing, not cardboard characters (even if they are part cardboard).

I had a good conversation with Roller Derby enthusiast and Steampunk writer Aidan Caisse. He’s turning out books and I bought one. We talked about roller derby and writing. Got some good information from him. He was working on a tablet during the quiet periods and by stealing minutes here and there he managed to turn out a chapter for his next book.

The ice cream social was good. I like ice cream so there is not much not to like. I got to telling old sea stories to a very young kid. The kid was into computers and Tesla coils. This kid could go places.

The talk on casting objects was way more popular than the presenter thought it would be. He ran out of corn starch that he uses for a hardening agent for the molds he demonstrated how to make. They had to bring in several more tables for all the attendees. The smell of vinegar was strong while everyone was making their mold. A few coin cells and some plastic that melts in hot water (Instamold) and you could be turning out glowing objects by the dozens. When I got back home I found that the Instamold, he was making the finial item out of, is sold as a material to make molds. Great Steampunk idea to use something for the opposite of what it was made for. The presenter used RTV that you can buy from the hardware store, (it has to be 100% silicone RTV), to make the mold and the Instamold to make the object. His secret sauce was to add corn starch to the RTV to get it to harden in a reasonable time. The RTV needs water to make it harden and the RTV forms a skin that stops water from getting to the bottom and center of a blob of RTV. The corn starch has water inside it, so it hardens the RTV all the way through quickly.

I will have more in the next blog.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

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

What are you willing to give up to write a Steampunk book?

Time; you can’t buy it, you can only measure it, use it, or waste it.

You can write a Steampunk book. You can write a good science fiction book. But it’s going to take time. Lots and lots of time.

You can crave out time to write. It’s not easy. The experts say to give up time wasters. Give up endless TV binge watching. Give up spending so much time with friends.

That’s like telling a dieter to give up chocolate, give up things that taste good, give up food they’ve eaten all their lives. Have you ever met a person that went cold turkey on rice cakes and water for two weeks. That’s a person you don’t want to get within twenty feet of.

Some writers tell you to write whenever you can, in five to ten minute slots. Still other advocate writing in two hour or longer cycles. The second hour is where you fall into the groove. You only have to do that three or so times a week to get a book out in a couple of months.

What to do. Do both. You think this is hard, you’re right, but so is writing a book. It’s your time, no one can give you time, but anyone can take it away from you. Taking time from you makes some people feel superior, domineering. Down with the time bullies.

Do you remember the plot line for your favorite TV show that aired four weeks ago. If it’s not that interesting maybe that’s the show to give up. Along with the one after it that you watch just to fill time till your next favorite show.

You say you can’t give up on your kids. Then don’t. But remember, kids need alone time to. When you’re with your kids turn off the TV and interact with them. That’ll scare them. Read to your kids. If they’re older talk to them about the books they have read. They have to read books for school. Some of the best memories I have is my mother reading books to me. We didn’t have many books. There wasn’t a book store or library in the little village (less than 80 people) that was a quarter mile away form where I grew up. The little food store in the village did have a comic book rack, but it would be a couple of months between times my father would buy us a comic book. Between us kid we would read the comic book till it was in shreds. Buy your kids comic books and read them to your children.

Don’t go to hang out with someone. Go to interact with them. Make every second count.

Take a note book with you at all times. Have a quite second standing in line or waiting, then write in the note book. No one will notice, they’re all looking at their cell phones. At worst write in your cell phone. You’ll look like everyone else.

Live life to the fullest, do things, write.

Stay strong, write on, and write.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Character Arc in Steampunk

Does your character need a character arc?

Think about it. Did Sherlock Holmes change after each investigation? No, he was and always will be Sherlock Holmes.

Did Bilbo Baggins change at the end of the Hobbit? No, when he got home he wanted to be a hobbit. He did not want to go adventuring again. He did not want to leave his hobbit hole.

If you’re writing a trilogy do you have to have the character go through a major character arc by the end of each volume. No, if you did a person reading volume two and going back and reading volume one may not like volume one because the character she loved in volume two is not the character with the same name in volume one.

How many life altering can a person go through and not go crazy? Think about Sue Garfton and the 26 volumes she wrote.

Think about yourself. When you learned to count, did you become a different person? Counting is one of the greatest inventions of the human race. How about when you learned to multiply. How many animals can multiply? Think about it. You are having a dozen friends over so you go and get two six-packs or four six-packs if your smart. But, did you change when you learned one of the greatest things that separates mankind from animals?

I don’t think you became a threat to the world (future dictator or demigod) when you conquered long division. Sure you learned something important, but it had little impact on your personality. Some people promptly forgot all they every knew about multiplication and division as soon as they could and sank back to being an animal.

No one remembers when multiplication or division was discovered. Think how that changed the world. No one remembers when we went from Roman numerals to Arabic numerals. But those things changed the world far more than Julius Caesar. Just try and do the calculus in Roman numerals.

If a person loses a loved one. She could change or maybe not. She might be sadder or she might turn around and find a new husband. Is she really different. Does she join a new church because she lost someone? Or would they struggle on and over come? Would your major character implode if they had a major lost in their life. I’ve seen all of this happen, but would I be interested in reading about a wimp that gets knocked down by things I’ve been through? Would you?

So plan your next book, even if it is a stand alone, to be a serial. It’s good business practice. You like the character, and your readers like the character, you have a built-in audience to fall back on. Are you going to change the character so much that if the reader reads the second then goes back and reads the first book she won’t  recognized or like (as in you lost a reader of your future books) the character?

Set your next series as 30 volume story. Make it James Bond in the Steampunk universe. “The names Blonde.” She ratchets the hammer back on the dainty, deadly gun. “Mary Blonde.”

Stay strong, write on, and think about how you have changed after major life altering events.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Writing a Steampunk Book in the Dark

It’s Thursday. The wind is off the ocean and blows into the garage where I am working. A cold, bitter wind. I had a deadline due on Friday for a electronic project. I was pushing it. I had been pushing it for days and things kept coming up to delay the project. At 3:40 the shop light over the work bench went out. I glanced over my shoulder and the clip on light hanging form the rafters was still shining. I didn’t have time to run down to the store to buy a new tube for the shop light.

I hit the switch on the drill press. It groaned, a bad ugly groan. I shut it off fast. I took a voltage meter and checked the power coming out of the wall socket. There was only 57 volts when it should be 120 to 125 volts. Way too low is an understatement. The LED light bulb in the clip-on light would run on that low of a voltage. I didn’t know the LED bulbs would run on that low a voltage. Looking closely I noticed that the LED bulb was dimmer than it should be. The fluorescence shop light would not run on that low a voltage. Note to self, need more LED light bulbs.

I was going to miss the deadline, I was cold, hungry, and discouraged.

I went inside and started writing. The laptop showed it’s battery was low. I can’t win. I went to call a friend and the cell phone battery was low, almost discharged.

I’ve got flashlights. I also have a brand new pack of cheap batteries from Harbor fright. They may not be the best batteries or last the longest, but they are so cheap I don’t mine going through them fast.

I plugged the laptop in anyway. It started charging. I plugged the cell phone in and it started charging. The miracle of modern electronics.

Around 5:00 PM the power company called on the phone to tell me the power was out. No s!@#. The robot voice went on to say the power went out at 1:30 and was expected to be back on at 6:30. That did not make me happy. The power went out at 3:40. So if they were 2 hours off on the power out time they were going to be off on the power back on time. Hours and hours off on the power back on time.

It’s cold in the house with the heater off, so I went to a restaurant in the another town and got dinner. It got cold inside the restaurant, and I was wearing a jacket. I won’t be eating there for a while.

Back at the house I took a folding chair into the kitchen. Lit a burner on the gas stove with a match (I had just bought a new box of matches a week before). With the laptop on my knees and light from a half lit ceiling LED bulb (aided by the light from a flashlight) I typed away.

It’s not fun writing while sitting on a cold metal folding chair. The burner on the stove took some of the chill off. Next time, I’m going to dig out the TV tray to sit the computer on. I was so discouraged, tired, and upset that I was going to miss a deadline that I didn’t think of it at the time.

I have a flashlight that takes six AA batteries and give off a wide beam of light. Good for reading or easing the eye strain while typing on the computer. I got another flashlight after the last big power outage. It’s a small LED flashlight that takes two AA batteries and on its second setting it will last 6 to 12 hours on a set of batteries.

I have heard good things about the NEBO WORKBRITE PRO light. It’s an LED light that comes with an adaptor to plug into the wall, but it runs off six AA batteries. It can run off three AA batteries in a pinch. The light is rated for 7.5 hours on high and 16 hours on the low setting. Available at I’m going to get one soon.

I always change the batteries in my flashlights when we shift to daylight savings time, whether I have used the flashlight or not.

You would think, as a steampunk writer, I would write by candlelight. Even with three candles it’s not easy to write by candlelight. It’s definitely not romantic, the light flickers and never goes where you want it to, and you get smoke stains on your computer screen. Besides, I could set the place on fire with candles all over the place.

Power returned at 2:30 AM the next morning. I got some writing done, but it wasn’t easy.

Stay strong, write on, and buy batteries for your flashlight.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Steampunk Writing and Thumb Drive Blues

It happened again. A friend had a thumb drive die. Of course it contained the only copy of a file that he needed.

Thumb drives are good, useful, even necessary, but they will fail just like hard drives.

Always back up your files on two or more thumb drives. And keep the drives away from the computer and each other. Back ups won’t do you any good if the thief that steals your computer or the fire that destroys your computer also get your thumb drives and your back up flash/hard drives.

In the race to escape a disaster such as the recent Thomas fire you may not have the time to take your computer or be able to get to your house to save your computer or backup drives. Disasters happen fast.

If you have stuff stored on the cloud don’t get cocky. Cloud services have closed down and all the data on them was lost. A good hacker may one day find a way to hack AWS, evernote or one (or all) of the big cloud services.

Don’t store your only copy of your book, article, photos, etc. on one cloud service, on one hard drive, on one thumb drive. It’s your book, your life’s work, protect it, make several copies on several different medias, and store the media, the hard drive, thumb drive, even floppy, in several different places.

Big thumb drives are cheap. Keep one on you person. Keep another some place other than your house. Jerry Pournelle used to store back ups of his writing in a safe deposit box. A garden shed would do or even burying it in a flower pot by the back door if you have no place else.

Whatever you do; backup and then backup some more.

Bad things happen to data. Be prepared.

Stay strong, write on, and back it up.
Professor Hyram Voltage.

Steampunk Mythology and the Black in Blacksmith

A smith is a person that makes things using a hammer and fire. A silver smith takes a lump of silver and using a hammer, and heating the lump when it needs softening, to make things out of silver.

A silver worker is all the others that make things out of silver like jewelers, silver-caster or foundry men.

A silver smith will make you a spoon by hammering a lump of silver into the shape of the spoon, Then he will have his apprentice polish it up.

A silver worker will cast you a spoon and have his apprentice polish it up for you.

Both can engrave the work, chase the work, incise the work.

A Blacksmith is something special. Maybe you have heard about the effect of cold iron against magic and magical beings.

Why do they call them Blacksmiths? It’s not because of the soot, or the black scale that flakes of the surface of heated iron. They’re called Blacksmiths because if you take an piece of ancient iron, often called wrought or puddled iron, and bend it the metal will come apart in layers, or sheets. You’ll ruin it if you bend it cold. It takes experience and knowledge gained from generations of smiths, to know how much to heat the iron before you can bend it. You can ruin wrought iron if you heat it too hot. Red-short is the condition where you heat a piece of metal to red hot and bend or hammer it and it crumbles or breaks. A good smith can tell or determine if a piece of iron will red-short. It will take years for someone to figure this out by trail and error. Just watching a Blacksmith will not clue you into the secrets of work iron.

You can still find on ebay the ends of wrought iron bars that have been forged into the head of a dragon. The makers of the iron did this to show that the iron was malleable and not prone to red-short.

Steel can be made from wrought iron by hammering the carbon and impurities out of the iron. Over half (often three quarters or more) of the iron you start with will be wasted as scale and rust by the time the iron becomes steel.

Iron (and steel) can be welded by heating it to less than its melting temperature and hammering two pieces together. The temperature has to be just right, not too hot or too cold. The smith can not hit the metal too hard or the pieces will spring apart even if they were partially welded. The Blacksmith will also use a mixture of sand, seashells, leaves, borax, and other things to aid the welding of the metal.

A Blacksmith uses fire. Fire that is often made with coal that has lots of sulfur (brimstone) in it. He works in the shade so he can see the color of the heating metal so he knows when it is ready to be bent or welded. He uses concoctions to make the iron weld together. Not just anyone can bend wrought iron like you can modern steel. You have to know the right temperature, the right way to make a fire, how hard to hit the hot metal.

So a Blacksmith uses brimstone, works in the dark not in sunlight, uses potions and knows things that aren’t common knowledge. He works the Black arts. He’s a magic maker that impresses his will on iron to make it do what he wants it to. He is a master of the Black arts, he is a Blacksmith.

Stay strong, write on, and go watch a good Blacksmith, there’s more going on than you can see.
Professor Hyram Voltage