Getting What You Want, Giving the Reader What He Wants

I had a Web Designer build this web site. The gurus for selling books hound me that I need a freebie to get people to give me their email addresses. I don’t fight the advice of authors that are more successful than I am.

The web designer built a popup that springs up in the middle of the home page.

I don’t like popups. I got a popup on my web page, like I asked for, but it just stays there until the visitor either clicks on it or clicks on the x in the upper right corner to make it go away.

I don’t like this so I got on fiverr and contacted several popup specialists to build me a popup that would popdown after two seconds (two seconds is a long time to stare at something you don’t like) and I wanted the popup to popdown to a smaller version of the popup window and to dock the window in the lower left hand corner of the screen.

I got a bunch of ‘can’t do it’ responses. So I figured I needed to hire an expensive web designer/programmer. I got on the site where the web designers that specialize in the Enfold theme (the theme this site is built from) and who also do email harvesting hang out. I contacted a bunch of them and they all said they couldn’t do it.

I recently contacted a friend that does his own web site work. He said it can be done with a Java script. From what I can find out web site builder use a program to make popups. The popup program has a series of check boxes you check to make the popup do what you want. There are several places you fill in the time delay for when the popup appears and to position where it appears. There is no check box for making the popup go away after a period of time.

So I was asking the web designers to do work to figure out how to get the popup to popdown. Web designers are programmers and programmers do not work, they program. I have seen programmers go to great lengths to avoid work. They will spend double shifts or even 24 hours shifts debugging, but will they update the documentation, no. Documentation is work, that’s stuff for the peons to do. They won’t do it even if you pay them. They’re the best ones to do the documentation because they’re the only ones that understand how the program works. Maybe that’s the problem, maybe they don’t understand how the program works.

So now it looks like I have to learn enough of the Java programming language to write the Java script to do what I want. I don’t have time for this, I got books to write.

What has this to do with writing steampunk? Your reader wants to read something different, but the same. He wants something new. He wants you to work and work hard to give him a good story. He doesn’t want a story where you just checked some boxes in template and the program spit out the same old, same old.

You want to sell books, then give the reader what he wants. He wants you to work. He wants something different and yet familiar. He wants a good story and he wants it told well. That’s a lot of work. It’s work; good authors, selling authors do.

Stay strong, write on, and work to write a good story.
Professor Hyram Voltage

The Long Hard Slog of Editing

I’m almost finished editing my second book for the tenth or twelfth, or is it the fifteenth time. I approached an editor for a quote on a developmental edit. I sent him a sample of the book, five thousand words. That’s a little more than the first chapter. He sent back an email saying I should get an evaluation or critique edit.

A developmental edit would cost a lot. I did not ask, but I think an evaluation edit would cost about half the cost of a developmental edit. I’m having trouble paying for a developmental edit, it’s a 60,000 word manuscript at two point three cents a word. I asked and the editor thought I would need a developmental edit after the evaluation edit. I want a good edit, but can not afford both of them.

I have had the manuscript gone over by the critique group and sent it to several beta readers. I have a story, even if it’s poorly told.

I looked over the first chapter, heaved a couple of sighs and several expletives, and started another self edit. These edits are not light undertakings. They take weeks to do, I’m busy.

I’m almost done with the edit/rewrite. I have had most of it reviewed by the critique group. Yes, there have been improvements. Some characters have been put to work doing more in the story. A plot hole was filled.

Will I find an editor I can afford? Will this book ever get a professional edit? Will I find an editor that will work with me, and not be a stand off uncommunicative service?

Stay tuned.

Stay strong, write on, and edit.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Selling Your Book: The Carnival Barker and the Writer

I attended the Filmore Steam Train Rail Festival 2018 Saturday on April 28. They had a good crowd. People like riding on steam trains. Of course they had The Frontier Gnnfighters performing regularly scheduled train robberies.

I had just arrived and a lady, with a couple of kids in tow, asked where she could buy tickets to the carousel. Having just got there, I didn’t know. There was a carousel set up at the end of a row of vendor stalls, but you couldn’t buy tickets at the carousel. There were not many vendor stalls and I could not see any sign that said buy tickets here. I was kind of embarrassed that I didn’t know where to buy tickets.

I started at one end of the vendor stalls and was half way down the line of stalls looking for the typical steampunk things. You know; brass, brass gears, gaudy-shiny-sparkly-things and maybe a vest. When two different people came in the stall and asked ask the proprietress where to get tickets for the carousel. She said that the tickets for the carousel were available at the stall next door.

Curious, I stepped over to the next stall and looked for something that said carousel tickets here. There was no banner or sign high up above the heads of the crowd so people could see it. There was no streamer or feather flag banner along side the vendor’s stall fluttering in the breeze to attract attention. I did find an eight and a half by eleven sheet of paper in a holder sitting on a small table near the front of the stall. The crush of the crowd often hid the sign. The sign had colored lettering but was easily over looked.

What has this to do with writing steampunk? You have a book and you want people to read it. It’s just like the sign for carousel tickets. If the future reader doesn’t know your book exists or what it’s about then she’s not going to buy it, or read it, even if it’s free. You got to advertise and advertise effectively.

Think about it. An old time carnival barker on the Broadway of the county fair has to get your attention before you’ll even think about coming into his attraction. He does this by dressing in loud miss-matched clothes, so he stands out from the crowd. He stands on a raised platform, so he can be seen. He talks loudly, so he can get the attention of those with ear buds on and head down looking at their cell phones.

I have seen people in the middle of the Broadway studying their cell phones so intently that they were blocking the flow of other people.

It takes more than loud clothes, garish voice, and waving your arms around. A barker will have over sized pictures behind and around him. Those pictures are designed to draw your attention, to tease you, interest you. To give you a sample of what’s inside. That’s just like a good book cover.

Would a author dress up in a loud garish costume to sell books. If you said no, then you have never been to a steampunk convention sellers room, or to a Gail Carriger book signing.

I recently read a blog where the blog writer complained about a book author at a science fiction convention. The science fiction book author would ask people as they walked past his table, “Do you read science fiction?” The blog author felt that if you are at a science fiction convention you read science fiction. I have to side with the book author a little. So many people now days watch videos and may not read books. That’s their loss, and the book author/seller does needs a better line. He needs a tease, something to interest the passerby, he needs to know his audience better. He needs to find out what his readers want and what will get their attention.

As a book writer you need to think about how a carnival barker does his thing. As we grow up we develop blinders to block out the incessant ads that surround us; the billboards, commercials, videos ads disguised as tutorials. You have to get through those blinders, and it’s difficult. Take lessons from the barkers. Put yourself on display, but let them see who you are as an author. Give them a hint to what your book is about. That will turn some readers off, but those that you turn off are not your type of readers, not the readers you wrote the book for. Figure out what readers of your book want, and work hard to give it to them. And the hardest thing you can do is learn to enjoy being a carnival barker. It’s a fake identity and you complain that you are an author. Will you be an author for very long if you don’t sell any books?

We don’t have trustworthy book reviewers out there to recommend books any more. The reviews I’ve seen lately are from old style book publishers or reviewers that have agendas, at least they don’t recommend stories I like. They seem to recommend stories that are more high brow and literary.

So to sell your book, you have to;
1. Get the readers attention
2. Tease them
3. Offer them something they want.

It’s not easy.

Get readers attention by; being bigger than life (loud dressing, loud talking, loud gestures) not a sheet of paper sitting on a table that everyone walks by. You can offer free samples, or related freebies, give advice or background about the story or lesson you learned from writing the story, tell them stories about yourself, make friends with them.

Tease them with samples of related stories, character sketches, or the first chapter of you book. Give them an outline or blurb of what your book is about without a spoiler.

Offer them something they want, work as hard as you can to make your book the best it can be, hire a editor, study writing, steal like a writer.

Stay strong, write on, dress up like a carnival barker and sell.
Professor Hyram Voltage

Getting in the Mood to Write

Some how between when this was first posted and a week later it disappeared. I re-posted it.

There is a ad in old Byte magazines (a personal computer magazine that no longer exists) from the 1970s. It’s a picture of a father in his pajamas, wearing a 1930s style Buck Rogers helmet sitting in front of a computer playing a computer game. His son looks around the door frame at his father.

Here’s a little music to listen to while you read the rest of this blog.

What’s that got to do with writing steampunk? Plenty, it’s about beating writers block. You know what writers block is. That’s when the muse hands off to you a great idea. You tuck the idea under you arm so nobody can yank it away like the great quarterback that you are. You run for the goal. A hole opens in the scrimmage line. You pour on the speed.

There, standing in the hole, is a 450 pound lineman. To him, it’s not a game. It’s personal, he hates you. He’s going to make a blood smear out of you on the Astro Turf. You’re going to have rug burns so deep that they will be ground into your DNA and you’ll passed them on to your grandchildren.

You freeze. Behind your back, three 350 pound linemen are flying through the air at you and they’re going to pound you into the Astro Truf.

Don’t freeze. Don’t, stopping is the worst thing you can do. Come on, have you ever gotten rug burns from writers block?

What can you do? Two things;

1. Fake your mood. If you write science fiction, cos play science fiction. Dress up like a Jedi or Star Trek communication officer. It doesn’t cost that much and you will be ready for the next convention. Conventions are a great mood improvement for me. Now you have no excuse not to go to a convention. You got the outfit, now go and show it off.

You’re sitting at your computer, dressed as a 1850s card shark, or the captain in the star fleet. Think about the problems that you would have if you were a card shark, or a space ship captain. That conniving ensign that’s wants to become captain and is out to knife you in the back. Yeah, I know, that would never happen in Star Trek. The characters were well adjusted and had the motivation of a Tribble. (being a Tribble isn’t all that bad, they knew how to make love not war).

Put the problems you think you would face as a character into your story. They may not fit or they might be perfect. You will not know till you write them down.

Think about common problems going horribly wrong. The airship is not making any head way. The storm winds are too strong. “But captain we can’t go any higher to get out of the storm, the oxygen generator has been sabotaged.” (How convenient.)

It’s been done where someone beams down and they don’t get to where they were suppose to. Turn it on its ear. What if they get there, but the ship is gone.

Dress up, enter your story world and cause problems. A story needs problems, it needs conflict. If you’re stuck, cause problems. The new problems may be so much better than the old problems that you cut out the old problems and go with the new problems.

Try solutions that don’t make sense. The line from Star Drek comes to mind; Scotty says, “I tried shoving a wiener up the warp drive but it didn’t do a bit of good. Bye the bye, you wouldn’t have a wee bit of mustard on the bridge.” See the video at

The line is around 1:18 minutes.

2. Run over the 450 pound lineman of writer’s block. He won’t expect it. Put a cleat in his face. Do the mamba with your cleats on his chest. Spike him in the back. Make writers block hurt. Hurt your story’s villain. Hurt the story’s hero. You’re desperate. Do desperate things. Pull an Indiana Jones, have your hero do something that looks right, makes him and the reader feel good, but it’s be the wrong thing or turns out wrong. That’s great for a hero that is turning out to be a superman. Heroes need to make mistakes. They’re heroes, they make heroic mistakes.

So put on your helmet, get out your light saber, put on your gears, or wear your corset and write about how uncomfortable that thing is.

Stay strong, write on, and dress to fake it.
Professor Hyram Voltage

The Tortoise and the Hare. The spirit of the turtle is alive and well.

At the WritetoDone (https://writetodone.com/) web site, in her article How to Write and Publish Your First Book 2: Beat the Mid-Way Slump; Create a Book, the author Mary Jaksch (yes, I checked the spelling) writes about a slow and steady runner Cliff Young who beat the young and fast “serious” runners.

I Goggled Cliff and here’s a summery.
Cliff Young was 61 when he entered the Sydney to Melbourne ultra-marathon. That’s over 875 kilometers (544 miles). It takes 7 days for serious, trained runners to make it to the end.
He wore regular pants that he cut holes in for ventilation and his work boots. He was up against 10 young men who ran marathons and wore specialized clothes. His running style is still called a shuffle.The racers run 18 hours and then sleep for 4 to 6 hours. Cliff slept for 2 hours and shuffled on.

Five days 14 hours later with little sleep and a steady shuffle he won the race, ten hours ahead of everyone else.

Cliff did prepare. As a young boy on his family’s farm they did not have a car or truck. He would go out during storms and round up the family’s sheep. This would sometimes require running after the sheep and herding them for two or three days in terrible weather. He claimed he always got all the sheep. Before the race he practiced by herding cows on his farm. I have chased after cows and it’s not easy to catch or herd a cow or a bunch of cows.

The next year Cliff entered the race again. He finished seventh place. Hey, he was now 62 years old and suffered a displaced hip during the race, but he finished his second race and he wasn’t last.
They laughed at Cliff when he entered the first race. Maybe someone laughed at you when you told them you were going to write a book.

Finish your book, that is the best revenge you can get from those who laugh at you. It doesn’t matter how fast you write, how new or fancy your computer is, or even if you have a computer, what counts is finishing. Finish, even if you only have a worn down pencil and the back of an old budget print out from work to write on. Rewrite, edit, learn how to make your story the best story it can be. It wasn’t easy for Cliff (try walking 500 miles in two of weeks, that’s 35 miles a day, not impossible, but a lot of walking), and it won’t be easy for you.

This blog begs the question, “Are you a turtle?” If you were in high school in the 60s you’ll know what I’m talking about. My answer is recorded.
If your wondering, there are no tortoise in Australia.

Stay strong, write on, and shuffle past the hare.
Professor Hyram Voltage.

Loss

A friend lost his house in the fires around The City of Ventura, California yesterday. I offered to help all I could, but it’s not enough. He looked in bad shape the morning after he had to evacuate. He couldn’t get back to his house to find out if it was gone or not. The police still had the area blocked off.

His neighbors saw their house burn. The neighbors house was across the street and up a little on the side of a hill. They could not see my friends house from the spot they saw the neighbor’s house burn. There were no fire trucks or anyone around the house when it caught fire.

All the pain of loss. There are many things in my friends house that can not be replaced. Things that have memories tied to them.

How do I or anyone capture the feelings, of loss, of the heartbreak of not being able to help, of being helpless for someone? How do you put that in a story? How do you make someone feel those emotions?

Stay strong, write on, stay safe. Things can be replaced, but you can’t be replaced.    Professor Hyram Voltage.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before a Steampunk Christmas
And all through the Castle and Keep
Not a creature was stirring
Not even the monsters dared make a peep.

The tree was trimmed
but underneath it looked so bare
waiting for presents
soon to be placed there

The guards were asleep,
in their barracks so quiet.
A couple of Mickey Finns,
insured there would be no riot.

The ice box was full
of good food and beer.
Tomorrow there shall be
lots of good cheer.

And I was in my laboratory
beneath the dungeon so deep,
assembling a child bicycle.
Tonight I would not get much sleep.

Bells rang, siren screeched.
Up periscope to take a peek.
Was it taxman, the swat team?
Was my electric bill over do this week?

Up to the ramparts,
I ran in a mad dash.
Out in the distances,
I saw a bright flash.

I pulled down my goggles,
to shield my eyes from the light.
The glare on the snow was so bright
it blinded my sight.

From the ramparts I saw
such a magnificent sight,
A sleigh pulled by 8 rocket powered reindeer
flew through the night.

The pilot of this missile
this airship dancing on flame,
threw levers and called orders
to the reindeer by name.

Up Rivet, up Washer,
Bank left Pan-head, and Lug Nut.
now right Cross-threat and Grommet,
fly on Set screw, and Wing Nut.

Only one person I knew,
could drive such a thing,
good old Robot Saint Nick,
had come once again.

Through the still of the night
I heard that jolly pilot call
Up to the turret,
now to the top of the hall
There are so many presents
we must deliver them all!

Just when it seemed
they would crash into the wall,
he pushed buttons, threw levers.
and turbo charged them all.

From above I could hear the pounding
of each mechanical reindeer hoof.
Followed by the noise
of a pallet full of toys hitting the roof.

I raced and I ran to the great tree in the Hall,
but I found he wasted not a moment at all.
The gleam of silver hands flashing in the lights,
his bright cheerful garments were a pleasing sight.

A wave of a little vacuum
that made so much huffing and puffing,
all the soot and ashes on his clothes
were gone as if sucked into nothing.

A smoke stack rose from his shoulder by his ear,
up and over his metal hair.
The puffs of white steam made crystals wreaths
in the cold winter’s air.

His eyes were glowing,
his brass cheeks gleaming.
He was quite a pleasing construction
this mechanical being.

There was a life in those eyes
and that shiny metal face,
and the room filled with mellow laughter
as he rushed about the place.

The present he placed with precision and care
he gave the room one sweep of his gaze
turned and bowed
and then with speed that left me in a daze

With pallet jack and bag
into the chimney he went.
He pulled on a cable
and was raised by a winch.

With quick motions he stowed
everything away
and with a hop he bounded
into his sleigh.

With a blast on a steam whistle
he turned and waved.
Then with a rocket blast
he sped on his way.

It’s been said many times
but could be no more truer than tonight,
Merry Christmas to all
and to all a good night.

Stay strong, write on, Merry Christmas.      Professor Hyram Voltage

It’s in the mail didn’t work in the 1850’s

When I was very young, I would stay with my grandmother. Grandfather ran his own business and Grandmother always got anxious when the mailman was due. There could be a check in the mail.

Back then the mailman came twice a day. Once in the morning and again around 3 o’clock.

In the 1850s there were not that many telephones, no radios, and telegrams were very expensive. You had to go see someone in person or send them a letter. You could send a letter in the morning to invite someone to tea and get a response that they would be coming well before tea time.

I haven’t seen a story that implies that the mail was prompt and delivered several times a day. Also there were messengers, professional messengers, not just any old person off the street.

How could they afford to deliver mail twice a day. Estimates for how much a 1850 dollars could buy today range from 33.33 dollars to 4000.00 dollars. I recently saw an inflation article that stated that a dollar in 2014 could only buy $0.13 in 1965. So I feel that a dollar today may be worth 1/2000th of a 1850’s dollar. That’s half way between the $33.00 and $4000.00 estimate. So a penny postcard would cost a dollar of today’s money or several dollars in today’s money.

Don’t forget that train service was good in the past and the mail traveled by train. Mail traveling by ship could take several days but it could beat a messenger.

People that lived before cell phones and telephones could and did communicate, some times weekly or even daily. Without telephones letter writing was the only way to communicate long distances and people took letter writing seriously.

Your story should take letter writing seriously.

Stay strong, write on, write a letter today. Professor Hyram Voltage.

Thanksgiving past

I went to the grocery store to pick up a couple of things for lunch. It’s a straight shot from the front door to the meat section. I headed to the meat case looking for an alternative protein for lunch.

As I was looking for the specials there were several people arguing about turkeys. This one or that one, the neighbors paid 49 dollars for a turkey.

I then realized it four days till Thanksgiving. Grabbed a package of turkey thighs and a box of dressing. I’m good.

I’ve been busy with projects. Time has got away form me. I’ve got friends coming in the day after Thanksgiving. I got to clean up the house, big time.

What’s this have to do with Writing Steampunk?

What was Thanksgiving like in 1880? There’s little information was on the web. Did they eat turkey? Dressing was common with most meals. It was a way to use old bread. You didn’t waste food in the 1880’s. Ice boxes were somewhat common. Ice was shipped in from the Northeast from ice houses where the frozen top of lakes were chopped up and stored. Still long term storage of food was hard to do. Some food could be salted, brined (as in pickled) or dried.

Canning wasn’t common. A lot of canning still used glass containers. Hard to ship the glass jars making canned goods expensive.

Your character could be working so hard on her river going pile driver hoping to win the new bridge contract that she forgets Thanksgiving is right around the corner. She has to make her mother’s famous turkey biscuits for Thanksgiving.

Or the hero is in a race to develop a steam powered crawler that can travel through deep mud to supply remote areas that has had their crops wiped out by floods. The storms and rain are stopping the air ships from making the run, and it cost too much to send food by airship.

Think of having your hero drop food out of an air ship. Supplying cattle trapped in a snow storm. The enemy cattle baron tries to shoot down and heavily damages your hero’s air ship. Saved by the native Americans that the air ship supplied earlier with food (the cattle food is grain and it wasn’t really meant for them). Think of the big show down between the air ship crew with the Native Americans against the Cattle Baron and his army of werewolf gunslingers.

Stay strong, write on, give thanks.  Professor Hyram Voltage.

A Time to Stop Writing

I stopped writing for the NanoWriMo challenge this year. I know you what you are thinking, he wrote for a little over one week and then quit.
I didn’t quite writing. I have two manuscripts setting here that need to go to an editor and they’re not ready for the editor to see. To paraphrase Ben Grimm, It’s editing time. And I mean massive edit and rewrite time.
It’s also time to find more Beta Readers to run the manuscripts by before sending them to an editor. Finding Beta Readers is proving to be a huge time sink. Why is it so hard for me?
I have a four inch pile of print outs, covered with multicolored notes to crank  into the second manuscript before I can start editing it.
I’m a writer of books. It’s time to turn those manuscripts into books. Right now I don’t need another manuscript. So why am I coming up with so many ideas for stories, fascinating ideas. It’s amazing how your mind can sabotage you.
Editing and rewriting is writing, I’m not goofing off. Editing is painful writing. Slow painful writing. Emotionally trying, heart wrenching writing.
I am getting my priorities straight. I have fallen back to the priority of writing books, not to writing manuscripts. I’ve got manuscripts, I need to get some book published.
Could the manuscripts be better? Yes, but as Stephen King put it, the way to write better books is to write more books. That’s books not manuscripts.
I did not quit. I traded my time I would have spent writing in the NanoWriMo challenge for time to edit and get my manuscripts edited and published.
Stray strong, write on, edit more. Professor Hyram Voltage