http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-42629529

Apparently the British Army has a recruiting problem (kids don’t want to be sent to Afghanistan to kill people who’ve never done anything to them), so the solution is to become all huggy-fluffy.

You just couldn’t make this up.

I have a story coming out in a new anthology tomorrow:
http://www.alasdairshaw.co.uk/thenewcomer/guardian.php

I thought about it for Condemned. But, if I did, I’d never have space for the actual book description.

1. Finish a bunch of my half-finished novels.

2. Publish them.

3. Spend the royalties on an estate in Hawaii and a Ferrari.

Funny, isn’t it? The Middle East is going to Hell, and all the mass media are interested in are Climate Change and ‘Muh Russia!’

After the Apocalypse, no-one is going to want to admit to having been part of the 21st century mass media.

Saying a new writer should spend thousands of dollars on their first book because successful writers do so is like saying a kid who wants to win motor races should buy a Ferrari because the people who win races drive them. The kid wouldn’t have any idea how to control it and would be off in the grass on the first corner with a big repair bill.

Sure, if I was making a million dollars on each book, I’d farm out all the editing and covers and spend a bunch of money on advertising, because doing the work myself would make no sense when I could be writing the next book. But I’m sure glad I didn’t do that when I was starting out, or I’d have quit long ago because I couldn’t afford to keep losing money. After a few years and several books, I’m only just about at the point where I think I’d benefit from doing those things.

I think it’s pretty easy to ensure there’s a story worth telling. Just start with:

1. Two characters.
2. With conflicting goals.
3. Who can’t just run away.

At some point, they’ll meet, then they’ll fight, then one will win (or both may win, in a genre like romance). Story over.

If there are interesting characters in an interesting situation, something interesting is going to come out of it.

I do have a bunch of half-written novels, but that’s just because I easily get distracted by the New Shiny and start writing something else even though I shouldn’t. I’ll get back to the others sooner or later.

Writing to an outline bores the heck out of me. In the last novel I published under this name, I had an idea of what the end would be when I wrote ‘Chapter One’, but didn’t even end up sticking to that. The novel before, I had a vague idea that the main character would be robbing a bank half-way through the book, but he went off and became a suicide bomber instead (just not a very good one).

That said, in some other genres I write under other names, it is nice to know that the genre has defined the basic structure and I’m just finding an interesting way to get from ‘Chapter One’ to ‘The End’ within that structure. It does eliminate some of the banging-the-head-on-the-table moments writing SF and horror.

IT companies are building an ever-more-complex web of systems that have absolutely no redundancy and all fail at the same time.. Just so managers can get a bonus for reducing short-term costs.

If there ever is a war with Russia or China, they’ll just have to bomb Amazon,and the Western economies will grind to a halt.

I mean, seriously, who in the world ever imagined that Amazon having IT problems would stop their ‘smart’ oven turning off?

On other forums, people were complaining about not being able to accept credit cards in stores, and that their ‘Internet of Things’ devices were no longer working.

This whole thing is insane. One day, ‘The Cloud’ is going to go down for a week, and people will die as a result.

It’s really not that hard to tell whether a romance book is supposed to be in an SF category, in most cases. Taken by the Alien Alpha Barbarian is not Military SF just because it’s set in space and the barbarian beats up a few people.

If the romance is central to the story, and the spaceships just a backdrop, it’s a romance, If the romance is a subplot and the spaceships are the focus, it’s sci-fi. I’m not sure why this is hard to understand. Just think about which part of the book you can remove without destroying the story, and it should be pretty clear which category it should be listed in.

Yes, there’s a grey area where you’re exploring romance in a radically different sci-fi world. But those stories are a) relatively rare, and b) probably sci-fi.

No-one’s complaining that there are girl cooties in SF novels (well, OK, a few nuts might be). They are complaining that they go to the SF bestseller list and find that 50% of them are romance novels in spacesuits. I stopped bothering to check the list a year or two back, because it was so stuffed with romance books that there was no point any more.

And, as others have said, a large part of the problem is that Amazon use the keywords to pick categories, rather than just letting authors do so. If you put ‘space barbarian’ in the keywords for your romance novel, it will probably end up somewhere in SF. If you put ‘romance’ in the keywords for your Military SF novel because there’s a romance subplot, it will probably end up somewhere in romance.

Apparently trade publishers are forcing writers to submit their books to ‘sensitivity readers’ so as not to offend people. But every time they tell a writer ‘you can’t write that character like that’ and force them to change, I suspect they lose more readers than they gain.

I think there is a place for a service to help authors make characters more authentic. For example, I have a half-finished novel set in a small community in the North of Canada, and I stopped writing when I realized I needed to do a lot more research into the lifestyle up there before I could finish. I wouldn’t be averse to paying someone who knows more than I do to read through it when it’s done and let me know what I got wrong so I could fix it.

But we all know that’s not what’s going to happen here. They’re trying to build the new Soviet Socialist Realism, where only approved ideas with approved characters can be published (and have nothing to do with Realism).

A few things to consider:

1. You can write and publish several books in the time trade publishers would take to reject your first book.
2. A publisher who’s giving a $5,000 advance isn’t going to spend much on publicity.
3. Odds are you won’t sell your first book to a publisher anyway. You’re likely to sell at least a few copies if you self-publish.
4. Most forms of book promotion don’t work as well as writing a good book and getting it into the hands of people who’ll spread the word. The days when you could sell a million copies just by posting ‘buy my awesome $0.99 ebook’ on Twitter every hour are long gone. So many writers do that that readers just blank them out or unfollow them.
5. If you self-publish a bad book, the odds of some irate reader stalking you with a chainsaw are low. The worst that’s likely to happen is that it disappears into the Pit Of Despair (aka the million-plus rankings on Amazon).

I guess this is what you get for running Windows on computers that control a lot of money:

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-38063142

Running Windows on ATMs was always an insane decision, but the manager who made it probably retired long ago.

Pick up some free horror books for Halloween, including Monster Maelstrom, a Halloween anthology which includes one of my flash fiction stories:

http://www.melaniekarsak.com/p/promotion.html

My Windows PC locked up again at the weekend. Followed by another 12+ hour RAID rebuild. So I’m done with it.

I waited for the rebuild, split the mirror, then installed SyncToy, some little Microsoft program that will automatically sync directories, like rsync on Linux, but with a GUI. It has to be run manually (or scheduled to run periodically in the background), but it seems far more robust than Windows RAID. And, even if one disk dies, at least I have a recent backup on the second, rather than an unreadable broken RAID.

I’m just appalled to see that a bloated multi-billion-dollar corporation can’t even get something as simple as RAID mirroring to work competently.

President of the Philippines calls the President of America a “son of a whore”, and says they’ll be “wallowing in the mud like pigs” if the President of America disrespects him.

President of America, supposedly the most powerful man in the world, gets in a huff and goes to Korea instead.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-37281821

Can anyone imagine that happening with a real President, like Reagan? Back then, the Philippines cared what America thought about it. Apparently not any more.

The Chinese leaders must be laughing their ass off.

What moron decided to switch a LAPTOP screen to portrait mode with an arcane key combination? Particularly one that’s RIGHT NEXT TO CTRL+ALT+DEL?

What possible reason I would have to switch a laptop to portrait mode, when the freaking keyboard is attached to the bottom of the screen? All it achieves is to leave people wondering ‘WTF just happened?’ and trying to figure out how to use the mouse sideways so they can open a web browser to return the screen to the right damn orientation.

Hint for anyone who found this through Google: its CTRL+ALT+Arrow keys.

I so hate the tabletization of computing. And I absolutely despise Windows 10. There’s a reason our last remaining Windows machines run XP and Windows 7.

When I ran out of space on the main drive of my Windows video editing machine, I thought it was probably time I should install a RAID to put the video files on, so I wouldn’t lose them if the disk failed. I bought two 4TB drives, set them up as software RAID, and off it went.

Problem is, Windows software RAID is absolutely worthless.

In Linux, if there’s a power failure, or the machine locks up, or something that requires the machine to shut down unexpectedly, the RAID is usually OK. If the OS was actively writing to the disk, it will probably have to resync, but otherwise it’s already synced and continues as normal.

But not in Windows.

Microsoft decided that any kind of unexpected shutdown would make the RAID resync. Doesn’t matter that nothing has written to it for six hours, if it wasn’t cleanly shut down, you’re SOL.

And, no, when it starts resyncing, it won’t remember where it got to last time and continue after you reboot. Every single time you boot with an unsynced RAID, it starts over from scratch, even though it can’t possibly complete unless you’re going to leave the machine on all day.

So, any kind of power outage… and it’s nine hours waiting for the RAID to resync. Any kind of OS lockup… and it’s nine hours waiting for the RAID to resync. Given we don’t have the best power here, and Windows locks up now and again, the RAID in my machine has been unsynced far more often than it’s been synced. I get a power outage on Wednesday, and I have to leave it to the weekend

So that’s it for RAID on Windows. I’m scrapping the whole idea and buying a NAS running a real OS that I can just back everything up to manually.

WTF were Microsoft thinking when they designed this piece of crap?

I think you just need to make it your day job. A month is about 160 hours of work time. I can write about 1500 words an hour, so I could write a 60,000 word novel in a quarter of that time. That would leave three times as many hours to do everything else once the first draft is complete… farm out some of the editing, the formatting, and the cover design, and there’s plenty of time in a month to write and release a book if you don’t need lots of research or world building (as per Richard’s comment about writing in a series).

Lionel Fanthorpe used to write a (mostly bad) novel every weekend, based on a cover and title the publisher sent him, and did that for a few years. Michael Moorcock wrote some of his most famous books in a week.