Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Do you know? (Warning, this is about software)

For those of you who still have full-time jobs, did you know that Microsoft has a "Home User Program" (a.k.a. HUP) available to companies who have an Enterprise Agreement. Enterprise Agreements, or EAs as they're known in IT-land, are typically for large organizations, but I have seen them in mid-sized companies as well.

Why am I talking about Microsoft licensing? Well, because it saves me money! And no, I don't get anything from Microsoft, I can't even mooch spiffs and for folks in IT that know me well I'm a pro at that.

The HUP offers Microsoft Office licenses at a very steep discount. I received my latest HUP announcement in my work email today. Office 2019, fully owned license, will cost me a measly $14.99 plus tax. I can additionally order a CD to be shipped to my house (which I always do) for an additional fee. Roughly speaking, for about $50 I'll have a CD that I can use to install on whatever machine (you only get 1 license though) and have it on-hand in case I ever need to reinstall it.

For those of you that don't have HUP available to you and can't afford O365 subscription prices there are options available to you for open source office suites. My favorites are Libre Office and Open Office. In part due to the software companies that support these community developed open source projects, and in part to the interfaces. They are easy to use, don't have a lot of unnecessary features, and even my mom (who hates computers) can get around in them. Very best part is that they are free!

The caveat with the open source programs is that Amazon doesn't support them. The good news is they do have a PDF converter built in, but you may have to fuss with formatting a bit when creating an eBook upload for Amazon or any other site.

If you do have HUP available to you, take full advantage of it. Even if you don't need an upgrade, buy it while you can. You never know when you may need to replace a piece of your hardware and do a re-install. The IT gremlins are numerous and plenty, backups of data are just one piece of your "weaponry", physical copies of your software is another.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A Trail of Michigan Authors

Barnes & Noble in Muskegon, MI is having it's 3rd annual event bringing local authors and readers together for a meet & greet & signing. Pick up a new book, or bring a few to be signed. Some of the GRRWG members will be there along with local award-winning authors such as Steve LeBel and Scott Payne.

We'll get a list of our members that will be there posted shortly.

Saturday, October 28, 2018, 1 - 4 p.m.
Barnes & Noble
5272 Harvey Street, Muskegon, MI 495444

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Queen has left the planet

All the buzz today is about the loss of our Queen of Soul, the amazingly talented Miss Aretha Franklin. I'm old enough to remember when she dominated the charts. When her song "R.E.S.P.E.C.T" was the anthem for young women everywhere, demanding our right to be treated as equals, when feminism was still "new".

I've always loved her voice. My grandfather loved her power, her stance as a strong women, and her fearlessness. He was not what I would consider a music fan, but when it came to her, he was all ears.

Miss Aretha taught me a lot, at a young age, even though she didn't know it. I suspect the adults (at the time) in my family didn't realize it either. Aretha's songs taught me that women can stand on their own two feet, taking care of business and family, and that we should never settle for less.

I will miss her, she was one feisty woman, and I loved watching her put younger singers "in their place". Truly the Queen Bee (sorry Beyonce, but Miss Aretha was, is, and will always be the True Queen of Soul) of Motown, and popular music in general.

Now to find a fitting way to give her a nod in one of my storylines. She made the world a better place.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Inspiration from the Baking Aisle

I was shopping at Meijer over the weekend and run across a new baking item that I simply had to have, so I could go home and experiment. There was no specific plan for it, no real thought process behind it, I simply grabbed it and put it in my cart.

Fast forward a few days, and I've used to my taste buds delight, and up popped my characters who'd gone into hiding/grieving/holiday/whatever for the past few months. April was hard, I lost my Uncle, my old dog, and one of my young dogs all in the span of a month. All of them unexpected, and my writing got shoved into the back corner of the closet.

Delighted as I am that they're chatting up their story lines, it's still a bit of a rough time. I've been resorting to dictating to my phone, using my Dragon software, and any other short cut I can find to get the words out as I run around the house puppy-proofing. Because, yes, we are getting another puppy so the lone puppy here will have a pack member to play with.

Once the decision was made to get a new puppy, Jess (one of my favorite characters) decided to lay claims on it, making it necessary for me to find a way to introduce a dog into her story line.

Pantser that I am, it's both easy and hard to add a dog into the mix. Which book should he/she be introduced into, how does he/she fit into her future story line, as well as her life.

It's all good in the end, the writing is flowing again and my characters are back to tease me with new ideas. I'll take inspiration any time I can get it.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Research vs. Writing - The Inner Battle

I have two book series that require a lot of research. Lately, I've been focusing more on research in lieu of writing and am struggling to get back on track with both. The research for the series is vastly different, the happier research involves the various world religions, the other deals with a particularly evil time in recent history. Both affect me differently, both in my desire to dig deeper and in my need to write.

The religious research is so interesting I tend to lose track of time. The topic is fascinating, I'm learning quit a bit and finding each religion has pieces I enjoy and others I despise. Yet I want to learn more and not stop to write.

World War II, in particular Hitler and his inner circle is equally fascinating. It is sad, morbid, and at times deeply disturbing as I can parallels with today's society and the German situation as Hitler grabbed more and more power. Mengele's experimentation is the most disturbing, yet I need to understand him a bit better as I need to understand his methodology in order to make a part of my story line work.

It is hard to force myself to write after doing research, as my drastically affects my writing. I didn't plan on becoming a writer or author, my original career choice was to be a Veterinarian. I'm a long way from that now, with a day job that eats up  60+ hours a week (don't get me started). My characters found me and insisted I begin writing their stories.

I'm trying an experiment over the next month. For every hour of research I do, I have to write at least 100 words on any of my books. They don't have to be good words, it doesn't have to be "gold", I simply need to get some words on the page. I'm hoping that will help jump start my writing output.

What do you do to get your writing mojo back?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Starting Over

I've been working on a WIP, rearranging the middle of a mystery, and forwarding pages to my "volunteer" editor. I've changed enough of the middle now that I'm having to rewrite the ending in order to throw the reader off and still keep them interested.

It feels like I'm writing an entirely new story, which is somewhat true. The main story line is the same, but there's some new scenes I hadn't seen coming that have thrown me for a bit of a loop and making it necessary to come up with some new red herrings. Established writers will occasionally put out the piece of advice that you will "normally" need to write five books before you're really ready to be published. I'm not sure I have that much patience.

As this book gets straightened out and polished up, I'm gearing up to get back into the routine of sending submissions, and receiving rejections. I'm ok with the rejections that I do get back - at least they're responding. I greatly appreciate the ones that come back with suggestions or any kind of feedback. It's not personal, what I'm sending them simply isn't a fit.

I look at submissions as if they are a job interview (and I've had hundreds of those). If I get an agent or publisher I want to be as good a fit for them as I want them to be for my book. Yes, it's a bit strange to have that frame of mind, however I've been in the business world long enough to separate the business from the personal.

So I find myself back at square one, with a different book series, still looking fondly at my first book series (yet to be published), at the start of a new year. Seems fitting.