NASA Reveals Space Weapon, then Undetected Asteroid Nearly Hits Earth

asteroid.jpgYou’d think with all the satellites and space-viewing devices that exists in this modern age that you wouldn’t hear about “undetected asteroids” popping up. That’s exactly what happened a couple weeks ago (July 20, 2017). The beaut, roughly the size of the Statue of Liberty, passed between us and our moon.

Deemed Asteroid 2017 001, it was detected on July 23, 2017 by the ATLAS-MLO telescope at Mauna Loa, Hawaii and was nearest to Earth on July 20th (Source: Eddie Irizarry/EarthSky).

predator.jpgSo, what the heck astronomers? How’d this sneaky bastard get by all of you? You all didn’t even notice it until three days after it had passed closest to us? Short answer: it’s not their fault.

Apparently, Asteroid 2017 001 has a non-reflective surface, which allowed it whiz between Earth and our moon at a brisk 23,179 miles per hour (37,303 km/h). It’s like the Predator of asteroids (or so I like think). Holy camouflaged Near Earth Objects (NEOs) Batman!

Our visitor was somewhere between 82 feet and 256 feet in length. No clue what the means? Let’s offer some scale.

The Chelyabinsk asteroid (the one that exploded over Russia in 2013) injured approximately 1,500 people and caused millions of dollars worth of property damage. It was between 55 and 65 feet long, and when it exploded in the atmosphere 12 miles above Earth, some experts have calculated it released 500 kilotons of energy (Source: Deborah Byrd/EarthSky). That’s 30 times the yield of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. Remember, our recent visitor was between 82-256 feet. Yikes!

That’s pretty scary, right? It’s especially useful information for me because I am writing about post-apocalyptic worlds. Sometimes the real world makes for the best fiction. Speaking of this, plot twist time!

At the start of this month (July) there was a rash of stories about NASA getting the green-light to develop an asteroid destroying/diverting weapon. Basically, they’d hit the incoming NEO with a fridge-sized spaceship traveling nine times the speed of a bullet. I’m imagining some sort of cannon that shoots ice-boxes. Here’s what it really looks like (Image Source: NASA/Planetary Defense page).

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A quick stop over at the NASA website, and boom, I’m introduced to the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission. Badass acronym, NASA. To be fair, this isn’t the first mention of this program. Nope. But it is a bit tasty that they would update the info for the DART Mission on July 18th.

Now, let me be the first to say that I’m not a conspiracy theory person; it’s not my thing. But man, what a bunch of coincidences. There’s a stream of news articles regarding DART at the start of the month. Then, the NASA Planetary Defense page updates the DART mission page two days prior to an “undetected asteroid” just missing the Earth…

Like I said earlier, the real world makes for the best fiction. That’s it from me; I’ve got writing to tackle. I like to use the blog page as an idea journal, and this idea was worth recording and sharing. Keep your eyes to the sky and your refrigerator cannons loaded.

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Let Sleeping Babes Lie

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My six-month old puts his head down for a nap; it’s one of the two he takes during the day. When his eyes close, I jump all over the house trying to get things done.

A part of me wonders if I will ever be a productive member of society again. Once a master of organization, now I try to content myself with getting all the bottles washed before he wakes back up. In those odd moments when I have time, I spend most of it trying to decide what to do with it.  Watch television? Read? Edit? Work on my novel? Take a nap myself? Eat every unhealthy thing in the house? Tackle one of the countless chores needing to be done?

Or perhaps I could make a blog post.

I never really understood the value of time until I didn’t have any.  If fatherhood is teaching me anything (outside of patience, diaper skills, and baby fingernail trimming), it is to focus on doing one or two things well, because there isn’t enough time for the renaissance man jack-of-all-trades nonsense anymore.


Roughly a year later…

One of the main reasons I started this blog was so it could serve as a time capsule for me. A lot has changed in the year or so since this post was initially generated. For one, Thor is running all over the place and causing mayhem. Indeed, Past Corey had no concept of how little time he would have.

The irony of the original post doesn’t elude me. Past Corey believed he was taxed for time. With Thor napping only once during the day now, and my amazing wife consistently being away on a warship, time truly has become a precious quantity. Here’s my takeaways:

  1. Be willing to tell people “no.” When time becomes a premium, then you have to learn to say no more often, even if it’s a project/job/task you think is awesome.
  2. Don’t stress about the small stuff. And man, it took my a while to figure out what the small stuff was. Figure out what you can control and focus on that. You must tend to your garden of f***s and not give them too freely.
  3. When it’s time to work, play, or chill, don’t get sidetracked. In a world where multitasking is listed on resumes, I strive to do the opposite. Multitasking usually means I’m half-assing something. As Ron Swanson would say, “Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.”

These lessons are about as deep as a puddle in the desert, but heck, I never claimed to be a philosophizer. I’m just a dad trying to sort through the madness one day at a time. That’s it for my blog time; I’ll update this post in another year.

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Digital Killed the Paperback Star…or did it?

time cover July 11.jpgNote: I wrote this article a year back, in the time since, independent book stores are continuing their resurgence. Don’t believe me? That’s fine, but please take the time to check out this compilation of reference articles from the American Booksellers Association. More than fifty articles are listed: Independent Bookstores are Thriving


July 3rd, 2016

My weekly Time magazine came in the mail a couple days ago. The cover shouted in red, white, and blue letters, “240 Reasons to Celebrate America Right Now.” I was holding Thor (my baby boy), so I ended up flopping it open on kitchen counter with my free hand. I read articles out loud to him; if he cries, I know the article is boring. Nestled in the centerfold was the title of the 64th reason to celebrate: The death of the bookstore was greatly exaggerated. I read it out loud, and Thor giggled. Okay, maybe he didn’t, but that would of been a nice hook, huh?

The article, written by Lev Grossman, provides a brief snapshot of how independent bookstores are doing. The outlook was pleasing. Here are some takeaways and why it should matter to you as writers and as readers.

Independent bookstores are doing better than some media sources reflect in their reporting. According to the article bookstores have been growing in numbers steadily for the last seven years. Climbing from 1,712 all the way to 2,311 (Grossman cited the American Booksellers Association for these numbers). The growth was attributed  largely to new technology making inventorying libraries easier for small businesses and social media allowing for low cost advertising.

The next reason for this growth jumped out at me; these independently ran bookstores operate in a niche market. Grossman provided a quote from one independent shop owner (Brian Lampkin, owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, N.C.) who stated, “We’re letting Amazon and Barnes & Noble take care of the best sellers. Where are you going to get poetry? Some Barnes & Nobles you walk into, you’re lucky to find Emily Dickinson.”

This quote brings me to my first point.

bookstoreamersterdam.jpgAs indie authors, citizen writers, and artists, why wouldn’t you go and support those who exist to support you? 

If you are a writer of any medium, you should be walking into the local bookstore and seeing what they have going on. You may not be J.K. Rowling or Stephen King (yet), but in your town or city, you might be the best thing since sliced bread. Even better, these struggling businesses want you to talk about your work with customers; they want poetry readings; they want the local flavor to come in and mix and mingle. It’s a powerful tool to reach out from beyond the glow of our computer screens.

I have indie author friends who made sure to go to local bookstores and get their work up on the shelves. I know from the Instagram photographs, Facebook posts, and conversations we’ve had, that seeing their work sitting in a bookstore shelf was one of the highlights in their journey.

print is dead.jpgPrint isn’t dead.  Digital may have punched it in the face, but it’s still in the game. Grossman provides an interesting statistic. “Last year the share of e-books
(at least the non-self published kind) actually receded to 24%. The book market appears to have rebalanced itself into a complex mix of paper and digital, with neither format completely dominating…”.

This is an important thing to consider when you decide what formats you are going to produce. I know plenty of indie authors who only sell e-copies of their work. The worry is they won’t be able to recuperate the costs of printing. But perhaps the tides are changing and there could be profit to go to print? Even if it is just a limited print. Especially if there are local stores who are willing to let you throw down a table, do readings, and toss your books up on the shelf. It is something to consider as you move through the process.

If you want to worship, go to the temple. I urge you to go check out your local book haunt. Plenty of these places aren’t making much money doing what they are doing. To them, that’s not the point. They do it because they have a passion for print. They love the look and smell of a wall of books.

Ask yourself this: are we so different from them? Are you making millions from your writing right now? Even if you are, is that the only driving force behind your stories? To be a successful writer, I assume an element of passion must be there. Surround yourself with those equally as passionate and see your fortune rise.

Final Words: To my fellow Americans, I hope your 4th of July is great and you are surrounded by those you love. To my friends outside of our borders, please enjoy the endless videos of us crazy Americans blowing ourselves to smithereens with pyrotechnics.

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Fear and Loathing at RavenCon 2017

Author Note: This article was lost when my author and editor sites were merged. A big thanks to Yudhanjaya Wijeratne for pointing out the broken link and wanting to read the article in the first place. Now, on to the shenanigans.


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I’m walking through the darkened courtyard of the DoubleTree Hotel in Williamsburg, Virginia, trailing just behind Chris Kennedy. The sun has dropped from the sky, much like my morale after sitting in on a panel where one panelist plugged their book eighteen times. I know this because I kept tally. Eighteen.

Putting this from my mind, I increase my pace and try not to slip on the water-soaked cement. Some kid splashing with a writhing knot of multi-colored pool noodles underneath him shouts up at me from the water, “I bet you didn’t think you’d see someone with seven pool noodles in their trunks!”

jawsIt’s true, kid. I didn’t think I’d see that. Who swims in the dark? That’s how you get eaten by the night sharks who dwell in shallow hotel pools! 

Of course I didn’t say any of that out loud. Careful to not get pulled into an existential conversation about the stuffing of pool noodles into bathing suits with no adult supervision around, I continue following Chris. He is navigating toward a suite being shared by a publishing house. I’m following like a lost puppy.

We’d communicated electronically, but this convention – Ravencon – was my first in-person meeting with him. We had joked about sharing a few beers. Him and I are both Navy vets, so a shared beer is sort of a sacred thing. It seemed Chris was making good on this promise. Unfortunately, the outside door that would give access to the suite is locked, a fatal flaw in his planning.

Undaunted, the quick-witted publisher/author stalks over to the fenced-in balcony where a collection of women puff on cigarettes. It’s the typical metal fencing you see at hotels of this type: waist high, blocky bars, not designed to keep your room from being ransacked, but meant to keep you from passing out and falling into the bushes or wandering into the pool for a final swim.

smoking skull.jpgChris asks the smoke-breathing women if they would mind opening the door to the wing from the inside. Instead, they tell us to jump the fence. Opting for a less acrobatic solution, we squeeze through a one-foot space against the wall, slide the glass door open, and step inside.

A collection of men and women are sitting around and meandering about. A fold-out, veneer table to my left is covered in half-emptied bottles of hard liquor. Despite the age of the occupants attending this venue, the room décor was like that of a college party: plastic trashcans overflowing with bottles and trash, fold out chairs, crappy lighting, hotel carpeting – the works.

Everyone stops talking, looks over at us, then one of the older men tells me to close the door behind me. After I complied with his orders, we walked over to a huddled circle of seated people. The Giver of Orders, a kindly man who didn’t want to be assaulted by cigarette smoke, produced a black cooler bag. It was packed with local craft beer. Happy and grateful to have obtained free social lubricant, I quickly empty the bottle while somewhat awkward conversation happens all around me.

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Everyone around me has titles under their belt, or have contributed to the production of multiple books. I have no published works to my name. As an editor, I’m mildly successful considering I’ve not been doing it professionally for long. But this is a room full of established editors, authors, and publishers. So, I did what I do best: drink, listen, drink, respond, drink, nod, drink, and smile.

drinking buddies.jpgI don’t pass out a single business card – despite having them made for the convention – and I didn’t tell a single person who I was or what I was doing there. I just play the fly-on-the-wall game until we all said our farewells. Chris headed home, and I wandered off to my room. Later that evening, I thought about what a missed opportunity that was while I worked my way through the beers I had stocked in my hotel fridge.

Less than a week later, while I was in the safety of my own home, Chris sent an offer to publish a series J.R. Handley and I have been outlining called The Odera Chronicles. A few weeks later, he informed me a short story I had co-authored will be showing up in an anthology he is releasing in September.

This, for me, is the purpose of something like RavenCon. It’s not about judging the merit of the panels (or panelists), or pimping your books to a room full of disinterested people. It’s certainly not about gloating about your successes and comparing yourself to others. Sometimes, it’s about wandering around, meeting people, pool noodles, jumping fences, and drinking the occasional beer. It’s about being present and open to a strange adventure.

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10 Bad Reviews Which Will Actually Increase Your Book Sales

10 Bad Reviews Which Will Actually Increase Your Book Sales

This is a fun and brilliant post about what I’ve been saying (not on the blog, but in “real” life) about book reviews. Tara crushes this post, and it’s just the kind of thing I wanted to read at 1 a.m.

Number 2 and 10 on this list is spot on. It also takes a number 2 on some of the “high society” views on swearing, smut, and general tomfoolery. Seriously folks, write the book you want to read and people will give you a shot.

Tara Sparling writes

Look at my face. Seriously. Take a good long look at this face. It’s blue. And why is that? Why is my face the colour of childish summer skies, frozen computer screens, and musical moons?

It’s because I’m BLUE IN THE FACE telling you that 5-star reviews do not sell books. Stand-alone 5* reviews (rather than bunched together in aggregate, which I admit wield pens of power and therefore refuse to deal with here) are as much of an incentive to readers to buy a book as broccoli yoghurt is to naughty children to behave. They are meaningless: often vapid: frequently regarded as fake, and I have blogged about them so many times that my fingers are weary and my face is blue.

You know what can sell your books, though? A bad review, that’s what. And why is that? Because bad reviews contain 97.5% more useful information than good reviews, that’s why.

10 Bad Reviews Which Will Actually Increase Your Book Sales This…

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Moved in: Hello Virginia

home-sweet-home-1456862578eiX.jpgAt long last I have moved into the new house and am sinking back into a normal schedule. *maniacal laughter* This is my fifth or sixth military move, and let me tell you, this one was a kick in the poop shoot.

Regardless, the house is now painted, baby-proofed, and mostly unpacked. I felt bad for the garbage collectors because I had a mountain of broken down cardboard boxes and packing paper stacked into the stratosphere in front of the driveway.

Other technical difficulties included: transitioning my business to a new state, building a companion author page to this one (located here), going 2,000 pounds over the weight limit for household goods (whoops), and attempting/succeeding to move a 200 pound desk and other miscellaneous furniture up a flight of stairs…two story houses are the worst.

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My new home office—where the magic (insanity) happens.

I wrote a post a while back about how environment impacts writing. Some people are flexible and can write at a rock concert, and some people need a perfect little nook. I seem to fall into the latter category. But I have my nook now and am looking forward to judo chopping all the work that has been piling up.

A big “thank you” to J.R. Handley for stopping by the house and bringing over a housewarming gift from his family. Talk about a warm welcome to Virginia. Not only did we eat lasagna until our stomachs almost exploded, we also plotted out a short story for an upcoming anthology. We will be co-authoring the short story, so that should either be really mind blowing, or make people weep uncontrollably. Maybe both?

Wastelander Cover.jpgI mentioned my companion site, that is where I am going to start keeping updates on Wastelander, other book projects, collaborations/co-writing projects, and my author updates. I’m not dense enough to think everyone who comes here for writing tips gives a hoot about my hack fiction — but if you do, be sure to swing over for updates on that front.

All right, moving forward. Time to start doing what this page was meant for: writing tips. Please stay tuned and thanks for bearing with me during this overly long move. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always — stay sharp!

 

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Blogging: Building Your Platform

 

thor-with-leaf

Thor sorting leaves. He knows where to find the good ones.

It’s been too long since I’ve been able to update! I’m writing this post in my bedroom/office/box storage room. Yes, the prolonged move is taking forever, but I will be off to a new state and house by the end of the month. Fortunately (or unfortunately), that means you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the near future. Oh, Thor is walking/running now…so yeah, busy times!

Today I wanted to take a moment to announce a milestone on the QE page. I’ve met and surpassed 1000 followers! Oddly enough, the last 200+ followers have come during a period of non-activity on my page [insert excuses: moving, baby, editing, writing, stay-at-home dad, military spouse].

So how did the blog continue to generate activity without me at the helm being proactive? I mean, does my blog even need me anymore? Has it gained self-awareness? I wish…

thanksBefore I get into the platform building section, let me say “thanks!” People talk about followers just being numbers. You’ll only make X number of sales from X number of followers. It all seems so impersonal. Speaking from my experience, I’ve received awesome emails from people checking in on me and the family, gained clients,  found collaborative writing partners, joined a Legion, uncovered fellow editors (key wielding clones), and I’m very humbled and appreciative of these relationships. Sales are one thing, meaningful relationships are something much more. So again, thanks for reading and coming back for more.

Building the BlogNow that I’m done gushing, let’s talk brass tacks.

I wrote a how-to post about blogging before: Blogging: What Works for Me. I wrote that post in July of last year when I had hit 400 followers. People were curious about my process, and I’m always happy to share. In it, I offered some tips about how to craft your writing and your activity to increase viewership. Towards the bottom of that post, I wrote a very short paragraph titled, Technical Mumbo Jumbo.  It seems some of that technical hoopla is more essential than I realized.

The technical aspects of your blog are what allow you to reach beyond WordPress and start generating views from search engines and other sources. In the last two months, where I only generated a few posts, those 200+ followers were likely due to me taking advantage of some of the features within WordPress. It’s also due to the type of content I ordinarily post.

Looking at my site analytics I’ve noticed a massive amount of views are being generated from search engines. This was planned. *maniacal laughter* Here are some ways to make your blog more visible outside of WordPress and gain more traffic.

evergreenWrite Evergreen Content. When I say “evergreen,” I’m talking about the shelf-life of the post. Some posts we write are author/editor/blogger/life update posts. For many, it’s a given you will want to reach out to your readers. “I’ll be here at this convention” or “Check out my new release.” There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that those posts won’t be the workhorses on your page. In terms of search engine visibility, unless someone knows exactly what to type, they likely won’t stumble into those posts. The workhorses are the posts that don’t have a fuse or timeline.

There is little chance someone who’s never been to or heard of this page will type into Google, “Quintessential Editor Barnes and Noble Rant.” There is higher likelihood someone might search, “the herald archetype.” Both of these searches will bring up posts from this blog on the first or second page of Google, but one (the archetype post) is far more likely to pull a reader because it’s a logical search term.

The Barnes and Noble rant was a needed outlet for me to express my disdain, but it has little real usefulness to people.  On the other hand, posts about aspects of writing are tools people actively seek out. While your blog may not be centered around writing, finding ways to write content with no shelf-life and high applicability is a good move.

Your Blog Headline is Important. I didn’t realize this at first, but after studying the stats on my page over the course of the last eight months, I can’t refute the numbers. Writing and publishing clever headlines makes me smile, but they have little application outside of WordPress Reader. In fact, they can make your content nearly impossible for someone to stumble into from the endless sprawl of the interwebs.

harry-potter-newspaperThink of your blog headline like an internet search term. While the blog headline may be clever and will snag fresh readers taking advantage of the WordPress Reader, after a few weeks or months it will be buried. Yes, people can utilize tags and categories to find your posts here on WordPress (if they scroll long enough). However, search engines are a much bigger ocean and require more precision.

For example, I wrote about how to anchor readers using setting. I wanted to use a really clever headline for the post. Instead, I went with the very bland Setting: Anchoring the Reader. If someone types in “how to anchor a reader with setting” or “anchoring a reader with setting,” this post is usually on the front page of most search engines. The words a person might use to find this information with a search engine can be different, but the headline contains most of the words they would use.

Know the difference between a category and tag. Tags are the golden ticket. Not only will they allow people in WordPress Reader to narrow down their search and stumble onto your content, it also factors into search engine results. If you couldn’t tweak your headline to nail the topic entirely, you will want to add those missing words, individually, into the tag. Also add tags that are applicable to the topic.

For this post, I’ll likely have [writing, blogging, how-to, advice, WordPress, headlines, understanding, categories, tags, fiction, non-fiction, Corey Truax, dad]. You’ll notice dad there, it seems WordPress dads are always looking for kindred spirits so I always leave a breadcrumb trail. If you’re an author/editor/business person, it never hurts to toss your cats-dressed-vintage-photo.jpgname into the tag of each post. The more posts out there with your name on it, the more likely someone doing an internet search of your name will stumble into your blog.

[Here be rumors and unsubstantiated banter] I’ve read that some users will flood the tag area of their webpage posts. So let’s say you write a post about knitting sweaters for kittens. Some people will copy and paste more than 100 related and unrelated words into the tag field hoping someone searches for a topic and walks into their trap. In my opinion — you kitten sweater knitting maniacs — that’s a good way to ensure an unwary person never returns to your page. I’ve also read that certain search engines will boot your post from their search results if the tag seems like spam. [Here ends the trail of kitten tears]

labyrinthCategories Keep People on Your Page. Categories are how you organize your page. We don’t want readers to feel like they are navigating a labyrinth. I started with five or six main categories. One of them was “Writing.” This was a mistake because it lumped too many posts of different types into one giant category. If someone clicked the Writing category, a massive list of blog posts popped up. Some may have been what they were looking for, some weren’t. I broke “Writing” down into more precise categories: Conflict, Setting, Description, Dialogue, and so on. When I did this, repeat views from a single reader skyrocketed. Alas, some people who came to the page didn’t care about every aspect of writing.

If categories are a new concept for you entirely, WordPress has a page dedicated to explaining what they are and how to make them work for you. Check it out here.

You can really take advantage of your categories by using the widgets included with WordPress. Widgets offer different options that display navigation tools. If you are unfamiliar with widgets, WordPress has a page for you here.

That’s it for today. The last bit of advice I’ll give is this, take the time to understand how to leverage the tools I talked about above. It’s heartbreaking to see people grinding away so hard and not getting readership. Especially when their blog page is how they generate business. Implementing these small tweaks will add two minutes to your process — at most. Those two minutes will ensure your webpage is easy to find, navigate, and use. And heck, maybe your page will achieve self-awareness.

question-markDo you have any tips that have worked for you? Do you understand the bizarre search engine algorithms? There a few more tools I have under my hat, but this post is already well beyond my 1000 word cap. If there’s enough interest, I can write another one with some extra bits of info. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always — stay sharp!

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