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).

DART Spacecraft.png

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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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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The Legion Grows: Another Editor Reports for Duty

Red Pen of Doom.jpgMy back was against the wall. The grammar errors were all around me.

“I’m a developmental editor,” I said. “This grammar stuff is kicking me in the tender bits.”

“Fear not, Corey-the-human,” a voice sounded through the darkness. “The Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom is here.”

In a sick-ass flash of power and insight, Thomas, the mercenary copy editor, hacked the manuscript to shreds.

All was right in the world again.

In short, Thomas joined the Legion. Find out more about the mercenary proofreader and read his intro by clicking right here (the link will teleport you to the Human Legion website).

You can look forward to seeing our collaborative editing prowess on display in J.R. Handley’s next book in the Sleeping Legion series: Operation Breakout.

More of an update than an informative post today, but I have some how-to posts coming. I’ll be starting a new series tackling point of view, as this is the most common issue I seem to deal with in my editing work (also the item most people ask me about). Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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The Time Paradox (Revamping the Schedule)

hourglassI posted my daily schedule a while back.  Due to the ghosts in the time machine, I must adjust and move forward with purpose.  Before I spell out the new schedule, I want to take a minute to discuss why the schedule must change.

When I started this blog page:

  1. I was writing a single book.  Now I have finished writing this book and started a rewrite.  Additionally, I am writing a novella, three graphic novels, and the discovery draft of another separate book.
  2. My baby boy was napping three or more hours a day. Additionally, he wasn’t mobile.  Now Thor naps for about half the amount of time and is moving at the speed of babylight (which is slower than a walk and faster than a crawl).
  3. I was working as a freelancer on websites like Upwork and Freelancer with limited success.  My clients were few and far between and many of the jobs were very short.  Now I own my own editing business. It has generated some awesome clients and a decent workload.
  4. My wife was working “normal” Navy hours.  Now she is working 12-hour shifts.

No Breaks

For these reasons, I must adjust the schedule.  It should be noted that I owe the success of my business to this page and the time I devoted to it.  I also owe this page for introducing me to so many brilliant people. This QE website has been a lightning rod of creativity and self-growth for me.

Personal ramblings aside, let’s look at the new schedule.

Monday:  Book blurb day or a new post.  I’ve read more than thirty books on writing since I started this page.  Every now and then I toss together a collage and write a blurb about a book. (My “reads” category contains examples.)  It’s not really a review, but an insight about the content of the book.  Again, this is my way of offering you all the resources I can and populating the page with useful content.

Tuesday/Sunday: Off days.  I wanted a couple days of the week to spend my allotted blogging time reading other blogs and commenting.  If I continue posting every day, I simply don’t have enough time to reply to comments and reach out beyond my own page.

Wednesday: Feature Wasteland Wednesday and/or author news.  Wastelander: The Drake Legacy publishes next year, but it’s the first in a very long Wastelander series.

As I will start the publishing process early next year, I want to make Wednesday a day to also share news about what’s going on with me professionally (failures, successes, conventions I’m attending, etc).

I‘m also working with some amazing authors as an editor.  I want to spotlight them here as well, when possible.

Thursday: A new and glorious post.

Feature Friday.jpg

Feature Friday.  This is one my favorite additions to my page.  I will continue taking a day each week to highlight other bloggers who are generating insightful content.  If you are sitting there reading this and thinking, Hey! He’s talking about me.  Contact me and I will add you to my reblog list.  I am fortunate to have great readership here at QE, and if my success can propel others, it’s a small way for me to give back.

Don't Know what to Blog

I have also decided to allow for reader contributions on Fridays.  This was a suggestion made to me by P.A. Kramer.  The more I thought about it, the more I loved the concept.  This is a great way for bloggers to take advantage of my readership and get some eyes on both their content and their blog pages.  Again, my goal has always been to bring like-minded people together.

I will only post submissions that are centered around some aspect of writing. Ideally, the content should be around 700-1000 words in length.  If images are included, they must be non-copyrighted images (I can generate images if needed).  Contact me if you have a proposal.

Saturday: Re-post day.  Recycling previous posts will help people new to the site or to WordPress connect with my older content.  It also helps me.  It allows me to continuously edit, improve, and add links to my archived material.  I learn a lot from my discussions with all of you, my work as an editor, and my labors as a writer.  I want to be sure my past posts reflect newfound knowledge and continue to be relevant.

That’s the new schedule.  Let’s see if this one sticks or not.  Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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Writing: A Report vs a Story

DINFOS_Seal.pngThe core of my training and experience comes from my time as a military journalist.  At the Defense Information School, we were taught the “Five Ws and H,” way of approaching a news story. We were also taught something called the “Inverted Pyramid” style of structuring our stories. I now often find myself applying these methodologies to my fiction, and sometimes encourage writers I collaborate with to do the same.

First, let’s break it down a bit.  The five Ws and the H are broken down into: who, what, where, when, why, and how.  In journalism—especially military journalism—the focus seemed to be mostly on the first four.  If you could add the why and how, and still remain objective, you win the prize (M.L.S. Weech can correct me here as he teaches this stuff).

This way of thinking ensures the journalist, before they ever leave to cover the story, would remember to gather all the elements they needed to write a complete piece.  If the journalist could gather quotes from people talking about the why and how, even better.  This way of thinking organizes the journalists way of thinking.  Unlike fiction, the journalist may never get a second chance to ask the right questions to clarify their story.

Inverted Pyramid.jpgThe inverted pyramid is a means of organizing a story in order of importance.  I attached an image to illustrate this concept.  This does two things.  First, it ensures the most vital elements of the story are written first.  Secondly, it allows whoever is placing the news article into a newspaper, magazine, or periodical to have the flexibility to chop parts of the article away to fit it into the layout.  In essence, if they chop off the back-end of the news story it still delivers all of the pertinent information.

Transitioning this way of thinking to fiction isn’t too far-fetched.  Let’s start with the first concept.  We have to think of the “Five Ws and H,” in a different way.  Roy Peter Clark, in his book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writerwrote about this concept in an intuitive way.  The following excerpt is from this book on page 125.

Who becomes Character.
What becomes Action. (What happened.)
Where becomes Setting.
When become Chronology.
Why becomes Cause or Motive.
How becomes Process. (How it happened.)

Seeing it written out in this manner reveals the parallels in process between news and fiction writing.  Just like the journalist, the fiction writer must organize their piece and ensure they address most of the elements on this list.  When I do my first pass of a new manuscript, I mentally make notes of these elements as I see them.  If one element is missing, then the scene, chapter, or book will likely need some slight revision (not always).

newsboy

A newsboy circa 1912. Pulled from the NY Digital Libraries.

The inverted pyramid, transitioned to fiction, is a way of quickly organizing the content of a chapter in order of importance.  Yes, some of the information is specific to news, but it can be easily adapted to fiction. Each chapter should be written, not just as a bridge to advance the story, but as a means of revealing information about the characters, conflicts, and world.  Horizon gazing (focusing on the end) in fiction betrays one of the most important elements to the reader: the journey.

I like that background information is listed at the bottom of the pyramid.  Over reliance on background information (information dumping) and world building (when it becomes a disease and not a tool) can cause readers to feel disconnected from the characters.  If this tool is used as a plotting device, the writer can pull elements of background and world building up and into the chapter and sprinkle them in as beats.  Seeing the chapter outlined in this way ensures the author hits all of the major points.

For those of you who are meticulous outliners, this is yet another tool for you to track and plot out your story.  For those renegade maverick, seat-of-the-pants types, you will save yourselves hours of revision by simply ensuring you are covering the Five Ws and H chapter by chapter (when applicable).  Sometimes pantsers hit the wall and all it takes is for them to quickly plot a chapter for them to regain momentum.  This method of plotting may be a solution.

question-markThat’s it for today!  I hope you found some useful information here.  What method of plotting do you all use?  Do you have a pregenerated template you work from, or do you simply scribble notes? I know many of you will be taking part in NaNoWriMo here in Novemeber; have you all started the process of outlining?  I’d love to talk about it.  Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Novel Finished: Congrats M.L.S. Weech

matt at his booth

Matt manning his table at a convention.  

I‘m very excited to share  with you all that M.L.S. Weech has completed his second novel, Caught.  A big congratulations to him!  It’s always a thrill for me to see my friends finish projects.

Other than being a friend for him to vent to when the words were hard to come by, I also provided Matt some basic editing for his novel.  Really, it was just my sneaky way of getting to read the book a couple times before anyone else.

When I read the book the first time I thought, this is a really good story!  Sure, there were minor issues here and there, but the bones of the story were solid and strong.  Intriguing characters, interesting conflicts, night terrors, rogue generals, mad scientists—it’s all stuff I like reading about.

Then he executed a series of revisions.  When I read through it this last time I was ecstatic. It’s always a treat to see the evolution of a novel.  I’m glad to have been a tiny cog in the Weech machine.

Enough about me!  I encourage you all to swing by his space and give him some love. The reblog info is below.


After more time and revisions that I could ever count, I’m so very proud to say that my second book is ready to send off for review and, more importantly, publishing!  I don’t know that this feelin…

Source: Caught is FINISHED!

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Back to the Routine (800+ Followers!)

matthew8-1Hurricane Matthew—what a pain in the butt.  Not only did we (wife, baby, cat) evacuate to a different state, but to add to the stress, my sister-in-law was honeymooning on a cruise ship off the coast of Florida during this craziness (she made it home unscathed).

Fortunately, there was no major damage here at my house.  We arrived at 4 a.m. to find lots of downed trees, a few missing shingles, but nothing of considerable note.  The area directly around me wasn’t as lucky so I’m feeling very fortunate right now.  The Berkeley Observer compiled some photos of the damage here in my region.  The photo I placed of the toppled sign, taken by Cameron Scott, is where Heather and I get our sushi.  I checked and the sushi place survived (thank the sushi gods!).

crying boy_universe.jpgNow that I am back home in the comfort of my writing cave/study, I wanted to take a day to get my feet planted with all of you before diving back into the daily routine.  I’m very happy to be home, have a home still, and get back to the grind.

*Corey takes a cleansing breath*

First off, thanks for all of the kind words and emails.  I have a backlog of emails, comments, and posts to reply to.  I will be doing this over the next couple days.  Obviously, this weather event chucked a wrench into the gears of my daily posting goals.  I will note (for my own sanity), that it took an act of God to push me off the rails.

thanksSecondly, I logged in today to find I had passed the 800 follower mark.  Holy smokes!  Talk about a welcome home present from the blogoverse.  Needless to say, I’m humbled by the support I have found here and very thankful.  It’s nice to know so many others are interested in learning about the dark arts of writing and editing.    It’s thrilling to have found this amazing community, and I’m excited to have reached this point.

Thirdly, I know I mentioned last post I would be recycling older posts during this blackout period.  Truth be told, I simply didn’t have the means, ability, or time to get this done.  I do apologize for the brief lapse in posting.

donate.jpgLastly, for those of you who are suffering from the aftermath of the storm, my thoughts are with you.  I’ll be heading out to donate diapers and food to our local relief organizations.  If you are local, I absolutely encourage you to do the same.

Also, if you are in the Charleston SC area and need a helping hand, shoot me an email via my contact page, and I’ll see what I can do.

For the purpose of the blog, I’m putting the storm in the rear-view and moving forward.  As of tomorrow, I’ll be back on track with the daily posting schedule (unless the gods intervene again).  Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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