Thursday, December 05, 2019

How to fix your TrackIR so you're not leashed to your PC

Okay, I got one of these as a gift, and the people who make it may be good at SW, but they don't know much about hardware. So they make this thing so you have to be plugged into your PC when using it. Considering everyone uses WIRELESS HEADSETS now, that's kind of stupid.

So being an engineer who knows shit, I fixed it. I honestly can't believe they didn't think of this in the first place. I attempted to post this to their board, but they got the thing all locked down (because they're being stupid) so I could only post three pics. Then I have to wait until they approve my post before I can come back and post more.

It's a waste of my time and money to do this more than once. Hell the job took five minutes, it was simple. So I'm posting it here and I'll link here from their boards, and if they don't like it, well, screw 'em.

Here's the original post I was gonna make:


Okay, I was given one of these a while ago as a gift, but never got around to using it. Until I started playing Star Citizen again. Now I'm definitely planning to use it, but I didn't like that I had to plug it into my PC for power, or carry around a bulky battery pack. I have a nice wireless headset, I honestly don't want to be tethered to anything. Plus I'm a EE, so fixing this shouldn't be an issue.

so here's what I did.

First off you need one of these battery holders:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N5I72P3/





It's 10 bucks for a package of them, which isn't too spendy. The best part about it, is that it has an on/off switch! So you can save your batteries when not using it.

You'll also need some double sided tape, a soldering iron, and two CR2032 batteries. As those batteries are used in pretty much everything, you can get them just about anywhere. Also they're lithium, so they have a good shelf life. 


So the first thing I did was cut the cord about 4 inches from the unit. Be careful stripping back the wire cover as the two power wires inside are very thin.




 Next I mounted the battery holder to the headset clip. Take a good look at how I did it. You need to make sure that you do NOT block the opening jaws on the holder, or you won't be able to clip it to your headset.



Cut your battery holder wires down to what you feel is a comfortable size, making sure you have enough slack.




Again, pay attention to the wire! You need to open the clip to use it, so you don't want too short of a wire and you don't want it to get in the way. I specifically mounted my battery holder so that the wires were opposite the jaw opening.

Strip the ends.
Put on any shrink tubing you might wish to use.
Solder red to red and black to black. Then either use your shrink tube or some electrical tape.



 Over all this was a simple job. I think I spent more time getting my tools and cleaning up afterwards than I did doing it. Took maybe 5 minutes tops.




Again, note how the wire goes around the HINGE and is away from the JAWS. Otherwise it won't clip on your headset.
 



Saturday, November 30, 2019

Nathan Lowell - If you like old school space Science Fiction

If you're a fan of the 'old style' or 'old school' Science Fiction, stories of big space ships plying the starways for trade and other reasons, with all sorts of interesting things thrown in, then you should read Nathan Lowell (Amazon Link)

I came across Nathan's Solar Clipper series quite by accident many years ago, and I have to admit, it was a really wonderful story. Except for the end, there was something that happens in the last book (and you'll know it when you read it) that kinda annoyed me. When I finally got to meet Nathan earlier this year (2019) we talked about it and he told me why he did it, and honestly? He was right, it needed to be done. It helped make the story better and it helped make the stories that came after it more interesting as well. He told me he got a LOT of grief over the incident (which I won't tell you because spoilers) and looking at that, it tells you just how many people bought it and loved it.

As an aside that incident in the story didn't stop me reading him. And I was grateful when we got to discuss it over dinner one night when we met at a convention.

The man really is a gifted writer. I've read most of his works (eventually I will read all of them). I highly recommend his stories, the clipper ship aspect is done well with some very interesting takes on things that are uniquely his and that definitely improve the story. As Nathan was once a sailor and spent several years on the seas, he understands the aspects of being at the mercy of the ship you are on and how you can't expect help to be there in a few minutes. That understanding ads a uniqueness to his stories that you can feel when you read them.

So again, I highly recommend Nathan Lowell's Solar Clipper series and the books that run after it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Black Friday Sales!

Starting at 8AM PST (don't look at me, Amazon picked that time) I'll be having a 'Black Friday Sale'!

The following books will be 99 cents until Monday Morning:

Portals of Infinity, Book 1: Champion for Hire
Portals of Infinity, Book 2: The God Game

The Hammer Commission (Book 1 of the Hammer Commission Series)
The King of Las Vegas (a Hammer Commission Book)

Book 1 of the Days of Future Past Series - Past Tense

Also, written as Jan Stryvant:

Black Friday - Book 1 of the Valens Legacy Series
Perfect Strangers - Book 2 of the Valens Legacy Series

And on Sale for Friday and Saturday until noon at 99 cents and then Sunday and Monday morning for $1.99:
Shadow 

Link to Black Friday Sale Page 

Friday, November 22, 2019

I played High School Football!


I'm sure that by now everyone knows that Al Bundy played High School football. And just how many TD's he scored in the big game. As is often the way of so much of Hollywood and modern TV, the people who write this stuff often seek to deconstruct some of the more important parts of our culture, of the bedrock that has made us what we are, or rather perhaps, what we were.

Now where I grew up, school sports had some import, but they were really only important to the people who had kids in school, and those kids. But they weren't mocked. When I moved to the west coast, school sports really lost a lot of their importance, and the closer you got to any city, the less anyone cared. But now that I'm living in the south again (I was stationed in Mississippi when I was in the service, hence why I can spell it without having to look it up), I have again seen the dominant and almost overwhelming role that school sports plays here.

And that's a good thing.

You see, there are a lot of lessons you're supposed to learn in school. How to think for yourself is the one that's been under attack lately. Basic history, math, economics, those things are pretty much long gone. Don't even get me started on civics. But all of those things were there to teach the basics, to stop you from being ignorant, to give you a sense of place in our country, let you stand on your own two feet, and prepare you to make something of yourself.

High School sports have a different lesson. High School sports is about teaching you to cope. To cope with failure, and just as importantly, to cope with success. You win some, you lose some, right? But how many kids nowadays have never been allowed to lose, so the first time they come up against adversarial situations, not only are they destroyed by it, but many times kill themselves over their failure? How many kids who suddenly find success, and not knowing how to deal with it, lose everything?

That's what playing sports teaches you, up and above teamwork, respecting the others on your teams and respecting the opponents, it teaches you how to come back after failure. How to deal with loss, how to keep keeping on, how to persevere, how to come back and try again. Those are very important lessons to a young man or woman. School sports also teaches you that when you win, that's not the end. You still have to go back out there and win again, and again. Or maybe next time you lose. You learn that just as failure is temporary, winning is temporary as well. Because there is always something new, there is always another challenge.

Life is like that.

And that's why I never really cared for that little joke. Yeah, on the one hand it's kinda funny that Al's biggest achievement is something he did in High School, and he never did anything again after that. It's also kind of sad. People who did well at school sports do not necessarily go on to be rich and famous, or even highly successful. But I've noticed there tends to be a lot fewer failures among those folks than those who never participated. Because you only fail when you stop trying, and the goal of school sports is to teach you to keep trying. Even when things are at their worst.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

An Ending

As many of you probably know, I've been writing this little side project for the last two and a quarter years: The Valens Legacy Series   When I started this series I only expected it to go for six books, even though I had plans all the way out to eighteen. I worked very hard at all of it and I was surprised when after the first arc (books 1 thru 6) the next arc was eagerly awaited. So I wrote that, and then the third and final arc. The series did shrink from 18 to 17, because the second arc ended up more as five books instead of six.

As I told everyone when the story began, it had an ending. It wouldn't stretch out forever, it wouldn't run on until I just abandoned it. Everything would be tied up. I like stories to have an end, especially something with a long overarching story line to it, even if that story line isn't apparent at first. The success of the series, which sales wise is up there with most of the traditionally published authors, is still rather shocking. Honestly, if someone had ever told me I'd write a 17 book series, where every book was a best seller, I'd have asked what they were drinking.

But yet, here I am.

I have been blessed in that, as an engineer I got to work on many ground breaking projects and programs, some of which changed the world in ways we never expected to happen. I got to do things that were new and exciting and some of which made a very big difference. Now as an author, I'm working once again on things that are new and exciting, and which to me at least, have made a very big difference. (And all those folks ripping me off I'm sure it made a difference to as well ;-) ).

So now it's time to move on to other projects. I have two promised books I need to write next, one of which is a POI novel. After that, well I have a short series I'd like to write, very short. No more 17 book behemoths! After that, I most likely will revisit Valens, for a sequel, but I think somewhere in there, maybe I've earned a short vacation.


Sunday, November 03, 2019

Batteries — The New Perpetual Motion Machine.



We've all seen it, many times in fact. Someone starts to go on (and on, and on, and on, ad infinitum) about the many miraculous powers of the electric car. They will end all pollution, they will stop the oceans from rising, they will feed the poor, clothe the naked, stop babies from crying, and perform many other miracles daily.

And of course, woe be unto all you heathens who say otherwise.

Now, I'm an Engineer by training. Being an engineer is like being a Marine. You don't join the Marines, you become a Marine. Well the same is true of Engineers. You don't learn Engineering, you become an Engineer. We have different thought processes than the rest of you, because we've been trained into it (I once had to prove this to a lawyer, he was quite shocked). The entire first two years in Engineering school is all about teaching you to think about things differently. And you get rewarded when you do, but I digress.

So, back in the day (up until the 70s sadly), perpetual motion machines were all the rage (they still are among the uneducated — which is anyone who hasn't studied physics, that stuff they used to teach in high school). Well in my High School physics class we went into great detail about why they don't work. In my college physics classes, we revisited that whole notion again and were yet again shown why they didn't work, only now we went into things like the 'Three Laws of Thermodynamics' to get down to the nuts and bolts of it.

And then electrical cars came about and a whole group of people lost their minds.

Now let's clear up a misnomer: Today's electric cars are really Battery Powered Cars. Yes, they have electric motors and run off of electricity, but as in all things, the devil is in the details. Battery powered cars are a dead end. They are un-economical, they pollute (horrendously), and they are dangerous. Far more dangerous than a petrol, or gasoline, or diesel, powered vehicle.

'But how can this be?' you ask. 'We've been told that electric cars are the way, the light, and the second coming of environmental glory!' Well yeah, there's a simple explanation of that. It's called: LYING. Everything you've been told is a lie. And please, hold the shocked expressions and the gasps of incredulity. Governments are more shocking when they tell the truth. Lying is what they do the rest of the time.

Now, while electric cars themselves are an interesting idea that may one day go past the 'fad' stage, Battery Powered Cars are a joke. A dead end. Something that has failed every single time it's been tried, and the only reason they've gotten as far as they have this time is because of the massive amounts of your tax dollars the government has pumped into it, so it isn't readily apparent that all of the companies doing it are losing money. (The same is true for Wind Power and Solar Power — but that's a topic for another day).

There is only so much electrical power that a battery can hold. And that's a lot less than the same volume or weight of gasoline. Some people will then say 'but we just need better batteries'. Well no, you need to change the laws of physics, and unless God himself comes down from heaven and makes it so, it ain't happening. I've had this argument with people who should know better, but sadly they apparently never took a physics class in their life.

Next is the whole 'but electric cars don't pollute' lie. No, they pollute, and odds are they pollute more than a fossil fuel vehicle. How? Well that power has to be generated somewhere and the same 'electric car' progressives are also 'anti-nuclear power' luddites. So all that power is generated by gas, oil, or coal, (and please don't bring up wind or solar, they're net negatives in the power generation world and generate a lot of pollution as well). So the energy for your electric car is generated at a fossil fuel plant, possibly as far as thousand miles away (if you live in California, that's almost a guarantee), and because of physics (that ole party-pooper) they have to generate more power than you need, because a fair deal of it will disappear on its trip from the power plant to your house.

So no, you're not being 'economical' you're being wasteful.

Now let's take a look at those batteries. They're just full of harmful, deadly, and very toxic, substances. Making them is very much an ecological nightmare so what do you think disposing of them is going to be? They're going to need special and very expensive treatment involving a lot of very toxic and harmful chemicals. Or you could just ship them to some third world country were they'll throw 'em all in a pit and bulldoze dirt over them and create a new Love Canal that'll be someone else's problem. So the construction and disposal of those batteries from your Battery Powered Car do more polluting than any fossil fuel powered car out there. Actually I wouldn't be surprised to discover that a coal-burning car generates less pollutants in its lifetime.

And don't forget! Those batteries are only going to last five to seven years, and then you have to replace them! At great cost too! Kinda kills the resale market, doesn't it?

Next of course are the hazards. We've all seen gas powered cars blow up in the movies, but we know that's Hollywood. Cars burn, and the gas tank can 'explode' but it's not that big of a deal. The fire is easily contained and burns out in twenty minutes, tops. But electric cars? They burn for days. That's right, an electric car catches fire? Well hope you have a few days to sit around and baby-sit it. Because that sucker is going to burn for a very long time. Hopefully it won't go off in a massive explosion that levels everything around it (BLEVE), these days that's rare, but it has happened and will happen again.

Oh, and don't forget that the site of your electric car fire is now a hazardous waste site that will cost tens of thousands of dollars to clean up.

So yes, Battery Powered Cars are stupid. They only exist in the numbers that they do because the government (which means you) is paying for them. They are, in effect, this generation's 'Perpetual Motion Machines', a stupid, idiotic, and pointless waste of time, effort and our tax dollars.

Again, I have nothing against electric cars, just Battery Powered Cars. If the people (and the government) behind electric cars were serious, and not just a bunch of folks looking for easy government handouts (and the attendant government corruption that comes with all scam programs) they would be investigating and developing Fuel Cell technology. Fuel Cells have the benefit of low (or no) emissions, and can be quickly 'recharged' like say, filling a gas tank. They're also smaller, say gas tank sized, unlike the gigantic batteries in Battery Powered Cars.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

For those of you looking for Michael-Scott Earle

For those of you who are Michael-Scott Earle fans, the whole fight with Amazon is over, and unfortunately, Michael lost.

BUT Michael-Scott has his own website now: https://www.michaelscottearle.com/ 

So please, if you like his books, go check him out! It's a lot harder to find out what he's got going on now that you can't see it on Amazon, and let's be honest, you shouldn't trust Amazon to always let you know what's going on. They do make mistakes, and of course, they don't know what's going on offsite.

So mosey on over to his website and consider subscribing to his newsletter. For that matter, you should consider subscribing to all of the authors you like newsletter's. Because that way you'll know just what's coming out and you won't have to rely on some algorithm to remind you.

Thanks! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Fame

There's this song, which I guess qualifies as an 'old song' now because it came out ten years ago. It's called 'The Fear' by Lily Allen, and it says so much about our society these days that it's really pretty sad.

I don't know much about Lily Allen myself, I do know that one of her big things was songs with a lot of explicit and racy lyrics. But damn if she wasn't doing pretty much exactly what she sang about in 'The Fear' in a lot of her other work.

At some point in our society we went from venerating the wise, the smart, and the brave, from making heroes of the people who protect us, serve us, and lead us, to making heroes of people who entertain us.

Now, as an entertainer myself, yes entertainment does have it's place in the world. But I'm a lot more famous for the for the books I've written, then for the work I've done that has saved hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives.

When did our world become so upside down? I sometimes think I know when, and I maybe even why, but it's best to keep those thoughts to myself - especially now that it pays the bills!

But it has led to a culture, a society, where so many people are fixated on achieving fame more than anything else. Fame at any and all cost. We have people whose sole business is being famous and they don't contribute anything to society, not even entertainment. They just exist to be famous.

Makes you wonder what's coming down the pike next, doesn't it?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

I can't believe that I forgot to post this

All three of the audiobooks for 'The Days of Future Past' Trilogy have been bundled into one big audiobook (19 hours).

So for those of you who like audiobooks and want a long one, here it is:

Link :> Days of Future Past Trilogy on Audible

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Being an Airline Pilot Doesn't Mean Shit


Okay, I'm going to slaughter a few sacred cows here today, because if there is one thing I am awfully damn tired of hearing, it's how many hours an airline pilot had before he did something INCREDIBLY FUCKING STUPID before flying his airplane into the ground in a completely AVOIDABLE accident and usually (but not always, thank God) killing people.

I've seen this happen with my own two eyes more times than I care for, and heard stories about far too many more. Yes I'm a pilot, though I haven't flown in some time. I was also a Flight Test Engineer for Grumman aerospace, then General Dynamics, then Lockheed. I did that for about seven years. Dealing with accidents (though I never had to deal with a fatal one) was part of my job. Whenever there was an 'incident' and the pilots were told that the 'company representatives need to talk to you', I was one of those 'representatives' on the other end of the phone.

Now this little rant is because they announced the preliminary findings on the crash of B-17G '909'. After listening to this, anybody who knows anything about B-17's knows exactly what happened. Unless they change the preliminary findings, if what they said was true, it's blatantly obvious what happened.

But before we get into that, I've heard bandied about, several times now, that the PIC (Pilot In Command) had over 20,000 hours. People say that like it means something. Well you know what? Ralph Kramden had over twenty years as a bus driver! In NYC no less! So let's put him in a formula one race car and make him drive at Indy and see how he does!

Some of you may find that to be a bit facetious, but it's not. An airline pilot is a bus driver. No more, no less. That's all you are, and in this day and age it takes even less skill than driving a bus, because everything is automated. Korean Airlines, which you may recall flew into the ground at SFO, did so because between the pilot and the copilot they had landed that aircraft less than a dozen times COMBINED. Now yes, KAL is a bit of an extreme example, their pilots are hands down the worst in the world, but they prove the point. Flying a modern airliner is easy.

Now, another quick aside here. My father flew in B-17's, B-24's, and B-29's. He was a gunnery instructor during WW2 and he had thousands of hours in all of those aircraft. He knew a lot about flying them, and he saw a lot of them crash. The biggest problem was that with the training aircraft, it was not uncommon for them to lose an engine on takeoff during training. As they'd train the pilots while training the gun crews and the bombardier so every flight took off heavy weight. If you banked into the dead engine, the plane would crash and everyone onboard would DIE.

You'd think having been taught that, and told that many times, it wouldn't happen. Yet my father saw it happen several times. But those were green pilots, right? And this was before ANY safety regulations for flying existed. Little known fact: More Army Air Corps crew were killed during WW2 in training than fighting the war. A lot more. When the war ended they were still losing something like 10,000 men a year. That's when it was discovered that training was where they lost everyone, and not over Germany (something that they could cover up during the war, but not afterwards — think about that a moment).

So, let's get back to the issue at hand. We have a pilot in 909 who has 'over 20,000 hours as PIC'. But apparently no one ever taught him how to deal with an in flight emergency? Apparently he never had a safety brief? And apparently he didn't really know all that much, for all of his hours flying, about B-17's.

How can I say this? Let's make it simple: He fucked up by the numbers.

Now, getting over whether or not he should have even taken off (magneto problems), I want you to think about this: He's taking off in a B-17 that is either heavy, or damn close to it. It has eleven people on board, and being Americans, you can pretty much guarantee that the average weight of those people is over 200lbs. So he's flying with over a ton of cargo. That's a lot of weight. On take-off, one of the more dangerous phases of flight in an aircraft he loses an engine.

He doesn't declare an emergency. That right there probably would have cost him his license for the rest of his life. He's in a heavily loaded airplane with eleven people. A B-17 has problems climbing out with all four engines running, he just lost one, and he doesn't declare an emergency? What the hell! Is there a commercial jet in the world today that if you lose an engine you don't declare an emergency? I can't think of one, if someone else can, please tell me.

Now why didn't he declare an emergency? To me it's obvious: He didn't want to do the paperwork. He didn't want the airplane to be grounded. He didn't want to have to give those eleven people their money back. He didn't want to do a lot of things and that right there is why he shouldn't have been flying that airplane. Why he shouldn't have been flying any airplane! He had stopped putting the safety of his passengers and aircraft first.

There is no other explanation. Don't tell me he 'forgot to declare an emergency', he's got 20,000 hours! Right?

This brings us to the moment he doomed the airplane to crash and killed the 6 people onboard — and lets not sugar coat it. HE killed them. Through his negligence and yes, stupidity. It's harsh to say that, especially about the dead, but when it comes to preventable accidents that kill a lot of people, I'm not much for giving slack. So here he is, he's got an engine out on the right side of the airplane. Anyone with a brain knows that if you bank into that engine, YOU'RE GONNA CRASH. Okay? That's not a 'possibility' it's a cold hard fact. You are going to crash. People are going to die.

But he can't bank left. It's a right-hand pattern; he has to turn right, into the dead engine. Now if he had, oh I don't know, DECLARED AN EMERGENCY, he would have been able to turn LEFT like he SHOULD HAVE. But you know what, there's all that paperwork, the refunds, the plane being grounded... Nah, I have 20,000 hours! It'll work THIS time, for ME!

Yeah, well it didn't. The aircraft continued to sink (lose altitude) until it crashed. I'm personally amazed he made it as far around as he did before he hit the ground. I'm also amazed he put the gear down. You're barely flying, and you have to know you're gonna crash, and you put down the drag? WTF? Yes, I know it's common for a lot of pilots to think that they're going to make it, right up to the moment they crash and die. I've read more than enough cockpit voice recorder transcripts from dead pilots. You keep working the problem. But when you caused the problem, maybe you should take a moment to reconsider your choices? Sure a gear up landing sucks, especially in a propeller driven airplane. But you can fix that.

So yes, 909 was 100 percent pilot error. I don't know if no one ever told him that you can't bank any WW2 era bomber into the dead engine and expect to keep flying. If not, they have a serious problem that needs to be addressed. But the bigger problem here was that the pilot threw safety out the window, fucked up by the numbers, and crashed the airplane killing 6 people. Makes me wonder about how he survived those previous 20,000 hours, right?

And it also shows that those 20,000 hours don't mean shit. You take a bus driver and put him in a finicky high performance vehicle, and you sure don't expect him to go out there and win the Indy 500. You don't even expect him not to crash. Hours in airliners don't translate to hours in other aircraft. To date I have witnessed three crashes in person — one of which almost killed me. All three of those pilots had over ten thousand hours of experience. But the amount of experience they had in the airplanes that they crashed, under the conditions that they were flying in, it was a lot less than that. And it showed. Because they did stupid shit, which in one case got 11 people on the ground killed and dozens more injured.

Too many airline pilots think that because they have lots of hours, they have lots of skill. I've seen this too many times and once even had some gal tell me that she knew more because she flew an A-380, when we were discussing flight characteristics in a small single engine airplane.

Well I gotta lot of skill sitting on my couch at home, and guess what? It's directly transferable to damn near any airliner out there. This isn't to say all airline pilots are unskilled, I've met a lot who I would trust to fly any kind of aircraft. But that's because they fly airplanes other than an airliner. They learned on many different aircraft, transitioned through many different aircraft, and have found themselves in many different and difficult situations. But let's be honest here: Flying is easy. It's so easy that anyone can do it. But flying is also inherently unforgiving of mistakes. You can't just pull over to the curb. You have to land, and there are only certain places where you can land safely.

Because of this, there are a lot of rules when you're flying. There are also a lot of rules that apply to each and every type of aircraft. When you start breaking these rules you are literally taking your life into your own hands. In some cases you are literally committing suicide. Now that's fine if it's just you, but it's not fine if other people are counting on you. And when you start putting ANYTHING before the safety of your passengers: You're done.

That guy who was flying 909? Yeah, I met him once. I thought he was an okay guy. I even flew in that very airplane. So I gotta ask myself: How the hell could he have been so damned stupid? And I think that the foundation that owned that airplane needs to sit down with all of their pilots and tell them that if they're not putting the safety of the passengers and the aircraft first — paperwork be damned — then they shouldn't be flying for them. Or perhaps, anyone.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Another Valens Legacy book is done.

Book #16 in the Valens Legacy just went live. #16, Times Like These.
For those waiting for the next POI book, that should be coming in late Fall.

Here's the link for the new Valens -> Times Like These

And the cover:

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Valens Legacy #15 is now live on Amazon

First off, the link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07TXX2G94

I have to admit I'm surprised at how fast this got processed today, under 2 hours, that's a record for me. I was worried that it would take longer than normal, as today is a holiday.

So for those who have been waiting, the new Valens Book, Firestarter, is out.

I don't have a date on the next Portals of Infinity book, the arm injury and a few of the other things going on sort of messed that up, but there will me more POI books.

Oh, cover (not clickable, sorry):

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What's been going on...

Sorry I haven't posted much here recent. If you've been following my pen name blog, you know that there's been a LOT going on of late.

First off, I took a big pirate to court. I'd direct you to the gofundme if you want to know more. The case is still ongoing so I can't talk about it.

Second off I ruptured my left bicep. Bad enough that it needed surgery. So I spend most of April in a lot of pain, which isn't conducive to writing. After surgery it was a while before I could even type with my left hand.

Thirdly a particular plagiarist is back, though at least this time he changed enough that I couldn't sue. He claims that in book two he'd be heading off in a completely different direction. I can only guess at what that means, because he seriously lacks the ability to come up with a story on his own. It is kind of annoying at how many people are copying me now, I guess that's the price of success, lots of cheap imitation knockoffs.

There were also some other issues that are family related, so I won't talk about them here beyond saying that I have an aging parent.

So it's been a very stressful time. The next Portals of Infinity novel ended up getting pushed back because I needed to get back to writing the Valens Legacy series as it's getting into the endgame of that whole thing. Once that's done I'll return to the other projects I was trying to get done while I decide what to write next under my Stryvant pen name. It may be a follow on series in the Valens legacy world, I just haven't decided yet.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have moved to northern Texas and so far I actually like it here a lot. There were a lot of things I wanted to do this summer, but as my arm is now in a brace and won't be declared healed until sometime in November, pretty much all of that got canceled. At least the brace should come off in August some time.

I will be in Chattanooga this weekend for LibertyCon, so if you're there, feel free to look me up.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Butter Cookies

I don't think I posted this here at all, but this is the recipe for my mother's famous butter cookies, that she would make every year at Christmas. I still make them, and so does my sister. These things are seriously full of calories, just a warning. The dough is also heavy enough that it will destroy any cookie gun, no matter how expensive (I know that from experience too). I usually make double batches each time I mix it up, and when I do make these, I tend to make enough that I use about 4 lbs of butter.

So, here it is:


Butter Cookies (Mom's)

1 cup Butter (1/2 lb)
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour (reg - unbleached)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp Almond extract

Cook   400  10 - 12 minutes
or         350  10 minutes (a little softer - not all ovens are equal)


Fudge Icing
melt 3 squares baker's chocolate
w ~ 6 tblspns crisco (veg shrtng)
add about 6 tbspns milk
1 box confectioners sugar

Melt chocolate, add crisco, add some of the milk, then add sugar, and stir. Best to use a double boiler so you don't burn it. If too thick, add more milk. I usually start off with 4 tablespoons of milk. This mix hardens quickly as it cools, add more milk to thin if necessary when down to scraps, but very little!
John Van Stry

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Patreon Licensing Agreement



Okay, all of this started when the following post, by a lawyer, was brought to my attention:


(I suggest reading it)

So I hired an IP lawyer to look at the post above as well as the terms of the contact you sign when you join Patreon as a creator, and this is what I got back:


Hi John,
 I have broken the analysis up into a couple of sections going from high level at the top to nitty-gritty at the bottom.
 Bottom Line: The rights you are giving Patreon are too broad if you are posting complete novels to the site. You have two options: 1) Use Patreon to collect payments and post updates to engage with your community, but distribute your work (books, rewards, and content) through another system like email (i.e. not posting them to Patreon, but using Constant Contact or Mail Chimp); or 2) Stop using Patreon altogether.      
Explanation of Bottom Line: Here is the language of the license you are granting Patreon: “By posting content to Patreon you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your content.” It is too broad because there is no time limit, no limitations on use (despite the later wording in the same paragraph, see attached and below), no payments to you, and no ability by you to revoke the license should a falling out occur. 
 Detailed Analysis: There are some things in the post with which I agree, but some things with which I don’t. The post heavily implies that the language gives Patreon ownership of the work you post on Patreon. That is false, but the tricky part is that the rights you do give up are so broad that it looks like ownership to normal people.
 The reason it is false is because of the words “non-exclusive.” That means you have all the ability to perform all the copyrights (use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works) yourself, or authorize others to do so. For example, you can sell your books on Amazon because you retain the right to authorize Amazon to reproduce and distribute. 
 However, the reason it looks like ownership to normal people is that Patreon can distribute your works for free, the same works you are selling on Amazon. Patreon can do that because of the words “royalty-free,” “reproduce,” and “distribute.” So to normal people, what good is that non-exclusivity doing? Not much, because although you can sell on Amazon, you won’t make any money when they can go to Patreon for the same content for free. But it is because of that non-exclusivity that these Patreon statements are true: 
·         “You keep complete ownership of all content, but give us permission to use it on Patreon.”
·         “You keep full ownership of all content that you post on Patreon, but to operate we need licenses from you.”
 Speaking of which, the following statements MAY also be true, but the problem is two-fold: 1) it requires you to trust Patreon; and 2) the trust requirement is unnecessary if Patreon would have just circumscribed the rights language in the first place (this is the part where I agree with the post):
·         “The purpose of this license is to allow us to operate Patreon, promote Patreon and promote your content on Patreon.”
·         “We are not trying to steal your content or use it in an exploitative way.”
 The best way I can put it is that Patreon’s actions are not comporting with their words. They may not have broken their promise yet, and they may never break their promise due to the bad PR they would receive, but if we are in a position where we can protect ourselves from a potential broken promise then let’s do so.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Molasses Cookies

Okay, I made these the other day and some folks were asking about my recipe, so here it is:


Molasses Cookies:

Ingredients:

1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

About 3 tablespoons of sugar (you'll figure it out) for pressing the cookies into.

Steps:

Note: if you double this recipe, you'll use about 3 cookie sheets and make about 50 - 60 cookies. I always double it. Twice the reward for the same amount of work.

  • Heat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl beat brown sugar, shortening, molasses, and egg. Use an electric mixer.
  • Once you've got that mixed up nicely, then add the rest (EXCEPT the sugar). Add the flour a cup or two at a time, to avoid making a mess. Don't worry about over-mixing.
  • Pour the sugar on to a small plate.
  • Roll the dough into small balls, about an inch and a half in daimeter, then press them down into the sugar on the plate to flatten them. Then put that on your ungreased cookie sheet, sugared side up.
  • They will slump about 50% when you cook them. If you leave them as balls, they're gonna come out as balls. They slump about as much as chocolate chip cookies (the ones made with shortening, not butter). So you can put them about an inch apart on the cookie sheet. I press mine down to about a half inch to a quarter inch thick.
  • Cook for 13 to 16 minutes. This can be a little tricky. You really don't want the insides to be doughy. They will firm up as they cool as well. Some recipes call for you to take them off the sheet immediately (if you grease it, you won't have to). If you wait till they're cool, you'll have to be a little more careful with your spatula to not break them.


Saturday, April 06, 2019

So Amazon Screwed up Last Night

And deleted my last two Jan Stryvant novels, including the one I released last week and which was a #1 bestseller.

No one at Amazon has ANY idea when this will be fixed, could be days (last time this happened it took almost two weeks). This didn't just happen to me, it happened to a lot of new releases, but I'm screwed pretty royally all the same, because I was in a new release cycle on Amazon with two high rated books (the older one had been #1 a few weeks ago and was still in the top 20 or so). Both had made it to about the top 100 overall in the Amazon ratings.

But that's all gone now. When they come back out they'll be pushed to the bottom as all of their sales data is not only gone, but they'll have had zero sales for however many days it takes to fix this. So not only am I looking at shelling out a lot more money for a lawsuit, I will now have a piss poor income for this month because of this, just like the last time this happened.

This just sucks on so many levels. If only Amazon knew about backups and how to restore from them.

Monday, April 01, 2019

In Case You Hadn't Heard...

I've filed a lawsuit in US Federal Court against the guy running that pirate site.
Or rather my lawyer has filed it. I've found out why nobody else has sued him, it's because it costs a hell of a lot of money. Litigation is very expensive.

Why did I do it? Because he's a scumbag and somebody had to. He's ripping me off and when I sent him a Cease and Desist as well as a DMCA take down, he refused. After my lawyer sent him one, he just put up more of my books. Oh, and he's making money off of his pirate site. He even bought himself an airplane. And he's rude and nasty to the people who have been asking him to stop pirating their works. Because he knew those people didn't have the money to go after him.

Now of course, he's in hiding, because someone finally got tired of his bullshit.

I've got a gofundme running to help defray the legal costs, if you want to contribute:
Link -> https://www.gofundme.com/bring-ebookbike-to-justice 

I'm not crazy about having to do this, but the guy is actually hurting me, as well as a lot of other people. Everyone else kept talking about it, but I'm the guy who actually did it. The threats have started, people calling for me to be doxed or assaulted or murdered. About what you'd expect from the folks following a scumbag like him. I don't really expect anyone to really try to attack me, but some of the things people are saying is just flat out nuts.

On the other hand I'm getting a LOT of support from the people who this guy has been ripping off for years. One of the things that convinced me to act was this new author. On the pirate site he was a featured author with (apparently) tons of downloads. But on Amazon he was selling almost zero. That's right, new author puts out a book and this pirate totally rapes his sales and discourages him from continuing.

Also, I just can't stand bullies.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Book #14 of the Valens Legacy, Trying Times, is now available on Amazon:

Link --> Trying Times

For reasons unknown the Amazon link isn't giving the cover picture, so here it is:


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Pirates *sigh*

If you have downloaded my ebooks from anyplace other than Amazon, you have an illegal copy.

There is a site in a foreign country, that does not care about copyright law, with a large number of pirated books on it, including most of my catalogue. They try and make it look like what they're doing is legal (it isn't) and that they have permission (they don't). The guy running the website is a former politician and complete scumbag.

Unfortunately, the country involved doesn't give a damn about things like this, even if it is against the law. I'm sent him several legal notices, but he refuses to honor a single one.

So again, please don't download my books from anyplace other than Amazon. No one else has permission to sell my ebooks.

Dealing with this guy has pretty much left me unable to write all week. He'd been cutting into my income significantly. It's quite depressing that NO ONE will stop this man.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Why Writing to Market is Dumb


So. I've been doing this indie writer thing for a while now (eight years) and I've gotten pretty good at it. Good enough that I quit my job and went full time. It hasn't been all wine and roses, and there were definitely some disappointments along the way. But I've learned the business. I've also learned how to make money at it.

Writing to market (WTM) is where you hear of a hot market, you immediate write a story to be published in the market and publish it, in an attempt to sucker in, I mean, make quick money. Unfortunately ten thousand other people also heard about that market and have raced in there as well, to dump their 'finely crafted' stories in the same market.

The end result of course is that you and all the rest of them just shit all over everything. People stop buying anything in the market, unless it's by a name they recognize, and your trash lingers on just stinking up the place and destroying the chances for any truly talented people to make a name for themselves in that market, because you chased everyone away. You end up with a few bucks (if you're lucky) and ten weeks later you're chasing another market, where you are sure to 'make it this time!'

The fact of the matter is, you're never going to make it. Writing to market doesn't work. If you were good enough to drop a story in any market and do well there, you would know this, and you would have already gone out and found a place to make a name for yourself. Which means you wouldn't be writing to market. When you write to market you are just endlessly chasing the golden ticket, you don't know a damn thing about the market and it shows to everyone who reads your book.

So rule number one, if you want to be a successful writer, don't write to market.

I have a little joke I used to tell people that the way to be successful is to write to market, as long as you love the market and know everything about it. The point of that is two-fold: The first is that if you do not know and love the market you're writing in, it shows! People can tell if you're a fraud and that you're just phoning it in. The second is that when you decide you want to write something, pick a 'market' that you know and understand and will enjoy writing in. Don't chase the trends! It's a waste of your time and creativity, not to mention your reputation.

Let's look at Michael Anderle for a moment. What market or genre if you like, do you think he writes in? Trick question! There isn't one. Or rather there wasn't one until he created it himself. That's part of why he's so successful. He took a bunch of stuff that he knew, and he thought it would be fun to throw all of it together in a way that's never been done before. Then: profit! And remember, he was only trying to make fifty thousand a year, not what he ended up making. His stories, when they first came out, suffered from terrible grammar, spelling mistakes, and bad editing. But he still sold tens of thousands of copies. Because he loved what he was doing and it showed. He was having fun, so everyone reading had fun too. And wanted more.

I did the same thing when I started the Valens Legacy series. I already had one successful series under my belt: Portals of Infinity. But I wanted to try something different, and while I'd been having some success, I wasn't doing as well as I wanted with some of the other things I was working on. Until I sat down one night and decided to write something that played to all of my strengths, using everything I'd learned to date. That's a big part of it right there: everything I'd learned. There were lessons I'd learned from the stories and series that I'd written, lessons about sales and marketing, readers and genres, things that I would never have learned by just constantly chasing the markets.

Of course now others are coming in and shitting all over that market with their whole 'write to market' BS because of my success. And they're not making much, if any, money. They've all but killed the field — if you're not already a name; forget trying to write in it nowadays. Which is sad cause there's some good stuff and authors out there not getting the exposure they deserve.

This is why I tell people to get out of groups like the '20K' one. First off, it is full of scammers, copycats, and write to market people. If you go in there and say 'Hey, look at this! I just found a hot market to make money in!' Thirty days later all of those people are going to be doing their damnedest to put you out of business and take all that money for themselves. Because that's their mindset: Grab the money and run. They're not there to build a name or a successful career (most write to market authors never use the same name twice), they're there to make a quick buck, because writing is easy.

Secondly; what are you going to learn from people who aren't looking to build a career, who aren't looking to build a name, but who are only looking to grab as much cash as they can and run with it? It's the 49er gold rush all over again, mining (writing) is hard work, so let's find a way to bypass that hard work and get our hands on some real cash!

So please, don't write to market, you won't be successful, you won't make a name for yourself, you won't have a career, and you won't enjoy what you're doing. Write what you enjoy and learn your craft. Rise to the top and people will read you. And for heaven's sake, if you do find yourself doing well, DO NOT go telling all those other people where to go. It's not just you you're hurting, but the readers too as a ton of crap gets dumped into the genre and, thanks to the way Amazon works, it will be there until the heat death of the universe.

Don't feel bad if your first book doesn't sell well, or sell at all. I've had flops; I've had some amazing flops. Written even after I'd already found a good paying series (because I wanted to diversify a little). You learn from your mistakes, you grow and improve. But as everything you're doing that's 'write to market' is a mistake, you're not growing because you're not learning. How many successful authors are there, who write in a different market every time they put out a book? Zero.

Now if you desperately feel that you have to write to market, write porn. It pays well, even if it's bad. You only have to write five to twelve thousand words per story, so you have less time and effort invested. And you can charge more because it's porn. Porn is probably the only field where WTM has a chance to work, because you already know about, and (hopefully) enjoy, sex. 


Friday, February 15, 2019

Just a heads up

From Podium Press:
Here's your friendly heads-up that the release date for The Valens Legacy Publisher's Pack 5 (Books 9 & 10) will be March 5th. The assets were recently submitted to Audible, so the listing should be up within the next week or so.

Monday, February 11, 2019

So, went down to the local library today

I decided to stop by the local library today and stop in. I drive by it fairly regularly now whenever I go into town. For a small town, it is a pretty good sized library. Part of the problem has always been going by it when it's open. Usually when I go into town it's closed.

They really don't have much of a science fiction or fantasy selection. Honestly, I'm tempted to do something about that, there's definitely a lot of stuff they could use, I may ask the Baen people about that when I see them at LibertyCon in a couple of months. I'd be happy to pay the costs, but maybe I can get a deal if I go through them directly.

They YA section however was huge. Definitely going to buy some of Jon Del Arroz's stuff and donate it to them, he really is a good YA writer, and it's steampunk. The world needs more steampunk. I know some people consider my Valens' series to be YA, but I don't think it belongs there, I feel it belongs in the New Adult category, which is the one right after that age wise. But then, what do I know? YA has changed a lot over the years.

So, it felt kind of weird going in there and talking to them. It's pretty much bragging to go in and say 'hey, I'm a local author, I just moved here, and would you be interested in free copies of my books and oh, by the way, I'm very successful.' I know these days there are a lot of folks running around introducing themselves as authors who really haven't sold much (if at all) and who try to act like they're up there with the big names, when they're obviously not. I still have trouble at times coming to grips with just how well I've done. When folks like Larry Correia remember your name and introduce you to his fans at a book signing because he sees you're in the audience, it's a moment you're never going to forget.

Anyway, now they have to 'vet' me, mainly read some of my stuff so they know if it'll fit in or not. Make sure I'm not writing the kind of stuff that they don't want in the library, which again, I can understand. It'll be cool if they decide they want my stuff, I'll be more than happy to give them a set or two of everything. If they don't want it, that's fine too. But if nothing else, it's practice at going out there and dealing with folks at a promotional level.

I haven't dealt with libraries before, because I found out that at the big one where I used to live, if you donated books, they wouldn't put them in the library, they'd just sell them. They only put in books that they bought themselves. Apparently that's the way the big libraries operate, and again I can understand it on the one hand, they want to be sure nothing 'crazy' gets in there. But on the other hand, my junior high school and high school library had hard core porn in them, because those books were on the 'recommended' lists and the local librarian obviously never read them, (and no, being a typical teenager I never told them either, I just read 'em).

But on the other hand, I've never been a big fan of gate keepers. People should be free to read what they want to read. After all, it's the gate keepers in trad pub who wouldn't allow me to publish my stories, and look at me now, my sales are right up there with the big boys. Yet they still won't touch me, even though I'm a proven money maker. It'd be cool to be in the book stores, but I know that'll never happen. At least not until the current gate keepers are replaced, if then.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Audio version of the first Wives Tales book is now up - Free!

The first of the Wives’ Tales is live on AudFans - you can stream without a login but if you want to download then you will need to make a signin.  The next Wives’ Tales will go up Feb 28

Here's the link: Wilves Tales #1


Monday, January 21, 2019

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Dead Authors


This is something that's been stuck in the craw for a looooong time now. It has to deal with people who, for whatever reason, decide that they're going to write a dead author's works. Now few have the gall to re-write a dead author's work to 'improve on it', and I'm quite sure that there is a special place in hell for those people. It's the real reason that I have a strong dislike and disregard for a particular third-rate author out there, beyond his inability to ever come up with something original on his own.

Next you have the people who wish to write stories in the existing universe of a dead author. These people I'm fine with actually. As long as they stay true to the universe, that's about all I'd want to see. But regardless of whether or not they do, they're at least trying to do something original and hopefully they got whatever permissions needed and again, hopefully, they're trying to pay some respects to an author that they enjoyed.

The last group are those who try to pick up a dead author's characters and write new stories with them, and that's what I want to talk about today.

Now, before I start, how many albums did Jimi Hendrix release after he died? Dozens if not hundreds. You may ask how that came to be, that a famous musician released more albums after his death and the answer is simple: They took all of his studio recordings, the stuff that he felt was shit and not good enough to release, and they released it. (Yes, I have listened to people who knew Jimi Hendrix and they're the ones that talked about this - they were not pleased).

I bring this up not to cast dispersions on those who would try to continue a dead author's works, but to make the point that we authors have a lot of shit lying around that we will NEVER publish. Because we don't think it's good enough. We may use it for inspiration at some later date for a new book (I'm actually thinking about that right now) but I think I'm gonna put in my will that my unpublished works are to remain just that - unpublished - after I die.

Now what brought this on was reading that they're going to release ANOTHER Karres book. 'Witches of Karres' is one of my all time favorite books. It has had an impact on my writing, if you're a fan of mine and you should read it, you may even see some of it. James H. Schmitz was, and is, one of my favorite authors. Yes, his stuff is very dated, but you have to remember the times when it was written and the themes remain very much intact today. The Telzey Amberdon stories are also among my favorites. I've read just about everything the man wrote and there are times I'm sorry I didn't try to meet him (I didn't live all that far from him for a number of years and met one of his good friends once), but I'm not the type to search out 'famous' people. I figure they're already busy enough without me bothering them.

But I digress.

When I heard that this group of authors had written a sequel to 'Witches of Karres', I was excited. The three authors were all people with experience and established names. So when I got the chance I picked it up.

I couldn't get past the first chapter. It sucked. Now, I don't know if it was a matter of 'too many cooks' or what, but honestly, these people just didn't know Schmitz, they didn't know his bones. They didn't 'get' him.

First of all, Schmitz was a short story writer. He wasn't a writer of novels. He only wrote six novels in his entire career and if I recall correctly two of those were collections. His main forte was writing short stories. He wasn't really a novelist, and while most don't understand it, there is a significant difference in the two forms of writing.

A brief aside here: I started out as a novelist. My first real writing was a novel which thanks to bit rot is lost to all time (which is fine, it sucked) my second attempt was 'Children of Steel'. I wrote another novel (Danger Money) and as I couldn't find an outlet for that work (pre-web days) I stopped writing. I then discovered an outlet, but I could only submit short stories. My first attempts weren't very good, but with the help of Gerald Perkins and more than a few things that I read, I figured it out. Then I wrote nothing but short stories for years. Dialene is actually three different short stories stuck together to make a novella.

So switching back to writing novels was not an easy task, but I did (obviously) figure it out and got back into it. So I have a lot of experience with writing each and I understand the very basic differences between the two styles. Schmitz wrote his novels as a collection of short stories. My book 'Shadow' (written as Jan Stryvant) was a collection of short stories. They weren't even written in the order that they appear in the book, (also I never intended to publish them, but that's another story). When it was suggested to me that I publish them, I reworked them into the correct chronological order, then tied them together so that they flowed.

When I look at Agent of Vega or Witches of Karres or The Universe Against her, it's obvious that Schmitz was still writing them as short stories and then stitching them together. It's like the difference between an album that's just a bunch of songs and a theme album. Yes, it's one story, but the 'breaks' are still there.

So when I picked up the sequel and the first thing I see is the story is picking up exactly where Schmitz left off in Witches, I knew they didn't get him.

First off, Schmitz had more than enough time to write a sequel to the book, yet he never did. Oh, he may have considered it, may have even made some notes about it, but the fact is: he didn't do it. So any notes or unfinished work he may have left lying around, was left lying around for a reason: He didn't think it would work.

Second off, if you're going to write a sequel, you need the damn break! You cannot pick up an hour or a day later. You cannot pick up with the humorous denouement of the story and run with it! It's the damn denouement, it wasn't meant to be picked up on! If you're going to carry forward with anything about the 'baby' vatch in the next book, the only way to really do it would be as a series of 'remembered' lessons, or snide comments made by Goth. That is very much a tell don't show, like when Captain Pausert discusses how he got rid of all that junk cargo.

I can't comment more on the book, because I didn't want my childhood memories destroyed. I don't know why they picked the authors that they did to write the sequel(s). I don't know if an editor said 'I think these will do well at it' or if they asked for volunteers. Whichever it was, they failed miserably on the hook, and the hook is the most important part of the story. If you can't get that right, well, there's no way you got the rest of it right.

James H. Schmitz was one of the three authors whose writings had the biggest impact on my style. Robert H. Heinlein and Roger Zelazny were the other two. Yes, I would love to see another Karres book about Pausert, Goth, and The Leewit. I daresay I know how to write one. But I won't, not even for myself (and trust me, it was something I thought about many times years ago when I was starting out) because James H. Schmitz has died, and I don't want to be the one digging up his grave. Let him and his characters rest in peace.