September 1, 2023 – Everyone should have an Alien Abduction Novel
Writing or reading? Well, both. Alien abduction is a popular theme in the Science Fiction world and has resulted in numerous books and stories. This is why I wrote Hannah Sorpat’s Eye. Since many Sci-Fi authors have contributed to this genre, I thought I should too.
I introduced a different twist to the concept, though. One of the abductees in my story was a skilled Unix systems programmer. Due to a lot of hard work and quite a bit of luck, he penetrated the alien computer network. This leads to a plan for an escape and return to Earth after a one-year captivity.
“What could possibly go wrong?” you may ask. You would have to read the book to find out.
The Scott Baughman saga is part of my backlist but has been recently updated. I took the time to clean up the remaining typos and grammatical errors. I also updated the covers. And they offer a cracking good story. You can find them in the Amazon Kindle store. The three-book series will make for great reading over the Labor Day weekend.
The hot weather does not encourage running around outside, so I get more writing done. I am twenty chapters book ten of the Parallel Nazi. This one has been moving more quickly than others. I hope that I can release it sometime in late Fall.
My ideas for book eleven are coming together, although I have not made plans for the next book after completing ten. Several book ideas compete for attention, and I am focused on the current novel.
And now for something completely different, as they announced on Monty Python. Following a trip to Illinois in July, I purchased a SainSmart CNC router. Some of my woodworking projects require more precision than I can manage without automated help. And the Prime Day deal on the 3018-Prover was nice.
The learning curve is steep. The machine itself was relatively easy to assemble and requires little attention otherwise. Understanding the software is another story. I began using the Easel software thinking that the free version was… free. My needs were simple, and I did not anticipate upgrading to the Pro version. With some effort, I ran my first project. I made some lattice panels for a luminary clock.
Following the design step, you export a gcode file, which you import into the Candle Grbl software, which directly runs the machine. With a couple of long evenings’ work, I was fairly proficient and produced the necessary panels for the sides of the clock. I was pleased with the result.
I then experimented with doing a monogrammed coaster. When I clicked the button to save the gcode file, the program told me I needed to upgrade to use that function. What? The ten-day free period had run out, and the program did not indicate which functions would no longer work. And the Pro version cost more than I paid for the machine. Even worse, it is an annual license fee. Not something I can justify for a hobby. Criminy, it costs twice as much as Office 365.
Square One. I downloaded Carbon Create, which apparently remains free. I downloaded version 6, which includes the capability to generate gcode. The learning curve is steeper since Carbon Create is more powerful. And I have to tweak the gcode (delete three lines, add two lines) to get it to work with my router. But I am now back in business.
Carbon Create is designed to work specifically with a well-regarded line of CNC routers, which, unfortunately, cost significantly more than my machine. But I am appreciative that they allow passengers to travel for free. And if you purchase a Shapeoko CNC router, they provide top-flight support. They would be my go-to company if I ever get into professional woodworking (Ha!). At my level, I basically create precision firewood.
Enough of the side note. Stacking Centimes has done well, though I knew it was targeted at a much narrower base than the Schloss books. Thanks for the reads. Back to work.
July 17, 2023 – It's Getting Hot!
Summer has finally arrived in South Carolina. The weather has been surprisingly mild this year. While not idyllic, the warmth was tolerable. That has changed this week with the traditional combination of 90-degree temps and high humidity. And, of course, my Bermuda grass thrives in that weather, so I’m obligated to enjoy the heat and humidity as I skim off a couple inches of creeping, green growth.
This morning’s activities included rescreening a door for my sister-in-law’s back porch. Then back home, I ran the string trimmer and pushed the mower around. Fortunately, I finished by lunchtime and missed the worst of the heat.
The big news is the release of Stacking Centimes, the sequel to The Wealth of the Worlds. The story of Harvey Steelmaker continues. I have felt the urge to write this story for quite a while. I started during the Munich Faction – 2 project. When encountering writer’s block, I would jump over and work on the other book and make a lot of progress that way. I plan to eventually add a third book to this series.
It’s now back to The Parallel Nazi, and I’ll soon start on the tenth book in the Schloss series. The story will focus on Schloss’s interactions with the French regime in Vichy. We can expect many familiar characters, such as Queen Margaret, Nikita Khrushchev, Alan Carper, and others.
Oh, and take a gander at the Free Downloads section of the website. I spent some time cleaning up the short stories and reposted them. This is something salvaged when the new website project crashed and burned.
For now, enjoy the summer – as I sit at my desk with air conditioning and a ceiling fan and look out the window at the South Carolina furnace.
May 2023 – The New Web Site... Not!
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After about three months of work I thought I was ready to bring the new web site on line. I hadn’t thought to test it on small screens until this morning. My limited technical skills definitely don’t help. But I discovered the new site was really not responsive, which means it does not automatically adjust to different sized screens (e.g. cell phones). So it appears I’ll be using the old framework for a while.
Assuming everything is happy and you are reading this, I can talk about what I have been doing recently. Munich Faction – 2 – Enforcer is now live on Amazon. This continues Gerhard Wicklein’s story and illuminates the background to the original Accidental Nazi book.
The first draft of the sequel to The Wealth of the Worlds is about half completed. I hope to finish that book and release it this summer. I will soon begin work on the next Schloss book. I have several potential plot lines to explore and develop. For those of you who are curious, there will be at least two more Schloss books and I don’t expect it will stop there.
In the future there will be one more Munich Faction book. I am exploring ideas for other characters from the Parallel Nazi series. Colin Marty-Windsor comes to mind. The Parallel Nazi readers have commented on how they enjoy the big picture view of things happening around the planet. That encourages me to investigate story ideas of the same type.
March 2023 – The Writer's Tools
Has Spring really come? The South Carolina foliage is blooming and greening. But it looks like we’ll have some more chilly weather for a couple of weeks. I am in the depths of writing two new novels. One is book 2 of the Munich Faction, and the other is the sequel to The Wealth of the Worlds. It has been several years since I have tried working on two books simultaneously. In this case, it’s an experiment to see if I can accommodate the writer’s block by switching to the other novel when I got stopped.
I am about 20,000 words into one novel and 35,000 into the other. So, I am satisfied with the progress. I am targeting the release of one or both books in May, although that may be a tad optimistic.
I thought I would spend some time today discussing the writer’s tools. It is easier today to create and publish a novel than ever in history. But creating a good story is just as difficult. I am also a woodworker and understand that good tools will not necessarily improve my skills but will make my life easier. The same goes for writing.
Fortunately, good tools for writing are easy to find, and they are not expensive. Many are free.
You need a good word processor or text editor. If you own a computer, you probably already have an editor. The number one requirement is the ability to save a file in DOCX format. This is close to being a universal file format even though Microsoft developed it. If you publish through the Amazon Kindle store, you must submit your book files in this format.
If you already have a license to Microsoft Word, you are in good shape. You can do everything you need for your book creation within Word. Download and install Libre Office, which is a free office suite. I, in fact, use Libre Office Writer for my basic writing. For me, this program is more comfortable to use, and I’m not sure why. I know it does not get in your way as Word sometimes does. The basic editing functions fall easier to hand.
I do, however, switch to Word for creating the final version of the book. There is really no substitute for the power and flexibility of this tool. In the last few releases, Microsoft has begun including basic grammar support, which may be helpful. I do get annoyed when it offers grammatical constructs that are socially acceptable. I think I am capable of making those decisions.
Unless you are an English teacher, I suggest using a grammar-checking tool such as Grammarly. A free version of the tool catches your most common errors. I use the paid version, which goes into greater depth.
This short article is not enough to make you an award-winning author. But I wanted to give you a place to start.
January 2023 – The Pricing Conundrum
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The sunny Saturday morning in late January is a nice interregnum between the storms sweeping across the South. We are fortunate that South Carolina has received mostly rain while the Deep South has contended with tornadoes and punishing winds.
Those who sell goods and services must contend with another storm that has swept the country – the uncomfortable level of price inflation that has affected everything related to commerce. It’s worse for retirees as those on fixed incomes watch as Social Security COLA doesn’t quite keep up with the declining dollar value, and we watch as the financial storms ravage the stock market.
So, this morning, I made the final tweaks to Yamamoto’s Gold, prepared the eBook submission to the Amazon Kindle website, and paused for quite a while, studying the pricing page for the book. I have seen success over the past several years by pricing the eBook at $4.99. This seems to be the sweet spot that balances attractiveness to the reader and revenue for the author. All things considered, is this a good time to raise prices?
It prompts other questions. Am I being greedy? Would the price increase irritate the readers enough to reduce sales more than the price increase would recover? Is adding a dollar to the price even worth the trouble?
What is greed? Merriam-Webster defines it as “a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (such as money) than is needed motivated by naked ambition.” That’s pretty ugly. Now, I understand greed when I walk into an all-you-can-eat buffet and want some of everything. Nay, a lot of everything.
I think if I were greedy, I would be in a different business. I worked in IT management, which holds the possibility of being very lucrative, and I retired from that field. Several friends urged me to get into IT consulting upon retirement. But it was time for me to get out of the IT business.
I am not likely to get wealthy as a writer. As an independent author, I have been successful. The income from my books adds a nice cushion to my finances, but it is a long way from what would be considered a full-time occupation. I do this because I enjoy it.
So what about a general price increase? Sales have softened somewhat over the past six months, which may indicate economic distress. Amazon has struggled to hold the line on pricing, sometimes by removing or reducing benefits in the Prime product. Anecdotally, that has enraged a lot of the customers. Based upon that, raising my prices by a buck is probably not worth the trouble. I consider you my friends and don’t want to antagonize you needlessly.
So, the new title, Yamamoto’s Gold, will be listed at $4.99 for the eBook, and I really hope you enjoy the story. And, of course, I must get busy with the next book.
October 2022 – A Tale of Two Schlosses
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I guess the verdict is in. We released The Alter Schloss on September First and can now look back at this book’s first month. Sales were decent, although the Parallel Nazi books do significantly better. The reviews have been very good, though. The readers have consistently asked two questions, and I will try to answer them.
Will there be more books in the series? I had conceived The Alter Schloss as a single book and had no intentions of doing more. Several readers, though, asked to see more of the world now inhabited by this Schloss. So, I suppose we should leave the door open for further stories in this setting. The problem, of course, is finding the time to do this.
What of the other nations not mentioned in the book? A few readers mentioned Austria-Hungary since there was no Great War in this universe. This is solely a result of keeping the plot under control. The associated books to the Parallel Nazi series focus on a smaller group of characters and pretty much follow a single plotline. I have two reasons for such. First, this results in a book that I can get to the readers quicker, and secondly, it allows me to fill in the holes of the Schloss back story. The Parallel Nazi stories are complex and take more time to develop.
Now, let’s look at the author’s challenge in The Alter Schloss. The biggest problem with this book is tracking the personalities of the two Schlosses. It is harder than you might think. In a “broad brush” sort of way, we can tag the Schloss from 1982, which we may call Schloss Prime, as more visionary. He is the better strategic thinker. He is an introvert and is prone to emotional highs and lows – even to the point of emotional exhaustion.
The Alter Schloss is an extrovert and is the more pragmatic of the pair. He is also what we would call “an operator.” He gets things done. He is a better manager than Schloss Prime and understands people better. He is more “hands-on” and wants to be out among people.
These are differences in degree. Remember that we are depicting two different versions of the same person. And keeping that straight in two separate (but related) book series is challenging.
I have mentioned before that the Munich Faction will be a three-book series. I plan to begin work on the second book after I finish Parallel Nazi 9 – Yamamoto’s Gold. As of this morning, I have completed about 23,000 words in that novel. I want this book done by Christmas, but it will likely be released in the first quarter of 2023.
July 2022 – In Between
We got through the summer. While it was hot and humid, climate change notwithstanding, it was no worse than usual in South Carolina. During the dog days, the temperature hovers in the upper nineties, and it is thoroughly unpleasant outside.
But we completed another book, and it hit Amazon on September first. The Alter-Schloss answers the question that bothered many readers, not to mention Heinrich Schloss. This book was challenging and involved an extensive rewrite after I was two-thirds through the first draft. I was happy with the result, and I hope you are as well.
So, what’s next? My wife moved her home office from an upstairs room to the downstairs. I volunteered to construct a new desk as part of the overall project. I had built a writing desk several years ago for her use, and it was not practical for her needs, hence the new furniture. So following Alter-Schloss, I took a couple of weeks to get the desk finished and installed for her, and she is happy with it.
So, this week, I have begun the Parallel Nazi Book 9. For those curious about where the story goes, I have a working title: Yamamoto’s Gold. All the major players in the previous novels are now involved in retrieving the gold that the Japanese looted from the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco. Stay tuned.
As I was researching and thinking about Book 9, I also scratched out the scenarios for Books 10 and 11 of the series. So, Schloss continues. Comments I have received from the readers indicated worry that the series might be coming to a close. While that will undoubtedly happen someday, new plot lines keep popping into my head. And Herr Schloss is still a young man. If you count forty as young.
The days and nights are growing cooler, so we are hopefully in the fall season. The fall will be busy. Grandchild number seven is on the way. A friend recently completed the first draft of a new book, and I will likely assist with the edits. I have been editing and updating some of my earlier works now that the grammar tools are worth using. I am also working on the sequel to The Wealth of the Worlds, but that is not moving quickly. I usually jump over to that when I face writer’s block. And writer’s block will often prevent me from doing any writing.
I enjoy hearing from readers. Feel free to drop me a note as the urge strikes. I try to respond promptly. And in a few weeks, we will watch the leaves turn.
July 2022 – Significant Frameworks
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When I began writing science-fiction, I planned to document the underlying structure of the various series. This was to provide background information for the readers and give me a framework to keep the stories consistent. I have yet to do something like this mainly because of simple procrastination and the lack of available time.
And when I begin a book, I usually do not have the patience to create an outline or synopsis. Usually, by the time I start a book, I have a pretty good idea of the broad sweep of the novel and what will happen at the ending. This set of habits has served me well over the years, although I occasionally stumble over my shortcomings.
First, keeping a book internally consistent is harder than you think. In Accidental Nazi, I failed to account for Eva Braun, Hitler’s mistress, early in the book. She should have been present at Hitler’s funeral and might have even been part of the story. I corrected that later by having Schloss note that Braun did not exist in that universe. You can fix things, but you need to catch them.
Secondly, with each book in the series, it becomes more difficult to maintain consistency with the series in its overall scope. I had trouble confusing Frankfurt and Cologne in the fourth and fifth books, and I hope I have corrected all those associated errors.
While I have two broadly different frameworks for the books – the Parallel Multiverse and the Woogieverse (with the associated novels), the two frameworks impinge occasionally. The book ruBracks, Nazis, the Death of the Universe and Everything, is an example where I provided some of the backstory to
As the scope of my writing increases, I am challenged to keep track of details. Some of you have reminded me of things I missed. While embarrassed about that, I greatly appreciate the feedback. Readers are quicker to spot errors than authors – that seems to be a rule of thumb. Also, as I grow older, I tend to forget stuff. I have yet to simply wander off somewhere, but there you are.
Let’s talk about the frameworks. The Woogieverse is a Future History. The Parallel Multiverse is a group of alternate histories. I am not a historian, although I was a history minor in college. Rather my mind holds a collection of historical trivia that is otherwise mostly useless. I enjoy building histories.
I also enjoy wordplay, which is another story.
The future history consists of several series: the Saga of Scott Baughman, the Montora books, the Harcourt’s World novels (one completed and one in the pipeline), and the Dynastic Ambition series (one of three completed). A capstone series, The Throne of Caledon, and several ancillary books are planned.
The Parallel Multiverse has the Parallel Nazi series, of course. And it has some individual books such as previously mentioned ruBrack book. McNeel’s World is part of the framework. Nazi Magician is also technically a Parallel Multiverse book, although it is a different animal. Several storylines take place in one parallel universe or another and wait for me to get around to writing them.
Will I do stories that are outside of these frameworks? Probably. I wrote ,i>The Final Hero in collaboration with Bob Anderson, which might be better termed historical fiction. I have a couple of other ideas in development that could fit into one of the frameworks or as pure standalone.
My current output is two to three books per year or about three hundred thousand words. I have every incentive to pump out Parallel Nazi stories as they are popular. I plan to begin to work on the ninth book in August or September.
I hope to complete my current project in early August. If you have questions or comments, feel free to email me (ward.wagher.gmail.com). I try to answer promptly and enjoy hearing from you.
May 2022 – Things Known
I am heaving a sigh of relief. The new book, Things Never Known, is now up on Amazon. This is the 8th book of the Parallel Nazi series, and the Schloss Saga continues.
Ironically, this book centers around the war between Soviet Russia and “Free” Ukraine. It was unintentional on my part, as I was already well into the book when Putin invaded Ukraine. Some of the themes in the book reflect what some wag once said: History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often hums the same tune. I don’t remember who said this, but it seems appropriate.
One of the pitfalls of writing stories with a historical basis is the danger of anachronisms. The readers are intolerant of excuses, such as, "This is a parallel universe; I can do what I want." One must maintain consistency within the series of books, even though the parallel universe offers opportunities to cover up mistakes. Consistency within the broad arc of history is important as well.
One of my readers, who also does editing for me, caught one. At one point, Herr Schloss is calculating the value of something in Reichsmarks, and I wrote Deutschmarks in the first draft. I was delighted he caught that, even though I felt foolish. There was no way to cover that one up. I have to pay attention to everything.
Now that I have the eighth Schloss book out of the way, I have been developing ideas for the next Schloss book. I have not decided on which new book to start, but it will probably be the second of the Munich Faction series. While Courier can be considered a prequel to Accidental Nazi, the three-book series will overlap somewhat and cover the early part of Heinrich Schloss’s transition from 1982 to 1941 - from Gerhard Wicklein’s point of view. The first Munich Faction book was fun to write, and I’m looking forward to the next.
March 6, 2022 – Rumors of War
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I am up to 33,000 words on Book 8 of the Parallel Nazi. I face the irony of writing about war in Ukraine simultaneously with the actual Russian invasion. This was not intentional, and I wonder how the readers will receive the book.
I'm sure you are awaiting the release of the new book. It is too early to say whether the conflict will be resolved in book eight. Yet, a Ukrainian war is a crucial part of the story, and you all know we dealt extensively with it in This Throw of the Dice.
I have gradually developed a work strategy with this new book. It is easy to get distracted with two 32-inch screens on my desktop and two windows that give me a view of the outside. Taking the laptop into the great room and using the Bluetooth connection to play music through the TV soundbar gives me a much tighter focus on writing. Currently, I complete one chapter per day, which is about 2,000 words. That is about five chapters per week.
I remember reading somewhere that David Weber manages about 5,000 words per day. That rate is possible for me but unlikely. When I have it together, I can write about 1,000 words per hour. But I often lose a couple of hours hither and yon to take care of research. As much as possible, I try to make the historical characters in my books at least somewhat like the actual people.
Consistency is vital in the stories. I have not composed a specific set of rules to guide my writing in the Heinrich Schloss universe, but the readers know when I violate those strictures. I have received several comments about the Deux ex Machina represented by Frau Marsden. When she intervened directly to rescue Schloss and Rainer from the military coup, I debated whether this was the best way to handle the storyline. However, it did illustrate the power wielded by the old lady.
Frau Marsden's intervention when Beria kidnapped Misty was another such point. In the story's first draft, she personally killed Beria after he had tied Misty to the bed. After some serious thought, I changed the story so that she encouraged Khrushchev to take the action that rescued Misty. This worked better and further developed Khrushchev's character in the series.
I think the underlying rule that I followed in the second case, specifically, was that the characters in the Schloss universe act in response to events and challenges with only subliminal or ancillary guidance by Frau Marsden.
For further background on Frau Marsden, I would refer you to ruBracks, Nazis, the Death of the Universe and Everything, which fills in much of the background about Frau Marsden and the events which bounced Heinrich Schloss into a parallel world. Some of the same characters also appear in Gravity Rising.
Some of my friends have urged me to include more of Frau Marsden's activities in the Parallel Nazi series, but that would break other implicit rules of the series. These stores are primarily about Schloss and other people who inhabit this universe. And that is clearly what the readers want to see.
As usual, Herr Schloss faces several severe challenges in the new book and must overcome them to survive. I am looking forward to completing the book and letting you all have a look at it.
February 15, 2022 – Calling an Audible
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I start with these horrifying clichés to discuss my first Audible Book release. Sometimes making midstream course corrections are risky. Other times you look at the situation and decide to go with the flow.
Over the past several years, I have had several friends encourage me to market audio versions of my books. To this point, I have not ventured out on this ice-covered lake because I'm not too fond of audiobooks. I have tried them, but I get bored quickly since I can read faster than the narrator can speak.
I have the same problem with those annoying video pop-ups on the news sites. I can read the articles much faster than the talking head can dramatize the story. I just like to read.
It finally occurred to me that I was missing opportunities by not having audio versions of my books, so I decided on an experiment. I purchased a decent microphone and arranged for quiet time in the house to read through Accidental Nazi and record the chapters. I discovered that editing an audiobook is nontrivial. I was also reminded that I really hate listening to my own voice, which also discouraged the editing chores.
So I set the project aside for about a year. I had lunch with a writer friend who mentioned he had turned a closet in his house into a recording studio to create audio versions of his books. One thing led to another, and Scott Appleton recorded and edited the audio version of Accidental Nazi.
The process is still complex and fraught with opportunities for derailment, but we got the thing done. The Audible Books version of Accidental Nazi is now live and available on the Audible site and its distribution partners, including Amazon. We are already seeing steady sales, and that's encouraging.
Please give me your feedback, those who have delved into the Audible version of the book. We are interested to discover whether the experiment was successful. The volume of sales will determine whether it's worth investing in another title.
February 3, 2022 – So Many Books
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After three months of record sales, I can’t decide if I’m feeling satisfaction or pressure to get new books completed. We released This Throw of the Dice in early November and saw an immediate sales boost. It continued into December. In mid-January, we released the first volume of The Munich Faction again to generous sales.
All of this is, of course, thanks to you, reader. I am delighted that you have honored me with purchasing my books. And I thank you for that. And thanks to you who have sent encouraging emails. It’s flattering.
We are in the depths of winter here in South Carolina. We had seven inches of snow and some cold weather earlier. And there are still some patches of snow on the ground two weeks after the event. That is unusual. This winter is a bit colder than the last.
After getting a new book out the door, I have been busy doing cleanup on some other books. I just completed the synopsis for the sequel to The Wealth of the Worlds. And I have made decent progress on the summary for the new Parallel Nazi book (8). So I hope to get started with the actual writing sometime this week.
Recently my friend Scott Appleton completed recording Accidental Nazi” and we have submitted it to Audible.com. It was my first time building an Audible book, and I was unsure what to expect. It is