My current home PC runs Windows XP. It has served me well for almost 8 years. I have used Linux in the past, but always as a secondary OS. I do plan on upgrading to 64-bit hardware in the New Year, but wanted to look at Windows 8 before building it up. If I'm going to buy top-of-the-line cutting edge hardware, I want something decent to run on it that will last the life of the PC. Seems there are a lot of folks out there touting Windows 8 as a viable upgrade. I have a couple of licenses to use at work and have spent the last three weeks reviewing it.

Windows 8 is designed to run on PC's, tablets and phones. As such, it tries to be a Jack of all trades and ends up being a master of none. Indeed, Windows 8 is a string of small annoyances that build up over time to totally frustrate the user. After the initial install, there is no username, you have to enter an email address to log on. This irks me as I suspect this gets sent to Microsoft for their use and their partners. I used my spam email account for that, but not everyone has one. Once logged in, the desktop interface is not intuitive and even when you are on the "Desktop" you really aren't. (Note to Microsoft. If you have to give animated demo's to show people how to access the desktop features, it isn't intuitive enough.)

Icons are no longer used, instead they replaced them with large tiles. These tiles for Facebook, email, photos, apps, Office, weather (plus a bunch of other crap I will never use) are spread out more than the width of the screen. Now, this is just with a base install. Adding more programs will make this issue much worse over time. This type of setup would work on a touch sensitive screen like a tablet or phone, you can slide over with your finger and voila. However, on a PC it becomes ungainly to use a mouse to navigate back and forth. I use a 24" 1920 x 1080 monitor and the tiles are still off the screen! When you open a new program it goes full screen with a lot of wasted space. There is no Start button anymore and accessing a program list is again, not intuitive.

The home screen in Windows 8 looks childish. All of the tiles share common colors and blend together so you end up scanning all of them to find what you want. Blah, just blah.

So after diddling with Windows 8 in both virtual and actual hardware, I have decided to put (pause for dramatic effect) Windows 7 on my new PC. Microsoft will be supporting Windows 7 until Jan 14, 2020 and honestly as an IT professional that deadline does not worry me. Windows 7 is a 64-bit multi-core OS with traditional desktop and relatively intuitive design. If Microsoft follows past trends then Windows 9 will correct the more egregious errors of Windows 8, but honestly I am looking at non-Windows alternatives for future consideration. Beyond email and web browsing, I use my PC for two things; writing and gaming. I wrote my last novel on Google Docs so there is little need to have MS Office. However, if needed I can get LibraOffice for free which handles Office document formats (http://www.libreoffice.org/). As for gaming, 85% of my games are bought through VALVe's Steam store. I'm waiting for the rumored SteamBox from VALVe to come out (http://store.steampowered.com/). At that point, my games will be available through that device and I'll no longer be tied to a Windows based PC. I'll probably go with a Linux OS at that point.

As the web becomes more accessible, there are multiple operating systems available, many at zero cost. Computer users now have a choice they did not have several years ago. You no longer need to be tied to Microsoft's IE. Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome are perfectly usable browsers, modifiable and FREE. There are many more choices out there, they are the more popular at the moment. As Cloud computing evolves, there is less emphasis on the operating system. Before you invest in a great deal of frustration, look at alternatives and make an informed decision.
 
 
An Open Letter To:

Mr. Jeff Bezos
Founder & CEO 
Amazon.com


Dear Mr. Bezos, 

I am a writer with several novels for sale on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Several issues have been reported over the last while about alleged sales inaccuracies, "stuttering" book rankings and inaccessible web reports on the Amazon KDP web site. I have experienced those same problems myself. 

I went onto the Amazon KDP community forums to get information and see hundreds of posts from other writers. I gave up reading after a half dozen pages because of the vitriol and invectives being flung around. Authors are frustrated because they are getting contradictory, vague and generic responses from your support teams. There is no information out there describing what the issue(s) are, their cause or how long it will take to fix them. 

I don't make my primary income from my book sales, but many authors do. When there are issues with royalty payments (real or perceived) it directly affects the income they use to feed their families, pay the heating bill, etc. The poor state of the global economy at the moment does not help either. 

Amazon is a phenomenal platform for independent authors to utilize, dare I say the best in the world. I doubt there are many writers out there who expect you to be perfect 100% of the time. With the complex infrastructure Amazon maintains globally, things will occasionally go wrong. We understand that and know you make your best effort to keep systems operational / accurate. Those of us who live in the real world know "stuff happens" on occasion. All I request is that you keep us in the loop. A simple one paragraph statement letting us know what is going on and roughly when we can expect a resolution. That will end the speculation along with the dramatic posts on KDP and reassure people simultaneously.  

Could you have someone on your KDP team post some sort of update to answer the above concerns with solid information please? I don't think it’s too much to ask to keep your suppliers up to date.  

Respectfully, 

SJ Parkinson
http://sjparkinson.com

 
 
October 4-5 saw the second promotion for Predation on Amazon's KDP Select program. The first promotion in August had just over 500 free downloads. The second promo was over 5300 and got me some decent exposure on several high profile websites and blogs. When Predation reached #5 in the Amazon Science Fiction rankings I was thrilled. When it reached #2 and stayed there for the better part of a day, I started to get a little anxious. I was refreshing the rankings page every fifteen minutes. Then, wonder of wonders, I moved into the #1 spot and stayed there until the end of the promotion. 

It was then that I looked below to see which books were below me in the top five. Jules Verne's Mysterious Island was at #3. I remember reading that novel when I was a teenager. It is one of my favorite books from someone I consider a master of the genre. Seeing that was humbling indeed. Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, etc. (as any reader of Predation will acknowledge) were my after school mentors in fiction. They shouldered the heavy load and inspired those who followed. They were the pathfinders and my inspiration. They showed me that it was possible. For that, I am eternally thankful. 

To take sole credit for placing in the #1 sci-fi book slot would be arrogance personified. Lynn, Christine, Imogen and Predation editor Rosemary all assisted me with advice or assistance. There were many others in the various writing groups I subscribe to as well. When you are starting out, you blindly stumble until you come upon a friendly hand who steadies you. The path becomes easier after that.  

To paraphrase Rockefeller; If I seem to be a big man, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants. 
Thanks to everyone for their support and encouragement. 

 
 
I had a long exhale of breath this weekend when I received a second positive review for Predation. I was not sure if people would relate to a story with no central character. However, with both Amazon reviews and received emails being positive, I can relax and move onto the next project. A quote from a review said, "This is one of those hard core military fighting page turners" and I am glad because that is what I was going for. A favorite book of mine is The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan and Predation is a fictional homage to that work. 

The Legionnaire: Origins (Book Two) is shaping up nicely. I am roughly a third of the way through an internal review and hope (fingers and toes crossed) to get it to the editors soon. I have an edit slot in November and that is my goal, but as always I try to get it in early so I can move onto other things, like writing book three. Finishing Mask, the first Legionnaire book, felt like such a victory, but now, facing the balance of the planned original three books, I am faced with a heck of a lot of work. :-) Spare time seems so much more elusive over the last few months. Research is continuing on the fourth Legionnaire as well. 

Sales continue to improve slowly as word spreads. Seventy-two "Likes" on my Facebook page which is humbling and thirteen followers on Twitter.  Now I am faced with a choice. I need to get Origins out the door, but then do I finish the Legionnaire series or work on one of the other two sci-fi books I have envisioned and ready to go? Decisions, decisions. Time will tell. 


 
 
The one question that is resounding in my Inbox right now, "When will Predation be out?" Word has spread and several sci-fi fans are urging me to get it out ASAP.  That's my reward for setting up a Contact Form on sjparkinson.com  :-}

I am happy to say it should be out in early August. Predation has finished editing (Thank you Rosemary and Lynn) and just went for the second (and last) proof read. Once I get it back, add three or four days for formatting and then it will be out. The comments I am getting back so far have been very encouraging.

I am enlisting Predation in KDP Select as a test. So it will be available exclusively on Amazon in mobi format for the first three months, but I shall be producing paperbacks as well. Expect those by September. After KDP, it shall be available via Nook, Kobo and Barnes & Noble in other ebook formats. Other markets are pending.

In other news, Legionnaire: Book Two is almost done. I suspect I have forty pages to go before I complete it. I have been burning the midnight oil for that and hope to get it finished before the late hours catch up to me. As of now, my target date for Book Two is December 2012. That is so I can review it several times and get the cover art done without feeling rushed. Then off to the editors. Once I get the cover art completed, I shall release the title and jacket description. Then I shall take a whack at Legionnaire: Book Three. I cannot even think of setting a date on that project yet. 

Finally, I recently read an interesting book and have been inspired for a fourth Legionnaire book. A generic outline has been completed and I think it is a viable project / story. No details yet and the schedule for that book is "when it is done". I have to do a lot of research and have two other books to finish before that happens.

The more I write, the more I am inspired to write more. I should have started this journey much sooner. As always, I appreciate your comments, feedback and support.
 
 
As of today, I am a author.

My first novel was just uploaded to Amazon Kindle and after many years of effort toward that goal, I can barely believe the day is actually upon me. I have had the draft manuscript on my tablet for a couple of days now and it feels surreal to see my words on the screen. I forgot who said it originally, but it certainly applies. It has taken me ten years to become an overnight success.

In no way can I claim sole credit for this journey. I owe a debt to several people for getting me this far: Keith C. Blackmore for his guidance and assistance. The Red Adept Publishing team took my childish scribblings and turned them into something intelligible. Christine DeMaio-Rice for taking my vague cover art concepts and turning them into stunning reality. Jason G. Anderson has been doing all of my book conversions for Kindle, CreateSpace and Smashwords. My girlfriend Joanne has pushed, prodded and encouraged me tirelessly since reading the early drafts.

Thank you all. 

A paperback version is coming in a month or so. Stay tuned for that.

It was a hard decision for me to give up diving for a year so I could focus on writing. Now that I have a book actually for sale, I think I made the right one. I will have another book out by the end of the summer (Predation) and have two more novels on the go. My next goal is to make enough through writing to be able to write full time. That might take another ten years of effort, but I cannot think of a more noble goal.  The Legionnaire: Mask of the Pharaoh is now available on Amazon for purchase.

Today is a very good day.
 
 
First proofread on Legionnaire: Mask has been completed! As I spent a lot of time and three manuscript revisions with my editor, the proofread was a painless exercise with only minor things being picked up. I was able to work through the issues over the weekend. I did discover a couple of minor errors in the story which I took the opportunity to correct. Nothing major, but I had to make sure the place names I used in Legionnaire: Mask matched the ones I am writing in Legionnaire: Book two. :) 

A second proof is scheduled and after that I can contact the book formatter to put it into the acceptable formats for Kindle, Smashwords and CreateSpace even though I will stick with Kindle exclusively for the first three months. The CreateSpace conversion will only be used if I decide to offer actual soft cover books via Amazon. I may do this at some point in the future as a few people still prefer the feel of a book and my Father for instance has no Kindle. 

Bottom line is: The June estimate for publication of Legionnaire: Mask is still looking good. 


Predation is still in first edit. It is taking additional time as it was well over 500 pages when I submitted it. If I can get through that edit as efficiently as Legionnaire: Mask then August is looking good for publication. 

Legionnaire: Book two writing is progressing, but a lot slower than I would like. I have decided on a title, but will not be advertising it until I get the cover art done and get at least 3/4 of the way through the writing. I hit the hundred page mark a few days ago which felt like I had accomplished something. Four hundred more to go!  
 
 
Anyone who has ever gone through a tax audit can appreciate the roller coaster of emotions that you will go through during a manuscript edit. These tips should help you when you get to that stage.

1) Put on your crocodile skin.

That precious prose that you struggled over weeks and months to get perfect is going to be attacked by a person with a red pen and a machete; your editor. They will begin to cut out sections that do not forward the plot or are unnecessary detail. Don't take offence at this, that is why you brought them onto your project after all. They have done a lot of books in all likelihood so use their experience to your benefit. Listen to their comments.

2) Don't take the edit personally.

Try to be objective. If the editor says that a passage has an issue, look at the their note then read the manuscript with that in mind. Look at it as if you were a reader. If there is merit in their observation, you can decide to accept it. If you feel they are making a mistake, like deleting something necessary to the plot, you can push back and state your case clearly.

3) Be professional.

You expect to be treated with courtesy and respect, yes? You get what you give. The editor is there to make your novel better. Better = More sales. Keep that in mind. Flipping them off verbally or an endless stream of argumentative emails back and forth accomplishes nothing. Take a step back from the issue and address it calmly. It is a collaborative process and both of you need to be involved.

4) If you get mad...

I know I did a few times. They just cut what you feel is a key piece of text. OMG, how could they do that to me? When that happens, take a break. Walk away for a while. Go for a swim, play with the dog or do something else relaxing for a day or two until you calm down. Then go back later and reassess the situation objectively.

Do you have any other tips from your experiences? Feel free to comment.
 
 
Day one. Where do I possibly start?

For the last few weeks I have been coming to grips with the loss of a good friend. Ryan Craig was my trusted dive partner on many occasions. When he passed away in a solo diving accident the world got a little greyer and made a little less sense. He was only 25.

He shall be missed and remembered as a man who never said anything negative about anyone. He inspired more smiles than any one else I have ever met.

Thank you for sharing a little of your life with me my friend. I would like to think it will make me a better person as I try to make up for your loss.