Saturday, 31 December 2016

Ingress: Tips for the Sojourner

This is the sojourners medal.

It’s probably the easiest and hardest medal to achieve in Ingress. Easy, because all you have to do is to go out there, find a portal, and hack it. Hard, because there are days when the last thing you want to do is go anywhere, whether you are sick, busy, behind schedule, or the weather is more than unpleasant. Those days, where you just ‘don’ wanna’.

The sojourner’s medal is earned by hacking an Ingress portal once a day, on consecutive days, or, as the medal says: “hack a portal within consecutive 24-hour periods”. Here are a few tips on how not to miss a day.

Hack Every Day

Sounds obvious, right? And easy. Just remind yourself of that, the next time you’re making excuses not to go out, whether they’re valid or not. While it only takes 15 days to earn the lowest tier of this medal, it’s going to take almost a year to achieve the highest tier, and that counter resets if you miss a day.

Hack Twice a Day

So, if hacking once a day is going to be so hard, why should you bother trying for twice a day? Because twice a day means you are hacking every 12 hours. It means you can miss the 12-hour period by a few hours and it doesn’t matter. If you miss the 24-hour hack by a few hours, you’ll lose your streak. Hacking twice a day removes that risk, and any stress you might feel about getting out there to hack. Hacking twice a day lets you sleep in, or stay out late and party.

Three Times a Day—or More— is Better

Before work, after work, and lunch, if you’re in an area that allows it. Hacking more is better.

Work it Into a Routine

Go for a walk, hack a portal. Go for a half-hour walk in the morning, and another in the evening. Make it part of your fitness routine. Remember that continuous walking is better for you than stop-start walking, so you can either hack as you go past a portal, and not stop, or you can hack one portal and then put your phone away and focus on your fitness for the next thirty minutes, or keep your phone away until you’re finished and use a slow wander through the portals as part of your cool-down. If you make it a habit, it’s harder to forget.

And that’s pretty much all I’ve got. If you can think of another way to make sure you do that daily hack, let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Writing Life: The Writing

To be a writer, you have to write. You have to write regularly. And you have to finish what you write.

To be earning a living from your work, you have to publish your work and have it available for sale—and even that might not be enough.

The only advice I have on this, is find time to write every day, but don’t kick yourself when life happens. After that, I would say decide what you want to publish and when, and look at what you are working on. If you don’t write short fiction, then a fortnightly schedule might be a bit unrealistic. If you can’t write more than a thousand words a day, then expecting to release a 100,000-word novel each quarter is probably too much.

Look at what you want to achieve, and then break it down into the time-frame you want to achieve it in, but keep your capabilities and real-life demands in mind. Build in a little bit of flexibility, days for being sick, family holiday, time for fitness. I call this ‘fudge time’, and I don’t mean the chocolate. I mean time for things to be fudged up so that you can recover from them and stay on schedule.

Don’t build in too much, though, or there’s a chance you’ll write less than you could, and life’s unexpectedness will affect you anyway. Just keep your expectations real—which is harder than it looks, as any of you will know from following this blog. Be prepared to adjust your expectations of yourself to the reality of your capabilities. And forgive yourself when you set the target too high, and need to adjust. Learn to accept yourself for who you are, and not an ideal you can’t achieve.

Also, there are days when the story won’t cooperate, when you need to research, when finding the words is like mining Tassie granite, when you write 209 words in three hours instead of the usual three or four thousand. There are days when you’ll have a new idea pop into your head that needs to be written down before you can keep going on the old one, and days when you just have to work on something else.

Let yourself do these things BUT set yourself a minimum, so you stay on track for the publication date. Decide on a focus project, and work on that FIRST. Have two documents open if you must. Switch between them as the muse demands, but work on that main project each and every day. You cannot finish anything in a decent timeframe without keeping it consistently on track. How you do that is up to you.


Sunday, 25 December 2016

PDF for GIMP Cover Creation

Free - just like the program.

Here is a very basic run-through of what I learned about building a cover using GIMP.

I hope it helps.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Ingress: Locking Down Your Player Profile

Take a look at your scanner. Down the bottom, in the right-hand corner, is a button marked COMMS. Open it up. Now, see how the agent names are kind of in bold with a line under them? Press on one. Keep pressing until two options appear on your screen: View Player Profile, or Send Message. Touch View Player Profile. Now, you can see that player’s badges, their mission badges, and their stats. Wait! Can’t see their stats? They must have their profile locked down.

Why would they do  that?

Well, I keep mine locked down, too, and I have done since choosing the portal I was hoping to get to black guardian with, but there are a number of reasons.

  1. To Keep it Private. Some players like to work quietly towards their goals. They don’t like the stress of comparisons and competition, or they’re just very private people. Locking down their profiles means only the basics of their progress can be tracked, and not every little detail. I’ve kept mine locked down, because I like it quiet.
  2. To Protect their Guardian: It has been noticed that, when certain members of the opposing team can see the days for a player’s guardian continuing to climb, then that guardian is often lost before it reaches black. This could be just coincidence, but it has also been noted that player’s whose guardian progress isn’t public tend to keep their guardians longer. That, too, could be coincidence. I decided not to take any chances with my last one, but I also chose a better located portal for the attempt, and I lucked out when some friendly player from my team decided to upgrade its resonaters and add more defences – for which I am very grateful. So, I can’t be sure a private profile is what helped to get it through – although I can be sure bigger resonators and more defences did.

Look at these two profiles. One is locked, and one is not. (I have blacked out the players' names and badges, and the AP and other data is now out of date, but this is what you'll see.)

See the difference?

Right, no progression data under the medals of the locked profile. Now, if you touch one of the achievement medals, another difference appears:

See it, again?

Correct - no progress indicated under the medal of the locked profile. This is how to keep your progress private.

HOW do you lock your profile?

Well, you go into your OPS tab (which is in the top right-hand corner of the main scanner screen), then you scroll all the way across to the end until you see the DEVICE tab. Tap on that, and then scroll down until you see the Agent Profile section, and then touch the little square so that a small, blue tick appears next to “Make agent stats private”.

Do I have to lock my agent profile?

No, you do not. You might like to play out in the open, and that’s fine, too.

Whichever way you choose to play, have fun. It’s time to move.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Writing Life: Sales Expectations

If you decide to go independent, don’t expect to get rich overnight. It takes on average 5-10 years to make a living and that is if you do everything right. Again, there is a lot of advice out there, but it boils down to this: Produce a professional, well-written, enjoyable, well-presented product.

And therein lies the rub. You can control three of those four elements. You can produce a professional product; you can control the quality of writing within your ability, and your editor’s ability; and you can present it well. What you can’t control is if a reader finds it enjoyable, or not.

Also, beyond your control, is if a reader picks up your book in the first place.

Depressing, right?

Those are just the facts you have to live with. You can do your best, but you cannot guarantee sales, or enjoyment, because you are not your readers. All you can do is tell a story you enjoy, and tell it well. The chances are good that someone else will enjoy it, too.

There are also genre, and story-type factors that affect sales. In general:

  • Short fiction does not sell as well as long fiction. My sales figures reflect this, except in the case of one particularly quirky short story that I can’t explain.
  • Poetry does not sell as well as short fiction. My sales figures reflect this, too.
  • Collections and Anthologies sell better than individual shorts, but not as well as long fiction.
  • Novels sell better than short fiction, collections and poetry. Sales figures say yes to this, too.
  • The romance genre sells better than the science fiction or fantasy genres… or so it is said. Sales figures also give this the nod—I sell fantasy and romance, and will soon add science fiction to that.
  • Regular releases build your readership more than putting your finished work out in bursts. I recently conducted an experiment on this by releasing a short story a fortnight. Why a short story? Because that was the only way to get a fortnightly schedule up and running quickly, and build in time to finish longer work to add into the schedule later. As that longer work is completed, I expect my schedule to look a lot more balanced between short and long fiction, collections and novels, and between genres and my various pen names. The main point here is: regular releases, for some reason, result in sales across the spectrum of your work regardless of similarities or differences in genre or length… or so say my sales figures.

So, in a nut-shell. You need to write and publish regularly in order for readers to notice your work. You need to produce the best quality story you can. Beyond that, your readers will choose what they want to read, and what they enjoy. Don’t expect to make a fortune overnight.