Search Engines and the NSA

I’ve been thinking. I know that is a dangerous thing especially for a writer.

With the high profile cases over the last few years where the prosecution has brought in computer forensic to show how the accused use the internet to search for ways to commit the crime and get away with it. Even worse lately with the NSA spying on all of us looking for the use of key words. While Google is turning over our search history and Facebook is giving them access to our posts.

What must the NSA be thinking about some of us writers?

Let’s say I am working on a book where they assassinate a head of state, of course my head of state is fictitious but I want it to be as real as possible. I might do Google searches of assassinations from the past or ways to assassinate a nations leaders. I might look at ways to get out of a city even if it’s been closed off or the protection a leader might have. How about ways to get around the ever present video cameras? We’ve all seen on NCSI how they use cameras to track villains. I might even look at how a head of state might enter the UN in New York. Buildings a sniper could use, even finding out about sniper rifles, etc.

If I wright about a terrorist group setting off a dirty bomb in New York. I might research wind patterns ways to affect the largest number of people. How to conceal the bomb, how to get it into the US even how to build one. They could poison a city’s water supply. What would I use to slowly kill the largest number of people before they figure it out.

All these could trigger the NSA search and before I know it the Feds are breaking down my door to have a little talk with me I’ll never get my first book done because I’ll be rutting away in some cell with no one knowing my whereabouts. For all I know this post might be all it takes to get my locked away for life plus ten years.

It’s not as bad with fantasy, I doubt elves, dwarfs, etc would be much of a trigger though maybe it is some kind of code I don’t know about. Science Fiction could get one in trouble.

Maybe the CIA did have Tom Clancy killed because of his internet search history. They were afraight he might fly a jet into the capital building and kill everyone.

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Not everything I do has to do with my books. My old friend Tom have become involved with Vintage Computing. We started up All Things DOS a vintage computer website. This week I have added some 2,500 Documents to our site. We currently offer more than 10,000 vintage games and applications available free to our site members. For those with slow download speeds We offer a disc burning service for a small fee.

All Things DOS currently has more than a dozen Vintage computers in our collection. The Commodore Vic-20 and C-64, the apple ][e the Macintosh 128 (the first Mac) the Macintosh SEHD, the TRS-80 Model IV and CoCo, the original IBM PC and XT, just to name a few. With 25+ years in the industry I am the technical guy. My job is to fix what I can. I have a pile of computers waiting for my time.

Today I am working on an Epson Equity II+ computer, it’s only problem is it needs a new battery. Latter I will be testing a Compaq Portable 2 which needs a new hard drive. Waiting for me is the Macintosh 128 or M0001, this was the first Macintosh model and the inside of the case is engraved with the signatures of the development team including Steve Jobs. This system is displaying the sad MAC telling me that it has a bad memory chip. I have the replacement, I Just need to get it installed.

After my stroke, my dog Tristan, started a Blog. Being a dog, he needs lots of help. Tristan tells me he needed his own blog to help him recover from the stress of almost losing me and my being gone, hospitalized, for over a month. Tristan’s a good dog but I don’t always agree with his ideas. I am attempting to teach him to watch out for the auto-correct on the iPad. Like me Tristan is a bad speller. We create new ways to spell all the time. What can I expect I am his daddy after all.

All-in-all I tend to keep myself busy which in part is why my writing is taking so long.

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Open Office Writer

Although I have been using Microsoft Office for years and love it. Lets face it I have taught hundreds of classes on how to use it. Not everyone can afford it. There is a free Alternative Apache offers OpenOffice a an open platform Microsoft Office compatible program. It offers just about everything Microsoft does best of all it is free. OpenOffice my not off all the bells and whistles Microsoft Office provides but you can’t beat the price. Recently we upgraded a couple of our computers. After other expenses we couldn’t afford to buy new copies of Microsoft Office so installed OpenOffice instead.

Those who know me know I am not a fasts typist. I like to call myself a Biblical Types Seek and ye shall find some keys take more seeking then others. Nevertheless, I still like to use the shortcut key strokes for many tasks. For instance [CTRL+B] for Bold and [CTRL+I] for Italics don’t forget my personal Favorite [CTRL+Z] for oops I didn’t mean to do that undo. Lets face it we all make mistakes sometimes. Did you know that [CNTR+A] selects everything in the document. The CNTR key is right under the SHIFT key. I’ve been known to aim for the SHIFT key hit the CNTR key by mistake, select my entire document and replace it with what I am typing. Because I am not a touch types I spend more time looking at my keyboard than at the computer screen. I may type two or three lines before I realize what I have done. Because of my knowledge of the program I can copy what I have typed then undo the mistake and finish by pasting in what I was doing. Yes I confess I have been known to erase dozens of pages with just a few key strokes. Thankfully I know how to fix it.

I use to think keyboard shortcuts were just for fast typists after all it takes time to reach for the mouse and then refind your hand position. The truth is I use them all the time. Apache provides a list of keyboard shortcuts. I have included their list for OpenOffice Writer below. Many of these are common Windows Shortcuts. Honestly, there are many I never use. Pick and chose what you like then ignore the rest.



Shortcut Keys Effect
Ctrl+A Select All.
Ctrl+J Justify.
Ctrl+D Double Underline.
Ctrl+E Centred.
Ctrl+F Find and Replace.
Ctrl+Shift+P Superscript.
Ctrl+L Align Left.
Ctrl+R Align Right.
Ctrl+Shift+B Subscript.
Ctrl+Y Redo last action.
Ctrl+0 (zero) Apply Default paragraph style.
Ctrl+1 Apply Heading 1 paragraph style.
Ctrl+2 Apply Heading 2 paragraph style.
Ctrl+3 Apply Heading 3 paragraph style.
Ctrl+5 1.5 Line Spacing.
Ctrl+ Plus Key(+) Calculates the selected text and copies the result to the clipboard.
Ctrl+Hyphen(-) Custom hyphens; hyphenation set by you.
Ctrl+Shift+minus sign (-) Non-breaking dash (is not used for hyphenation).
Ctrl+multiplication sign * (only on number pad) Run macro field.
Ctrl+Space Non-breaking spaces. Non-breaking spaces are not used for hyphenation and are not expanded if the text is justified.
Shift+Enter Line break without paragraph change.
Ctrl+Enter Manual page break.
Ctrl+Shift+Enter Column break in multi-columnar texts.
Alt+Enter Inserting a new paragraph without numbering.
Alt+Enter Inserting a new paragraph directly before or after a section or a table.
Arrow Left Move cursor to left.
Shift+Arrow Left Move cursor with selection to the left.
Ctrl+Arrow Left Go to beginning of word.
Ctrl+Shift+Arrow Left Selecting to the left word by word.
Arrow Right Move cursor to right.
Shift+Arrow Right Move cursor with selection to the right.
Ctrl+Arrow Right Go to end of word.
Ctrl+Shift+Arrow Right Selecting to the right word by word.
Arrow Up Move up one line.
Shift+Arrow Up Selecting lines in an upwards direction.
Arrow Down Move cursor down one line.
Shift+Arrow Down Selecting lines in a downward direction.
Home Go to beginning of line.
Shift+Home Go and select to the beginning of a line.
End Go to end of line.
Shift+End Go and select to end of line.
Ctrl+Home Go to start of document.
Ctrl+Shift+Home Go and select text to start of document.
Ctrl+End Go to end of document.
Ctrl+Shift+End Go and select text to end of document.
Ctrl+PageUp Switch cursor between text and header.
Ctrl+PageDown Switch cursor between text and footer.
Insert Insert mode on/off.
PageUp Screen page up.
Shift+PageUp Move up screen page with selection.
PageDown Move down screen page.
Shift+PageDown Move down screen page with selection.
Ctrl+Del Delete text to end of word.
Ctrl+Backspace Delete text to beginning of word.
Ctrl+Shift+Del Delete text to end of sentence.
Ctrl+Shift+Backspace Delete text to beginning of sentence.
Ctrl+Tab Next suggestion with Automatic Word Completion.
Ctrl+Shift+Tab Use previous suggestion with Automatic Word Completion.
Alt+W Spell checker dialog: Call back the original unknown word into the text box.
Ctrl+ double-click or Ctrl+Shift+F10 Dock or un-dock the Navigator, Styles and Formatting window, or other windows.


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This Weekend

Well I am waiting for the birth of my newest grandson; this will make four grandsons and only one granddaughter. My wife has been with our daughter for the last two weeks.

I ran up to see her this weekend for her Birthday.

Somehow I still managed to get four pages written on the first book of the Elvin Lords series. I’ve got about 50 pages written in Microsoft Word on standard 8.5 x 11 page size. It still has a long way to go. This is the first of the series I shared with my future wife many years ago. She has been pushing me to get it done.  This one’s for you my love.

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11 month since my Stroke

It is said there is always someone worse off than us. September 30th makes eleven months since my stroke. As bad as it was for me I think of what Kat went through. I got a helicopter ride from beaver to Salt Lake. Kat however was on her own to drive not knowing what she would find. She stopped in Orem to pick up Jessica who finished the remaining hour drive to Salt Lake.

As for me I slept the next couple of days. While they told Kat I might never wake up.

When I arrived at the VA hospital’s rehab unit I found myself with several other stroke survivors that had all been there many months. Most didn’t get to go home for seven month or more. A month later I was home having progressed beyond any of them. I don’t know if I was the only member in the group but I was the only one who attended the Sacrament meeting offered at the hospital.

Kat was blessed to find a room at the Fisher house where she met with several other wives whose husbands were much worse off then I was. One woman whose husband was in late stage cancer having only days left to live. She forgot her troubles as she became a shoulder to cry on for these other women. Yes there are things I still can’t do and likely never will again be able to. But I am here. I have my loving wife and family and soon another grandson. Life is good. God never promised it would be easy only that it would be worth it and it is. Live may not be perfect but it is very good.

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It seems distractions are a part of life. There are always things we allow to distract us from what is really important. At home it may be the TV or worrying about how we are going to pay our bills that distract us from spending time with our family. At work it might be the Internet that pulls us away from performing our job duties. Studies show that Internet misuse is widespread with the most commonly visited sites are porn sites.

Yes it seems that we allow anything to distract us from an honest day’s work. I am working to become a writer as such I keep getting distracted pulled away from my goals. First I had a stroke, OK that’s not my fault but it has caused new distractions. I can’t work so I worry about money, how am I going to pay my bills. I try to come up with ideas to earn money but they take me away from writing. I’m working on a book but other ideas keep popping into my head, good ideas so I stop and sketch out the basics. Often, tasks that need done at home including honey do tasks keep popping into my head and I feel time would be better spent getting them done. I have the added problem that I am forgetful so when I think of something I either have to do something about it or I forget about it.

In the first of the Kavilion series the Elven Maiden Lady Jesillin is befriended by a Unicorn. Problem is I have no idea what kind of names unicorns have. So off I go onto the web searching for unicorn names. In the process I see something that looks interesting and off I go off on a distraction that has nothing to do with my writing. Next thing I know hours have passed and I’ve gotten nowhere in my writing.

What am I to do to keep me focused? A couple of tricks I’ve heard about

  1. Set aside a specific time to write and make sure everyone knows when it is.
  2. Find an area away from distractions, if possible a room where there is no TV and it is unlikely others will distract you.
  3. If thought interrupt, write them down then keep going, deal with them later.
  4. Do any research at the end of your scheduled writing time thus if you lose focus you’ve already written for the day so no big lose.
  5. Turn the cell phone off
  6. Work on a computer that doesn’t have internet access.

Here is my goal.

We have an area beside our house where the prior owner built a work shop. Currently we are using it for storage. My goal is to clean it out and turn it into my writing workshop. I have an old computer I can write on that doesn’t have Wi-Fi thus no internet distractions. It’s not part of the main house so I shouldn’t get distracted by family members asking me questions. All I need to do is get it set up. Sadly one more distraction. Lets  see how it goes.


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The Blessings of Modern Technology.

Isn’t modern technology great? I remember in 1990 going to the public library to type my resume on an IBM Selectric typewriter. If I made a mistake I started over. It took a long time to type my resume. Today I open up a word processor, type it up. modify it to look pretty, and print it out on a laser printer. So much easier, of course now you’re expected to personalize your resume for each job. Maybe things aren’t better after all.

For creative spellers like me, we have spell checker, and even autocorrect which changes common typo to what they should have been. Or more specifically what it thinks they should have been. I’ve discovered that the iPad autocorrect has a sick sense of humor. There are dozens of websites dedicated to autocorrect failures. Autocorrect is a good reason to reread what you typed.

Now days I can run through my document looking for things with either a red or green squiggly underline to see if they need to be fixed. It is a great time saver all too often I’ve put in the wrong verb tense or wrong word. Of course, as a creative speller, Spellchecker all too often just gives up on me and has no idea what I met to type. Leaving me either no suggestions or nothing close to what I want. All too often I fall back on the thesaurus entering in a meaning I can spell then hopping to find the word I wanted.

My dog Tristan is a Bichon Frise. The spell checker in word wants to change it to Bacon Fries, which are good by the way, but they aren’t my dog. True he would love them as much as I would but if I started telling everyone his breed was a Bacon Fries, they would look at me like I was insane. So much for spell checker.

As a writer I make up names all the time. Spell checker marks all these wrong so did I make a typo or did I get it right? One easy option is to “right click” on what I want the spelling to be and select “add to dictionary” this adds my made up word to my custom dictionary. However, now it’s always there even if I don’t want it. I use Microsoft Word which allows for the creation of custom dictionaries. I create a custom dictionary for each world or book. In word click on the flag in the upper left corner. Next at the bottom of the drop down menu click the “Word Options” button. In the new window click “proofing” on the left then the “Custom Dictionary” button. Now on the right click the “New” button  DON’T change the location Microsoft Word needs it to be there but give it a name that makes sense i.e. the book name. Then click OK. Now you have created the new dictionary which really is nothing more than a list of words. Sadly I can’t just start “right clicking” to add words to my new dictionary. I need to manually add them. The way to do this is to make sure my new dictionary is selected then on the right click “Edit Word List” top right. This will bring up a new window where I can type in each word clicking “add” to add the word to the list, I can also delete any mistakes or words I decide to change latter. I can even go in and change the words saved in the “Custom” dictionary Word uses by default. Once you’ve added the words you want click “OK” to close this window. Don’t worry you can always come back and add new words latter if needed. Now you are back to the list of dictionaries before leaving this page notice the check box to the left of each dictionary. This allows the dictionaries to be on or off as needed. For instance, when working on a book in the Kavilion series I turn on the “Kavilion” custom dictionary when I’m done I turn it off. Finally click on “OK” to close out of each window and save the changes you have made. That’s it nice and easy I have just removed all the red squiggles from under words I meant to type that way without needlessly filling up the default custom dictionary. I personally keep a excel spread sheet of names for each book. It allows me to keep the spelling and add a brief description so I don’t get confused on who’s who. I can then send this to my editor so they have a list of all the names.

Now with that done you can go back throw your document looking for all the squiggles fixing them as you go. DON’T make the mistake of thinking you’re done. Once you’ve fixed the obvious errors go back and look for the hidden ones. Mistakes not caught by spell checker or the grammar checker. Don’t just silently read through it in your mind read it aloud you will be surprised how much more you catch when you take the time to read it aloud. Do I catch every mistake? No of course not that’s why I need an editor badly.

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 A voyaging ship was wrecked during a storm at sea and only two of the men on it were able to swim to a small, desert like island. The two survivors, not knowing what else to do, agree that they had no other recourse but to pray to God.
However, to find out whose prayer was more powerful, they agreed to divide the territory between them and stay on opposite sides of the island.
The first thing they prayed for was food. The next morning, the first man saw a fruit-bearing tree on his side of the land, and he was able to eat its fruit. The other man’s parcel of land remained barren.
After a week, the first man was lonely and he decided to pray for a wife. The next day, another ship was wrecked, and the only survivor was a woman who swam to his side of the land. On the other side of the island, there was nothing. Soon the first man prayed for a house, clothes, more food. The next day, like magic, all of these were given to him. However, the second man still had nothing.
Finally, the first man prayed for a ship, so that he and his wife could leave the island. In the morning, he found a ship docked at his side of the island. The first man boarded the ship with his wife and decided to leave the second man on the island. He considered the other man unworthy to receive God’s blessings, since none of his prayers had been answered.
As the ship was about to leave, the first man heard a voice from heaven booming, “Why are you leaving your companion on the island?”
“My blessings are mine alone, since I was the one who prayed for them,” the first man answered. “His prayers were all unanswered and so he does not deserve anything.”
“You are mistaken!” the voice rebuked him. “He had only one prayer, which I answered. If not for that, you would not have received any of my blessings.”
“Tell me,” the first man asked the voice, “what did he pray for that I should owe him anything?”
“He prayed that all your prayers be answered.”
For all we know, our blessings are not the fruits of our prayers alone, but those of another praying for us. Remember this and always pray for others too!
– Author Unknown

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David Farland

I don’t normally do this but… In my recent posts I have reviewed one of David Farland’s books on writing as well copied from one of his newsletters. David is a great man, a wonderful writer, and a friend to new authors. David’s son was seriously injured this week in a long boarding accident. Things don’t look good for him. One his mother’s birthday they had to remove the 16 year old boy’s skull cap to relive pressure on the brain. Needless to say his medical bills are growing. I am asking all my friends to support the family by buying one of david farland’s books. Visit his Amazon Author page to find an interesting book. view his Runelords Page and Of Mice and Magic page.

If you believe in God please pray for David. his son. and family.

David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants—Taking Time for the Important Things

Taking Time for the Important Things


David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants—Taking Time for the Important Things

Today is April 4th, my wife’s birthday.  We normally take time to go out for the evening on her birthday, but tonight we have a viewing at a funeral and planned to spend time with family.

However, my son Ben had a longboarding accident in Snow Canyon last night, and sustained massive brain damage.  He’s in a coma, and our kids have come together to try to support him.

The point of today’s kick?  Writing is important, but family is more important.  Take time to hug your loved ones today and every day.  The story can wait until you get back.


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Resonance in Writing

ResonanceThis week I picked up David Farland’s book “Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing”I remember talking about resonance in physics and how sounds resonate with other sounds creating a more enjoyable sound than those that doesn’t. I never thought about resonance from writers prospective.

Having read this book I find it intimidating so much I never thought about. It has got me rethinking about all the names in my fantasy series; I’ll likely have to re think them. There is much more to resonance than just the names. How does it relate to our lives, to other things we’ve read, our loves and fears, etc. he even pointed out the importance of making a cover resonance with other covers. He uses an artist that has created covers for some of the great fantasy writers this even his covers brings resonance to readers of these other books.

Throughout the book he points out how Tolkien use resonance with his words, the story itself and even in the imagery. Tolkien was a master of resonance there is much to learn from his work.

I must confess I never read “The Lord of the Rings”. I read “The Hobbit” which I enjoyed I just never got into “The Lord of the Rings” I did read several other fantasy books and played Dungeons and Dragons for years even became a Dungeon Master. Much of my fantasy world comes from ADND (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) you could say I refined my world through my Role Playing. The story of Ferguson started out in a ADND game where I was a player. Ferguson a wizard Elf and his half elf Druid daughter became two of the main players in my Kavilion series.

I never went much with the ADND elves shorter than humans I always saw elves more like Tolkien tall splinter yet majestic. In many ways superior to humans. Aloft yet protectors of nature. My series also includes the Drow from R. A. Salvatore. Not that I have a Dirzzt. But I do have a Sylvan Elf that gets subdued by the dark elf in an effort to gain power and seek revenge. I guess I am already using some resonance and didn’t even know it.

There is much for a novice writer such as myself to learn from this work. I strongly recommend this to all inspiring writers. I wonder if this would have helped me with me reports in college.

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