Saturday, November 15, 2008

Problems and copy protection

A little more on my problem.
The hard disk itself is fine. The motherboard is toast. The logical solution is to replace the motherboard and go to work.

Unfortunately that runs square into Microsoft's copy protection fetish. If you replace the motherboard the operating system thinks its been loaded on a new computer, so it won't work until it is reauthorized by Microsoft. To get it reauthorized you need the OS serial number -- which I didn't get with the computer (remanufactured). So I'm stuck.

This has been very frustrating.


Thanks to computer problems posting "The Wizardry Recapitalized" has been serious disrupted.

In the last month I've had not one but two computers turn into expensive doorstops and discovered that my backups weren't recoverable. Wiz 6 is safely sitting on a hard drive on a dead computer.

It's going to take a fairly elaborate recovery process to get the novel back -- essentially I've got to take the hard drive out of the system, connect it temporarily to another box and download the data. One complication is that the drive is IDE and the box is probably going to use SATA. The other complication is Windows copy protection.

My tech says he can do it, but it's going to take time. In part because all this has put me seriously behind on my paying work and I'm just getting caught up on that.

Oh well. If it was easy everyone would do it.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chapters 10 and 11 are up

Okay, I just posted Chapters 10 and 11 of Wiz 6.

That's the good news. The bad news is that after this you're going to have to work. I had this first part of the novel pretty well done as an excerpt for the Baen Free Library (Note I said "pretty well" it still needs work). The rest of the book is a lot more fragmentary and organized by sub plots rather than in a continious narrative flow.

I'll start getting that up in a day or two.

Meanwhile, thanks for sticking with this.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Chapters 3-6 up

As promised, I'm now posting several chapters at a time. I just put up 3-6.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Feedback on Wiz 6

I'm beginning to get feedback on Wiz 6 and I'm going to modify some things in light of it.

First, of course, the postings, from the choice of web sites to the way things are arranged is at best crude. My initial efforts having fallen through, I wanted to get something up that would be fast and foolproof.

However I am going to try to make it better by providing links from chapter to chapter. That will be in the next week -- I hope.

Second, some of you have complained that the chapters are very short. And they are. The manuscript was divided to highlight the key scenes with the idea they would all appear at once. Posting a chapter at a time on the web divides the book into snippets that are just too small. So from now on I'm going to post larger sections -- probably several chapters at once.

The first batch will go up this weekend.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


A couple of folks have suggested that I accept donations for Wiz 6 The Wizardry Capitalized now that I've actually started posting it.

I appreciate the compliment, but I don't feel right taking money for something that isn't finished. However I do have another idea.

I've recently opened a CafePress store called Wiz Zumwalt Enterprises ( )where I'm selling T shirts, caps and stuff with sayings from the Wiz books, including some from Wiz 6. It's small so far. I've only got about a dozen items up, but it's going to grow as I coordinate with artists and others.

If you'd like to contribute something to the cause, visit and if anything strikes your fancy, purchase it.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

And Chapter 3 is up!

Just posted chapter 3 of the Wizardry Capitalized.

As I said, the first 20,000 words -- eight or 10 chapters -- are in pretty good shape. Then the fun begins.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chapter 2 is up

A little more time now so I posted the second chapter.

The first 20,000 words or so are pretty coherent. After that things get rockier. Total words are about 72,000 and I'll post one or two chapters every few days to a week for right now. Later, if I have to do more work before posting, it may slow down.

Feel free to let people know the site is finally, at last up at a temporary home.

--Rick Cook


Well, it's finally up.
The first chapter of "The Wizardry Capitalized" is finally up. The temporary URL is

I say temporary because I still intend to move this to my home page on Hostmonster as soon as I work out some more details.

Even as temporary it's unfinished. There are two copies of Chapter 1 on the site now and I don't have time to figure out how to delete one of them. That will come in the next day or so.

Meanwhile, you can start reading. I'll be posting new chapters every few days.

Oh yeah, be sure to read the Apology.

And thanks for your patience

--Rick Cook

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Back to work

Well, I got the medical problem cleared up and I'm back to work on the Duke.
This chapter is taking a little longer because it's harder to write. The characters have an emotional problem and I'm having to slog through it.

But soon. Soon...

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hanging Fire

I've run into a strange little problem -- health related -- that has slowed things down for a few days. It should be resovled this week and then I'll get on with posting Wiz 6

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Yet Another Progress (or lack of it) Report

I'm moving ahead on this, but I've run into some annoying problems which are delaying things for a few days. I hope to have the first stuff up in a week or so.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Plot vs Structure

Plot and structure are similar but very different at the same time. Both have a vital role to play in a work of fiction.

Basically, plot is what happens, structure is how you tell the reader about it.

Plot is linear. Structure isn't, or doesn't have to be. Structure should be chosen to reinforce plot. In other words you decide how to tell your story (structure) to get maximum impact from the sequence of events (plot).

Because structure is non linear you can use devices like flashbacks to tell your story out of order. This is very handy if you want to shoot the sheriff on the first page but you have a lot leading up to the shooting that the reader has to understand.

Structure also involves such things as viewpoint (who's telling the story). Different viewpoints have different effects on the impact on the reader. Viewpoint is an important way of controlling the pace of your story. By intercutting scenes from different plot threads you can build excitement, fill in background the hero may not know, and move your story along.

For a good example of this see Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising, an alternate history account of a Soviet invasion of Europe. Clancy's story spreads from Iceland to Moscow and he cuts back and forth between the characters (usually on chapter boundaries) to build suspense and keep the story rolling in spite of the amount of background material involved. James Clavell also made excellent use of shifting viewpoints in Shogun a novel of feudal Japan. The technique is especially helpful in long books -- which both "Red Storm" and "Shogun" are.

First person ("I did this...") is generally the most powerful, but the hardest to do throughout an entire work because you're limited to what your character knows at the time. That's why it is often mixed with either multiple first persons (hard to keep straight for the reader sometime), or first person and third person where the main part of the story is told through the protagonist's eyes and the supporting material, such as what other characters do when the protagonist isn't present.

Structure deserves careful consideration when you're plotting (actually plotting and structuring) your fiction, especially novels.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Almost there

I know this is dragging on to a silly extent, but we've almost got something. I've got to get a couple of more things unscrewed and then you'll be able to start reading.

(Why does this remind me of the first computer program I ever wrote? It took me about 12 or 14 iterations to get it to run and I was getting pretty frustrated by the end.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Mountain Is Still In Labor...

Well, I continue to make progress on getting The Wizardry Capitalized up. However to no one's surprise, there are a few little glitches along the way.

Right now I've got memory problems. Not my computer's, mine.

Although I deal with web design, usability and such constantly as a tech journalist, it's been years since I've actually had to put a site up. I have done it. I used to be able to do it. But I don't remember all the grubby little details.

This is almost as frustrating as not being able to write fiction. I know pretty clearly what I want to do, and it's a simple site. But getting the stuff in the right place is just not happening.

It doesn't help that the native web building application on HostMonster is quite literally unusable for me. The morons who designed the program didn't make provision for moving the window around on t he screen. It's fixed at the bottom of the screen where the last few lines -- including the boxes you have to click on to make things happen -- are unreachable.

Instead I'm using KompoZer, a Mozillafied version of NVU. It's free and a decent WYSIWYG page builder (modulo all that "WYSIWYG page builder implies). So far I like it for what I'm doing, but since its not the standard Hostmonster page builder app, I can't get much help from HostMonster's support staff. So I'm stuck trying to find other sources of help.

(BTW: The HostMonster support people, with whom I have developed a close personal relationship, are quite good, in my experience. They not only speak excellent English, they're patient and they know their stuff. A win for HostMonster, IMHO)

Normally I'd get by with some help from my friends. Unfortunately, one of my best friends for this purpose -- the model for Jerry in the Wiz books -- is in a rehabilitation center recovering from a serious traffic accident. (When you weigh as much as he does, even a broken leg is life threatening.) Another of my friends is in the middle of the long, hard grind to take the next series of MSCE exams. Others are tied up with projects personal and professional and so it goes.

However someone has suggested a friend of theirs who is apparently pretty good. I'll contact her tomorrow and see if we can get something going.

Well, hell. If it was easy anyone could do it.


Monday, July 14, 2008

And Some More New Stuff -- Coming Soon

While Wiz 6 moves ahead, I've got another project in the works. No, not another novel, but something I think at least some of you will find interesting.

Let's just say it is an attempt to capitalize on my somewhat warped worldview in an entertaining fashion.

I'll tell you about it here once I'm ready to launch. That should be not too long after the first chapters of Wiz 6 go up.



and the ridiculous mouse comes into view.

I am finally getting ready to start posting Wiz 6 -- The Wizardry Capitalized.
When I say getting ready, I mean I've got a web site ( with HostMonster, I've got the (very crude) page designs worked out and the front matter written.

Now all I've got to do is link the pages and upload them. (I think that's all I've got to do.) If so, I'll probably do it tonight or tomorrow.

Ah, the valor of ignorance. But I'll keep you posted.


Friday, May 30, 2008


Commercial fiction writing today is a hybrid because it is both a money-making endeavor (I refuse to call it a "business") and a means of creative expression. When professional fiction writers get together they tend to talk a lot about things like marketing.
I've been talking with fellow writers a lot recently about changes in the market and how to respond to them.

Quite simply, if you're going to write for money you can't ignore the marketing and commercial aspects of your work. However no matter how commercial you are you've got to complete what you write in order to get paid for it.

If you're not really, truly interested in what you're writing you're unlikely to complete it. If you don't finish it you can't sell it.

This, incidentally, is one of the problems with writing pornography for money. Back in the days when there was still a booming market for "stroke books" nearly every writer considered writing them and not a few tried. After all, the money was almost decent and how hard could it be?

For most writers it was very hard indeed. The problem is that very few of us are than interested in pornography (at least to write) and it quickly tends to become a death market. Writers who tried it found that porn was excruciating boring to write. Some managed to get through one book. Very, very few managed two or more.

The market, fortunately or unfortunately, is no more; killed by the amateur porn on the internet. (Which, be it noted, is often of higher quality than the average stroke book.) However the principle applies. You can see it today in the occasional writer from other genres to decides to try his or her hand at writing romances. The ones who aren't really, truly interested in romances can't stick it out. And because they don't have the interest they produce lousy romances.

Which leads to a critical question for any writer contemplating a book-length project: Will this hold my interest? If the answer is no, don't try it. No matter how commercial the project is and no matter how mercenary you are.

This isn't just a matter of a burst of enthusiasm in the beginning. That's easy and will get you through maybe 10,000 words. It's keeping your interest in what you're doing over the long haul.

Nearly every writer goes through a stage in a book -- usually about 60 percent through -- where the enthusiasm has evaporated and the thing becomes a slog. It can be a real death march, worse than any programming marathon. You've got to have the internal resources to get through that period and if the story and the characters don't grab you you're not going to make it..

Wiz 6 Update

Well, the project is definitely still on. But it's taking a little longer than I thought it would.

For one thing the manuscript is a bigger mess than I remembered. The first 20,000 words or so are pretty much in rough draft form, basically clean and narratively connected, but the rest is pretty bad. I'm not really writing any more but I am trying to clean things up.

This is taking time. More than I imagined. (You know how it is: The First 90 percent of a project takes 90 percent of the time and the last 10 percent takes the other 90 percent of the time.) However I'm pushing forward with it as I can and I will have it up -- as they say in fandom -- Real Soon Now.

I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to comment on this idea. Your enthusiasm has kept me going through a couple of rough patches. And I want to assure you that it will be rewarded.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Well, it's going to happen.

The stillborn version of Wiz 6, "The Wizardry Capitalized" will be going up on my web site (still being established) sometime in the next 30 days.

It's taking me longer than expected in part because I've got a little work to do before this thing is ready to post even in an incomplete form. There were also some considerations in getting the web site hosted, but that's another story.

I'll keep everyone posted

--Rick Cook

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Since a number of people are interested in seeing the last Wiz book -- Wiz 6, "The Wizardry Capitalized", I am going to post it. It will start going up in the next 30 days.

There are still some details to be worked out, notably where I'm going to post it. My original thought was to put it up as a blog, but several people pointed out that's not ideal. Currently I'm leaning to setting up its own web site or putting up on my still-to-be-completed personal/fiction web site. I'll let you know as I work out the details.

A couple of folks asked about how you have a medical condition that lets you write non-fiction and keeps you from writing fiction. The answer is depressingly simple.

For me fiction has always been a lot harder than non-fiction. It takes much more mental effort and I find I can't do it unless I'm at the peak of my game. And of course I'm no longer at the peak of my game because of the health problems.

This isn't universally true, please note. A lot of writers can write fiction, even very good fiction, when quite impaired. How in the world some of them write good stuff when drunk, drugged, etc. is utterly beyond me and I have a perverse admiration for anyone who can do it. But I can't. I keep trying but so far no luck.

It's worth noting that I had a long and successful career in nonfiction before I wrote my first piece of salable fiction and I've always been able to turn out roughly ten times as much nonfiction as fiction.

Does this mean my fiction career is forever and totally at an end? Well, I've learned never to say never, and I do keep trying. But so far no luck.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Smell is one of the most powerful of all our senses. The pity is that most writers spend almost no time on the smells of their worlds.

While sight is far more important to humans than smell, smell has the ability to evoke emotions and memories like no other sense. If you can convey the smell of a thing to your readers you can make it come alive in their minds.

This isn't easy, which may be why it is so effective. Our vocabulary of smell words is limited and most of us have more trouble "visualizing" a smell than a sight or a sound.

And of course as with any sense impression the more concrete and specific the language the more vividly the impression is conveyed. In the case of smells this usually means a lot of hard work.

But then hard work is what makes good writing in general.