Category Archives: Writing

My NaNoWriMo 2018 Effort is Over

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I have had an interest in trying to write for some time. This year, I decided to make a commitment and try my hand during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month). Some 58,000 words later I have wrapped up my very rough first draft.

This has been a fun adventure for me. Now all I have to do is spend some time, a lot of time, editing and polishing what I have written. In the meantime, I can get back to posting more and getting out and exploring more of Singapore.

Fifty Word Fantasy: Trick and Treat

Reading – A great Flash Fiction for Halloween

Aethereal Engineer

Old Mrs. Emmons accepted the candy gift. “Oh! I always wanted to go trick-or-treating, but my father hated Halloween…”

She ate the caramel, felt dizzy, and then was as young as the little witch handing her a pumpkin bucket and black cat costume.

“Then let’s not waste tonight, Mrs. Emmons!”

Copyright © 2018 by Jason H. Abbott, All Rights Reserved.

Discover more of my Fifty Word Fantasies.

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NaNoWriMo is About to Start – Count Your Words in Pages

Tech Tips – NaNoWriMo begins November 1. Are you ready?

Haven’t heard about NaNoWriMo? That stands for “National Novel Writing Month” which is November of every year. As their website states:

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

If you happen to be using a Mac or iPad and the included Pages software to write your novel, how do you keep track of the words you have set down? That is easy on both devices.


On your Mac:

Open Pages to the document where you are writing your novel

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Select View in the Menu bar, then Show Word Count

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Now at the bottom of your window will appear the running word count in your document.


On your iPad 

  1. Open Pages to the document where you are writing your novel


Click on the View Options icon in the Menu Bar

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In the drop-down menu, click the slider switch to enable Word Count to be displayed. Once that is done, the document statistics will be displayed in a small bubble at the top of the page. The default, as shown above, is Page Count.


Now click on that Page Count bubble and you get another drop-down menu to chose which statistic about the document you wish to display. Click on Words.


Now the Word Count will be displayed at the top of the screen while you are in the document.

See my other Mac/OS X and iOS articles


Do You Know the Difference Between a Short Story, a Novelette, a Novella, ​and a Novel?


Reading – As you know if you follow my Blog, I read a lot. Some short stories, a few novellas, but mostly novels. But having said that, what does that really mean? I have had the general notion of what a short story, a novella, and a novel are, but I wondered if there was some sort of official definition.

When I looked at “Word Count” in Wikipedia what I see is this definition:

Classification Word Count
Novel 40000 or more
Novella 17500 – 39999
Novelette 7500 – 17499
Short Story less than 7500

These are actually the classifications used by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for each category of its Nebula award, so not exactly an official definition. Elsewhere I have read that The New Yorker in 2012, defined the novella as being between roughly 20,000 and 40,000 words[1].

Classification Word Count
Novel 55000 – 300000
Novella 30000 – 50000
Short Story 1500 – 30000


I see where Writer’s Digest has these slightly different classifications [1,2]. Then there is also the even smaller classification of Flash Fiction for works from 53 to 1000 words [3, 4]. Others classify a Novella as 20000 to 50000 [4].

Regardless of which classification you choose to follow, these do give general guidelines for the length of various works. So the National Novel Writing Month goal of 50000 words written during the month of November abides by these classifications. Are you going to sign up and try your hand during NANOWRIMO this year?


  1. What Is the Difference Between a Novella and a Short Story?
  2. What Is the Difference Between Novels, Novellas & Short Stories?
  3. Differences Between a Short Story, Novelette, Novella, & a Novel
  4. Short Story, Novella, Novel – what’s the difference?

Interview with Author Michael A. Rothman


Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the science fiction thriller “Primordial Threat”. After my review, I was able to contact the author, Michael A. Rothman, and arrange an interview with him

= = =

Myself: When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Rothman: I was a reluctant writer. It started with my kids. I used to tell them stories at night, mostly made up epic fantasy stories and to keep things straight, I began writing the ideas down so I could read it the next day, week, month. Eventually, that turned into entire books.

Myself: What is the first piece that you remember writing?

Rothman: The first stories turned into the “Prophecies Series” and it was well received by others. I’d note that the two kids in those stories are named Ryan and Aaron. It isn’t a coincidence that those are the names of my kids.

Myself: I am sure that they have been thrilled with being the ‘stars’ in that series. What is your academic and work background?

Rothman: I have advanced degrees in STEM disciplines. I’m not publicly specific about which disciplines, because nowadays, what I write is deeply technical, but written so as to make science approachable by all. And if I were to say I’m a botanist, or biologist or whatever – that in some people’s minds would lend credibility in one discipline but take away from others.

Let’s just say I’m an expert on the sciences and have friends in academia. I always vet the science I write about, whether it’s by my own knowledge/research or others.

Myself: I am glad to hear that you too come from a STEM background. What part of the world do you currently live in?

Rothman: Pacific Northwest of the US. I have lived in many parts of the US and world.

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Rothman: Cooking and hanging out with my family.

Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?

Rothman: In my younger days, I used to compete at table tennis (ping pong). Yes, even played at the US open eons ago.

Myself: That is an interesting tidbit about yourself. What’s the first book you remember reading for yourself?

Rothman: The Hobbit

Myself: You set the bar high with your first read. Did you read much growing up?

Rothman: All the time

Myself: What have you read recently?

Rothman: I rarely read for pleasure nowadays, but more for research. I’ve been reading a lot of Child, Cussler, and recently got turned onto a fun series called the Bobiverse.

Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?

Rothman: As a child, epic fantasy and science fiction. Nowadays, I read SF and thrillers. Tolkien, of course, was one of my formative authors, as was Asimov. Now, I really enjoy Baldacci, Child, and Cussler.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Rothman: Nowadays, I “read” during my commute. Which means audiobooks are my friends.

Myself: Do you strictly listen to audiobooks now? Do you read books on paper or eBooks?

Rothman: Audiobooks all the way. Otherwise, I do have a weak spot for paperbacks.

Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Rothman: I’ve always had an abundance of ideas, which usually leaks out in my work. I’ve simply added other venues for the ideas, such as writing.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Rothman: Dominate the world?

In all seriousness, to be read by as many as possible – and to make reading enjoyable for more people. I want to have science be approachable and interesting to those who might not otherwise find it interesting.

One of the best compliment I ever received was, “I felt like I’d learned things after reading Primordial Threat.”

Myself: Bringing a better understanding of science to readers is both a worthy goal and admirable accomplishment. Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Rothman: I’m sure there is, but I don’t try to emulate anyone. I’m sort of a good idea thief. If I like certain approaches or ideas in a book I’m reading, I’ll almost certainly adopt it for my own purposes.

I suppose I’m a reflection of my reading, as are many authors.

Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Rothman: I write mostly SF and thrillers today. I enjoy those tales because it allows me to mix action/adventure with technology.

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Rothman: An abundance of God-given creativity.

Myself: Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Rothman: Rough outline and then pantsing from there on in.

Myself: What is your schedule like when you are writing?

Rothman: Usually awake at 5am write for two hours and then head to work. And weekends a bit more time. That usually allows me to create/edit two full-sized novels a year.

Myself: Completing two novels per year is an impressive writing regimen. About how long does it take you to complete a first draft? How long do your revisions take?

Rothman: First draft two months. Revisions four months.

Myself: How much research do you put into a novel?

Rothman: A LOT.

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Rothman: Microsoft word.

Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Rothman: Starting and ending a writing session. Both are the hardest and easiest.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Rothman: You’ll write a million words before you start to be good. Get started, and don’t give up.

Myself: What novels/works have you published?

Rothman: I have seven books published, though anyone looking will only find two under M.A. Rothman, since my focus is thriller and SF.

I wrote under my full name Michael A. Rothman a series of YA novels that are epic fantasy for my kids to enjoy.

Myself: What are you currently working on?

Rothman: Working on a book for the second half of 2019.

I will release one SF/technothriller and one mainstream thriller a year. I’ve already completed the book coming out in the first half of 2019, it’s a medical thriller known as “Darwin’s Cipher”.


Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Rothman: They should contact me through my website

How to Read While You Write

Reading – I came across a couple of interesting YouTube videos today. These together give 12 suggestions as to why you should read while you are writing, but also how you can work reading into your writing schedule.

While I have yet (I keep wanting to start, just haven’t made the time yet) begun to try and write myself, I thought these young ladies had some good ideas in general on how to read more.

The first video is by Emily Bourne.

The second video is by Katie Wilson.

As NANOWRIMO 2018 is rapidly approaching, perhaps I will take advantage of some of Emily’s YouTube post on how to write and get myself prepared for a running start when NANOWRIMO begins November 1.

Interview with Author Taylor Anderson

Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the Alternate History Thriller “River of Bones”. After I published my review, I was able to contact the author, Taylor Anderson, for an interview.

Taylor Anderson Author Photo

Myself: Your first novel “Into the Storm” was published in 2008. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Anderson: I’ve always loved to write.  I don’t even know what got me interested in it, but I’ve dabbled at it ever since I was a kid.  I like to tell stories and describe experiences and I guess it just started as an extension of that.  Life got in the way, alas, and writing of any sort went on the back burner for many years until I suddenly found myself with a “gap” I could fill, and I spent it writing the first Destroyermen yarn–INTO the STORM.  Much to my surprise and wonder, it took off.

Myself: What part of the world do you live in?

Anderson: I’m a Texan to the bone and I live out in the country near a relatively small Texas town called Granbury.  It’s too hot in the summer, (used to it, but never liked it), but the winters are usually mild and make up for the summers rather nicely.

Myself: I have lived in Texas most of my life and have spent the last 45+ years in Central Texas so I can relate to the heat. How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Anderson: Wow.  How much room do we have here?  I like to do all sorts of things–some of which are not particularly relaxing, but they do reduce stress.  I love to go sailing, hunting, and fishing, and I like to build everything from model ships to houses.  Oh, and I like to shoot real, full-scale cannons.  I have an 1841 6pdr and a 3″ Ordnance Rifle, both of which have been in a few movies, but I really enjoy shooting them live in long-range competitions.

Myself: That is quite the unusual hobby. What’s the first book you remember reading for yourself?

Anderson: Racking my brain, I have to say it was one of three; Heinlein’s “Farmer in the Sky,” “Red Planet,” or Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”  All were read at about the same time when I was in the first grade.  (My family has always been obsessed with reading, and I started very early).  Likewise, my daughter read “Treasure Island” and Patrick O’Brian’s “Unknown Shores” when she was in the first or second grade as well.

Myself: Those, particularly The Hobbit”, are awesome reads for the First Grade. I am impressed to hear that your daughter is following in those footsteps. What have you read recently?

Anderson: I just finished David Weber’s “At the Sign of Triumph,” and Simon Scarrow’s “Centurion.”  Currently, I’m going back over Ballentine’s “A British Soldier in the American Army,” and “Rebels under Sail.”  I’ll read a toothpaste tube if I can’t find anything else.

Myself: What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?

Anderson: I don’t have a “favorite” genre, probably one of the main reasons D-Men touches so many.  I like almost everything.  I’ll avidly read dusty old manuals and blueprints, horror, history of all sorts, historical fiction, space opera, “action/adventure,” even a little paranormal stuff.  I think that’s why I love writing D-Men so much because I’m able to incorporate almost everything I’m interested in into one big story, from hard history to Sci-Fi, and speculative natural philosophy to military action.  Most people categorize D-Men as “alternate history,” and there are aspects of that in the plot, but I think “Historical Military Science Fiction–with some other stuff” is probably more accurate.  Ha!

Myself: I have to agree that the Destroyermen series is more than simply another alternative History tale. Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?

Anderson: I had a Nook–till I accidentally killed it–and I have a Kindle.  Both are very convenient and I use the (still living) Kindle a lot.  All the same, I probably still prefer a “real” book in my hands.  Just old-fashioned, I guess.  I’ve listened to most of the performances Bill Dufris has done of my books–he’s amazing–but don’t have a chance to listen to anything very often.

Myself: What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Anderson: That goes back to why I started writing in the first place; I simply love to tell stories and relate adventures, and the D-men Series tells a yarn I love to write at least as much as anyone likes to read it.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Anderson: I’m hooked now.  Writing is what I do, and I expect to keep at it till I fall off the twig.

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing? Of course!

Anderson: Everything and everyone I’ve read!  Beyond that, I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by real heroes and to meet many more in my life.  Their lives and experiences have influenced me more than I can say.

Myself: What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Anderson: Ahh, that’s tough to answer.  Sometimes the “hardest” things just flow, and parts I expect to be “easy” can be excruciating to write.  As far as my process is concerned, probably the most difficult thing for me to do is to keep everything straight!

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Anderson: It sounds trite, I know, but basically, “keep plugging.”  Don’t get discouraged, and above all, finish it and send it off!  Don’t get mired down in self doubt and fear of rejection.  Also, though I think you have to love the story you’re telling, don’t fall in love with your words.  They’re just tools to TELL your story, no matter how pretty or literary they might seem.  I kill words with bloody abandon when I’m editing.

Myself: You have 13 books published in your Destroyermen series so far. What are you currently working on?

Anderson: The NEXT installment in the Destroyermen Series, of course!

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Anderson: I love hearing from fans on my facebook page and website, and I will almost ALWAYS respond–if someone else doesn’t beat me to it!




macOS New App Release – Notelist 4.0


Product AnnouncementTension Software of Milano, Italy has released Notelist 4.0 allows to manages notes and store data in a free format using color categories. NoteList is a free format notes collector where you can save notes in text or RTF format with images included. You can even copy and paste website from safari and they will be saved as RTF with images embedded.

In Notelist any note has an assigned category, where each category has a distinctive color and label, this allows to identify the content of notes at the first sight. Categories are editable as the user needs and they give to the user the main instrument to catalog and browse notes inside a document. The user can create and manage how many categories he needs inside any document and apply them to notes.

Notes can be filtered and sorted by name, content, category, creation and modification date. Selecting a note from the table shows the note in detail. The user can edit and modify the selected note at any time. Any Notelist documents remember all these setting also after successive relaunches.

Any note can be modified and edited, dragging and dropping images from the finder and applying font, style, and size as in a true word processor. Various tools are available to manipulate text, search and replace, rules, spelling. At any time a note can be converted to a text-only format.

NoteList it’s ideal to manage a high number of notes inside a single document, even when the size of any note is very large. Any text or RTF or rtfd file can be imported as a note simply dragging it from the finder to the list of notes.

NoteList is macOS 10.13 optimized. NoteList allows users to specify a default startup document to open at the application launch (for frequently used notes).


  • Document-based, allows managing your data in more than one file
  • Any document can contain an unlimited number of notes
  • Saves document always with auto recovery on
  • Allows having notes in any format: TEXT, RTF, RTFD (RTF images)
  • Can concatenate user selected notes in a single text, sending the resulting text both to clipboard or to disk, all in one click!
  • Copy and Paste from Safari preserves formatting and links
  • Full set of tools for formatting and working with text as in a word processor
  • Drag and Drop of images directly inside a document note to embed it.
  • Dragging and dropping a TXT, RTF, RTFD file creates a new note inside the document
  • Color label categories to help organize all your notes
  • Fast internal search as you type and by category
  • Sort in a list by Creation Date and Modification Date
  • Remembers search terms used
  • Any documents remember settings over re-launch
  • macOS 10.13 optimized with Resume, Auto Save, Versions, Full screen, Sandbox
  • Embedded PDF user guide accessible from the Help Menu.

What’s New in this Version:

  • Better editable rich text zones with rules and search in place inside notes
  • Improved list table with now also editable state
  • An improved command to manage rules and other text tools in all the notes
  • The improved modern search algorithm for notes and categories
  • Find can now remember a list of used terms (saved pressing return)
  • Improved export functions
  • Improved management of multiple notes at once with commands applying to all
  • Various bug fixes
  • Code optimizations

Pricing and Availability:
Notelist 4 is just $9.99 USD (or an equivalent amount on other currencies) and is available worldwide through the Mac App Store. The app is also available through the Tension Software website.

Interview with Author Dan Jayson

A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the thriller “The Last Squadron“. As a result of my review, I was contacted by the author, Dan Jayson, and have been able to interview him.

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Myself: I want to express my thanks to you for doing this interview. First, a little bit about your background. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Jayson: I guess since I was old enough to read and write. Then one day I thought okay – I am going to start, so I sat down and wrote the first line. Why that day? I do not know, maybe I was just looking for a new challenge.

Myself: What is your academic and work background?

Jayson: I am a chartered professional engineer and a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineers and served for a while in the British Territorial Army. I have been lucky enough to have lived and worked all over the world and spent many months offshore on underwater construction vessels in some remote places.

Myself: What part of the world do you live in now?

Jayson: My family and I currently live in south-west London.

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Jayson: I love being with family and friends, and enjoy military history, diving, walking, and skiing.

Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?

Jayson: I am married with four children, and am a little worried that we are trashing the planet!

Myself: Do you see Fiction, and more specifically Science Fiction, as a way to educate and persuade people from that path?

Jayson: Yes – I think science fiction / fiction books, plays, and films can influence people to effect change. If you can draw someone into a story and make it memorable then perhaps some scenes and themes will become “decision triggers” in real life. Maybe the events portrayed in The Last Squadron might persuade a few people to take more interest in some of the conflicts that have been bubbling away for decades now and pressure our governments to work together in a common framework to stop the misery.

Myself: I wanted to ask about you as a reader. What is the first book you remember reading by yourself?

Jayson: One of the ‘Hornblower’ novels.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Jayson: Yes continuously although – I remember I stopped for little after reading the Exorcist which terrified me!

Myself: What have you read recently?

Jayson: Winston Churchill’s Second World War – Volume 1.

Myself: That’s quite a change from “The Exorcist”. Do you have a favorite genre? book? character? author?

Jayson: I do not think I have one, how much you enjoy any book I think can depend on your mood and environment. Every book has something to offer – as a reader you get to devour in a few days what an author has sometimes spent years writing – that is special.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Jayson: Just about anywhere! At this very moment, I think it would have to be on a sun lounger outside on a hot day.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks?

Jayson: I like paperbacks – there is something personal about them – I don’t know why – maybe its because they are tactile? You can scrunch them up and even tear out pages as you go if you need to share the book with a friend.

Myself: Now a little about you as an author. What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Jayson: I wanted to write an adventure story that was realistic, entertaining, captured some of the great traits of humanity and shone a light on some of our worst aspects.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Jayson: I would like to write a second novel, I just need to get the time!

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Jayson: Both my time offshore and in the Army influenced my writing – when you are part of a small team in a harsh environment and trying to accomplish a specific task, the resulting comradery and humor are quite special. In addition, the film directors James Cameron and Ridley Scott were an influence, I loved Alien, Aliens, and Black Hawk Down – their attention to technical detail, often-portraying equipment as “scuffed and used” is something I tried to replicate.

Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Jayson: I wanted to write something I would enjoy – something that was plausible, gritty, realistic, and panoramic. This was the best I could come up with!

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Jayson: The ideas came from disparate and often unconnected sources. So as an example, I saw a documentary about the Black Plague and the residents of the English village called Eyam, and this, coupled with an article I had read a few years before about gene fabrication gave me the idea to create a fairly nasty man-made virus. As another example, whilst we were living in Paris we visited the Palace of Versailles several times. It was on one of these trips that I thought wow … what would a firefight look like in here?

Myself: Do you work from an outline of your plot, or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Jayson: I do not think I had any preconceived approach, I started with a couple of rather disparate scenes as pegs in the ground and then let the characters and events just lead me.

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Jayson: Just a laptop and a printer – I basically just bulldoze words onto the laptop then print out what I’ve written, read it, cross out huge tracts, add notes then redo it. I am sure there are better ways but …

Myself: Well, I think that with ‘productivity’ tools and processes, the best one is the one that works for you. What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Jayson: The hardest thing is starting the first line, after that, it is easy to write but a pain to edit.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Jayson: Just write the first line – you will be hooked and it will always call you back to write another!

Myself: Now a little bit about your works. What novels/works have you published?

Jayson: Just this one novel – I do not really count engineering technical papers as of interest!

Myself: I have to agree. From my experience, technical papers have been far easier to write than fiction. What are you currently working on?

Jayson: Am thinking about another novel – but am currently working on several projects relating to underwater salvage as well as trying to launch a small business.

Myself: I will certainly keep a lookout for your future works. What else would you like to share?

Jayson: I do hope anyone who reads The Last Squadron enjoys it!

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Jayson: Anyone is welcome to get in touch on twitter @danjayson. I would love to hear any feedback.