Monthly Archives: June 2016

That’s Why I Need YOU

That’s Why I Need YOU

A while back I felt it click on – the single-minded desire that I have experienced, off and on, for most of my life.

“I want to be a writer.” I thought, “I want to spend a majority of the rest of my days on this Earth writing stories and sharing them with others.”

I realized I was tired of wasting time. I had put it off in the face of economic upheaval, life changes, and more – way too often. And it was time to change that.

And so I have begun to lay the groundwork.

You are going to see a LOT of my posts centering around my writing. Feel free to unfriend me on FB if it becomes too much. I know it isn’t for everyone. It is a line I walk, trying not to be obnoxious about promoting my writing, but also not languishing in obscurity.

I will be posting about free days, discounted days, my reviews, my stats, and my word counts regularly.

I will also continue to offer pdf copies of my books to anyone who asks (and often doesn’t ask) because I want to spread the word.

I am a one woman, writer, publisher, and marketer. I get to do it all!

Look at it this way. If it ever does take off When I am noticed, I’ll shut up and spend my days writing.

I hear the argument, “You spent time writing this book, you should be paid for it.”

And yes, I agree. I would LOVE to make money writing!

However, due to my relatively unknown status in the writing world, the choice becomes:

  • Sell my books to a small handful of loyal friends and get a small handful of corresponding reviews

OR

  • Give my books away to a crapload of people and eventually receive a large number of reviews which will bring me to the attention of MILLIONS more readers.

Guess which one I’m going to go with?!

So if you email me and say, “I would really like to read and review your new book, Gliese 581: Departure.” I will happily send you an electronic copy.

And if you were to read that book and think, “Well, damn, that wasn’t half bad, I’d like to read War’s End: The Storm. Tell me, and I will happily send you that book.

And the same for War’s End: A Brave New World

And the same for my two non-fiction books:

Get Organized, Stay Organized

The War on Drugs: An Old Wives Tale

I know you don’t all want to read the books on your computer. That’s cool, I get that.

However, until I can make this into a successful writing career, there are only so many paperback copies I can buy and send out to folks who don’t have Kindle or a computer to read it on.

I hope you understand.

So if you want to read any of my five books that are currently out, let me know!

And if you know anyone who wants to read and review them, send me their email.

For me to get the word out and see that I manage to get as much as exposure as possible, thereby increasing my chances of eventually seeing some sort of income from my writing, I need YOU.

I need your reviews posted on Amazon.

I need you to drop my name to everyone you can think of.

I’m in this for the long haul, folks, but damn, this is hill is STEEP!

Follow me on Amazon here.

Sign up to be an official book reviewer here.

Or just get all of my blog posts once a month in one handy location by receiving my newsletter.

It Isn’t All Sunshine and Rainbows

It Isn’t All Sunshine and Rainbows

I want to be clear, that what I say next, needs no helpful advice on your part. Feel free to read it, and then carry on with your day.

So, after spending something like the fourth day in a row, drilling out words on the page, ticking off the “to do” labels and watching my word count surge from a few hundred at the beginning of last week all the way to over 30k today, I was on top of the world.

I even managed to net two more reviews on Gliese 581: Departure, bringing my total up to thirteen total reviews.

You know, someday I’m going to read that number and just smile and smile, folks.

I was feeling good, feeling ready to take on the world. If you read my last post, I think my enthusiasm was quite evident.

I drove off to a playdate, and as I drove home, the thought occurred…

I’m writing the Chronicles of Liv Rowan series next – and it ranges from 2001-2016 – but then there is War’s End, which starts at the end of 2017. I’ve dated myself, haven’t I? People are going to read this and be like, “that was so last year.”

And on and on. In fact, I spent most of my twenty minute drive trying my best to NOT think about it. My foot kept pressing down on the accelerator. I needed to get home, get back in front of the computer and break the cycle of self-doubt before it took hold.

I got home, stared at the computer, and began the loop that I do when I’m feeling full of self-doubt or angst:

  • Check Facebook
  • Check email
  • Check Amazon stats
  • Check website stats
  • Look for more reviews of my book
  • Read through the reviews I’ve got
  • Check Facebook
  • Check email

You know, the loop.

A non-productive, increasingly obsessive loop of pointless pointing and clicking.

The same, non-active, busywork I typically engage in when I can’t figure out what to write.

Worse, it’s indicative of that steep dip – in productivity, belief in self, the works.

I recently read about a guy who says that one of the best way to power through these dips or, dare I say writer’s blocks, is to write about them. And that is this post here.

My ego and self-doubt – they get to warring with each other and the result is I’m stuck in limbo.

I tried again, and just could not get back into the story, so I sat back to read a little from a suspense/thriller book I had picked up from the library. Dave came down and asked if I wanted to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which I couldn’t resist, having loved the first movie so much.

I think it was just the shot in the arm I needed.

And now it’s back to work for me…at least for a few minutes…before I head off to bed. I needed a good laugh, happy cry, and time away to remind myself I can actually do this.

Damn, What a Ride!

Damn, What a Ride!

I have lived this moment before, I’m pretty sure I have. Yet, every time it hits me, it feels new, transformative even.

The past few days have been absolutely incredible. The words have pushed, shoved, screamed at me to get out on the page. They march out, like a tiny army of ants, ready to conquer the blank pages, and fill the screen.

There are moments when I think that becoming a writer is some awful form of self-torture. Those moments when you sit there, staring at a blank screen thinking, “How the hell do I get Y character from Point A to Point B?”

There are times when the dialogue is so stilted, my ideas and thoughts so scattered that I’m ready to commit seppeku. Seriously, hand me that sword.

And then there are those rare moments, words wrapped in joy, that fall onto the page.

I can’t properly describe it, but when it occurs, the only thing I can do is hang on and WRITE. As fast as possible, notes everywhere, words, phrases, connections – they dance, DANCE out of me in a flood.

And in that moment, everything in my life makes sense. As if every moment I have lived up until this time has brought me inexorably to this place, where the stories breed, the characters laugh, love and hate.

I swear, I could stand on top of a mountain and sing like that overly happy woman on The Sound of Music.

Let me tell you, sometimes writing is one hell of a ride.

p.s. I expect to have the first draft of Schicksal Turnpike done this weekend

Jumping Into Orbit with an Astronomer ROCK STAR

Jumping Into Orbit with an Astronomer ROCK STAR

I’m feeling like I have just attained super-geek status right now. Giggly, “Oh my God, he spoke to me” kind of feeling. Step into a room and find greatness, kind of thing.

So let me explain.

When the news that a possible earth-like planet in the Gliese system was announced back in 2010, I was instantly captivated. Dr. Steve Vogt was in the news as he described his team’s findings. Fascinated by the idea, and with a story of a trip to this unknown and distant planet bouncing about in my head, I emailed Dr. Vogt.

Despite his busy, busy life fielding press and probably other dreamy-eyed writers like me, he wrote me back, which was amazingly kind.

When news of a Swiss team disproving his findings broke, and the news pilloried Dr. Vogt, I’ll admit, my project came to a standstill. I know it sounds silly, considering I’m a fiction writer and  all, but I actually wondered how I could write a story about Gliese 581g if the planet itself did not exist!

There was also the pesky problem of not knowing what the conflict point would be in the book, either. I had thought of a saboteur, but I couldn’t figure out what his motivation was.

It would be a couple of years before I saw the news of the James Webb Space Telescope and its scheduled launch date of 2018. I latched onto it immediately, changing the date (due to the conflict of The Collapse and the Second American Civil War in my War’s End books) to 2030. At that time, the increased abilities of the new telescope would “re-discover” Gliese 581.

I combined that with another story that was languishing in my Snippets folder, the Plague Tales, and combined them. The result was Gliese 581: Departure.

On a lark, I sent a second email to Dr. Vogt a few days ago. I wrote:

Dear Dr. Vogt-

Years ago, I emailed you when news of Gliese first broke. You kindly responded to me. I appreciated that, considering how inundated you must have been at the time.
It took a while for my vision of the book to fully form. But I wanted to share the news with you that it finally did. Along the way I spoke with a virologist, two nurses, and researched Chinese burial customs and proper autopsy procedures. Fascinating stuff. Gliese 581: Departure is slowly accumulating reviews. I will admit, that the reports that your findings could not be repeated saddened me – and caused a full stop for a little while on my literary endeavors.
That said, I am pleased to inform you that eventually you will be vindicated. I have attached my book for your reading pleasure. I would be happy to send you a paperback if you would prefer.
This is my first foray into science fiction, but it won’t be my last. I write cross-genre, so I have a Twilight Zone ‘esque novella to finish, and then a [oh dear god] TWELVE book fantasy series after that. But then the way will be free and clear for a sequel to this book.
I wish you well. Please forgive any assumptions this poor author has taken when assigning you descendants. I assure you they are of the highest character.
Best Regards,
Christine Shuck
Author, Community Educator, Homeschool Mom and General Malcontent
And today I received a lengthy response back from Dr. Vogt! I’m so excited to see this, and to learn, to my delight, that the possibility of Gliese 581g is still there!
I will admit to not understanding most of what is surely a dumbed down explanation of astrophysics. I’m including the entire email for your reading pleasure…
Hi Christine,
Nice to hear from you again. Yes, those were some crazy days back in 2010 when we announced GJ581g. I’m glad you decided to go ahead with your Sci-Fi novel. Thanks very much for sending me an advance copy. I will peruse it as soon as I can get some free bandwidth.
You needn’t be saddened about reports that others could not confirm my findings. Let me give you a bit of history and an update that you won’t find in the public media.
We worked on this result for many, many months, playing Devil’s advocate with our data and errors, to convince ourselves that we were on solid ground for claiming the detection of GJ 581g. We then submitted it to the Astrophysical Journal, the world’s premier journal of record for work in my field. It passed two independent peer reviews, both with flying colors. Indeed, our editor was/is also one of the world’s pre-eminent experts in statistical analysis, and literally “wrote the book” on statistical techniques in science. Even he agreed that our detection was rigorously significant using all the usual metrics for false alarms, etc. He even advised us that we were under-selling the confidence level of the detection. It was only after passing this rigorous peer-review process, and the paper was accepted, that we then organized the NSF press release announcement.
Several weeks after our announcement, the Swiss team from Geneva (the only other group then, and now, capable of providing confirmation of such a difficult detection) gave a talk at a conference in Trieste, Italy. At that conference, they verbally stated that they had an additional bunch of 60 new points of data, data that was also superior in quality to ours, and that they saw no evidence of GJ581g in their expanded data set. They did not provide that data in their talk, nor make it available to the public.
We were a bit disappointed in this, but could not respond in any way as they did not divulge any of their data. But we were skeptical, and so we simulated up a data set (actually we simulated 1000 data sets) using Monte Carlo techniques, that had the exact same cadence characteristics (they Swiss HARPS team doesn’t get to observe every day of the month, only in lunar bright time, etc) and signal/noise characteristics as their typical HARPS data. In these mock data sets, we inserted real signals at the periods of all the 4 known planets (b,c,d, and e) plus the ones we had claimed (f, and g). In doing so, we quickly convinced ourselves that, even if the Swiss had 60 more high quality data points, they would not have been able to either refute or confirm GJ581g. So we knew that their claim (that they would have been able to see GJ581g with their expanded, superior data set) was untrue. But since we did not have access to their data, we did not feel we could write this up and get it published in the peer-reviewed literature.
So we sat back, and waited, while we were roundly pilloried in the media about our GJ 518g claim being a false alarm. It was rather frustrating, and we were accused of being scoundrels, of grand-standing in order to get grants renewed, etc. etc. I was accused of making a “mistake” by assuming circular rather than eccentric orbits. All of this was complete and utter nonsense, but that was how it played out. And we just could not join the public discussion to defend our conclusions and data.
So we kept acquiring further precision velocity data on this system, and waited for the Swiss to eventually publish their data set. It took about a year of waiting for the Swiss to submit a preprint to the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, their equivalent of our Astrophysical Journal. That preprint by Forveille et al 2011 is attached fyi. Once we had their actual data set, I set about combining it with our data to do an extremely careful analysis of the joint data set and see what was what.
In doing this detailed analysis, we learned several things. First, the Swiss’s 4-planet Keplerian model was dynamically unstable, and was therefore manifestly unphysical. Secondly, we could not reproduce their values of Chi-squared, and RMS from using their 4-planet Keplerian model as fit to their data set. Digging in further, we realized that this was because they had omitted 5 of their data points from their analysis. These were specifically the 5 data points which had the worst fit to their model. They did this omission without disclosure. Indeed, they even stated in their paper that they had omitted no data points in their analysis.
Once we realized this, we re-did their analysis, including all of their data points, and omitting none. We also included the effects of planet-planet gravitational interaction, something the Swiss had not done, but that is critical for properly modeling this system. That kind of fit is called a dynamically “self-consistent” fit, and is generally not done as it requires a much more sophisticated level of numerical modeling. Anyway, our self-consistent fit, using their expanded data set, combined with our full data set, revealed that, after accounting for the 4 “known” planets b,c,d, and e, a statistically significant signal for planet g still emerged from the data set, with a period of 32-days, and consistent with a planet of minimum mass 2.2 times the mass of the Earth, and smack dab in the liquid water habitable zone. Furthermore, our 5-planet model was statistically superior to that of the Swiss, and was completely dynamically stable.
I wrote this all up and submitted it to the Astrophysical Journal to finally join the debate. Again, it passed several peer-reviews at ApJ, and was soon accepted for publication. Unfortunately, the Swiss’s Forveille et al paper had yet to be accepted by A&A, and to appear in print. So the ApJ editor put our accepted paper on-hold until the Forveille paper appeared in print. So we waited another 6 months.
Eventually, we gave up waiting for the Forveille et al paper to be accepted and to appear in print. And the ApJ editors just would not relent and let us publish until that happened. So we pulled the paper from ApJ and submitted it to Astronomische Nachrichten, a European journal in Potsdam. It passed peer-review and was published in only a few weeks. I attach a copy of that also fyi.
The Forveille et all paper was never accepted nor published. No doubt the A&A editors rejected it and they never re-submitted. They know they were wrong, and we called them out on it publicly. There is little they can say to change that. At the same time, the Swiss have had a habit of making their mistakes just disappear conveniently from the web. So, just in case they did this, I included all of their actual data in our A.N. paper, for all to see, for all time. Anyone can repeat my analysis, with all of the available data, and will come to the same conclusions I did.
So, even though the press has long since moved on and forgotten about GJ581g, the scientific peer-reviewed record shows that our result still stands, our analysis is the last and best word on the reality of GJ581g, and the available data and most sophisticated analyses all indicate that planet g exists, albeit with a slightly smaller period (32d instead of 36d) and slightly smaller mass (2.2 Mearth). What will it take to firmly confirm this planet? That’s a tough one. We already have many hundreds of data points. We’d need more than twice that data set to even begin to make further improvements (as I discussed at the end of our rebuttal paper). Also, this is a particularly complex system in that the 67d orbit could be either circular or eccentric. Slight amounts of eccentricity in the 67d orbit could be used to mask the signal from the 32d. So the reality or not of planet g is coupled to whether or not the 67d planet’s orbit has a small amount of eccentricity. This is a very tough thing to assess, even though we now know from KEPLER results of thousands of exoplanet orbits, that it is most likely that all of these GJ581 orbits are very nearly, if not perfectly circular.
So GJ581g still lives, at least according to the present set of available data, and the best and most sophisticated analyses of those data. But we have moved on to many other systems that are much simpler and easier to confirm. These are systems such as Kapteyn b, GJ 667Cc, GJ667Ce, and GJ667Cf. FYI, a list of these nearest potentially habitable Earth-sized planets can be found here:
Sorry for the long-winded reply. It is not an easy story to tell, and the version that played out in the public media would have one believe that GJ581g was merely a flash in the pan, another debunked result for the dustbin of history. Quite the contrary, it is still alive and well according to the official record, the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
I will read through your novel as soon as I can get some time. In the meantime, I wish you much success with its release. And I’ll keep my eye on the NYT list for its imminent arrival.
With all best regards,
Steve Vogt
So, yeah…My inner fan girl is squealing with excitement.
Let’s be honest, my husband can attest to hearing several squeals of excitement from me. What an amazing guy. He wrote a fantastic, long response and I’m so damned excited – to hear from him, to know that the non-existence of Gliese 581g was erroneously reported, and so much more.
Dr. Vogt, you made my week. I swear I’d hug you if I could.

 

Don’t Box Yourself In

Don’t Box Yourself In

Today I drove the kiddo over to Missouri Town 1855. It’s an educational, living history type of place. They cobbled together buildings from all over, disassembling them and then re-assembling them in a park-like town where kids can go and learn about what it was like in the mid-1800s in Missouri.

As we walked, I discussed my latest book, Gliese 581: Departure with the mom of one of my friends.

“Mickie, are you going to read my sci-fi book?” I asked.

“Well, you know, I certainly have watched science fiction movies but I don’t really read science fiction.”

I told her that was completely okay, because sci-fi is really a misnomer.

“Basically, if it has space travel or spaceships, it’s considered sci-fi. But really, what is it past that?” I said as we walked down the gravel path, surrounded by kids. “It’s about people and conflict and love and the choices we make.”

And Mickie’s daughter, my friend Bethany, had written this review on Amazon today:

Gliese 581: The Departure is a wonderfully written book. It sucked me in quickly despite my not being someone who generally reads science fiction. The format creates anticipation from the beginning making it a page-turner. Although science-fiction, it is also a mystery, with clues deposited along the way. The world created by Mrs. Shuck is futuristic and surreal, but does not feel alien to the world we know, so I was able to slide into this future series of events easily, which is important for someone like myself who reads tons of historical fiction! I enjoyed the suspense built into nearly every chapter and the many varied characters that the reader learns to love, hate, feel sorry for, and be encouraged by. Read it!

And thinking about it further made me realize that this is exactly why I have no problem writing cross-genre.

If I write a book about the socioeconomic collapse of the United States and the Second American Civil War – you can call it dystopian if you like. The genre is irrelevant. The message, the story that I want to convey, that’s my focus. My War’s End books were written to convey a message of survival and hope, in the face of terrible odds.

When I complete my Twilight Zone ‘esqe novella and publish it – you might consider it drama, and it may be seen as a standalone book. It is…and it isn’t at the same time.

Schicksal Turnpike will be a standalone novella, that is tied intrinsically into the Kapalaran Universe. But the deeper message is about hope, love, and living the life you were meant to live, intentionally and with passion.

And my newest book Gliese 581: Departure is deemed science fiction, because it has space travel, a Mars colony and more. But it isn’t just that. Because our lives are more than just one thing or the other.

So my point would be this. If you enjoy my writing in one fiction genre, you will likely enjoy it in a completely different genre. It’s worth considering – don’t box yourself in.

I Found the Flow!

I Found the Flow!

One of the biggest difficulties I encounter in writing is finding the flow.

It is a state of mind, perhaps a taste of higher consciousness, when the words just spill out and the words leap willingly onto the paper.

When it happens, it is bliss. Liquid gold, the best damn chocolate you’ve ever tasted, a moment of glory.

The words don’t stutter and stop, the ideas make sense, and I find writing to be the joyful experience I wish all work could be.

I’ve been struggling for weeks with only limited success. For now, however, I seem to have settled my intention on what promises to be a novella-size story – Schicksal Turnpike.

Set mostly in the 1950s, I’m currently at 5,500 words, so I have a way to go. A novella is considering anything between 17,500 and 40,000 words. I’ve finished two of the eighteen chapters so far. Some chapters have been started, others have only notes reviewing what the chapter is about.

Every time I think of doing something else, though, the story pulls me back in.

And believe me, I’m breathing a sigh of relief over that!

I wonder if I will ever stop doubting myself. If I will ever stop thinking, “That’s it, obviously [insert most recent book title her] was it. My swan song, if you will. I’m done, my creativity spent. I’m no writer.”

I hate feeling like that. I’ll do just about anything to avoid those thoughts – eat a pound of chocolate or suck down a quart of homemade coffee ice cream with chunks of Heath Bar and chopped pecans. I’ll clean my house from top to bottom, or begin weeding my (yet again) overgrown weed-filled garden.

If you come to see me out of the blue and my house is pristine and my garden perfect – know that this is a sign of literary ennui. It is a dangerous thing.

I’ll happily settle for a cluttered, dusty house with overgrown jungles in my yard if it means that my fingers are dancing across a keyboard, my mind filled with details, plots, and imaginary conversations. If you look at my desk and see random notes scattered here and there, with a sheer dozen internet tabs open to my various research, know it is a good thing.

And now back to work.

Back to the Beginning?

Back to the Beginning?

Having settled on an official name for my universe – Kaplaran Universe – my vision for how these stories are all going to play out is slowly clarifying.

I’m going back to the beginning.

Well, at least, the earliest story set on the timeline to date.

Kaplaran Universe

Schicksal Turnpike – a.k.a. Fate’s Highway is going to be my current focus.

Each time I tried to tackle The Chronicles of Liv Rowan, my focus would just slip sideways. That seems to be a clear indication that I am not ready to tackle it. I want it to be soon, but you can’t push a rope.

Although it may take off and surprise me, Schicksal Turnpike should end up being a short story. In which case, I may simply publish it on Kindle. We will see.

Meanwhile, here is a short summary/description:

What if you could start over?

What would you do if the slate of your life was wiped clean and you were given a chance to make everything different?

Would you make the right decisions the ‘second time’ around? Would you find your life to be better in the end? Dean Edmonds was given that second chance. He was given the opportunity to start again, to try things a second time around. Dean Edmonds found that it cost him the love of his life and gave him a chance to live life again. He found his second chance on a small and twisting road known as Schicksal Turnpike.

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Gliese 581-Departure

It’s time for me to stand on the street corner with my sign that says, “Read my book!”

And better yet, download it for free on Friday and Saturday!

The reality of self-publishing is this little thing we call marketing. But let me tell you a story first, because that is what I do. I tell stories – and some of them are even true.

Years ago, about a year after I first returned to the city of my birth, I went to work for Children’s Mercy Hospital. I worked in the Nephrology department. Nephrology, by the way, is the study of kidneys. Some doctors specialized in bedwetting issues, others in odd kidney diseases, all the way to kidney transplants.

Of the pool of doctors I worked with, along with three other secretaries, was this one firecracker of a doc. He wasn’t taking the transfer over to computers well. He especially was not interested in ever reading email, dealing with the new computer programs the hospital was pushing him to use, and he frequently would holler, “I don’t work with computers, I am not a computer technician, I AM A DOCTOR!”

He said it as if that answered everything.

I wish that I could flail my arms about and say that same thing – “I am a WRITER!” and have it magically make marketing go away.

But it doesn’t, so here I am.

So…

Consider this a friendly, upbeat reminder that my most recent book, Gliese 581: Departure will be available for download on your favorite Kindle device all day Friday and Saturday, June 3rd through the 4th.

I do this out of the hope that you will read it, LOVE it, and tell the world – starting with Amazon and Goodreads. I have provided the links there to both for your convenience.

Your opinion matters. Your opinion will make the difference between someone clicking “Buy Now With 1-Click” or moving on to the next Indie book in the list.

Download it for free.

Read it.

Review it.

And remember…

beauty