2015-04-12

Not enough hours in a day

Dragonverse Origins update: The first draft now stands at 23,611 words. That’s not as much as I would have hoped to have by now, but the book is coming along nicely. I don’t want to rush things because rushing is how you end up with a plot that’s such a mess you have to rebuild it by throwing half of it away.

I did read one of the chapters from Origins during this last weekend's writers group meeting. When I was finished, people were saying all sorts of things I didn't expect to hear like "Wow!" and "I could see everything - it was like I was there." And this is just a rough draft! Not that I'm bragging (well, maybe a little) but comments like those sure make a writer feel good.

Speaking of plots, It's strange how some things hit you when you're least expecting it. I wrote Off Course about 2 years ago and since publishing it, I haven’t looked at the novel at all. Yesterday, out of nowhere, a plot snafu in the book set off a small nuclear explosion inside my cerebral cortex. After I calmed down, I realized that nobody out there has caught it. I'm glad too, because fixing it would have changed the entire course of the book! Unfortunately, now that I know it's there, it's going to bother me. I don’t think it's something your normal reader will pick up. Only someone versed in political intrigue and subterfuge would wonder—why didn't they…? I have no intention of trying to fix it either.

With the crazy hours I've been working these past few weeks, I haven't had time to get on my SFWA account and update it. When I have a few hours to myself, I prefer to spend it writing. I get like that when I'm working on a project (which is most of the time). I will delay watching television programs (except Agents of Shield), skip the internet, and put all sorts of things aside to have time to write. If I'm stuck, then I can indulge myself.

From the looks of things, there's going to be a large number of Launch Pad alumni attending this year's WorldCon. I’m hoping we can find a time to get together and have a bit of a reunion. I've been going since 2012 and I've met many people I would love to connect with again in the flesh.

That’s about it from the writing end of things. If you’re interested in what I've been doing at my day job, keep reading. I’ll keep it short.

I am an Access database programmer—one of only a very few at the plant. Actually, to my knowledge, there isn't anyone else who actually writes VBA code using Microsoft Access. I work in a group called Work Management and my primary job is to maintain the Primavera database as well as build applications to make my department more efficient. They were without a DBA (Database Administrator) for almost 4 years and the old applications my predecessor had developed no longer worked. I scrapped all of them and started from scratch building my own set of applications. So far, I've taken a report that used to take 4 days to complete and automated it so it can be finished in under 3 hours. I've automated a lot of what people used to do manually.

My expertise in database applications has come in handy while the plant has been in a refueling outage. I have a program that displays the status of each job, whether or not it is working to schedule and if the schedule is in jeopardy or not. I have another one that helps the Outage Control Center track emergent work and I produce daily reports for most of the managers and directors. The bottom line here is that I love to code and I couldn't be happier. From the feedback I've been getting, the people that are using my programs are just as happy which makes me even happier. Life is good.


Time to start writing again. Until next time.

2015-04-05

SFWA (active) membership approved!

I am now an official member of SFWA! As an indie author, this is a big deal for me. It’s like an artist having one of their paintings chosen to be displayed in an art gallery. When I put my first book on Amazon, I had a realistic view of the future. Making a small income from book sales was all I expected. Of course, humans love to dream and I had a dream that one day I would be making a decent income from writing and be a member of SFWA. When my book sales began to take off, I actually thought my dream could become a reality. I went to the SFWA website and read the requirements to become a member. I was disappointed.

To become a member of SFWA prior to March 1st 2015, you had to have published a novel or two short stories with a select listing of approved publishers. Self-published authors were therefore forbidden access. Even though I made a lot of money in sales, joining SFWA was to remain only a dream. And then a miracle happened.

Stories that use a line like that are a sure sign of a poor writer, but in this instance the miracle was a vote by the SFWA members to allow self-published authors to join their ranks. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of doing so. If you follow my blog, you know the story from that point on. The email confirming my membership made me a very happy man. The way I see it, it’s not all about how much you make but rather what sort of recognition you receive that makes it all worthwhile.

In other news: I'm now using a new keyboard at work. Some time ago, E. C. Myers (a fellow Launch Pad attendee) posted a picture of his new writing area. I spotted an ancient IBM model M keyboard on his desk – you know, the kind with the clickity-clack sound and tactile feedback. I asked him about it and he told me about a company that sells them; not old or refurbished ones—brand new ones! I ordered one the other day and now I’m clacking away at work and loving it. My nearby cubical attendants haven’t said a word about the racket so I’m happy. If you’re interested, you can purchase one here.

The list of 2015 Launch Pad attendees has been released by founder Professor Mike Brotherton. I have not received the final word concerning if anyone wants their name withheld from the public so I won’t be posting the list here. If you applied and were not accepted this year, there’s always next year. As always, I’m looking forward to participating in this year’s event and getting to meet another group of fine people. I've already sent out my greeting email and have started building my information document on the attendees. I do this because I am terrible at remembering names and faces. There have been times when I can't quickly recall the name of people I've worked with for 20 years. Embarrassing.

Work on Dragonverse Origins stalled last week due to my working hours and other events which I won't go into here. But that doesn't mean I haven’t been thinking about how to proceed. The soon-to-be wizard is about to begin his learning. The issue here is how detailed should I get? I don’t want to skip over too much because the reader will wonder what happened in the intervening time. I don’t want to go into the day-by-day details because the reader will become bored and set the book aside. I have to find a happy middle where the reader can stay engaged and interested as things move along. This part of the book is a challenge for me because I’m not exactly sure how to proceed. There are a lot of little details I need the reader to have before the real meat of the story begins.

As of right now, the novel stands at 21,159 words. I did manage to get in some writing time yesterday as well as this morning. With the nuke plant shut down for refueling, I've been working from 0400 (and occasionally 0200) until 1200 or later. When I have a day off, I get up way before my wife does and that gives me the time to write.

2015-03-29

Updates

My last post was 3 weeks ago. The day after I posted that last blog entry the nuclear plant I work at shut down to begin its 15th refueling outage. This is a time of intense activity at the plant. Systems are disassembled, inspected, and repaired. The fuel is removed from the core and the reactor vessel is inspected and cleaned. New fuel is loaded and the plant is put back together so it can run non-stop (hopefully) for another 18 months.

In past outages, I was in the I&C (Instrumentation & Controls) shop. I would be dressing out (our term for getting into anti-contamination clothing) and going out to work in undesirable places like containment and drywell. These places are cramped and hot. But this outage is different for me. Today, I sit at a desk and write Microsoft Access programs. I would prefer to use a better platform like C# but these applications need to be quickly and easily maintained by people who would most likely not know how to program in another language. Getting C# loaded on my PC would be a long and involved process. Access comes pre-installed and has the power to do anything I need.

Today is my first day off since March 9th. I've written thousands of lines of code and three of my applications are in use helping keep the outage on track. I've been working from 0400 in the morning until noon or later. A couple of days I went in at 0200 to relieve a person from the home office so he could have a day off. He's up here to help us get our scheduling reports out on time and to keep the scheduling software running smoothly. I love my job and not having a day off was not a problem for me.

But, just because I've been working strange hours at the plant does not mean I've not been able to get any writing done. Dragonverse Origins now stands at over 20,000 words and is coming along nicely. I'm getting the feeling that this book is going to end up being roughly 95,000 words.

In case you're wondering, I'm still patiently waiting for my membership to the SFWA to be approved. I sent them copies of my 1099s from 2012--the year I did very well in book sales. I received an email saying that the board wanted proof of continuing income. So, I sent them copies of my next two years 1099s--not all of them, just the larger ones. That was over a week ago and I have still heard nothing. I am, if nothing else, a very patient person and so I'm waiting. If I am denied membership I will find a way to appeal because I am more than sure I meet their requirements. I should have some final information by the time I write my next post.

Right now, it's very early in the morning, my wife will be sleeping until 0930, and I have time to write.