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.

2015-03-08

SFWA Membership

On February 3rd, 2015, the SFWA posted one of the best pieces of news I've heard in a long time--they would begin admitting self-published authors. You can read the announcement here. On March 1st, I went to their website to sign in and...nothing...no updated membership requirements. I continued to check the website throughout the day. I also tweeted my frustration. Cat Rambo replied and apologized. On March 2nd, I noticed the new requirements (vague as they were) were up and I applied for membership.

There are issues with the online application form as far as an indie author is concerned. The SFWA is well aware of this and are working to come up with a more indie-favorable form. The existing form assumes you're an author that has a signed contract with a large publisher and you've received an advance on your royalties. You are allowed to upload only 3 items. The biggest omission is a box where the applicant can explain things. I believe I have sent them sufficient information to process my application and grant me membership.

I have written to Cat Rambo and discussed my concerns with her. I also provided some suggestions concerning how they should deal with indie authors. I don't know if my suggestions will be accepted, but here they are:

  • Since there is no publishing contract, a self-published author should be asked to provide proof of authorship of the work being used to qualify for membership. A copyright notice from the US copyright office would be perfectly acceptable.
  • Since the vast majority of self-published authors receive royalty payments from Amazon, proof of royalties received for a specific novel is problematic. Yes, Amazon does provide a downloadable Excel spreadsheet showing sales in each region for each novel, but Excel spreadsheets can be altered. To back up the data shown on the spreadsheet, I recommended requesting copies of the 1099s authors receive from Amazon and Smashwords.
  • The online application form will also require modification by providing the applicant an opportunity to explain how they meet the admission requirements.
Self-published authors do not receive an advance when they upload their book to Amazon or Smashwords. They collect their royalties each month. There are many authors who have signed contracts, received their advance, and then never see another payment again yet they are admitted to the SFWA. There are self-published authors who, over the course of a year, collect more in royalties than many signed authors receive in an advance. Proving this to the SFWA is a problem but it is not a problem that can't be solved.

I look forward to becoming a member of the SFWA. The membership will help identify me as a legitimate author. My feedback and sales have already done that for me, but membership status in the SFWA will send that doubt to the bottom of the deepest ocean once and for all.

On the writing front: I've made good progress on Dragonverse Origins. I have been working myself into a new shift schedule in which I have to be up at 3:00am. This new shift starts this Monday. For the past few days, I've been getting up earlier and earlier and I've had the mornings to myself. This has given me plenty of time to write. Origins now stands at just over 14,000 words.

I took some time this morning to buy my plane tickets for Launch Pad 2015. I am looking forward to meeting another wonder group of authors.

There is also another Launch Pad-like educational adventure you can apply for. If you are interested in quantum physics, you can apply to attend the newly created Schrodinger Sessions. Chad Orzel modeled this course after Launch Pad. For further information you can read about it here. A more detailed description including some background can be found here. I signed up this morning.

2015-03-01

Details - LLAP Mr. Nimoy

I was very saddened to learn of the passing of one of my roll models. For years I dreamed of running into Leonard Nimoy and being able to talk to him as if he were just another person. He was a great actor and an outstanding individual. As a kid, I took Spock to be my roll model. Logical, controlled, and possessing a mind that applied reasoning to solve problems instead of using an emotional response. He will be missed.

My first thought was to title this entry "Disappointed" because I tried to sign up to become a member of the SFWA and their website still has the old rules associated with it (SFWA membership requirements). But, I have a considerable amount of patience and I will continue to monitor their website to see if the new eligibility requirements are posted. As soon as that happens, I will be joining at the associate level. I don't have the time to read all the nominations for awards and I certainly am not interested in attending SFWA business meetings. Hopefully, the SFWA website will be updated as promised and I will become a member by the end of the day.

Today's post deals with the editing of a novel. I'm not talking about the normal editing that a writer goes through in the process of creating the story. I'm talking about the final editing pass that all writers should have done - copy editing. This is usually performed by a separate individual after the writer declares his or her work to be finished. In my case, this is done by my wife. She will typically find grammatical mistakes such as words that sound the same but are spelled differently, tense errors, repeating a word too many times too close together, use of words such as 'that', 'which', etc, and comma usage. It is this last one that we tend to have the most discussion about.

I find this interesting because I've been reading Twitter posts from Linda Nagata (an acquaintance of mine and an award-winning author) about the number of comma-usage changes her copy editor has suggested. Apparently, there are a large number of them. What's even more interesting is that the particular book that she is talking about has already been copy edited and published. This tells me that even copy editors cannot agree on how to use the lowly comma.

There are, of course, times when the use of a comma is mandated and those rules should not be broken. But there are other uses that have sparked widespread debate. One in particular is the use of the Oxford comma. This is the placement of a comma before the final "and" or "or" in a sentence with a list. (i.e. Do you want an apple, a pear, or an orange?) My wife will edit out the comma before the "or". I prefer to leave it in place. This final comma is called the Oxford comma and entire institutions are divided in whether or not it should exist.

If you take a step back and think about this for a moment, it brings up another point. Writing is, and always will be, a very subjective art. Sometimes, it's okay to break the rules. A single-word sentence, even though it is not technically a sentence, can add to the tension to a scene. I highly recommend that every writer have their work looked at by a good copy editor. You don't have to always agree on what they suggest--you are, after all, the creator of the story--but you should at least listen to what the editor has suggested and give the changes serious consideration.

I am making slow progress on Dragonverse Origins. I handed out my first chapter to my writer's group for feedback. As usual, everyone had something different to say. But, every time I go to a meeting, I learn something. This last meeting's lesson told me I need to pay more attention to active vs passive writing. The distinction is often subtle, but writing in the active voice can make a big impact on the reader's view of the story. I will be looking to learn more about this subject in the future.