Day Job Woes Again

Sort-of continuing from last week…

I was right about Monday hitting the reset button on the technical problems my team has been working hard to put right. Again, I don’t want to go into detail. In short, it’s taken another week of ten-hour days, plus half of Saturday, to get to a point where it looks like all the fixes are in and working. We won’t know for sure until tomorrow (Tuesday) when the whole thing gets an end-to-end test, which might reveal that we still have a little bit more to do. But I really think the worst is behind us.

Now, since today is Columbus Day, I get a three day weekend (actually a two-and-a-half day weekend, thanks to Saturday morning). And that means I’ve actually had some time to work on the timelines for the SF series (I really must think of a working title).

Well, ok, I have to be honest: I have spent some time playing Astroneer. And I’ve been catching up with the huge pile of laundry in the basement.

But I’ve also been making some progress with the timeline of the first story in the series, so that’s good, right? I took a break to write this, and I need to update the WiP pages while I’m at it, then I’m getting back to work.

I might just mention that today we had the first snow of the season here in our part of the world. It’s still falling; the forecast says we could have six or eight inches built up by the end of the day.

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On that note, time to update those WiP pages real quick, then it’s back to the timelines.

Until next time…

Day Job Woes

Before I begin, a word from our sponsors: my Steampunk adventure Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia is just $1.99 for Kindle right now.

Promo spot over; back to the plot.

My regular readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers of Epping Forest) will have noticed that I’ve kind of broken my own rules for the last couple of weeks. I’d been making a point of posting here at least twice a week, and things had actually been going pretty well.

And then came the day job problems.

headdesk

Thanks to a problem that came up, the other developers and I have been in all-hands-to-the-pumps mode, making urgent updates to a bunch of web applications. I’m not going into more detail than that; it’s not that important or interesting.

As a side-effect, my regular work has had to take a back seat—but it still has to be done, so that’s meant I’ve had to work an extra couple of hours every day during the week. This morning (Saturday) I worked five hours to catch up some more. Right now I’m at a point where I can actually catch a breath, although I know Monday is going to hit the reset button and it’ll be back to panic mode.

The point being that my other work—writing, and other things I like to do—got pushed right off the cliff.

So: no blog posts the last couple of weeks. No work at all done on the timelining I’ve been working on for the SF book series. Basically I’ve been too tired to focus on anything that requires use of the brain.

Instead, what time I’ve had has been spent watching TV (Doc Martin, Dark Matter season 3); playing games (I just bought Dishonored and it’s a blast—one of the best I’ve played in a while); and reading (I’m partway into A Voyage to Arcturus, and I don’t want to hear any snide comments about it).

One other thing: I think I mentioned that I’d been watching a gentle British comedy called Detectorists on Netflix. It stars Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones as couple of ordinary guys who also happen to be (surprise!) detectorists—that is, they spend their spare hours out and about with metal detectors, finding bottle caps and ring pulls. And occasionally, cash, and parts of WWII German bombers. And sometimes, gold. Watching the show reminded me as a teenager I’d wanted a metal detector to mess with.

So I’ve bought one. Nothing fancy or expensive, but perfectly fine for the hobbyist. I haven’t had a chance yet to get out with it—it’s actually been raining almost every day for the last couple of weeks here in Colorado, and in any case I really need to get a cheap pair of headphones and a small shovel before I go detecting. But I’m looking forward to getting some exercise and fresh air, and you never know, maybe finding the odd trinket I can sell on eBay. Depending on the weather, I might get out with it for a bit tomorrow.

Now, as for the rest of today, I have a free afternoon, so I’m about to grab a coffee and get back to those timelines. I have something like five hundred scenes to timeline and so far I’ve done nineteen. There’s a long way to go. Time to get busy.

Until next time…

Bad Days, Good Days

THE last couple of weeks have been really heavy going at work, which is the main reason I haven’t had a chance to throw out any updates here. We’ve been moving a few of the web applications to new host machines, and it’s one of those jobs where ninety percent of the work is easy and takes ten percent of the time, but then you hit the ten percent that’s all hurdles and problems and means you can’t just finish it up and get it done. As I write this it’s Sunday morning, and tomorrow I have three, count ’em, three system moves that are stalled waiting on things.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, writing work has all but stopped, which is very frustrating. I’m working on a story I want to write, and I’ve been stuck at the planning part for something like a month. I have a character, she has a name, and she has an interesting past that’s given her an ability, if you can call it that—sometimes it’s going to be a lifesaver, most times it’s a curse. And I can’t say more about that without giving too much away at this early phase. The big problem is that I still don’t have a solid story, and I just can’t seem to get the time to think my way past that.

The day-job work craziness been part of that, of course—among other things I’m so tired at the end of most days I just don’t have the energy to get into writing, and in any case there are home/family things that take up what little time I might have had—but there are other things too. For example, I now officially work at home and hook into the office over VPN; I rarely need to go in. It’s great, but one definite downside is that it’s caused a complete change of routine. I used to use the drive time between home and office to think about story and characters; Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia was planned and plotted and all but actually written on that daily drive, as were The Artemis Device and Smoke & Mirrors (more on status of both of those shortly).

But I don’t drive in any more, and my writing time is suffering badly for it. I need to change my routine to give me some of that time back somehow.

OK THAT’S ENOUGH OF THAT. It’s not all doom and gloom. Time to focus on some of the positive.

One thing that’s taken away some of the writing time is that I’ve been catching up on READING, and that’s not something I consider at all bad. I mean, seriously, I went through a period of several months during which I hardly read a thing. Not good. So I kicked myself in the pants and told myself to shape the fuck up.

Rod Duncan’s The Custodian of Marvels came out Tuesday and I’ll be starting on that just as soon as I’ve finished reading Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles; I’m almost through Trapped (which I think is the fifth book in the series). But wait, there’s more: the eighth book, Staked, just came out and we went to Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins on Thursday to meet the author and get a signed copy. Really? I hear you say. Pictures, or it didn’t happen. Okay, then:

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There you go.

Now, last points: I mentioned I’d give a couple of status updates, so here they are:

  • The Artemis Device is still with my copy editor at Xchyler Publishing, but as I think I mentioned she got married recently, and then she was dealing with a book release (Ben Ireland’s Kingdom City: Revolt) and now, as I found out just a few days ago, she’s off on honeymoon. So I don’t expect to get back any editing notes in a hurry.
  • Smoke & Mirrors is still looking for an agent or a publisher. A publisher in England had an open submission period last month, so I sent them the first couple of chapters. The web site said it could be three to six months before I hear anything, so right now patience is the word.

Until next time, gentle reader . . .

There Will Be Blog

I’VE been having trouble with editing Artemis.

The first problem was that what I had to do seemed overwhelming. I’d be looking at the typescript and thinking, I have to think up and write these new scenes to add more backstory to this character and that character, AND I have to have to look for and change bits where I see problems, AND I have to fix the grammar accidents AND mop up the odd spelling mistake, AND I have to do ALL THAT in a single pass and OH MY GOD MY BRAIN IS MELTING DOWN. And then I’d stare at the page like it was the headlight of a freight train coming along the tunnel to turn me into meat-splat. Well, I think I found a solution to that problem: don’t try to do it all at once. So, what I’m doing now is reading back through the ‘script and as I go along, I make simple changes only—obvious spelling mistakes, missed or doubled words, in-yer-face grammar fuckups, and so on. Anything needing more work than that, I mark for later. I might hit a part where I can say, this needs a touch more dialogue to foreshadow something that comes later, or I might spot the ideal place for a new scene that’s needed. So for those things that need some actual wordage, I slap in a comment to say That new scene I need with rabid wombats goes HERE, or I’ll highlight a sentence and add a comment like, Alice remembers the man who shot her brother with a Nerf gun filled with lemon custard. It seems to be working; I don’t lose the momentum of the read-through, I have the right places marked up with the right changes, and then later, when I’ve done every chapter, I’ll gird my loins for the actual writing of new scenes, etc., knowing exactly what I need to write.

(As it happens, a couple of days after making that decision I read something along the same lines in Chuck Wendig’s book, The Kick-Ass Writer, to the effect of, editing needs a plan just as the actual writing does. Well, there’s a plan that works for me.)

The second problem is finding quiet time. The last few days have been particularly bad on that front. Last Monday, I made the above decision about how I’d approach the editing, and a second decision, which was I Will Edit At Least One Chapter Every Day. Tuesday, the second part was already in tatters; that morning I did an hour of day-job work then had to head out for several hours for an appointment, then in the evening we had tickets to see Seether and 3 Doors Down, and we didn’t get home and to bed until 2:15am. Four hours later, up and back at the day-job . . . and then I found out that the family who were expected on Friday had arrived two days early, so off for an evening visit we went, and bed was after midnight again. Thursday, day-job was followed by a barbecue with just-mentioned family, and at the same time I was on the work laptop helping out with an emergency release of a web application. That night, bed happened sometime around 1am. By Friday (yesterday) after day-job I was so exhausted I could barely think straight; editing was not an option. I read a book for the thirty seconds it took for my eyes to feel like they had lead weights on them, then basically died.

Oh, well. At least I got a good night’s sleep last night and today I was able to edit two chapters, which makes me feel a whole lot better. And I came up with another damned good idea, which revolves around the fact that a few weeks ago, in preparation for the visit of aforementioned family, I cleaned up the basement and made it into what is essentially a second living room. And it is a place of light and wonder. Being underground, it is cool, and because the windows are small and face the back of the house instead of the front, it is also quiet—no noise from a motorbike left idling in the street for twenty minutes at 5am (curse you, evil neighbour), no banging and clattering of garbage trucks. There is no TV, or radio. And so, when the family has left for home, I will be making that excellent room my personal Fortress Of Writerly Solitude. Awesomeness will follow.

Until next time . . .

Various Sundry Items

I haven’t written anything here for ages… Since March, apparently.

No excuses. Yes, I’ve been really, really busy at the day job, and that hasn’t left a lot of time for much else. But if I’m honest, I could have probably found a few minutes here and there to put a post or two together. I have most definitely been remiss. But anyway, things have slowed down a bit, so—at least for the time being—I do have a bit more time. And so…

Writing Progress

WORK on The Artemis Device was going very slowly until recently (same reasons—not enough free time) but the last week or so has seen a change in that. I finished a related set of new scenes that I’ve been bashing my head against for a while. I have notes in place for seven or eight more, yet to be written, and I’ll be getting into those soon. Under normal circumstances I’d be doing that over the weekend, but there are other things around the house that I really must take care of: there are boxes in the basement and garage that need to be unpacked and reorganised, and I’m planning a big push on that tomorrow. If I can hit my targets, I might be able to spend some time Sunday working on writing. Fingers crossed on that.

I also did find some time to do a little bit of editing work on the Smoke and Mirrors project. Mostly just reading it back through, looking for obvious mistakes. That one is on the back burner for the foreseeable future, though.

Well, it turns out this is going to be just a short post. It’s Friday afternoon, I’ve just finished the day job work, and now I have to go and run a few errands. But I will be making more of an effort to post here more often. I promise.

Until next time…

The Artemis Device

I’VE been working on The Artemis Device, or at least trying to. The day-job has again been taking much time, including biting into my weekends, but at last things seem to have calmed down a bit on that front.

Still, I have managed to make progress of sorts. As I’ve mentioned, the first draft typescript of Artemis went off to my copy editor a few weeks ago, then I stepped to one side for a bit to finish the first draft of Smoke & Mirrors. In the meantime my copy editor read the Artemis draft and came back at me with a a couple of suggestions.

As part of this she pointed out that the last third of the story all happens too quickly. Now, on my original timeline, that was intentional. I deliberately paced the story so that there’s a major turning point at about the two-thirds mark, leading into the last third of the book as something of an epic battle happening on three fronts.

But here’s the thing: I realised there’d been a niggle at the back of my mind while I’d been writing that whole back third, telling me the same thing my editor was telling me, but I’d ploughed on and ignored it. It’s all very well saying to yourself, I learned a lesson there—but when the lesson involves trying to remember to listen to niggling, almost subconscious, voices from behind the curtain in the back of your head, it’s not quite so easy to put into practice.

Well, it’s just the first draft, after all, so some major rewriting is not unexpected. The published version of Mr. Gunn & Dr. Bohemia is pretty different from the first draft, for example—it had a lot of stuff that needed improvement. Of course, as a writer I dream of a day when I can write a first draft so polished that it needs only minor edits to get it into shape for publication (and thanks to people like Susanne Lakin I know it’s possible to do that, but easy it is not—it’s a lot of hard work), but right now it’s just that—a dream.

So the work that’s been going on with Artemis over the last few weeks has all been in the form of thinking up ways to make that back third of the story become the back half of the story, without just throwing in junk to pad it out. In other words, that major turning point will happen at the half-way mark of the story (my editor and I agree that what leads up to that point doesn’t need anything like as much work), but from that point there’ll be a lot more new material.

The question becomes, what new material? At first that wasn’t easy to see. But the thing is, as my editor pointed out, there’s a lot of opportunity to expand on conflicts and side-plots based on the back stories of the characters I already have. A couple of the characters began as very much secondary characters, but took on a bit more life of their own as things progressed. I’ve been working on those characters to explore their back stories, and that leads to conflicts and little dramas that I hadn’t even dreamed of in the original story development. There are one or two characters that are just too perfect, and that’s just not realistic. One in particular has a turbulent family background that in the real world would, I’m sure, give rise to a much more flawed and complex character. That opens up some interesting possibilities.

The thought of writing thirty or forty thousand new words is exciting, and at the same time scary. The thought that I might have to dump and burn ten or fifteen thousand words of what’s already there fills me with dread, but if that’s what needs to be done, I’ll do it.

And on that note, gentle reader, it’s time for a late lunch and then to get on with more of this. Until next time . . .

Crazy

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I posted here. Things have been crazy, but I didn’t think they’d been quite that crazy until I looked at the timestamp on the last post. In fact, I can’t remember how things on various fronts stood when I left off, so forgive me, gentle reader, if I’m repeating myself. Again.

Writing

I already mentioned that the first draft of The Artemis Device was sent off to my copy editor at my publisher (a couple of months ago, in fact—where does the time go?) And I had some feedback and I’ll be doing some work on that, which I’m getting into gear for now. Mostly it’s the pacing of the second half of the book, but also some character work that needs doing.

The last time I mentioned Smoke & Mirrors I think I was at the point where I was writing new scenes for about the last third of the book. Good news on that front is I finished the first draft. Yay! So I sent that off to my editor to see what she thinks. Personally I think it’s a sock-blower-offer, but I’m biased. I really hope they like it, though.

So for now, Smoke can sit for a bit, and it’s back to Artemis. Next up on that, re-read and mark up, and see what ideas come to mind to improve the back nine.

Day Job

We want . . . information
We want . . . information

I am currently working on SIX projects—three being foreground projects that are active and I have to juggle my time between them. The other three are background, but when a crisis comes up on any of those I have to jump to fix it PDQ. I’ve been pulling extra hours evenings and weekends (fourteen hours last weekend). I feel permanently exhausted. Man, do I need a vacation.

Until next time, gentle reader . . .