Barely Writing

Yes, this week I did even less writing than last week. After making a good start on that short story I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t written at all on it this week. It stands at around 400 words, waiting on me to come back to it.

One reason I backed off was I wasn’t sure that the woman whose name I’m using for the heroine, with her permission, still wanted me to continue using it. Changing the name would be difficult on the third story in. After waiting several days I finally contacted her, and she says it’s fine to keep using her name. So, as time allows, I shall be charging onward with “Sierra, Kilo, Bravo”.

The other main task I’m doing which could be considered a writing task is editing my A Harmony of the Gospels. I’ve mentioned this work in previous posts, but not for some time. I began this in 2002 (if memory serves me correctly), and finished it in typed form 2009; I finished it in manuscript somewhere around 2006 or 2007. It was always a project to be fit in, never a priority. After that I’ve been reading through it, mainly for devotional and study purposes, but catching typos along the way.

The Harmony is in three parts: the actual harmony of the four gospels; a section of passage notes that includes overlapping gospel passages side by side, with my notes on how I harmonized them; and appendixes that include lengthier discussions on some sections, passages, and events for which I wanted to clarify my approach.

Over the years since I finished everything I’ve read the Harmony part a half-dozen times. The last time through I didn’t catch many typos. A month ago I finished reading the parallel scripture portion of the Passage Notes for the second time. I caught more typos, but not as many as I expected. Currently I’m reading through the Appendixes. Here I’m catching a few typos, but more so edits needed to clarify what I’m trying to say.

I should finish reading the Appendixes by the end of the year, maybe before. I never did finish the last appendix, and one of the earlier ones is sort of left hanging, as if I meant to come back and add something, something of which I have no idea now. I’ll get through these, then do the typing, re-print a copy for work and a copy for home. Then, what?

My text for the Harmony is the NIV version of the Bible. This is a copyrighted work, with Zondervan owning the exclusive right to publish it. My putting it into a harmony didn’t change enough words to make this something I could publish myself. It could only be published through Zondervan. Given the very low chance of that ever happening, I don’t ever plan on submitting it.

No, this is for me only. I also gave copies to my current and previous pastors, with a warning that they are not to copy and distribute it. That should keep me out of trouble with copyright laws.

200 Words a Day

That’s what my current goal is: 200 words a day.

The Time Crunch continues, with activities sapping my energy and leaving me feeling very uncreative by the end of the day. The lack of sales in November (0 sales, despite doing some Facebook promos) doesn’t exactly encourage me to write more. Over Thanksgiving I mentioned the lack of sales to my family, and my daughter said, “Promote, promote, promote.” In my head I know that’s true. But free promotion seems to do no good, and I’m not ready to pay for advertisements.

Everyone who has tried it says an e-mail newsletter is an effective marketing tool. But those take time to put together, and assembling an e-mailing list is a huge task, a task I can’t commit to at this time. So that’s something in the future, if the future ever presents time for it.

CDD cover 2013-07-25Consequently, I’m not writing—or almost not writing. As I mentioned in my last post, I got to work on a new short story today. Typical for me, the story I received inspiration for is in my least popular area. The Sharon Williams Fonseca short stories just don’t sell. Spy stories must be out of favor now. Or I don’t know how to write them. Or my titles and/or covers aren’t engaging enough. I can understand the titles not working until maybe I have 5 to 10 of these published.

WZT cover - first draftBut given that this is where the inspiration came, I’ll run with it. But I’ll do so very slowly. Perhaps I should say I’ll walk with it, or stroll with it, or limp along with it. I worked on it two days last week, and had it up to about 150 words. I worked on it this morning before starting my workday, and now have it up to 428 words. It looks as if I can produce this type of story at about 200 words a day for a first draft. Since I hope this short story, and others in the series, will average about 6,000 words each, that means it will take a month to complete each first draft.

Throw in some editing time, e-book creation time, cover creation time, and it looks as if I’ll have my 5 to 10 book goal done in a year. That’s not great production, but I guess I’ll have to live with it.

Working on a Short Story—Sort Of

WZT cover - first draftThe Time Crunch continues. For at least another four months I expect to do very little writing. However, yesterday some ideas for a short story began to gel.

This will be the next in the Sharon Williams Fonseca, unconventional CIA agent, series. I’ve known for a long time which story would be next if I decided to continue the series. I had the main plot in my mind. It will take place in Europe, mainly on trains between Italy and Switzerland. Sharon will be suspected of committing a crime, though it’s a crime that her superiors at the CIA really aren’t upset about.

CDD cover 2013-07-25The title of the story is “Sierra Kilo Bravo. It will introduce a character who will become the CIA’s man to dog Sharon and figure out if she’s a legitimate agent or gone rogue. It was yesterday during the workday that I came up with a name for him: Carter Burns. I actually introduced him in the first one, “Whiskey, Zebra, Tango”, as “Mr. Clark,” a tip of the hat to Tom Clancy and his character by that name. In this book he will be a new member in the internal investigative branch of the CIA. While he’s green at the job, he’s fully trained.

His investigations will take him to Italy and Switzerland. He’s going to follow the route our family took in 1982 (which is the year the story is set in) from Florence to Lucerne, including an unintended twist in our trip that really happened. For us it was unintended; for Sharon it will appear to be intended, and provide her the means to commit this crime.

I have no time frame for writing this. Last night, after completing stock trading work and all other activities, I wrote a list of scenes in the story, though it isn’t yet complete. Ideas have become to pop up. Maybe today, during my noon hour, I’ll actually write something on it. If I do it will be my first writing in over two months.


A Chance to Write—or at Least Edit


As I’ve said in other posts, writing time isn’t just hard to come by: It’s non-existent right now.

Except, that is, for at work. I’m working on two or three essays based on past of future presentations I’ve made. More on those later. This week I’ve had the pleasure of working on a construction specification. The project is a tire shop in Oklahoma. The client is a major tire dealer that we developed the standard specs for. Actually, I’m the one who developed the standard specs for them, a year or so ago, maybe a little longer. They had seen our specs, saw what we did (I do) with internal notes to guide the spec writer, and wanted us to do it for them.

The project manager had already downloaded the specs needed from the client’s website and put them in a project folder on the network. I opened them one by one and saw the notes to specifier in bold red staring at me. On a real project situation I was able to read those notes and do what they suggested. Overall I found them to be pretty good. My attention was directed to where in the spec section it was most needed.

On the project I found four construction items for which we did not prepare a standard spec for this client, so I’m having to create them—not quite from scratch, though. Two of them are similar to sections we already have, so I’m able to pull them up, modify them as needed, and save them as new sections. I’ll do that for the project. Then, hopefully before the end of the year, I’ll expand them, first into a guide spec for our company; second as a standard spec for that client.

I have one new product added to an existing section, one of the new sections done, and a second new spec section started. Next will be the section from scratch. Actually, even that won’t be from scratch as they’re using a proprietary product on the project so I can take the manufacturer’s spec and modify them.

It’s not exactly creative writing, but it is writing. And I need to get back to is.

Nothing to Write About

Once again I missed my normal day to write a post for this blog, so, a day late, I’ll add something minor. I have nothing to write about as it concerns my writing career. I’m not writing anything at the moment, still, as the Time Crunch consumes me.

I haven’t heard back from the cover illustrator for Father Daughter Day, but I really don’t expect to for another week or so. We don’t have a deadline.

Otherwise, no little poems have come to mind, no ideas for new works. Every now and then I have an urge to write, but I purposely busy myself with other things, things I have to do, so that I don’t succumb to the writing temptation.

The good news is I actually see a little light in the future. Our stock trading training is going well. We are having modest success at implementing the things our mentor is teaching us. It’s all paper trading right now, but done in a way to simulate real market and trading day conditions. We are keeping up with the webinars, and have only a few more to attend (taking us not quite through December) before we can go to the website and do a few of the other things we’re supposed to do there. After that, we “graduate”, and the time crunch is over. Right now, as I look ahead, I think perhaps February will be when I’ll find some time to think again about writing.

Another Project Abandoned

As I work my way through the Time Crunch, which has turned out to be every bit as extensive as I expected, if not more so, I have slowly been taking time to evaluate various writing projects I’ve started and decide whether to just abandon them as opposed to put them on hold. For example, my book Documenting America: Civil War Edition, is on hold. I hope some day to get back to it. It may be more than a year from now, but some day.

One of my projects dealing with Thomas Carlyle is a bibliography of his writings. I believe I’ve written about that before on this blog. It’s not a true bibliography of the things he published, but rather a chronological listing of his writings. I’ve seen four full or partial bibliographies of his published works, from 1881, 1921, 1965, and 1988. None of them have a complete listing of what he wrote from earliest to latest.

Ah ha! I thought. That’s a hole in the published works about Carlyle that perhaps I could fill. So I began working on this in off hours, I’d guess close to a year ago. I played around with what form it would take, how comprehensive it would be, etc. I worked with the first 50 items, got them in the correct order (as I saw it; another researcher might differ with me on a few), and typed it all up. Here’s an example of what it looks like, one item snipped from it.

Chronological Bibliography [table form] a snippetThis looks at those other four bibliographies and compares them to each other and to mine.

During this Time Crunch I was still working on this project. Since looking at Carlyle’s letters was essential to this work, I was going through his letters one by one at the Carlyle Letters Online, finding references to different projects, and adding them to the manuscript of my chronological composition bibliography. A letter or two an evening and having my manuscript notebook handing to pencil in a few things seemed a good way to fill odd moments between major evening activities and bed time.

But, early this week, it all became too much for me. I decided the heck with it. The notebook, the two bound bibliographies, and whatever loose sheets are lying around for this project are all going on a shelf or in a drawer somewhere, perhaps never to be seen again this side of my eternity. The project is too big for completing in 20 minute time chunks.

When I say the project is abandoned, does that mean I will never come back to it? That’s my intention, but never say never, as they say. Who knows what attitudes and time retirement will bring when at last it gets here? Maybe I’ll write again, and maybe I’ll pick up this project again. But here I state my claim that I have no intention of ever picking it up again.

There, that’s said and done. One less thing to worry about not getting done. Tonight, when those items go to their resting place out of sight and out of mind, I believe I’ll have a moment’s peace.

The News From Author Central

2014-11-11 Author RankI had this post ready to go yesterday, my scheduled day for this blog, but forgot about it. Here it is a day late.

Author Central is an Amazon website that provides information to authors. Actually, it may also provide info to readers about authors. Despite being registered there for three years I haven’t explored it much. The main reasons I go there is to check book sales and author rank. In fact, normally I just check author rank. If my rank hasn’t budged from the previous day, or if it just continues to drop, I know I have no sales.

The figure above was my author rank at about 7:30 a.m. on November 11, 2014. That means I was the 502,648th most popular author on Amazon, considering both print books and e-books. So 502,647 authors who have their books listed on Amazon were, as of that moment, more successful at selling books than I was. I’ve spent my life as a second-stringer, but this is ridiculous.

The reason I bring this up is because I have sunk to new depths. Here’s a graph of my ranking since Amazon instituted this service.

2014-11-11 Author Rank History

As you can see from that, my rank has occasionally topped 100,000, but not often. And, my rank as of Nov 11th had hit a new low. It was the first time I was below 500,000. The rank listed for each day, except for the current day, is where you were at the end of the day, probably Pacific Time. You can see the effect a single book sale will have on an author ranking as low as mine.

I’m not doing any promotion right now, since life gives me no time to write I’m not going to carve out time to promote. Not to mention that I hate promotion of myself. Also, the print books I buy from them to sell personally don’t count. I have another 40 or so of those that would have helped my ranking.

So, we’ll see what the future brings. For right now I drag along the bottom. I know there are others lower ranked than I am, but I can only account for me.


I Have an Illustrator

Yes, the contact I mentioned in my last post has worked out. A local woman, a resident of the same city I live in, Bella Vista, will provide the artwork for the cover of Father Daughter Day. And, she says she doesn’t want to be compensated for it, except for receiving a copy of the book. She has a few things on her plate, but says she will most likely start on it next week, in an art class.

She also said that, as she read the book, ideas came to her for interior illustrations. That would be nice. At one time I had hoped for quite a few illustrations in the book. Then, as finding an illustrator became more and more difficult, I decided I’d settle for a few nicely done illustrations.  Then, as more time passed with no illustrator, I decided on worrying about the cover only. I soon determined I couldn’t do it on my own. If we can go from that lowly position back to having a few nice illustrations inside the book, as well as a nice cover, that will be a step up in the world.

So things are rolling. I don’t really know how long any of this will take. Formatting the book itself for print should only take an hour or so. For e-book, because of the need to make every line text-wrap in the right way, it should take longer, perhaps half a day or maybe less using Word’s styles feature. Could it all happen before the end of the year? Maybe, but right now I’d say more likely in early 2015.

Stewardship of My Writing Time

I was supposed to post to this blog yesterday. But it was Election Day, and so I was tied up watching returns in the evening; and I had plenty to do and work to do during the day, and I didn’t get anything written and posted. Today I’ll rectify that with a day-late post.

It seems good for me to talk about how I’ve used my limited writing time of late. I’m still in the Time Crunch, and will be for several months. Rather than having big blocks of time, I have small chunks of time, perhaps a half hour in the evenings after finishing other obligations. Or maybe that much time before work or during the noon hour. They are small enough that I couldn’t take on a large project, but they are still snippets of time in which I can somehow further my writing career.

Over the last two weeks I’ve had two main projects for these snippets. One is to continue to skim/read the letters of Thomas Carlyle, looking for references to his written works. I’ve done that on a hit or miss basis before, looking for specific references to a specific work. This time, I’m going through the letters from beginning to end. My purpose for doing this is to support the composition chronology of his writings. I don’t know if I’ll ever publish that or not. Heck, I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it or not. For sure it would be a huge project, and the form of it would be tough to pull off in a standard size book (meaning height and width, not length). But for now I’m doing it, from beginning to end. I’m concentrating on his first 50 compositions (excepting letters). In fact, I’m almost done with that . I’ve gone through his letters that go up to the days of his 50th composition, and have entered the letter dates and recipients in the chronology. I think I have only three or four more compositions to do the typing on.

The other project is my poetry book, Father Daughter Day. As I’ve reported before, that book has been done for a long time. I’ve been stalled for years because I wanted to publish it as an illustrated book. I finally gave up on ever finding an illustrator willing to take it on spec, and so plan on publishing it soon. But, I need to have a cover made. I’ve been looking around for a photo to serve as a cover, but will still need an artist to add things to the cover.

This week I may have found the artist. I asked a man in my Life Group at church, who has done some sketches and posted them to Facebook of the type I’m interested in. He said he couldn’t do it, as the inspiration to draw has left him for a time. He said he would get one of his artist friends in touch with me. He was true to his word, and yesterday I had a conversation with that artist and shared my vision for the book and the cover. Today she reported to me that she had read the book, has ideas not only for the cover but also for some interior illustrations. And, she’s willing to do it on spec, rather than as up-front compensation. I need to e-mail her again today to further the process, and will do that as soon as I post this.

So, even though I’m in the Time Crunch, and writing of books and articles isn’t possible, I’m still at work with my flickering writing career. Perhaps I’ll have my poetry book out in January 2015. That would be a nice outcome.

Author | Engineer