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My Android Failed Me January 10, 2013

Posted by Tom Wells in Introductions.
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It was an experiment that lasted just over a year, but my Android as a writing assistant has now been retired. At least 40% of my writing happens on the go. I am always looking for new ways to take it with me. The difficulties with this is both having a reliable writing platform and updating my original files at home. For the past year I tried using my smart-phone to do the work using a laptop dock that turned my phone into an Android based computer. The theory worked, but it was hard to maintain and sync with my home files. Also, word processing apps for the Android OS are a long way from being seriously useful.

I had a love-hate relationship with my Android. I loved the touch screen interface on my phone, however for some shortsighted presumably cost saving reason, Motorola did not give their laptop dock a touch screen. Failure number One. I loved the portability. My phone was always there in my pocket, ready to go and to start writing, I just pulled out my phone and docked it into the specialty laptop and away I went. The weakness in the design was that I had to peel off the phone protector so it could fit in the dock. That gets old quick. Failure number Two. Then there was my hate-hate relationship with all of the word editing applications for Android. None of them can be called a word processor. None of them play nice with Microsoft Word in a natural way and none of them are Scrivener, which is a serious writing platform available for both Windows and Mac, but not for Android. Failure number Three.

The smart phone is a revolution in communication devices. Text messages, e-mail, instant chat and good old-fashioned phone conversations are all a breeze on these things. I can keep in touch with the office in real-time via e-mail. However for security reasons, instant email from the office means setting up my phone with data encryption to keep my office safer from hackers. That special encryption really wreaks havoc with file transfers from my phone to my desktop.

Now with Windows 8 I have gone back to the PC format for travel. And with the new Skydrive by Microsoft (their next generation for cloud based file management) I can have a copy of my stories on my Desktop and my laptop and both files are kept synced with the master file stored on the Skydrive. I type here and save and the Skydrive updates. I write there and the Skydrive updates. I don’t have to copy or paste or update briefcases or anything else. I just open my files and edit. Plus for safety sake, I have 3 copies of my work. Plus if I have a flash of inspiration away from my personal computers, I can log onto the Skydrive from any internet based machine and edit a file and those edits are automatically synced with my personal computers.

My Android is still my communications device. The Star Wars nerd in me considers it to be my protocol droid. And my laptop is back, fulfilling the role of my astromech Swiss army knife of computing. And my writing is re-infused. I can expand on a thought much easier now. At my work-desk, if a thought comes to me, I open the internet and go to the Skydrive. On the go, I can open my laptop/tablet combo and do the same. And at home it all stays current without my having to manually sync or copy files.

While the Android experiment in writing mobility ultimately failed, it did help open my eyes to the touch revolution that is changing personal computing. A personal touch has been restored to our devices and I like that kind of evolution.

A New Venue For Fall of the Faithful October 8, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Introductions.
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Fall of the Faithful was my first Honorable Mention with the Writer’s of the Future and this month the story has found a new home in the final Anthology by Jake Johnson. Jake’s Monthly – The Final Anthology is available now at Smashwords where I recommend you go to now and support this young man’s great efforts.  As a reminder, his first anthology, Jake’s Monthly – Science Fiction Anthology is a place where you can see two of my other short stories.

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Indulging In A Little Whining May 22, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Introductions.
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Thirteen years ago at the turn of the century  I was working in the architectural equivalent of a sweat shop.  My salary was about as much as an hourly drafter would earn with overtime in a 45 hour week, but the management of this pressure cooker treated their salaried workers as if they were slackers if they worked anything less than 60 hours a week. It was the height of the housing boom and I was helping to produce the plans for the stucco boxes that everyone is foreclosing on these days.


If I had stuck with it in the production home industry my life would certainly be different now.  I would have had to embrace a management style that idealized such crazy notions like, “If you can take two weeks of vacation and your work goes on fine without you, then you should be fired for not being vital enough.”  So if I had spent the past twelve years never taking two-week vacations and working 60 hour weeks and learning to artfully promote my efforts, then I could have been making more money than I do now, but only up until the financial crash in 2008.


In 2008 I would likely have lost my job when the housing boom went bust.  The national architectural firm I worked for then, closed its doors in California. Other firms I had worked at have also closed their doors and I would have been forced to move anywhere to take a job earning anything I could muster.  Back then my coworkers thought I was crazy to leave the fast rising salaries and chances at partnership, but I made the right move thirteen years ago.


At the turn of the century I chose another path.  Earnings wise, its sort of the tortoise career path in lieu of the rabbit pace that I was on back then.  Back then 20 hours of my week was spent in marketing efforts to support the 40 hours of billable work.  Changing to work as an architect with the State of California meant my workload was set, so I could concentrate on 40 hours of production and forgo the other 20 hours of marketing.  The trade-off is that I wasn’t making as much money as I could have been right up to 2008.  The upside is that I am still working and that I probably have earned back that difference in salary by still having a job for the past four years.


Why would I write all of this here on a blog that is supposed to be about my creative writing?  It is a long-winded set up to talk about the current forces that have severely impacted the time I would rather be writing.  I am very thankful that I do have a job doing the work that I do love doing as much as I love writing.  But while working for the State has insulated me from the economic depression in the architecture profession, the State is in its own crisis.

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It isn’t a revenue crisis that my state is in.  Our tax income continues to grow at a snail’s pace.  The problem is that the state spends money like it did when the economy was growing.  The politicians consider it a cut if you change the growth of government from 15% a year to 12% a year.  Government is still growing, just not as fast.  But that doesn’t mean that it’s not growing too fast. We would be fine if the people in charge just froze spending where it is.  But they can’t or won’t and that leaves the state in crisis.


The business of what I do must go on.  I am working on projects that are upgrading and replacing school facilities that were built sixty years ago.  These facilities have been used hard for the past six decades and they need to be replaced to give these kids the quality education they deserve.  However with the budget crisis comes the difficulty bringing the projects online.  The first hurdle being the sale of the bonds that will fund the project, the second being one of manpower for producing the plans.


Government cynics out there might try to argue that the work I do could be done more cheaply by private architects.  That might be true if the school could walk in to an architect’s office and hire him directly, but government doesn’t work that way.  The school has to go to a bureaucrat agency to let them hire the architect and that agency has to try detailing all of the architects duties and responsibilities in writing before shopping the whole state for the firm that will charge the least, but who also is going to ask for more and more money every time something they are asked to do is outside of the detailed description of work that had no place being written by people who have no proper understanding of what they were trying to manage.  Then when the private firm is hired by the middle man agency, that agency has to spend more extra man hours managing the work of the private architect while the school has a harder time communicating with the design people they wanted to hire.  In the mean time, all of the extra bureaucracy of the state project goes on being produced by more government bureaucrats pushing paper behind the scenes for the project that the private architect is working on.  The efficiency of a private architect is not only lost, in many ways it ends up costing the state more money to work with private design firms than it does when an architect such as myself does the same work as a direct employee of the state.


The easy way to make cuts in government comes from its employees.  Every time someone retires or transfers, their position is eliminated.  That works fine at first, and believe me there are plenty of agencies that need to make those kinds of cuts, but we have reached the point in my division where there is no longer enough people to handle our workload.  In many government agencies as it is with my own, there are plenty of paper pushing, report writing, and policy overkill bureaucrats who need to be eliminated.  But for the work I do, there comes a point when too many positions have been eliminated to allow us to keep up with the demand for projects that need to continue. I get two choices, work more hours to cover the loss, or give up the work which would lead to no job.


So I opt for long hours.  I can’t really complain because it is a full on depression for the building industry, but I don’t have to like the long hours.  Especially when this wouldn’t be a problem if the politicians could just freeze spending where it is and let the small tax revenue increases catch up.
What suffers for now is my writing.  I don’t get to do much of it lately and after spending 10 hours a day in front of a computer for my day job, its hard to motivate myself to get back on it at home.  I’ve only finished this blog entry on a flight to Eureka for a project there.  I don’t have to draft today so I can face my computer screen a little more at ease.


And hopefully I’ll get a chance to finish a short story I’ve been working on for quite a few months now.  I’d talk more about that story, but I do hope to enter it in the Writers of the Future contest which prevents me from doing so.  But I do want to finish the story just so I can know what happens next to its characters

The Way Of The Leaving April 23, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Introductions, News, Publications.
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My novel length manuscript, The Way Of The Leaving, is here and ready for critiquing.  If you are interested, click on the PDF attachment below.  You can e-mail or message me for a copy in another format such as Kindle or E-pub.

This story starts with two familiar stories as chapters, Fall of the Faithful and Mother and both very different stories to begin with slowly come together.

      The Way of the Leaving

News on my latest Writer’s of the Future entry March 28, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Introductions, News, Submissions.
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Dear Entrant, 

Your story has now been judged and did not win or place in the 1st quarter.

Well, darn.  It’s a bit of a let down after having been sidetracked from writing so much lately.  It’s not the first time a story of mine has failed to place with the Writers of the Future contest, but it is the first rejection since my renewed effort at writing more began a little over a year ago.  Nothing to do but to send this one off to other markets while submitting my next entry and coming up with new stories.

Rejection March 17, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Introductions.
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I have another rejection to report, though I’ll admit now that the title of this post has been deliberately stated so plainly to have a little fun at my nephew’s expense. My nephew Roger Laird ( RogerLairdWriting.com ), like myself, is an aspiring writer and had entered the same quarter of the Writer’s of the Future Contest as me.  This was his first posting to the contest and like I have received many times before from WOTF, he has already learned that he has not placed in the contest.  He was and probably still is understandably disappointed, as I no doubt will be when I finally receive the same news this quarter from the contest, but this is not the result I am writing to report.  At least not yet.  While I still hold out optimism for my most recent submission to the contest, I have seen results posted by other regular submitters to the contest who have the same news as my nephew.  These results from writers who have had much greater success than myself in the publishing business leave me with a bit of trepidation every time I check my e-mail.  But it is the lingering hope that I may hear better news from the contest that has given me at least a moment’s relief that the rejection received today was not from the contest (that may still be yet to come). It was a rejection from Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, for my story Dog Sense.

I will of course be choosing another market for the story while continuing to hope/dread news of my showing in this quarter’s WOTF contest.  Rejection is something of a constant in a writer’s life and I have come to accept it.  I hope that Roger does not become easily discouraged by his own rejections so relatively early in his own pursuit of writing.  In fact, he may find more success than me (which at this time is not so high of a measure to achieve) in his writing career if he pursues it for any length of time with an ear for developing his skills of storytelling.  Still, I suspect he has been checking in at this blog to see if I have news on WOTF, so if you are Roger, no news for now is no news.

Restored February 20, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Introductions.
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Two weeks ago I started using a new writing program called Scrivener. I was importing my word documents for a novel that is in its final-first draft stages when I discovered the troubles with Quickoffice and my phone that I have written about here recently. Since then I have been struggling to bring my files back while dealing with some very long hours spent on project deadlines for my day job. My deadlines still have me working less on writing and more on blueprints* . But the good news is that after a painful reset of my Android phone, I have restored the files and restored myself to the task of writing. Though as a side note, Quickoffice continues to corrupt files if I use it on my phone, so I have switched to using Office Suite for Android. I actually like the interface better than Quickoffice so I hope that continues to work. I’ll be a little more cautious overwriting PC files before finding out if the Android edited versions work.

*Blueprints only exist in a virtual sense these days. For those who don’t know it yet, real honest-to-goodness blue prints have gone the way of rotary dial phones. Large format building plans are spit out on giant laser printers nowadays.

Where’s our paperless society? February 11, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Introductions.
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It was promised a long time ago along with flying cars and food lockers that could present an entire fresh cooked meal with the push of a button.  I’m talking about the paperless society.  To be fair, we have accomplished some baby steps to this end. E-readers are at the leading edge to this finish line.  But they bring us about as close to a paperless society as $20 remote control toy helicopters are to being that flying car we all want. They’re cool and fun, but they don’t solve real world paper making things. They only make the fun stuff paperless.

I have a structural engineering consultant working with me on my project and we need one more piece of paper from them to finish our project.  They sent me two pieces of paper to tell me what they will do and for how much. I in turn had to produce ten more pieces of paper to get approval to sign the two pieces of paper I was given so the consultant could then add one piece of paper to my project.  E-readers are nowhere near solving that problem.

Computers were supposed to take us a step closer, but they seem to compound the problem by making it easier to make more paper forms for people to sign. And then there’s my example above.  One of the ten pieces of paper I had to generate for the approval to pay the consultant for one piece of paper was a form that certifies that my consultant will not be providing computer equipment or software with his paper. God only knows how many pieces of paper I would have to produce if I did want a computer or some software.

If publishing houses are afraid that E-readers will be putting them out of business, they need get themselves a government gig.  There are reams of paper to be produced for them.

Now if I could just get this darn project done so I can go back to my hobby of creating stories to be printed on, well, you get the point.

A Peak Into “The Leaving” January 24, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Introductions.
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I have finished my rough draft of “The Leaving.”  This is a book that continues the stories started with “Fall of the Faithful” and “Mother”.  For anyone who has read the stories, here’s a tease excerpt from the new story that pulls the two earlier stories together:

Dr. Galveston was navigating the US government networks again. It was painstaking methodical work making their way into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory network in Pasadena. Murphy sat in where he was needed and manually typed the inputs from a bio-signature keyboard that gained them access into the Seeker program. Once there, it was supposed to be easy for Dr. Galveston to locate Director Alfred Gains’ files and to take the embed information he would need to mislead Mother into believing she was being rescued by Gains himself.

The plan was to download the NASA Director’s stolen computer identity into a ghost network server Galveston had set up on one table. Mother would be downloaded into another server set up on another table. Kevin Murphy made his way into the Seeker Program network according to plan. He was just about to turn over access within the system to Galveston when the display on the monitor went to a monotone purple.

“Oh no, what did you do Murphy?” Dr. Galveston said exasperated. “She shouldn’t be able to get on our system!”

“She who?” Kevin Murphy asked turning away from the display before the eyes of Mother appeared on the screen.

“You are not supposed to be here,” Dr. Galveston said looking past the cadet.

A tin can sounding voice coming from the stock speaker on an half opened computer behind Kevin Murphy answered saying, “I would agree if I knew where here is.”

Layers January 4, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Introductions.
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Like a story, my new book cover has many layers:

Starting with a picture of Canyonlands NP in Utah that I took while on vacation in 2009:

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Then add a NASA stock photo of the moon Phobos:

Image (looks more like a potato)

Then put an anonymous hiker on the point:

Image  He doesn’t need a fancy space suit and you’ll have to read the book to know why.

Then take a stock photo of the Manhattan skyline:

Image This one I morphed with a bubble effect later.

Then mash them together and remove most of the blues and greens from the picture and you get a photo looking down on New Angeles, Mars:

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The book is available on Amazon and Smashwords