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When is a rejection not so much of a rejection November 22, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in News, Submissions, Tom's Posts.
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I recently heard back on a story I had sent in knowing it had one fatal flaw for the publication, length.

“I must apologize for having held onto this story for such a long time. It truly tempted me, but, although I’ve kept fiddling with the idea of running it, the story is just too long (over double our maximum length) for use in Spaceports & Spidersilk. If you ever write anything shorter that might work for us, I’d very much like to read it.”

The story is Saturn Station Remote. It’s a story about what happens to magicians when our technology has taken us well beyond the point when magic seems special. I’m going to have to do some searching for the right publication to send this story to next. I appreciate the nod from SPACEPORTS & SPIDERSILK
however. It has been good to hear a positive reading of my writing.

Expanding My Universe October 13, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Tom's Posts.
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I write within a universe I am slowly building.  Today I’ve added more detail about a favorite setting, Saturn Station. This is a place that exists in my stories The Leaving and Saturn Station Remote and I’m certain it will be in other future stories. I’ve added it to my Encyclopedia of the Future, which is my depository for expanded information on the places I have imagined.

Story In For The Fourth Quarter. September 30, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in News, Submissions, Tom's Posts.
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Well, I did it.  I was able to submit a story to the Writers of the Future Contest.  It is my first entry in six months and a relief to have made it. At work, I have completed my deadlines and I continue to move through the maze of bureaucracy that comes with my management’s desire to promote me. I have taken a promotional exam and have been ranked one, which is just a first step to completing my promotion. Next will come interviews with all of the Rank One applicants. In the mean time, I am finding more time to write as is evidenced by my ability to enter this quarter. I have a book that needs final editing. That will be my next focus along with finding out which of my recently started short story ideas rises to the top for submission in the next contest quarter. It will be interesting to find out which one takes shape first.  That is part of the fun of writing fiction for me. There are adventures that have been molded in my head for years, and there are adventures that just unfold as they are typed, almost as if they are stories I am reading that were written by others.

Last look at the Space Shuttle Endeavour September 21, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in News, Tom's Posts.
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Today was probably the last time I will see the Space Shuttle in the air. Below is the Shuttle Endeavour as it flew past my cubicle window on its way to its permanent home in Los Angeles:

Space Shuttle Endeavor Over Sacramento CA

The shuttle created quite a commotion as it flew over Sacramento. It was a throwback to the days of old when our space program generated excitement. When you look at the full resolution version of the picture above you see people on the rooftop of the glass California Teachers Retirement building and on top of the adjacent parking garage.  All over the city people crowded on the roof tops in the same way so they could see the low fly over of this piece of space history.

The excitement this generated in sleepy Sacramento had me wondering what else NASA could do to generate excitement in the space program. Can they find a way to brighten the International Space Station to track as it crosses over in the night sky? Maybe they should be conducting parachute drops of the Orion crew capsule closer to where the people are:

 Wouldn’t this be fun to go see the Orion “tested” in an open field somewhere near your own town.  There wouldn’t be much science involved, but the Shuttle didn’t need to fly up to Sacramento and San Francisco from Edwards Air Force Base “on its way” to LA International.  The excitement and interest generated would be worth it though.

What were you doing in high school? September 12, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in News, Publications, Tom's Posts.
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What were you doing in high school? I was on the swim team, learning to navigate the awkward byways of boy vs girl relationships, and occasionally paying attention to my studies.  What I wasn’t doing was starting a story editing enterprise.  There is however a young man who has started such an endeavour.  His name is Jake Johnson and he has amassed an impressive line up of authors for his year-long project to publish a series of themed anthologies which can be found at Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jakesmonthly). Two of my short stories were in his first anthology compiled around the Science Fiction theme.  He has since collected and published anthologies each month for these other themes:  Horror, Post Apocalyptic, Science Fantasy, Punk, Bizarro, Mystery, Thriller, Alternate History, Magic Realism, and Slipstream.

All in all, it is a very impressive collection this young man has been able to put together.  His last of this year’s anthology collection project will be an anthology featuring novellas.  I was pleasantly surprised recently when he contacted me wanting to know if he could publish my story, Fall of the Faithful. After having been pulled away from my writing for months now, it was good to be remembered and I agreed to be in the anthology if his final edit still has room.  But regardless of whether I do end up in his last anthology, I am still impressed by this young man’s enthusiasm and talent for drawing together all of these works in fiction and producing a high quality collection of stories.  You should go now to check them out.

Back to Life August 31, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Tom's Posts.
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To some it may have seemed that I had disappeared from the world. My last entry here on August 4th was the last time I had the luxury of time.  And for the past three weeks I have been working non-stop fourteen hours and more a day trying to get two new school projects approved by the Division of the State Architect (DSA). State government seldom works on logic and my August 31st deadline to have these projects approved or loose bond funding for them is a prime example.  To achieve this however, I have worked nights and weekends ceaselessly to put together the plans and the details that could be approved by reviewers for seismic, fire, and life safety, standards and to ensure the projects are fully accessible.

There is a mind-boggling amount of detail that must go into the plans for school projects like these two. Our project teams had mechanical, electrical, structural, and civil engineers along with a landscape architect, sound attenuation consultants, soils engineers and more all coordinated through me as the project architect.  The plans for one of the projects is 250 sheets, which measures over an inch thick of 24 inch by 36 inch paper.

To my wife and kids, I have been like  a casual acquaintance who has come to visit in the evenings.  My wife has had to pick up the responsibilities of making sure the kids start their school year off right. She brought me lunches at my desk. She even had to drive down to work on a Sunday night to bring me some changes of clothes for my travels because I was too busy scrambling to even have time to go home for that. She also only got a midnight exchange of gifts from me on our 19th wedding anniversary last week.

All of this effort culminated this week with a marathon review of the projects at the DSA Oakland and San Diego offices where we poured over the plans for ten hours a day with the reviewers.  We checked to see that every connection was secure. We checked to see that every fire regulation was followed. We checked to see that people in wheel chairs, the blind and the deaf could get around everywhere in the facility.  Even a walk in freezer had to have the interior clear area for a wheelchair to maneuver in.  In the end, both projects were approved and my deadline was met with one day to spare.

I had a luxurious six hours of sleep last night and I get to stay home all weekend with my wife and kids for the first time in nearly month.  And in a couple of years, I will get to go walk the halls of some brand spanking new school buildings that I can take satisfaction in having been a part of bringing to life.

6-29 August 4, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Tom's Posts.
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I was back to writing my fiction yesterday. It is a short story that I had hoped to enter in the second quarter of the Writers of the Future contest but couldn’t complete on time. My stand in entry for that quarter written a couple of years before was form rejected. I had hoped to finish this story for the third quarter before work madness set in and didn’t even alow me the time to submit an older story. But I have started again on the story I really believe could have much promise. When I went to update the back-up though, I was surprised to see tat June 29th was the last time I wrote creatively. Where did the month of July go? Oh well, no time to worry about the lost time. This new story is a fresh concept that will hopefully grab the attention of judges who are tired of space battles and mythical creatures.

Reading Surpasses The DVD For The Kids July 31, 2012

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I was putting away some of the gadgets we took with us on our big family road trip when I came upon the portable DVD player that I had packed with us.  I have used the player to entertain the kids with on long road trips in the past.  This time around, I didn’t have time to set it up ahead of the trip and there always seemed to be one reason or another to not set it up on the road.  While my 9-year-old son did ask for it a couple of times, he didn’t really miss it.  I downloaded books for him to my Kindle and his sister had her own books to read.  So when the monotony of the midwest prairie land got to them, my kids turned to their reading.  Aside from one morning of TV time while visiting family in Montana, our kids went without TV for nearly two weeks, and they survived.

Not only that, they thrived.

The Plan Is That There Is No Plan July 10, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in News, Tom's Posts.
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Five years ago I received a promotion at work from Associate Architect to Senior Architect.  Back then I was planning to make the move someday up to the next level in our organization as Supervising Architect.  Fresh with the feel of the promotion, I started working with the long-term plan of promotion.  I’ve been working on my interpersonal skills and my management style, working to find that sweet spot where I can do more than my job asks without having to expend wasted energy doing so. It is the traditional path of doing the job you want, not the job you have.  In the mean time, I like being an architect who works closely with my clients to build their needs.  There is a wonderful and immediate gratification to a creative outlet that is easy to like.  I’ve been very satisfied working as a Senior Architect and I haven’t been looking to that next step in our organization in the foreseeable future.  I could be happy working in this capacity right up until retirement many years from now.

This is where my writing fits in.  It is another creative outlet that I miss when I don’t carve out the time to pursue it.  Having the one job that I can do well and efficiently has given me time to do more writing.  This is the direction I have steered my ambitions towards for the next few years.  Finding satisfaction in writing has become my plan.  I have a lot of stories to tell and one main theme of the Encyclopedia of the Future to develop.  While my career in architecture was going on just fine how it was, my writing has also been advancing in a way that I was just starting to find satisfaction with. But,,,,,

Two weeks ago, just after coming  back from the vacation I have been posting about, work has dictated a new plan.  I was asked to become an Acting Supervising Architect. It is a first step towards a promotion I have thought was something that was still too far into the future to have considered in the short-term.  After all, I work for the State and normally, an overburdened bureaucratic organization like this normally clicks on in a predictable manner.  One of the cardinal rules of a huge bureaucracy is that seniority rules.  The people who have sat in the chair the longest are typically the ones on the short list for promotion.  I am middle rung in terms of seniority and there are very qualified people higher up that ladder who would ordinarily be promoted.  But these are not ordinary times in the State of California and all agencies are in a state of chaos; and chaos breeds change.  I have been advocating for smart changes in this environment and that seems to have been enough to encourage management to say, “if you want change, let it start with you.”

So I went away on vacation thinking I was going to come back recharged to finish my projects and write more of the great American novel.  I returned to a clap on the back and a reward of double the work and quadruple the responsibility.  This was not in the plan.  So for now, I have concluded that there is no plan. I have to reinvent the plan.  I am in uncharted waters.  I have the start of a novel about the first humans to leave our solar system and step out into what turns out to be a crowded galactic community.  I have a new appreciation for the scenario I have been building for the crew of the Intrepid.  I am on a journey of exploration myself, only this one is real with many people depending on my success. The first part of my new plan, stay afloat.

Road Trip Days 9-11 June 22, 2012

Posted by Tom Wells in Tom's Posts.
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Days 9 & 10, Sunday June 3rd & Monday June 4th
Drove as far as Big Sky, Montana

It rained again.  A lot of rain. Considering that we were 10 or 15 miles down a dirt road, the rain was a concern.  Our drive out took us on down a very muddy and wet road that can make ten thousand pounds of camper seem like much more.  The kids thought is was great fun, but my wife and I were equally relieved to reach the interstate again.

We were headed for a spot on the map called Big Sky.  My wife’s aunt and uncle had recently moved to Big Sky from Arizona.  As you might guess, Big Sky Montana is about as different from Arizona as it gets.  They are retiring to this best kept secret of the ski-set.  One of the resorts on the surrounding mountains boasts at having the most developed ski runs of any other single resort in the USA. The population swells with entertainment stars, computer magnates and other ski loving wealthy snow worshipers.  We were here after that season and that suited us just fine.  We stayed relatively still for two days and two nights.  The kids got to sleep inside our host’s house while we had the camper to ourselves.  Their home backs onto a dedicated open meadow and we did a campfire in their backyard complete with smores and good stories.

In nearby Bozeman we visited their Natural History museum which includes a very extensive pre-historic fossil collection.  The next day we went horseback riding and some caught a glimpse of a grizzly bear.  Big Sky is a beautiful corner of our country and we loved our stay there, but soon we were on the move again.

Day 11, Tuesday, June 5th
Drove as far as Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming.

We followed our hosts from Big Sky to the West Entrance of Yellowstone on Tuesday.  Before going into the park they took us through the Montana Grizzly and Wolf Reserve.  This is one of the places bears, wolves and other wildlife go when they have been injured or captured for becoming a danger.  It was fun to watch the Grizzly Bears wrestle with each other.  I was reminded I was in Montana when I noticed a young man striding around with a gun holstered at his side like we were in the old west.

We said our goodbyes and ventured into Yellowstone.  Our first stop was at the Steamboat Geyser Basin.  Here we picked up another set of Junior Ranger workbooks (which are in a larger newspaper format).  Right away we saw that one of the ranger programs required to get the official Yellowstone Junior Ranger Patch was about to start so the kids and I boogied down the boardwalk trails to the Steamboat Geyser where a very engaging ranger gave a crash course lesson on the geology of Yellowstone and the way the different geysers operate.

Afterwards we set out on the shorter of two trails around the geyser basin, or so we thought.  The boardwalk that was at the start of the two trails away from Steamboat Geyser had recently been rebuilt along a route that differed from the map we were following.  The shorter trail we were supposed to take was not clearly marked from the new intersection and it looked like a path to see a different angle of the hot spring where the trials diverged.  As a result we ended up on the longer path.

This wasn’t so bad because Yellowstone is a place of wonder and there was plenty to see.  But Yellowstone is also a place where you never want to be caught unprepared on the longer trails in good weather.  Our whole trip this far had been a lesson in changing weather and sure enough, halfway down the three-mile path a mixture of light rain and snow began to lightly fall.  Thankfully the worst of it held off until we finished our hike and got back into the truck.
If there is one National Park in America that everyone should make it a priority to visit, it has to be Yellowstone.  The original trappers who first returned from the area told of the incredible sites, but as you might guess, they couldn’t be believed at first.  I could write volumes about the sites and wonders of Yellowstone, but to keep this narrative moving to an end let me just say, go and see it for yourself if you have never been there because volumes of words could never replace the experience of the place.
There is a grand loop drive around the park and on Tuesday we completed half of the loop before turning into a quickly filling campground.  The campground is at the 7,000 foot elevation and it was cold and late.  We drove in and set up the camper for the night.