Is it Saturday already?

In my defense I was hoping to get more writing done last night; it just didn’t happen.

The previously mentioned job prospects fell through. We’ll see what happens in the next couple as there are some new early inquires next week. I try not to get too excited unless I’m getting to second round interviews. I had a virtual conference and a networking event both this week. Add in some errand running and the rest of my updates aren’t as good as I would like.

I didn’t make progress on freelance writing. That aspect of my three things seems to be the one falling by the wayside when life and job interviews happen. That should tell me something, but I’m stubborn and still thinking I need to pursue it.

Novel writing will not result in a first draft, uh, today. By my estimates I have a good 1-1.5 weeks left before it’ll be done depending on the time I am able to commit. I don’t see this as a missed goal as I took a week after the outline was finished before I really got into writing the story. That was my bad. Also, my speed is increasing as I get used to writing the story and get to know the characters better. In the past I’ve always had that non-writers raised eyebrow when I heard writer’s talk about their characters not co-operating or surprising them. This morning as I finally figured out what to give my characters to move the story forward they responded by ignoring the beats of my arc and taking the event in a different direction than I expected. They’re still where I need them now, but they got there a different way. Honestly it’s a better way than I thought they would and I’m happier with it though.

That’s all for now. I’ll be reaching out to some specific people for beta reading when the draft is done, or almost done. If you are interested in being on that list please feel free to contact me.

Not yesterday afternoon.

That’s right, this is late. We had other commitments yesterday evening so this is coming now instead, after doing some house cleaning.

On the job front I was beaten out by an internal referral again. Additionally it looks like the chances of the other good lead I had panning out are now down very far. I’ll know for sure by Tuesday, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s a bummer because both of these were more than just a recruiter asking to put me in, or me putting in to a resume hole/recruitment firm. Anyhow, that continues to be a search. On the bright side it seems Heather will be able to continue as a remote employee for the next few months. (She may argue how much of a bright side this is, but it is income.) We just need to figure out what the summer schedule is going to look like if a) nothing changes, and b) I get a full-time job.

Freelance writing took a backseat to novel-writing this week. With the job search activity a little heightened due to actual traction on some leads I had less time for other things, so that’s what suffered. I’ll have that down as a priority for next week. If I can get some freelance writing gigs I’ll at least be able to get some income, maybe even enough to look like part-time employment income.

The novel is underway. The story is coming out without a ton of coaxing. I’ve already gone somewhat off-script from the outline, but that’s fine by me. I see the outline (beats in some writing circles) as a guide for the story. The story itself is filled in by the characters, so it may not match the outline perfectly. The outline was informed by the characters though, so it’ll be close.

In other news, I just put the standing desk back together after cleaning up some. I am typing this standing. I’m going to try out writing in this position next week and see how it goes. I think it’ll work so I look forward to seeing if I’m right. I get exercise if I walk the kids back and forth, but otherwise it’s tough for me to remember to go out for a walk. I even have podcasts to listen to while walking, but usually end up not getting it done. They tend to get listened to while playing minecraft to wind down for the night instead.

Detention

I tried to write this yesterday afternoon. It didn’t work though. It’s not that I can’t force myself to write, but to actually write a story I need to have one to tell. The forcing part tends to bring out a story, but it takes time. The prompt itself is fine, and I tried to start something for a good hour. It just wouldn’t come. This morning as I was working out the next section of the novel before getting up and actually writing it this more or less came to me, so before writing in the book I wrote this. I’ll post an update post this afternoon. For now I’m in a writing mindset so I’m going to keep at it.

The Prompt
Write a story set in a place you have visited
Tips
Ideally this should be a place you have vivid memories of, so you can use little details to color the story — for example, in Jo’s post (above) there are all kinds of details that a French person make take for granted (the sweet peas growing wild in the verge; the red dust in Camargue), but that bring the setting alive for readers.
It doesn’t have to be anywhere exotic or ‘foreign’. It can be your favorite corner of your local park, as long as you remember to give us the local flavor: what is the light like? What can your character smell? What color/material are the nearby buildings?
Do remember to tell a story. Don’t just write a description of the place. What kind of person might be there and why? Do they want to be there? Why? What would you expect to be happening in this place/at this time? What if something completely different happened? Why? With what result?
Detention

The buzzing always bothered him the most. The quiet was bad, but the buzzing made it worse. It’s not like he asked to be there. It was just the way everything seemed to work out for him. Every time.

He sighed, staring blankly at the book in front of him.

Cough.

He turned his head reflexively toward the noise, even as he told himself not to.

“Eyes to the front!”

It took every ounce of willpower he had, but he kept himself from mumbling an expletive under his breath. Instead he picked up the pen on the desk and started to doodle on the notebook next to the book, but his heart wasn’t in it.

It smelled of chalk in this room. If he was going to be stuck in detention it was better than the band room with it’s stale smell of spit, or the science lab with the distant smell of formaldehyde from years of frog dissections. He’d been in all of them this year. His favorite was the wood shop room. The smell of freshly cut pine never left that room. It reminded him of trips to the cabin when he was younger, before they had to move. Unfortunately, the smell was the only good thing about this room.

Ah-Choo!
Squeak. Click, clack, click, clack.

Mr. Bowman was one of the worst teachers to be in detention with. He was bringing someone a box of tissue right now. Yeah, you couldn’t even get up to clean snot off your face. One time while in the back of the class he saw Jess lay her head down on the desk. It was hilarious to see her jump when Mr. Bowman pushed a stack of books off the side of his desk. That’s the kind of teacher he was, he would give himself extra work just to make a student’s life miserable.

Sitting in front was the worst. The idea of laying his head down was so appealing, but he knew better. Maybe in Ms. Keller’s detention, but not here. On the bright side the steel tube connecting the desktop to the chair back pressed into his arm painfully while he squirmed in the hard plastic seat. Why the school couldn’t spring for the desks where the top covered that tube was something he would never understand.

Still, it was the buzzing that would never let him sleep. The constant buzzing from above that got louder the more he tried to ignore it. It prevented him from reading, took away his desire to write, and thwarted his ability to do algebra.

The Supernova.

Today I wrote a short story. I want to write to the outline for a book I have, but today I didn’t have time. Also, to the surprise of nobody who knows me, I procrastinated. I might have had enough time to make some progress, but it got lost to me fighting against writing. The best part, as all procrastinators know, is that I was mad at myself for fighting it even as I fought it. There’s a theme in there somewhere that I can hopefully pull up for some .

Anyhow, the story was written after reading a prompt from StoryADay.org. I have tons of writing prompts available to me, partially from being subscribed to this sites mailing lists for a little over a year now. This particular prompt can be found here. The character started out as a young girl, but I think that’s due to the book I should be working on because I got the feeling she was actually a young adult as I went through. If I were to add this work to a book or submit it to a publication I would re-work the introduction at the beginning a little to better reflect that. As it is I got rid of the very beginning, but could use it as a blurb if this were ever made a larger story. (That’s why it’s still kind of there.)

If you have any thoughts about the story, of any kind, please leave them below. I consider short fiction like this to be practice, so any feedback is actually welcome. I’ll interact with you and everything! You can even send it privately to me if you’d like. If you don’t have my email address just ask for it below.

The Prompt

On the day they saw the blue star swell to gigantic proportions, everyone went blind but Hardy. He was already blind, had been from birth,but he had lifted his head to the heavens because he felt a peculiar warmth.

Moments later the others were still blind, but he could see. All the colors of the spectrum. Even viewed by moonlight, the brightness of it all frightened and puzzled him.

The Supernova

Have you ever wanted to see a total solar eclipse? How about the Northern Lights? This was supposed to be better than both of those put together. I’ve seen both and I was more excited than most. You see, my dad discovered it. Yep, I’m that Andrea.

Hi. Andrea L. Pinkerton at your service. My friends call me Pinky and my family calls me Andi. That way I know who’s calling for me. You called me Andrea, so I’m guessing we haven’t met before. That happens a lot now. I guess it comes with being some kind of famous. That is why you called, right? You want to hear about how he found it?

Oh. Nobody’s ever asked me that before. They always want to know how he found it, what we were doing when he found it, did he dance and sing, what did we all do when we heard, things like that. Nobody asks what he was looking for, or why.

Of course he wasn’t looking for it, but then aren’t most big discoveries like that? He would tell you he was looking for patterns. That’s what he always said. “Astronomy isn’t about looking at the stars anymore, these days it’s about finding patterns in the data and looking at the data around the patterns.” I can’t count how many times I heard him say that. I think he was trying to steer me to a different life, one with more adventure and excitement. Kind of makes you laugh really. He was trying to steer me from a boring life one day and makes the most exciting announcement ever the next.

Oh, sorry. He was part of a team trying to figure out how to predict supernovas. More specifically, to find stars with planets in the habitable zone that could currently support life, but in which the stars were close to the end of their life. The idea was we didn’t want to try for those systems because by the time we got there the planets could be dead already. Is that what you were looking for?

No. The secondary objective was not a thing. That was all made up after the fact to fit what really happened. It’s amazing what people say when it can’t be verified one way or the other. I guess it’s a good story though.It makes it seem as if there was some bigger plan. I’ve read that we tend to make up patterns in random data even if none are there. Like seeing Jesus in toast you know? My bet is that’s where the secondary objective came from.

Do I think it’s true? No. In fact I fully believe it isn’t. The data looks the same for every single one. How could it possibly be true? There would have to be some kind of variance from one to the next, we see that with sets of data here. If it was true then we become the exception, which is about the only thing less likely than it being true.

Ok, I’ll give you that we technically aren’t an exception because our sun has a long life left. The thing is, there have been instances of the same data in some systems that we know could not have sustained life as we know it, systems with nothing in the habitable zone.

Now you want to know about the close one? I’m not sure what I can tell you that hasn’t been said before. It was still the same objective, find systems with habitable planets which won’t be habitable for long. As you know one was found that was close, very close in interstellar terms. We’ve watched them before. This one though, it was different. Because of the distance and the star’s composition it would visible to the naked eye when it happened. Well, I guess it happened years ago. When we got confirmation I guess.

No there wasn’t anything strange about the star’s composition. Did you do your own research before contacting me?

Sorry. I agree there’s a need to be thorough. It was supposed to be a beautiful show. It was too, I mean what we saw anyhow.

Right before it? I didn’t see anything else. My dad discovered it. We were guests of the President watching from Hawaii. Honestly looking back the media circus was almost more impressive, topped only by the confusion after.

Have I heard about what some people found in the data? Yes. He never looked. He blames himself for the world going black. I’m pretty sure if we could see him he’d look horrible. He sounds and feels pretty bad.

What if it’s true? I’ll tell you what I think, besides that it’s not true. If it is true than there is a race of beings out there traveling from one habitable system to the next, and some that aren’t, blowing up stars. That’s what I think. If it wasn’t the same race every time the signatures people are “seeing” would vary as all biological processes do. If it is the same race for all of them then we’re likely next. If that’s the case I’m glad we can’t see anything anymore.

Here we are, surrounded by snow.

I did mean to post this update earlier this week, but stuff happens right? In our case what happens is the first year we skip flu vaccinations Gideon gets the Flu. Yes, diagnosed and verified by testing. So that made for a great end to the week for him. Add in the snow and we’ve all been more or less stuck inside not doing much for a couple of days. I did do the driveway twice and Heather went outside to play with each of the kids separately. Gideon wanted to get out so bad that we let him, he seems to be mostly recovered anyhow. He actually lasted longer than Cecilia did earlier in the day.

So, updates for me. After a vacation I finally am getting back into the freelancing classes. The available resources are impressive for the fee. ($25 a month) Anyone else interested in freelance writing would be well-served to sign up when they can. Let me know and I’ll get you some info.

I have finished an outline of a book that I didn’t expect to write. I’ll start the rough draft next week. Maybe when this one is out I’ll be able to start that fantasy epic, but I have a feeling this book will spawn a couple more before the characters let me take a break. That’s OK though, I should write the stories that are bursting to get out versus the ones I need to force out because I like them. I’ll start looking for beta readers as I’m cleaning up draft 1. The book is geared to the 4th grade crowd, give or take. It’s a general fictional story set in more or less today’s real world. If you’re interested let me know. My plan is to be done with the draft by the end of this month.

The job-hunt is hanging steady at 1-2 leads a week. That said, this last weeks leads felt a little stronger than most. Nothing really worth reporting yet, but perhaps at the coming weeks update there will be.

No, last weeks post wasn’t missed.

It might seem as if last week was missed, but it wasn’t. We were on vacation and as these updates have been basically real-time I didn’t want to announce it to some of the random people that we don’t know.

As it was vacation I didn’t really work on anything for the job search. I did talk to a recruiter early in the week, but the position wasn’t going to be a fit.

I took the week off from the freelance writing idea as well. I am partway through a class on getting the right kinds of freelance clients and should complete it in the next two weeks. I plan to concentrate on niches related to the jobs I am trying to find so any work I do can be referenced in interviews, and possibly added to the resume. Along those lines my other blog, OurAgileJourney.com, should be seeing more updates and be the birthplace of a nonfiction book this summer depending on timing of everything.

I did get some work on the story done. Not much, but a couple of things took hold and my parents place has a nice little breakfast nook spot that felt good for writing. This week I plan to continue the rough outline. I hope to start an actual draft, or at least an expanded outline, next week. We’ll see if I feel ready to write or if I need to refine the story at that time.

Spring, Winter, Summer, Whatever.

Yes, I did a title about the weather, but the post isn’t about the weather.

Another week another couple of positions put in for. No bites yet but there’s always a chance.

I’ve been researching the proper way to break into freelance writing and hope to get some actual traction there in the next couple weeks.

The last week was a little slow for story writing. I started my first pass at an outline. I’ve done a lot of research on process for writing stories and think I’m going the right direction. The outline in this case is done as more of a tentative guide than an actual outline. Moving from it to the actual story it isn’t followed the way an outline for a research paper leads to the final product. That said I think I know roughly what the first couple chapters will include.

That’s all for now. Yesterday was extremely long and the hosting server for the site was down earlier when I tried posting. Next week will have more I’m sure.

Missed Update

Oops. In my defense, I did a post at OurAgileJourney.com on Thursday with the intention of this going up yesterday, but then the day didn’t go as nicely as planned.

The quick and dirty, It was a slow week for novel-writing. I did submit to my average 2 positions per week, so the job search is still slow but finding spots occasionally. I also started some research for freelance writing.

In reverse order, I am officially looking for freelance writing work. If you or anyone you know has opportunities I am going to give good discounts for the first few clients to help me establish a broader portfolio. My current work can be seen at OurAgileJourney.com as well as here. I am open to writing for any industry, but would be really interested in anything technology related. I will write website copy, white papers, blog posts, case studies, about pages, newsletter articles, magazine articles, and other items as requested. Whether there is a one-time need or a possibility for an ongoing relationship please reach out to me and we can work out details.

There’s not much to be more specific on for the job search. If I get into some second round interviews I’ll be sure to share that. Part of my job search plan for next week is to make progress on a book related to my job. That currently sits at 11 pages and has a long ways to go. That said, I bet I could make a lot of progress in a half day. Having a published book on the topic, which is niche enough I may even get some sales, will definitely help me stand out. When I have the whole thing at least roughed in, if not rough drafted, I’ll start working on a marketing plan for it.

For fiction writing I did a little more world building for the novella series that is simmering, just getting ready to be written. I also picked up some books from the library that have a similar target audience. The idea here is that I don’t want to write these stories the same way I write either of my blogs. I need to make sure my voice is focused on the right audience and my story has the right pacing for them. I plan to read through these books to help me know when I’m done with world-building and ready to hash out the basic story outlines. It’ll also help me know how to pace and structure the stories that do come out in outlining.

Now, off to finish getting ready for a little boy’s birthday party.

Finally, starting to feel better.

I am not 100% yet. I’m still using cough drops at a decent pace, but I can speak without it hurting, most of the time. I also am getting tired out a little faster than I should be. Such is life, I’m sure it’ll be all better soon enough.

Scrum Master jobs aren’t exactly plentiful out here right now. Personally, I’m thinking the local economy might be slowing a little. My father-in-law has been seeking employment for longer than I want to think of and the plethora of jobs that I was applying to last summer just aren’t there anymore. I am putting in for the ones I find though, and have gotten through the initial phone screen a couple of times even. Unfortunately it hasn’t gone past that yet.

As for writing. I received an “experience” for my birthday to help me figure out how to move this forward. Basically, a team of writers opened up their process for coming up with an idea and writing a novel to people who were interested enough to purchase it. Originally it was a KickStarter project but now the archives are available for sale on their site. They put themselves on a very tight time limit, 1 month. They then recorded all of their story meetings, published all of their drafts and edits as they went, talked about the process as it unfolded, and basically just let everyone see how the “sausage” was made. I feel like I’m not a bad writer, so for me it was all about seeing the process they use. As I finish that journey I am going to take what I can learn from it and try finding my own process. In fact, I’ve already started.

I’m working on writing short fiction, up to the 100-word stories now, to help hone my writing. I’m learning what schedule best balances writing and job-searching for me. I’m building a world to write in, and it’s not the world I originally though. Finally, I’m also poking into what it would take to do freelance writing for income until I build enough fiction to make money. Does all this mean I’m hanging up the IT hat? No. I’m still looking hard for that job as a Scrum Master, Software Project Manager, or Software Development Manager. There just aren’t a lot of them now and I’m not ready to write code for another 5 years. (Good thing too since DRC was 90% VB.Net and most places are C# or Java.)

I had originally hoped that by now, assuming I hadn’t been hired, I would be working on a novella and have some actual short stories published to this blog. Being sick for the last month has really slowed that wagon down though. Instead of letting that get to me I am moving forward. By the end of this month I anticipate having short stories on this blog and making good progress on a novella/novel. There is one wrench I’m seeing right now though. Due to the competitive market for the jobs I’m hoping for I am going to split some of my fiction writing time off and work to complete the Agile basics book I had envisioned two years ago. That isn’t just talk either. I have 3,500 words (11 pages) down already. Granted this is largely the copy from previous blog posts, but it’s in the right place to become a book.

With that I’ll leave you the last few short fiction stories I’ve done in case you don’t see them on Facebook.

55 word:

3/1/2016
“It all fit!”
That was an exaggeration really. The drive would not be comfortable. “More like it barely fits.”
“So this is it. The big dream coming true.”
“Maybe. I still have a long way to go.”
“You’ll make it though. You always do.”
After a hug I got in the car and drove off.

BEEP BEEP BEEP!
Not again. It’s getting hard to function with these constant interruptions.
BEEP BEEP BEEP!
Three days? A week? I don’t even know anymore.
BEEP BEEP BEEP!
How did this happen anyhow? Why do I deserve this?
<Silence>
“Mr Cooper. The test is over. At the agreed $50 per hour you get $150.”

100 word:

3/7/2016

Sara was crying when she called. “Bridget? Are you busy?”
Of course I’m in the middle of an experiment, but I always have time to help a friend in need. “No, what’s up?”
“My grandma died last night. That’s why I wasn’t in school today.”
“The silly Grandma?”
“No. Grandma Hamilton. I, I didn’t know her as well.”
“Do you know what happened?”
“Dad said she was old and it was her time. We’re leaving tomorrow to see the rest of the family.”
“You can call me anytime you need to.”
“Thanks Bridget, I knew I could count on you.”

3/9/2016

Bridget burst into her shed clutching the package tight. She carefully cleared a space on the workbench before putting it down. She had been waiting for this since last time Grandpa took her to the science museum.
She opened the toolbox and got out the box cutter. She worked her way around the package, careful not to push the blade into the box. When she had all the tape cut she first put away the knife, then slowly opened the package.
There it was, her own soldering iron. This would bring her experiments to a whole new level, adding electricity.

Continued accountability.

I am going to do my best to post here weekly as a way to force myself to make progress on both the job search and writing. For this week I am sick again. I believe this means I have been sick more than healthy since losing my job. Yay.

I am doing OK with 55 word stories. When I actually decide to write some they come out. Nobody has left feedback, but that’s fine. I have struggled with twitter stories. 140 characters is tough. My goal is novellas and novels, so I think I’m ok with that though. I bet many published authors would struggle with twitter stories.

I was planning to start 100 word stories this week, but I was also expecting to be healthy enough to write every day. I honestly barely got through a video yesterday during the day. It hasn’t been fun. I think the 100 word stories I will post to the blog, so twitter followers will see them.

I continue pursuing Scrum Master and Software Development Manager/Project Manager positions. Nothing new to report there though. When I get through the videos I think I’ll split my writing between a non-fiction Scrum book I have planned and fiction. I feel having a Scrum book published would be a big boost for the job search, especially if I can do it well.

That’s all for now. I need to go see if this is strep or just a random virus. Especially since this is round 2.