Back to the writing grind

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Composite panoramic image of view of Yosemite ...

We’ve been in the apartment for almost two weeks now, but it wasn’t until late Saturday night that I was finally able to unbox my desktop and look into some writing. I’m still pushing out stories, albeit with a slight hiatus the last few weeks. At present I have five short stories out for consideration. That seems like a lot to me, especially given my sales record (zilch), but having worked on my quality for the last few years, I’m trying to work on my quantity. If I do enough of it, eventually something will sell somewhere, right?

On the novel front, as predicted, despite interest from some agents based on my elevator pitch, actual interest in the full novel hasn’t materialized. I’m still waiting to hear back from a few agents, but I’m far from being disappointed. I knew the novel was a tougher sale, and I’m more satisfied that I finished it even if no one wants to pick it up.

What I am trying to do right now is figure out what I’m going to work on next. Now that I have a workspace again (THANK YOU WIFE!!!), I feel like things are beginning to settle again. I find myself torn between wanting to work on the Niki Hunter series (which I think would probably be classified as New Adult, maybe paranormal thriller? Not a lot of romance involved, plenty of things that go bump in the night though), and wanting to work on some science fiction. Experience has taught me that I can’t do both at the same time, though – my brain doesn’t appreciate switching storylines that easily. I think while my brain works out what it wants to do, I will probably go back to working on that follow up to the Pearl Crescent. I had fun writing about Jei and Kinsing, and think another tale in their journey would be worth it.

Before I can do even that, though, I have to revisions and reductions on a short story I want to submit for an upcoming contest. Apparently, I also have to work at my job and take part in my family at the same time. Pffft.

…and back to the life of a commuter

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This week I returned to a commute. The verdict is still out on the details of that – getting used to riding the BART daily, the mile or so I’m walking back and forth, etc. This blog entry is not a gripe about my year of working remote. Instead, I’m writing it with the intention of sharing my experience if you are considering a remote gig. Circumstances vary from person to person, and mine are very much rooted in being the father of three young daughters and working in the system support field (devops, sysadmin, whatever you want to call the folks that make sure your app or site is up all the time).

Exterior of a BART C car at Daly City station

I had the good fortune for the last year to live the life of a completely remote employee. In our daydreams, that sounds wonderful. Make your own schedule. Do your own thing. No more shackles of the work day, just be free to work when you need to do, but still have the luxury to deal with your real life.

Like the cake, it’s a lie. At least for some personality types, mine included.

First, there’s the time difference. I thought this was going to be easy going into it – I’m used to working 8, 9, even 12 hour days on occasion . How hard could it be? My office was on the West Coast, but my home was on the East, so right off the bat everything is offset by 3 hours. I could have tried to keep a schedule that was bound more to localtime, but folks in the office expect to be able to schedule meetings in the early afternoon – 2-4 – which on the opposite coast, is really 5-7.

Don’t get me wrong – being able to start work later in the day (noonish was still 9am in the office) was wonderful. But working until at least 8 at night mean that despite being home, I was actually seeing my kids less than when I drove into an office.

All of that only covers the day to day schedule of working. Working in my field, you expect to work additional hours. The 3am maintenance window, the 5am Sunday morning crash, these are the joys of the job. On the local side, everyone expects that if you work from home, you can come to Important Activity of the Week. Schools plan events around their calendar, not yours. Your children, as understanding as they are, don’t always realize that you have a meeting every other Friday night until past their bedtime. Dinners become a dash to eat and catch up on the day before rushing back to work (its only 3 in the afternoon at the office, after all – why aren’t you responding to the flood of private messages your coworkers are sending?). Because the last thing you want to do is give the impression that anything might distract you from your job and cast doubts on your ability to work remotely.

The reality is that although I’ve seen more of my family in the last year, I’ve actually spent less time with them than when I commuted. Now that we’re in California, I started commuting this past Wednesday. It hasn’t been smooth – I caught the last direct train home on Thursday, and Friday I made it to the train before only by high tailing it through SF (there are trains home after that, but then you have to do connections, and it sounds more dramatic if I just call it the last direct train home). Yet in both extreme cases, I still managed to spend a few hours with the kids before we all crashed for the night.

So my year of working remote is over. I don’t look forward to standing for 40 minutes on the BART before walking .6 miles to the office (seems so small when typed, feels so long when walked). I don’t look forward to the bad commute days (I’ve heard they exist). But I do think I can adapt again to being a real person. I’ll no longer be the disembodied talking head on the screen.

 

Arriving in the Golden State

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I admit, I’m writing this from bed. Namely because that’s the only standing piece of furniture we have at the moment. I could bore you with the trials and tribulations – or at least the series of near misses that threatened to destroy us though they never quite succeeded – but that’s all been recorded in my twitter stream, more or less. Suffice it to say, the packers and movers were great and timely, the car showed up in California 5 days early (which means we were still in Virginia, scrambling for a way to pay for the delivery and someone that would, at the drop of a hat, help us get our car somewhere safe), three days of long hours hauling and cleaning (and thanks to the three guardian angels for being our lifesavers and easily doubling if not quadrupling how much we could accomplish), we finally made it out. We then had our worst hotel experience so far as a family (and just after our best the previous three nights), and despite leaving at 5:30am we almost didn’t make it in time for our flight (yes, we were that family, the one being paged to see if were going to board or not).

The apartment is pretty much as expected, except we didn’t anticipate hot water from both taps. Management is working on the problem, though I did do my research before asking for a status (yes, it’s a violation of the California Tennet’s Rights to not provide both hot and cold water in your residence). That aside, no complaints. We have a lot of things to get still (we were pretty liberal in our purging towards the end), but I think we learned our lesson. While there are some essentials we’ll need to pick up, I don’t think we’ll make the same mistakes we made in the house.

But first, I’d really like a chair. Maybe a couch. Everything else is just icing.

Not a lot on the writing front this week – in fact, none at all, but that’s not actually surprising. Once we get unpacked and have furniture again, I intend to remedy that count. I’m not only ready to start hacking out the first of the Niki Hunter novels, but I have a short story or two ready to explode. But this typing in beds stuff just isn’t for me.

Also, need a fan. This apartment has A/C in only one room, and it’s been unseasonably hot this week.