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10 posts from July 2010


Guest Blogging Today!

I'm guest blogging today over at Motherhoot. Drop in for a family story so hot it sizzles.

After that, stop by Writers Who Kill and catch the first installment of my author interview. They were both great fun.


Visit me at Writers Who Kill

Check out part one of the interview I did with E.B. Davis over at Writers Who Kill.

Leave a comment and you could win a signed copy of Where the Dreams End or Murder at Timber Bridge.


What BP could learn from the Nuclear Industry

I've resisted writing this blog post for months, but I need to get it off my chest. If you stopped by for something funny, I apologize. I'll get back to that tomorrow, but if you've got a minute read on. And if you agree, or disagree, or just want to vent, leave a comment.

It's day one hundred of the Gulf Oil Spill. The cap is on. Cleanup continues, but in my opinion there's still one question that hasn't been answered. How did this happen? I just don't understand it. Oh I get the mechanics of the tragedy, explosion, fire, but I don't understand the logistics.

I work in the nuclear industry. I'm not a nuclear engineer or nuclear technician, I'm a carpenter. I build scaffolds so other people can gain access to components that need testing, repair or replacement. In the nuclear hierarchy I am very near the bottom of the stack. About on the same level as the folks that empty the trash, cook in the cafeteria and clean the toilets. Important jobs all, and necessary, but not critical to the safe operation of a nuclear reactor. Every time I walk into a nuclear power plant to start a new job, I'm required to take training classes, even if my last job ended less than a week before. As a trained nuclear worker I'm expected to understand how to work safely in a dangerous environment. I'm expected to follow all rules, and I'm expected to perform no work unless I have the correct documentation. In the nuclear industry there are procedures for everything. About the only operation you can perform in a nuclear power plant without a procedure is a trip to the restroom. There may be a procedure on that in the future.

What's this have to do with an explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf, you ask? I'm getting there, hang with me a minute.

Here's something most people don't realize. A nuclear facility is one of the safest workplaces in the world. Let me say that again. A nuclear facility is one of the safest workplaces in the world. The reason that these massive power plants and during refuel these massive construction sites are among the safest anywhere is that NOTHING happens in a nuclear facility without documentation, adherence to procedure and at times, endless pre job meetings. Nothing happens fast in a nuclear power plant. Safety is job one. Do it safe, follow procedure and the schedule and the budget will take care of themselves. These are the rules we live by in the nuclear industry. We've come by these rules because we've learned from mistakes in the past, but we've also learned to look forward and to anticipate failure or disaster before it happens. We plan our work and work to our plan and we DO NOT skip steps in a procedure even if it seems stupid. 

Here's were I get back to the oil spill. On an oil platform, a workplace that's inherently more dangerous than a nuclear facility, why were procedures not followed? Why was schedule put ahead of the safety of workers and the environment? Who made that call? Who signed off on the death of those 11 oil workers? And here's the biggest question of all. This is the one that makes me tear my hair out. Why in an industry that incredibly dangerous in a location that is one of the most hostile in the world was there not a procedure in place to deal with a catastrophic failure of the well? Let me ask that again, because that's the question I haven't heard answered in the last 100 days. Why Was There Not A Procedure In Place To Deal With A Catastrophic Failure Of The Well? People died, wildlife was destroyed, and very possibly a way of life has been ruined for some of my good friends on the gulf coast because there was No Procedure in place to deal with the Catastrophic Failure of a deep water oil well.

Could it be that in all the years that deep water drilling has been going on in the United States that not one single person ever thought, "Wow, we should probably have a system in place in case we lose one of our wells to a disaster of some sort." No one? Ever? Seriously?

I Don't Buy It!

The bottom line is safety costs money. Following procedure takes time. It takes a lot more time to do a job safely. There is no question about that it's a fact. If you perform an unsafe act ten times and don't get injured it doesn't make the act safe it makes you lucky. BP and the other oil companies drilling in the gulf have been lucky for a long long time. But BP has found out that the cost of complaisance is high. It's costing them billions of dollars. I would weep for them, but instead I'll save my tears for the families of the eleven men that paid for that complacency with their lives. No amount of money BP throws at this disaster is worth even one of those workers. BP should be ashamed. The oil industry should take a page from the nuclear playbook and realize that making money shouldn't be first. If you get the job done under budget and ahead of schedule and one person was injured or killed, You Failed.  

BP You Failed.



Purchase a signed copy of Where the Dreams End or Murder at Timber Bridge this week from the KdWrites Store and receive a copy of Nine Kinds of Trouble Free.

Just type FREETROUBLE in the subject line of an email and send it to kd @ kdwrites dot com Then in the body of the email let me know which book you ordered and your name so I can match it up with the web order.

It's National Tequila Day!

As you celebrate this important national holiday, take a minute to share your favorite tequila concoction.

Here's mine...

Ingredient.  1 oz excellent tequila, 1 shot glass, one slice of lime, one shaker of salt, Jimmy Buffet CD of your choice.

Turn on Music

Apply salt

Shoot Tequila

Suck Lime

Repeat as necessary

Happy National Tequila Day!



Locked Doors and Dead Ends

I'm working on the second book of a series I never intended to write. My main character, Brocs Harley is a repo man who got caught up in an ugly situation when his little brother is murdered. That book was called Where the Dreams End, and it was Brocs' story start to finish. A vignette into the darkest time in his life and how he dealt with it. Those that have read it, liked it. They liked the character and wanted to see him again. Hence the reason I've started working on book two in the Repo Man Series. The series that wasn't supposed to happen. 

I'm thrilled that readers want to see more of Brocs, but I locked a few doors and blocked off a few roads in book one and I'm paying the price now. As I run story lines through my head, trying to figure out how to motivate my repo man into investigating another murder, I find that I don't have as many routes available as I could have. There are just some things I can't explore because of what has already happened in book one. It's making this story a bit hard to tell.

Book one of the Randi Black Mysteries, Murder at Timber Bridge, was set up as a series. From the very first I knew that there was more to Randi than one story, and there are clues to the future in book one. Little hints of mystery or tragedy to come. I didn't kill off anyone important to the future of the series, I didn't block off any roads or lock any doors. I can take Randi anywhere. The difference, Book two in the series is in edit, book three is started, books four and five are roughly outlined. It's a fun road to travel with Randi and her family. Brocs, not so much.

For one thing, Brocs is a much darker character, his baggage is a lot heavier than Randi's. Things that work in Alden for the Randi stories won't work in Stantonville with Brocs. If I had known Where the Dreams End was a series book when I first sat down to write it, I would have done some things differently, but there you go, I didn't, and I didn't.

How about you? Have you ever looked at a story line while you were writing and realized something you were getting ready to do was going to limit what might come later? Did you plan a series from the start? How much leeway does an author have with readers if you choose a road the really shouldn't be available because of what has happened before? Will readers give you some slack, or will you destroy their trust and lost them?

I've been pondering some of these questions as I try to figure out where Brocs is going in his latest adventure, The Sins of My Father. What motivates him? Why does he care so much? What can happen to him at this point in his life to make him risk it for an investigation?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of these questions. Drop in and tell me what you think.



Atla-091108-junk  Everybody has a junk drawer. Some people might even have two. I inherited a junk house. My mom was a bit of a pack rat. I started decrapifying her house almost five years ago. It wasn't easy, as every time I tried to throw something out, she'd grimace and sigh, or stalk off in a snit. She passed away a little over a year ago, and the decrapifying has gotten easier, but it's still an enormous undertaking trying to remove 45 years worth of accumulated stuff.

I'm not into stuff. I'm a minimalist. If I have a place to put my computer, a comfortable chair to read in, and my camera to record my infrequent trips away from my keyboard, I'm pretty happy. I have a few basic black pieces of clothing, enough construction clothes to get me through a week's work and a couple of pieces of formal attire. Living in a house with a piece of furniture against every single bit of wall space, and each piece of furniture, or cabinet filled to the brim with stuff, drive's me insane. Add in a basement with so much stuff there are only a few paths to walk through and an attic that's in the same condition, and I am overwhelmed. This marks my sixth summer of removing crap from this house and I can finally see the basement floor. With luck, the basement may be complete this year, then it's on to the attic. With every bit of junk that leaves the house I feel better, lighter and less encumbered. I can not wait until this project is done.

What makes people accumulate so much stuff? Why do we find it so hard to get rid of things?


Shipping with Brown

 Back in the day, they were the tightest ship in the shipping business. I am a regular customer and the big brown trucks stop by my house on a regular basis. I love internet shopping. I don't have to get dressed, I don't have to shower, I don't have to leave the house, I don't have to talk to anyone. Um, but his is about Brown and not about my social inadequacies. I stopped by Brown today to ship something quite fragile to my sailor stationed halfway across the country. It would have been cheaper to pack and ship it myself by USPS, but I didn't have the correct size box, and I am basically lazy and wanted someone else to mess with the bubble wrap, peanuts and packing tape. That may have been a mistake on my part. I'll find out Friday when the package arrives at it's destination and we find out if it is still in one piece.

See the reason for my concern is that the young man working the counter was about twelve. When my son's were twelve, they would have dropped a Ming vase into a box, taped it shut and forgot about it. They would have been surprised to learn it arrived at it's destination in pieces. So I'm a bit concerned about my package.

Of course, I sent Christmas cookies to my sailor boy and bubble wrapped the fragile one's individually so they wouldn't get broken before they arrived. I might be a bit OCD about it.


The Trouble With Tornado Warnings

The idea for this blog post came to me because I am currently sitting inside my house listening to the rumble of thunder and watching the rain. South of me severe thunderstorm warnings have been issued and we are currently under a tornado watch. This is not uncommon in this area as I live on the edge of tornado alley.

I know the goal of weathercasters everywhere is to be able to warn of tornados early enough that people can make it to safety before the twister actually arrives. That's awesome and the results of the improvements in tornado forecasting have saved lives. But here's my problem.

I live on the periphery of the tornado alley, that results in lots of watches, many warnings and few actual tornados. I try to take any warnings seriously. I'm a weather junky and I know when bad weather is in my area or headed for my area. If the sirens go off, I'm headed for the basement with my family, my laptop, and my kitty's in tow. Then we sit and watch the weather until the power goes off. Then we sit in the dark shooting each other with our flashlights until the power comes back on and the warning is released.

Or that's what I'm supposed to do. I do head for the basement with said family and stuff in hand. I do turn on the basement TV and watch the weather until the power goes out. I'm good with that for about fifteen minutes, then I'm ready to get on with my life. In the old days, before early they could offer early warning for tornados, by the time you hit the basement, the twister had taken your house or moved on. Now you have this interminable wait and I just can't stand it. I'm a weather watcher. I want to be outside watching the storm roll over, ready to dive into the basement if it approaches. I can't stand to be cooped up underground while all that awesome weather is happening above my head. Didn't use to be a problem when the warning coincided with the arrival of the tornado, but with the new early warnings, it's killing me. 

I'm afraid one of these days, I'm going to run downstairs like a responsible adult, then after about ten minutes I'm going to poke my head outside just in time for the twister to swoop me up and toss me into the next county, cause I just can't handle the early warning.

Have I seen a tornado? Do I realize the damage they can cause? Well, yes, several, yes I've seen the aftermath. Doesn't matter, when the big weather starts, I want to be outside where I can see it.

How do you handle severe weather warnings around your part of the world?


Happy Fourth of July!