Posts Tagged ‘Procrastination’

When Worlds Collide! Kapow! Writing and Database Design

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

I continue to marvel at the intersection of my writing life and my tech life. One of my job functions is to architect databases that will hold the information that runs websites or pays bills or, report on the information in the database. It’s remarkably easy to get wrong. Because I’m a data architect and not a software developer, my approach is always, how would I set this up so we meet the users needs and protect the data?

Every software dev is now slapping her/his forehead and groaning.

Dude. We’ll negotiate the joins later, OK?

But no. We’re not doing it your way because your way is fast on the app side and 30 days later we can’t report on the data. Or it’s not actually what the user needs.

So. Authors who write series, often more than one, need a way to show readers the order of the books in the series. Sounds simple, right? Let the author number the books from 1 through a bazillion.

(And now all the authors are now groaning, going, wait! What about prequels, novels and novellas? where I didn’t write them in chronological order or where readers want Novel order interspersed with Novellas … without having to number Book 7 in the series 9th in the order because there are intervening novellas or short stories.)

Readers are doing much the same.

I know, I know. And I’m so sorry.

surprise/not surprised

I’m surprise/not surprised that ALL the book vendors have gotten the design of this wrong. It SOUNDS easy, but it’s not. We all see the huge disconnect between all the vendors who went “Let them number the books IN WHOLE NUBMERS!” and what authors and readers actually need.

A structured database, like SQL Server or Oracle could do this of course. So could a NoSQL db, but either way you still have to understand this isn’t just a numbering problem. NoSQL probably makes this easier to achieve.

But is OBVIOUS no one at the vendors actually talked to enough authors or even publishers about this. If they had, they’d know they were about to design it wrong.

Painful Lessons of Bad Data Architecture

One of the early lessons for any database person is that when the structure doesn’t provide users a way to do what is needed in real life, they will find workarounds that fuck up your data.

Like when there’s no field to hold (easy example) a middle name and someone goes by their middle name. Users will enter the middle name in the first name field OR the last name field, or a field for Company name. And then you are fucked because you have no way easy way to know that Roberta Ellen Smith is in your database as

firstname: Roberta Ellen
LastName: Smith
CompanyName: Acme Widgets

firstname: Roberta
LastName: Ellen Smith
CompanyName: Acme Widgets

firstname: Roberta
LastName: Ellen
CompanyName: Smith/Acme Widgets

Now get me a list of all the people whose last name is Smith.

I’m not making this up, except the names. I’ve seen databases like this.

Real World Reading and Writing

In the real world of reading and authoring books, a series can have:
Short stories
Something else we didn’t think of yet.

And the order might go like this:

Book 1
Book 2
Novella 1
Book 3
Short Story 1
Book 4
Novella 2

AND it’s possible the author wrote these stories in this order

Short Story 1
Book 2
Book 3
Book 4
Book 1
Novella 2
Novella 1

So that by the time they’ve written novella 1, which in the chronology of events in the SERIES places Novella 1 chronologically before Book 3, they will need to reorder their books.

How do I know this is possible? Because I’m a data architect and I’ve seen stuff like this before but also because here’s the story series order of my Sinclair Series books:

Books in chronological order according to the World
Mary’s story
Anne’s Story
Lucy’s Story
Emily’s Story

Here’s the order I have written or will write them in:

Anne’s Story
Lucy’s Story
Emily’s Story
Mary story

Why? Because PUBLISHING doesn’t commit to series and sometimes neither do authors. A book that was intended as a stand alone turns out to have characters in it readers are dying to read about, and some of those characters’ stories would be BEFORE the time setting of the book that was published first.

Authors commonly want to number books like this:

Prequel (Book 0)
Book 1
Novella 1.5
Book 2
Book 3
Novella 3.5

Which is a fairly obvious solution from their point of view, but with clear issues on the backend if you only allow the number field to accept whole numbers which everyone except All Romance eBooks does.

That’s the problem with the simplistic notion that Books are ordered 1, 2, 3, 4 . . . . N

Authors and Readers – in the same leaky Boat

Readers might want to read the books, regardless of length or nomenclature (novel, novella etc.) in the order they were written. Or chronologically according to events in the series. Or in some order the author has provided for the series.

So, on the backend, book order is actually considerably more fluid than any vendor currently provides to authors who would like to number their books so readers can figure out which stories they want to read first.

So vendors end up giving us this, which is completely inadequate for authors and readers alike.
Book 1 = Book 1
Book 2 = Book 2
Book 3 = Novella 1
Book 4 = Book 3
Book 5 = Short Story 1
Book 6 = Book 4
Book 7 = Novella 2
Book 8 = Book 5

Because to get the books listed in reading order authors have to say Book 5 is Book 8 when it isn’t book 8.

Obviously, you should allow the author to provide a reading order that does not link reading order to nomenclature.

1 = Book 1
2 = Book 2
3 = Novella 1
4 = Book 3
5 = Short Story 1
6 = Book 4
7 = Novella 2
8 = Book 5

So, you show the end user this:

Vampire Flowers Series – Reading Order

Flowers in My Garden, prequel
Flowers in my Sock drawer, Book 1
The Gnome Attack, Novella 1
Flowers in my mailbox, Book 2
Gnome Attack!!, A short story
Bees Knees, Novella 2

Reading Order, as a numbering concept unrelated to any other order, would also permit a reader to get a list of just the novels, in reading order.

But nobody asked me.


I am NOT procrastinating

Monday, December 6th, 2010

I’m a superviolet magic drafter!

Take the quiz at Brent

Really. Not procrastinating at all. Next up, the pantry and all those out of order soup cans.


Flowers! (no, I’m not procrastinating, why do you ask?)

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

You can look at these while I. . .

  • make word count
  • run pre-RWA errands
  • take son to get new shoes
  • panic at my lack of preparation for anything
  • Procrastinate

These pics are all from the various garden areas here at Jewel central. I like to go out either very early in the morning (doesn’t happen often) or very late in the afternoon when the sunlight isn’t too harsh. I thought I was out too early (in the afternoon) for the daisy shots, but as it turns out, not for these shots of the daisies, as they were in a shaded area and the sun was just above the horizon and so coming in at a very interesting angle. The images are a little prettier at full size and resolution, but you get the idea. Edited to add: If you right click, you can see the image at near full size!

Edited to add: That list is in no particular order. Also I fixed some typos.

White Shasta Daisy

A Flower -- OK, a Shasta Daisy

Same Daisy, Another Angle

White Shasta Daisy

Golden bronze rose with rain drops, shot taken indoors


Pink Roses Blue Sky Green Leaves



The Write Stuff Plus Monsters

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008


This is the hardest part for me… early on when the core of the book isn’t established, yet I know what I want it to be. Sometimes the words just aren’t there, and sometimes the words that are there are the wrong ones. Double Sigh. Times like this I’d rather do anything than write the right words.

So, one of tonight’s episodes of Buffy was Fool for Love which I’d noticed made Joss Whedon’s top 10 list of episodes. For about half the show I was wondering why. And then it happened. Oh. My. Gosh. I am now a Joss Whedon Fan Girl. Spike is a very bad vampire, just really bad. He seriously hates Buffy yet has come to realize he loves her. Even though (because of?) he wants desperately to kill her. Really. He’s let at least part of his secret out and she delivers a resounding and rather heartless slap down. He is determined to kill her and sets out to do so. He goes to her house, ready to do the deed. Only she’s sitting on the front steps by herself, crying. (Because of some terrible and devastating news about a family member). He has all the opportunity in the world to kill her. But instead, he asks "What’s wrong?" Shot of her tear stained face… She doesn’t want to talk about it. She’s plainly devastated. "Is there anything I can do?" he asks and you can tell he truly, sincerely means it. Then he sits beside her, leaving ample space between them, and awkwardly pats her shoulder. End of the episode.

Now, that, people, is a real villain. Not cardboard bad. This is not one of the bad guys from The Fairie Queene where bad is just bad and the outward appearance and action stands in for the inward person. Not a psycho for whom reality is but a distant memory.

I want that guy for my hero. I’m twisted that way.


Back to work.



Not that I would EVER procrastinate . . .

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

But . . . Can I just say that even though I desperately want a Mac laptop and some day expect to own one, I have a developed a deep and abiding hatred for Quick Time and iTunes for Windows. See, apparently, Apple doesn’t want you to have their QuickTime video player without iTunes. They bundle the two and they pester you if you manage to figure out how to get QT without iTunes. See, I don’t own an iPod. I have a regular old, much cheaper, mp3 player. I don’t need or want iTunes. But at least once a week Apple pops up an unsolicited message telling me I don’t have iTunes and don’t I want it? NO. Just f’n freaking NO. I can’t make it go away. I’m not allowed to tell Apple to leave me alone with the iTunes crap. Why isn’t that malware? Smells like malware. Acts like malware…

So, actually, there is a way to make it go away. I uninstalled QuickTime. Ah, the silence. It’s lovely. Go away Apple. Leave me alone. Hah. Now you have to. You don’t know about me anymore.

OK, back to work.