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20.11.2013
Managing a full time engineering career while being a part time writer, musician, and outdoorsman. After a month of development, I completed the 52,000 word first draft of The Renegade’s Door in November.
The picture in this post is my official delivery confirmation receipt for the submission package. To finish the barrel, I mounted a 1.5 inch ABS overflow up at the top of the barrel, just below the lowest point of the inverted lid-funnel.
Unfortunately, rain is pretty seasonal here, and I’ve already missed the rainy winter months. Maybe it’s time to give up the fruitless job search and go back to school for a while. In my last post I mentioned that I was finished with my revisions of Renegade’s Door except for the proofreading. Publishing editors receive hundreds, sometime even thousands of unsolicited manuscripts a year.
And unfortunately, the folks that I asked to read the synopsis are also busy people (ie gainfully employed). I have a copy out with my volunteer proofreader right now (and my heartfelt thanks to Colleen for that).
It took me several days of scribbling, scratching out, adding new pages, and tearing up old ones to get the story into shape with the new additions. Since my blue-lines were completely in hard copy format, I couldn’t track word count on the fly. My final step was to transcribe all of my revisions from the hard copy back into electronic format. After my proofreading angel finishes her markup, I’ll wrap everything up and shop it around to potential publishers.
And while Renegade is sitting on the shelf waiting for a publisher to run with it, I’ll be starting on my next adventure. It may not be as impressive as juggling chainsaws, but keeping a balance between multiple priorities is challenge enough for me.
My Renewable Technology series is overdue for another article but I haven’t decided what topic to write about yet.
On the social front we’ve been having great fun with our new Lindy group Wednesday Night Hop. Now that I have all the feedback I expect to get from my pre-readers, I have decided to add a few more scenes and change the way some of the original scenes were organized. I started responding to pre-read feedback in mid January and have actually whipped the first 16 scenes into good shape already.
On top of that, I still have to identify which of the publishers on my short list to submit to first. This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Renewable TechIn my previous posts in this series, I described hydropower and wind power. In order to understand the photovoltaic effect, let’s first talk about a class of material called the semiconductor.
Small arrays of PV cells can be used to power electronics that run on DC electricity like calculators, watches, parking meters, and landscape lights, just to name a few. Crystalline silicon panels like the Evergreen unit shown to the right are still the most commonly manufactured and installed PV systems. Thin film PV modules, like the one shown here from First Solar, are manufactured very differently than their crystalline counterparts. But multi-junction and other high efficiency PV cells have come back into the spotlight recently with a concept called concentrator PV. There is an incredibly fertile field of ongoing research aimed at pushing the boundaries of PV performance and cost of production. This week I participated in the WOOF contest with one of the scenes from The Renegade’s Door. Today I sealed my message in a bottle, and cast it into the remorseless sea that is a publisher’s slush pile. Now, four and half months worth of reader feedback and revisions later, I have mailed the first few scenes of the 78,000 word finished manuscript to the acquisition editors at Tor Fantasy and Science Fiction . It probably would have been better to install it when we were still getting rain… I know. After adding a washing machine valve for $3, some ABS pipes fittings for $7, a roll of sliding door mesh screen for $10, four cinder blocks for $5, and a flexible storm gutter joint for $2, the whole system cost me less than $40. As you can see above, I mounted the washing machine valve as close to the bottom of the barrel as I could get it. This way, in very heavy rains, when the barrel reaches maximum capacity it will drain down into the previously existing gutter.
But the best part of my new system is that we can use it collect recycled water in addition to rain water. Ideally we’d have a gray water system installed to capture and treat shower water for irrigation or toilet flushing purposes.
Or do what we do: dump it into your rain barrel and use it to irrigate your vegetable garden. My dreams of breaking into the fast paced world of renewable energy technology development keep fizzling. An advanced degree in power engineering might be what it takes to make renewable energy companies take my resume seriously. I tried to be environmentally conscientious and do my revisions directly on the computer, but it just wasn’t working for me.
And after a second look at my Racing the submission post, it didn’t seem like a particularly relevant metric anyway. I’ve already discussed hydropower, wind power, and solar PV power but there are still plenty of other topics to choose from.
But in the current economic environment, it’s tough for a project manager trying to break into the market of renewable energy product development.
When we left Melbourne behind we had to leave a great network of dancing friends at Swing Patrol. Stephanie at Rocket Scientist has written a couple of very insightful articles recently on character development and growth.
I don’t expect the story narrative to change that much before the manuscript is ready for its next submission, so I know how many scenes to expect. I did most of the initial revision with a hard copy and a red pen per Holly Lisle’s one pass revision process.


The result is that I now expect to have a twenty-four scene manuscript when I finish with the next round of revisions.
Materials of this type allow electricity (as in the movement of electrons) to flow through them sometimes.
When every firefighter has a bucket and no one has a free hand the buckets of water can’t move from one end of the brigade to the other. What makes an electron jump from the valence band to the conduction band in a semiconductor? But to be useful for household power applications, the output of a PV cell has to be converted to AC.
These devices are manufactured from the same high grade silicon that goes into today’s high tech computer chips and microprocessors. Sometimes called second generation devices, thin film development has focused on ways to reduce the manufacturing costs of PV. These high efficiency cells were originally developed for space applications well before we earth bound mortals started using them. They are made by sandwiching several different types of PV cells, each specifically tuned to a certain color or portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
As the picture from Solar Systems at the left shows, the idea here is to combine an expensive yet very high efficiency PV cell with a bunch of inexpensive focusing mirrors and mechanical supports.
You’ll read about light absorbing dies, organic or polymer PV cells, quantum dots and others just emerging in experimental labs all over the world. My dad had owned chickens before, so he started on the constuction of the coop immediately.
Funny story about the coop, We originaly had a treehouse, but a wind was so stong it knocked one of the support beams loose, and it tumbled out of the tree.
In late September of 2008, I decided that the ill-fated romance of Devon’s mother and father would be the subject of my first entry in the National Novel Writing Month contest. The submission also included an introductory cover letter and an 8-page synopsis, which was a new and different writing challenge to overcome. Then I only have to wait 4-6 months for their reply: a form rejection letter in all probability. With the asking price for the few I did find was hovering around $100, I decided to make my own. I then turned the lid upside down and glued a square of the nylon mesh screen over the hole using ABS plumbing cement. Although you can’t see it too clearly in the picture, I mounted another screen of nylon mesh in the overflow spout to keep the critters away from the water.
You turn on the shower first thing in the morning and have to wait 10, 20, sometimes 30 seconds or more for the water to heat up before you can get in. Any bucket will do, as long as the rim is wide enough to catch the spray of your shower head.
In the bay area, renewable energy companies are slowly opening up job postings again after several dry months. Start to finish, no revisions, no second guessing: just piling up the word count and following the scene outlines.
So I killed a few trees and printed hard copy to use in my next round of one-pass revision (thank you Holly Lisle…). There are several types of thermal energy systems like geothermal, solar thermal, or biomass. The Wednesday Night Hoppers have been very welcoming and we’re starting to feel right at home here.
And Ravyn’s articles on character interaction and group dynamics at Exchange of Realities has also been on my must read list lately. For example during my first revision for the pre-read copy of Renegade, I had twenty scenes that I wanted to have ready for readers by January 7. Only after I thought everything was in decent shape did I get back on the computer and start transcribing my notes into the edited pre-read version. I have decided to submit the manuscript to my first potential publisher by the end of February. I’ve outlined two out of the three new scenes I decided to add after feedback from my pre-readers. They convert the mechanical energy of falling water or moving air into electrical energy through the principle of electromagnetic induction.
With the growing popularity of PV, you’ve probably seen a PV installation like the one shown to the right from Solar Depot. Sometimes it happens spontaneously (think of a firefight getting tired and setting the bucket down for a moment). In the case of PV cells, you can think of sunlight as the line foreman, who comes along and pulls one random bucket out of the line by knocking one of the electrons in the valence band up into the conduction band. The firefighter won’t, unless the fire is visible in one direction and the pond is visible in the other. Rather than slicing, doping and sandwiching bulk silicon wafers between electrodes and transparent layers of glass, thin film PV modules are made by depositing a thin film of photovoltaic material onto a substrate.
But traditionally, their manufacturing costs have made them prohibitively expensive for marktet adoption, except in places where price is not a factor (like space and some military applications). The combination of cells are chosen to cover the entire range of  energy available in the incoming solar radiation, a feat which is not possible for a single type of cell like crystalline or thin film PV. This one tracks the sun and focuses at 500x intensity onto a single high efficiency PV module. This will keep mosquitoes out of the rain barrel while the inverted lid acts as a funnel to catch rain water from the down spout. I was very excited to see an opening for a technical project management role with a firm up north. And ideally, someone who knows a little about what a publisher would look for in a synopsis.
But if any of my readers are interested in reading a 1300 word synopsis of Renegade’s Door,  just drop me a comment. I knew I had three brand new scenes to write and then shuffle into the original story line. Then there are alternatives in ocean power like wave energy, tidal current systems, and mechanisms that take advantage of variation in salinity or temperature at different depths. We even did a short group performance at one of the social dances, which you can check out below. In order to inject a bit of urgency back into the work, I have decided to set myself a couple of deadlines.


The chart below really helped keep me motivated to stay at the keyboard and crank out the pages. Looking back through my manuscript save points for that first week in January, I was able to create a chart with the rate of scene completion. Scenes 17, 20, and 22 are all completely new scenes, and the rest of the scenes around them have to be revamped to make the transitions work. Unlike spinning wind or hydro turbines, PV panels reveal nothing to the naked eye about their mysterious energy transformation.
But in such cases the firefighter is more likely to pick up their own bucket again than to grab the bucket of the next firefighter in the line. Now modern solid state inverters merit their own seperate entry in this renewable tech series, so won’t go into very much detail describing how they work here. Crystalline cells are fairly efficient at converting sunlight to electricity compared to other PV cell types.
The film can be deposited through electroplating, vapor deposition, or even through ultrasonic nozzles ( think of a very high precision ink jet printer).
This allows multi-junction cells to reclaim some of the energy that would otherwise be wasted by a traditional PV cell. Of course, there is added cost for cooling (ever fry an ant with a magnifying glass?) and the motors to drive the tracking system. But who knows which one of them might turn into a breakthrough in affordable renewable energy generation? I set the barrel on a platform of four cinder blocks, which raise it high enough to get my garden watering cans under the tap. Put it under the shower head before you turn on the shower in the morning and wait for the water to heat up.
But treating those new scenes the same way I was treating the rest of the draft manuscript proved to difficult to manage. So I have to give her three or four days to read the novel and myself another couple of days to edit from her red-lines and get a clean copy shipped. Everything is hidden behind that innocuous looking veil of blue-black crystal an shimmering glass. This is what’s known as recombination in semiconductor terminology, and its one of the things you try to prevent in PV cell design. In our PV cells, one part of the semiconductor material has been doped to make it either electron rich or electron poor.
Suffice it to say that they take the DC power from the solar panels and chop it by switching it on and off at a frequency synchronized with the utility grid.
But they also have high manufacturing energy and labor requirements, which makes their raises their cost of fabrication and installation. But putting multiple types of PV cell together in the same device is a challenging and time consuming manufacturing process, so the cost of such cells is high. But the added efficiency of energy conversion has the potential to make systems like this very cost competitive in a dollars per sense. I could go into the amount of energy you consumed heating that water up and then just dumped into the uninsulated interior walls of your house while it sat in your pipes. Once the running water is warm enough, remove the bucket, set it aside, and shower as usual.
And it would help me understand the challenges of getting today’s renewable energy technologies out of the lab and into the field. Now that you understand how hydropower and wind power work, you may have been wondering what makes PV panels tick? The next firefighter can hand over a full bucket to the one with the free hand and suddenly we have movement!
They then filter the resulting output so that it meets utility quality requirements and pump the power out so people can use it in their homes and offices.
Still, they have a longer field record of proven reliability than any other type of PV on the market, which explains their dominant market share. The result is a PV cell which requires a lot less active material, reducing material and labor cost over traditional cell manufacturing techniques. Like thin film, this technology is still relatively new on the scene and doesn’t have a very long track record.
Our future will require all of the methods we can discover to provide for that demand in an environmentally sound and sustainable manner. The odds of a major genre publisher like Tor Fantasy and Science Fiction picking up an unsolicited, unagented, unpublished author’s first manuscript are vanishingly small.
If they shoot me down, I can always submit to some of the smaller, more adventurous publishing houses later. Wander over to the Professional page to have a look and drop me a comment while you’re there.
A full water bucket has moved in one direction while the gap, or hole, in the bucket brigade has moved in the opposite direction.
Once sunlight (our foreman) liberates some electrons and creates mobile electron-hole pairs, electrons will flow in one direction and holes will flow in the other. However, thin films cells generally have a lower conversion efficiency than crystalline cells. But a handful of innovative technology companies acattered around the globe are working to commercialize their own versions of cost competitive concentrator PV. So for those of you researching ground breaking techniques in PV and other renewable energy sources, keep the light burning.
I’ll post an article or two about the submission process as I go through it, for those of you who are aspiring novelists yourselves. Now if you hook up some conductive electrodes on either side of the cell, the result is something that behaves an awful lot like a DC battery when sunlight hits it.
So you need a bigger patch of thin film cells to generate the same amount of power as a crystalline panel. But for applications like large solar farms where land space is not a obstacle, the efficiency hit is an acceptable trade-off for lower production costs.



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