Category Archives: Personal

Tension and strife

“The road to freedom is a difficult, hard road. It always makes for temporary setbacks. And those people who tell you today that there is more tension in Montgomery than there has ever been are telling you right. Whenever you get out of Egypt, you always confront a little tension, you always confront a little temporary setback. If you didn’t confront that you’d never get out.
You must remember that the tensionless period that we like to think of was the period when the Negro was complacently adjusted to segregation, discrimination, insult, and exploitation. And the period of tension is the period when the Negro has decided to rise up and break loose from that. And this is the peace that we are seeking: not an old negative obnoxious peace which is merely the absence of tension, but a positive, lasting peace, which is the presence of brotherhood and justice. And it is never brought about without this temporary period of tension. The road to freedom is difficult.”—Martin Luther King

This is one of my favorite MLK quotes (I know I’ve referenced it before). One of the reasons our society isn’t further along toward attaining brotherhood and justice is that so many people don’t want to sit through that “temporary period of tension.” They want unity, even when “unity” just means saying nothing about injustice. Or at least injustice that doesn’t affect respectable outwardly straight WASP males.

And of course, some people simply like the system as it is. The issue isn’t tension, it’s the thought of people actually challenging their entitled, privileged right to rule over the rest of us.

Working for “positive, lasting peace” is hard.  But it has to be done.

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There will be blood! And it was mine!

No, I didn’t have an accident, I finally donated blood on Thursday.

While I’d arranged my schedule to account for the wiped-out feeling a double donation of red blood cells gives me, this trip still threw me off my game. There was a rash on my left arm when they were ready to stick the needle in — probably a reaction to something on the blood-pressure cuff — and as a result they decided to use my right arm. The veins weren’t as good, so they slowed down the system and I got out 30 to 40 minutes later than I normally would have. Then I had to walk across the parking lot and almost to the street to call a Lyft because the Red Cross is in a cell-phone dead zone.

But it’s done! And with a double dose, I won’t be ready to give again until May, so being wiped out the rest of the day (the only thing I got done was a post on Death-Ray Mirror of Dr. Mabuse on Atomic Junkshop) is worth it to cut back the number of appointments. And overall this was a productive week. That’s good, as I’ll be starting back on Leaf articles next week, so there’ll be less time for other stuff.

I rewrote Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates which I’ll submit to the writing group in a week or two. Now that the McGuffin is a box of Stuckey’s praline candies, I’ll leave it up to the group whether the title still works or if I need an alternative (It Flutters on the Soul would be my backup).

I finished Chapter Six of Sexist Myths and went on to incorporate a number of bookmarked web pages into the book. I’ll jump back and start on Chapter Four next week (it’s much rougher so I figured I’d be more able to tackle it if I got a couple of other chapters under my best).

I went over the rewrite of Fiddler’s Black I did last week and it looks good. Next week I’ll start looking for markets.

I completed two more chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Despite all the changes from the last draft, it’s flowing very well. A big part of that is the first person voice works so much better than third-person did, conveying much more of the intensity. I’m on track to get to Chapter Eighteen by the end of the month, which was my plan. However it’s shaping up to be very short for a novel length work. Then again, so did Southern Discomfort and it’s now a comfortable 90,000. Fingers crossed.

I finished a first draft of Death’s Jester though that’s definitely not the final title. It involves a couple of teenage schoolgirls in 1960s London getting entangled in a supernatural struggle. However the ending is really rushed, because I was bone-weary this morning and I couldn’t think very well, so I just wrapped it up all of a sudden. There are some bits in the ending I like, but I may revisit it next week and mess around with other options.

And I gave blood which is something I take pride in doing as much as possible. So yay.

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.


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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Overpowered by pets! My week in review

I knew that with TYG out of town Wednesday through Friday, this week would be a little demanding. But like Don Blake beholding Dr. Doom’s scarred face, I never dreamt it would be like this!

First, the background: TYG has an alumni event around this time every year. Normally it overlaps with Illogicon, the local SF con, so we board the dogs for the weekend. This year, however, hotel issues led to the con skipping until 2021. Even though TYG was out of town last month, she left Friday; this year she left Wednesday. It’s been at least a couple of years since I had to cope with handling the dogs solo on a workweek morning.

(And this is not a complaint about my spouse: I’m glad she’s having fun, and it’s not like I don’t travel solo sometimes).

Knowing they’d want long morning walks, I figured I’d get up, have breakfast, and work until it was light enough to take them out. But Trixie and Plush Dog follow me downstairs when they don’t have TYG upstairs to snuggle with. That’s distracting, plus my brain kept insisting this was my warmup period before work, not a time for actual writing, and I couldn’t seem to get past that.

Plus Wisp, as I noted this morning, has been really keen on coming in for petting, and that took up some extra time. And so did the walkies. This morning I got back from the walk at 9:15, which is almost two hours after I’d normally start writing. And I just went screw it, and gave up.

Despite which I did get some stuff done. I’m getting close to the end of Sexist Myths Chapter Six, which is all I expected to finish this month (I may have been wrong). I got through another chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Contrary to my worries last week, I think I’ve figured how to progress through some key scenes in KC’s personal arc. Didn’t get around to working on it further, though.

I redrafted Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates part-way. It’s improving steadily; I hope my next batch of beta-readers agrees with me the title works even though there’s no longer a box of chocolates — I think it’s funnier if death comes from a box of Stuckey’s praline candies.

And I submitted three stories Monday to various markets, as well as reworking and finishing Rabbits Indignateonem (thanks to feedback from my friend Cindy Holbrook). I also revised Fiddler’s Black based on feedback from the last market I submitted it to, tdotspec. They thought one of my two leads was undeveloped, and that the opening needed tightening; after looking it over, I agree on both counts. I’ll go over it again before I resubmit it somewhere.

So pretty good, even if I didn’t stick the landing. And after all my dogs are worth losing time over. So is my wife.#SFWApro. Dog photo by me, cover by John Buscema, all rights remain with current holder.


Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Trixie sees her shadow (and other events)

So Wednesday morning, TYG and I took the dogs for a walk. On the way home we were upon a slope with the sun to our right—And man, when she saw our shadows, she wanted to run down and meet us. It was adorable. And the walk also let me photograph the first heron and first sunrise of 2020:New Year’s Day was otherwise quite relaxed. New Year’s Eve was very relaxed as we don’t go out: TYG has no urge to stay out somewhere until midnight, and I worry about drunks on the road. I was also exhausted so we went to bed without even trying to stay up to midnight. It paid off though: I had a solid nine hours of sleep, which was amazingly refreshing.

Now, as to the rest of the week:

I redrafted Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and it’s getting close to the point I can show it to someone — either the writer’s group again, or one of my out-of-group beta readers. And I’m keeping the title, even though it doesn’t quite fit as it’s now a box of Stuckey’s praline candies that kicks off the plot

I worked on a first draft I’d largely forgotten about, involving a couple of teenage girls in 1969 getting caught up in a battle with a mysterious sorcerer. I have a lot of unfinished drafts on my laptop, so one of my goals for this year is to get twelve of them finished. This one’s not there yet, but it’s 2,500 words closer.

I worked two chapters on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I might have gone further, but I ran into an obstacle: I’m now at a couple of chapters where KC’s personal arc takes precedence over the action, and the arc’s changed completely. I like having a pause in the action but a lot of the discussion and conflict no longer works. Hopefully when I look at it again next week, I’ll see the path.

And I finished Chapter Five of Sexist Myths. Reordering the chapter’s argument and entering all the time was a slog … and that’s chapter was in good shape. Chapter Six is a lot less ready, so that may be all i get done on the book the rest of this month.

And I made samosas. They tasted great, but didn’t look at all like the ones you get in restaurants. I’ve had that problem before — next time I make them, I’ll make sure I have enough free time to really work on them.

A good start to 2020. Hope it keeps up.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.


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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Wisp in 2020

One of my goals for 2020 was that we should figure out what we want our relationship with Wisp to be, and then make it happen.

This is partly going to depend on what Wisp wants it to be. She’s been living on her own for at least 18 months now; it’s not like she’s a kitten we can bring into the house and teach her to adapt to us. We need a situation that she’ll be happy with, but also works for us.

My guess is she’s going to want to stay an outside cat. The most probable solution is a cat door; TYG is uncomfortable about the possibility of other things using it, but it’s possible to set one to respond to a microchip. If we chip her next summer when her next vet appointment rolls around, we can set the door accordingly. That way her ins and outs aren’t dependent on me opening the door, which should work better for both of us.

Of course there’s still the question of adapting to the dogs. Trixie, as you can see, is down with Wisp; even when Wisp buffeted her lightly a couple of weeks back, Trixie didn’t freak, just growled a warning. Plushie, though, is a little more excitable. Hopefully, he can adapt. He’s quite calm when they meet outside, but on his own turf he’s a little more confrontational — though so far she’s taken it well.

Time will tell how this works out. Or if it does.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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What’s the way forward: my 2020 goals, both specific and vague

One of the basic rules of goal-setting is that they should be measurable and clear. By which standard amorphous goals and resolutions for 2020 are a bad move. If I had, say, a goal to “live my best life” … well, how would I define it? And if I did, wouldn’t it make more sense to write the definition (e.g., travel to Paris, try new sexual positions, that sort of thing).

Nevertheless, I have stuck some goals in that aren’t clear and measurable: doing stuff that’s “out of the ordinary” for instance. Right now, all I can think of is cooking stuff that’s outside my usual range, like the fried bread I made last weekend. Hopefully I’ll think of more spectacular stuff — but the point is, a goal that pushes me to do something, even if I’m not sure what it’s pushing me toward, feels like a good thing. And it’s not as if there’s any penalty if I don’t get it right.

I’ve also put down that I want to be more activist this year, because lord knows, this is the time for all good people to come to the aid of their country. I’m not quite sure what the best use of my talents is. Writing is obviously one of my talents, but since And resurrected itself as a conservative outlet I haven’t had anywhere besides my blog and FB to write. I’ll keep pitching more prominent markets but I honestly don’t think that’s the most effective way to have an impact.

Money is another, but there’s a practical limit to how much of that I can donate. So what more can I do? I’ll try to figure this out before it’s too late, and do what I can in the meantime (like giving blood).

Turning to writing, things are a lot clearer. I want to finish the next draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer, do a quick revision, have it beta-read, then start on the next draft. I’d put “finish it” but I think that’s overly optimistic.

I want to finish six short stories and complete 12 first or second drafts. I have a habit of starting stories then just forgetting about them; I think if I devote a little time to writing new stuff, it’ll be beneficial. I’ll submit shorts 36 times, at least.

I’m going to finish Sexist Myths, probably for self-publication, and self-publish Questionable Minds.

There’s also a lot of stuff about specific fun things I want to do, ranging from going to the North Carolina Zoo to visiting Florida again. I want to do as much stuff with TYG as possible, without actually pushing her to do stuff (her schedule is intense, she doesn’t need pressure from my end). The personal stuff has quite a number of things in it — it may be the largest part of the list.

And more meditation and other stuff to center me and keep me in the here and now.

While I’ve used a Plot Your Work planner the past couple of years, I have a bad habit of writing stuff down, then never checking it. So this year I simply erased everything I wrote in it last year, and I’m reusing it. If I succeed in checking it regularly, I’ll order a new one for 2021. Otherwise, I’ll just go back to relying on my laptop and BusyCal.

My list doesn’t look wildly ambitious, but if I accomplish most of it, I’ll be pretty damn impressed.

#SFWApro. Cover by Wendy Pini, all rights remain with curren tholder.

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2019: How’s my year look in the rearview mirror?

Well, in terms of goals accomplished, not so good. Normally I hit around 50 percent, this year it was 39 percent. And I fell particularly short on my writing goals. Though partly that’s because I aimed insanely optimistic in terms of the amount of fiction I could get written. My goals for 2020 (which I’ll cover tomorrow) are a lot more modest.

I finished three short stories, and Southern Discomfort. I marketed the latter to agents (no success) and I’m now sending it out to publishers. I sold no short stories out of 33 submissions. I didn’t finish Sexist Myths, which I’d expected to do. However thanks to my extensive Leaf work, I did make my financial goals as a writer. And I’m still self-employed in my chosen profession, which is cool. But I would have liked to do a lot more, especially as I don’t have as many paying gigs demanding time as I did last year.

On the personal level, let’s see … I traveled outside the Raleigh-Durham area four times, only one of them with TYG due to her schedule. I returned to Fort Walton Beach to see friends and family. I did not bicycle as much as planned, only partly to be blamed on the ever-increasing summer heat. I did not improve my amateurish juggling (everyone should have a hobby) or practice sign language as much as I did last year. I did, however, get much better at using the Alexander technique to relax and position my body. In 2018, my bread-making fell by the wayside. I wanted to get back into the swing of it, and I have. I fell short on a whole bunch of goals (cleaning, for example) because of one or two periods where I got crazy with sick dogs, busy spouse or the like. So I won’t beat myself up over that (some goals I allow myself to make up for lost time. Things like weekly cleaning are not one of them).

Wisp was not on my goal list, but things have gone well with her nonetheless. We got her to the vet for her annual checkup and she still likes us.

Despite the lack off accomplishments, I feel pretty good about the year. While TYG’s job remains demanding, it became a lot less stressful this year for various reasons. And when she’s less stressed, I’m less stressed. That’s been particularly true in the later part of the year. And there were no major crises.

But that said, I still wish I’d gotten more stuff finished.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine. Cover by Gil Kane, all rights remain with current holder.

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Productivity and plague: my last writing week of 2019

The plague was the same problem I’ve been dealing with for four years now: the combination of dry heated air from the heating system with my asthma plus bad breath control makes me vulnerable to any virus that comes along. It gets into my throat and leaves me hacking, wheezing and eventually without a voice.

Fortunately I’ve learned to strike first when I feel the symptoms, and so Tuesday, went I felt a familiar hacking and wheezing, I went in to the urgent care near our house. Good move: they confirmed I had a virus (probably the one TYG acquired on a recent trip) and gave me some nasal drops. They seem to be working, though I’m also careful about not talking (the breath control problem — I can really strain my throat). I rested most of the day, which was smart, but cost me more work time. Plus I don’t work on Christmas. Still, I got quite a bit done.

I completed the third chapter of Sexist Myths but discovered Chapter Four is one of my weakest. Nothing that can’t be fixed, but it requires more thought than I can manage with the dogs squished up against me non-stop (I didn’t get my break last week due to Trixie’s tummy troubles so I’m feeling the loss of personal space more than usual). I started Chapter Five and did much better; I’ll come back to Four when the pups are in doggy day care again next week.

I put some more work in on Oh, the Places You’ll Go and reviewed a slightly revised version of the original version. I’ve got to say, despite one member of my writing group saying it was fine as it stood, I think it does need a lot more, so the big reboot is probably necessary.

And I completed the nine chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer I set myself as one of my goals for the month. Chapter Nine introduces the villain, and I was very unsure because he’s so radically rebooted from the previous version. However early this morning I saw a way to make him work and forged ahead. Hopefully my new approach will prove itself as I progress.

Just a few more days this year and then enter 2020. But for now, enjoy the weekend!

#SFWapro. Photograph is mine.


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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

I gave my wife gangrene for Christmas!

Relax, TYG’s fine. But I have a long tradition of giving her disease-based books for Christmas (cancer, syphilis, rabies, cholera …) and then joking about it online. After eight years of marriage, I’m finding it harder to come up with an interesting disease, but I did some online research and found this one.

I also bought her the Wild Palms DVD set. She’s a fan of the 1990s TV miniseries, it isn’t available streaming and since our VCR broke the option for rewatching it is limited (I have a second VCR, but that would require wiring it into our A/V setup, which is more work than I really want to undertake). She was very pleased with that. And the banana bread I made Christmas Eve. And some bath bombs (she loves scented bath stuff)

My sweet angel got me the Flash Omnibus Vol. 3, which follows from V2 to give me a complete run of the 1960s Flash (mostly in reprint) with maybe six issues short of a complete run of the original series (V3 ends with 199 and my Bronze Age collection starts with #206). As TYG’s not at all a comics fan, that was very thoughtful of her. Her other presents to me included a Barnes and Noble gift card, a Roomba, and McVitties chocolate digestives (British cookies, very good).

Gifts from the rest of the family include Penzey spices gift card, Amazon gift card (already spent), World Market gift card, Visa gift cards and the second volume of Scooby-Doo Team Up.

But of course the real present was just having TYG and the dogs to spend Christmas with. I used to spend most of the day alone, except for Christmas dinner (my bestie Cindy took me in). Now I not only have family, I have TYG who is just perfect for me. And the puppers. And Wisp, who actually ate her heartworm pill wrapped up in a pill pocket. Now that’s a Christmas miracle!

#SFWApro. All rights to cover image remain with current holder.


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Merry Christmas, One and All

I was going to post some Christmas movie reviews, but they’ll have to wait until this weekend.

If you’re Christian, or celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas.

If you celebrate anything else, whether it’s Kwanzaa, Festivus, Yule, Solstice, Eid, Diwali, Hanukkah, or any other event, happy holidays!

To all of us, peace and goodwill. Neither is always attainable, but that’s all the more reason to wish for them.

We’re halfway through the darkest part of the year. Let’s hope/pray/wish for light to grow strong, in every way.

Merry Christmas.

#SFWApro. Rights to all images remain with current holders. Bottom cover is by John Howe.

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