Category Archives: Personal

Considering how it started, this week went quite well

When TYG and I got back from our madcap Mensa weekend we picked up the dogs from doggy boarding, then I made chili (quick, easy, tasty — perfect for the end of a long day driving). I’d already planned to take Monday off so that if the dogs, Wisp or Snowdrop wanted some extra attention after our absence I’d have no conflicting obligations. That proved fortunate because Sunday night, Plushie came down with the every-two-hours squirtling diarrhea.

As TYG has a less forgiving boss than I do, I took point on walking him and spent most of Monday in a daze. I tried taking naps during the day but invariably Wisp would start demanding to come in or Plushie would suddenly discover it was time for a new squirtle. He stabilized Monday night thank goodness, then Tuesday TYG took him to the vet. They found nothing; we brought him in for an ultrasound Thursday but haven ‘t heard the results. While we’d love to know why he’s had this problem more than once this year, we’re relieved they didn’t find cancerous lumps in his stomach or anything like that. If diarrheal 1AM walkies are the trade-off for keeping him around, so be it.  But for the moment he’s back to normal potty hours and solid poops.

Oh, here’s a look at him after the ultrasound. He’s so sensitive to pain (“A sensitive boy” as they put it at the vet’s), they drugged him to be comfortably numb. He remained stoned the rest of the evening.I was quite exhausted the rest of the week. Coupled with the cats spending time in the morning, I wound up not getting any exercise done; my diet was none too healthy too. Work, though, went pretty well

First up, I finished the revised Mage’s Masquerade and it looks good. I started looking for markets without any success so far though I did stumble across markets for Bleeding Blue and Fiddler’s Black. Both are now out.

I also put in work on The Cheap Assassin and have at least a working idea of the story/character arc (it’s a character-centric story). At this point, however, it’s heavy on talk rather than action. I need to find a way to have something happen besides exposition. I’ve had that problem before; it’s fixable.

I put in a couple of thousand words on Let No Man Put Asunder which gives me the 10,000 I wanted for this month. I may do more next week but there are other projects I can concentrate on. I also spent some time planning the next draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I’ve realized KC needs to be a lot more intense from the first chapter; I can see how to do it.

I also worked getting the manuscripts for 19-Infinity and Oh the Places You’ll Go ready for self-publishing. That included sending the latter story out for beta-reading. I have a cover image for it as well; hopefully I can have it out and for sale by the end of April.

And over at Atomic Junk Shop I look at the impact of Steve Ditko leaving Marvel plus a couple of stories I just like. Over at Con-Tinual’s YouTube channel, I’m one of the panelist discussing mythological tropes.#SFWApro. Have a great weekend everyone. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

My madcap Mensa weekend

By a fluke, my birthday last weekend coincided with the Greenville Mensa gathering this year. It’s the first time since 2019 they’ve been able to hold it. We went and it turned out to be a lot of fun. More than I expected actually: the turnout was good (better than the Atlanta gathering last September), multiple friends attended, I gave a talk about pirate movies (hence several of them turning up in my Saturday reviews lately) and we went out for great Indian food. The food in hospitality wasn’t as good as usual, alas, due to covid making them more restrictive about what can be served or left lying around.

Overall, though, an awesome weekend. And snuggling with TYG in the morning without dogs getting in-between was nice. The dogs had a great time in daycare, Wisp and Snowdrop got over having us absent for a couple of days (a neighbor put out food).

And I took photos. Here’s me in my pirate shirt.The mirror closet door often swung so that I’d see it when I came in, creating a weird optical illusion.There were pirates, of course—And more pirates.And general silliness.Traffic was miserable both ways and we kept wondering why one law firm had a half-dozen billboards, one after the other, in just a few miles. But there’s always the Gaffney peach.Best birthday I’ve had in a while.


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Another year older and while not deeper in debt …

… some cash clients would be nice. As I’ve said before, being in a two-income family means the wolf is not at our door despite my various business/finance writing gigs drying up. But I’d still feel better the more I can contribute to covering our expenses. Plus I don’t spend much on myself when money’s not coming in and I like spending money on myself.

(In case you haven’t guessed this, it’s not my usual Saturday movie-review post).

That said, the last year has been a good one. Professionally I self-published Questionable Minds; McFarland published The Aliens Are Us; and both The Savage Year and Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates came out late last year. And while focusing on fiction the past three months hasn’t been lucrative, I do enjoy it.

Away from my computer, things are going well too. I’m still in good health, which I appreciate more with every year that goes by. I’m not at the “I’m just grateful I made it through another year” point — I still expect better than that low bar — but I am pleased when it happens. The dogs are in good health too; Plushie, as the older pup, has a few health issues but we’ve been able to manage them. TYG is much happier since changing jobs which makes me happier and our practice of weekend dates has worked out well too.

As far as I know I have not lived before so I’ve no idea what getting older is going to be like. Anything could hit any of us at any time but I’m a little more chill about that than when I was younger. Onward and upward!

Funny, my birthday posts (mostly on other blogs and websites than this one) used to be a lot deeper with a lot more soul-searching. But since meeting, and then marrying TYG, I’m a lot less stressed about the future. And for that matter the present.

#SFWApro. Covers by Curt Swan (t) and J. Winslow Mortimer


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In a sense, this week was inevitable

As I’ve written before, things such as workweeks have a tendency to average out — just by random fluctuation a string of good writing weeks will be balanced out by a bad one. Which was this week.

I knew today would be a non-starter because I’m spending it doing stuff with TYG, but I’d planned to make the most of the other four days. Monday I got maybe 2,000 words done on Let No Man Put Asunder; however I think much of it will need reworking before I go on.

Tuesday I put in some work on a short story and its showing progress.

Wednesday the cats came in and snuggled with me for around an hour (as in this older photo).That’s very cool, and Snowdrop even stayed in when I closed the door. However it left me no time for exercise or stretch before the dogs woke up which left me feeling off. After breakfast, I wound up squished between Wisp in the lap and Trixie next to her, both demanding petting and erasing my personal space — and my mind just balked. I got some blogging done, and a little research reading but no writing (blogging, when I’m point, does not count against writing time).Thursday my focus didn’t come back up. It’s partly my old devil of knowing I’m not going to work a full week so why bother to put in any work at all? I did get some stuff done, but low priority, low-intensity stuff, research for my planned Jekyll and Hyde and Doc Savage reference books. Writing would have been better.

Like I said, the law of averages says not every week is going to be stellar. This one wasn’t. But I did get $16 bucks for some of my books from Draft2Digital sales (thank you, whoever you are!). And over at Atomic Junk Shop I published some thoughts on what makes the Bronze Age of comics distinctive and a couple of Silver Age stories that just stuck with me.


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Filed under Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

Cats hanging out in our dining room

When Wisp and Snowdrop explore, they seem to like the dining room. We use it primarily to store stuff and the dogs don’t spend much time there so perhaps it smells like peace and safety?Plus it’s a more defensible fortress than any space we have in the living room.


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This could be a big deal

So recently Snowdrop came in one morning, sniffed around the pillow where Wisp usually sits ——and then settled on the couch for petting. After a few minutes he was relaxed enough I decided to chance closing the door to the deck. Usually that panics him into leaving but it was cold and I could only endure it for so long.

For the first time he was completely unfazed by me shutting him in. I came back to the couch and petted him for several minutes before he got up and padded to the door. I let him go.

It hasn’t happened since but it’s potentially a breakthrough. It’ll be much easier to pet him and care for him if we can have a door closed against inclement weather. Perhaps TYG will get her wish and have him curled up in her lap sooner than we expected.


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Two months into 2023, I have not lost my way

One-sixth of 2023 is now in the rear view mirror. I think I’ve made good use of it.

I’ve no idea why but I’m getting a lot more fiction done, and finding answers to short stories I thought were hopeless dead-ends such as Paying the Ferryman (I think I’m going back to my old title, Obolus) and Mage’s Masquerade. And writing on Let No Man Put Asunder has gone surprisingly smoothly for a first draft. Is it that TYG is so much less stressed the past few months? That I’m not currently putting any time on the boring bills-paying gigs? Or is it that after working on Jews in Popular Science Fiction, Undead Sexist Cliches and The Aliens Are Here, the break from fiction left my mind refreshed? Either way, I just hope it keeps up.

On the downside, those boring bills-paying gigs have disappeared which makes paying my share of the household bills much tougher. My fiction and personal non-fiction writing don’t contribute much. I will make it work though, whether that means scrimping by (not that we’re in any danger of ruin but I like contributing to our bottom line, not to mention having money for fun stuff)

A side effect of my writing being so productive is that the everyday maintenance details get left. Nothing urgent but there are various tasks I’ve been putting off because I wind up writing through the time I intended to spend on them. I take care of anything that has to be done now — our car’s annual state inspection/tune-up, for instance — but not the “we need to do something about that” stuff that’s important but not urgent. I may have to jigger my schedule a little this month to improve.

I’m also really bad about taking regular breaks. That makes a big difference: as I’ve said before, without breaks I burn out sooner in the day. Once the work gets going I forget, or there’s some disruption in my schedule that throws me off.

On the personal goals front TYG and I have made travel plans for this year (figuring out where we’d go and when was a goal of mine) and we’ve been having regular dates, which has been fun. Everything from a recent production of Hamlet to shopping for dog toys at PetSmart to visiting a local graveyard (photos soon).

My blood pressure is up so I’ve been pushing myself to emphasize more fruits and veggies in my diet. I’m a vegetarian already but it’s still easy to go heavy on grains or cheese and not enough produce. We’ll see how well this works out at my next checkup. I’ve been falling short on my exercise goals but only slightly — not, I think, enough to matter.

And slowly but surely my TBR pile is shrinking. Of course, not buying any new books doesn’t hurt.

Fingers crossed the rest of the year is even better. As a statement of optimism, here’s a photo of a recent sunrise.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holder.

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Life is suffering

Here you can see Plushie crushed down by the existential loneliness of our existence. He shouldn’t have watched all those Ingmar Bergman films!Spare some sympathy for our little guy, if you would.


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It’s a shame I cannot work full-time on fiction and pay the bills

Because as my one of my main nonfiction clients (I’m not counting McFarland) has wrapped up its project (I suspect they’ll be back with something else eventually) and the other hasn’t contacted me in a while, I’ve been doing mostly fiction. I’m enjoying it. When I’m too tired for fiction, I work on submitting shorts or paying taxes.

It can’t last though because I need to make money on top of my Social Security, and make it more regularly than occasional short story sales and McFarland royalties. Though speaking of sales, I sold another copy of Questionable Minds recently, so thank you unknown purchaser.

So I’m applying for various other freelance gigs. I’ll let you know if any work out.

But this week, at least, I got to make fiction a priority. I rewrote Mage’s Masquerade and while it’s not finished, I think I’ve licked the problems with both the mystery plot and the protagonist’s love relationship, building them up so they make sense. I rewrote Paying the Ferryman (I have got to think of a better title) and much improved it. However I think it’s as good as I can get it without feedback so I’ll read it to the writing group soon. I also worked on a couple of short stories that are still in the Oh God, This Will Never Work phase. If I keep working on them hopefully they’ll be in better shape soon; one I think is close, the other … may be a waste of time. We’ll see.

I got some more writing done on Let No Man Put Asunder. It’s going well, though that has me pessimistically waiting for when I discover I’ve plotted myself into a dead end. But you never know, maybe I haven’t.

I also started work on putting together my Magic in History anthology (which will have a better name soon). I know the stories I want to include and I’ve begun the editing.

I also began thinking about my next film book, though I’m not pitching McFarland right away. Out of three possibilities, I’m inclined to go with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde b0ok. It’s a small enough number of movies that it won’t consume as much time and effort as Aliens Are Here did. However I will have to answer several questions before I propose it, mostly about boundaries. For instance, where is the line between Jekyll and Hyde and split personalities in general? Or a film such as The Nutty Professor which is very much a Jekyll and Hyde variation even though it’s different characters? Stay tuned.

Satisfactory all in all though it is sometimes hard maintaining a high creative level. As I mentioned in a previous post it would help to get up and take breaks but it’s hard sometimes to break away, especially with dogs in my lap.

Speaking of which, here’s Trixie hoping I’ll play with her favorite toy, the rubik’s cube on the floor.#SFWApro. cover by Samantha Collins, rights are mine.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

It was a touch chilly last Saturday morning

As you can see here.And here.But I’ve grown attached to living in an area with four seasons so I’m not complaining.


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