Category Archives: Personal

Not the blazing return from vacation I’d anticipated

It seems I never return from vacation and spring immediately into writing, refreshed and energized.

Monday I decided I would take the morning off writing and catch up on various tasks: calling the electrician about why our back deck plugs didn’t seem to work, getting a car appointment scheduled, fixing a problem with our alarm system, ordering medication for a colonoscopy next month (never fun), paying my share of the bills, going through mail. That all went well. Afternoon, as work on Leaf articles has started up, I did a couple of those, and 1,000 words of fiction (starting working with some ideas from vacation).

Tuesday I was ready to start back on Southern Discomfort. But I’d scheduled a HVAC company to check out our heat pump (all good) and Plushie and Trixie completely lost their minds. There was a Dude! He came in the house! Then he did bangy things under the house in the crawlspace!

Trixie took to the high ground which wasn’t too bad. Plush Dog got up in my face. Particularly any time I tried using the computer, he just had to have my full attention. Normally I’d discourage him (I have an unpleasant whistle app on the iPhone) but as he was upset, I didn’t have the heart. Suffice to say, this used up a lot of the morning (and I’d gotten up late, too!). Then the electrician came which took up more time.

And Plushie’s eager for longer lunch walks now that the weather’s turning to autumn. That cut into my work day some too.

On the plus side, our heat pump is fine and the electrician was able to fix the problem with our outside plug. Wisp the feral cat has been using the little under-deck shelter we made for her, but it’s not good enough for winter (too open, for one thing). So we ordered a heated shelter that will work much better, but only if we can plug it in. We can, and it looks like she’s already using it.

I got plenty of Leaf work done; much as I’d prefer to devote the time to fiction, I can’t ignore paying gigs, any more than I’d ignore a day job. I got about 3,000 words done on the short-story ideas that sprang out of the trip (nothing directly tied to it, just odd thoughts like someone stealing a suitcase off a baggage carousel and discovering a horrible something inside it).

I didn’t get much done on Southern Discomfort and I suspect it won’t be completely finished by Oct. 31. I got badly stuck Thursday — the two interweaving action threads at the climax didn’t come together right — but with a little tinkering, I was able to make it work

I still have about 5,000 words to go, then to fix a couple of medical scenes based on advice from my fellow writer and MD Heather Frederick (author of the spy-cat adventure Timber Howligan). Then I print the whole thing out and read it aloud a final (I hope) time. That’s a lot to get through. But it won’t be that long now.

#SFWApro. Photo copyright is mine.

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

It’s like a fly in your chardonnay, except this really was ironic!

So Monday the 8th I flew down to Fort Walton Beach for Dad’s 90th birthday. During the Atlanta stop, TYG texted me there was a hurricane on the way, providing irony #1:  I no longer lived where hurricanes were a constant occurrence, but I’d made a conscious choice that put me in the part of one.

Still, I wasn’t that worried about Michael. It was just me, no TYG, no pups, no need to fear damage to our house. And after Florence proved milder than expected, I wasn’t worried much by the terrified TV warnings. Which shows that even a hurricane veteran like myself can get overconfident; Michael really did come in as a Category 4 and the damage it did to Panama City and other communities east of us (a couple of them are no longer there) was horrifying.

Still, here at my friend Cindy’s house (which she shares with her sister and my sister) everything was fine. Irony #2 was that Durham, by contrast, got hammered. Internet outages, much to TYG’s frustration, and then the power went out Sunday night and stayed off for 12 hours. Plushie completely freaked at his schedule being off and the sudden darkness. It’s probably just as well TYG couldn’t go, as the dogs would then have been at the dog boarding facility, in the dark, with no power, and alone for at least part of the time.

The worst I suffered was that the hurricane disrupted my plans to catch up with people and I didn’t see all the friends as I’d hoped. I still had a great time hanging out with family; I haven’t seen Paige since my wedding, and she’s now 24 (she can buy beer. I feel old). We had Dad’s dinner at a restaurant on the beach, played a marathon game of rummy and a round of Goofy Golf. It was a great trip.

Sunday I came home without any problem.

Below: a frog I found on Cindy’s window the day before Michael hit. I’ll post some more fun photos from the trip soon.

#SFWApro. Cover by Pat Broderick, all rights remain with current holder.

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I’d be finished if not for those meddling ideas!

When I started this draft of Southern Discomfort, I was working with a previous draft of 78,000 words. Too short for a lot of markets, but I figured I’d expand it.

And I did. It’s now up to 89,000 and a bit, which is more marketable, so good. But I can’t help thinking if I’d kept it the old length, or maybe expanded it to only 80,000 words, I’d be done by now! But at 84,300 I still have 5,000 words to go. And I suspect it’ll be a little longer by the time I reach The End.

Yes, I know, if the story needs to be longer it should be longer. I don’t think there’s any padding in the added wordage — it’s visual and action details that need detailing, conversations that need to be more explicit. But it’s frustrating to be so close and wrap up the week unfinished. More so, because I’m traveling to Florida next week for Dad’s 90th birthday (TYG will be at home with the puppies, but she’ll attend at least a bit of the festivities by FaceTime). So no work. And when I get back, I’ll be back doing Leaf again, which is money in my pocket (yay), but less time for fiction (boo). It’ll be a little harder to keep up my fiction productivity, but I’m ready.

As I mentioned last Friday, I’ve begun doing my 1,000 words of new stuff in the morning as my first writing project. Last week was too chaotic to succeed, but this week went great. I finished a first draft of one story about honey, and one about menstruating witch hunters (don’t ask). Neither of them anywhere near polished enough to show, but it felt very good finishing them. I also completed a second draft of Neverwas (I like my core idea, but my ending is a mess) and a third draft of Only the Lonely Can Slay. Which is very cool, though I’m always reluctant to feel pleased until something’s actually finished. I’ve had lots of experience with rewriting and redrafting and not having much finished output.

While I didn’t finish No One Can Slay Her, I think I solved the big plot problems. I figured out what the bad guy’s scheme is, and added a needed extra scene to replace one I took out. It’s still got some logic glitches but hopefully I’ll be able to iron them out now.

And I got another 4,000 words done on Undead Sexist Cliches. That was my quota for this month, which is good, as it frees up time for the Leaf articles.

So yeah, good week. To celebrate, here’s a shot of Wisp, “our” feral cat. She’s still around, we’re still feeding her and we bought a small heated shelter for her for when winter comes (will she use it? We’ll see).

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Filed under Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

A throne worthy of my awesomeness!

It took a while but late last Friday we got a big chair/small couch to go with our new loveseat. I think it’s a win.

For one thing the old armchair was very, very old. As in I could sometimes feel the springs down below the cushions, waiting to rip apart the fabric and thrust up into my buttocks. And it was normal armchair size, which meant I could fit Plushie or Trixie, but not both. Sometimes, in the evenings, when TYG had the couch (now the loveseat), they both wanted up and it wasn’t doable.

The new chair (the dark one in the photo) is big enough I can sit comfortably with both of them. They like that. I like that. We are, however, having to teach Plush Dog to use the ramp up to the chair rather than jumping, which is bad on his back. He does it with the love seat, but he’s not used to the ramp in the new position. Tempting him with Cheerios works to lead him up though, and he’ll get the hang of it eventually.

Plus #2: when a dog is in my lap, I can put the lap desk on the chair arm.

#3: As you can see, I have the coffee table between the two seats. That gives me much more space than the old sidetable to place papers, books, research books, Writers’ Market, my planner, etc. And it’s easy for me to reach over and grab them, even when I have a dog in my lap. I am having to fight the temptation to just pile up more stuff in that space, though.

That said, the seat area is probably smaller than the couch, which was where I used to sit when I worked. When both dogs are up here, they really squoosh me, and it gets awkward after the first hour. It’s harder to get traction and actually get off the couch around the dogs (I am a master dog contortionist). But despite that slight drawback, this chair is a solid win.

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework

Dogs and disease bedevil me

An unanticipated side effect of Hurricane Florence (trivial in comparison to what some of my friends are dealing with) was that our doggy day care, Suite Paws, was shut this week.

They were shut last week for a remodeling job that was supposed to end Wednesday. However the contractors were stuck in Fayetteville due to the floods, so they didn’t reopen for daycare until today. So I haven’t had a break from dogs since Dragoncon. Well except TYG took them Friday last week when she was staying home because of Florence. After a while, the lack of any personal space adds up and stresses me out. Being squeezed together on the new love seat doesn’t help. Even though they’re so damn cute (below, Plush mid-drying after going out in the rain).

While we could have taken them in today, they have a new collar requirement so I wanted to pick up the right kind of collar before we went in (though I gather they have some on hand). So no break today.

And earlier this week, the Con Crud (most likely) hit me. Sore throat, general dragginess. So I just rested up Thursday and today, and lavished care on my throat to ensure it didn’t become really bad as it has in the past. Seems to be working — I’m definitely not feeling worse today, and maybe a little better. Maybe.

I did pass the 70,000 word mark on Southern Discomfort which was my goal for the month. I intend to get further next week, assuming I recover by Monday. And I batted out a half-dozen articles for Leaf, which brings in more money. I also discovered that if I write my 1,000 words of new material (a daily goal I have consistently fallen short on) first thing in the morning, I can actually succeed. However I tried this on Wednesday and so I haven’t been able to repeat the trick.

Wish me a full recovery by Monday.

#SFWApro.

 

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, Writing

One Loveseat, Furnished With Dogs

Our couch was old.

As in, TYG got it back in the 1990s right after college. You can see it below, on the curb, but that doesn’t do the sheer rattiness justice.

Age is no big deal for us. Neither of us is into spending money just to have fashionable furnishings. But it was getting kind of lumpy and squishy (though my friend Cindy, during her visit, pronounced it great to sleep on) and it’s also got patches of exposed fluff which the dogs could easily swallow (Trixie’s gone in to the vet with a stomach of “unidentified fluff” though not from that source). So we decided to replace it, along with our easy chair, which is almost as old and not as comfortable.

While TYG delegates a lot of household stuff to me, this decision was aesthetic so it was primarily hers. After checking out some local stores she went online and found a love seat and a chair that seemed to work. She showed ’em to me; I agreed. Part of the appeal of the chair is that it should be wide enough to hold me and bothd dogs. It’s really frustrating when I’m in the chair, Plush is in my lap and I can’t make space for Trixie if she wants to join us.

The new love seat arrived Tuesday. Due to Hurricane Florence, our garbage pickup had been pushed back a day which was providential: we hadn’t missed the Large Items pick-up day so we had the delivery guys take the old couch to the curb. Kind of sad to see it disposed of so summarily … but not really. And thank goodness the timing was right: watching them struggle with it, I can’t imagine TYG and I pulling it off, even if we asked our neighbors to help.

The dogs were freaked out enough that we had DUDES IN THE HOUSE!! And that I wouldn’t even let them get under foot and demand petting. Then they came up and began sniffing at the new couch, wondering what the hell it was, and eventually deciding they approved. And so now they and we are adapting.

I knew the new love seat would be smaller than the couch, as did she, but we didn’t really visualize what that would feel like or be like to use. If I have the dogs on either side of me, it’s fine, but if Plushie’s in my lap, it’s really difficult to fit my lap desk to the side as I usually do. I wind up typing with my desk and keyboard at a very awkward angle (though I manage it). It’s also trickier to take naps with the dogs and fit us all in.  And to fit in the ramps up to the couch, we have to keep the coffee table a little further away, making it harder to rest anything on it.

All of which can be worked around. I’ll be doing some rearranging once we get the chair in and I’m confident we can find an optimum arrangement.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine. And yes, I know I didn’t actually show the love seat furnished with the pups, but hopefully soon.

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework

Distracted by dogs, flustered by Florence

Typing this Friday afternoon, I realize this was another week where I got a good deal done despite all the distractions. And so far Hurricane Florence has left us alone, though

Distraction #1: Sunday early morning Trixie woke up early so I invited her to snuggle close to me. That’s fairly normal; what wasn’t was that she was constantly restless, couldn’t sit in one spot and eventually had to go out a couple of times. In the morning she seemed normal enough, which made me think it might have been nothing; there are other nights where she’s just gotten an itch to go out in the early AM, or she has an emergency need to pee.

Monday morning, though, she needed to go out early again. And she couldn’t sit still at all; she’d settle down, then jump up as if she felt uncomfortable. When she’s done this in the past, it’s been a sign she’s having serious tummy upset. We made a vet appointment for later that morning, but then I had to deal with Trixie, when she did st still, staring sadly up at me with this Daddy, Make Me Feel Better expression. So, not much done (the photo below is Trixie when she’s feeling comfortable and at peace with the world).

Then there was hurricane prep. Despite the shrieks of Category Four Devastating Storm U Are Doomed from various news media, I wasn’t worried; concerned, yes, but there’s no point in worrying about a hurricane that far out. It can change direction (it did), or lose wind power (it did), so I believe in preparing for the storm, monitoring it but not freaking out. Too much stress for zero gain.

Still, storm prep did take up time: a couple of shopping trips for extra supplies, TYG and I clearing her container garden off the back deck, moving away anything else that might turn projectile in high winds, getting an oil change for the car, talking to a friend of mine to see if we could evac that way (yes), filling up water jugs. All in all, quite a bit of time. Annoyingly a schedule conflict meant I couldn’t get a couple of other, longer fixes done to the car, so I’ll take it back in next week.

So what got done? Well, I printed up the latest draft of the Undead Sexist Cliches book at the library last weekend and spent Monday and Tuesday going over it. This proved to be a smart move. There are a lot of places where I repeat the same information or arguments; Charlotte Allen’s “women are stupid” article in the WaPo some years back crops up in several places because its such a prime example of extreme sexism. It’s got stereotyping, gendered thinking, inaccurate science — but if I reference it in multiple places, I still shouldn’t repeat the identical criticisms in each place. So I noted those down, found points where I needed to add material, noted places where the writing wasn’t clear. I think I’m ready for the next draft. Unfortunately I don’t think I can make that the last one; I’ll probably need to solicit some beta readers, then finish it up.

I also read the excellent Carol Tavris book The Mismeasure of Woman, which gave me some added useful information for the book.

Thursday I got to work on Southern Discomfort but almost immediately found a scene that needed heavy rewriting; nobody in the scene knows the stuff I have them talking about due to earlier changes in the book. This morning I got that fixed. It’s not quite as good a scene because of the knowledge they don’t have but the book overall is better with those earlier changes. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, but I am making progress.

Hopefully we won’t deal with anything worse than drenching rain and moderately strong winds the rest of the weekend. And Trixie seems back to normal, which is an even bigger load off my mind.

#SFWApro. Image is mine.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

The calm before the storm

Though as Hurricane Florence is heading significantly south of us, the storm shouldn’t be too bad. Still, here are some appropriate comics covers.

First, by Carmine Infantino

Then Victor Ibañez

One by Ernie Chan

A really good one by Pat Broderick

Gil Kane shows the worst-case scenario.

And Neal Adams riffs off an old Magritte painting

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

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A few extra Dragoncon photos

First we have the statue in front of the Indigo.

Then we have this shot of one of the hotels. I like shooting hotels at weird angles.

This one too

Terrifying dinosaurs ran amok!

Good thing Raven’s here to save us!

The food court coffee place got in on the fun

 

I love taking photographs of streets. This came out better than most of my night/shadow shots.

And even big beasts like these made us miss Trixie and Plushie some.

#SFWApro. All photos are mine, rights to images, buildings, costume designs etc. remain with their current holder.

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Here there be Dragoncons

So for the first time since 2015, we made it to Dragoncon, the massive Atlanta event over Labor Day weekend. We probably wouldn’t have made the trip, but TYG somehow snagged a room at the Indigo, a new hotel. Pricier than the one we previously stayed in, but very centrally located, with an easy walk to the 24-hour drug store, the food court, the vendor building, the Westin and the Hyatt. Oh, and a Starbucks two doors down.

As you can see, it’s new and gleaming and pretty, particularly the stairway in the lobby.

The view from our window wasn’t stunning, but we liked our room nonetheless.

As usual, I approached this as a business trip, attending a lot of writer-track panels covering using the supernatural in alternate history, writing nonfiction about specfic (which I do already, of course, but I’d be happy to monetize it better), secrets of the bestseller authors, etc. I forgot that in trips past I’ve found most of the panels too basic to be useful.  This time, they were pretty much all that way. Which is not a fault in them — I’m sure lots of the audience found them useful — but not much help to me. And inevitably there was the one panel where someone meandered off topics into a general My Life As A Writer discussion.

I did have fun with a panel with the Black Lightning cast. Christine Adams, who plays Lyn, is actually English, and said the toughest thing about her role is having to say medical technobabble in an American accent. Marvin Jones III who plays Tobias, really is an albino; he said when he read the script he figured the role was tailor-made for him, and was quite surprised to learn how many others were considered. He’s also a long-time comics fan, very conscious that there’s a history of great DC villains he wants to live up to. The Lost Girls panel was fun too (Anna Silk is very perky), particularly when they discussed their Wikipedia pages (“I’m a country singer?”).

The best fun, though, was cosplay and people-watching, catching up with various friends, and spending lots of time with TYG. Due to her work schedule we don’t have as much hang-out time at home as we used to (I don’t count sitting in the living room while one or both of us work as hanging out) so this was really pleasant. It wouldn’t be half so much fun if she hadn’t been here.

The cosplay included lots more Wonder Woman and Amazons than the last time we went. Also quite a bit of Spider-Gwen. The best moment was when I recognized a black man in a coolie hat as cosplaying The Last Dragon; his eyes lit up and he shook my hand, so I’m guessing most people didn’t recognize the outfit.

Two points where I improved on our last Dragoncon trip: rather than bottled water, i brought a collapsible water bottle that squishes down to the size of my first for stuffing into suitcases. And I found a good trail mix recipe: cup of sunflower seeds, cup of pecans, cup of dried pineapple, cup of Chex, 1/2 cup of chocolate-covered raisins, mixed and broken into half-cup helpings. That cut down at least a little on snacking.

I’m going to apply as a guest for 2019; lord knows there were a couple of panels (like time-travel films) I could have contributed to this year. I doubt I’ll make it, but who knows?

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