Category Archives: Personal

Old ventures and new

Another good week, huzzah!

Part of the credit goes to TYG. When possible, she’s been doing her morning work upstairs in the bedroom, with the dogs. They’re much quieter up there so she gets to snuggle with them without Plushie demanding attention by climbing on her laptop. That leaves me free to work without distractions too, which is a great start to the morning.

My Leaf articles have started back up, so I didn’t get to put in as much time as I’d expected on personal projects. On the plus side, it’s income! And I’m writing them faster than the last load I was doing, so that’s good.

I’ve worked on Impossible Things Before Breakfast to the point where it’s good to go for the writer’s group. I don’t think it’s close to being done, but I need feedback to figure what it still needs. I hope to revise it again next week for a possible reading at the end of the month (I’m far enough down the list it’s a probable no, but I want to be ready). I also worked on Only the Lonely Can Slay but I’m still running into the same problem: great first third, but after that there’s no tension. I may have found a way to fix that this week, but maybe not.

I also redrafted several chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Switching to first person is definitely improving the book, but there’s a lot at the start (a secondary villain’s initial attack on my protagonist, for instance) that no longer makes much sense. I have some thoughts for fixing that stuff but I’ll wait until the book is done. I don’t want to end up stuck on revising the first chapter over and over.

I got another rejection on Schloss and the Switchblade, but I also sent out one of my other stories to a different market.

I submitted my old steampunk novel Questionable Minds to a small publisher. While I’m anticipating publishing it myself, it did sell once (the publisher folded) so I won’t give up if there’s an opportunity.

And I finally submitted a Space Invaders query to McFarland. They said to send them a proposal so I may be starting film book #6 before long.

And the weather has been beautiful. Warm enough for shorts, but not really hot, though I did start carrying my water bottle when I go cycling. As you can see, the clover is responding to spring.

Other blossoms, though, have had their day.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals

Wisp returns!

Since last week, Wisp has resumed her regular schedule, showing up for morning and evening feedings. The similar-looking cat that was swiping her meals has only showed up a couple of times since then. Last night she and Wisp had a snarl-off audible inside the house; when I checked on the deck, Wisp was sitting calmly near our door and the other cat was squatting back on the railing before disappearing into the night. It doesn’t look like the stranger can scare her off, so did Wisp stop showing up because the other cat ate her food? Was someone else feeding her for a while?

Either way, it’s nice to have “our” cat back. We’ve adjusted our schedule slightly, waiting until we actually see Wisp to put out the food, rather than risk her rival getting to it.

Here’s Wisp staring in at us from the table over her little heated enclosure (it’s not waterproof, the table keeps the rain off)>

She’s still very keen to meet our dogs. We haven’t let that happen yet.

For a bonus, here’s a shot of Trixie, because who doesn’t need to see things like this on a Friday?

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework

The taxman cometh! And so did the pollen!

Durham has heavy pollen this time every year. This year it got really heavy.Running down the gutters after a rain.

Washing off the driveway.

Even turning our dogs’ leashes yellow.

It got so bad that even though I’m on Claritin (to avoid rashes from all the grass pollen carried on the pups’ coats), allergies laid me low mid-week. This was a regular problem a couple of times a year back in Florida but I’ve never had it here before. No sneezing, just this insane draggy feeling that nothing in the world would be better than lying down and watching television all day (trust me, that’s not normally a thing I say). So that cost me a day and a half.

And then about two days went to taxes. I had almost everything figured out, but the state income tax form wouldn’t let me enter data on the computer so I had to print it up, then write it out. Then print it out again to fix my mistakes. I suspect it will come back to me: the NC Department of Revenue scanning system is much stricter in how it’ll take data than the IRS, so most years I’ve had to re-enter my return because of some technicality. But it’s done, so that’s good. We’re paying in this year, but that’s primarily because I made more money than I expected and didn’t have to pay estimated taxes, so we got socked with a bigger bill than usual. Ouch. And our printer is slow, which drew the process of printing the forms out longer than it should have. Next year I shall take steps to avoid that.

In the remaining time, I did some research reading for the Undead Sexist Cliches book and got some useful feedback from beta readers (one yet to come). I got a lot of work done on a redraft of Impossible Things Before Breakfast, though I still lack a good finish. And that was pretty much it. But taxes needed doing before Monday, like it or not.

Wisp has been an erratic presence on the deck. She’s still not showing up regularly for her meals the way she used to, and there’s another cat we caught eating at least one of the meals we put out. As Wisp has fought to drive off strange cats before, I’m guessing she’s getting food at someone else’s house and so can afford to turn up her nose at ours. Even though someone else might be better situated to take her in, I do feel a twinge of jealousy at the thought.

Trixie has had a hacking cough the past couple of weeks. It’s mostly faded, but we kept her home from Suite Paws day care this week just in case. Much as I enjoy a dog-free day, she’s pretty easy to handle when she’s by herself. But if the hack doesn’t go away, we’ll call the vet next week (I’m wondering if it’s pollen-based).

I’ve also realized that one reason I have trouble focusing after lunch is that Plushie likes to settle into my lap, then stretch out, rather than curling into a ball. This usually puts me in a position that, while not exactly uncomfortable, it strains my body enough that I have a hard time focusing (Trixie’s position on either side of me sometimes makes it worse). I like Plushie curling up in my lap, but I’ll have to position my legs so he can’t expand out.

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Filed under Personal, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing


So last weekend I made breadsticks. I’d never tried before, but TYG said she’d like some and her wish is, of course, my command. I found one recipe in my cookbooks, but on the day of baking I saw it was a bulk recipe and I wasn’t sure I could scale it down. I turned instead to Secrets of a Jewish Baker and found a more manageable size, though I did use some of the advice from the other book. The result:

They tasted great (I mixed some Parmesan and garlic powder into the dough) but looked a little pastier in real life than they do in the photo. A friend of mine recommended a vegan bread wash which should fix that next time.

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Wisp wants to flirt

So as I mentioned a week ago, after TYG and I returned from our Mensa trip to South Carolina, Wisp went back to skulking. Instead of showing up and mewing when she figured dinner was due, she showed up afterwards and ate stealthily as possible. This week, she seemed to get over it, showing up semi-regularly to mew for her supper.

Last night, she also showed up when TYG was walking the dogs at night and sidled up very close. She’s done this before, even rolling on the ground in a “play with me” manner, but never quite so persistently. She clearly wants to be friends.

Trouble is, we’re not sure how well that would go. Neither she nor the dogs seems hostile, but if Trixie gets a sudden itch to show who’s boss — well, Wisp does have those big sharp claws on her feet. So TYG called me out of the house to drive Wisp off. She scurried away as soon as she saw me (I thought we were getting along better. Maybe not) but lurked as close as possible.

I’m tempted to let them get close, but the risk of injury is definitely there, as far as I can tell. And TYG’s even more cautious than me, and I’m not about to go against her on this (“Hi honey! I let Plush Dog snuggle with Wisp and now we have a $700 vet bill and stitches in his side!” would not go over well.

A minor problem comparatively is that the dogs get too distracted to do their business. Particularly Trixie, who could not get her mind off Wisp long enough to poop. This may be why she wound up pooping in the bedroom last night.

I’m absolutely not going to do anything that hurts Wisp or drives her away from her house (TYG doesn’t want that either) but I’m not sure how to handle it.

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework

My answer was ‘recalled to life’

The use of the Dickens quote in the title is my way to say after close to two months of lackluster performance, I had a good week of writing.

The biggest accomplishment was that I finished a draft of the Undead Sexist Cliches book. This was a minor landmark because it’s the first coherent draft. I kept shifting back and forth in earlier drafts on how to break things down, which fact or anecdote went in which chapter and frequently repeating myself. Now I think I’ve honed it so that it has a logical structure. There’s the introduction (about why I’m writing it, and about sexism in general). A chapter on “everyone knows men and women are different” which is the bedrock on which most of these cliches rest. A couple of chapters on why feminism is supposedly evil. One on why all the heroes have to be men. One on rape cliches (probably the largest), one on sexual harassment and one on sex and relationships in general. I may expand them with more examples of sexism, but I think the set-up is solid.

Next up: beta reading! I sent it out to a couple of friends, one in the writing group, one generally interested in this sort of thing. Both women, because the one thing I can’t provide is a woman’s point of view. I might ask a couple of others (I’ve asked one more beta, but haven’t heard back). And then, after I get their feedback, the revisions begin.

It feels really good to have made significant progress on something.

I also mailed out three short stories (one already came back), found a possible market for one of my older novels (hopefully it’ll go out next week), submitted a query for a column (no interest), and put up a couple of items on eBay. They’re movie posters from some of my movie books, so I count that as writing time — and I’d be quite happy to get rid of them productively (i.e., putting them in the trash is just a waste).

I also got back to my regular exercise routine, which had tanked with everything else during March. It looks like I’ll make about 50 percent of my March goals at best (I may accomplish a couple this weekend). However I rearranged my schedule some, and I think that helped. I’ll blog more about that next week.

Wisp, alas, was not happy with us leaving her for last weekend’s Mensa trip. Whether it was not getting her food on the schedule she’s used to or having our neighbor come over to put the food out (Wisp’s still pretty cautious — I could easily see her having a Stranger Danger reaction), she’s gone back to staying invisible and quiet (the photo’s an old one). Usually we don’t even know she’s there until after the food is eaten. Hopefully having us put out food regularly will restore her confidence in us; she did show up one evening and stare at the dogs through the window so she’s not completely alienated.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Nanananananana — Batman!

So last Friday, TYG and I headed to Greenville, SC, to attend the annual Mensa RG (regional gathering) there. Given how crazy our schedule has been lately, we were less enthused about it than usual, but for the same reason, we needed a break. The theme of the RG was the 1966 Batman TV show and I’d agreed to give a talk on the show Friday, as a kind of kickoff. Below, you can see me in this year’s RG T-shirt.

I’m so glad we went. Not only did I get a break from pup-watching (we boarded them for the weekend) but we had fun. A lot of that was hanging with our friends down there, but also with each other. With TYG’s workload, we don’t get to hang out as much as we’d like, but this weekend we managed it.

Every year we play in Blonde Bowl, a quiz bowl where the last line of every question is a “blonde,” obvious clue (e.g., “… name this baseball player whose life was dramatized on screen in The Jackie Robinson Story, Jackie Robinson — All American and The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson.”), though people still flub it. I was feeling so wiped I wasn’t sure I was up to playing, but TYG signed up so I joined her team, the Lannisters (she’s a big GoT fan). While she often insists she’s not really good at things like this, she was amazing — six questions answered in the first round out of 20, giving us a slot in the finals. Overall I got one more question than she did, but more of mine were on the blonde clues. I had one frustrating moment when I recognized on the first sentence that Charlie, our quizmaster, was talking about Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight, but got confused and said “Sir Gawaine” as the answer instead of “The Green Knight” (I’ve had similar glitches before).

On the plus side, we came down in the finals to a dead heat at the last question. About two sentences in, I recognized the name “Roland Daggett” from Batman: The Animated Series and guessed, correctly, that the city we were being asked about was Gotham City. So that was a pretty satisfactory win.

My talk on the TV show went really well and I got several compliments on it, and my being able to deliver it without any notes. I was actually a little surprised at that myself, but comics and related matters have always been something that sticks in my mind.

Otherwise, let’s see. We got to snuggle in the mornings without the dogs demanding attention, played poker (well, TYG played, I just watched), and I got to sample an $1,100 bottle of scotch. I don’t have the palate to appreciate it, but when someone offered me a sip, I couldn’t pass it up. If nothing else, the scent of the drink was really neat to inhale.

Sunday morning we hung out with TYG’s mom and brother, who live in the area, then we headed home and collected the dogs. I know the refreshed feeling won’t last but it was really great.

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i bounce back, at least a little

Not a stellar week, but more productive than last week. I still didn’t have the presence of mind to focus on fiction so I returned to my Undead Sexist Cliches book. I got about 11,000 added words done. That felt good. And I got my Leaf articles done for the week.

And that was about it. Added dog care used up some of the time. So did a trip for a car check-up (unnecessary as it turned out; things were fine). And Tuesday, both pups freaked out because the gutter cleaners came and that meant STRANGER DANGER! HE”S MAKING NOISES! HE HAS A LADDER! DADDY, DO SOMETHING! That kind of thing makes it really hard to work.

I did, however, finish my first post at Atomic Junkshop in a while, dealing with what comic books on DC’s Earth-One were like.

Plus I seem to have maxed out my body’s insomnia tolerance. I still wake up early, but my naps have been getting a lot longer.

However, we’ll be doing some fun stuff this weekend, and I’m confident next week will see some real improvement.

Below, a symbolic photo of a flour arising amidst winter’s detritus Deep, aren’t I?

#SFWapro. Photo is mine, please credit me if you use it. Comic book panel by Carmine Infantino with Joe Kubert inks, all rights remain to current holder.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Me, the early years

So during last year’s visit to Florida, I acquired my baby book from among Mum’s leftovers (stored in my sister’s bedroom). As it was my birthday Monday, I thought I’d share fascinating insights into my past.

I was born at 10:46 PM, weighing seven pounds, 5.5 ounces and stretching a magnificent 21 inches long (that’s actually a third of my height now). I had blond hair and blue eyes, which changed to brown and hazel within a few years.

I started liking nursery rhymes at six months old and subsequently became a fan of that classic novel, The Dog Goes Woof.

At six months I had no interest in TV except commercials. By a year old, I was hooked.

Foodwise I loved milk, bananas and Farley’s Rusks. “Rusk” was actually my first word, to which I soon added “butter,” car” and “Teddy.” By a year old I was eating everything I could, which surprises me — my earliest memories are of me as a picky eater.

I got vaccinated against whooping cough, polio and smallpox (take that anti-vaxxers!). I did come down with diptheria at 11 months, which TYG boggles at — she’s never heard of anyone she knows having diptheria.

At six months I got around by rolling. At nine months I crept, at ten months I started walking.

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Happy birthday to me, and to my blog!

Sixty one years today. My goodness. And I continue to be lucky that my health concerns have been minor and not life-threatening or seriously disabling. That’s not something all my friends can say.

This looks to be a quiet birthday. I’d intended to do something special, but with TYG’s crazy schedule that’s not really practical, so it’ll just be a quiet dinner out, FB birthday wishes and gifts. But we have several unrelated social activities coming up this month so I’ll still be having fun. And there’s always next year (or so one can hope).

I realized earlier this year that I started this WordPress blog 10 years ago. It was actually my third shot at blogging. First came a personal blog on LiveJournal, but my blogging community there dried up as everyone found Facebook could provide the same sort of connections. Overlapping with LJ came a writing blog on MySpace, which lasted until MySpace stopped doing blogs and erased all the content. Even before that, I’d started cross-posting at WordPress; MySpace had the obvious disadvantage that only members could read it. Great for friend networks, not so good for promoting my writing.

While I didn’t know it at the time, 2009 was a transitional year. I’d been dating TYG long-distance for about six months when I started at WordPress and it looked like we were in it for the long haul. I loved my reporting job, but the company”s cheapness was making my finances less and less workable. I was working on my third film-reference book for McFarland (Screen Enemies of the American Way) and selling short stories occasionally.

A year later I was engaged, living in Durham, and starting as a full-time freelancer. Now we’re married, own a house, and share our lives with Plushie, Trixie and (sort of) Wisp. While I miss my Ft. Walton Beach friends, life is definitely better.

I suppose my biggest regret, in hindsight, is that the fiction-writing side of my life hasn’t improved as much as I’d like. I still sell stories, but I hoped that in a decade I’d be selling to bigger (and better paying) markets. Or selling more frequently and faster; it still takes repeated submissions to multiple markets before any of my short stories finally sell. Southern Discomfort isn’t drawing any instant agent attention; I don’t know it will do any better with publishers. Not that I expected to be a JK Rowling-class household name, but I hoped I’d see some improvement over a decade.

But I am paying my share of the bills with my writing and I do get to stay home with Plushie and Trixie all day, even if they do sometimes drive me crazy (as I write this Plushie is loudly demanding I Do Something about Wisp sunning herself on the porch). And even if the stories don’t sell, they do get written, and I wrote them. And that’s cool.

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