Category Archives: Personal

Enter the furniture, exit the work week

So we got new bookshelves this week. Like the pantry and hutch we bought a while ago, this is something TYG has talked about for awhile and with the added time from not commuting to work, she went ahead and did it. Three bookshelves, two tall one short. Unfortunately the company was nowhere near as good as the first furniture supplier: they were in poorer condition (staples and a nail or two sticking out), we kept getting contradictory delivery notices and the second tall case didn’t come with the first order. Bad!

So we spent part of Monday evening getting the two bookcases we received out of their packing. Wednesday we got the word that #3 would arrive Thursday so we began making ready. Clearing the furniture it would replace. Putting stuff on shelves. Moving one old bookcase up to my room to replace one that doesn’t have much shelf space (it’s designed primarily for CDs so the shelves are oddly sized for most other uses). Moving the old bookcase out. Putting all the books off one bookcase, then onto another one. This a)took time and b)got physically very draining. Thursday morning I felt quite wiped, and then we spent time getting the new one set up Thursday.

On the plus side, the changeover is done and the books are in place (I still need to get my issues of Vegetarian Times back in order). That’s a good thing. I’d be much more likely to dawdle but TYG’s efficient. I’d show you photos but I haven’t taken any yet.

Leaf articles were my priority this week because that’s paying work, but there were only a few in the pipeline. I did finish another chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches which is good, and one chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer which is less than I’d wanted. I read Chapter Two to the writing group and incorporated several changes based on their suggestions. That was pretty much it. Well, that and finishing our taxes: sales tax (none, I had no sales in the past quarter), estimated tax (have to pay in), federal 1040 (ditto) and state tax (they pay us). That’s a lot of paperwork that needed doing so it’s not surprising I got less actually writing done.

Next week we have nothing arriving, no appointments, no tax paperwork and hopefully no emergencies so I anticipate doing better. Certainly an easier week than these guys are having.#SFWApro. Art by Jerry Grandenetti, all rights remain with current holder.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Time management and goals

Animal tales

So late Sunday night, Plushie, for no discernible reason, jumped off the bed, whimpering in pain. We’ve no idea; could just be that one of his sore spots (he likes to chew himself) got bumped. But he decided the only security was to be found pressing up very close to his daddy. Which was sweet, but the position he picked (and wouldn’t budge from) left me in too awkward a position myself to sleep. After about fifteen minutes I gave up and went to sleep in the spare bedroom. Except I didn’t sleep: Monday was a long slog.

At lunch, I walked Plushie and Wisp started to come over and get a little petting. But then one of the children on our street came up to talk and Wisp froze. I could almost see her torn between the desire to rub up against me and the Stranger Danger posed by this seven year old. I made it up to her with some snuggling on the front steps later.

Then in the evening we had some guys show up to deliver some new bookcases. Somehow, Plushie got past the gate barring off the living room, then ran outside, triggering a very loud demand from TYG that I find him (one of the guys was unintentionally obstructing her from catching him). I rushed out and fortunately Plushie hadn’t gone further than the walkway, where he was begging for attention from one of the other dudes. I grabbed him up and carried him back inside before he could get any ideas about exploring or challenging the next bicycle rider to go by. Scary, but it turned out okay.

That’s life with pets. And it’s a good excuse to show these photos of a dead mole we found in the front yard, and what it looked like after it had decayed for a few days.

#SFWApro. Images are mine.

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework

I think things fell apart when I went to the library …

But I’m still glad I went.

The Durham Library recently reopened, though only for picking up books placed on hold (maximum of five). Which is disappointing — they just completed a massive remodel of the main library and I’d love to visit — but obviously the right thing to do. As my pile of new books is vastly shrinking (no used bookstores or library sales to visit) I reserved some books and picked them up Thursday afternoon, as they don’t open Saturdays. It went smoothly, with no major risk and everyone masked, though to my disappointment Ghosts of Manhattan turned out not to be the superhero novel of that name but a mainstream book about a stockbroker’s personal crises. I may read it anyway.

However, after I got back from the library I had to engage in some extra dog care and wound up getting very little done Thursday. Then this morning I took Plushie for his walk and for a change he was ready to go on a long one. We spent probably an hour, which is good — he really needs to get some weight off — but quite exhausting for me. I not only lost a chunk of writing time but it took me a while to get over the stiffness and focus on writing (I exercise plenty but walking wipes me out way more than most workouts. I’ve no idea why). This may happen again, as we’re now taking one dog each in the morning, which makes it easier to get them walked before the heat is unendurable.

I also made the mistake of dropping Thursday morning’s planned focus on Questionable Minds to do a little extra work on Undead Sexist Cliches and Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I think there are two ways to juggle multiple projects: allot each of them some time in your schedule and give them the time or make one project the priority and do whatever it takes to get that work done, even if it cuts into the time spent on others. I set my priorities based on option A — get something done on each of them per week — but then I wind up shifting them around. I still got work done in that time, but I’d be happier, I think, if I’d gotten some on all three big projects instead of skimping on my Minds final draft.

Oh, and I took Monday off, which was the right call. I’d let a lot of life stuff build up unfinished (paperwork, bills, checks to deposit, things to clean) plus my brain was slowing down from cabin fever some. That didn’t help with productivity either, but I’m glad I did it. Unfortunately the library doesn’t do appointments on Mondays or I’d have taken care of it then.

On Impossible I got through Chapter Three on the new draft which brought me up to a scene I had no idea how to fix, where Lahatiel (evil fake angel) attempts to kill KC (alias the Florida Panhandle’s superhero, the Champion). The old version didn’t work — it plays on fears and worries KC no longer has — but I think I figured out where to go with my current concept of her character. I’ll try it next week. And I posted Ch.2 to my writers’ group, as I’ll be reading it next week. Undead Sexist Cliches has the first two chapters done on the final draft. Questionable Minds … well, nothing, obviously. Plus I got some Leaf articles done (most interesting: “Do Physician Assistants Wear White Coats?” There’s more to the answer than I’d have thought.

For illustration, here’s a photo I took of someone’s broken lawn ornament recently. I’d like to claim it as an allegorical artistic statement on the ongoing statue controversies, but it’s just a photo.#SFWApro. Image is mine.

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

It’s the weekend, let’s hit the beach!

Okay, probably a bad idea right now with Florida cases skyrocketing … but it does give me an excuse to post this whimsical Sheldon Mayer cover.This was a productive week. Not productive enough, but when do I ever say it was enough? But I did feel at times like cabin fever was interfering with my creative process; I may take Monday off just to clear my head, even though it’s not like I can go anywhere.

I got a few Leafs done, but we were on the wrap-up end of the current spurt. It’ll start up again next month, one reason I want to take Monday off when it won’t interfere with money-making. I made good use of the added no-Leaf time, finishing the introduction and first chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. It was slow going because I rewrote more than I expected. Part of that was making the logic flow smoother, part of it just to tighten the material. I knocked 1,000 words or more out of Chapter One so I guess I succeeded.

I continued replotting Impossible Takes a Little Longer, including rearranging some of the sections for overall pacing and introducing some characters earlier. I’m still not sure whether it’s long enough and there’s one key scene, Champion’s first battle with Lahatiel, that I don’t have figured out. The original attack, which I’d thought would last into this version, doesn’t work; I have a vague idea what might work in its place but I’m not sure. I also wrote out the second chapter, as I thought I might be reading at Tuesday’s writer’s group. However that won’t happen until July 7 (a few years ago, TYG and I would have been at the Mensa national gathering but like so much else, that didn’t happen this year). I’ll give it another glance next week but I think I may have outlined as much as I can — I’ll continue with the next draft and wing it where I have to.

I finished a rough outline for the next draft of Oh the Places You’ll Go! and started on the next draft. It’s way stronger, but still needs some work. Right now I’m squeezing a ton of exposition in up front, just to make sure I get it in, but next draft I can spread it out. I have a feeling this will stretch out to substantially longer before I’m done.

I did not get anything done on the final draft of Questionable Minds. Bad me! Part of Monday will be figuring out just what I can get done and how fast, and which projects are top priority, etc. I hate to say it but I can’t do it all, at least not at once.

Oh, and a magazine called Overdraft accepted my reprint story Dark Satanic Mills so whoot! After getting so many rejections earlier this month, it feels good.

Have a great weekend everyone, and stay safe.

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

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

I have a dream …

Quite a few of them this week, for whatever reason.

I dreamed I was making out with TYG and our downstairs alarm went off. The dream-alarm actually woke me up (I checked to confirm the house had not, in fact, been broken into).

I dreamed I was flirting with women at a con, and it was going very well. Then I became consumed by guilt at the thought of cheating and backed out of doing anything. Why does my subconscious throw attractive women at me and then tell me not to touch them?

I dreamed TYG was having to attend weekly Zoom meetings running 5-10 PM on Sunday evenings. I’m glad that one was imaginary.

I have nothing deep to say about any of these, so I’ll wrap up with a photo of me scratching Wisp.#SFWApro.

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Little baby steps feel better than crawling

Which is to say that while I haven’t brought anything to a conclusion any more than I did last week, I made enough progress I feel more satisfied.

On Oh the Places You’ll Go, for instance, switching to 1972 as the “present” works as well as I’d hoped. For the first time I feel like I’ve got a stronger plot without sacrificing the character dynamic and the McGuffin is actually something interesting. There’s still a lot of stuff to sort out on the next draft, but I’m confident the story is there.

On Undead Sexist Cliches I actually finished proofing the introduction. That’s a very small piece of the book, but it still feels like an accomplishment, as opposed to stopping somewhere mid-chapter.

I didn’t get quite as much done on Impossible Takes a Little Longer but the outline for the next draft is firming up. There’s a couple of points that have me baffled but I’m hopeful I’ll crack them by the end of the month. I’ll probably be batting out a second chapter early next week in case I’m called on to read at Tuesday’s writers’ group (I’m only one of the backups, but if anyone doesn’t show …)

While the Leaf article pipeline has been erratic, I finished several articles so I’m contributing to the family bottom line again.

I got another short story back with “we liked it but …” compliments and it’s now out again. As I said last week, it’s frustrating to come close and miss, but I’m in a good enough mood today I’m more inclined to accept the compliments.

Oh, and following up on my review of first season Star Trek, I posted about what everyone gets wrong about Kirk over at Atomic Junkshop.Still feeling a little cabin-fevery; having no meetings of any sort this week didn’t help. Neither did the drenching rain keeping us indoors Monday through Wednesday. But until I’m more comfortable going places casually (I’m still very wary), there’s not a lot of options for changing things up. All things considered though, my life is still very good.

#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, TV, Writing

So last weekend, this happened and that happened …

One happened good, one not so good.

The good happening was that the Two Gay Geeks podcast interviewed me (date not set) thanks to J. Scott Coatsworth letting the writers in his Liminal Fiction FB group know the podcast was looking for subjects. Having had two stories rejected the previous day (and two more on Monday), it was really cool to be interviewed by people who actually sounded impressed with me. And you know, when you lump everything I’ve done together in the span of a 20-minute interview, it does sound pretty cool. Much more so than when I’m getting it done one day at a time.

The other, not so good, was that on Sunday we gave Plushie a shave. His fur just picks up burrs and it’s matted where Trixie chews on him, so as we don’t want to hit the dog groomer yet (social distancing. Sigh) we did it ourselves. Well, TYG did it and I held Plushie in place. As you can see, we’re not really good at it (a friend of ours said he looked like a taunton from Empire Strikes Back). Good thing Trixie’s hair doesn’t get as messed up.

But the really not-so-good part was that at one point I was sitting on the floor with Plushie and lifted him up on his back legs so TYG could shave his belly. Plushie weighs around 21 lbs and that was too much for my shoulders. They ached the rest of the day and on into Monday. Fortunately by Wednesday I was back to normal.

Neither event terribly spectacular but they did make the weekend standout.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

Everything in motion but nowhere near the finish line

On the whole this was a frustrating week, though part of that’s the cabin fever I was talking about this morning. However it did have one huge upside, which is that yesterday, TYG and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. This is, of course, a cool thing in itself, especially in the current crisis: I’m not alone and we don’t drive each other crazy, even with all the extra time we’re spending together. Plus I actually went out and got takeout from a local restaurant last night. We haven’t been out to eat since Valentine’s Day; my birthday and TYG’s were both spent safe at home. I’m a good cook so I don’t mind eating at home usually but it really felt good to indulge in a large pizza last night, followed by cheesecake (chocolate flourless torte for TYG).

So not such a bad week after all. And I did pet Wisp.

But things were still frustrating. For one thing I got two short stories back today. One was just a form-letter “no” which didn’t surprise me — I wasn’t at all sure my story was a good fit but I didn’t want to self-reject (as they say). The other was a disappointment: they’d told me back in December that I’d been shortlisted and I hadn’t heard since; I emailed them today to check and they wrote back (with apologies for not doing so sooner) that no, while they liked the story quite a bit, it just (drum roll) didn’t fit their needs. In some ways it’s more frustrating to come close and miss, though it’s happened to me quite a bit (nine times out of 10 getting shortlisted turns out to be the kiss of death).

The other source of frustration is that while I worked on several projects this week (plus some Leaf articles) and it was mostly productive, none of them are anywhere near finished. I’m editing the final draft of Questionable Minds but only part of the way through. I fixed the footnotes of the first two chapters of Undead Sexist Cliches and put them into a standardized format, plus starting the final draft but it’s barely a fraction of what has to be done. And I worked on redrafting Oh the Places You’ll Go! and I like the changes, but again, it’s slow going.

The biggest accomplishment was that I did some replotting on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and fixed, I think, a number of problems.

So not a bad week, but it would be nice to wrap something up or, you know, sell a story. Still, I’m better off than whoever lived here, so that’s something.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Summertime … and the living’s not completely easy

Definitely feeling a touch of cabin fever this week. Not that life has been particularly worse than previous weeks but it would be nice if I could feel safe going and doing … well, anything outside the house. And the realization this will continue for months gnaws at me.

The summer heat is probably contributing. It’s already getting into what i think of as July/August temperatures; global warming being a thing this is not surprising, but it does make the outdoors less fun. We can’t give the dogs a good long walk except in the early morning, and I don’t go bicycling too late in the morning either. Lord knows what it’ll be like in August.

Even food orders may be affected. TYG ordered some food this weekend but even wrapped in insulated bags, the ice cream came out too melty too eat. I put in an order specifically scheduling it for early morning; if there’d been any ice cream, it would not have done much better (the other dairy was warm, but not dangerously so). I’m also stacking  the pantry with extra shelf-stable supplies, because hurricane season’s alreadybusy and if the power goes out, I’d like us able to eat. Still first-world problems, but I’m a first world person so there you are.

Wisp seems to enjoy the heat so far. She’s been lounging on the front steps a lot, which I presume is because they’re comfortably warm. She hasn’t come indoors as much lately, but she’s still willing to enter for brief snuggles and scritches.We’ve also seen the cat we call “Evil Wisp” around for the first time in a while. He got the name because of his similar coloration — back before we got used to Wisp, they looked identical to us, except for Wisp’s cropped ear.The “evil” part came because he seemed to be intent on a turf war with Wisp over our deck and of course we’re on Team Wisp. Here he’s engaged in a staring contest while she sat by her food; I tilted the balance by opening the deck door, which alarmed him but of course doesn’t faze Wisp any. If Evil Wisp keeps showing, we might leave some food in the garden for him — we don’t wish him any harm, we just prioritize Wisp’s well-being.

Hope your summer is looking livable.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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Have you ever thought about becoming an intracranial bleeder for fun and profit?

So about a year ago I did a video for Medscape as The Man With Low Testosterone (they’re training videos for doctors to learn how to handle various situations with patients). Today I did another one, as Herman, a man with horrible headaches (caused, I believe by intracranial bleeding, though Herman doesn’t know that) who doesn’t want to go to the E/R. We did this by Zoom so I spent a lot of time yesterday finding a spot in the house where I could film myself against a white wall. Eventually I settled on putting a step ladder in the downstairs bathroom doorway and putting my computer on top of it.

The taping went quite quickly (they were very pleased) and their direction was good; the biggest problem was that I woke up this morning with a slight headache and couldn’t get the idea I had intracranial bleeding out of my mind. That aside I feel as pleased as — well, a young comic book intern!Going over the script before the filming took up more time than expected but the pay is good, so I’m not complaining. Besides that, let’s see …

I got some more Leaf articles done. Last time I was working on them it was early in the pandemic and I found it a real slog. Apparently I’ve adjusted because this batch went down smooth.

I worked on rethinking both The Impossible Takes a Little Longer and Oh The Places You’ll Go! rather than just rewriting and pantsing yet another draft. Don’t get me wrong, the only way I can do early drafts is by winging it, but these have reached the point I need a thorough plot first. Both went well, though not as far along as I wanted.

I continued editing my hard copy of Questionable Minds and I finished the latest draft of Undead Sexist Cliches. Next week I start correcting in hard copy. Reading marketing material I learned I should have started on marketing about three months ago — but if I’d done that in advance I’d have finished the pre-book marketing and wouldn’t have the work ready. So hopefully this’ll work out.

And I posted on Atomic Junkshop about the Justice League’s first story and their use of snail mail as a way to find cases to work on.

I sent out two stories, one of which came back almost immediately. It will, of course, go out again, but it would be nice to get a sale from something besides Leaf. Leaf pays better than most fiction markets I submit to, and I’m pleased with the quality of my work, but getting fiction published is a lot more personal.

I’ll close with a shot of Wisp sleeping on the carpet from the previous week. I had to work so when I got up I hoped she’d join me on the couch but this is good too. If we do bring her inside on a regular basis we won’t be able to pet her all the time so having her relax on her own is good.#SFWApro. Photo is mine; covers are by Dick Giordano (top) and Murphy Anderson and all rights remain with current holder.

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