Category Archives: Personal

I thought Wisp was a bush cat?

“Bush cat” meaning that she prefers ground level to climbing. Outside of settling on the back of the couch she doesn’t climb onto anything indoors, and not much outside. However …

Saturday morning we went out to walk the dogs. We heard a persistent, worried meowing but we couldn’t find the cat. We saw Snowdrop in the area but it clearly wasn’t him making the noise. Finally TYG looked up and realized we couldn’t track the sound because it was coming from overhead. Wisp had climbed up 20-30 feet and she was now sitting in the crook of a tree branch, asking for help getting down. Snowdrop stuck around for moral support I guess.

I called the Durham Fire Department but it turns out that contrary to TV, they don’t get cats out of trees. TYG figured Wisp could probably do it herself if we offered an incentive so I went inside and brought out a bowl of kibble. Right after that she started climbing down, the cat way — backwards.She made it down but did not eat the food or seem to want us close. Within a day, however, she was back to being her usual affectionate self.

We have no idea what drove her up there. Coyote would be the obvious choice. I suppose it could have been some human cat hater, too. Either way, it’s a relief she’s safe at ground level again.


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The Dismal Diarrhea of Defeat!

I thought I would end July with a productive week.

Alas, not so much.

I spent last weekend at ConGregate, a Winston-Salem con, and had a great time. I was on eight or nine panels, chatted with a lot of NC writers I know and discovered an excellent coffee/tea shop across the street (really good loose leaf tea). The hotel restaurant was reasonably priced. I also picked up some good used books at a sale table (two Philip K. Dick, one Andre Norton) though that kept me from buying anything new from my friends.

There was also a nice moment on one panel — I forget which one — in which I was commenting on how many of my stories get turned down of late, and John Hartness of Falstaff Books commented “and yet, you’re in this side of the table as a published author.” I think I needed to hear that.

Oh, and I sold one of my books after one of the attendees heard me give a reading from The Wodehouse Murder Case.

I came home Sunday and decided to devote Monday to various tasks around the house, such as finding a contractor to fix a small siding problem. Then back to work Tuesday. In hindsight, not the best call … and not productive on the task side either. Neither of the contractors I asked for quotes were free to do the job.

Monday afternoon, Trixie began demanding to go out and crap every couple of hours. The poop wasn’t as runny as in some times past, but it was semisolid at best, and in remarkably small quantities every time. Knowing this could keep up a while, I volunteered to sleep with Trixie in the spare bedroom (the shot of her in the laundry basket has no relation to her being ill, it just looks cute) so that TYG could get some sleep. Sure enough, every couple of hours Trixie decided she needed to go out. I’d thought I might be able to work in between walkies as I wouldn’t get back to sleep but various matters distracted me so no sleep and no work.

Needless to say, I was a total wreck Tuesday, unfit for work; besides sleeping I think I might have done some blogging, but not much else. We tried making an appointment for Trixie but had to settle for Wednesday. Tuesday night passed without problems and I slept like a log. So soundly I woke up late which left me off-balance the rest of the day. I know it’s a weakness but I really need a couple of hours before the dogs join me downstairs if I’m to get my head in the game.

As Trixie seemed fine we canceled the appointment, then guess what happened Wednesday night? I slept through it with an Ambien — I was going to drive the car to our dealer for some servicing and I wanted to be awake for that — but we canceled that and made another appointment for Trixie that day. The doctor decided the antibiotics from her UTI might be the cause. We have her on a concentrated probiotic regimen for a couple of days. Last night she slept with me in the spare room again, just in case. She had no problems but as often happens the night after I take Ambien, I didn’t sleep well.

So the long and short of it is I got next to nothing done. What I did accomplish included proofing the golem article I worked on last year and doing some promotional work for Questionable Minds. I signed up for a blog tour to promote it so I spent Thursday getting a lot of details for that in place. We’ll see if it gets results down the road.

I didn’t get my exercise routines or most other routines done this week either. Though looking over my July goals, I got way more of them done than usual, and all the important ones done. That’s cool, even if this week doesn’t feel that way.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

Sleepless, again

The past week my sleep has been very poor. I’m not sure if it’s bleed-through stress from TYG getting stress or summer heat, which often messes up my sleep patterns. Of course, I have the option to start work early, then nap later, but I’m still feeling rather worn out right now.

That contributed to becoming very disorganized this week. It didn’t help that first thing Monday morning we took the dogs to their physical therapy (feel free to laugh, but it really helps them). Then I’d planned a relatively light day of work because I was also taking Trixie in for a checkup to see if her UTI had gone away. As she was still on antibiotics I had to cancel but somehow I couldn’t cudgel my brain into making effective use of the free time. Then I had to go in to pick up the pee collection syringe, then bring it back in after collection. Little stuff like that wouldn’t, I think, have been a huge problem normally, but I was already out of sorts and tired, so …

But Trixie seems to have recovered. And I love her.I did get work done, though. I completed another Accounting Seed article. I continued redrafting Obalus, but ran out of steam — annoyingly, late enough in the afternoon I couldn’t bring myself to switch and work on something else. I suspect I’m going to need to lengthen it — the opening scenes are great, but once we transition to a fantasy setting, everything in the old draft wrapped up too fast. Doing it right will add length, I think.

I put in some work on revising the cover copy for Questionable Minds. I looked for book bloggers who are into steampunk but the list I found turned out to be a)they weren’t into steampunk; b)they charge; c)not taking reviews. Back to the drawing board.

That was pretty much it. The article took longer than it should have, and I’m off today. I shall spend some time this weekend thinking how to cudgel my schedule back into shape.

#SFWApro. Book cover by Sam Collins.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

Cornish pasties!

I had an itch to try a recipe that was more work than usual so I decided to make a Cornish pasty recipe I found on the Washington Post website. Although technically they’re “Cornish” pasties because it’s a heritage recipe and the name is reserved for the authentic recipe, which uses meat. I used veggie sausage. Other ingredients: rutabaga, potato and onion, wrapped up in a buttery dough.They were a fair amount of work; anything that involves making dough, rolling it out and then putting filling in it usually is. But they taste good and they’re very satisfying. About half of one makes a meal for me.

Now I have an itch to try a Samosa recipe, as that also involves wrapping veggies in dough, though with more spices.


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It’s okay to consume entertainment just to entertain yourself

Last week blogger Abigail Nussbaum posted about the HBO adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife, including that  it makes the relationship in the Audrey Niffenegger novel squickier. There was discussion in the comments about how many people weren’t bothered by the relationship in the book (which starts when the adult time traveler meets the wife in her childhood); this led in turn to discussion that people consume information “on the surface level” and don’t see deeper problems. One commenter said the problem is most people aren’t active online so Internet discussions of problematic performers and stories haven’t reached them yet.

I found the discussion annoying. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad that people don’t want to think deeply about their entertainment and simply treat it as, well, entertainment. Despite putting a lot of thought into some entertainment — if you read this blog or my movie books you already know that — I’m perfectly happy looking at something and thinking “that was fun” and not going deeper. In the case of Time Traveler’s Wife, the relationship didn’t squick me out. When I watched the film version for Now and Then We Time Travel, actually seeing the naked guy with the little girl was creepy, even though he wasn’t doing anything.

That’s not to say anyone who’s creeped out by the book is wrong, just that I don’t feel bad for well, not feeling bad reading it.

Fiction can be creepy or have ugly messages it’s bad to consume uncritically. For instance, the umpty-zillion stories that show women cry rape at the drop of a hat. Or the sexism of Piers Anthony. I think it’s important to have the fiction-verse grow more diverse, offer better roles for women characters (and other groups) and not recycle old tropes reflexively or because that’s what sells.

At the same time, I don’t think sitting back and watching or reading something without dissecting gender roles or power structures will turn us into monsters. You are not what you read.

As for not being aware of online discussion of these issues, big whoop. There was a lot of online discussion after Black Panther about whether Killmonger’s vision for Wakanda wasn’t better than T’Challa’s. That’s a perfectly valid point but I honestly can’t see that going to the film and coming out thinking Wow, That Was Awesome! and nothing beyond that is something to worry or tut-tut about.

It’s not an issue unique to the Internet. Thirty years ago someone could make the same argument about not reading critics or feminist/black critics or good books analyzing film (or TV or whatever). Or, you know, reading a brilliant film book by someone (I’m too modest to say who I’d recommend).

And of course, not all online discussion is good — I’ve seen plenty of takes about why X Is The Real Villain or The Message Of This Book Is Messed Up that I didn’t agree with (case in point, the firestorm over Blood Heir). Plus there’s plain old disagreement. A recent post on The Mary Sue ripped into Stranger Things‘ handling of trauma in S4 and got a lot of pushback in the comments.

I don’t know a couple of tossed-off comments in  a long thread were worth this much response, but it’s my blog so you’re stuck with it.

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

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Filed under Movies, Personal, Reading, TV

Three good days, two that tanked

The work week went well up until Wednesday night.

We had a massive thunderstorm so Plushie freaked out, as he always does. When he’s that nervous, he doesn’t eat which meant we couldn’t give him his evening drugs. So we decided to wait out the storm which meant we got to bed close to 10. Not so late, but we’re usually asleep around 8:30. I wake up around 3:30 — and sure enough, that’s what I did. Coupled with several bad nights of sleep earlier in the week, I was too zonked on Thursday to do anything productive.

Thursday night we stayed up to about the same time because TYG was watching something on the TV. I got a full night of sleep but that meant waking up late and getting very little done before TYG and the dogs were up. Might have recovered on an ordinary morning but we had an appointment at Quartet — the dogs’ physical rehab place — so the morning was chunked up into small bits. So another day not getting anything done.

That said, I did get three productive days in. I redrafted Don’t Pay the Ferryman which I’m retitling something like Reflections in Dark Mirrors (I’d use Grin of the Dark but Ramsey Campbell beat me to it); I’m not sure the shorter ending is quite where it needs to be but I may send it out just to get feedback. I also started redrafting a short story called (for now) Obalus. It’s got a great set-up but the finish of the previous draft was a hand-wave. I’m not sure how to fix that yet. Oh, I also submitted a couple of shorts, though I got one back from a previous round of submissions.

I spent Wednesday drafting up article queries for various markets. I tend to dither when I do this, delaying until I’m completely satisfied the query is perfect. This time, while I was slower than I needed to be, I came up with three ideas and sent them out. I need to do that much more often.

I finished the 20,000 words I wanted to get done on Impossible Takes a Little Longer, once again because I could transplant a lot of material from the last draft with little changes. I think I’ve solved some of the problems I wrote about Wednesday but the new stuff and the old stuff still fit together awkwardly. But I think the components of a good book are there — I simply have to put them in the right order, tied together the right way. Easy to say, tougher to do, of course.

So a good week, but I still miss the two days I got nothing done. But I did get a great close up of Snowdrop.#SFWApro.

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

Wisp had a sleepover

Last Saturday night, I was able to lure Wisp into the house in the evening and closed the door on her. I wasn’t sure how she’d take it since it’s been several months since she was sleeping inside regularly. Happily, she reacted quite comfortably, going up to the guest bedroom and making her nest on the blanket there. In the morning, she left quickly, but then came back in and snuggled in my lap for a while (the photo below is an older one, but the position hasn’t changed much).

I feel much encouraged by this. Since she started staying out with Snowdrop, I’ve been wondering if we’d lost all the gains we’d made toward making her an indoor cat. Looks like the instincts are still there once she comes inside. I’m happy with this; I usually spend part of the night in the guest bedroom anyway (the dogs sometimes make it hard to sleep in the main bed) and I miss having her there.

It didn’t convert her back to coming in every night, but I’m still pleased.#SFWApro.

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I’m counting the first week of July as a win

Partly that’s just random luck; as I’ve often observed, when performance is sub-par and problems arise, random swings of the pendulum push me back towards average, if not over it.

It’s also that I’ve solved the problem I mentioned last week of not taking breaks. A break mid-afternoon to write out Remember To Vote postcards for Activate America. A longer lunch break. That second one’s still messy because I’ve been sitting extra with the dogs this week, which limits what I can do at lunch time — if I exercise, Trixie takes it as a call to snuggle. But it does help keep me going to the end of the day.What did I get accomplished? For starters I finished Adventure of the Red Leech and sent it in to a Holmesian anthology. I put in a little work on Don’t Pay the Merryman (I so have to change that title). And while I haven’t mentioned it before, a friend of mine is putting together a collaborative self-published anthology and my Impossible Things Before Breakfast is one of the stories. I took a look at the feedback from the other authors this week and made edits. I didn’t follow all their suggested changes but the advice I did take improved the story. I’l review it again next month for final decision on a couple of points where I was uncertai.

I got 12,000 words in on Impossible Takes a Little Longer, which is less impressive than it sounds: I took most of it straight from the last draft with very little changed. The results aren’t entirely satisfactory though, something I’ll discuss in a post next week.

I started researching Amazon ads, though I balked at actually spending money on them. I will authorize a small test for Undead Sexist Cliches next week, but it’s difficult for me to spend money on something that may not pay off at all. However I felt better about it when I crunched budget numbers and even with my upcoming trip to Congregate this month I can afford at least a small trial run.

Oh, and I posted a couple of times at Atomic Junkshop about Marvel Comics in 1965, and the end of Giant-Man’s series. Go ahead and check them out if you’re interested in the topic.

And now the weekend is here.

#SFWApro. Undead Sexist Cliches cover by Kemp Ward.


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

There comes now raging fire — no, wait, it’s only a North Carolina summer

But that’s plenty hot enough. And it’s forcing me to revise my goals slightly.

I am determined to not only get back to regular bicycling but to get more exercise out of it. A book I read earlier this year discussed the different ways you could train: five minutes fast alternating with five minutes slow; go all out as far as possible, for as long as possible; one minute peak fast, five minutes steady, rinse and repeat; and so on.

Trouble is, it’s really hot here in summer (nothing compared to Ft. Walton Beach, but still). I’m out of practice. And I can’t go out for a ride too early because of the various dog stuffs we have to do in the morning, including walking them. Even with a water bottle it’s sweltering; without one, it’s probably heat exhaustion. I’ve had that once and it’s not pretty.

So I’ve given up on trying anything fancy until fall. Just ride fast enough to get my heart rate up, that should be good enough for now. Because it’s hot. Did I mention it’s hot?

On the plus side of summer, day lilies!#SFWApro.

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A remake of Lady In A Cage (1964) starring Wisp!

So last Saturday it was that day we worry about every year: time for Wisp to get her annual checkup.

Not that she shows any signs of ill-health, but she’s an indoor/outdoor cat who doesn’t always show up in the mornings. Even if she does, we have to find some way to get her into a pet carrier or cage. We made the appointment a month before her annual checkup was due precisely to give us time if we had to make a backup appointment.

As it turned out, it was easy. She came in that morning. I scattered a few kibbles in the cage, she stretched to reach them, I picked her up and dropped her inside, closing the door before she could bolt. She tried clinging to the bars with her rear foot, but she lost.

Then it was just sitting for two hours, listening to her pitiful meows for mercy and freedom.I tried putting the sheet over her cage to calm her. It didn’t work and she kept clawing at the sheet until most of it was inside the cage with her.

In the past they’ve doped her up at the vet before examining her. This year, their new vet asked if she’d be okay to handle without anesthetic. I said they could try it. I also agreed to come in so Wisp could have some moral support from her human. To my surprise, once they bundled her in a towel she was pretty compliant.Maybe having me there helped.

The results? Bloodwork good, vaccines all injected and she’s only 9.5 pounds or so. TYG had worried Wisp was getting heavy but it must have been winter fluff on her coat.

This threw my Saturday schedule way off. With anesthetic it usually takes a couple of hours before we pick her up. I’d figured on using the time to get some shopping done, but instead I wound up sitting at the vet for 45 minutes or so, then taking Wisp home, then feeding her. But she’s my cat, so she comes first. And not being anesthetized means we can let her outside without having to worry she’s too zonked to defend herself. Instead, she sat and waited for the rest of her breakfast, which I provided.

Snowdrop’s turn comes in about three months. I hope it’s as easy.


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