Category Archives: Personal

This pleases me

As I wrote last week, I didn’t accomplish many of my writing goals for May. When I sat down May 30 and looked at my non-writing goals (juggling practice, exercise, eating healthy, plus various odds and ends) I found I’d accomplished 50 percent of my goals for the month. Not stellar, but typical with how this year has been running. That felt a little better.

That’s not a terribly exciting post, but here’s a Joe Kubert cover to make up for it. Like romance comics, I enjoy war comics covers more than I’d probably enjoy the stories.#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Normally I feel the other way around

I’ve noticed that in a lot of these week-in-review posts I say that while it felt like I didn’t get anything much done, when I actually write it all down, I did quite a bit. Looking over my writing goals for May, I feel the opposite: I wasn’t quite as productive as I felt I was. Not as productive on non-writing goals, either, but that’s partly still adjusting to the new status quo.

As to this specific week, it went pretty well. As TYG took part of Monday off for Memorial Day, I took it off too, something I haven’t done in a while. That felt really good; I must remember to take more holidays. However I slept wretchedly and woke up early Monday morning, which made me feel rather dazed the rest of the day.

Tuesday morning I had to visit the doctor (all well!) which consumed much of that morning. So only 3.5 days of work this week, but I managed to put in slightly more hours than that.

I redrafted Oh the Places You’ll Go! and while it still doesn’t work, I can see what it needs. This past draft I tried adding a little more adventure and danger, but I think it really needs to be a character-arc story. And it doesn’t really have a character arc as much as relationship arcs between the four core cast members, and even those arcs are a little too low-key. So that’s where I need to look at fixing it before next draft.

I got part of the way through a redraft of Laughter of the Dark. Here I really like the character development this draft, but the plot is a little weak.

And I finished Glory That Was, all ready to submit next month

I got through most of a pre-hard copy review of Undead Sexist Cliches but not all of it, which is what I wanted. This was where I got the most productivity, probably because it doesn’t require as much creative thought. And I finished a book, Before Roe v. Wade which I’ll review next week.

And I posted at Atomic Junkshop about my love of movies and the saga of writing my first one.

For the month as a whole, I know I put in plenty of time, it’s just that nothing got as finished as I wanted. Almost no work on Questionable Minds (even though my cover artist is not currently up for delivering anything, I’d like to get my edits done). No short stories finished. And Undead Sexist Cliches, as noted, remains unfinished. I suspect it’s less the distraction from the pandemic and possibly pushing to get more finished than I could.  And some of the stuff — marketing plans and related activities — are outside my usual skill set.

On the plus side, Trixie is doing so much better. Her leg occasionally gets weak, but mostly she’s bouncing around with all her old energy. It’s wonderful to see, and to know we handled everything right.

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

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

Me: the Early Years (and even earlier!)

So a few weeks back, my brother sent me a DVD, The Shermans: The Early Years, which he also posted to YouTube. It’s 90 minutes of home movies from 1957, a year before I was born, through my siblings’ birth, and then some footage of a big family get-together when we visited England in the 1970s. I’m very grateful to my bro (he made a previous version on VHS) because it’s really cool to watch.

There’s the sight of my parents when they were young (it’s been years since my father’s been beardless) and lots of our relatives: my cousin Peter, my various great-aunts (Marion, May, Jo, Agnes — though they were all “Auntie” to me), family friends, my father’s family and of course me and my siblings. A little depressing to see myself in my teenage years, though: I’d come to think it was my imagination but my glasses really did make me look like a total dork.

It’s also fascinating to see so many places I remember, such as our old house in Stanmore and my grandparents’ home in Ilford. Despite how many years it’s been, seeing those places still evokes a lot of emotion and memory. There’s a cute little dog — Bonny, according to some of my relatives — that I don’t remember at all (I think she’d have died before I was even two).

It’s also really amazing as a window onto a past time. The big cars. The smoking. Me as a five or six year old decked out in school shorts, button-up shirt and a tie. The carpets, the wall coverings. It makes me want to write a new story just so I can make use of all that I see, but I already have enough to work on.

For an illustration, here’s a couple of photos Peter sent me, showing some of our family back in the 1950s. That’s cousin Jo, cousin Mary and Mum (l-r) in the top phot.#SFWApro.

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Lo, there shall come furniture

I didn’t get anywhere as much done this week as I’d expected, probably about 3.5 days of actual work. Part of that was that the dilation drops from my opthalmologist Tuesday seemed to hit me harder than usual: I’d expected my eyes would be normal by afternoon but I wasn’t comfortable looking at the computer the rest of the day.

Then on Wednesday we got furniture. A few months ago, TYG had talked about replacing some of the old shelving she’s had since college with something new and pretty. I assumed she’d just given up with all the pandemic distraction but no, she hadn’t. Last weekend, a pantry arrived and we spent much of Saturday putting it together and rearranging the dining room around it.It was a lot of work, but I can’t deny it was worth it. The storage frees up a lot more space and our food stores are no longer taking up the table.

Wednesday, the second piece arrived. The good news was that it was only two pieces so we didn’t have much assembly; the bad news was that the upper half weighed more than 150 lbs so we sure as heck couldn’t put it up there ourselves. Fortunately our neighbor Eric, who’s bigger and stronger than either of us, came by (we all wore masks) and both directed us and did most of the heaving. With most of our pet treats, meds and food in the hutch (along with our small supply of booze) I was able to take some of the shelves that held that stuff and use them for my cookbooks and food-history books.I moved the plants that took up some of the shelving but I’m not satisfied with the arrangement below. I looked at ordering some shelving, but the creeping charlie is in a big, heavy pot and none of them are stable according to the reviews. As it’s hard to judge based on Internet reviews, I may just put them on a table until such time as I’m comfortable going to Home Depot or Target and checking them out physically (my ophthalmologist visit left me quite panicked so I don’t think I’m ready yet).So anyway, getting the boxes for the hutch in and putting it together consumed a lot of time, so I only had a half day of work Wednesday.

I got some more done on Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Apparently my mind has decided I should think this draft through carefully rather than just dashing it off as I usually do. I’ll trust I know what I’m doing. I also finished the redraft of Glory That Was so I’ll look for a market next week.

I went over more of Undead Sexist Cliches, prepping it before I print a hard copy for final proofing; finished a couple of Leaf articles as that source of income is back (yay!); wrote an article on Silver Age comics covers for Atomic Junkshop; and ordered the first of several reference books I’ll be buying as research for the Alien Visitors film-reference book.

Overall, pretty good. Plus I “sold” two more of the free copies of Philosophy and Fairytales (free until the end of the month, unless Smashwords extends the sale). Whoever you are out there, thanks for reading me.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Trixie health report: thumbs up

Trixie had her eight-week checkup at the vet and despite her recent leg problems, they say she’s doing great.

Over the next week we can start taking her for longer and longer walks and hopefully a week from now she’ll be completely normal again. Needless to say we are very happy about that projection. However … last night she definitely seemed a little uncomfortable. We think it’s probably that she’s off the pain meds and not used to that feeling (it’s been a couple of months now). The vet says we can give them to her as needed so we’ll see if that’s necessary to keep her happy as we give her longer and longer walks. Figuring out how much she can do will be a challenge, but it’s a welcome one.

Our next pet project will be figuring out what to do with Wisp for the long term. Would she be willing to become an inside cat? If not, we could install a cat door, but TYG’s concerned that even with the best doors, a raccoon or something equally unwanted could force its way in. I can’t think of any other option other than leaving things as they are. I think I’d prefer making her an indoor cat, which keeps her safer, but it’s Wisp’s call too. Above you can see her walking with Plushie early this week. If our dogs could adopt her, I think she’d love being an indoors dog — she likes us, but she loves them.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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Now THAT’S tragic

Last weekend, I made bread. Pane tuscan for TYG because she wanted a “rustic Italian bread” to eat with various soups and spreads.One of our neighbors brews bear and had spent grain left over, so I took some of it and made a spent grain bread. Moist and tasty — and then tragedy struck!I was a little frazzled after my medical checkup Tuesday (postponed from last month for quarantine reasons) and when I cut myself a slice of spent-grain bread I put it back in the bag without sealing it. When I moved to put it away, it fell and both loaves (okay, what remained of the loaves, I’d been digging into them) fell out and hit the floor. Goodbye bread!

No, the checkup wasn’t that awful. Higher cholesterol and blood pressure than usual, probably do to indulging in too much junk food (we’ll recheck in three months to see). Weight, surprisingly, is good. But I’m a little phobic about blood pressure (it’s the silent killer! What if it’s killing me right now?) and the appointment had been late in the day, which really threw off my schedule (and left me fasting until about 1:30 PM, plus I wanted to make dinner (spaghetti with veggies) and still make my writers’ group meeting (which I did). So throw it all together and I guess I felt distracted and rushed enough to screw up. Sigh.

Still I have some spent grain left, so I’ll make some more this weekend. And not drop it!

#SFWApro.

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Second month of writing while quarantined; how’d I do?

Decently. I met 58 percent of my goals which is better than the last two months (particularly March). Part of that’s because my goal list has dwindled — nothing that involves hanging out with people besides TYG, no plans to catch plays or go to museums, etc. Not even visiting the nearby coffee/tea shop, though I did order some tea from them (I’d like them to be there when this mess ends).

I do not see this changing any time soon. Durham’s stay-in-place order ends the 15th of this month, but TYG and I were social distancing before it became official and we’re still going to stick with it. This shit is scary; much as I’d like to see my friends other than on Zoom, it won’t be happening soon. When? I wish I knew.

The improvement in goal-meeting also reflects that I’m adapting. I’m getting exercise done, cooking regularly and managing to get work done despite a lot of extra dog care. And my Leaf work hasn’t started up again which meant I had a lot more time to work on my own stuff. Much as I enjoy that, I’d prefer to have steady income; next month I’ll be working on drumming up new clients, as a good freelancer should.

As I mentioned last week, I finished the latest drafts of Undead Sexist Cliches and Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I submitted four short stories, finished an untitled first draft, rewrote Laughter of the Dark and Glory That Was and finished Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates. I resumed work on proofing and correcting Questionable Minds, though I’m far from where I wanted to be (the extra work on the other two books had to come out of something).

The biggest obstacle to getting even more done is that Trixie’s injury requires a lot more time. A lot more watching to ensure she isn’t doing anything to hurt her leg. Walking her separately from Plushie — if I’m doing both morning walks or both lunch walks (or both of both) that adds up to quite a bit more time (same if TYG’s doing the work). So this month I’m assuming I’ll start work 8:30 AM, work for two hours, get four hours in the afternoon and make up the last hour of my day after dinner. Planning for that will make me less frustrated in the morning, I think, which should help me focus better.

For today’s visual entertainment here’s something Wisp (I assume) puked up on our front stoop. You can make out the eye of whatever she ate.#SFWApro.

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

What we do in the quarantine

Grooming our dogs, for one thing. Actually so far it’s only Plushie, as he has a heavier coat and his squishy face means he overheats in summer. Plus he needs regular medicated shampoos, which our doggy day care used to handle for us. But not right now.

So last weekend we bathed him.And before that we trimmed his fur. Here’s most of what we took off him.He was a remarkably good boy during all this. We also need to trim his toenails but we’re nervous of getting down to the sensitive parts so we just trimmed a little.

And I baked bread. TYG had ordered some apples she didn’t get around to eating and I’m somewhat obsessive about not wasting food, so I baked some with raisins and brown sugar and made one of them into raw apple bread (recipe courtesy of Beard on Bread by James Beard)#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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Titans have fallen! My week in review

First off, while it doesn’t relate to my work, here’s a shot of Wisp. I’d gone into the kitchen to get her cat food and when I came back, she’d jumped into the chair. That was a surprise as she’s usually a “bush cat” staying on the floor. Unfortunately we had to remove the pillow because Plushie’s been chewing on it and it’s worn enough he could swallow some of the stuffing.I decided this week I would focus on my two big projects, the Undead Sexist Cliches book and Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I wanted to get the current drafts done this month and … they are.

I’m really pleased with Undead Sexist Cliches. The last two choppy chapters (the final one, on the metaphor of the “sexual marketplace,” was particularly disorganized) now flow smoothly; the footnotes are all in place; and I have my bibliography and my “final thoughts” section done (I hadn’t planned to include final thoughts but my beta readers said I should).  Now I take a break, and then in June I start final revisions. I’ll probably print up one copy via Amazon next month so that I can do them in hard copy — I’m much better at spotting errors that way.

I’m a little less satisfied with Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Partly that’s because I reused the spine of the current ending, though with changes to the details (KC doesn’t have the same power level at the big finish she did previously), and it needed more changes; however I didn’t have a better idea and I really wanted to finish, so I forged ahead. The other part is that it’s simply at a much earlier stage than Undead Sexist Cliches, and it shows: there’s a whole bunch of changes I’ll need to make next draft before I solicit my beta readers. Still, so much of the book fell neatly together, I’m hopeful everything I need is lying buried in my subconscious somewhere. Current plans are to take a month off, then rewrite it over the summer. If all goes well, I’ll have it ready to beta in September.

I got A Famine Where Abundance Lies back from the last market I sent it to. Next week, with the big projects done, I’ll be submitting everything that isn’t currently out, working on a couple of short stories and resume proofing Questionable Minds, which is the project I’ve been slack about.

And I paid my state sales taxes. One book sold on Amazon so I had to send in about 16 cents … with a $2 fee to do it online. That actually costs me more than the payment for the book.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

TYG and me in quarantine

After a month or so of TYG working at home, things have changed, in good ways. Most notably, we get to talk a lot more.

Not that we haven’t always talked. We’re very verbal and we have a large stockpile of those couple jokes that would make no sense to anyone else. But even though TYG still has lots of work to deal with, she’s eating all her meals at home, frequently with me working in the same room. We walk dogs together, though Trixie can’t go as far as Plushie (the stroller in the photo is to make up for that). TYG doesn’t have to spend time in the morning dressing up for work or driving to the office.

So we have more time to talk. And the Trump Virus gives us lots extra to talk about. Plus talking about the dogs, and each other, and my writing and her work … Her schedule got so crazy last fall I didn’t notice how much less conversation we were having.

Not that this means I’m glad we’re in a pandemic. But I do like it.

#SFWApro.

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