Category Archives: The Dog Ate My Homework

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

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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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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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

September goes in, August goes out

I accomplished about 55 percent of my August goals and almost none of them were writing goals. Part of that was working on the Leaf articles; part was devoting the last week to my sister’s visit and then Dragoncon; and part of that just getting distracted by extra doggy care and other duties. I also didn’t get a lot of various paperwork tasks done — no bills left unpaid or anything, but stuff like finding replacement lights for one fixture (it’s an older one and apparently it won’t be easy) has fallen by the wayside.

This month I have no Leaf to work on, and I’m determined to get tasks accomplished (I have a list). Plus, you know, regular stuff. And after the wonderful relaxing week hanging out with TYG I feel up to the job. Hopefully the feeling will stick around. To make that easier, I’ve also been rearranging my schedule in various ways so that I can hopefully adapt to unplanned extra dog care when TYG has a sudden work call or the like.

I’d expected Wednesday, the first day I got back, would be wasted. I’d be off my game and the dogs would be uber-needy after being in Suite Paws all week. Don’t get me wrong, the staff there are wonderful and clearly love dogs, but Trixie and Plushie really missed us. Surprisingly, the day went great: a few thousand words done on Southern Discomfort, a little bit of progress on No One Can Slay Her, two short stories submitted and another blog post up at Atomic Junkshop.

Thursday though? I had a great night’s sleep but when TYG got up, she found Plush had puked on the bed. Cleaning that up took us some time, then I drove to the 24-hour drugstore near us to get him some Omneprazole. Plush began puking every night mid-August so we took him and the vet suggested we try it for two weeks. It stopped the puking and generally he seemed happier and more comfortable. Tuesday evening, which was about a day after he went off the drug, he puked massively. So it looks like he needs the stuff to keep his tummy happy (the doctor says we may able to lower the dose, but it won’t hurt him if not). It’s already making him more comfortable; unsettling to realize his stomach may have been aching a lot and we didn’t know.

Anyway after all that, I finally got back to work maybe 25 minutes before my morning tea break. So it seemed pointless to start work until after the tea … yeah, you can see where this is going and it’s not “I finished the entire manuscript before dinner!”

Friday we finally had to take Plushie into the vet for the puking. No real conclusion what caused it yet, so we’re giving him special food and meds while they run some tests to rule out stuff. He did seem much better this morning so possibly whatever it was has passed but best to cover our bets.

Even so I got more work done on Southern Discomforts. I put a lot of thinking into No One Can Slay Her — I think I’m going to have to write another scene to make the plot build properly.

So a good start to September’s writing, not good at all as puppy parent.

#SFWApro. All rights to images are mine.

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Filed under Now and Then We Time Travel, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

Friday was only moderately inconvenient

In contrast to the July Fridays, I only suffered a slight inconvenience with added dog care this morning. And I’d already put in extra time this week, just in case, so no time lost.

The big accomplishment this week was getting Atoms for Peace released. While Draft2Digital makes it easy to format the ebook and get a CreateSpace-friendly PDF, having to get a table of contents for the paperback meant doing two slightly different versions. That proved more time-consuming than I expected, especially getting the ToC looking right. So rather than think about the stuff I didn’t get done (as I was doing this morning) I shall take pleasure in having accomplished a demanding job (Michelle Berger’s comment on this morning’s post helped). And now it’s done. Finished. Nothing left to do but watch the dollars pile up as it flies off the digital shelves (I can dream).

I got about 3,000 words further on Southern Discomfort which is good, given I didn’t get anything done Monday or Tuesday (so I could get Atoms out before the end of the month). I did my usual quota of Leaf articles (if you need to know the difference between general liability and public liability insurance, just ask!). A couple of them were higher-paying long-form articles, which took more time than I wanted. As they pay three times as much, I want to finish them in no more than three hours, which is three times what the normal article takes. I took a good deal longer than that. It’s the same problem I had when Screen Rant bumped up articles to a minimum twenty entries — finding that much more information takes a lot of time. I need to fix that or stick with shorter stuff.

I did get some new short story stuff written: I have an unfinished, untitled first draft so I worked on that Thursday. Friday I got past a block in the first draft of a short story involving the Tarot and 1930s Hollywood. That made me feel much better, even though neither one is anywhere near even rough-draft level yet.

And I went to a smaller writer’s group this week and got some feedback on one of the new-this-draft chapters of Southern Discomfort. The feedback was very helpful.

For no particular reason other than I think it’s cool, I’m closing with this glorious image of Earth After Disaster from Jack Kirby’s Kamandi comic.

 

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

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework

What did I do to make Friday hate me?

I must have done something because since I got back from Indianapolis, none of them have been productive. First TYG was out of town so I had the dogs to deal with. Last week I was distracted by running the car in to fix the engine (even though it turned out I didn’t need to). And then today …

Early this morning, TYG had to focus so she asked me if I’d watch the dogs for a quarter-hour. Foolishly I took them up to the bedroom without bringing my computer so I couldn’t do any work. When the 15 minutes stretched into 45 minutes, I volunteered to walk them. Plushie was up for a long walk, so we got back after about an hour, me feeling very sweaty. Then up we jumped again for a play date with Lily, Trixie’s bestie.

This took an unexpected and undeniably cute turn when we all ran into Carmela, a five-month-old puppy living down the cul-de-sac (regrettably she’ll be off to college with her owner in a few weeks). Carmella’s at the very friendly puppy stage, eager to play with Trixie and Plushie. The Plush One, as often happens when other dogs (besides Trixie) initiate play, backed off. Trixie didn’t back off, but didn’t seem entirely happy to have a puppy jumping on her. With Plushie or Lily there’d have been a tussle, so I’m guessing she was reluctant to wrestle a little puppy.

However the end result of all that hot humidity and being on my feet for more than an hour was that I felt completely wiped out. I didn’t really get my shit together until a little before noon. Then I had to devote the afternoon to a new Leaf project, 1800 word articles (three times the length, three times the $). Probably because I was still wiped, it used up the rest of the day. At least I hope that was it; if they’re all this labor-intensive, I may have to go back to shorter stuff.

For the rest of the week, let’s see …

I’ve now finished 52,000 words of Southern Discomfort. That’s better than I’d planned, but as I anticipated, it’s slowing down the further I go. Still, I think I’ll be able to finish before September, as I planned.

I finished proofing and editing Atoms for Peace. Now I just have to upload the revised text and make sure I’ve fixed all the formatting problems I had last time. And for the print version, include a table of contents.

I finally got to sit down and think about the revisions I need to make to No-One Can Slay Her. There’s still a couple of weak points I have to fix to set up the big finish, but overall it’s much stronger. Unfortunately I didn’t get to write any this morning, so I’ve only revised a couple of thousand words.

And I have another post at Atomic Junkshop, about rereading comics.

Not a bad week, but I sure would have liked more progress on No One.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine, credit for Carmela’s cuteness goes to her parents and God.

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

Bludgeoned by the battery!

So Thursday, we dropped the pups off at Suite Paws, the delightful boarding facility we use to give me a puppy-care break. Thursday evening, TYG was leaving work … and found the car battery was dead. And we had only ninety minutes before Suite Paws closed and the dogs had to stay overnight.

When it became obvious AAA wasn’t going to get to TYG in time to make Suite Paws, she texted one of her friends. He very generously picked me up, drove me to Suite Paws, then drove us home. As the car harnesses for the dogs were in the car, I held them both tight by the leash/harness. They actually liked this as it left them free to watch stuff passing by the window. They love that. However, they’ll have to live with getting buckled in when they’re back in our own car.

AAA juiced the battery enough TYG got to the battery store, bought a replacement and drove it home. But she’d never have made it to Suite Paws. So thanks Josh for the lift; I would have felt very guilty if they’d been stuck overnight without us.

A minor side-effect was that the “check engine” light came on after we got the new battery, so I decided to drive down to the VW dealer for a checkup. When I started out this morning, the light was gone so I came home. But structuring my morning around the trip threw me off my game for the next couple of hours (it shouldn’t have, but as I’ve mentioned before, disruptions in my routine often do).

And it’s not as if I got that much time to write on Thursday. I spent an hour at the bank resolving a minor problem with Mum’s estate (my sister’s the executor but I’m happy to help out when I can), and dealing with a debt collector that doesn’t believe I resolved the identity theft case from last year. And dealing with a contractor. But all that would be much tougher if the dogs had been at home.

I got a fair amount done this week. I finished going over the text of Atoms for Peace, though I haven’t made all the corrections to the document on my computer. And some of them are like “rewrite this paragraph” so it’s not just a matter of quick fixes. It’s coming along well, though.

Southern Discomfort is moving along, though slower now. I expected that would happen the further I got in. For instance, an interrogation scene between FBI agents Cohen and Dini and Olwen McAlister needed a thorough going over. The theory the feds (or “G men” as they used to call them) were pushing simply didn’t make sense; I think restructuring it, everything looks logical

I had a light level of Leaf work because the site crashed for a couple of days. Even with the added time I didn’t get much short story work done. This annoys me but if something’s gotta give, better the shorts than Southern Discomfort.

It doesn’t help the dogs are still demanding more attention than usual. And that I invariably fold and give it to them. Still, there are worse ways to spend the day.

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

I will try to avoid making anyone’s eyes bleed

So Thursday I upgraded to a paid WordPress plan. This has several features (no ads!) that I think will be useful, plus I got my own domain name.

But I’m also trying to find a different look for the blog. Different background. Different header (the one I want to upload requires some work on the image I haven’t been able to accomplish). Maybe different layout, though this one works quite well.

So the look may be randomly changing as I try styles, decide they don’t work, and try something new. Don’t be surprised. Hopefully I won’t pick anything so garish or awful y’all will just avoid it altogether. But even if all my picks are tasteful, I figured I should let people know. Feedback is welcome.

Below, one shot of Trixie with a little forelock she developed in the past couple of weeks (unfortunately Wednesday’s grooming trimmed it away). Then another photo just to show how adorable she is.

#SFWApro.

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A whimpering dog trumps all other concerns

So last Sunday, Plushie was walking across the living room when he suddenly gave it with this inexplicable whimper of pain. A loud whimper. Next second, he was fine, but of course we called the vet as soon as they opened and took him in. And spent the meantime feeling rather stressed.

He was fine at the vet, just like the car that works perfectly when you get to the mechanic. But as he’s had a long history of back problems (he’s part lhasa apso, and they’re prone to ’em) they figured that was probably it. Just a little, but enough to make him cry out. And I could remember a couple of other times recently, with smaller and less obvious cries.

So he’s been on muscle relaxants and pain meds and seems to be doing fine. Plus we’re carrying him upstairs (“we” meaning mostly me) so he doesn’t have to throw his back out walking up them.

Given that his back problems will never go away, we’re happy it’s so minor. No crate rest for instance (that’s a real challenge) and he’s obviously not in constant pain. Still, it was a tense time Sunday, and both of us being tense just reinforced each others’ tension.

I don’t know if it’s some side-effect of the drugs but he’s been very eager for extra petting and scratching this week. I do my best to deliver.

#SFWApro.

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