Category Archives: The Dog Ate My Homework

Metrics aren’t everything, but they help

So I wrapped up November with somewhere under 50 percent of my goals completed … I think.

One of the errors I keep making is that when things get hectic I stop tracking my progress. I don’t record how many hours I’ve spent on writing projects or whether I remembered to wipe the kitchen counters every day. So I don’t know if I achieved them or not. So I’m working to consistently report metrics at the end of the day, before walking the dog (afterwards I’m usually off the computer for too long). We’ll see how I do.

This week was uneven but overall productive. A large part of the unevenness is that my insomnia the past couple of months has been exceptionally consistent. Some of that may be the warm weather — even in a heated house, winter usually makes a difference — and some of it’s definitely psychological. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I psych myself out about “Well, if I try to get to sleep and don’t succeed I’ll have to take naps during the day so I should definitely get up and write because then I won’t need the time but then again I really need sleep …” That kind of chatter makes it impossible to get to sleep.So Wednesday became a waste. I was tired plus I had my second checkup of the year. Overall good, and a couple of things I was worried might be serious are just me getting older. My doctor is way more reliable than the Crime Surgeon on Bob Kane’s cover above.

Today was productive but choppy. I was sitting with the dogs most of the day and they were often barky, plus Wisp came in which meant having to keep three pets happy. I can write and pet Wisp in my lap but if Trixie gets on the couch too, she demands petting too and then I have no hands left to type. And yesterday I walked to a nearby dispensary to pick up Plushie’s meds. It’s close to a mile further away than I anticipated so that was more time lost. The exercise was good, however.

So what got done?

First, I finished a rewrite of Bleeding Blue on Monday. It’s much improved. This may be the next piece I read to my writers’ group as menstruation is important in the story and I need women’s feedback.

I reread Paying the Ferryman and I was dismayed how much the energy and tension drop once we move from New York to a fairy-tale setting. I spent most of my writing time today working to fix that but between naps and pets I didn’t get finished. It’s already improved, though, and shorter.

I wrote 4,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. The book’s definitely improving, though I still wonder about length.

And I started to think about what I want to do next year.

All totaled, I made my hours for the week.Over at Atomic Junkshop I looked at the time Iron Man deliberately killed his opponent, a drastic thing in the Silver Age. You can see in Gene Colan’s (under his Adam Austin synonym) panels above that Iron Man’s throwing the Black Knight (not the one from Eternals) off his flying horse to his death.

Over at ConTinual I participated in a panel on worldbuilding in small towns and one discussing my two new releases. They’re on FB but they’ll be on ConTinual’s YouTube channel soon.

And speaking of my new books, I sold some copies of Questionable Minds this week! That feels very cool.

And needless to say, our Christmas tree is up.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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

The third axe man almost did me in

Not for the first time, I find this cover by Billy Graham embodies the way I can think I have everything handled, then discover otherwise. This week everything was going great, then Thursday and Friday rose up to bushwhack me.

Normally when Plushie has his eye checkup, TYG takes him. Wednesday she said that as she’d have to take a business call in the middle of his Friday afternoon appointment, I’d need to come along and deal with the eye-vet. As it’s some distance, that guaranteed the loss of Friday afternoon for any productive work.

That may have contributed to the stress that made me wake up a little before midnight Wednesday, I had a cup of tea, then headed back to bed, only to have Trixie wake up and insist on leaving the bedroom to join me. That, plus Wisp coming in later, killed my sleep and left me a little glazed over Thursday. I had a couple of errands, including visiting an opthalmologist to check out their eyeglass selection, but I was in no shape to drive. Friday, the schedule didn’t work out either; I can get some of the work done tomorrow but the spectacles-shopping will have to wait until next week.

Despite all that, I managed to put in a full week’s worth of work and it was good work. Impossible Takes a Little Longer is progressing slowly but the latest revisions really add a lot of oomph. Likewise Bleeding Blue looks better after another draft; Don’t Pay the Ferryman does too but the changes once again have me wondering what the right ending is. But it’s there, I just have to write and rewrite until I find it.

I also started work on a new/old story of sorts. A while back I was playing around in my head and came up with a couple of characters I liked. As an experiment I’m plugging them into an old novel I’ve been meaning to rewrite for years, Let No Man Put Asunder. It’s an odd choice as a)I really love the original leads in that book and b)the storyline started changing in other ways. Not because of the new leads, but it’s inching towards an urban fantasy/Neverwhere feel where all the magical action is going on below the surface of the seemingly placid city of Blue Ivy in 1976. I’m not sure if that’s the way I want to go, but I’ll play with it when I have more spare time and see what develops.

And, of course, Questionable Minds is now out! Not only that, but three or four people promptly bought a copy, plus a few other friends who’ve said they intend to soon. I am, of course, delighted. Thanks to all y’all, including MA Kropp.

I signed up for a blog tour through Otherworld Ink. While I have no way to measure yet whether that turns into more sales, I got extra promotion on FB and some blog tour posts done:

It feels very good. And on that note, have a great weekend.

#SFWApro. Questionable Minds cover by Samantha Collins. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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

Two cats nuzzling

Snowdrop is still terrified of being in the house with the door closed. He’ll leave the living room to explore but if he comes back and finds we’ve closed the door on him the panicked meows begin.

He doesn’t seem keen to climb onto the furniture either unless Wisp’s there already. This time she’d settled in on the back of the couch so he came up for some mutual affection.

We’re not looking forward to leaving the door open once it starts getting really chilly, but for now, that’s the way it has to be.

In less cute cat-related news, I stepped on Wisp when I went out in the dark Monday. She screamed in utter shock and scratched my leg before she fled (no foul, I had it coming). I felt like the greatest villain unhung but in the morning she was willing to accept pets and didn’t seem harmed at all. Thank goodness. I won’t make that mistake again, I promise.

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In the darkness, he looked like a very large dog

As dawn keeps shfiting to later in the morning, we’ve been taking Plushie and Trixie for morning walkies at twilight or sometimes darkness (our community has enough streetlights that it’s safe). On one recent morningd, Plushie decided he wasn’t in the mood so Trixie and I left him and TYG and forged on alone.

We were going through a small subdivision when in the dark under the trees I saw what I thought was a large dog, wandering loose. Drawing closer as the light improved I discovered he was not a dog.That would normally have been it — ooh, dear, cool — but it was a little unnerving he kept staring our way. I’m under the impression deer are not aggressive but if I was wrong — and then suddenly he was charging right at us! Except he wasn’t, he ran right past us and headed into a more deeply wooded area; I’m guessing his staring (if he was really doing that) was mostly about how safe he’d be coming near us.

Trixie, who normally treats deer as part of the land, went ballistic when he ran by relatively close. Not that she had any hope of getting near him but not for the first time I’m glad she’s only ten pounds. Easier to restrain in moments like these.

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Surrounded by pets, but missing my angel

So last Sunday, TYG headed out of town for a business trip, leaving me as a single doggy parent until she returned this morning. Quite aside from missing her, it was a weird adjustment.

Our dogs aren’t the independent type: when we’re home, they expect to be with us. Snuggled in the lap is, of course, the ideal. Or being in the kitchen hoping for a delicious treat.We usually adjust to their wishes. So I’d wake up, go down and make tea, come back up and drink it in bed while I read. Then I’d do some work for a couple of hours. Then we go down and begin the morning dog routines and walkies.

At least that was the theory. The practice proved erratic. Tuesday morning Plushie wanted very badly to go downstairs. Thursday and Friday I made sure to give him extra snuggles in the bed — he doesn’t always come and ask the way Trixie does — and he liked it so much he squirmed into my lap in a position where I couldn’t write (I’d have had to rest the lap desk right on him). I did not, of course, remove him.

As we walk the dogs separately that meant twice as much time devoted to walkies. Fortunately it’s beautiful out this week, chilly-to-cold but I can live with that. And as I didn’t exercise other than walkies or do my yoga — dogs take it as body language for Snuggle With Me — I guess the time balanced out.

Things did get more complicated when Wisp or Snowdrop showed up and I had more pets to deal with. Still it’s great to see Wisp coming in more and even napping on the back of the couch again.

Snowdrop began meowing plaintively when she met up with me and the dogs in the yard. I think he missed TYG — we’ll see how he reacts now that she’s back.

As TYG went off with a lot of her ingredients unused I postponed my own cooking plans and worked on using up the leftovers: rice and veggie bowl, frittatta, apple tart, roasted grapes with rosemary. Good stuff.

Oh, work? The week started off well but bogged down. When I take care of the dogs for this long, there’s something about the constant lack of space that sands down my ability to think. Thursday I was working slow; today I got nothing but the bare minimum done, even after TYG came back.

I completed almost all my promotional work for Questionable Minds. I’ll wrap up the rest Monday.

I got another chapter done for Impossible Takes a Little Longer … and promptly decided to revise it. It’s a slow, character-centric chapter which would be fine except it’s following another one. So once again, I’m moving up catastrophes originally scheduled for later chapters. I’ll get onto that next week.

I also had an insight how several disconnected ideas might work together to create one novel. But that’s for later … well, maybe.

And I got another accounting article done. While I fell several hours short of my hourly goal for the week but under the circumstances I think that’s acceptable. Hopefully the multiple appointments we have next week won’t derail me further.

Oh, plus I got paid for the upcoming reprint of Happiest Place on Earth, plus one book sales of Undead Sexist Cliches, plus someone checked out Atlas Shagged on Hoopla (a library service that pays a little per checkout). Whoever my two readers are, I hope you liked the books and I thank you for investing the time on my work.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, The Dog Ate My Homework, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Timey-wimey stuff

When I first started freelancing up here, I worked a 40-hour week. After we adopted Trixie and Plushie, it eventually dropped to seven hours a day and that was still a strain. 

About three years ago IIRC I cut back to 5.5 hours a day, excluding blogging. That made it easier to spend time on the dogs (look at them. Aren’t they worth it?) and I’d also read that when working longer than four or five hours, productivity drops. However working on proofing The Aliens Are Here showed I could do more when I pushed so in September I started shooting for six hours a day/30 a week. Given the obligations with dogs, trips to their rehab and various household stuff I take care of (my boss is a lot more understanding about me taking time off from work for such things than TYG’s), I haven’t made 30 hours except maybe once. This week I came close … but not quite. However I am putting in more work than I would if set a slightly lower goal, so I’ll stick with it.

As to what got done, I finished around 18,000 words of the Impossible Takes a Little Longer rewrite. That’s not as impressive as it sounds: the opening chapters needed very little work and as soon as I got to the major rewrites, things started to slow. However the results are good so revealing KC’s identity as the Champion was clearly the right move. I’m doing a blog tour for Questionable Minds, arranged through One World Ink and this week I sent in the four blog posts they wanted for the tour. Only the number was really five, so I’m working on the fifth. Fortunately it’s about writing with pets, so it almost writes itself. I submitted to John Scalzi’s Big Idea blog posts but they’re filled for the next two months. However Cora Buhlert, whom I know through comments at Camestros Felapton’s blog, is interviewing me at her blog about Aliens Are Here, so that’s cool. I’ll update y’all whenever of the blog posts or interviews goes live.

And today I finished one of those accounting articles that help pay my bills.

Next week will be interesting as TYG is away on business so I’ll be handling the pups full-time. We’ll see how this affects work.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover images remain with current holders; Questionable Minds cover by Samantha Collins.

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

Dogs, but not ours

So last weekend, I spent Saturday afternoon dog-sitting for our friends’ dogs Lily and Tito again. TYG was out, I wasn’t planning on doing anything so it wasn’t a great sacrifice.

The dogs were all a lot quieter than the last time we had a get-together. Tito climbed up on top of the couch and pretty much stayed put.Maybe it had to do with spraying cat hormones on there to encourage Snowdrop to come up? Then again, Tito does like the back of the couch at his own house, so perhaps he just wanted the high ground.

Lily spent much of the time in my lap but at one point she moved up to check on him. They nuzzled and then he patted her face.I admit it. I melted.

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The law of Proteus: all things change

When I started October, one of my goals was to push my daily output up to six hours of writing from 5.5. Not a huge increase, but an extra 2.5 hours a week isn’t anything to sneeze at.

I’m a little surprised that it worked: I’ve been able to keep up work at that pace, taking breaks so that I don’t fry my mind before work ends for the day. Though the distraction such as dragging Snowdrop to the vet

mean I’ve wound up putting in less total time each week than I normally do. Still, putting in six hours a day in October — far fewer events scheduled — should produce good results.

But as I’ve mentioned before, when you’re living with other people, time management is never smooth. As TYG’s job became increasingly demanding the past couple of years, she’s been getting up earlier — easier to get stuff done when nobody at work is awake to demand help — and going to be earlier. Now she’s in a job which is much less of a pressure cooker. She’s staying awake later and getting up later. Having adjusted to her early cycle, I’m now having to adjust back.

Well, not “have” to. But I like going to bed with her and snuggling, and so I’m staying up later. As I can’t get my body to get up much later — that’s always been a weakness of mine — I sometimes wind up shortchanged on sleep. Then, because TYG’s rising later, we take the dogs out later (dawn shifting later in the morning plays a role in that too) which pushes the time to start work later in the morning.

The best solution would be to start work in the stretch between me finishing breakfast and the dogs coming down. That’s hard to make myself do because I have no idea how much time I’ll have and it’s difficult to start something knowing I might have to cut it short at any second. That may be what it takes, though. I’ll give it a shot next week.

Workwise, this was a routine week. A bunch of articles of Leaf, another of those accounting articles — and my client absolutely gushing about how much they liked last week’s article. That’s always nice. Oh, and I got a request to do an advance review for Questionable Minds so I sent that out Tuesday. Now I just hope they like it …#SFWApro. Cover by Samantha Collins, all rights remain with current holder.

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Sad doggies

In hindsight we should have scheduled things better.

First we have Plushie, who as I mentioned last week, is now on cage rest for his back. He does not like being cut off from his family, but perks up a lot when one of us sits in the cage.This week we took Trixie in to get the pins in her back left knee, from an old injury, removed. So now she’s also on restricted movement — not as bad, though — and has to wear the “Elizabethan collar” to keep her from licking at the incision. Here she is on the couch while I’m sitting with Plush Dog. She’d prefer I be on her side of the bars.

Most of the time, though, she’s able to snuggle with one of us, so that keeps her happy.

By the middle of next month, things will be back to normal, though Plushie’s back will inevitably go out again, eventually.

#SFWApro.

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Dying is easy — indexing is hard!

(For the source of my title, click here).

But it’s done. As of this morning, I finished the index for Alien Visitors. This afternoon I reread McFarland’s instructions for indexing, corrected some errors, and proofed the whole thing.

I’ve also completed the list of errors in the text, though I still have to add notes identifying them. Fortunately I figured out how to do that in PDF. The big challenge will be that as I got the galleys — used to be we’d get edited proofs first — the pagination can’t change. So if there’s anything deleted or added that would affect the following page, I have to make a counterbalancing addition or deletion so the text stays constant. In a couple of spots, this will be a challenge.

It’s doable though. I’ll have it done by the end of the month, then take the first two days of September through Labor Day (maybe Labor Day) off.

I’m impressed to see that like so many writers, a deadline can push me beyond my limits. I’ve put in way more hours than usual this week to get the job finished. Unfortunately some of that time came out of things like exercising, which is not optional. And reading, which is optional, but not really (I can’t do without it for too long). Besides which, this isn’t creative work. Indexing and proofing requires close attention to detail but I never have to stop and ask myself what comes next or whether what I’ve written works. Accuracy is all I need. So I doubt this heralds a sudden boost in my productivity, but you never know …

And then there’s the dogs. The photo above is from a recent trip to doggie rehab — they both need it for different reasons — when Plushie decided he wanted to be drive. He didn’t get his wish, but I’m sure you knew that.

The past two weeks, though, have been less cute. First we took them in for dental checkups. Trixie was in good shape but Plushie, who resists tooth-brushing, had to have two teeth removed, plus the under-the-gums stumps from some previous effort. That meant nothing but soft food for a week, which is a problem since it excluded most of his treats. Fortunately they think pasta is delicious so I made a couple of extra pots of it and fed him that.

This week, repeated jumping off the bed upstairs threw his back out again. He’s on cage rest and heavy painkillers for ten days or possibly a little longer. That makes caring for him more complicated — we have to carry him up the stairs — though it’s easier to concentrate on work when he’s not right in my personal space. Except when he gives the agonized “my foot is caught in a bear trap, I’m suffering!” whine for being caged (no, it’s not because of pain. Trust me). However the pain meds are taking care of that by keeping him zonked.

All in all, a good week, if not exactly a lively one.

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

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