Category Archives: The Dog Ate My Homework

Money for nothing and my books for free? It depends

So as I think I’ve already mentioned, I made my Smashwords short-story collection, Philosophy and Fairytales free as part of a promotion running through April 20. I’m quite happy that two people have already downloaded the book.I was much less happy to discover the Internet Archive had an ebook of Screen Enemies of the American Way available on its website for free reading. Camestros Felapton’s post alerted me that IA, in addition to storing old web pages, digitizes print books and lends them out, just like any other library — except, as Slate says, regular libraries don’t just digitize books under copyright and make them available (with exceptions such as services for the blind). Libraries actually pay for ebooks; IA doesn’t. So I asked the IA to take my book down (it appears to be the only one of mine up there) and they did. First time I’ve tackled a pirate site (and in my not-a-lawyer opinion, this does seem to be piracy) and it felt good.

My work on Leaf wrapped up Monday — one of their regular breaks in the work flow — which is good as Leaf articles seem to suffer from the distractions of TYG and pups in the current quarantine more than anything else I do. That’s probably because I try to keep to sharp deadlines writing them and there’s just enough distraction these days to slow them down. So maybe it’s simply more noticeable with Leaf than other work? But hopefully by the time they start up again, I’ll have a smoother process for the new normal.

I got plenty done this week. Two chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Final draft (subject to one more beta reader weighing in) of Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates. A good deal of work done on Undead Sexist Cliches. Finishing the second draft of Laughter in the Dark. And I participated in a Zoom-meeting of my Tuesday writer’s group. Damn, but it felt really good to see everyone’s faces.

As I woke up early this morning, I am now done. Bring on the weekend.

#SFWApro. Cover image by Lisa Wildman, all rights remain with current holders.

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Pandemics and productivity: my new normal

Happily, I recovered a lot of my regular rhythm this week. Exercise, meditation, juggling practice, cooking (baked bread last weekend). It feels good to have structure.

This is slightly complicated by having TYG at home. I spend a lot less time with the dogs, which frees up a little more concentration. However I can’t predict when she’ll need me to take Plushie because he’s acting up and distracting her, or when she’ll come down and eat lunch (again, I have to distract Plushie so he doesn’t just demand food). I have no problem with the request — she is, after all, watching them most of the day now — but it does make my schedule less predictable: I may end up feeding Plushie lunch early or walking him late or having to watch him when I was anticipating going outside. The first couple of days that really seemed to throw me off my game, but things have picked up since. I’m not sure if that means I’m adapting or that Trixie going to surgery and back was really pulling focus or that I was working on Leafs both days and they didn’t hook me the same way my own work does.

But I did make my Leaf quota, and I got some of my personal work done too:

•I finished the Undead Sexist Cliches chapter on sexual harassment. Two more chapters to go; I’m hoping to finish this draft next month.

•I tackled the big reveal of Impossible Takes a Little Longer which as I mentioned last week I had no idea how to pull off. When I actually sat down and started, however, it was obvious: the hell KC winds up trapped in is an emotional one, targeting her particular vulnerabilities (which have nothing to do with sex — I was determined not to have the villain rape her or reduce her to a sex slave). It worked, and segued neatly into the follow-up chapter. As it turns out, it no longer reveals who the villain is, but I may change that back again. I think he needs at least a little build-up before the climax or the reaction will be “Huh? When did he show up in the book?”

The Schloss and the Switchblade came back, which I expected. A story taking place at a con feels wildly unreal right now (of course that may not have been the issue); sure, everyone’s still gathering together on TV, but even so it seemed to scream “pre-social distancing.” So I rewrote it and set it in 2014; I think it actually works better, plus it avoids having to rewrite again the next time President Tiny-Brain does something that changes the world around us. I resubmitted it yesterday.

•I rewrote Laughter of the Dark, but didn’t finish it. It’s shaping up, but still a long way from usable.

•I attended a local writing meet up, Shut Up and Write, which I’ve been meaning to get to for months but never got around to. No, I didn’t break social distance, we did it on Zoom. My regular writing group will be doing the same with their next meeting.

•I posted on Atomic Junkshop about the enduring mystery of Teen Titans #32.

•And I’ve joined in a Smashwords promotion so Philosophy and Fairytales is free from Smashwords until April 20.

I’ll wrap up with a 1959 cover dealing with the pros and cons of self-isolation. Art by Curt Swan.

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

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In spite of her rage, she is still just a chihuahua/cairn terrier mix in a cage

So Monday we took Trixie in for surgery on her bad knee. She’s improved a lot since the accident, but it doesn’t look like she’s going to heal completely, so this is the best option. But not an easy option. Because we have eight weeks of crate rest ahead, and she has to wear the cone of shame for the first two weeks to avoid licking her stitches and infecting them. A week and a half to go! But the vet says the surgery went well, so we’re not going to screw it up.

Wisp came in Tuesday, after Trixie was back from the hospital and seemed quite intrigued by the set-up. Trixie, not so much. She’s getting less petting and cuddles, can’t sleep in the bed with us — misery for my little snuggler. But I make sure to make time for opening the cage and giving her some attention.

Fortunately it’s okay for her to stand on the leg and walk a couple of steps, so taking her for potty breaks isn’t as frustrating as when she first injured her leg. She’s much more likely to go rather than decide it’s too uncomfortable; I hope that’s a good sign.

Plushie is baffled why he can’t play and rough-house with her, but he’s been baffled by that since she got injured. Come to think of it, he’s baffled quite a lot; he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Trixie spends most of the day upstairs with TYG, but comes down for medical care. TYG takes care of the meds, I walk Trixie and do the physical therapy her leg requires. So far everything’s going smoothly; the real challenge will probably be in a month when she feels ready to run and jump and we’ll have to discourage her. Positive thoughts and/or prayers appreciated.

And while Trixie and Plushie were both upstairs yesterday, Wisp came in. I didn’t want to stop work so I just stayed on the couch and she jumped up and went to sleep next to me. It was delightful, and if she’ll keep doing that, it’ll be easier to have her around without losing my workflow.#SFWApro. Photos are mine

 

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And the Red Death shall hold dominion over all

Okay, not that bad. But COVID 19 did majorly disrupt my work week (which is, obviously, far from the worst thing about it. First world problems).

The big change was that TYG started working from home, which is great for her (more time to spend with Plushie) and fun for me, plus I get a bit more of a break from the dogs when she takes them upstairs. However it also changes the rhythm of the day — when she gets up, when the dogs come down for breakfast, when she or I walk them at lunch — and it throws me off. Sometimes I start work, then the dogs have breakfast a quarter-hour later and by the time they’re finished I’ve lost momentum.

It’s a fixable problem, but this week it threw me off. It was, after all, on top of the daylight savings time hour-ahead weekend, which always leaves me sleeping poorly and feeling a little groggy. And I’m way distracted by the pandemic we’re in. It was hard not to stop whatever I was doing and check FB every so often, or browse the news, or Tweet to President Tinybrain about how he’s being a coward and putting millions of Americans at risk. I did it even as I was typing this post.

So most of what I accomplished this week was Leaf. Actually more than my usual quota: they had so many interesting articles I wound up doing 14 rather than 10. I’ll cut back some next week to make up. I really dislike doing that — somehow I never recapture the time I wasn’t spending on my own projects — but then again, my mind was so fractured, I don’t know how much good I’d have done on my own stuff.

I did look over the story I hoped to redraft this month, now titled Laughter of the Dark. And I rewrote the next chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer, which went much easier than expected. I will be thrilled if the next chapter goes as well, as it’s a twist and a big reveal that I’ve been struggling with ever since I dropped the core of the original novel. I have no regrets about the change, but I am a little nervous that it won’t go well at all.

And that was pretty much it. I think I’ll do better next week. I may even skip working on the weekend, seeing as I’m not handling the dogs all day, and see if I can put in more hours Monday-Friday.

In the minor annoyance department, I tried renewing my prescriptions online today. Turns out that as our new health coverage has an entirely different mail-order pharmacy, all my prescriptions are effectively reset to zero. Fortunately I’ll be seeing my doctors before I need refills.

And now the weekend, when I shall endeavor to chill as much as possible.

#SFWApro.

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An angel under the knife

Apparently love, by itself, is not a cure for a busted knee. After three weeks of rest and care, we took Trixie to the vet today and her knee hasn’t healed. So it’s surgery or her knee stays out and eventually becomes prematurely arthritic.

That’s going to be expensive (we can afford it) and it’s going to be a pain in the butt to keep such a lively dog from jumping up and straining her leg. She’s much more patient than plush dog but when we have to put her on cage rest, she’ll probably be miserable. Her whole life is snuggling up next to me and TYG, I hate the thought of her being separated from us, even if we’re right in the room.

But it’s only six to eight weeks from the surgery (yet to be set). We can manage it.  Still, even tbough Park Vets are great, I can’t help but feel a little nervous.

Positive thoughts and prayers welcome.

Oh, between being under the weather and taking a small vacation I didn’t get much work done this week except for Leaf articles, so there’ll be no week in review post this afternoon.

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This week’s challenges: Sickness, snow and scheduling

The scheduling issue came up Sunday. I’ve been putting in three hours of writing on Sunday for a couple of months now as I get so wiped out at the end of the Monday-Friday work days. Three hours Sunday, I can stop earlier and give myself a little break before walking and feeding the dogs. But as my lunch breaks have been quite short this month — with Trixie’s leg, they aren’t getting long walks — so I figured I could skip Sunday, get my work done in the afternoons and still finish up before dinner walkies.

And I mostly did, but there much less of a break at the day’s end than I’d expected. Either Plush dog got a longer walk than usual or there was some other distraction I was dealing with on lunch hour. For example, Wisp demanding petting. Plus, I suspect the sickness that has me in its grip today was already dragging me down.Wisp, has by the way, been a constant companion on our short walks. I wish I could capture just snuggling with the dogs but Plushie sniffing her but is as close as I’ve managed so far.

Sickness has been a bigger problem. TYG caught a bug last week, probably by the usual transmission process of kids to parents, parents to coworkers, which means her. At first it didn’t seem like there’d be much of a problem, but the past couple of days I’ve had the inflammation and irritation in my throat I repeatedly get. I’m doing my best to stay relaxed not talk and talk all appropriate meds as I have some presentations to make at the end of next week (details will follow). I’d really, really like to be able to make them and losing my voice would make that impractical.

And of course, feeling sick does not do my writing any good. Today I just wiped out in the late morning, so I did this blog post and I’m calling it a day. Unless I revive in the afternoon; I’m not betting on it.

And then snow, of all things, descended on us (and the rest of Durham) yesterday. Given temperatures we thought it wouldn’t stick, but it has. Fortunately it looks like the roads are clear so we should be A-OK if we need to drive anywhere. And TYG picked up food Thursday morning, so that’s taken care of. As long as we take care walking the dogs, we should be fine.

Now as to work … I did my Leafs for the week, though in my depleted state they took much longer than they should have. I also drafted Impossible Takes a Little Longer up to Chapter 23, which was my goal for the month; I won’t have much time for fiction next week so that’s a win. I also worked on a first draft and got a big leap forward this morning when the bad guy finally emerged from my unconscious. I might have finished the draft today but … no. I might squeeze it in next week

I also tidied and footnoted the first section of Chapter Seven of Undead Sexist Cliches. It’s on sexual harassment so there’s no shortage of examples.

Wish me luck for a better next week. I have a lot I want to be in good health for.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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A valentine’s day photo

Not of TYG, who’d rather I not expose her face online. But I saw a Valentine’s Day with a Plush-like dog on the front and I could resist, so here’s the card and the Plush one. He does look that excited sometimes, though it doesn’t show so well when he’s this furry.Valentine’s Day was good. Gifts in the morning, dinner in the evening at a local and very good Italian place. My gift was McVittie’s chocolate digestive biscuits (mmm); hers was that I picked up the cost of the meal. Which was excellent, and large enough I’ll be dining on my pizza for a couple of days.

And I still love TYG and if I had to marry her all over again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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Juggling, insomnia and a wendigo! Okay, I was kidding about the wendigo

Another rather disorderly but quite productive week. So that’s a win, I think. And my post title gives me an excuse to post one of Herb Trimpe’s Hulk covers, which is another win (Trimpe and Sal Buscema are very much “my” Hulk artists).

The disorder started around midnight Saturday when Trixie woke up, needing to go to the bathroom. I took her out, but an hour later she needed to go again. After that I just settled with her onto the couch downstairs. She was fine with that, but her constant quivering from her tummy upsets made it impossible to sleep. While I’m used to insomnia I’d had some bad nights earlier in the week and this one was just a bridge too far. I was so wiped out Saturday that everything I’d planned to do got either postponed to Sunday (planning some stuff, cleaning) or dropped (going to the movies). I wound up taking a nap that was close to three hours, which is way long for me.

On the plus side, Trixie’s tummy settled down and she went back to normal. However her bad leg definitely felt worse after doing all that extra squatting and relieving herself. But she’s been improving steadily, I think; as I said this morning, I hope she’ll escape needing surgery. Even if not, better a happy, contented puppy in recovery than a miserable sad, diarrhea-ridden puppy.

Now, the juggling; I’ve been practicing juggling for years, based on a couple of how-to books. I’ve known for a while I was never going to get any better without help, so I took a one hour class Monday at Triangle Circus Arts.My teacher was very helpful. She pointed out the mistakes in the way I was doing things and showed me some basic steps I wasn’t taking. It was a huge quantum leap in my understanding of what I was doing, and a modest leap in my performance. But even when I wasn’t doing it right, at least I could spot what I was doing wrong. I’ll keep practicing at home, then next month I’ll go back again.

But the thing is, I normally practice five minutes at a time. Juggling for a solid hour really exhausted my arms and left me wiped out for the rest of the day. Coupled with Trixie’s appointment slicing the morning in two, I got nothing done. However my insomnia was still running so I wound up making up the time at the cost of sleep. Not exactly a win, but …

And as for the writing?

I finished chapter four of Undead Sexist Cliches. I’ve gone light on a couple of sections, such as whether or not a pay gap between women and men exists (yes) and is partly due to sexism (yes), and told everyone to read some of the posts in footnotes if they want to get into serious number crunching. Still it’s in much better order, with all footnotes added.

I got one more chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. After the trip to Stardian City I’m not quite sure where it goes to get to the big superhero/supervillain confrontation (not the climax but a big turning point) but my gut’s lead me well so far; hopefully that will continue.

I redrafted and slightly shortened Death is Like a Box of Chocolates based on last week’s critique from the writers’ group. It’s improved, but I think the ending may still need work. I’ll give it another look next week, then off to another beta reader. If she thinks it works, I’ll have it finished next month.

I worked some on finishing this month’s first draft (as yet untitled), but I didn’t get very far. And other than knowing it’s a riff on Sleeping Beauty, I have no idea what kleptomaniac Mary “Stealer” Holt has to deal with. But it’s a first draft, I can always change the answer later. I hope to finish it this month, but I won’t bet on it.

That’s a satisfactory amount of work. Next week, hopefully, I can accomplish work and sleep.

#SFWApro. Rights to cover image remain with current holder.

 

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It was just like what Goldfinger did to James Bond, sort of!

So due to Trixie’s ongoing knee injury, the vet recommended laser treatment. Not surgery, they use a laser wand and this apparently stimulates the healing some. I was initially skeptical but reading online convinced us it was legit and hey, she’s our little girl, so …

Couldn’t actually get a shot during the treatment itself — as we have to wear special glasses, I was afraid it might glitch the camera in my phone.

It does seem to perk her up a lot, although that may be just time and rest. After Monday’s laser session she actually wore herself out getting petted by a little girl who lives near us. Tuesday she was back limping, but Wednesday she was much better again. I keep hoping we can avoid surgery: better for her, at least in the short-term, and better for us (monitoring her recovery would be difficult).

So not much like Goldfinger after all.In other news, it was pouring rain Tuesday and so I set Wisp’s breakfast inside the French doors.

As rain doesn’t usually deter her, I was surprised that she didn’t want to leave and wound up staying for half-an-hour. If I didn’t worry she’d get up to mischief, I’d have just gotten up and left her, but I’m not sure how well that will work. I need to learn, though. As I’ve said before, she may be ready to be an indoor/outdoor cat sooner than we’re prepared for her.

#SFWApro. All rights to poster remain with current holder, photos are mine.

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Well my output is good, but the results?

I really, really would like to sell something besides Leaf articles. I’m happy to sell those because they make me a decent income, but would it be too much to sell some fiction too?

This week I got a form letter turn-down for one reprint story, and a rejection for a regional con (I may go in person. We’ll see). Late last week, I was told another submission came within a “handwaving asymptote” of acceptance, or it wasn’t accepted because it was a handwaving asymptote. I wasn’t really clear, but a friend with better mathematical understanding thinks they meant A. Oh, and the artist who’s working on a cover design for me is way behind on responding. I know her and she’s got a lot on her plate, but it would be nice to hear back.

Sometimes, like Blue Beetle it seems there’s no escape, no chance — but then I get back up and resubmit something again.

Like the title says, output this week was good. A little disorganized due to Leaf having switched the way it posts articles; I still got in enough to pay my share of the bills, but not always at the times I’d blocked out for them. I kept working on something though, so I didn’t waste time.

I also lost time because of sleep. Got back in late after going out with the writer’s group Tuesday; couldn’t sleep Wednesday for stress (I wound up with some Leaf articles I was having serious trouble finishing — though I succeeded Thursday); and last night, Trixie woke me out of a solid sleep because she needed to go to the bathroom. As her bad leg precluded her usual body language — running to the door and waiting — I decided she was just being needy, petted her for a bit, then got up and did some work. I should have trusted my gut and taken her out, then TYG wouldn’t have had to deal with poop on the floor when she got up.

Oh, and Plush Dog spent much of today as a lap dog, choosing the most awkward positions for my writing — that is, I end up with my legs spread, tilted slightly over on one side, propping my lap desk up on the arm of the couch. Makes focus hard.

Now, as to the actual output. I got two more chapters on Impossible Takes a Little Longer done, set in the Stardian City I talked about in a previous post. This sequence turned out really well; however I’m looking back at the early chapters, which I changed relatively little, and thinking I need to change a couple of them a lot. The villain’s opening attacks on my superhero, Champion, are just not working in the context of the whole book, though I’m not sure what should replace them.

I put in some work on an as yet untitled short still in first-draft stage. It involves a 1938 socialite and compulsive thief stumbling into a portal fantasy. I’ve never figured out what’s on the other side of the portal for her to deal with, but I’ve got a better handle on her character now and that’s going to help. I hope.

I read the revised Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates to the writers’ group and got some good feedback. Mostly that a lot of background detail could be cut and should be. And that the ending needs more oomph, which I agree with — nobody could pinpoint what, but perhaps I’ll think of something. I hadn’t thought it needed that much tightening, but they’re good judges so I’ll keep that in mind when I review it next week.

And I got a start on redrafting and footnoting Chapter Four of Undead Sexist Cliches. I restructured the chapter and I think it’s in good shape. Hopefully I won’t change my mind as I go through it again.

Oh, and I submitted a story which has not come back yet! In fact all my non-reprint stories are out, so who knows?

#SFWApro. Cover by Chris Wozniak, all rights remain with current holder.

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