Category Archives: The Dog Ate My Homework

Second week of 2022: Progress and chaos

I came about four hours short of a full work week which is annoying. The trouble is, there are just too many unpredictable elements.

For instance Thursday I had to pick up prescription dog food after lunch, then find a gas station with diesel to fill up our almost empty car (under the assumption the winter storm this weekend might mess up supply). That took longer than planned because the diesel pump at the station we usually use was down, so I had to drive further.

Today, we took the dogs on a big lunch walk which used up some unplanned extra time, then Wisp came in, then I was chatting with TYG for a bit … and so lunch increased by an unexpected 45 minutes. As I’ve said before, there’s really no good place in my schedule to put the time back in and it adds up, day by day.

That said, the work I did get done was good and productive. I decided that Draft2Digital’s payment rate for hard-copy books was less than I liked (their ebook rates, by contrast, are excellent) so I tried KDP, Amazon’s publishing arm. This works out much less well than I remember from earlier books but it pays me more than Draft2Digital on a lower price.

Draft2Digital’s process, however, does provide an Amazon ready PDF but getting the system to handle my friend Kemp Ward’s cover proved remarkably difficult. I finally worked it out, though, and I’ve got a proof coming next week. Assuming no problems, both paperback and ebook will be available this month.

I finished another draft of Oh the Places You’ll Go. It’s very clunky but it does include all the elements I want and has (I think) a workable plot. Next week we’ll see what the writer’s group makes of it. I suspect the best solution to making it less clunky would be expanding it. I don’t want to go novel but maybe 15,000 words or so, about double the price? I think that would slow down the rate at which I share information and it will help explore the character relationships I think are the heart of the story. And it’ll give me time to work with the ending too — it’s kind of rushed right now.

Last week I found myself stymied by the next section of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. This week I saw how to get past that. There are things I don’t like — it takes Sarah off the board for longer than I wanted — but I think the revised plot holds together.

That was pretty much it. Oh, plus I’ve been posting at Atomic Junkshop: The past two weeks I’ve covered out-of-date satire, abandoning movie theaters, Batman’s con-man villains, and that bad Dunwich Horror cover I posted here Tuesday. Much less effective than the poster for the bad 1970 film.#SFWApro. Book cover by Kemp Ward, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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

So how did the first week of 2022 go?

Better than average, I think.

The morning is still overstuffed with pets but focusing on non-creative writing seemed to get me started and leave me reasonably fresh for creative stuff come afternoon. That I slept very well this week didn’t hurt. Of course, neither did waking up really, really early Thursday morning, giving me a couple of hours with no animals around. Sometimes that’s a good thing.

That said, the cold mornings this week played a large role. TYG didn’t really feel up to walking the dogs in sub-freezing temperature so the walks didn’t last as long as usual. That let me start ahead of the game. We’ll see if it still goes well when we have our normal mile-plus walks. I’ll actually be glad of that — it’s good to get outdoors, better for me to get the added exercise and it’s good for our dogs too.

So in contrast to last week I only came in .25 hours short of my quota, and that’s mostly because my eyes got too tired today from indexing Undead Sexist Cliches. Indexing is one of the most tedious writing tasks there is: go through the PDF of the eventual hard copy, making notes for every name in the index file, plus topics: Christianity, purity culture, rape apologists, rape and chastity, harassment, incels, etc. I’d thought I could get it all done tonight but I’ll have to wait until Monday to wrap it up.

A minor plus is that indexing has caught a couple of names I’d mistyped so I was able to correct them.

The ebook has been formatted via Draft2Digital and set up for release later this month. After I correct the text, I’ll have to go through all the approvals from the ebook vendors again, but it’s a quick process. Indexing is going fast enough I should have the hard copy ready to go too. Indexing is a lot faster than my film books as I don’t have those huge blocks of names in the credits for the films.

I finished another draft of Oh the Places You’ll Go which I’ll probably read to the writing group at our Jan. 18 Zoom meeting. It needs work, but it’s definitely going in the right direction, I think. My work on Impossible Takes a Little Longer was less successful. I finished another chapter but the changes I’ve made mean the next section needs serious reworking. I played around with various reworkings and I’m not quite sure what the best path is. I think next week I’ll just start writing one of the options and see how it works out. I often bog down in thinking about what to do next so let’s see if writing it out works better. Perhaps a few days away will help.

I sent out four stories and got the first (Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates) back already, with a “not right for our needs, try again” response. I also got back No One Can Slay Her, which I submitted last month. That one was much more positive: they liked the story, enjoyed reading it, but they’re not taking it (I presume that means something on the lines of “we want 14 stories and yours came in at 15”). Which is nice to hear, though I get it often enough I get frustrated not getting past that “good but not good enough” barrier.

All things considered, though, a satisfactory week.

#SFWApro. Covers by Carmine Infantino and Kemp Ward (bottom), all rights remain with current holder.

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

Not exactly the finish to 2021 I expected …

I’m still dealing with so much non-writing stuff during the morning that it’s very difficult to get into a creative headspace. So nothing on fiction this week.

On the plus side, I gave Undead Sexist Cliches it’s final proof (via a PDF downloaded from Draft 2 Digital). I spotted a few mistakes and several places where I need to clarify what I meant, but it’s done. The Ebook will go out next month; the hard copy too if I can index it fast enough. So woot! I admit I haven’t followed best policy and hyperlinked the footnotes to the text, but that’s more work than I’m willing to take on right now. Hopefully it won’t be a big issue.

I also squeezed three more Leaf articles out of my brain as those don’t require a creative headspace. And batted out an Atomic Junkshop post about Christmas just so I had something up this week.

Looking back at 2021 — man I remember when that was such a futuristic setting — and my goals, it’s obvious I fell way short. Part of that was covid and the anti-vax covidiots ensuring we wouldn’t get out of the pandemic for more than a few months. It was also the sheer amount of work it took to get Alien Visitors — oh, the official title from McFarland is now The Aliens Are Here — finished on deadline. So I’m not beating myself up. And I did well — Undead Sexist Cliches and The Aliens Are Here done (and both good), that golem article finished (and also good) — even if I didn’t get any fiction written.

Still for 2022 I feel quite unenthused about coming up with my usual detailed list of goals, so I’m not. While I’m a firm believer goals should be specific and measurable — it’s much easier to quantify success or failure with “submit sixteen short stories next year” than “submit lots of shorts” — I’ve got a lot of general goals such as “do something interesting locally,” “travel,” “push myself in writing” and “end the year with more money than when you started” (usually my financial goals are more specific). My intention is to set more specific goals for each month and see what works and what doesn’t. Maybe I don’t eat out in January but we have two dinners out in February; if TYG’s schedule doesn’t permit us to take joint day trips, maybe I go solo.

I’ve also got a number of specific goals written, mostly writing related. Publish Undead Sexist Cliches — that one, at least is a done deal at this point. Finish Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Finish six short stories — I do variations of that one every year but this year with no massive nonfiction projects, it should be doable (I hope). And readjusting my schedule to make it more effective again. Eating healthier but also cooking more desserts. If I keep it sensible, both should be doable — though the pecan cream cheese bundt cake I made last weekend is definitely not sensible. I would have made it for a potluck or something but I really liked the recipe and the results were delicious.For January I want to get in 25,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and the same on Oh the Places You’ll Go (as it’s a short story, that represents multiple drafts). A bunch of other projects too. And to resume bicycling regularly. My aerobic workouts in the morning are good, but too many push-ups and lifts takes a toll on my elbows and shoulders (though my impinged shoulder has improved — I think general strengthening has helped). I’d like to shift more of the exertion to my legs.

I’m also going to reward myself if I get a lot of stuff done. I haven’t done that in years but I’m thinking it might be feasible financially to make more big-ticket purchases this year. So why not treat myself to an expensive book if I do well on my goals?

And I’m also going to research just how to adapt to our current reality. I’ve bookmarked a number of articles about “what is safe to do now” and I’ll be browsing them and thinking what’s possible and what isn’t.

If you’re reading this, you too made it through 2021, hopefully without too many battle scars. Here’s to wishing all of us a better 2022.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.

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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

The scheme is sound, the execution less so

When I started this month I sat down and calculated how many hours I had for writing, not counting email and blogging. Then I broke it down. 40 hours of Leaf articles would cover my bills next month. I could divide the remaining time between Oh the Places You’ll Go!, Impossible Takes a Little Longer and nonfiction stuff (article pitches, last bits of work on Undead Sexist Cliches). That way if it was a couple of weeks before any Leaf articles came available I could spend that time putting in extra work on other projects, then put in more time on Leaf stuff when things changed.

That premise proved sound. I spent the first couple of weeks doing fiction, then plunged into Leaf. At the end of today I’d made my quota for the month, enough after taxes to cover January’s bills (assuming I don’t have a massive unplanned expenditure) and maybe have a little left over. A month ahead is good, but in freelancing two months makes me happier.

But as I mentioned last week, I wound up losing quite a few hours earlier this month. As a result I’m not anywhere near where I want to be on any of my other writing goals. While part of that is due to TYG’s unusually heavy end-of-the-year workload, a lot of it is baked into the way the dogs, Wisp and Snowdrop eat up increasing amounts of time. A half-hour less each morning is 2.5 hours less during a work week. There are other time drains, both temporary (we’re walking a neighbor’s dogs at lunch this week) and permanent (it’s hard to focus in the evenings when Plushie’s doing his Cats On The Deck! Danger! bark every few minutes).

This will have to be solved because there’s a lot I want to write next year. I will find a way to maintain my full creative work week without stiffing the puppies of TYG of what they need. And I will do it by New Year’s because I want a productive January, dammit!

For the moment, I will take satisfaction in having paid the bills for January (so to speak). That’s a good feeling. And in it being Christmas Eve, which is also a good feeling. TYG’s workload has made this a rough Christmas season but having her and our various animals around is so much better than spending it alone.

#SFWApro, merry Christmas and happy holidays. Cover by Gil Kane, all rights to image remain with current holders.

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

And now those empty hours return to mock me

I did well enough on my writing last week that the hours I lost to extra pet care or donating blood didn’t bother me too much. This week, they bother me a good deal more.

I came up 10 hours short on my writing time this week (keep reading). With two weeks left in December, I’m suddenly aware of how much could have been done with them, and the hours I didn’t write last week. Especially as the Leaf articles picked up again so I’m putting in lots of time on them. I thought I’d factored that in: x amount of Leaf articles leaves me with y hours for Impossible Takes a Little Longer and z for Oh the Places You’ll Go.  That doesn’t work as well if it’s y-10 hours

Multiple things derailed my schedule this week. For one, TYG got handed a major rush project which has led to much more dog care on my part. Even aside from that, the amount of dog and cat care in the morning just keeps increasing for various reasons. 8:30 AM is my new normal for starting work, rather than 8AM — that’s 2.5 hours gone right there. And there’s really no period to make up the time as evening writing is very iffy unless I’m absolutely completely focused.

For another, the washing machine broke last Sunday. I drained the water out, examined the drain — last time this happened, there was a sock stuck in it — but it didn’t help. I tried again Monday for about a half hour, then called in a pro. He showed up the next day (yay!) but he had more questions for me and needed my help doing things such as lifting the dryer off the top of the washing machine. That sucked up more time, but it had to be done. And he correctly diagnosed and fixed the problem, so yay again.

Third I came down with a mild cold Tuesday. Physically it wasn’t anything but a runny nose but it completely wiped me out for the afternoon and evening. My plans to make up for the washing-machine distraction went nowhere. Wednesday I was back to normal, thank goodness.

I didn’t get anything done on Impossible and maybe 3,000 words on the next draft of Places. However I also reread my earliest draft of that short story and saw what I’d been missing. I replotted and it’s much stronger and (I hope) more interesting. So that’s good.

And then I finished a bunch of Leaf articles, with more to come on the weekend and some next week. I also wrote a couple of posts for Atomic Junk Shop, one on Silver Age hero Karel Sorensen and one on how the way I read comics has changed.

I got nothing done on Undead Sexist Cliches but at least I have a cover to reveal, courtesy of my friend Kemp Ward.

I think it looks great. Now I just have to do the last little bit on the book.

#SFWApro.

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

The vomit — and the victory!

No, not my vomit of TYG’s. But Tuesday, Trixie puked up while still on the bed. She had another puke later and since then she’s been fine. However Plushie, who’s more prone to puking, did so Wednesday and Thursday morning. And every time, TYG had to wash the sheets while I took care of the dogs. Given I’m already dealing with Wisp and Snowdrop in the pre-work morning, this makes for a chaotic period. As I count on a reasonably calm period to get myself in a head space for writing that was disruptive.

Despite which, the week’s writing went well (hence the “victory”). I’m now 14,000 words into a new draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I couldn’t focus enough to do much on Oh the Places You’ll Go! but I reread my earlier drafts and figured out what was missing from the current one. Earlier I’d focused on the family connection between my four protagonists but I lost that in adding more plot and incident. I sat down Thursday and replotted the story and I think I’ve melded the two approaches successfully.

I put a great deal of time into working on Undead Sexist Cliches as the proofing and spellchecking requires relatively little creative work. It’s easy to do even when frazzled. I also worked on some queries for articles related to Alien Visitors in the hopes I can both promote the book and make some extra money off my research.

Snowdrop is coming in every morning. As you can see, he’ll even sit on the couch. However it’s freezing cold and he won’t stay inside if I close the porch door. This limits how much I can keep him in. He’s made the transition to eating inside much faster than Wisp did but he’s a lot more wary about people. Even without the dogs, he’d make it hard to focus on things like yoga, stretching, exercise, etc. Wisp has her own spot, a pillow on the back of the couch where I work. She likes it even though, as you can see, it’s not always a firm foundation for her. It’s much easier to deal with the dogs at the same time if she naps up there rather than in my lap.

Oh, and I gave blood this morning! It took much longer than I expected — the tech was new — but I got it done. So despite the vomit, I think the week is a win.

#SFWApro.

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The text of the book is done

Today comes the proofing and footnoting. Then everything goes off.

Proofing is important. I was reading over a quote from The Book of Revelation (including in Tribulation 99, which I’ll be reviewing soon) and realized that contrary to what I had written, that book of the Bible does not say ” “When the thousand years are ended, Stan will be loosed from his prison” (though I now want to write about Stan and what he was doing in prison that long).

For your visual pleasure, he’s Plushie frowning on me for letting Wisp get the lap.#SFWApro.

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Slow-going work, plus cats

Cats first. Snowdrop seems to be settling in and showing up for food. Wisp seems to be tolerating him, and not trying to steal his food. It’s high protein, which is supposed to decrease the hunting urge. Wisp and I seem to have lost the rhythm we’d developed now that Snowdrop’s out there. Sometimes rather than come in, she goes off and looks for him or guards against him, I’m not sure which. Last night neither of them showed, which worried me a little. Wisp was back this morning though; hopefully Snowdrop will be here tonight.

Wisp has also started coming in at random times during the day, which she hasn’t done in months. Here she is sitting in the spare bedroom — it’s her sleepytime place — while I stepped out for a minute.As to work, let’s see. I met with  the cover designer for Undead Sexist Cliches, who came well recommended. He says he’ll try to get something done and back to me by next week. I also proofed more of it.

I got 16 Leaf articles done.

I did a lot of work on Alien Visitors, which is good, and the chapter drafts (intro, Invasions, Bodysnatchers) are good, but it’s going too damn slow. There’s only so much focus before my mind sludges unless I remember to take breaks. And taking breaks costs time. It’s doable … I think. But will it be done? I don’t know, even given how much extra time I’m putting in. It doesn’t help that TYG’s schedule hasn’t let her take the dogs quite as much as she’d hoped, but I don’t think that’s the primary problem.

Oh, and I got Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, which I sent out to another market, back with a no. I’ll be sending it out again in November, when things calm down.

#SFWApro.

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The gentleman’s name is … Snowdrop

So last weekend we set out the trap for the white cat. I put the food in, walked away and he was caught barely thirty seconds after. He was not happy about it; like Wisp the first time we trapped her, he kept ramming at the wire with his face. Didn’t go well (the photo below is from earlier).

Happily when we put him in the bathroom he quieted down. I took him to the animal rescue the next morning, picked him up in the afternoon and got confirmation the cat’s a he. Up until then we’d figured female — but we’re sticking with the name I picked, Snowdrop (one of the kitten’s in Lewis Carroll’s Alice books). It was a little unsettling because removing his balls left far more bloodstains than tying Wisp’s tubes.

Next morning we let him out and didn’t see him again for a couple of days. But he came back Wednesday night, though he’s way more wary around us. Still, if he’s returned, he’ll probably forgive us. And TYG is relieved — she was convinced he’d wound up in the belly of a coyote or on the wheels of an SUV. But no. Where we go from here … well, I’ll let you know.

After that, the week got back to normal. No Leaf articles so it was all either Undead Sexist Cliches or Alien Visitors. On the first, I’m now proofed through the end of Chapter Six and I’ve started drafting the back cover/blurbs (next week I should start studying blurbs for similar books and see how I compare). On the movie book I got a lot done: good drafts of several chapters and several films watched or rewatched.

Unfortunately I fell short of my goals for the week. Sure, they were optimistic, and yes, I have some wriggle room in my schedule but still, I’d been happier to pull it off. I’m not sleeping well, which happened when I was on tight deadline near the finish of Screen Enemies of the American Way. I’ll be zonked by the end of October.

No going back now, though, so wish me luck.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

 

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White dogs on dope!

So Sunday I was applying the hot water bottle to Plushie’s hips (they get very stiff otherwise) and he began wriggling out of my arms as if uncomfortable. I resisted, he tried climbing up over my arms and then he gave the pain whimper. Once we confirmed that yes, he was in pain, we took him to the emergency vet. This time he managed something new, pulling one of the long muscles in his side. So back on cage rest just a couple of months after last time. I’d be worried it would be non-stop but this is a separate problem from last time.

The painkillers and muscle relaxants he’s on make Plushie dopey, so he spends most of the day dozing in there. Still he gets miserable and demanding enough to distract me from work. And as TYG sleeps downstairs to be near him, just in case he has a pain attack or something, our schedule is a mess. Usually I start writing when I wake up, come down when TYG wakes, write some more (mixed in with dog care) and do my stretching, yoga and exercise later.

Happily, Plushie is improving fast so it couldn’t have been too bad an injury. This makes him needier and more demanding for Freedom!! but we’re happy about it just the same.

Wisp has been a surprisingly good trooper for all this. I have to sleep in the main bedroom with Trixie (Trixie would freak out if we left her alone) so Wisp spends her nights alone in the spare bedroom. Didn’t faze her as much as I thought. Last night she didn’t come in but that’s more because White Cat was hanging around. They seem to get along — no catfights so far — but last night Wisp seemed to be hissing and asserting her dominance a lot.

Despite all that, it was a productive week. I redid the introduction, which I’ll be reading to the writers’ group next week, plus the Invasion chapter and got several other chapters rough drafted. I watched some X-Files and did some research reading.

I finally read my editor’s critique of the golem article. There’s a couple of books she wants me to add to the piece, and a little more commentary in spots (how well did the different stories work?). It’ll be easier to deliver by deadline (end of next month) than I feared.

I also got a couple of chapters final-rpoofed on Undead Sexist Cliches; happily it’s still requiring only light copy-editing. I hope that keeps up. I have an appointment for early October to talk to a cover designer a friend recommended. I’ve also begun work on the book blurb.

There were, surprisingly, no new Leafs this week. I’m guessing it’s the end of the fiscal year and things’ll be back to normal next month. While this is a hit to my bottom line, the timing is great for extra work on Alien Visitors. I’ll be putting in more of that tomorrow, while TYG’s free to sit downstairs with Plush and Trixie.

One more month and I’ll have both books and the golem story done, barring disasters. I like that thought. Oh, and one of my Philosophy and Fairytales collections sold on Smashwords. I like that too! Thanks, whoever you were!

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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