Category Archives: The Dog Ate My Homework

This trick seems to be working, mostly

So the past couple of weekends, I’ve made it a point to stay off my computer almost entirely. I leave it in my upstairs office so I can’t use it unless I head up there to do something. It’s very relaxing and avoids me getting sucked into checking news, doing long blog posts or endlessly scrolling Facebook.

It feels great, but slightly disorienting. I don’t normally spend that much time offline and it’s harder to get used to than I’d have thought. But that’s a good reason to keep at it.

Another problem is that there are a few things I absolutely do have to do online and when I do them I usually end up doing a bunch more. I’m looking for a workaround to that. But it’s still a big break, freeing me up to take longer walks, watch more movies, cook more stuff, etc. So it needs tweaking but the principle is sound.

Now, how about photos of sleeping dogs to kick-start your day?

#SFWApro.

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The work went well, the numbers vanished

So part of my improved time management this year is budgeting X hours for various projects, given what I have available. This month, for example, it’s 40 for Leaf and other nonfiction, 25 for Impossible Takes a Little Longer and 10 hours on rewriting Southern Discomfort.

Somewhere since the first of the month, the list vanished. But I can’t blame the Time Commander, I think it’s safe to say I Cut without Pasting. I remember some, but not all of the time plan so it’s not serious. However there were a couple where I had to make hard choices so I’m sure it will throw off my planning a little. Plus I just hate being that sloppy.

This week, though, went very well. I rewrote around 11,000 words of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. The changes I’ve made have improved things hugely—more action/pausing instead of looooong pauses. The little details of worldbuilding and character are falling into place better too. Of course there’s tens of thousands of words to go but hopefully I’ll be able to keep building from here. Fingers crossed.

I put in a couple of hours rewriting Southern Discomfort. The first person voice for Maria’s sections makes more of a difference than I thought. She’ s much more intense and, I think, a little more sympathetic. That should help. Enough? We’ll see when I send it out again.

I had a 1700 word article on financial statements for one of my paying clients. That took up Wednesday.

No short-story work this week. By the time I finished up on Thursday my brain was fried from working intensely, coupled with sitting with the dogs every day this week while TYG tackles a big project. Plus I spent part of my downtime writing Be Sure To Vote postcards for Activate America (if you want to help push back against the looming spread of fascism, this is one way)

So Friday I went with relatively low-intensity stuff. I spent the morning submitting multiple stories so once again everything is out, plus a couple of reprint stories. Fingers crossed for some success here too. The afternoon I did some promotional research: bookstores that I could ask to host a signing, sources for promotional bookmarks (these come highly recommended as a marketing tool), updating the About Me and Published Nonfiction pages of the blog (nothing new in fiction in a while, alas).

And now the weekend. One reason my mind was tired was that I put in extra work at the end of the day to get blog posts written for next week, both her and for Atomic Junkshop (here’s my two latest, on sexist heroes and dropping a comics series). That way I won’t have to get on my computer on the weekend and do them, which should lead to a more relaxed two days, more time to read, etc. We will see.

#SFWApro. Cover by Gil Kane (t) and Mike Sekowsky, all rights remain with current holders.

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

Thwacked by Thursday, a good week otherwise

I don’t know what it was that made me feel so unenthused about writing Thursday but something definitely did. I got some work done rewriting Southern Discomfort (I think it’s going well) but couldn’t nudge myself to do anything else.

It probably reflects that last weekend got hectic. First we attended a potluck, which was fun but I’m still having trouble scheduling around in-person social events. Then Sunday night the dogs underwent massive puking, then during the day, so there were vet visits, laundry to do and general disruption. Happily they’re fine now — whatever got into them has apparently passed out.

Thursday aside, it was a productive week. I finished Oh the Places You’ll Go and submitted it to Fantasy & Science Fiction, which is one of the few places that takes 9,000-plus stories. Plus it’s a prestige market I’ve been bouncing off (rejections with encouragement to write more) for years, so it’s often my first stop.

I finished the next draft of Don’t Pay the Merryman. The ending still doesn’t make sense, though; all the pieces of the story are there but I can’t make them add up to a coherent climax, nor figure out how my protagonists, Maud and Prudence, get out in one piece. Obviously I could have them die but I’m opting for life.

I put in some really good work replotting the first quarter (approximately) of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Just by making Sarah the target of one of the attacks instead of my protagonist, KC (AKA the superhero Champion),  I was able to increase the amount of action and make things less talky. However things apparently wrap up at the end of this section: Lahatiel the fake angel is down, there’s no other imminent threat, just a few loose ends. The obvious fix is to let the villain behind Lahatiel take a hand but I’m not sure what sort of hand he should take. I can figure it out though.

And today I did my taxes. Going to give them one more going over, then they go off.

I shall leave you with an image of Plushie in one of his favorite sports, rolling in leaves.#SFWApro.

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

Happy birthday to the wonder dog of the age!

We adopted Trixie and Plushie back in October of 2014. At the time the vet estimated Trixie’s age at eight months which puts her birthday at the end of February. So happy eighth birthday, my sweet little dog!She didn’t look like much in the shelter. Scrawny, under five pounds, a stray someone had found on the street. But she was so energetic I had a feeling she’d be a fun dog to adopt, a little livelier than Plushie, whom we’d also looked at. I knew TYG really liked Plushie but she said we could afford to adopt both. And so we did. And as you can see, she cleaned up well.I had no idea how much I would come to love Trixie, but I did. She’s calmed down a lot but still gets excited when she comes down in the mornings to see me or when TYG comes home from an errand or a walk. And she loves snuggling, much more than I would have guessed. I’m still happy we were able to adopt her, and had the money to give her good treatment when she needs it.She’s my little angel and I love her. Happy birthday, baby girl. No matter how old you get, you’ll always be my little puppy.#SFWApro.

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework

I defied the dizziness!

Despite the unpleasant vertigo I endured this week, it was, once again, enjoyably productive. I finished the rewrite of Questionable Minds — it turns out I did a really thorough job last go round. Now it’s a matter of a)spellcheck, b)getting a cover and c)setting a release date so I can do some promotion. I really liked the cover artist I was working with but I think she may be overloaded with work and stress. We shall see.

I did a rewrite of Oh the Places You’ll Go! and it’s 95 percent solid. The 5 percent is that the ending still feels like it needs something and I’m not sure what. I rewrote it so it pays off what I set up the beginning but it still feels like it needs more. Only I’m not sure what. I may recruit an extra beta reader to give it a look-see. I also submitted a couple more short stories and wrote a few Leaf articles.

I rewrote the first chapter of Southern Discomfort to put it in Maria’s first-tense. It does add to her personal tension and maybe makes her a little more likable. I don’t think it ramps up the tension as much as my first feedback suggested, but we’ll see how I feel after a couple more chapters.

Snowdrop is now routinely exploring the house when he comes in, as in this shot where he’s descending from snooping around the second floor.TYG successfully put a collar with a bell on him early this week. He protested a lot and tried to bite it off, but it’s still on him several days later. It’s a little harder to hear him than Wisp as his floof mutes it some. Below, he and Wisp debate control of the couch. Never mind where I get to sit.Next week will probably not be so smooth. I have our car’s annual inspection (assuming I’m not too vertiginous to drive), the housekeepers come in for their monthly gig and we’re getting a new dishwasher installed (can’t wait!). But I’ve accomplished so much this month already, I won’t feel too bad if things slow down to a crawl.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

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