Category Archives: Writing

It was overall a good hand, but not the cards I expected

So after putting lots of extra effort into Leaf work the previous couple of weeks the latest cycle of articles ended last week. I figured I’d make up for the lost time on personal project this week … but to my surprise, the new cycle started up Monday. As I like making money, I immediately started claiming Leafs, but it was a little disappointing. My work on Impossible Takes a Little Longer Monday morning really felt good and I wanted more. However for the moment it’ll have to wait as Undead Sexist Cliches, Questionable Minds and my Alien Visitors film book come first.

Unfortunately, my sleep Monday – Wednesday night was for shit. The first two nights may be the Zoom writing meetings — I’m beginning to feel there’s something to the idea being on computers/phones in the hours before bedtime interferes with sleep. Wednesday night Trixie, who’s been very restless of late, paced up and down for a bit, clacking her claws on the hardwood floor. That woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep. As a result I didn’t get much done beyond Leaf, and some work on Chapter Four of Undead Sexist Cliches (feminism destroys families, education and the workplace!).

I thought I’d make up for that today a little, but today I woke up sick and draggy. No, doesn’t appear to be COVID-19, most likely it;s allergy-based (possibly because that morning I was coping with Wisp and Trixie, I forgot my meds). I know from experience the best treatment is simply to do nothing all day, and so I did.

On the plus side, I’m seeing a marked improvement in my juggling this week, and much better focusing in my meditation practice. So at least something of my own is getting done. And I did make money, which right now is very reassuring.

I’ll leave you with this uncredited cover (though a friend of mine says the art is by Emsh). #SFWApro, all rights to image remain with current holde.r

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

An anthology blows up and other links about books, movies, recipes and reporting

So my friend John Hartness of Falstaff Books posted this week on Facebook about some problems with the anthology Flashing Swords #6 (following up on a series of anthologies published around 50 years ago). It seems the publisher was blindsided by editor Robert M. Price and didn’t realize Price hadn’t signed or sent the authors contracts for the stories included therein, and had credited himself as copyright holder (the publisher admits that was a screw-up on their part). The authors were also upset with Price’s foreword, which veers into undead sexist cliches about how women need to stop crying rape, feminists hate het sex, and participation-trophy cliches (he is hardly the first anthologist to do stuff like this). The publisher, to their credit, says they’re killing the book and paying the writers a kill fee, which is precisely the way to handle a mess like this.

Due to the Trump Virus, it looks like the gap between theatrical release and streaming will narrow a lot.

DAW head Betsy Wolheim thinks Patrick Rothfuss hasn’t written anything on the third Kingkiller Chronicles book. This has led to much speculation by my writing friends why she didn’t keep her opinions in house: is he seriously missing deadlines? How close is he really to getting finished? Does it hurt specfic in general if people assume “maybe it’s better if I wait until all the books are out” and don’t buy into series early. One person linked to an article from a few years ago in which Penguin took very late authors to court.

Fifteen years ago, cable was home entertainment’s big dog. Now cable falters as streaming rises.

“This was a time of “Mean Streets” and “The Poseidon Adventure.” “American Graffiti” and “Last Tango in Paris.” “Airport” sequels and “Aguirre, the Wrath of God.” Edgy political thrillers, socially aware satires and mainstream melodramas managed to coexist with B-movies, porn and Warholian provocations. Regardless of their artistic aspirations, most were enormously entertaining.” — Ann Hornaday on why seventies film rocked. It’s an interesting take but as someone generally skeptical about How We Have Fallen Since Decade X, I’m not sure I agree (it rapidly turns into a standard grumble about all those CGI superhero movies taking up the multiplex).

Who exactly gets credit as a recipe creator?

Who should get immortalized in bird names?

An author pushed his book higher on the bestseller list by buying copies himself.

Years ago, critic Leonard Maltin discussed the problem of rating and reviewing a movie when the original version has been re-edited and is no longer available. A few years ago on Inverse, an article discussed the problem of finding the original Han Shot First Star Wars.

I wrote a while back about how bad management had killed reporting at Deadspin. Most of the staff who quit are back with a new project.

And here’s a Virgil Finlay cover to close with.

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

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Magic like plastic (this is a good thing): Cast a Deadly Spell

The opening text crawl of CAST A DEADLY SPELL (1991) tells us it’s 1948 in L.A. and everybody uses magic. We never learn where or when that started, but the movie makes the premise so real I don’t need to know more.

Everyone takes magic as a given; like plastic or television in the same era, it’s an exciting new invention that’s changing the world and everyone’s on-board. Well, everyone but protagonist Phil Lovecraft (Fred Ward), whose refusal to work magic marks him as an oddball, like someone who refuses to get a cell phone when landlines are so much better. For Phil, it’s part of his stubborn, incorruptible streak: he’s his own man and can’t be bought or controlled. Magic gives someone or something else a small piece of your soul, and Phil can’t stand anyone owning his.

Magic is everywhere in this movie. In a police station scene we see a typewriter printing a report by itself; file cabinets open and manila folders fly out when the secretary needs them. In other scenes people light cigarettes by touch (Phil uses matches) or levitates cocktail shakers. Sneering crime boss Borden (Clancy Brown) has replaced his regular goon squad with zombies: no need to pay them, they don’t get any ideas about double-crossing the boss and when they start to rot he just orders more from Haiti. There’s also a neat little detail I didn’t catch on first or second viewing: one newspaper has a front page article on magic eliminating LA’s smog right next to coverage of Robert Mitchum’s then-infamous pot bust (Mitchum gets the headline).

Lovecraft is your classic hard-drinking chain-smoking PI, hired by Hackshaw (David Warner) to recover a lost copy of the Necronomicon. The first time I watched this I agreed with Borden that it seemed like pure coincidence Lovecraft got entangled in this case. Rewatching it’s obvious that Hackshaw picked Phil because he knows the gumshoe doesn’t use magic. When Hackshaw drops the name of the Necronomicon and Lovecraft doesn’t react, Hackshaw smiles; he’s found a detective who’s ignorant enough to turn over the book and won’t try to tap it for himself. And won’t suspect why Hackshaw wants it turned over no later than midnight in a couple of days.

Leaving the Hackshaw estate, Lovecraft encounters his new client’s daughter, Olivia (Alexandra Powers) whom we first see hunting a unicorn. She comes on to Phil like a classic noir bad girl but he sees through her (if she wasn’t a virgin, she wouldn’t be trying to hunt unicorns). Later in the film, when he gets to know her, she turns out to be quite sweet, though restless at the way her father keeps her locked away from the world.

Meanwhile we see the ill-fated weasel Mickey (Ken Thorley), a former employee of Hackshaw’s, deliver the book to Borden. It turns out to be a fake copy (Mickey plans to sell the real one back to Hackshaw) but the packet of money Borden paid him with is just paper. Then Borden’s sorcerous aide, Tugwell (Raymond O’Connor) whips up the paper in a small magical cyclone and kills Mickey by literally the death of a thousand (paper) cuts. That’s another thing I like about the film: magic is colorful and interesting. Things like the paper cuts or Tugwell “setting the runes” on Lovecraft make even mundane TK tricks like levitating files seem magical rather than psi.

The struggle for the book is more personal than Lovecraft expects because Borden’s his corrupt former partner, from when they were cops together. Not only that but Borden got Phil’s lost love, Connie (Julianne Moore) in the breakup. Borden and Connie both think Phil’s a fool for being so incorruptible but Connie’s not immune to that old feeling they had. But Hackshaw’s deadline is approaching, Borden’s playing hardball, and Lovecraft’s landlady and sort-of friend Kropotkin (Arnetia Walker) is seeing signs Los Angeles is ground zero for the apocalypse. Lovecraft, however, will not back down, not from man, gargoyle or god …

I highly recommend this movie. I do not, however, recommend the sequel Witch Hunt, which replaced Ward with Dennis Hopper and made the anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950s into a real witch hunt. It’s much less interesting than a world in which magic is amazing, yet taken for granted.

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

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Filed under Movies, Writing

Say goodbye to July, hello August

So I accomplished 55 percent of my goals for July, though very few of them were writing goals. Between Leaf and Undead Sexist Cliches I got very little done on anything else. Next month I need to manage my time much better; I took Wednesday off precisely to think about what comes next.

  • Undead Sexist Cliches get top priority, though not 100 percent of my time. It’s the “eat the frog” approach — proofing it is the toughest job ahead and I’ll be happy when it’s done.
  • I need to start work on the Alien Visitors book for McFarland as it has an actual not-just-personal deadline. I’d hoped to finish Undead Sexist Cliches and Questionable Minds first, but as that’s not going to happen …
  • The final proof of Questionable Minds comes next.
  • The rewrite of Impossible Takes a Little Longer is third place.
  • And getting back to short stories comes after that.
  • I also need to read more on marketing and make some plans for my self-published stuff. The joy is in writing it, not promoting it, but if I don’t market, nobody reads and nobody pays me. Both would be desirable.

That may prove ambitious but I’m not setting my total accomplishment in any of those so absurdly high it’s unattainable. I have alternate goals depending when Leaf, which wrapped up the most recent cycle this week, starts up again.

To achieve them I really need to take breaks regularly during the day. It’s very easy to get locked in until I get just that one little extra section/chapter done, maybe five more minutes … and then I look up and it’s been an hour. I’d be fresher if I took the break with the section/chapter unfinished and came back to it. And fresher will make me more productive at day’s end.

I’m also spending some of my break time to pet Wisp. Sometimes she doesn’t want it and swats at my hand; other times she can sit there for five minutes, almost dozing while I stroke her. We’ll have to take her in to the vet next month; hopefully it won’t set back our relationship too much.

Oh, I did get one thing done I can link to: a post at Atomic Junkshop on sexy movies of my teen years. Like this mesmerizing poster.

To celebrate the ongoing struggle to finish stuff, I’ll wrap up with this Powers cover. Because it’s always good to include a Powers cover.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

 

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

And lo, it came to pass as I had dreaded …

So I mentioned last week that the problem with doing extra Leaf articles (or any sort of immediate-income work) instead of personal projects is that “I’ll make up the personal work next week” never seems to work out. Sure enough, having done three extra last week (based on a standard of 10 articles) I wound up doing six extra this week. There were simply too many that looked like they’d be reasonably interesting and not too hard to do (the measure of “hard” is a mix of how easy it is to find good references and how complicated the topic is). So while I did finish Chapter Five of Undead Sexist Cliches, that was it for personal stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to get the $, particularly as I had a dentist’s visit and an unexpected medical bill from a couple of months back this week (they’d been dickering with the insurer without success). But I want to work on my own stuff too (I strike a dramatic pose: “What good is wealth if my creative spirit is slowly dying?”)!  But yes, having too much paying freelance work is very much a first-world problem in these days.

And I did find one amusing moment while working on an article about copyright: the U.S. Copyright Office FAQ Page actually answers the question “How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?

I also went to the dentist and holy crap, was that terrifying! Dr. Robinson (of New Smile Magic here in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill — she deserves a plug) takes great care to prevent any transmission, but getting my teeth cleaned — which I definitely needed or I wouldn’t have gone — requires much more close-up work than the other medical stuff I’ve done lately and I was not comfortable. Still with all the face shields and masks, I can’t think of any reason I’d have trouble. Hopefully I’m right. Oh, and my teeth are in way better shape than they used to be; aggressive cleaning and using a water pick seems to have turned the tide.

And that’s pretty much it. But I’ll throw in this striking cover for the novelization of a rather dreary (IIRC) film. Art is uncredited.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Time management and goals, Writing

I am not the role model for the human experience

So I was reflecting this week that I have no idea what life is like for people who are going out of quarantine and back to work outside their homes. Or eating out. Or going into stores. While I don’t write much fiction set in the present, if I did that would be something I’d have to keep in mind. Maybe for certain types of nonfiction too.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of lifestyle/dating articles that start from the assumption the writer is the template for all members of their gender. Thus they assure the reader that all men cheat. Or all men see women primarily as disposable, interchangeable bodies. All men tell their friends details about sex. No, they never talk. Wait, they talk but only about hookups, never a serious relationship. As you can see, there’s some disagreement on what all men are like, even among men. Or consider one article I remember by a woman who emphasizes that no, all men are not alike and do not want or do exactly the same things — but then she asserts that all women look to their boyfriends to be a father figure.

I suspect part of this is the assumption (which some of the male-written articles are specific about) that “I’m totally a regular guy!” from which it’s easy to generalize that other men are just like you, raining down from the sky in an endless stream (thereby justifying my inclusion of that great Neal Adams cover). Claiming a universal gender difference also helps separate the men from the women; the “all men cheat” article added that women can’t understand this because “it’s a guy thing.” Yes, that’s right, no women cheat. Oh, wait, they do. And part of it, with topics like that is, I’m sure, an excuse: if everybody does it, if it’s just our Y chromosome asserting itself, you can’t blame me!

But getting back to quarantining … Since TYG started working from home four months ago, things have been pretty much consistent for us. We go out if we need to get meds from the vet or something like that; order lots of stuff on Amazon; rely on chats with our neighbors and Zoom meet-ups to provide social stimulation from people other than ourselves. When I read about stay-in-place orders ending, my main thoughts are about the risk to the people forced back to work. From a personal viewpoint, it has no more significance than a new bypass being built in Atlanta.

The only reason I have a clue what it’s like for people who have to go back to work is FB posts and blog posts by my friends. Without that it would be easy to think everyone’s still staying home (and Durham is, in fact, still under a Stay order). Or forget that some people who are staying home can’t work, and therefore don’t have money coming in.

So if I were writing something in the present that deals with the pandemic I’d have to make an effort to start thinking about what it’s like for the rest of American society rather than just following my own impressions.

Because it’s not all about me.

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

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Sometimes dogs snuggling in bed is not the cutest thing ever

Plushie, for example, has decided the solution for any stress during the night is to cuddle up with me and lick my face. Which is sweet … but not when I’m asleep. Trixie likewise came and snuggled with me one evening this week, but every time I drifted off that was apparently a sign for her to fidget and shift. One of my weaknesses is an inability to get back to sleep if I’m brought to wakefulness for more than a few seconds so this did not end well for me. I spent much of the week sleep-deprived, though I’ve made up for it today. Good thing they’re too cute to stay mad at!

My main accomplishment was doing a lot of Leaf articles. I’m not quire sure how many they’ll have to write in any given week so I did three extra this week, wrapping up today. In theory I can make up the time lost to other projects by doing less Leaf next week. That doesn’t always work because sometimes they have articles I just can’t resist writing. This week for example I had articles on how to join an actors union and how film actors get paid (every week, on Thursday — yes I did say more about it than that!).

I got a couple of chapters proofed on Questionable Minds, though I’m thinking of one possibly big rewrite of the “finished” draft. I’m honestly not sure I need all the villain POV scenes, which were meant to explain his seemingly puzzling crime patterns; it’s possible they’re necessary but it’s also possible nobody cares, or at least not as much as I do. As we get into the later part of the book I’ll see if I can wrap anything essential into some of the other exposition scenes.

I got partway through Chapter Five in Undead Sexist Cliches, which is one of the two chapters on rape cliches. I’d planned to work on Chapter Four but it’s much less tightly organized and in my tired state I couldn’t get anywhere with it.

My daily exercise routine has suffered since TYG and I started taking one dog each for morning walkies (my doctor is very clear that walking doesn’t get my heart pumping fast enough to make it the primary source of exercise). Normally, even in summer, I go out bicycling at least once a week but it’s too damn hot except for the early mornings, and those are for dogs. In theory I could make it up working on our stationary bicycle or doing some other sort of exercise later in the day, but somehow it doesn’t seem to happen.  I’m going to have to work to see that it does.

And we have begun putting out a pet carrier and leaving Wisp’s cat food inside it. Hopefully she’ll get used enough to it we’ll be able to trap her and take her in for her annual checkup soon.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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

Writing, reading and race; some links

While I love Avenue Q, I’ve always winced at the line in one song telling us “Ethnic jokes might be uncouth/But we laugh because they’re based on truth.” because no, they’re not based on truth (black men are not oversexed and Jews are not insanely greedy, to cite the subtext of two that I’ve heard over the years) and the reasons people laugh at them are a lot uglier. Vox looks at the musical and the concept of ironic racism. The Mary Sue vents about what it sees as the similar ironic nastiness of Cards Against Humanity (though I have to say I enjoy playing that too).

” The film also romanticizes slavery as if it was nothing more than a workplace sitcom in which all the slaves were happy baristas at the plantation’s Starbucks.” — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on what to do with Gone With the Wind. It’s a question we’ve been debating for a long time.

Five years ago, Eric Flint wrote a blog post explaining why Hugo awards don’t match popular taste. I thought he made sense but Camestros Felapton makes a good case that Flint doesn’t. Felapton also discusses the appeal of works that subvert expectations and why those stand a better chance of winning awards (and conversely, why novels that give us exactly what we expect are long shots).

Michal Wocjik writes about reading 1984 for the first time.

Michele Berger on writing in a year like 2020.

Various cartoons look at recasting nonwhite roles with nonwhite voice actors.

Black-owned bookstores during a time of anti-racism protests.

A new movement compares advances paid to white authors and to authors of color. The publishing industry does not come out looking good.

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Filed under Politics, Reading, Writing

If you’ve ever dreamed of hearing my words aloud — or even if not —

My interview with the Two Gay Geeks podcast went live this morning. So if you’re sitting around in quarantine with nothing to do, why not give it a listen? I talk about writing fiction, writing about movies and personal stuff.

While it has no connection with the TGG duo, here’s what’s growing in our abandoned container garden on the deck. We’ll be reclaiming the pots next spring but this year was too hectic.

#SFWApro.

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Enter the furniture, exit the work week

So we got new bookshelves this week. Like the pantry and hutch we bought a while ago, this is something TYG has talked about for awhile and with the added time from not commuting to work, she went ahead and did it. Three bookshelves, two tall one short. Unfortunately the company was nowhere near as good as the first furniture supplier: they were in poorer condition (staples and a nail or two sticking out), we kept getting contradictory delivery notices and the second tall case didn’t come with the first order. Bad!

So we spent part of Monday evening getting the two bookcases we received out of their packing. Wednesday we got the word that #3 would arrive Thursday so we began making ready. Clearing the furniture it would replace. Putting stuff on shelves. Moving one old bookcase up to my room to replace one that doesn’t have much shelf space (it’s designed primarily for CDs so the shelves are oddly sized for most other uses). Moving the old bookcase out. Putting all the books off one bookcase, then onto another one. This a)took time and b)got physically very draining. Thursday morning I felt quite wiped, and then we spent time getting the new one set up Thursday.

On the plus side, the changeover is done and the books are in place (I still need to get my issues of Vegetarian Times back in order). That’s a good thing. I’d be much more likely to dawdle but TYG’s efficient. I’d show you photos but I haven’t taken any yet.

Leaf articles were my priority this week because that’s paying work, but there were only a few in the pipeline. I did finish another chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches which is good, and one chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer which is less than I’d wanted. I read Chapter Two to the writing group and incorporated several changes based on their suggestions. That was pretty much it. Well, that and finishing our taxes: sales tax (none, I had no sales in the past quarter), estimated tax (have to pay in), federal 1040 (ditto) and state tax (they pay us). That’s a lot of paperwork that needed doing so it’s not surprising I got less actually writing done.

Next week we have nothing arriving, no appointments, no tax paperwork and hopefully no emergencies so I anticipate doing better. Certainly an easier week than these guys are having.#SFWApro. Art by Jerry Grandenetti, all rights remain with current holder.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Time management and goals