Category Archives: Writing

The week that dropped out of time

As far as writing goes, this was a waste of a week.

For starters, I’d forgotten I had my six month medical checkup Monday morning, so there went all that writing time. On the plus side, everything checks out good, so that’s a win.

As TYG wrapped up her last week at her old job (as I mentioned this mornning), the amount of work she put into prepping her team ramped up. So more doggy care and running errands (if they had to be run) devolved to me. Which is fair — she did as much for me when I was wrapping up The Aliens Are Here — but still exhausting. Even when I had time to write, I felt too drained to get much done.

And I had to rewrite one of the Accounting Seed articles I’d done earlier this month. Perfectly reasonable, but that much more time.

I did get a good deal further in rewriting Southern Discomfort, though nowhere near as far as I’d expected. I also rewrote Adventure of the Red Leech and read it to the writer’s group on Tuesday. They really liked it, but did have a couple of suggestions how to improve things. For example, give more of Watson’s perspective on Holmes, which is, of course, a major part of the original stories. They also spotted one point where the logic didn’t hold up, but it’s fixable.

I’d thought I might make up a little time today but we had a thunderstorm this morning so Plushie was freaking. While he hid under the coffee table some of the time (as in this photo from a couple of weeks back), he also decided to climb up with me and demand cuddles for security. Cuddling a 20 pound dog is not compatible with work but obviously I wasn’t going to refuse.

This is how things go pearshaped, of course. A day here, a day there and suddenly everything’s behind. But TYG has started a new and better job and that’s a great thing.

#SFWApro. Cover by Irwin Hasen, all rights remain with current holder.

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Filed under Personal, Sherlock Holmes, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

Cover reveal for Questionable Minds

At last! Courtesy of my friend, Samantha Collins, who’s both an artist and a writer, here it is:A Victorian world where psi-powers work. Dr. Jekyll, having escaped the shadow of Edward Hyde, works ceaselessly to help women of the streets. Professor Moriarty rules the London underworld. Jack the Ripper is at work in White Chapel. Baronet Simon Taggart is unique, gifted with shields that can withstand any psi-attack. When Red Jack’s true motive for the murders becomes clear, Simon may be the last line of defense.

The book will be out this fall. More details soon.

#SFWApro. Cover by Sam Collins, all rights remain with current holder.

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Mine is a genius for improvisation!

Which is to say this week, while productive, did not go at all as planned. But that’s okay; there are times when throwing away the plans and improvising is the right move. I guarantee you, when my manuscript returns from McFarland I’ll be dropping everything else—okay, not the paying finance articles—to proof it carefully, then index it.

What changed things up was that Gollancz, a British specfic publisher, has announced that in June it will open to unagented submissions. I’m not sure if Southern Discomfort is right for them, but that’s an incentive to finish this rewrite ASAP. That requires putting almost everything else on hold.

It went well this week, though bogged down by continuing extra dog care. That should only last another week though. I also got the cover for Questionable Minds finally nailed down and finished another of my finance articles (on integrated accounting).  I also submitted a query to The Guardian for an op-ed on abortion. It’s timely but I know the competition is fierce, so we’ll see what comes of it.

Oh, and I had my last appointment with my physical therapist for dealing with my vertigo. It’s gone. If it comes back, I have exercises for dealing with it.

Below, another photo from our trip to the North Carolina Zoo.And here’s a gorilla. One of the kids watching him said he looked said — could she give him a hug? I love children at zoos.#SFWAPro.

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

Trixie is adorable. Her tummy, not so much

Wednesday, Trixie once again woke up with a bad tummy. Felt bad, didn’t want to eat, not even her favorite treats. She insisted on coming down to sit with me so my morning plans went out the window. When she started throwing up later, we took her to Park Vet where they gave her an anti-nausea shot. They told us not to feed her until Thursday so I spent evening with Trixie looking around for her food every time I gave Plushie anything. Then looking at me in puzzlement.

Thursday morning, her tummy continued, which is not unprecedented. I had to skip stretching again because it’s not possible to do yoga or any sort of exercise when a small dog insists on snuggling with you. Happily by afternoon she was completely back to normal and this morning I got a full slate of stretching and yoga in.

Despite all that, and a couple of other unanticipated errands I put in a solid week of work.

More on the rewrite of Southern Discomfort.

Another article for the Accounting Seed website.

Another 3,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I got past the stumbling block I hit last week, but the changes I made still leave me unclear about what comes next. Still, my instincts have been sound so far.

I finished another draft of Adventure of the Red Leech and it’s looking quite good. I’ll be reading it to my writing group in about a week and a half. I also realized they might be right about Don’t Pay the Merryman (soon to be retitled) when they said the first section would work perfectly well if it had a better ending. I’d like to tell a longer tale and someday I hope I do, but for now I’m going to try cutting it short. I took my first shot at an ending; I’ll give it another go soon.

And I’ve picked the cover for Questionable Minds. I’ll do the requisite cover reveal soon as it’s settled.

Today I was a little exhausted; TYG and I are doing some stuff later so I had to front-load my schedule to get everything in and free up this afternoon. But I succeeded, actually coming in slightly over my required hours. Yay me.

This weekend, though, I intend to crash thoroughly.

#SFWApro.

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

When superpowers reboot history

The basic idea of Impossible Takes a Little Longer is that superpowers are normal, superheroes are not.

Lots of people have paranormal abilities; only comic book nerds like my protagonist KC, dress up in costume. Which is not meant as any sort of metacommentary on comics — if you read my Books Read posts, you know I love superheroes — but just to make my world different. So no glorious gatherings of heroes like this one below from DC’s All-Star Squadron (art by Arvell Jones).My original concept for this book was to have the people with powers working behind the scenes, but then I wondered, why would they do that? Why not flaunt it if you’ve got it? And then I started to think about how the world might change …

The first “para-normal” individuals (paranormal wouldn’t become a noun for several decades) appeared at the start of the last century. “Ubermensch” Wilhelm Fischer. Randall Holcroft, the Deathless Duke. The initial assumption was that this was the next step up in evolution — the Caucasian male, the summit of human existence, was becoming something greater. More white men with superstrength or similar physical powers seemed to confirm it.

That theory collapsed in the Great War. Johnny Billings of the Harlem Hellfighters proved as strong as any paranormal white guy. Sister Mathilde, the “Iron Nun,” began walking into No Man’s Land and back with the wounded, protected from attack by an impenetrable force field. She was the first woman with paranormal ability and the first known paranormal who wasn’t simply physically enhanced. Only a few more followed, mostly claiming religion or magic as the source of their power.

Obviously if women and blacks could have powers, the theory was bollixed. In the coming years people speculated about the cause without succcess: was it possible all superhumans were gifted by God? Or Satan? Or both — beliefs that black paranormals were demons fit in very nicely with America’s history of lynching and segregation. But there’s never been a general hostility toward paranormals comparable to mutant-hating in the Marvel Universe.

At this point I haven’t thought of any radical changes to history prior to WW II, though that may change. WW II however came out very differently. Josef Mengele became the first person to successfully induce paranormal powers in himself (a lot of people tried; it didn’t go well) and the first to acquire mental powers. He became a supergenius whose Ubermenschen super-warriors and Second Horseman Virus enabled Germany to crush all opposition between the Russian front — protected by Baba Yaga — and the English Channel. After assassins took out the royal family and Winston Churchill, it looked like Hitler would take England too.

Fortunately Arthur returned to defend his kingdom, along with Merlin. Merlin’s magic stopped the invasion cold, but Arthur declared himself isolationist — no involvement in the war as long as Hitler stayed on the continent. That meant the US couldn’t base troops in England which made taking the war to Germany more difficult. Plus Germany did not declare war on us after Pearl Harbor, so the U.S. war was entirely against Japan.

After the war, things changed further. Instead of spreading communism, the Soviet Union focused on protecting itself so there was no Cold War, no Korean War, no Vietnam War. I haven’t worked out all the ways that changes things yet, but suffice to say the list of presidents will be very different. The current president is someone we’ve never heard of.

Other changes followed. Silicon Valley seceded in 1980; as they don’t share their tech, computers in the rest of the US haven’t advanced any further than what was available around that time. No cell phones, for instance; VHS tapes but no DVDs or streaming.

The heroic alien Stardians arrived in Dallas in the 1980s along with the evil adversaries, the Unhumans.

Wyoming was the victim of a white supremacist nuclear bombing incident near the end of the same decade.

The rest of the world has had its share of upheavals. Kukulcan returned to rule Central America in the 1950s, overthrowing the many American backed dictatorships in the region. Blacks in what was once Rhodesia discovered their ancestor’s lost psionic science in the 1960s, overthrow the white supremacist governments of Rhodesia and South Africa and formed New Zimbabwe.

In Iran, Zohak, the evil tyrant of the Persian Shah Nameh, returned and seized control of his former kingdom. His armies of the Corrupted swept forth in the late 1960s, forcing the Arab states and Israel to form an alliance against him. The alliance held; while Israelis and Arabs have never become fond of each other, Zohak’s threat has replaced most of the conflicts in our timeline.

Where do all these powers come from? Are supposed magicians just super-powered, or are paranormal powers just a form of magic? I’ll discuss some of the in-world theories in a later post.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders; comics cover is uncredited.

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This seems like a good time for a link post about abortion, does it not?

Yes, it can get worse.

Republicans have lied in the past and pretended women who get abortions won’t ever be prosecuted. Now, though? Conservative Louisiana politicians are already looking at making abortion a homicide and charging the mother. The Missouri legislature was looking at a bill that would criminalize aborting ectopic pregnancies, even though the fetus can’t be saved. The sponsor, Brian Seitz objects the bill wouldn’t affect ectopic abortions because they’re legal — but then what was the point of the ban?

My guess is that he does want to criminalize them — it’s not like this would be unique — but backed off when the opposition got intense. Of course, even laws which don’t flat out ban treating them can intimidate doctors — is it a life-threatening emergency yet, or not?

Ohio Republican Jean Schmidt thinks forcing teenage rape victims to bear their rapist’s baby is a personal growth opportunity. Again, this is a standard-issue right-wing viewpoint. So are lies about ob/gyn science and abortion.

The son of an ob/gyn who performed abortions says the media and medical professionals trying to pacify forced-birthers hasn’t worked out well.

Adoption is not the miracle solution to replacing abortion.

If abortion is illegal we’ll see more doctors reporting patients to the cops, even when not required.

Neither is Republican Senator Susan Collins saying she’s really, really upset that judges she voted to appoint didn’t tell the truth about their abortion views. It’s her MO in most awkward political situations — wring her hands and then do absolutely nothing. Other Republicans are focusing their outrage on whoever leaked the draft.

Alito’s draft opinion says gosh, his reasoning doesn’t apply to any rights or prior decisions but Roe, but the same logic could easily apply to rights of gay marriage, birth control and interracial marriage. LGM thinks gay marriage is the only one immediately at risk but I think the poster underestimates right-wing hostility to sexually active women. Though Republican pundits such as Megan McArdle are very loud that it’ll never happen.

But it can get better. Stopping medical abortions will be a lot tougher than surgical procedures. Voting pro-choice Dems into office or keeping them in office can help protect our rights (the Activate America campaign I’m working on now has that goal).

Some abortion providers in blue states are looking at other ways to help. Connecticut just passed a bill refusing to accept the various “sue a provider even out of state” laws red states are passing. More like this, please.

For more on the misogynist reasoning and lies of the forced-birth movement, read Undead Sexist Cliches, available as a Amazon paperback, an ebook and from several other retailers. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.

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

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

A good week, though not because of writing

This was not a wildly productive week, but I anticipated that. Today, you see, I set aside time to give blood; after I got back, I knew I wouldn’t be feeling creative. It’s the double-dosage donation though, so I won’t be back until  September.

Wednesday, also planned, we went to the North Carolina Zoo. TYG got us memberships as an anniversary gift in 2019 but our anniversary is the summer — way too hot — and the fall got crazy. Then came the pandemic. So it’s been a while. It’s laid out very well, with large enclosures for herds and animal families and lots of walking — it’s been a long time since I walked six miles on one day. Above, a hellbender; below, a puffin.It was a great day. It turns out I can turn down the noise in my mind  and focus when I have something this cool to pay attention to. And it’s always good to see that TYG and I can still spend hours together and enjoy it. The dogs went to a local day-boarding place for the first time in two years; I was quite tickled the staff remember them. But hey, they are awesome.

Somewhere in there, I did get work done. I sent off two short stories and two nonfiction queries on Monday and revamped Undead Sexist Cliches so that the paperback version now has a table of contents (I’d screwed up and omitted it). Amazon is currently reviewing the text for problems so I’ll have to link to the ebook for now.

Tuesday was the day to bat out about 5,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It turned out to be the day that got nibbled to death by distractions. A dead animal in the driveway that TYG asked me to remove. A spider in the house (ditto). And driving the car to get the tires checked before our 90 minute drive to the zoo. Plus it turns out that I simply sketched the plot of the next few chapters, figuring it would be much like it was in the last draft. Due to the changes in the first 25,000 words, it’s not going to fly. So not much done.

I had better luck Thursday with Adventure of the Red Leech. Going over it, I found my plot holds together much better than I thought. Rewriting shouldn’t be too hard. I didn’t get as far as I expected this week, though. First, I was still tired from our hike Wednesday. Second, I discovered Oh the Places You’ll Go!, which has been at the magazine I submitted to for around two months, wasn’t being strongly considered — they rejected it the first week but didn’t say so (possibly now that they’re using Moksha they expect everyone to check for themselves). That put me in a very unenthused mood for a couple of hours.

But it’s a good week, regardless. We must make an effort to do more fun stuff like this.

#SFWApro.

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

Unsurprisingly but disastrously, the Supreme Court has ended Roe.

It’s  a leaked draft but it appears it’s the real deal. LGM has initial analysis of what it means. For example, that the legal reasoning would also count against the right to birth control, gay marriage or interracial marriage.

I have nothing deep to say about this yet, other than that this has never been primarily about the rights of the fetus. It’s much more about how much the religious right hates women having sex without risk of pregnancy. After all, only men are supposed to enjoy sex before marriage. And because they tell themselves women never need life-saving abortions. The worst of them don’t see women as having any rights, any more than aquariums.

And beyond that, some Republicans simply can’t see the world through anyone else’s eyes. If an abortion ban isn’t a problem for them (they’re male, past childbearing age, they can afford to get one discreetly) it doesn’t concern them.

I think the analysis in Undead Sexist Cliches of abortion rights is still sound, even though it’s now out of date.  The Kindle version is listed separately. It’s also available from multiple other ebook retailers.

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Filed under Undead sexist cliches, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

I was slightly less than today years old when I learned the term “ethnogothic”

One of the standard complaints about using ETs (or mutants or whatever) as metaphors for immigrants or minorities (e.g., Brother From Another Planet, Alien Nation) is that it’s inherently offensive: black (or gay, or trans) Americans are not monsters or aliens and the metaphor just others them (though some POC and gays disagree).

In an text piece in the back of BITTER ROOT: Family Business by David F. Walker, Chuck Brown and Sanford Greene, the essayist (I don’t remember their name) said one way around this is the “ethnogothic” approach. Rather than using the weird as a metaphor for minorities, use magic or SF to throw a fresh perspective on bigotry and racial issues.

The book concerns the Sangerye family, mages who fight against the Jinoo. Whenever someone becomes totally consumed by racism, they transform into a Jinoo monster; the Sangerye purge the hate and the monster out of them (I’m not clear whether this kills the bigots or not). This first TPB in the series involves a survivor of the Tulsa massacre who thinks the Sangerye way is too soft — he has his own plans for dealing with racists.

Bitter Root makes racists into monsters, literally and physically, but it doesn’t excuse them: the transformation into Jinoo comes from giving into hate, it doesn’t cause it. The book, set in 1920s Harlem, has no qualms showing how utterly malevolent the treatment of black Americans was in that era. It’s also solidly entertaining.

I can think of other examples that might qualify as ethnogothic. The CW’s Black Lightning, where metahumans manifesting in a black community, as one preacher points out, just give cops one more excuse to kill them. Lovecraft Country. Ballad of Black Tom, with its bleak despair of America ever improving, and the equally bleak Sidney Poitier movie Brother John.

“Ethnogothic” fits a trend I think I’d half-registered but never thought about collectively. I imagine I’ll have more examples to review down the road.

#SFWApro. Cover by Greene, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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As predicted, returning to average (maybe better).

As I said last week, bad streaks don’t last any more than lucky ones. While this wasn’t a stellar week, I did get quite a bit done.

Most notably I finished the first 25,000 words of my Impossible Takes a Little Longer rewrite and it’s surprisingly good. The surprising part is that after rewriting the first few chapters it goes in several new directions. That’s usually the point at which my rewriting breaks down and becomes a struggle. Instead it’s moving along nicely. A long way from polished, but a solid draft. I added about 12,000 words to what I’d already accomplished.

I also put in a little time on my Southern Discomfort rewrite. Still going well, and putting Maria’s scenes in first person still feels like the right choice.

That was pretty much it other than some Leaf bill-paying work. And getting a rejection on Glory That Was (sigh).  On the plus side, I sold something at Amazon, though I can’t yet see which book it was (I hate that about their publishing system). Oh, and over at Atomic Junkshop I squeeze one last blog post out of rereading 1964’s comics. As you can see from the above Wally Wood illustrations, it involves Daredevil vs … a matador? Plus a remarkable Superman story. Then I cross-posted an old one from this blog, on the travesty of the Will Smith/Kevin Costner Wild Wild West reboot.

In my persona life, I got the second Covid booster Tuesday. Arm hurt way more than previous shots but no other negative effects. Regrettably it didn’t hook my brain up to 5G internet either. Just think how easy it would be to download porn if nobody could see it! And my vertigo has decreased to the point I have only one more physical therapy appointment, a month from now.

In addition to all that, I would have liked to work on the short stories I’m working to finish. Falling behind on a novel, however, usually works out worse.

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

 

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Writing