Category Archives: Writing

I may be running slightly out of steam …

Which may be due to lack of sleep — okay, it’s definitely partly lack of sleep — or that to get Alien Visitors done, I’m not taking any complete days off.

Either way, I realized this morning that I needed to take a break from the book. I did a Leaf, worked on Undead Sexist Cliches and finished the Golem article. That  required rereading Gustav Meyrink’s The Golem as my editor wanted to include it (fair enough — it was a critically acclaimed novel that sold a lot). I can’t say I liked it more than my first reading, but I can appreciate why it’s strangeness found an audience.

I still have to give the article a final proofread, but I think I’m done.

Earlier in the week, though, things went great. I have a solid draft of every chapter in Alien Visitors except the comedy and Men in Black chapters. The other chapters still need rewriting, but I think they’re at the point where it’ll go smoother, and hopefully faster, than these first drafts have.

I also got lots of movies and TV watched, including more X-Files, a British show called Undermind (doesn’t quite qualify) and a couple of episodes of Ben 10.

Wisp has resumed coming in overnight so apparently she’s over the trauma of being bunged in a cage last week. Snowdrop has been showing up regularly, though she doesn’t come in yet. She and Wisp seem on good enough terms Wisp doesn’t steal her food; then again, she’s quite happy to snarf Wisp’s if she can get away with it.

We had a minor alarm with Trixie midweek, when she moped around as she does with a bad stomach upset, except she was happy to eat. We made an appointment for her but the next day she was fine. We canceled, though we both worried that once it was too late, the symptoms would recur. They didn’t. That’s a relief — I love my little terrier/chihuahua.

Come on, who couldn’t love that face?

#SFWapro. Cover by Ernie Chan, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Disruptions come on little cat feet

So last weekend, TYG noticed that Wisp’s back left foot looked as if it had some sort of bite or cut. We sprayed it a couple of times without noticeable effect, other than stressing Wisp out — she really didn’t like it and tried to avoid it. But I got photos, which we showed to the vet, and they said to bring her in. So the next morning we tried various tricks, unsuccessfully, to lure Wisp into a cage. Finally TYG just picked her up and bunged her in.

We covered it with a blanket to calm her down but it didn’t help. Piteous meowing followed. When that didn’t get her out, Wisp began clawing at the sheet under the cage, pulling it in. I’m not sure what good she thought that would do.

The vet told us the foot had been bitten or scratched, and become infected. They gave her a big shot of antibiotics and we brought her home. Since then, she hasn’t slept inside the house once. I’m not sure how much it’s Snowdrop’s influence and how much she’s lost trust that we’re a safe space. I hope she’ll be back in soon.

That made Tuesday pretty chaotic, but overall the week went well.  I got work done on several chapters of Alien Visitors and finished proofing the harassment chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. Did my Leaf articles. Accomplished some film viewing and research reading for Alien Visitors too.

I also asked my editor for an extension so that I can catch Eternals and add it to the Gods From Outer Space chapter. They’re good with it. I shall use the added time to add some depth to the chapters. I admit I’m a little disappointed not to have everything wrapped up at the end of this month, it’s also a relief not to have to wrap everything up.

Oh, and for the second time since I started paying state sales tax on copies of my books sold, the state processing fee was less than the money I made off the books. Achievement unlocked!

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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.

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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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Traitors, translation and adaptation

The title of SYMPATHY FOR THE TRAITOR: A Translation Manifesto by author and translator Mark Polizzotti is appropriately enough derived from a pun in Italian — traitor and translator sound alike in that tongue — that doesn’t translate. It sums up what Polizzotti argues is the essential challenge for translators: do they stick faithfully to the language even when the results don’t make sense or change the language to capture the feeling of the original.

Polizzotti comes down on the second option but he also discusses the case for absolute faithfulness. He also covers issues such as how much change is too much; how to translate poetry and puns where exact wording is really important; who decides what should be translated; and cultural appropriation. If someone translates a Thai novel, say, into English and replaces distinctive Thai cultural elements with English ones, are they really making it more accessible or just turning it into an English knockoff?

And what about cultural roadblocks, where what’s normal in the land of the original language would be shocking to readers of a faithful translation. Case in point, the ESV Bible eliminating “slave” in favor of “bondservant” to the point “if you read that translation you would have no idea that the original translation — and I think the most appropriate translation — would be ‘slave.'” (Fred Clark discusses this in a series of posts).

It occurred to me while reading the book that much of this applies to updating older stories and characters (e.g., League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) or giving them a cultural/gender twist.  I think it’s cool to have a free hand here — The Bad Sleep Well is an excellent film even though I’d never have pegged it for a Hamlet reworking — though cultural appropriation could be an issue (e.g., taking a Japanese drama and reworking it into an American one).

It also applies to adaptations, where I think it gets trickier. When someone turns a novel or short story into a TV show or a movie, it’s usually not feasible to do it exactly as in the original without looking awkward; however too free an adaptation will have fans of the original feeling they got ripped off. How much can you change it before you’re just doing a name-only adaptation?

As Polizzotti notes, there’s no clear rule you can use — it’s a matter of judgment and art, even if we sometimes judge wrong.

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Undead Sexual Cliches: Harassment is an arbitrary term and accusers are anonymous

Covering two cliches about sexual harassment today. First, the complaint that, according to antifeminist Suzanne Venker, “harassment is a vague term because it’s so subjective.” This is an argument I’ve seen a lot: almost anything can be classed as harassment if a woman takes offense. It’s impossible for a man to know when he’s harassing a woman. Business owner Paula Fargo in writing about how harmful #metoo supposedly is complains cases “run the gamut from hurt feelings all the way to ‘hostile work environments'” — if there’s no physical assault we’re just dealing with a woman’s “perception you are being sexually harassed” It’s just a matter of opinion. Daphne Merkin complains about a “disturbing lack of clarity” in “sexual harassment.”

This is similar to a standard argument against prosecuting date rape: the boundary for consent is so vague and arbitrary, guys can’t tell they’re doing anything wrong. Just because a woman thinks the guy crossed a line does that make it so? But the legal boundaries aren’t that vague. Federal guidelines say harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, verbal and physical harassment “of a sexual nature” or offensive remarks about women in general. It does not include teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents unless they become so frequent or severe it creates a “hostile or offensive work environment” or affects the victim’s career (e.g., firing them).

That’s not vague. It is partly subjective — is a given sexual advance welcome or unwelcome? — but that seems reasonable. It doesn’t mean, as Warren Farrell and others have claimed that harassment is anything a woman says it is. I’m confident that “he’s reading Mickey Spillane, a sexist author — that’s harassment!” wouldn’t fly, not that I’ve ever heard anything even remotely comparable. Admittedly some questions — is teasing is bad enough to create a hostile work environment? — could be vague and/or subjective, but that’s true of a lot of legal matters.

Were party A’s words so inflammatory they justified a physical response? Was a doctor’s error an understandable mistake or so bad as to constitute negligence?  Whether a police shooting or a stand your ground case is justified can depend on whether the shooter felt genuinely endangered or not. Was the killer acting in cold blood (first degree murder) or did they lose control and act in a rage (second degree)? So far as I know, the only place antifeminists object to subjectivity is when it comes to harassment.

Closely related are the arguments that “An equal amount of fury is directed toward actions as morally — and legally — distinct from each other as rape, harassment, rudeness, boorishness and incivility” as Lee Siegel claims. Or editor Rick MacArthur’s argument that #metoo “has had an unfortunate tendency to lump together everybody from Harvey Weinstein to the guy who looked at you funny at the lunchroom at the office cantina or who maybe sent you a suggestive message.” See, it’s so vague, any man can get into trouble!

The trouble with this argument is that nobody’s getting fired for looking at someone funny over lunch or sending a suggestive message. They are being talked about, as in the Shitty Media Men list, but that’s not the same thing. Saying (as someone in the list did) that someone sent you a creepy direct message is not getting people fired. It’s doing what women have long done, warn others in private (the list wasn’t originally meant to go public) about guys you should stay away from (“No, you don’t want a coaching session alone with Harry. Trust me.”). It may be just silly and unfair …but then again, maybe not (the link has some discussion of this). Violence predictor Gavin DeBecker has discussed that people can often pick up on Danger even if they can’t pin down why. I don’t think “looked at me funny” would be a good standard for firing anyone, but as a warning between colleagues? It might be.

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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!

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Links and quotes about writing and reading

The first three were going to be the basis for long posts in themselves. But it’s been a while and I still don’t have anything to say, so I’ll toss them out as they stand.

Writing about her first book, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, NK Jemisin once said she’d always had trouble with the idea of Lord of the Rings that all the heroes should do is fix the world and restore it to normal: ” Yeah, sure, there’s a certain mental comfort food in the idea of putting the world back to rights. But there’s always a part of me that wonders, which rights should it be put back to? Did the heroes make the best choice, or just the easiest one? Who gets to answer that question? But such questions aren’t easy to answer, which is why I think a lot of fantasy simply doesn’t try.” I think it’s a good question even though Jemisin is wrong about LOTR — they don’t restore the world to normal, they end the Age.

2)Marvel editor-in chief Tom Brevoort had a post on his blog some time back about superhero morality particularly as it applies to the transition to movies. Comics are still widely seen as a kids’ medium so a lot of heroes carry an old-school don’t kill morality with them. Movies on the other hand, even superhero movies, aspire to an audience that includes a lot of adults and in action film that usually means killing as catharsis: the bad guy’s gonna pay for what he did.

3)My fellow Atomic Junkshop scribe Greg hatcher wrote the following about Batman writers who try to go excessively adult: “He’s still fighting the Adam West fight,” is how my friends and I refer to it. You can always tell when someone’s fighting the Adam West fight in a modern superhero story; mostly because there will be jarringly inappropriate sex scenes, the violence is way over the top, and everyone swears like a sailor…. But it’s still your basic chase, explosion, good guy hits bad guy, the end plot.”

Now, other links:

One problem with Batman adaptations is that the writers can’t make a mystery only Batman can solve which results in bad Batman plots.

A company launches a proposed YA rating system. Foz Meadows explains the problems with it.

Why one Sikh cosplays as a bearded, bespectacled Captain America.

The problem with autistic characters in movies.

“A romance story is a story in which a woman is the most significant damn thing in the book.”

Why it’s sometimes a problem to give a character a tragic revenge backstory.

There’s a popular legend that Bruce Lee created the concept for the Kung Fu TV series and the showrunners stole it. It isn’t true.

You may have heard this already, but the grown-up baby on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind is now suing them on the grounds the cover image is child porn.

It’s hard to be a fan when your faves can turn out to be monsters.

Researching the 1930s.

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TYG and I weren’t planning to become a two-cat family

But we’ve had “White Cat” (placeholder name) irregularly sniffing around our house for a couple of months now. More recently she’s been sniffing and mewing plaintively for food, so we fed her. Happily she likes a brand of soft food I bought for Wisp much more than Wisp does.

Wisp, surprisingly, is quite chill with her. None of the aggressive territorial defense I’ve seen with other cats. I don’t know what the difference is. She’s nowhere near as skittish as Wisp. She runs away from us if we get too close, but it took Wisp a year before she’d let me come as close as White Cat does here.She’s definitely been a house pet, probably more recently than Wisp was when we met her. White Cat also seems a lot less comfortable surviving on her own. Did someone just decide to dump her? We’ll never know.

We have an appointment at the feral/stray cat clinic Sept. 26  for spay/neuter and general checkup. Hopefully our new acquaintance will show up the night before and get trapped (we have the trap cage already). Where we go from there, who knows? We aren’t looking for more pets, but as the saying goes, you cannot leave the work unfinished.

Speaking of work, I did get some of that done too. I squeezed in seven Leaf articles at the start of the week, then for whatever reason the flow stopped. The timing is convenient as that meant more work on Alien Visitors; that said, it probably means lower than usual income for the month. I did sell another copy of Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast and made $24 in royalties on my film books for the past six months, but that won’t pay the bills. Which isn’t to say I’m unhappy — it’s a real kick that 20 years after it came out, Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan still sells a few copies a year.

Work on Alien Visitors is going well but it takes much more time than I anticipate. Given my looming deadline, that makes me a little uneasy, but if I keep my nose to the grindstone, it’s doable. I did some scheduling today to make sure of that. I want to make sure I write some of it every day — not that this is more efficient but I noticed at the start of the week, when I’d done nothing but watch movies and write Leafs, I slept very poorly. Stress does that.

I also proofed the introduction and first two chapters of Undead Sexist Cliches and I’m pleased. My previous editing was good enough I only had one section where I needed to make major changes. So I think I’m still on track for an end of October release.

All in all, not a bad week.

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Despite a moment of panic, this week went well

So after my crown went in Wednesday, I celebrated by having a meal of crunchy granola … and felt a grinding sensation, not from my crown but the cap on the other side. And when I checked with my tongue, I found it was missing. So I called the dentist … and it turned out I was imagining it. No gap that wasn’t there before. Everything’s fine. It still feels funny, but I’m confident my dentist is more objective than I am.

Leaf articles didn’t start back up until the end of the week so I put in a lot of time on Alien Visitors. I have three chapters and the introduction in good, though rough shape; barring disaster, it is actually doable by deadline. I do have to start ordering posters and photos as illustrations though — I’ve left that too long. My original plan was to buy them a couple each month; it won’t be easy to absorb now, but it’ll be manageable. I watched fewer movies than planned, but I’m still on track there, too.

I also started on the final proof of Undead Sexist Cliches and began to think about marketing, promotion, book blurbs (trigger warnings will be a must — some of this stuff I’m critiquing is creepy as shit).

Less than a couple of months and both books will be done. Then it’s back to fiction at last.

And now, time to put up the computer and relax. Have fun, y’all.

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