Category Archives: Atlas Shagged

Surrounded by pets, but missing my angel

So last Sunday, TYG headed out of town for a business trip, leaving me as a single doggy parent until she returned this morning. Quite aside from missing her, it was a weird adjustment.

Our dogs aren’t the independent type: when we’re home, they expect to be with us. Snuggled in the lap is, of course, the ideal. Or being in the kitchen hoping for a delicious treat.We usually adjust to their wishes. So I’d wake up, go down and make tea, come back up and drink it in bed while I read. Then I’d do some work for a couple of hours. Then we go down and begin the morning dog routines and walkies.

At least that was the theory. The practice proved erratic. Tuesday morning Plushie wanted very badly to go downstairs. Thursday and Friday I made sure to give him extra snuggles in the bed — he doesn’t always come and ask the way Trixie does — and he liked it so much he squirmed into my lap in a position where I couldn’t write (I’d have had to rest the lap desk right on him). I did not, of course, remove him.

As we walk the dogs separately that meant twice as much time devoted to walkies. Fortunately it’s beautiful out this week, chilly-to-cold but I can live with that. And as I didn’t exercise other than walkies or do my yoga — dogs take it as body language for Snuggle With Me — I guess the time balanced out.

Things did get more complicated when Wisp or Snowdrop showed up and I had more pets to deal with. Still it’s great to see Wisp coming in more and even napping on the back of the couch again.

Snowdrop began meowing plaintively when she met up with me and the dogs in the yard. I think he missed TYG — we’ll see how he reacts now that she’s back.

As TYG went off with a lot of her ingredients unused I postponed my own cooking plans and worked on using up the leftovers: rice and veggie bowl, frittatta, apple tart, roasted grapes with rosemary. Good stuff.

Oh, work? The week started off well but bogged down. When I take care of the dogs for this long, there’s something about the constant lack of space that sands down my ability to think. Thursday I was working slow; today I got nothing but the bare minimum done, even after TYG came back.

I completed almost all my promotional work for Questionable Minds. I’ll wrap up the rest Monday.

I got another chapter done for Impossible Takes a Little Longer … and promptly decided to revise it. It’s a slow, character-centric chapter which would be fine except it’s following another one. So once again, I’m moving up catastrophes originally scheduled for later chapters. I’ll get onto that next week.

I also had an insight how several disconnected ideas might work together to create one novel. But that’s for later … well, maybe.

And I got another accounting article done. While I fell several hours short of my hourly goal for the week but under the circumstances I think that’s acceptable. Hopefully the multiple appointments we have next week won’t derail me further.

Oh, plus I got paid for the upcoming reprint of Happiest Place on Earth, plus one book sales of Undead Sexist Cliches, plus someone checked out Atlas Shagged on Hoopla (a library service that pays a little per checkout). Whoever my two readers are, I hope you liked the books and I thank you for investing the time on my work.



Filed under Atlas Shagged, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, The Dog Ate My Homework, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

I finished Aliens Are Here two days ahead of deadline!

And wow, was that a load off me.

I spent the last days of September noting all the corrections on the PDF. And realized that while the book would definitely have benefited from a final going-over to clean up my writing, it’s not as clunky as I thought. So yay. The Aliens Are Here should be out later this month, if everything proceeds smoothly.

The proofed manuscript was due today, but I got it in Wednesday. We had our neighbor’s dog Kaya staying with us yesterday and I didn’t want to be obligated to work. Though she spent a lot of the day sitting in her crate — she’d been staying with another family for a couple of days and I think the second move just overwhelmed her. But she and Trixie did some heavy chasing first.

I also wanted a chance to kick back before I started/resumed any projects. So I took today and yesterday to read, watch extra TV, think about September goals and donate blood (this morning).

It’s a relief to have the book off my hands, though it hasn’t entirely sunk in yet. Wrapping it up was exhausting; it’ll take me a while to feel yay! instead of phew! But soon I will have copies in hand.

Oh, and I got royalties for my previous McFarland books this week, plus someone checked out a copy of Atlas Shagged on Hoopla. Unlike regular library checkouts, this digital service pays a small fee every time someone borrows one of my books through their local library. Cool, huh?

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



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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Time management and goals, Writing

My One Simple Scheduling Trick is actually working pretty well

Not that my new system made my week go smooth, but no question it’s helping me get perspective on what I should be doing. Much as I want to work on Undead Sexist Cliches, I’ve used up the time for the month and need to do a lot of work on Alien Visitors. So that’s what I shall do next week.

This week? Well, this was entirely Leaf and Veterans Network stuff (my story on VA home loans came out this week). Money assignments, alas, always take priority. And unfortunately I was bogged down by all the chaos from last week. I wound up working a little Saturday and Sunday to get extra Leafs done; with TYG’s friend visiting, that wound up taking much more time than it should have. And working on the weekend left me wiped the rest of the week so everything took longer than it should have. Including my Atomic Junkshop post on how pandemic reality once again tops fiction. Seriously, would anyone write a story where we use a lottery and offers of free beer to convince people to vaccinate against a deadly disease? And if someone did, it would be a comedy.

Between TYG’s friend (he stayed through Tuesday), taking the dogs to the groomer and my checkup yesterday, my time was further constrained. I didn’t even get to give blood yet, which was (and is) one of my priorities once the vaccine took effect. Next week, for sure! It’s in the schedule now. I didn’t even exercise as much as usual. However the doctor says I’m doing really well: cholesterol not great (it rarely is) but compared to a year ago I’ve lost weight and my blood pressure’s down. I celebrated, as usual, by spending today scarfing everything (I’m health! My body can take it!). Back to normal tomorrow.

So that’s it. Not an exciting week, though for me a profitable one. And I did sell one copy of Atlas Shagged. I made 26 cents (it was the ebook) but I still appreciate whoever took a chance on me.

To wrap up with, here’s a cover by James Bama — only it’s not the cover that grabs my attention as that thuddingly literal title. Not that thuddingly literal can’t work (e.g., Snakes on a Plane, I Married a Monster From Outer Space), but “Tyrant and Slave-Girl on Planet Venus” really doesn’t sing.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.


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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Nonfiction, Personal, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

This harrows me with dread and awe

This was a much better week than last week.

You may recall my big disappointment (if you don’t recall, click on the link!) was running into a plot hole at the climax of Questionable Minds. This week, I sat down and started doodling ideas and presto, I found the solution. I’ll want to look over the ending again, but the book is done. I also completed the footnotes of Undead Sexist Cliches so that’s done too. That explains the awe.

The dread is that now I’m going to release them into the world. Self-published stuff, and not previously published like the stories in Atlas Shagged or Atoms for Peace. And much more substantial than Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast. I feel the inevitable trepidation — what if despite all my work, they suck? What if nobody buys them, like, ever? But regardless I’m forging ahead (well of course).

I did have a talented friend working on the cover for Questionable Minds but I think over the course of the pandemic she’s wound up checking out. Which I didn’t worry about when I was slogging through the middle of the book, but now? Kind of need it. So if I don’t get a response to my recent “how’s it going?” I’ll have to hunt elsewhere. Darn it. And also for Undead Sexist Cliches. Though that one’s slightly easier as I have a good idea what I want.  Assuming I can find a cover artist, I’ll be done with both before my birthday. The biggest obstacle will be indexing Undead Sexist Cliches for the hard copy version.

Dread, but definitely awe.

Other than the two books, I did some leafs, watched some movies for Alien Visitors and wrote some of the chapters. I’d hoped to work on some short stories, but no, the added demands of dog care ate into that. Still, I’m pleased with what I accomplished.

Definitely some awe.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover are mine.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

A good week, but I didn’t stick the landing

Which is to say, today was a mess. A lot of minor personal distractions added up and worried at me until I couldn’t think straight. I did get my first Leaf of the new writing cycle done, though, so money’s started flowing in again. Which is good. But that and some cleaning was all I got done.

Up until today, though, the week was productive. Let’s see …

I finished another draft of Death Is Like A Box of Chocolates for the writer’s group Tuesday. As I expected, I didn’t get to read (we do three an evening and I was sixth) so I continued tinkering with it. I may make some more changes before the next meeting, when I’ll definitely be reading. I think it’s looking as good as I can take it without more feedback.

I put in a lot of work in on Chapter Four of Undead Sexist ClichesI think I’m going back to some form of that title instead of Sexist Myths — and it’s now actually organized. That’s a big step because it’s a rather unwieldy mix of several loosely related cliches, but nowhere near as tightly tied together as the rape chapters.

Leaf articles are back although I didn’t get much done this week. The same little distractions I mentioned above.

I got one short story returned and submitted a different one. I’m not bothered by the rejection as it was quite a long shot.

And I finished two more chapters of this draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It’s consistently better than my previous “finished” version in every way, except it really is going to end up pretty short. But hey, there are publishers for long-form but not novel-length fiction, and in the worst-case scenario I can still self-publish.

And I ordered a copy of Questionable Minds, my psi-steampunk novel, from Amazon to proof. It doesn’t have the cover illustration yet, or the back-cover promotional copy, but I learned from my last two books like the one below that this is the best way to make a good, solid edit (no, I don’t intend to pay for one). I’ll start work on that next month.

Plus as I’ll be appearing at MystiCon next month, I ordered some of my own books to sell. Hopefully it’ll be worth it.

Have a great weekend everyone. I may collapse Saturday, then back to work on Leaf Sunday.

#SFWApro. Cover is mine.


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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Short Stories, Time management and goals, Writing

2018 was not the year I anticipated

So out of 103 goals of varying complexity and importance, I accomplished 53 percent of them. That’s consistent with my performance for 2016 and 2017. As I don’t give myself any rewards for achieving them, I’m satisfied with the percentage. I set my list high, after all (rewards make a good incentive, but it’s hard to find something I wouldn’t do for myself or buy for myself anyway).

The bad news is that my creative output really fell way short of my aspirations. My top goal was to finish Southern Discomfort and submit it; didn’t happen. I wanted to finish four short stories; I didn’t manage any. I only occasionally pitched nonfiction pieces to any markets. I didn’t finish the Undead Sexist Cliches book.

The main reason was that my steady freelance gigs got in the way. Which is not a bad thing—I made well above my writing income goals for the year—but working on Leaf articles and Screen Rant took a lot of time. Particularly as the minimum Screen Rant listicle got longer and some of the topics got further away from my areas of expertise (like finding 17 secrets about the Nick TV show Victorious). Even though Screen Rants are fun and they gave me a chance to play with my writing style, I gave up the gig in the summer; it was just consuming too much of my writing week and Leaf, while duller, paid better.

I have learned from this. It’s the main reason I haven’t started submitting one nonfiction proposal in my files to publishers yet: I think it would just consume too much time and I’d like to do a lot more fiction in 2019.

I did self-publish the paperback edition of Atlas Shagged and Atoms for Peace, though, and I’m quite pleased with them. And I stuck to my goal of only checking email three times a day during work. And I finally got around to putting a PayPal donation link in the sidebar. Oh, and it occurs to me I don’t even bother setting any goals about staying as a full-time writer: barring disaster (which can’t be eliminated of course) it seems like I’m secure in that path.

In nonwriting goals, I kept the bird feeder filled, used sunscreen regularly when walking the dogs or bicycling and bicycled almost once every week (even discounting the weeks the weather didn’t permit it, I didn’t make the cut, but I’m doing better than last year). I called my elected officials off and on, and wrote them a couple of times, though I doubt it did much good (nor blogging about their pathetic performance). I traveled outside Durham several times, mostly with TYG (Mystacon was a solo act, on the other hand) and I got to see my brother and niece in October at my dad’s 90th birthday shindig.

Goals aside, it was a good year (not counting the frequent train wrecks emanating from President Shit-Gibbon). I snuggled with dogs and TYG, spent more social time than last year with friends, read a bunch of books and watched a lot of movies. I hung out more with the neighbors on our cul-de-sac and kept my weight to a reasonable level (not so much this past week, but that’s normal). I turned sixty and threw myself a birthday party (usually it’s just me and TYG). I enjoyed seeing my family (it’s not like they’re just a checkmark on a list) and catching up with my niece for the first time since she became an adult.

Next year I intend to keep having fun. But with more fiction. Details tomorrow.

Happy new year everyone.

#SFWApro. Cover by Gil Kane, all rights remain with current holder




Filed under Atlas Shagged, Atoms for Peace, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

I didn’t actually work this week

It was our annual trip to the Mensa national gathering, this time in Indianapolis. I’ll be blogging about it next week. However as this marks halfway through the year, I thought I’d look again at how my Plot Your Work Planner helped me accomplish goals (or didn’t). Or if you prefer, how well I did by the metrics I wrote into it.

Much to my surprise, I did pretty well. Which is a fringe benefit of writing down goals — it’s much easier to see how much I actually got done. Taking the April to June goals, one at a time:

Southern Discomfort went well. I’m actually further along in the final draft than I expected. I have a cover letter drafted (I’ll be revising it), though I didn’t finish my synopsis.

•I completed 30,000 words on the Undead Sexist Cliches book.

•I released Atlas Shagged in hard copy (it’s also available in ebook).

•I finished another draft The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I think I’ve figured out how to fix the problems — we’ll see if my reasoning holds up (I want to get at least half of the revised draft done in the next three months)

•I made some final changes to Questionable Minds, submitted it, and got turned down. I’m ready to go ahead and self-publish this one (though not right away). After all, Barbarian Books accepted it before closing their doors, so I have an outside verification it’s worth reading.

What I didn’t get done: Short stories. I wanted to have No One Can Slay Her done back in March and another story (probably Angels Hate This Man) in June. Nope. Neither done, though No One‘s pretty close — a final draft should have it done, but I have to work out the final fixes first.

Given I was also doing Screen Rant and all my Leaf articles, that’s pretty good results, I think. And the planner is definitely helping me keep track of things — I intend to order another one for 2019.

#SFWApro. All rights to journal design remain with current holder. Atlas Shagged cover is mine; painting is Atlas and the Hesperides by Singer-Sargent.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

Publishing, one way or another

So last week I began the search for someone to draw my book cover for Atoms for Peace. It’s slightly nerve-wracking (what if I pick the wrong cover and destroy the book’s chances?) but it needs to be done. So I’m pleased I’m taking a necessary step.

But it also makes me appreciate why so many writers are adamant about not going indie. This is me, spending money up front with no certainty I’ll ever make it up on the back end. Making decisions about cover art which is not my forté, even given I got lots of ideas from writing friends on what to include/not include. Admittedly Atlas Shagged turned out okay visually, but finding an image is different from ordering one up.

A writer discussed the money side recently on Twitter. To get the income she needs, she has to go traditional, with more than one book a year. Spending money on cover images, marketing, etc. isn’t affordable. If it were, say, 10 years ago, I wouldn’t afford it either (this was back when Freedom Communications was getting real cheap with us employees). Even now, there’s a limit to how much I’m willing to spend on a cover. I’ve yet to spend any money on marketing. And it looks like changes at Amazon will reduce the royalties on CreateSpace paperbacks which doesn’t help.

Which is why while I’m self-publishing some stuff, I’m still going to submit Southern Discomfort to a trad publisher when it’s done. The same for The Impossible Takes a Little Longer (when I finish it) and for the nonfiction Space Invaders (assuming I do go ahead with it).  As I said back in March, the copy-editing and proofreading required for a major film book are more than I should take on myself. I’ve never finished a book that McFarland didn’t have to correct errors. I suppose I could hire someone, but that’s more outlay on my part.  Questionable Minds will probably be self-published as I think I’ve exhausted the publishing options.

Another factor, as countless indie authors have pointed out, is that what they’re doing is running a small business. Of course that’s true for every writer; every one of us, traditional or indie, is the sole proprietor of our own business. The indie end is just a lot more businessy. Being boss of myself is one thing, but dealing with (potentially) marketers, artists, editors, etc? To paraphrase John Rogers of TV’s The Librarians, lots of talented writers don’t have the skill-set to manage that kind of business, or the money to pay someone to do it. As the publisher of Falstaff Books put it, that’s why he started the company — he’s willing to take on those details and let writers get to writing.

This is a kind of rambling post as I don’t really have strong opinions yet. The stuff I’ve self-published has generated a little revenue, but nothing that makes me feel this is where I should put all my chips. So who knows? Not me, apparently.

We shall see if I figure it out.
#SFWApro. Book cover is mine, image is Sargent’s Atlas and the Hesperides.


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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Southern Discomfort, Writing

It was one of those life vs. art weeks

So TYG’s and my car is a VW Golf with a diesel engine. We learned last year that it was one of the cars where Volkswagen rigged the emissions system to show it ran cleaner than it really did. Having been caught, they gave us (and everyone else) the choice of a buyback or an emissions fix with a cash compensation. We like the car so we went with B. I took it in Tuesday for Phase One (it’s a two-phase fix). As I’d set the appointment early, I went without TYG, which meant she couldn’t sign for the loaner. That would require me to run her in to work (the fix would take most of the day) but I figured I’d take the day to get various odds and ends done, so it should work out (I took the day off from writing).

First odd-and-end was donating blood. I’m about a six weeks overdue, so I figured I’d seize the opportunity. I went apheresis, where you donate double the normal amount of blood cells, but I’d forgotten how much that leaves me wiped out. Suffice to say, I didn’t get anything else done that day.

Still, no big, except that very day VW finally greenlighted the Phase Two part of the fix (don’t ask me, I don’t know the tech). We became the local dealer’s first customer to receive it. As a result, we wouldn’t get our car back until Wednesday. While it was good to get it all taken care of in one trip, this cut into Wednesday big time. Drive TYG to her office, a couple of other errands, pick TYG up, it added up. Plus we had the plumber in.

I made up the time with some work in the evening, but I felt really wiped. And still do. I’ve been feeling out-of-balance much of the month; things do seem to be coming back into alignment, but I think this week set things back a ways.

I did finish another draft of Angels Hate This Man, and I finally finished the redraft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I believe I see how to work out the kinks, I just have to pick one of the two or three options and go with it for the next draft.

I finished my newest Screen Rant, on superheroes who teamed up with Thanos. Hopefully the tie in with the new Avengers film will grab some eyeballs.

One anthology returned Schloss and the Switchblade, though expressing copious regret they weren’t quite large enough to include it (it did get to top 26 out of 700 submissions). It went out again, and came back again. And will go out again, eventually.

And of course, Atlas Shagged is out. I did not get around to submitting Questionable Minds — should have it done next week though.

Plus I got in my slate of little articles for Leaf.

So I think Art held its own against Life. But I sure feel worn out by the struggle.

#SFWApro. Comic book panels by Jim Starlin, all rights remain with current holder.



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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Time management and goals

Atlas Shagged is a go!

Now live from CreateSpace, my newest short story collection.

This isn’t exactly the same as the ebook. I added in the stories from my ebook Philosophy and Fairytales so it’s a good deal longer. We have:

Atlas Shagged

The Wodehouse Murder Case

The Sword of Darcy

Dark Satanic Mills

Learning Curve

Original Synergy

Jack Be Nimble

Red Moon Rising

Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears the Clown

Links are to the Story Behind the Story blog posts on each yarn.

Feel free to buy a copy. No, honestly, go right ahead, no need to feel bashful or unworthy.

Now that that’s done, on to Atoms for Peace. One thing working on Atlas Shagged has taught  me, I need to do a better job proofreading. I think actually getting Atoms for Peace printed as a trial-run paperback and proofing that will focus my eyes much better.

#SFWApro. Cover image is John Singer Sargent’s “Atlas of the Hesperides.” Rights to cover are mine.


Filed under Atlas Shagged, Atoms for Peace, Writing