Category Archives: Atlas Shagged

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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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.

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The Whisper of the Tax

So this week my writing time was distorted by having to finish the state and federal tax forms. Tuesday I went over them and caught a bunch of errors. One was from entering the same deduction twice; one was from writing down a deduction but not subtracting it from my writing income; and several were just math errors. I went over that last lot several times, just to be sure they were finally right.

(Title, by the way, borrows from Richard Condon’s terrorist thriller, The Whisper of the Axe)

After that was all done, I printed them up yesterday and mailed them off today. So they’re done!!! But that did cut into my writing time, so I missed my 1,000 words a day goal for Thursday and Friday. I had a productive week just the same.

I got out my latest Screen Rant, on superheroes and villains fans didn’t know had siblings. Swamp Thing’s brother from a dreadful mid-1970s reboot. Dr. Strange’s vampire brother. And Thomas Wayne Jr., the brother Batman didn’t know he had. I still find that slightly incredible, because unlike Dr. Strange, Swamp Thing and some of the other characters in the list, it was well established Bruce Wayne was an only child. But then World’s Finest as edited by Murray Boltinoff saw nothing wrong with claiming Superman and Batman had kids, either. Below, courtesy of Dick Dillin’s art, Batman learns the truth.

Nick Fury’s brother Jake, on the other hand, has been well established since the Silver Age, he just hovers right below the awareness of the average comics reader. And wow, he’s been really heavily retconned, as I discovered researching the article. Below, writer/artist Jim Steranko introduces him killing Nick.

I completed ten Leaf articles, and got about 6,000 words done on Undead Sexist Cliches. And I finally figured out how to fix No One Can Slay Her and finish it. I still want the writer’s group (or someone) to give it a beta reading, but I feel very pleased with it. I’d hoped to get some work in polishing Questionable Minds, but the taxes took care of that. I did give the green light to publish Atlas Shagged but it won’t be up for sale until next week.

On the downside, my mind could not seem to focus in the evening, so I got next to no reading done. I hate that. As of last night, though, I seem to be over it.

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

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

A productive, yet frustrating week

I feel pleased with my work this week. Just getting a good day’s work out of today despite having some sort of allergic reaction to the spring pollen (nothing serious, just kind of wiped out) or maybe the vaccine I got at the doctor’s yesterday makes me pleased with my own commitment.

But the one thing I most wanted to get done was finish No One Can Slay Her, and I didn’t. There’s a problem with the third quarter, and things were hectic enough (very needy dogs, annual medical checkup) that I couldn’t clear my mind enough to pinpoint it. And the downside of my “1,000 words of fiction a day” guideline is that the writing can suck up the time I’d otherwise use to plot, replot and think. That’s not a bad thing — it’s easy to spend lots of time thinking and have nothing to show for it — but in this case it was frustrating. Still, I got a lot done, so I shall take pleasure in that.

Part of the reason I didn’t have time was that my new Screen Rant on Nickelodeon’s Victorious took longer than most of them. It’s a kid’s show I’ve never even heard of (hardly surprising at my age) so I had to do a good deal more research than usual to put it together. But now it’s out, and next week’s should be simple. Below one of my photos from the article, showing future singing star Ariana Grande as space cadet Cat.

As to the checkup, everything looks good, though I definitely need to get back to a more consistent exercise schedule. The past month it’s been a little too chaotic and I keep missing. Today I just felt tooo wiped out.

I did complete the proofing of the Atlas Shagged paperback (I discovered a couple of final changes to make) which will be out early next week. Below, the cover reveal!

I worked on one story about a writer working on a raunchy buddy comedy with werewolves (not sure where it’s going yet). And another about a bookstore with a very strange staff, and as of the last scene, St. Luke as the proprietor (I think I know where it’s going. Maybe). And worked on the next draft of Angels Hate This Man. But I really want to finish No One — the more stories I have out, the better, obviously.

I completed edits on The Grass Is Always Greener requested by the editors at Strange Economics, which had accepted it. I submitted a reprint story to Digial Fantasy. And I got some work done on Undead Sexist Cliches.

Like I said, productive. I shall take pride in what I did and not let the frustration gnaw at me.

#SFWApro. All rights to the Victorious photo remain with current holder. Rights to cover are mine; Atlas image is from John Singer Sargent’s Atlas and the Hesperides.

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I did not slide smoothly to the end of the month

I was feeling relaxed, rested and ready after last weekend’s trip to South Carolina. Still am (not today though) but I must admit my mind is resisting when I try to focus, much the way it did before the trip.

This was just a bad week for focus. Early Tuesday morning, Trixie got up and needed to go outside to poop. As usual, I woke up while TYG was zonked, so I took the little one. By the time I got back in I was wide awake. Even if I could have gotten back to sleep, Trixie had a couple more trips to make as time wore on, so I’d have gotten up anyway.

My plan for Tuesday had been doggy day care for both pups, then I’d settle down and finish the tax returns. Handling and sorting through the 1099s and other forms just gets awkward working around them. But we obviously weren’t going to take Trixie, for fear she was having a return of her stomach upset. And then Plush dog puked up his breakfast, so we didn’t take him either.

The logical thing to do, of course, was switch and work on something else, like Screen Rant or Leaf articles. But I was so zonked by lack of sleep I couldn’t focus on that stuff at all. End result? Very little got done.

So the rest of the week I’ve had to push myself, and my mind has been pushing back. Oh, and it turns out we still don’t have one piece of information we need — TYG will have to contact the relevant company for the right form.

That made my plan to wrap up various projects this week a no-go. I did get some work done on No One Can Slay Her, but didn’t finish it. Contacted an artist about the cover for Atoms for Peace but she’s too busy.

Finally today I decided to just wrap up whatever I could. I submitted one short story, checked on two that have been out a while (one still under review, the other got lost in transmission) and I finally edited and finished Atlas Shagged. Assuming everything goes smoothly, the paperback will be up for sale next week. That is actually pretty cool, and it feels great to have it (as far as I can tell) wrapped up.  I’d wanted to do a little more but my schedule had to allow for extra puppy care for various reasons, and naps (mostly broken up by pups).

My policy of not reading email until late in the day has proven effective. It helps keep me from just stopping when I’m tired and checking email, and then rechecking, and then rechecking …

I shall post next week about the overall performance of the year’s first quarter, based on use of that planner I bought a couple of months back.

In the meantime, here’s a photo from Significant Mother, one of the Bad, Forgotten CW Shows on this week’s Screen Rant.

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

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

Wow, Wednesday felt wonderful

Not that the rest of the week was awful. But between the added stress from those deadlines and one weekend getting eaten up by sick Trixie, my mind was really balking at work this week. I got my stuff done, but it was definitely slower and more sluggish.

Wednesday though, was great. Because of a morning snowfall (abnormal for Durham this time of year), TYG didn’t go into the office. She stayed on the couch with the pups, I stayed upstairs and worked in peace. Plus I didn’t have any Leaf articles to do (I worked on them late the night before) and I didn’t have a Screen Rant (I should have, because I’m supposed to turn in one a week, but for various reasons that didn’t happen). So for the first time in a couple of months it was just me working on my stuff all day. It felt incredibly liberating.

As far as the week’s accomplishments go, I’ve proofed most of the Atlas Shagged paperback, and found more errors than I expected. So taking the time to proof was definitely the right call (I may eventually go back and fix the ebook too). I contacted one artist about the cover for Atoms for Peace, but I didn’t hear back, so on to the next one.

I cleared up some of my Impossible Takes a Little Longer problems ; instead of my stereotyped Comanches, I’m using a colony of ET warriors along the lines of a bad 1980s syndicated cartoon (think Silverhawks). I’m still not entirely sure what I want from the villain, but I have some ideas.

I worked a lot on straightening out Undead Sexist Cliches (The Book) prior to the next rewrite.

I looked at some possible markets for Space Invaders, and so far McFarland is looking like the best option. Several other small publishers that take film-reference books have some requirements that won’t work for me, like providing a list of seven peer reviewers who can critique the proposal (or the book, I’m not sure which). I imagine if I were an academic writer, that would be easier, but I’m not.

I’d have gotten a couple more things done except I took today off for some stuff. But it looks promising for getting my last writing tasks for March wrapped up next week.

For your entertainment, here’s a shot of Trixie, in my lap and under my lap desk (don’t worry, it’s not resting on her).

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Atoms for Peace, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

The actor’s nightmare? Seriously?

I mean, come on! It’s been eight years since I was on stage and I’m having this now?

For those who don’t know, the actor’s nightmare is a dream in which you’re going on stage but you have no idea what your lines are, or maybe even not the show. I’ve had it several times in my life, though none of them were in relation to actually doing a play. So maybe having this one Wednesday night is not surprising.

We open with me driving to where the actors are assembling for a production of Born Yesterday, a 1950s comedy (I was actually in it around 30 years ago) directed by my old drama teacher, Jo Yeager. I know we’re meeting in a hotel before we go to the theater (a lot of my dreams are set in hotels), so I drive into the lobby, which the staff take with great aplomb, directing me to the lower floor. I’m figuring how to get down there in my car, but when I actually arrive, I’m somehow on a bicycle.

Sam, one of my writing group colleagues (he’s a real person, unlike most of the people in this dream), tosses me a line and waits for me to say mine. I’m blank, so he gives it to me. It’s something to the effect of “I have to know it if I’m going to New York,” “it” being some Irish play (because there are lots of Irish Americans in New York). I realize I don’t know any of my lines. I haven’t even practiced them the past week! I spent the rest of the dream trying to pick up peoples’ scripts and flip through them to jog my memory, but none of the scripts have my lines in them. I’ve no idea how this resolves itself; the end of the dream is my driving home and trying to figure out what direction home is.

I’m pretty sure the underlying meaning is that I felt really stressed this week. First, Trixie being sick and not really relaxing this weekend. Then having trouble focusing because Trixie was sick. Then trying to make up for lost time because I’d been unfocused. Thursday was when this week’s Screen Rant was due (on Sailor Moon, hence the illustration), and I was much further from completion than normal for deadline day. So stress is understandable, is it not?

Doing Leaf articles and Screen Rant compounded my stress. Unlike say my film books, they’re short, tight deadlines so I don’t have much wiggle room. And because I’m doing two different Leaf projects, the amount I’ve been writing has been higher than usual. When it’s my own deadlines I can always be flexible if I have a reason. Not so much this week, though I did unclaim a couple of Leaf articles I’d planned to do today (four is enough). One of the projects is wrapping up though, so I’ll be handling much fewer the rest of the month (and April, if the work lasts).

I did complete my Screen Rant on the Sailor Moon/Tuxedo Mask relationship (above is the photo of their wedding from the live-action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon).

I started proofing my test copy of Atlas Shagged and almost immediately found errors. One of which is prominent enough I’ll need to re-upload the corrected text. C’est la vie.

I finished the next draft of No One Shall Slay Her but didn’t make my 1,000-words-a-day quota. Partly that’s the slowing down, partly that the next thing I planned to work on (The Impossible Takes a Little Longer) is at an awkward point that needs some thought to fix. However I got back in the groove today, with a thousand-words on a new story I’m tentatively calling Neverwas. It felt soooo good to write some fiction.

All in all, I think I did well.

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

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

Urgh, insomnia was just too helpful

For some reason sleep this week was really appalling, even by my standards. Can’t say it wasn’t a good, productive week but I felt quite wiped out for a lot of it. Fortunately I had a good night last night or I’d be writing something as incomprehensible as Duran Duran lyrics.

I have my Leaf articles done and a new Screen Rant submitted, on bad forgotten spinoffs. For example The Dukes, Saturday morning’s take on The Dukes of Hazzard. I also talked to the new management at And Magazine about resuming work there. I’m going to give it a shot, though I won’t have time to spare until April, when the Leaf stuff winds down.

I’m giving myself a mulligan on my “1,000 words of fiction every work day” rule, as my not doing it was a calculated choice. It was more practical to do extra fiction on Wednesday and go light Thursday, so I figure I’ll cut myself some slack. Fiction writing was still productive, as I finished the draft of Questionable Minds I’ve been working on. It still needs a couple of sections touched up, then it’ll be ready to submit, self-publish or whatever. I’ll be thrilled when it’s completely finished and I don’t have to think about it.

I worked on No One Can Slay Her, ran into some trouble, stopped. I’ve figured out the solution though, so I’ll have this draft done by the end of next week.

I sold a story, The Grass Is Always Greener, to the Strange Economics anthology (specfic stories with an economic/business element). I am very pleased with that, of course. I also realized that my list of Stories Out was off — a couple of them have been out so long at particular markets it’s obvious they’re not biting. So I have them back on the To Submit list.

And I finally resolved the problems with the hard copy of Atlas Shagged. I should have a copy next week so I can double-check it’s good to go.

Today we had some landscapers come in and spend much of the day working on our yard (trees trimmed, one cut down). It needs it, but man did the dogs freak out. After a while they became sort of resigned, or I’d not have gotten anything done. Here’s Plush in a calmer moment earlier this week.

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

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, TV, Writing