Category Archives: Atlas Shagged

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).

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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.

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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.

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I hate knowing insomnia helps

But yes, a couple of nights of bad sleep left me with a little more time. And because I slept like a log for most of my Mysticon trip, I wasn’t as exhausted as I sometimes get. Goya’s painting to the contrary, the sleep of reason did not bring forth monsters.

That compensated for thousand natural shocks my schedule is heir too. Plushie and Trixie were in the mood for really long walks this week, and I’m not about to say no. Today it was probably around four miles, so we got back a half-hour later than I’d planned.

Morning was partly taken up with TYG and I getting our names on each others’ bank accounts. The death of our friend Neil last month spooked us a little (he and his wife are almost exactly the same age as us) so taking sensible precautions seems like a good idea. We’d inherit the money anyway, but with joint accounts we have instant access. And neither of us is worried the other will empty out the cash and run off (yes, there are cases where this happens).

I didn’t get quite as many Leaf done as I planned, but I planned a lot. I’m working on two different projects so I’m shooting for seven to eight each (the minimum expected) instead of 10 for one. I only made thirteen, but I anticipate doing more next week.

I turned in a new Screen Rant, on TV series canceled after the pilot (both great and godawful pilots). It’s a fun one, but it’s not out yet.

I kept up my 1,000 words of fiction a day, mostly working on No One Can Slay Her. The first third looks really good now — hopefully I’ll say the same for the rest of it at the end of next week.

I got a little done on both Questionable Minds and The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I’d like to do more, but I’m realistic about how much time the Screen Rants and Leaf stuff take. The only things I didn’t do that I’d planned on was resolving the problems with Atlas Shagged (as I mentioned this morning) and starting the hunt for a cover for Atoms for Peace. That’s quite satisfactory. There’s always going to be stuff I could be working on, but as I keep reminding myself it’s okay not to have it all written at once.

The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters by Goya. #SFWApro

 

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Goals for February: I’m pleased with myself

Seventy percent, which is good, especially considering I’m working my more personal projects around the Leaf work and my Screen Rants. The new Plot My Work journal I bought does seem to be helping. So is leaving email until late in the day, unless my phone shows me something urgent.

I redrafted No-One Can Save Her and got lots of work done on Questionable Minds and Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I did a review of Undead Sexist Cliches with notes on a couple of extra chapters I need (sexual harassment definitely deserves a section on itself) and various little details I want to add to some chapters. I pitched a column idea to the New York Times but as usual with big markets, I got nowhere. I’ll keep trying, though.

I discovered there were still two problems with Atlas Shagged, one major and one minor. The title on the cover has to match the title in the book (easy fix) and I just realized there’s no table of contents (slightly more complicated). I’ll attend to both those next month. I’d hoped to get started soliciting a cover for Atoms for Peace but that didn’t happen.

Oh, and I attended Mysticon, which was also on the goals list.

I’m disappointed I didn’t make my 1,000 words of fiction every work day, but not too disappointed — it was the right thing to do on the day in question.

My personal goals were a mix. I wanted to up the amount of vegetable and fruit-centric dishes I make, and did so. I did the allotted meditation time, but with very little focus — it’s all monkey mind lately. Though I did manage lots of moments of mindfulness, focusing on what I was doing. While I did exercise, either the weather or the time got in the way of me getting back on the bicycle. Next month, definitely!

So yeah, pleased with myself. Wish me luck keeping up the same level for March.

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It’s too easy … it could be a trap!

When I was younger I had dreadful trouble when I worked hard and got ahead of my self-imposed deadlines. Rather than get a little extra work done on something else, I’d wind up dawdling or daydreaming until my deadlines caught up with me.

I think I’m over that. This week my two big goals — spruce up Southern Discomfort and send this draft off to a couple of beta readers and redraft No One Can Slay Her — wrapped up surprisingly fast (hopefully that’s a sign the novel is in really good shape). Despite that I stayed busy and put in time on a few other projects:

I began redrafting The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I’ve worked out the kinks in the story, at least in theory, and I hope to get it rewritten this year (most of it’s in good shape, so it’s not as big a project as it sounds).

I also continued working on Questionable Minds. This one’s also in good shape — this is more double-checking than a serious rewrite.

I finished Schedule C for my writing taxes and the related forms (business use of the home, self-employment taxes).

And I started my new round of Leaf articles. I’m going to try to crank out slightly more than usual, if I can do it without slacking up on the fiction side too much.

 

I didn’t complete a Screen Rant — suggested some ideas, didn’t get a go-ahead — but I did get one assigned for next week (X Character Deaths That Ruined TV Series, X That Saved Them). And while I got a paperback copy of Atlas Shagged from CreateSpace, apparently in all the cover changes I messed other stuff up, so I’m going to have to put in more work.

I also went to my FB friends for advice on a cover for Instruments of Science, the collection of my Applied Science stories from Big Pulp. The feedback was very helpful, but I’m definitely going to have to pay for a cover — I can’t see myself finding a stock cover that works. And I may change the collection title to Atoms for Peace, the first story in the series. I think it captures the feel of the stories better.

I’d have gotten more done, but Thursday I just took off work to get non-writing stuff done. Some extra cleaning. Paperwork dealing with my share of Mum’s inheritance. Paperwork for Plush and Trixie’s dog tags (they need a special tag to use the city dog parks). Various other odds and ends. It’s a lot easier to do all that stuff when the pups are in doggy day-care.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the week.

#SFWApro All rights to image (art by Murphy Anderson) remain with current holder.

 

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

The upside of returning to the mean

I’ve mentioned the Law of Return to the Mean several times in this blog: If I’m performing way above average, sooner or later random chance will bring me back to my norm. The upside is that after a crappy pair of work weeks like Christmas and New Year’s, the odds are things will improve. And behold, they did.

The big news is that I finally finished the next-to-last draft of Southern Discomfort. I will clean it up a little before the end of the month and send it out to two friends who volunteered to beta. Later this year I will print the whole thing out and do the final final draft fix.

I can’t tell you how good it feels. Brain From Outer Space has languished for years because every time I rewrite it, I get to the last third and the plot falls apart. I was really afraid I wouldn’t be able to wrap up Southern Discomforts successfully, or I’d wind up doing endless redrafts. Apparently not. This is very good news.

And as if that wasn’t enough:

My new Screen Rant is out, spotlighting 9 embarrassing final roles for talented actors (e.g., Boris Karloff in House of Evil) and nine that were awesome farewells (Carrie Fisher in The Last Jedi). Below we have a photo from Lon Chaney Jr’s miserable last film (Dracula vs. Frankenstein)

And a shot of Marilyn Monroe working on The Misfits (a good final film for both her and Clark Gable)

I also finished a new draft of No One Can Slay Her. It still needs work, but I got enough of the ending worked out, and enough of the villain’s plan, that I think I can rework the whole thing much better on the next draft. It never hurts to know where you’re going.

I finally sorted out my cover issues with the paperback version of Atlas Shagged. I ordered a print copy to check everything is kosher; it’ll be here next week. Assuming it all checks out, the book will go live by the end of next week (it is, of course, already available in ebook).

And I’ll be a guest at Illogicon in Raleigh this weekend, which is always fun. My voice is still a little strained from last week’s sickness, but I think I’ll be able to manage.

It’s so nice to be productive!

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Given Mum’s death, I’m doing surprisingly well (#SFWApro)

I wasn’t quite sure what I’d feel like after Monday, but I’m doing okay. Frequent moments of my guts clenching up. Occasional sniffling. But having a clear path — we have the service date set, I have my tickets booked — is very reassuring, compared to heading down to Ft. Walton Beach with no idea when I’d be back.

And more than that, people talking about her on FB has helped me recover memories of her when she was young and healthy. Most of my memories of Mum are dominated by her illness. Increasing listlessness. Worry and nervousness as she becomes more and more helpless. Going up to help her with one thing or another when she was in Maryland (these were rarely fun trips). Mum spending all day sitting in front of the TV. All of that added a level of misery to my thoughts of her that I now seem to be getting past.

I imagine there’ll be more tears at the service, but we’ll see.

I didn’t attempt to put in a full week’s writing, which was wise. It’s not just that I sometimes had difficulty focusing, it’s that I just lost too much time on practical stuff. Helping my sister with the obit. The travel to the airport Monday and back. A long session with Delta transferring my Monday ticket to a new date (they were very helpful once I explained the situation).  So not enough time, and I didn’t want to do anything with a deadline (Screen Rant knows I’m out of action for a couple of weeks).

That meant getting ahead on blogging, which requires less effort than fiction. I also wrote my first post for the Atomic Junkshop blog, which I’ll link to once it’s up. I’ll be following up with more semi-regular posts.

I also finished polishing the Applied Science collection for reprinting, probably under a different name. Next up: find a cover. This one I’ll probably have to pay for as I doubt there’s existing art as appropriate as the cover for Atlas Shagged.

I rewrote No-One Will Slay Her and got the draft almost finished. Unfortunately the ending still needs work. I know the broad outline but the details — why don’t the cops show up? Just what does the villain anticipate Jennifer (POV character) doing? — need sharpening. I’d hoped to accomplish that today, but my brain

I’d have liked to work on Southern Discomfort but that didn’t happen.

I’ll leave you with a shot of Mum (l.) and our cousin Mary from a long time ago. Looking at the photos from when she was healthy helps too.

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I survived the death of a thousand cuts! (#SFWApro)

Events whittled away at my time this week, but it was productive just the same.

The first cut was Monday morning having to drive about half an hour to a local clinic for a preliminary interview. A few years ago I learned I had a too-small-to-operate aneurysm, and it’s overdue to be checked up on — the possibility it’s expanded is unsettling enough I’ve been lax in following up, then the insurance company kicked up a fuss. So the clinic visit was part of the insurance approval process, though it seemed like everything could be handled over the phone. The drive actually took longer than the session — I will give Duke neurology credit for doing everything smooth and efficiently.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was bogged down by the time change, the seeming greater darkness, and an overcast, drizzly sky on top of that. It all got inside my head and distracted me — plus I kept reading up on all the good election news from Tuesday. Nice to be distracted by good political news for a change.

And then this morning … TYG had to stay up late last night, which led to me going to bed late. Then about 3AM, Plushie puked up this new treat we’d gotten him (it was very large, apparently too large for his digestion) and TYG cleaning that up (even though she’d crawled into bed in the spare room to avoid waking me) woke me up. I wound up going downstairs with the pups (Plush was fine post-pukies) and working on the couch, shuffling my morning schedule because if I tried exercising or stretching out I’d have dogs on me (“It’s human body language for ‘play with me!’ We’d love to!”). And I wound up walking them because while I knew TYG would do it, she needed a little extra sleep. Then we took them in to the groomer, which gave me three hours to work solo and get my exercise done. Except the groomer had a cancellation so I got less than planned, plus I had to take a nap … so anyway, less productive than I’d planned.

Still, I got quite a bit done:

•Submitted several ideas for Screen Rant columns, none of which made the cut.

•Confirmed that an article I submitted to History Magazine earlier this year on tractors will be coming out in a couple of months.

•Submitted Fiddler’s Black to Fireside Magazine.

Atlas Shagged is now live on Kindle as well as the other outlets. I hope to have Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast up soon but like the paperback of Atlas Shagged there are cover issues I have to fix.

•Got up to 62,000 words on Southern Discomfort. So far all proceeding more or less smoothly, though I’m approaching the point at which it all spiraled into chaos last draft. Positive thoughts welcome.

•Finished another draft of No-One Can Slay Her and read it for the writers’ group Tuesday. It got good reactions all round, which satisfied me I’m on the right track. Some of the group did think the opening scene with Jennifer and her aunt was wasted space; I shall give that some thought (I have reason to want it there, and I think I can make it worse).

•I reread the Undead Sexist Cliches manuscript and started the next draft. Like Southern Discomfort, I want this to be the last draft before hard copy review, so I’m taking my time and resolving any problems, like topics I bring up in multiple different chapters. I got through Chapter One and Two today, despite the craziness.

So a good week, even if I do feel dead to the world.

Atom cover by Gil Kane, all rights to image remain with current holder. Photo of Plush Dog below by me, all rights mine. Please credit me if you use it.

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