Category Archives: Brain From Outer Space

Uncertain and Unfinished (#SFWApro)

51-zssisf7l-_sx348_bo1204203200_That’s sort of how I’m finding the challenge of deciding what to work on while Southern Discomfort sits with the beta-readers and the galleys for Now And Then We Travel In Time are still with McFarland (all rights to cover and to the image reside with current holders)

The uncertainty is that, as I’ve joked before, I’m at the level where nothing I do is particularly more successful than anything else. This does give me a sort of freedom — I never have to choose between the magical realist story about Dadaists in Zurich that I really want to do or the werewolf raunch comedy I can sell for serious money. But right now knowing that one story would be more profitable or marketable would make it easier to focus. Normally what I’d do is go whichever story was in best shape, but at the moment everything is still in relatively early drafts. So nothing’s going to get down soon, even if I do prioritize it.

And of course, I spent a lot of Wednesday and Thursday distracted by the election aftermath. Now my feelings seem back to normal, pretty much. Though for various other scheduling reasons I didn’t get much done. Plus Trixie is getting a little upset at times that Plushie gets the prime snuggle position in my lap. She’ll stand at the far end of the couch, wagging her tale in the tentative “don’t you want to play with me?” way, and I’ll have to stop and arrange things so both dogs are happy. This isn’t always the best position for me, but I’m getting better at it.

I worked a little on Brain From Outer Space, then some on Let No Man Put Asunder. Neither got very far. I did get quite a bit done on the next draft of Trouble and Glass. This required changing a lot of stuff — the villain’s plan really didn’t make sense — and I haven’t got the whole thing worked out yet. For example at the point in the story I reached when I stopped for the week, I can’t see any reason not to smash the McGuffin (the thing everyone’s chasing after) to keep it out of the bad guys hands. But that’ll come.

And I did get some more done on Martinis, Girls and Guns (soon to be renamed Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast) — watching one of the Bond films was about the most I could do Wednesday morning.

Bring on the weekend.

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Filed under Brain From Outer Space, Nonfiction, Now and Then We Time Travel, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

Moving towards the goal posts but no actual goals (#SFWApro)

I real feel like I needed some sort of milestone this week — a sale, a story finished — but outside of getting my next And column in (on the alleged threat of Latino cultural supremacy), I didn’t have one. Not that the work was bad, it was just that everything’s in an intermediate stage.

So here’s a picture of Trixie to make everything better.

img_0908Yeah, that helps.

Part of the dissatisfaction is that I took Monday morning off so TYG and I could go out bicycling for the first time in a while. I’d planned on doing a regular day’s work when I got back but it was the first time in a while and I was too sore to do anything very complicated. So while the work I put in on Southern Discomfort was good this week, I didn’t get as far as I’d expected.

I did get quite a bit of work done on Martinis, Girls and Guns. And some further replotting on Brain From Outer Space, though now I’m up to the point at which the plot always goes off the rails—and I’m not quite sure how to keep it on the rails.

I put in a lot of work on Farewell my Deadly which I’ve retitled Trouble And Glass. As it’s shaping up to be not as much a hardboiled detective fantasy as it started out, I think the change is good. And the story is shaping up surprisingly well for a first draft — hopefully that’s a good sign.

And there was some market research, and one query submitted, all of which may produce results, but not this week.

Plus I took care of yet another couple of repair people (locksmith and gutters) and ran the car in for a quick fix of a problem. So a productive week, it just doesn’t feel like it.

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Remember, remember the third of September … no, that’s wrong (#SFWApro)

nichols2Normally I’d be posting from DragonCon (where last year TYG and I got the photo with Nichelle Nichols, left) but our scheduling didn’t work out. So this week and next will be pretty much as usual.

Despite taking Wednesday off, I had a productive week. The biggest accomplishment being that I finished the latest draft of Southern Discomforts and I don’t feel any of the qualms I had with previous drafts—it’s far from finished but it holds together. Next up, I spend this month polishing it, then put it up for beta readers in the writing group. I’m tentatively confident I can get it finished by the end of next year for submittal in January 2018.  We’ll see.

The biggest surprise was that while I had doubts about the personal arc I charted for one of the supporting characters, my brain keeps defaulting to it. So unless I get contrary feedback during beta, I’ll stick with it.

•I did another draft of Making a Famine Where Abundance Lies and I think it’s as good as I’m going to get without beta-reading. So that’s next.

•I also completed a draft of Oh the Places You’ll Go. Though it’s not as far along, it is showing steady progress.

•I got a little further along on Farewell my Deadly, though not as far as I’d hoped. But I have a better idea of the characters and where the story is going, much better than I normally do for a first draft.

•My work on Good Morning Starshine really crawled (which cut into my Farewell my Deadly writing time). Although the previous draft was pretty good (for a second draft) some of the changes I’ve made are forcing further changes, of course. For example, my protagonist, Brian, is now a rather self-serving management type rather than military security; that’s the right call for the story, but it limits the way he’s going to act and the authority he has.

•I resumed replotting Brain From Outer Space for the first time in several months. To my surprise, it went a lot better. Perhaps the story’s not dead yet. I also read over what I have for Let No Man Put Asunder and that was in worse shape than I remembered. Those are both second-tier projects at the moment—we’ll see how they go as I keep chipping away at them.

I hope everyone has a great Labor Day weekend without too much actual labor. Back tomorrow with reviews.

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In Spite of His Rage, Plush is Still Just a Dog in a Cage (#SFWApro)

(With apologies to Smashing Pumpkins)

IMG_0791So Plushie has still been on cage rest this week, but TYG made some changes while I was gone. As you can see, she’s set up one cage around our couch so Plush can sit with one of us and Trixie. He’s much happier being with his pack, and it’s easier than sharing his cage, then moving out to sit with Trixie, then back, but it does have some drawbacks:

•It’s much easier for them to get in a tussle.

•He’s even more likely than usual to try climbing over me as there’s no other way out.

•It’s a big disincentive to me getting off the couch myself (even to pee). Wednesday I pretty much took no breaks in between meals, and that left my mind foggy as hell by the day’s end.

And then last night Plush tried jumping from the floor onto the couch over the cage (or through the cage, who knows), fell back and landed hard on the edge of the coffee table. Doesn’t seem to have set back his recovery any (he’s had plenty of falls before) but we’ll be watching him closely today. Trixie meanwhile has been needier than usual, probably because she doesn’t have Plushie to play with and our routines are all out of kilter. Today, for example, I sat with Plush in his cage (after the all we wanted to restrict him until it’s clear he’s better) and he curled up so close I couldn’t bring myself to move for a long while. When I did get out and sit on the couch, Trixie was ecstatic to have her daddy back sitting with her, so I’ve been letting her snooze next to me for more than an hour (fortunately Plush dozed off).

These working conditions didn’t exactly hone my mind, particularly when I was doing plotting and outlining for rewrites (as this requires a lot of staring into the distance and thinking, it’s very easy for me to get distracted). I was really surprised after we took the dogs in for daycare how much I was able to work on outlines—I’m not turning into an idiot after all! I may reserve any outlining for day-care days in the future.  I think I’ll also start adopting “work on Southern Discomfort” as a default strategy—at this point it’s one I can work on even if I don’t have the focus for other stories (I tried that this morning, it worked well)

So what did I get accomplished?

I did redrafts of It’s Never Jam Today and Button, Button. I finished redrafting The Glory That Was (subject to reviews from the writing group) and submitted it to a new market.

I continued working on my rewrite of The Impossible Takes a Little Longer, which is coming along better than expected (I’ll go into detail at some point).

I’m a long way from having an outline for the next draft of Brain From Outer Space but I’m starting to at least identify the problems from earlier drafts that need fixing.

Having had two stories come back earlier this month, I sent them out to new markets. Everything publishable is now out.

I wrote my new And column, which is now out.

I read Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, which I’ll probably discuss next week.

And due to the lack of breaks, and the shorter walkies for Plush, I’m now done for the week. Time to relax.

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Filed under Brain From Outer Space, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

April may, but May may not (#SFWApro)

With our Mensa trip last weekend, I forgot to post anything about how my April goals went. Since you asked, I completed about 80percent of them. That includes most of my writing goals,  sending our taxes in, renewing my passport, and gettng back to work on dealing with contractors. On the downside, I didn’t finish my Southern Discomfort outline, didn’t get anywhere at all on re-outlining Brain From Outer Space and my nonfiction queries went nowhere. But I knew it wouldn’t be a perfect transition from working on the book to concentrating on fiction.

Likewise I knew this week would be a mess. Monday we picked up the dogs in the morning; in the afternoon I had an MRI (nothing serious, some persistent recurring ankle pain). Tuesday and Wednesday, TYG had to leave me in full charge of the puppies, plus I had to run some errands Tuesday, plus the electrician came over to make some fixes in the kitchen wiring (you can see the dogs watching us from the living room). Wednesday I had to start off the day with the dogs following me around—it’s really surprising how much difference it makes having the first 90 minutes or so to myself.

puppy prison

That said, I did manage to finish Schloss and the Switchblade and sent it out. I did finally resolve Maria Rogero’s Very Good Reason in Southern Discomfort (details next week) and started rewriting instead of just outlining (10,000 words so far, though a lot of that is just carried over from the previous draft). I submitted my new And column (on Trump’s claim people only vote for Clinton because she’s a woman) and I finally finished that RPG module I’ve been working on — well finish as in “submit to editor, wait for feedback.” Still even when it was going well, my schedule was chaotic enough that I felt very off-key.

As I’ve said before, when life gets in the way of writing, sometimes you fight back, sometimes you just have to roll with it. This was a roll-with-it week, but I didn’t really roll. I’m so used to structuring my time, having it became all gooey and shapeless like this felt very frustrating.

Bring on next week (well, after a relaxing weekend).

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To all things there must come an ending…I hope (#SFWApro)

daredevil006So this week I was beset by a moment of fear (cover by Wally Wood, all rights to current holder).  Right now, I have lots of time to work on fiction, which is awesome, but what if I don’t actually finish more stuff?

The last novel I finished from scratch was around 2003/4; since then I’ve rewritten The Impossible Takes a Little Longer and worked on several, but no new books finished. Brain From Outer Space has been my top priority (up until I started on Southern Discomfort) and I’ve gone through repeated drafts confident I’d fixed all the problems … except I hadn’t. So as I worked on replotting Southern Discomfort this week, I had to wonder, what if I go through that again? Replot, start rewriting, discover it doesn’t work, replot, start rewriting …. In which case all my added time is just wasted time. Something has to get done, because much as I enjoy writing, there’s no point to it if I don’t finish and then submit.

And there’s no way to know for sure until I do successfully finish. Most of the story looks solid (I’ll be polishing next week and maybe the week after) but Maria still isn’t working. I’ve increased the pressure that drives her to Pharisee, Georgia, but once she’s there, she still doesn’t have enough of a stake in what happens. Fixing that will be a priority next week.

Along with replotting, I started work on another replot of Brain From Outer Space. I was thinking at first I might just give up on it, but it looks like it’s not totally unsalvageable … maybe (one thing about not being a published novelist is that I lose nothing but time if a project doesn’t work out. Yes, thank goodness I don’t have to worry about deadlines for writing fiction or anything. Right. Of course). I rewrote Rabbit Indigneotem—it didn’t fix the problems with the story, but I think I’m closer to seeing the way out. And I made my final rewrite of Schloss and the Switchblade until next month when I print it out and read it aloud (that really helps).

I sold a story to the pulp market Crimson Streets — my tale of the Wandering Jew, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. And they already paid (so if you have a period pulp-style piece, check them out). I’ll give a squeeeee here when it’s published.

And I have a new And column out, Sex as Shopping, on the problems of people thinking of sex as a kind of retail transaction.

As a minor accomplishment, I reread a first draft of a novel (untitled) I wrote a few years back and then set aside. Just as I remembered, it has a lot of good elements — but it’s also far from perfect. I’ve occasionally felt attacks of “You know if I just went back and worked on that other project instead, I’m sure I’d have it done in a snap!” but I’m satisfied that is not the case. I’ll get back to it but Southern Discomfort first

Time management notes: I’m taking longer for my morning pre-work ritual than I’ve been budgeting for, and it’s consistent. Only about another 15 minutes, but after five days that’s another hour out of the work week. And Friday was my worst day for the second week in a row, though unlike last Friday, I kept working and got my full 40 hours for the week. I could try preloading my time and putting in more work on Monday and Tuesday evenings, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, evening work is suboptimal (TYG’s back and I want to be with her, not my Macbook Air).

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Filed under Brain From Outer Space, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Smart compromise or Faustian bargain? My writing week (#SFWApro)

I started the week off by rereading my most recent draft of Southern Discomfort. Once I was up to speed, I figured I’d press on, either writing from there or outlining from there.

Instead, my mind just locked up. Okay, fine, I’d just started back into the book after what, three-four months away, it’s not really surprising the words don’t flow. But when I looked at the book again, today, my mind still locked up. It just didn’t want to go forward. I became pretty sure I had a kind of mental gridlock between impulse A—keep going and finish—and impulse B—go back and start over, fixing the stuff I already know is a problem. Some of the problems were big enough I really didn’t want to go on without correcting them (others, like providing an explanation for the unseelie court at least three different times, are easy to fix). But it was entirely possible I could go back, start over and then wind up in the same “hmm, this really needs fixing” situation midway through the book, go back, start over … It’s been my problem with finishing Brain From Outer Space, for instance.

So around 11 am today, I tried a kind of Hail Mary! play: starting at the current endpoint, I went back to the previous draft and transferred all the remaining chapters to my current draft. Which is kind of pointless, because it guarantees nothing about that part of the book is improved or changed at all. Yet somehow … it worked. I sat down and started thinking about the next draft, and ideas seemed to flow. This is a very good sign. Next, I take the ideas and draw up a detailed outline for the next phase (I’m a “pantser” by nature but after a couple of drafts, I have enough understanding of the story to outline). And I work on that until I’m satisfied it will hold up when I actually start writing. Not that I won’t make changes (I always do) but I don’t want any “Oh, this approach doesn’t work after all” reactions at midpoint. So it will be a while before I know for sure if I made the right call. But not too long, the way my schedule is now I should have the next draft done by the end of September.

In other writing news:

•I redrafted The Schloss and the Switchblade using the feedback provided by my writing group.

•I sent in two shorts to various markets.

•I submitted my new And column.

•I finished the taxes (as I’m self-employed, that does count as writing work).

•I submitted an outline for a module for D3’s Tangent line of games and got the go-ahead to do the full project.

atom3I made my 40 hours, though with a bit of fudging (I counted reading time for the next Is Our Writers Learning? post). Next week I should be able to do it without the fudging. I’m also adjusting my schedule to take into account that morning is my peak time: less creative stuff such as research and query letters in the afternoon, as much as possible (the way my schedule works out I have slightly more afternoon than morning time).

The dogs have not been as big a problem as anticipated. Plushie sometimes became demanding but overall he and Trixie were pretty good.

I’m still debating whether I prefer the Pomodoro approach to the 45/15 method of taking breaks (as I mentioned Wednesday). I’ll probably keep experimenting as both seem to be doable.  Or I may consider what I’m doing on breaks: 45/15 works much better for cleaning the bathroom on breaks that five minute pauses.

(Cover chosen for the obvious time symbolism. Art by Gil Kane, all rights to current holder).

 

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The time of Janus: Yesterday I looked back, now I look forward (#SFWApro)

janus_1So once again I’m kicking off the New Year with a list of 101 goals for the next 1,001 days. I’ve done it before and it works better for me than a New Year’s resolution. So I have 101 things to try completing before Sept. 28, 2018.

I’ve learned from previous attempts at this. I usually put multiple writing goals that I know I can’t complete all of, because I figure that will push me—and I’m not sure which story/novel/project I will manage to complete. This year I’m scaling down—fewer goals and at least in theory manageable. The only novel-length projects I’m listing (besides Time Travel on Screen of course) are Southern Discomforts (to be finished) and Brain From Outer Space (either I finally have a usable draft or I give up).

I’ve also got goals involving my social life (more events, visits to my family, visits to friends, work on a stage play), my work week (get out of the house more during Monday-Friday), reading (finish reading John LeCarre’s books), exercise (I want to bike all the way to the trail head in Raleigh again—we haven’t done it since we got the dogs) and assorted other things.

Then I translated that into goals for 2016. I find it a little funny that given I had only 20 or so goals for 2015 and did almost none of them, I have almost double the number of goals this year. But for some reason, it feels right (we’ll see). And a slightly longer list for January, because it includes things I don’t bother putting on annual lists, like getting estimated taxes in.

Like most people who make resolutions, I feel a sunny optimism about my future accomplishments and how many goals I will knock off. And after this past month’s sickness, I’m really rarin’ to be up and at ’em.

Wish me luck …

(All rights to image with current holder. Sourced from ferrebeekeeper blog).

 

 

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Filed under Brain From Outer Space, Now and Then We Time Travel, Personal, Screen Enemies of the American Way, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

Lessons learned this week (#SFWApro)

First, when I’m sick as happened last month, I don’t get stuff done (technically not a lesson learned as I already knew it). I hit about 50 percent of my November goals, which is a good deal lower than usual.

•My writing group is awesome. I read them the first chapter of Brain from Outer Space and the feedback was good. I’m hoping that actually committing to getting this one done will finally push my past coming up with plots that don’t work (I’ve had trouble ever since writing the Applied Science backstory series revamped my concept of the characters).

•I can get a lot done if I wake up early then nap later, but eventually I wear down. And stress (nothing serious, just accumulated little stuff) still keeps me up. On the plus side, we’ve trained the dogs not to lie on me when we go to sleep, so that’s going to help.

•Getting outside helps my mood a lot. Particularly if the pups aren’t with me.

•Having the Christmas tree up is a big mood booster to.

•I’m tired of hearing the same fricking Christmas songs covered by different artists. One reason I enjoy The Killers’ Red is that it actually has original Christmas songs. I’m also fond of the Scrooge musical soundtrack for the same reason. Still, I’ll be listening to Christmas music until the holiday is over. I like things Christmassy, possibly to make up for not having family to spend it with (due to geography, not death) for more than a decade before I moved up here.

Other than that, not much to report. I’ve been tired enough that it’s been almost all watching time-travel stuff this week. And not working on other stuff at the same time as much as I’d expected.

Still, any life that involves an adorable puppy can’t be all bad, right?

IMG_0585

 

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March in Review (#SFWApro)

I completed every task I set myself. And doubled my usual monthly income.
April Fools.
Okay, brilliant wit aside, March was actually good, and I did make most of my writing goals (not, however, the financial ones).
•I submitted Impossible Takes a Little Longer to a new publisher, and to an agent.
•I finished 20,000 words of Southern Discomforts.
•I got the go-ahead for my time-travel book and wrote out a rough work plan. Admittedly it doesn’t amount to much beyond “watch lots of time-travel films and TV and write about them,” but it still feels good to have it written.
•I would have made 20,000 words of Brain From Outer Space if not for multiple unexpected errands yesterday (car problems and others)
•I redrafted The Worlds is a Stage, Oh the Places You’ll Go, The Day the Rabbits Ate People and Making a Famine Where Abundance Lies (title will probably change).
•I submitted four magazine queries, even though one of them had that dreadful typo in it.
•I made three meetings of my various writers’ groups and hung out after (as opposed to deciding I’m too tired and heading home).
•I submitted all current short stories. Kernel of Truth came back and based on the feedback, may need some rewriting, but everything else is still under consideration.
•I shaved about eight hours off my fiction-time deficit.
•I have our taxes ready to go,though I’m giving them one more going-over first.
On the downside, with Demand Media temporarily off-line, I fell well short of my cash goals (which I expected). I also fell well short of 42 hours writing a week (which I didn’t).
I did manage to relax and enjoy what I do, without too much stressing out.
Overall, satisfactory. Hopefully despite the time-sucks like car problems (and did I mention we have plumbers coming in—nothing house-threatening, just an annoyance we want dealt with—which will eat up a couple more hours) April will do better (insert obligatory reference to the cruelest month here).

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