Category Archives: Impossible Takes a Little Longer

Today I got that nibbled to death by ducks feeling

But first, a look at Plush Dog nuzzling with Tito, new sibling to Lily, the dog up the street we sometimes dog-sit for.

The feeling of having one’s day eaten up by multiple little distractions is in some ways worse than having one big project. With one major distraction, like a repair, I can block time and when it’s over, it’s over. Today, though, I had multiple distractions: washing-machine repair guy (third one we’ve dealt with, first one I feel good about), arranging an electrician appointment for next week, upgrading our security system, doing some research on the cost of a replacement washing machine (probably won’t be necessary), providing extra dog care … plus Plushie completely freaking out over the repair dude being In The House (we fenced off the area so the pups couldn’t get in his way).  And talking on the phone is not the best thing for my strained voice. However it’s definitely growing stronger every day so I must be nursing it sufficiently.

Despite that, it was a productive week. Though novel writing is still going slower than I want, and Leaf articles are taking way too long (not their fault, it’s me). So what did I get done?

I rewrote the first chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer in first person. It’s closer to urban fantasy as a genre than anything else, and first person is the default setting there. Plus I found I could work in a little more needed information with first-person narration.

I finished the first chapter of Let No Man Put Asunder and read it for writer’s group. The feedback was, as always helpful. As my voice frayed a little by the end of the reading, I skipped out on the usual hanging out after. A shame.

I sent a Southern Discomfort query off to five agents, queried two magazines about articles and one newspaper about an op-ed column.

I submitted A Famine Where Abundance Lies, and I may have found a publisher to submit Questionable Minds too.

I rewrote the story Neverwas, which is now titled The Impossible Years. It’s definitely closer to being readable, but I still lack the ending I need. I rewrote Only the Lonely Can Slay, and it’s coming along well. Here I have the ending and the general structure but I need more obstacles for my protagonist, Heather, to overcome. I was working on another draft today, when all the ducks began nibbling.

And I did my usual array of Leaf articles to help put bread on the table. I gave up on doing any of those today too, but I got them in, and some requested rewrites, every other day this week.

It’s helpful to write all that down and see that despite my feeling right now, I had a good, productive week.

Below, Plushie lets the greyhounds at Piney Woods Park know that he’s the boss of this cell block.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

Missed it by that much! Quite a big ‘that much’

Like most people I start off the year full of enthusiasm for my various year goals. In January that gives me the drive to complete 70 to 80 percent of them.

This January? Not so much. More like 54 percent. Part of that was having a really big goal list. Part of it was that one miserable week I experienced. And some of it was that several goals I’d written down turned out to be non-starters. Focusing on a single project one day a week (a novel, a short story, pitches) didn’t work because I’m back doing Leaf articles. It’s easier to handle them if I do a couple a day rather than clump them, but that means I can’t do a full day of anything else. So that one’s off the table.

Other ideas just need more practice. I want a more relaxing lunch break rather than rushing to eat so I can walk the pups. That takes a conscious effort. But I’ll get there.

The big disappointments for the month were a)not getting beyond a chapter or two in Impossible Takes a Little Longer; b)not getting anything done on the Undead Sexist Cliches book. Well and c)not selling anything I’d submitted to anyone, but that’s not within my control. I am very pleased that I submitted five stories (technically; some of them were the same story sent out twice), two articles and one column idea.

And I did finish Southern Discomfort and submitted that to eight agents (two refusals so far). I’ll keep sending it to agents until I’ve exhausted the list. Then I’ll switch to publishers. Then I’ll self-publish. Take that, uncaring publishing universe!

Tday I started work on rewriting another novel, Let No Man Put Asunder. This went slow too, and I’m starting to see why: I’m just thinking and editing as I go and it’s slowing me down. I need to let go and let the words flow.

I was pleased that this week I made real progress on two short stories, Only the Lonely Can Slay and Neverwas (that title will definitely be reworked). On Lonely I can actually see what the story arc should be; Neverwas is almost there. Once I get that, it’s mostly a matter or refining, fixing and improving. Being able to see progress makes me more optimistic about my ambitious goals for the year.

I did a fair amount of hanging out at Illogicon (yes, that was a goal) but I didn’t get out much the rest of the month due to my desire to rest my voice. I didn’t get as much bicycling in as I planned, either as I didn’t want to expose my throat to the cold.

I did get lots of Leaf articles done. And that helps pay the bills so yay!

Oh, and I found where my baby sister Keri was buried years ago, which was one of my goals for this year. I thought it would take a lot of work but it actually went smoothly: I checked the US Consulate records for deaths and births of American citizens abroad. That led me to ancestry.com, which, after I signed up, gave me a digital copy of Keri’s death certificate. I’m impressed with myself (I thought I’d blogged about this before but I can’t find it).

Despite what didn’t get done, I feel pretty pleased.

Below, Trixie nervously contemplates going to doggy day care. She loves it there, but she dreads the car trips.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

I’m getting those colored lights going!

Title is a paraphrase of Jean Kerr’s play, Mary, Mary. It’s a sort-of way of saying that while I’m zonked, I had a very productive week (if you want to figure out the context, I recommending reading the script or catching the stage play — the movie version is disappointingly dull).

While insomnia frequently allows me to get some extra work in, and at an hour of the day I’m not dealing with puppies, this week it was as much a hindrance as a help. TYG came back from her trip last weekend with the equivalent of con crud so she’s been coughing in her sleep pretty much every night (the cough’s lingering although all the other symptoms are gone). I sleep way too lightly not to wake up when she coughs, and then I can’t get back to sleep because she’s still coughing. And once I’m up, I can’t seem to get back to sleep at all.

I have the freedom to take naps throughout the day, whenever I want, but I can’t nap long enough to make up for the sleep I missed. I suppose I should have slept somewhere else, but I’m not sure it would have helped. TYG’s coughs are loud!

Despite all that I had a productive week. I resumed work on articles for Leaf so I have some money coming in, which is nice. Although due to being so tired, they kept taking much longer than I’d budgeted for them. That was frustrating. Another week I might have tried putting in extra hours to compensate, but I was too wiped.

I finished No One Can Slay Her (finally!) and submitted it, as well as sending off Rabbits Indignateonem, a flash fiction I finished last week. I also submitted queries for one article, one op-ed and sent Southern Discomfort to a few agents. I haven’t quite decided how I’m going to work submissions: at what point do I give up on agents (assuming I don’t land one) and submit to publishers directly? But I’ll figure it out.

I’m really pleased about this. Submitting stuff usually stops cold when I’m working on Leaf articles, and if I don’t submit, I don’t sell. So this is a big improvement.

I didn’t get much done on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. The rewriting is still going much slower than I anticipated, and it wound up being the main victim of the added time spent on Leaf articles. However the replotting for Let No Man Put Asunder went freakishly well. It actually left me wondering if I was doing something wrong, but on reflection, it’s just a very different book from Impossible or Southern Discomfort. Those both have rather tangled, non-linear plots; Discomfort has a large cast with several POV characters. Asunder has two first person narrators and a fairly simple set-up: freak event happens, two people caught in it become targets for a mysterious villain and they end up running across the multiverse to escape.

So other than lack of sleep, I think I’m grading this week as an A.

Below a couple of photos I took during an early morning drive recently.

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

He looked at the future and went mad!

So as I mentioned yesterday, nonfiction squeezed out a lot of fiction writing time in 2018. And the same was true for 2017. That year it hit me hard because I just assumed I’d have a short spurt, then it would fade away. So I skimped on fiction during the spurt … which didn’t go away. Which is good for my bottom line, but not so good for (strikes Byronic pose) my creative soul.

This year I did a better job balancing them at first, but like I said yesterday, the demands of Screen Rant and Leaf combined ate into a lot of time. So now that I’m looking at a year without any Screen Rant (probably plenty of leaf though it’s not guaranteed), and ready to balance fiction and nonfiction better, just how much fiction can I get written?

Answer: probably not as much as I put in the goal list. My plan is to rewrite Impossible Takes a Little Longer over the first two months while I replot another novel. Then try and write a draft of that one almost as fast. And a couple more. These are all old books I have worked on many times in the past, so the basics are there (characters, concepts, setting). It’s just revising the plots (“just” does a lot of work in that sentence, some of them need a lot of work), and in a couple of cases updating them; one of them actually starts in a contemporary setting and that’s changed a lot from the last time I tackled it.

And if I can’t work out a good new plot? Time to say goodbye and bung them into the trunk. On to newer stuff!

Plus I want to write twelve short stories this year. That’s really optimistic; it takes me forever to shape them from the first draft into something usable. But as I said yesterday, I don’t have any sort of reward/penalty system in play, so it’s not like I have anything to lose. Pride? Maybe. But I didn’t get any short stories finished this year and I’m not walking around kicking myself. So I think I can take it.

I was worried that Southern Discomfort running a little into the new year would gum up the works, but I don’t think so. I’m soooo close to done.

I have a bunch of other goals, writing and otherwise. They range from finishing reading John LeCarre to finding my sister Keri’s burial place (she died at about seven weeks).  In fact it’s an insanely long list. And a really huge list of January goals based on them, but that actually makes sense. As we all know, it’s easy to start off the year with high aspirations, then we lose focus. So I might as well make maximum use of the January vigor. We’ll see if that works.

And yes, having fun, relaxing and enjoying life, undefined though those goals are, are definitely on the list.

Here’s to 2019. I hope it’s awesome for all of you. And me too.

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Sleep, goals and pets

For whatever reason I kept waking up early this week. Even on nights I took something to keep me asleep. I take naps to compensate and the one flaw in the new furniture is that the new chair and love seat aren’t quite long enough for me to stretch out and sleep comfortably. Instead I have to take the dog upstairs to the bed, which doesn’t always work — they bark, or start climbing over me. They do quiet down over time, but when I nap I go to sleep instantly, usually while they’re still fidgety.

That said, I still had a good, productive week (one advantage of writing is that I can always do it in the middle of the night). I worked on No One Can Save Her and I think I have the plot problems solved; hopefully when I look at it next week, I won’t see any flaws I skipped over. I worked on several other short stories, including a redraft of Only the Lonely Can Slay, did a couple of Leaf articles, and started replotting The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. And I got a few thousand words done on Undead Sexist Cliches: the Book. While I’m not working on Southern Discomfort until I print it and read it aloud next week, I did work on the query letter (done) and the synopsis (needs more work).

Depressingly I’m wondering whether Schloss and the Switchblade doesn’t need another revision to stay up with current events. I changed it once because after Charlottesville last year, seeing Nazis would produce a much more shocked reaction in Ward, my protagonist. Now that we’re getting increasingly blatant anti-Semitism on the right I’m still not sure it’s enough. Inconvenient to me, but obviously trivial in the grand scheme of things.

After getting 52 percent on my goals for September, I rose up to 62 percent for October despite taking a week for my trip to Florida, I’d have done better, but several of my goals came in at the near-miss level: Almost completely done with Southern Discomfort. Completed five out of six daily-life projects, like getting PMI taken off our mortgage. Eating more fruit and veggie-based meals (even though I’m a vegetarian, I don’t always go with green vegetables). And I finally added a PayPal donation button to the sidebar. I won’t be announcing fund drives or anything, but I figure making the option available can’t help. In the words of countless supervillains robbing charity events, the donations will go to my favorite charity — myself!

Since I took over feeding Wisp, her dinner has been on a regular schedule and she knows it. Frequently I find her waiting on the deck, from which she retreats to the foot of the deck stairs until I set the food down. Thursday, I put it out about a half hour late and found her staring at me with disapproval and sorrow. Then I gathered up some of the old bowls and walked through the back yard to dump them in the trash. Wisp did not take this departure from routine at all well; she ran and hid under the shed in the back, and it took her several minutes watching before she decided she could eat without me infringing her personal space again. She’s getting used to us, but she’s definitely still feral.

Monday, I did my friends Celena and Eric (a few houses down our cul-de-sac) a favor and helped them introduce Tito, their new toy poodle, to their dog Lily. Tito is three years old and full of energy, darting everywhere, marking the street every few steps. He has a weak back leg but he just tucks it up like a bird and runs on three. I’m hoping he becomes a new friend for Trixie and Plush Dog too.

 

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Accomplishments for the week and the month

So I was working on my next Screen Rant, about weird ways movies cover up mistakes, and I ran into a problem: I couldn’t find any. Outside of “keep it in!” when an actor screws up, there’s very little. I emailed my editor for some advice, but she was away, I didn’t ask another editor right away and the end result was I didn’t get it done. So now Rant post this week But on the plus side, more time for everything else! I got another 5,000 words of Southern Discomfort done, including fixing the scene that was giving me problems. And I think I see how to fix the problems with The Impossible Takes a Little Longer — we’ll see how it plays out in the rewrite, but I’m optimistic.

I also tried uploading a PDF of Atoms for Peace to Createspace so I can proofread a copy. Apparently a PDF created from Apple’s Pages program (not a favorite of mine) doesn’t work as well as when I make one with Draft2Digital’s system. So I shall prepare one next week, as I’ll be creating the ebook via D2D anyway.

I read No One Can Slay Her to the writers’ group Tuesday. Got lots of helpful feedback, and lots of enthusiasm for the story.

Plus I finished the usual Leaf articles on topic such as where to find book value of debt on a corporate balance sheet. On the assumption I’d be working on Screen Rant at some point, I squeezed seven of the 10 Leafs I’d scheduled into Monday, to free up time. Very tiring. But it was nice when I finished up Tuesday and had the rest of the week free. It felt awesome being able to put almost two days in on fiction, and actually get somewhere.

For the month I completed 68 percent of my goals, which felt quite satisfactory, especially as most of the ones I didn’t get done were minor or non-urgent. My biggest disappointment is that I just don’t complete short stories as fast as I’d like. Subordinating them to Southern Discomfort and to the immediate-pay gigs (Leaf and Screen Rant) makes sense, but I’d really hoped to have two done by the end of next month. I should have No One Can Slay Her done once I make use of the feedback, but I’d hoped to have Angels Hate This Man done too. Doesn’t look like it. There’s only so much time to go around.

Oh, I did put up two posts on Atomic Junkshop, one on the myth there’s a definitive version of characters (“Spider-Man achieved perfection when I read him as a teen! Clearly if I retcon away all the changes since then, it’ll be perfect again!”) and one on The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, longer than my post here.

 

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Movies, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

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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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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