Category Archives: Impossible Takes a Little Longer

It’s day 139 of 2023; so how am I doing?

The 139th day of 2023 — 38 percent of the year — isn’t any sort of benchmark, but I did spend a morning this week reviewing my year goals and how they’re progressing. I had a couple of nights of really bad sleep this week so by mid-week I needed to work on something that didn’t require any creativity.

(Here’s another photo of Wylan the kitten, with one of his favorite toys.)

The year is going well in many ways. I’ve already finished the six shorts I wanted to get done this year. I’ve written 150,000 words of fiction when I’d planned on 100,000 by this point. Work on 19-Infinity is progressing well (I’m debating using the word Infinity rather than the symbol). So is the work on Let No Man Put Asunder and Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I wanted to make 10 story submissions by the end of May; I’ve submitted 18. My blood pressure has improved from late last year (next week my doctor will tell me if it’s improved enough) and I had a fun birthday.

This month, however, I’ve felt the energy slacken. Part of that is that instead of focusing on one or two short stories at a time, I’m now working on multiple stories so none of the get anywhere. Partly that’s because they’re still raw enough I don’t know which one of them will finish first. Even so, I think I need to start concentrating on one or two at a time. I also need to prioritize in other ways. 19-Infinity, Oh the Places You’ll Go and Let No Man Put Asunder come higher than first or second draft stories.

My writing income is still flat since Leaf and my other client stopped soliciting my services last year. Fortunately I have Social Security but it’s still a lot tighter — and lord knows what will happen with the looming debt crisis. And of course it would be really nice to sell something now and again.As for this week’s performance, it was underwhelming. Even with a writer’s work day last Sunday, I just barely made my hours for the week. Maybe it’s that working six days is pushing it, or some other reason but today and yesterday I really slumped. It felt like the days before TYG worked from home, when the dogs would scrunch up with me and erode my personal space to the point my brain fried. As I haven’t had more dog-care than usual this week, I don’t know why that would be. But it was.

That said, I did get some of those 18 submissions out and I met my monthly quota for Let No Man Put Asunder. I read part of Chapter Two to the group and got a big thumbs up (some criticism but more enthusiasm). Big enough I feel slightly nervous living up to it with Chapter Three. But that’s far from the worst problem to have.

Hopefully next week I’ll be fully focused. Wish me luck …


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Week in review: No need to cry “Mayday!”

Which is to say the week went well. Okay, Obolus got its first rejection but I’ve never sold anything to Fantasy and Science Fiction and have no reason to think this one would do any better. But why not start with an A-list market? To their credit, they always respond fast. I submitted two stories to other markets; perhaps they’ll do better.

I’m having fresh challenges with Wisp as she’s decided my lap on the couch is preferable to her pillow on the back of the couch. That’s fine in itself but if Trixie’s there too she’ll demand equal petting time so I wind up with both hands on my pets and none free to write with. No hostility beyond that, even when I get up and leave them on the couch.

First, I am now officially the publisher Behold the Book, having filed a “doing business as” certificate with Durham County. I have made that official on all my published books at Draft2Digital but haven’t figured out how to do it with the Amazon paperbacks yet.

I got some more work done on my Doc Savage nonfiction book, including rereading The Red Skull; despite the relatively low stakes (land containing valuable deposits) it’s a dynamic, action-packed adventure and a pleasure to reread. There are no scenes as cool as the James Bama cover though.

I got around 3,000 words done on Let No Man Put Asunder. It’s going a lot slower now but I think that’s necessary. As I mentioned earlier this week it’s lost focus along the way and I need to get that back. Part of that is that I’m having to think through What Comes Next a good deal more. But I’m pleased with the results so far.

I read the book’s second chapter to the writer’s group. I’d been concerned they’d find it too slow-paced as the section I read is heavy on talk and not much action. Instead they thought it was a little too fast and needed more moments for Paul and Mandy to pause and reflect (see this post from last month about speed in fiction). Good information to have.

I also got further on the rewrite of The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It’s also slowing down as I get out of the opening chapters (frequently rewritten) into terra relatively incognita.

I worked on rewriting Oh the Places You’ll Go — feedback from the group was way helpful there — and rewrote The Cheap Assassin, getting it much closer to what it needs to be. If the next draft improves as much, it might be ready for beta-reading. The big problem is that I haven’t come up with an ending that works yet; I may just take it to group with a bad ending and ask for suggestions (I’ve done that before. It helps).

I worked on proofing 19-Infinity and I have a meeting with a possible cover artist next week.Over at Atomic Junkshop I look at Marvel in ’66 and rewrote and reposted and old blog entry here about DC’s Guy Gardner. I’m also over on YouTube in a Con-Tinual panel about the future of pandemic fiction. You can see one of the Marvels I mention, Millie the Model reuniting with the hip Liverpool band, the Gears.

Oh, and someone bought a copy of Undead Sexist Cliches on Amazon! Thanks, stranger (if you are, in fact, a stranger).#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders, Millie cover by Stan Goldberg, Undead Sexist Cliches cover by Kemp Ward.

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Thwacked by Thursday!

Writing for April is now done. Despite everything collapsing on Thursday, it was overall a productive week.

Thursday I’d had a bad night of sleep, then got some bad news about a friend of mine so the day was off to a poor start. Then the dogs came down so early I didn’t have time to stretch out or exercise until afternoon. Trying to exercise with Trixie around invariably convinces her to come over and snuggle; Wisp is much the same.

(Speaking of which, here’s a short of them sharing the couch. It’s an awkward situation for me as I usually wind up having to pet them both so nobody gets jealous. this time, as you can see, I’m up doing something).But as I’ve said before, that’s the nature of “average” —  some days just by blind chance will come out below average. I recovered today, applying for a writing gig and submitting a couple of shorts, but I wound up short of my hours for the week. I’ve been over in other weeks, though, so that averages out too.

I rewrote some more of Let No Man Put Asunder, which I’ll discuss in detail next week. I did a final proof/rewrite of Obolus — formerly Paying the Ferryman — and sent it off to Fantasy and Science Fiction. I also finished rewriting Impossible Things Before Breakfast, based on suggestions from other collaborators in the Ceaseless Way anthology. Plus I began proofing 19-Infinity. As usual, there’s more that needs fixing than I thought.

And that was pretty much it. Except over at Atomic Junk Shop I blogged about the end of Marvel’s Silver Age crime cartel, the Secret Empire, and the creepy way Chris Claremont handled the romance between 14-year-old Kitty and 19-year-old Colossus.

Now the weekend, then a new month starting Monday. To mark the transition, here’s an early morning photo I took a few weeks back.#SFWApro

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An unsuccessful experiment in time management, but first: thank you!

First, thank you to whoever checked out Atlas Shagged on Hoopla. I’m glad you took the time to try my stuff. Second, thanks to everyone who reads this blog regularly. It’s good to know there are people out there reading my words, whether it’s books or blog posts.

The unsuccessful experiment was trying to put all my tasks for a given day in the to-do list of my BusyCal app (which I switched to when Apple changed iCal to make it unusable for my style of scheduling). It’s a quicker read than when I plot out my whole schedule in Scrivener but it feels more awkward to use, particularly if I want to change and rearrange things (that happens). So probably back to some form of Scrivener page next week.

This week turned out well despite Trixie having combined diarrhea/vomiting late Monday, with some blood in the stool. Whatever it was, it went away after some doses of probiotics and a day of restricted meals, so phew! I hate it when my little angel is sick.For once it was TYG and  not me who woke up because I’d knocked myself out with my ambien prescription and slept through it. I did take Trixie to the vet the next day which threw me off my game I spent Tuesday mostly doing blogging rather than the fiction I’d had scheduled.

I worked a little more on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. This rewrite is still going well. Let No Man Put Asunder less so. I’ve been feeling something about the last few chapters was off and so I spent a couple of hours early in the week trying to nail down the problem. Finally I got it: the interactions with the police have lessened the threat level as Paul and Mandy aren’t going it alone. Not only that, the story’s gotten too talky. So I went back to chapter five and started reworking the story. Chapter Six ends with one cop dead, Paul and Mandy on the run from the law, a ruined church and the threat level upped. However that means the following four chapters are now no good, except for helping show me what not to do.

A couple of my writers’ group friends sent me feedback on Oh the Places You’ll Go. It was really helpful, as I’ll detail in a blog post next week. I’d hoped to start rewriting it but Tuesday threw everything off. Still, overall it was a productive week, so yay.Over at Atomic Junkshop I channeled my past writing on political paranoia in Screen Enemies of the American Way into a general blog post on American political paranoia and one about the JFK assassination in the movies. At Con-Tinual’s YouTube channel I’m on a panel about Hammer horror.

I’ll leave with a couple of photos of Snowdrop when he let me pet him on the couch recently.#SFWApro.

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We have a rose. Also poison ivy

A few years back, TYG asked for a rose for one of our special-day gifts — I don’t remember if it was a birthday, Valentine’s Day or an anniversary. Trouble was, whenever rose-planting season rolled around, she was slammed with work and could neither go shopping nor work with me to plant it.

This year, however, she has the time. After I read up on roses, we decided we’d be better off with a professional and I contacted Witherspoon Rose Culture. They planted it earlier this month.It’s grown a couple more blooms since then.

Unfortunately the rose dude pointed out that we had poison ivy in the same bed. I’ve sent out bids to several contractors who specialize in dealing with it, though if need be it’s doable by myself. Very carefully of course.

Once again this week I planned to attend the in-person meeting of our writing group (it’s live/Zoom on alternating Tuesdays) but didn’t make it. Just too tired, so I sat around and watched TV instead. I didn’t second guess my decision which tells me I made the right call, but I will get back to it soon. The Zoom group is great but it’s nice to see people in person too.

I finished the 10,000 words I committed to writing on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It slowed down this week as I got into relatively new material (as opposed to chapters that have survived at least two or three drafts) but everything worked. Hopefully I can keep that up. I may write more on the book assuming I stay current on my other goals. I didn’t feel ready to return to Let No Man Put Asunder this week so that one comes first.

I worked on various short stories, mostly doing research or kicking around ideas for stories that have stalled.

I put in a lot of time in correcting 19-Infinity (I’m debating whether to stick with that for a title rather than the infinity symbol. No firm opinion yet) and ordering a hard-copy proof from Amazon. That’ll help me make the final corrections and decide if the fix I put in for the formatting problems works.

Oh, and our taxes are off. TYG dug up the last forms we needed. That took some time — good thing we bought a new printer last year because it’s way smoother than doing it on the old, broken one.

While I didn’t get any Atomic Junk Shop posts up this week, my Con-Tinual panel dealing with mythological tropes is up on YouTube. You can read my most recent mythological contribution, Death is Like a Box of Chocolates, at Mythaxis. I’ll have more in 19-Infinity later this year.

I’m also almost ready to apply for a “doing business as” name for my new self-publishing house. I’ve narrowed it down to two but I’m going to sleep on it over the weekend.

At the end of a week like this I still feel frustrated with my progress. I didn’t sell any stories, didn’t finish anything, 19-Infinity is still several months from going live. I know that’s the nature of the game — writing’s not the sort of career where I get concrete, finished results every week — but it still bugs me. Such is the writer’s mind.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

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I admit, we got a little panicky …

Tuesday evening Snowdrop and Wisp showed up for breakfast. That was the last we saw of either cat until Wisp showed up this morning. This didn’t surprise me — we got several days of warm weather, when they’re more likely to roam — but after the second day I admit it worried me a little, and TYG a lot. Even though it’s unlikely something could have killed both cats simultaneously, it’s hard not to conjure up scenarios. And even if they’d found someone wonderful to adopt them instead (given how skittish they were, that’s unlikely too), we’d never know it.

Wisp showed and man, was she hungry. Scarfed a couple of bowls of food, then scarfed more after coming inside, then she napped on the couch. No sign of Snowdrop but if she made it, I think he probably did too. Hopefully he’ll show soon. TYG would be heartbroken if she never saw him again; I’d be disappointed too, though not as much.

(Below, a shot of Wisp cuddling a toy — technically TYG just stuck it under her paws while she slept but it’s still adorable, isn’t it?)Other than that panic, this was a good week for writing, though putting in 30 hours on personal projects is really exhausting by this time on Friday. Taking scheduled breaks would help but I continue to have a bad habit of forging ahead when things are going well, then wondering why I’m losing steam later.

I was on the backup list to read at my Zoom writing group this week but I lucked out and two writers ahead of me dropped out. I finally read the ending of Obolus to the group and to my surprise, they loved it — I’d been feeling much less confident in the twists of the story. Their critique did, however, point out some problems which was good too: I knew something was off but couldn’t quite pin it down. I rewrote the story Wednesday and I think it’s done, except for a final hard-copy edit later this month.

I finished rewriting the first five chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer and I’m delighted how much they’ve improved. Of course, this is the part of the book I’ve worked on most; we’ll see how I do once I get into the newer sections. I also got a little over 3,000 words done on Let No Man Put Asunder. That’s definitely becoming harder going as I continue the shift from “protagonists run, fight when they have to” to something different.

I spent a lot of time looking at local bookstores that might consider doing some sort of event for when 19-Infinity comes out and I’m not sure I’m a good fit for any of them. More frustratingly, I’d gathered a long list of book blogs to ask for reviews of the book, plus a few to solicit for Undead Sexist Cliches. All but a couple are “too busy, no new reviews!” and the ones that didn’t flatly rule it out are “maybe, possibly, sort of” at best.  Come to think of it, I had similar problems with Questionable Minds; I wonder how other authors manage it?

I read a couple more Doc Savage novels, The Polar Treasure and Pirate of the Pacific for my Doc Savage reference book (tentatively titled Savage Adventures or something of the sort). I don’t think I’ll be blogging about them, though I might change my mind on the second book.

Not a bad week of work, even if it was unproductive on the PR front. Oh, I also submitted a story and had two more posts on Atomic Junk Shop, one on DC’s Human Target and one on some interesting DC issues of late 1966.

Oh, and today while TYG was at the hair salon I had to walk the pups in a drenching downpour. You can tell how drenching it was by looking at Plushie.#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with me.

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First quarter of 2023 done!

To my surprise, I’m not feeling the usual sense of “where did the time go?” I guess when I’m doing fiction and personal nonfiction full-time, rather than the usual business and finance articles, I feel I’ve filled the unforgiving minutes with 60 seconds worth of distance run (as Kipling puts it). Even if the last week of March hasn’t been so satisfying.

TYG’s schedule this week was insane so I’ve been taking care of the dogs for even longer than I normally do when she’s busy. As the weather dipped back into the cold again, Wisp sometimes came in, which made it more complicated: if she sits in my lap, Trixie expects equal amounts of petting so I don’t even have one hand free.

While I didn’t have to get up to care for Plushie’s diarrhea, I woke up one night because some tech problem set off the work alarm on TYG’s phone, then I couldn’t get back to sleep. Next night Trixie woke TYG up and while she was in the kitchen, her making coffee woke me up (not her fault, the spare bedroom’s right over the kitchen and I sleep light). So I’m pretty zonked. I’ve had to spend much of the week doing work that wasn’t overly creative because I simply wasn’t awake enough.

That said, I did get a fair amount done, starting with our income taxes. My first draft, so to speak, had us owing three grand and change; turns out I carried over the wrong figure from one form to my 1040 so the bill is much more reasonable. W00t! Always proofread your work, people!

I solicited some beta readers for Oh the Places You’ll Go which means postponing publication by a month, possibly more if they find problems that need serious rewriting. But the feedback won’t hurt, particularly on whether I do a good job with a heavily gay, one-third black cast. The title when it goes live will be Oh the Places You’ll Go (Not the Doctor Seuss Book) just in case the Seuss estate gets PO’d.

I gave some thought to rewriting Love That Moves the Sun based on editorial feedback and started the next draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer.  I got another draft of Inherit the Howling Night (which is not going to be the title, even though I like it) done. And I spent a lot more time than I wanted on formatting 19-Infinity and Oh the Places You’ll Go. The Draft2Digital formatting system wants to turn all the subheads — like the dates when stories bounce back and forth in time — into chapter headings. Their support team is very helpful — unlike many tech companies, they provide easy access to real people — but it appears there is no easy solution given what I want to do (I’ll detail it at some later date, perhaps).Oh, and I posted at Atomic Junk Shop about DC comics house ads in 1966. Some, like the humorous approach to the Inferior Five above or the Superman below worked great.Others, as you can see at the link, were painful attempts to talk to kids in their own hip language.

Now, as to the first quarter, I took a look at my year’s goals and they’re going well, except for the money (and that’s still better than I initially anticipated). I wanted to write at least 240,000 words of fiction this year and I already have a third of that done. I’ve finished three shorts — my 2023 goal was six — and I’ve submitted to 14 markets (my goal for the first quarter was six), though with no sales. I’m making steady progress toward other goals. On the personal side, I signed up for Medicare and had a great birthday.

Here’s to keeping things going well in Q2!

#SFWApro. Cover by J. Winslow Mortimer, first ad by Joe Orlando, second by Curt Swan. All rights remain with current holders.

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Considering how it started, this week went quite well

When TYG and I got back from our madcap Mensa weekend we picked up the dogs from doggy boarding, then I made chili (quick, easy, tasty — perfect for the end of a long day driving). I’d already planned to take Monday off so that if the dogs, Wisp or Snowdrop wanted some extra attention after our absence I’d have no conflicting obligations. That proved fortunate because Sunday night, Plushie came down with the every-two-hours squirtling diarrhea.

As TYG has a less forgiving boss than I do, I took point on walking him and spent most of Monday in a daze. I tried taking naps during the day but invariably Wisp would start demanding to come in or Plushie would suddenly discover it was time for a new squirtle. He stabilized Monday night thank goodness, then Tuesday TYG took him to the vet. They found nothing; we brought him in for an ultrasound Thursday but haven ‘t heard the results. While we’d love to know why he’s had this problem more than once this year, we’re relieved they didn’t find cancerous lumps in his stomach or anything like that. If diarrheal 1AM walkies are the trade-off for keeping him around, so be it.  But for the moment he’s back to normal potty hours and solid poops.

Oh, here’s a look at him after the ultrasound. He’s so sensitive to pain (“A sensitive boy” as they put it at the vet’s), they drugged him to be comfortably numb. He remained stoned the rest of the evening.I was quite exhausted the rest of the week. Coupled with the cats spending time in the morning, I wound up not getting any exercise done; my diet was none too healthy too. Work, though, went pretty well

First up, I finished the revised Mage’s Masquerade and it looks good. I started looking for markets without any success so far though I did stumble across markets for Bleeding Blue and Fiddler’s Black. Both are now out.

I also put in work on The Cheap Assassin and have at least a working idea of the story/character arc (it’s a character-centric story). At this point, however, it’s heavy on talk rather than action. I need to find a way to have something happen besides exposition. I’ve had that problem before; it’s fixable.

I put in a couple of thousand words on Let No Man Put Asunder which gives me the 10,000 I wanted for this month. I may do more next week but there are other projects I can concentrate on. I also spent some time planning the next draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I’ve realized KC needs to be a lot more intense from the first chapter; I can see how to do it.

I also worked getting the manuscripts for 19-Infinity and Oh the Places You’ll Go ready for self-publishing. That included sending the latter story out for beta-reading. I have a cover image for it as well; hopefully I can have it out and for sale by the end of April.

And over at Atomic Junk Shop I look at the impact of Steve Ditko leaving Marvel plus a couple of stories I just like. Over at Con-Tinual’s YouTube channel, I’m one of the panelist discussing mythological tropes.#SFWApro. Have a great weekend everyone. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

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Did I miss a golden opportunity?

With my regular cash clients on indefinite hiatus, I’ve been applying steadily to freelance positions advertised on journalism websites, Linked In and the like. The most interesting was for a “with” ghostwriting gig, as in The Perfect Assassin by James Patterson with Brian Sitts. The company in question provides the plots, then pays a writer to flesh out the details — dialogue, setting, etc.

They’re doing this in several genres so I applied for the fantasy gig. Last week I turned in a 1,000-word scene following their plot, and I think it was good, but they gave me a No at the start of this week. The problem may have been that my tone was urban fantasy when they wanted a Tolkien or George RR Martin vibe. Did I miss a golden opportunity? It would have certainly been more fun than most of my paying gigs and might have boosted my name recognition factor. On the other hand, I don’t know what length of book they wanted: the pay would have been good for 60,000 words, unsatisfying for 100,000. Plus it would come in three scheduled payments per book (one when the first quarter is done, one when the manuscript is done, one when revisions are finished or something like that). I don’t suspect them of chicanery but a new company might run out of funding before I got the cash.  Who knows?

Otherwise the week went well. I spent some time jotting down ideas for the next phase of Let No Man Put Asunder and got about 5,000 words done. I’m already thinking of revisions; if I hit my minimum for the month, 10,000 words, I may go back and polish everything, as I did with the first few chapters already.

I rewrote Mage’s Masquerade and I’m really pleased with it. I’ll print it out and do a final read in hard copy later in March.

I finished rereading The Impossible Takes a Little Longer and it’s much better than I thought. Not publishable but as I’d hoped, the story arc is largely there. I started jotting down notes on fixing things; a big one is a lot more intensity in my protagonist’s emotions. I’m putting her through the ringer but it’s not showing on the page.

I read the second half of Obolus to the writing group — well, I got about halfway through in the time allotted. That’s frustrating as I need feedback on the ending, so I’ll wait and read that part again at the next meeting. Otherwise the reading went great. They found it much improved over the draft I read them a couple of months back. One guy said my lines were so good that like Douglas Adams I distracted him from the flow of the story. I can live with that.

I also reread Oh the Places You’ll Go! which I intend to release as a solo short story. It looks good but it made take more editing to make it good enough.

That plus a little bit of research reading covers it, I think. Plus I had articles about comics writer Jim Shooter and a noteworthy Silver Age Hulk tale over at Atomic Junkshop. On Con-Tinual’s Facebook page I participated in a discussion about Wonder Woman, a topic you may have noticed I’m fond of.

#SFWApro. LOTR covers by Barbara Remington, Wonder Woman cover by Gene Colan. All rights remain with current holders.


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March came in like a … well, it came in like March, I guess.

Which is to say this was not a spectacular week, but it was a solid, productive one. Well, if you discount Monday.

Sunday night it was Plushie’s turn to get diarrhea and need to go out every two hours or so. As my boss is much more understanding than TYG’s, I volunteered to take point. I spent most of Monday in a daze, without the presence of mind to do more than blog posts (here’s one on superhero teams and another on the debut of Poison Ivy). After that, things picked up.And hey, he’s cute enough to be worth a little sacrifice. Though the strange squirting sound he made when he pooped was gross.

I got a lot of prep work done on marketing for 19 ♾️. Things like local bookstores that might host a signing, book events in the area, book bloggers who might be up for reviews, etc. Of course this will be no use unless I forge ahead and contact the bookstores, which I never did with Questionable Minds. This time I must not fail!

I wrote about 1,600 words on Let No Man Put Asunder. I stopped right before the next big fight because I’ve painted Paul and Mandy into a corner and I’ve no idea how to extract them successfully. Hopefully I’ll find the solution next week.

I submitted two short stories to various markets and applied for several freelance job openings. And I began rereading Impossible Takes a Little Longer to see how well it works and what I need to fix next go-round.

Last weekend we stopped by PetSmart to shop for pet toys and found an adoption event in progress. Didn’t adopt — we have enough — but I did get to see my first polydactyl cat.#SFWApro.

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