Category Archives: Impossible Takes a Little Longer

The week, the ducks, the month, the rain

So Hurricane Ian reached us today. Bad, and a downed tree took out the power for a couple of hours, though nowhere near as bad as that gorgeous Pat Broderick cover.

This was one of those weeks where I was nibbled to death by ducks. Three morning appointments — automotive, dog evaluation, booster and flu shots — which coupled with the problem of getting started later in the morning (as I mentioned last week),  takes big chunks out of what’s normally my most productive time. Tuesday, when I took the car in, it was early enough that doing anything after we finished with the dogs just didn’t seem worth it — I’d barely be able to focus before I had to leave.

The car is VW Golf, one of those subject to the rigged emissions system, and a dealer email said it was due for the second part of the government-mandated fix. Surprise! — when I got to the dealer the service department took a look at the car’s history and said we’d already gotten the fix. So I blew the morning for nothing.

On the plus side, I am boosted and flu-protected. All those chumps who declared covid is no worse than the flu must never have had influenza because the two times I had it were unbelievably horrible.

Work, you say? Better than I’d have expected. A lot of promotional work on Questionable Minds, which I hope to wrap up next week. I sat down and re-outlined the next draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer and dang, it looks very promising. I’ve upped the stakes, added some plot complications and I’ve thought of one twist that might lead to a sequel, as well as removing a plot thread that wasn’t fitting well into the book. I finished Don’t Pay the Ferryman, now retitled Shadows Reflected In Darkness, and submitted it to Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’ve never succeeded with any of my submissions, but perhaps this will be the time. If not, it’s short enough (under 4,000 words) there are several other potential markets.

I also posted on Atomic Junkshop about DC and Marvel discarding potentially good characters; blogging about The Unwritten Vertigo series; and last week speculating whether even “ordinary” people in the DCU and MU are superhuman by our standards.

And a Con-Tinual panel on mythological tropes is live on Facebook.

And in really good news, my new MacBook Air arrived at the Apple Store last weekend. It is sooo nice having a computer where the keyboard doesn’t stick constantly, and a battery that lets me go untethered.

So productive, but those wasted hours always frustrate me. Ditto for the month: I got nothing done on Impossible before this week and I’d planned to do a lot. Nor did I get any rewriting done on Obalus. Of course, with my stuttering keyboard, taking Snowdrop to the vet, etc., that’s understandable.

Bring on October. Fingers crossed for more writing done

#SFWApro. Questionable Minds cover by Samantha Collins. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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It’s a trap — and I walked right into it!

Not really trapped but I do perhaps feel a little hemmed in. As it’s by good stuff and I had a good week, perhaps it’s more that I’m a bird in a gilded cage?

Yesterday McFarland mailed me the PDF of The Aliens Are Here for me to proof, edit and index. This is quite a job, especially the unimaginable tedium of indexing. Due by early September (the book comes out late that month). And wouldn’t you know, after a couple of months of quiet, Leaf suddenly has a ton of articles available. And one of my other clients wants me to do an accounting article.

I think this will rule out any chance of writing any more fiction this month. But that’s okay: I knew the proofs would arrive, I know from experience how much time it takes so I was prepared to drop everything. Well, except the paying stuff.

Oh, and I have a story I need to approve the edits on. I got an email Monday offering to buy Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and of course I said yes. I got the email today saying they’d done the edits, would I take a look please? But hey, that’s a job I’ll do with pleasure.

I’ve also got some work to do on promoting Questionable Minds. That’ll have to wait, but it can’t wait too long.

But that’s a boatload of sudden deadlines when I normally don’t have any. I’m not really complaining because it’s all good, I just wish the timing had been spaced out. Still, having too much work as a freelancer is better than not having enough work.

Prior to everything heating up, I went over Don’t Pay the Ferryman and I think it’s in good shape. I’m ready to give it a final edit, but obviously not right now. And I finished this draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It’s not looking as good but a first shot at replotting went surprisingly easily. Possibly the problems are more fixable than I thought. Again, not something to tackle right now.

Oh, I also had a filling adjusted yesterday. And posted a couple of articles at Atomic Junkshop, one on the debut of Marvel’s SHIELD and another on comic reboots that missed the point.

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

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Three good days, two that tanked

The work week went well up until Wednesday night.

We had a massive thunderstorm so Plushie freaked out, as he always does. When he’s that nervous, he doesn’t eat which meant we couldn’t give him his evening drugs. So we decided to wait out the storm which meant we got to bed close to 10. Not so late, but we’re usually asleep around 8:30. I wake up around 3:30 — and sure enough, that’s what I did. Coupled with several bad nights of sleep earlier in the week, I was too zonked on Thursday to do anything productive.

Thursday night we stayed up to about the same time because TYG was watching something on the TV. I got a full night of sleep but that meant waking up late and getting very little done before TYG and the dogs were up. Might have recovered on an ordinary morning but we had an appointment at Quartet — the dogs’ physical rehab place — so the morning was chunked up into small bits. So another day not getting anything done.

That said, I did get three productive days in. I redrafted Don’t Pay the Ferryman which I’m retitling something like Reflections in Dark Mirrors (I’d use Grin of the Dark but Ramsey Campbell beat me to it); I’m not sure the shorter ending is quite where it needs to be but I may send it out just to get feedback. I also started redrafting a short story called (for now) Obalus. It’s got a great set-up but the finish of the previous draft was a hand-wave. I’m not sure how to fix that yet. Oh, I also submitted a couple of shorts, though I got one back from a previous round of submissions.

I spent Wednesday drafting up article queries for various markets. I tend to dither when I do this, delaying until I’m completely satisfied the query is perfect. This time, while I was slower than I needed to be, I came up with three ideas and sent them out. I need to do that much more often.

I finished the 20,000 words I wanted to get done on Impossible Takes a Little Longer, once again because I could transplant a lot of material from the last draft with little changes. I think I’ve solved some of the problems I wrote about Wednesday but the new stuff and the old stuff still fit together awkwardly. But I think the components of a good book are there — I simply have to put them in the right order, tied together the right way. Easy to say, tougher to do, of course.

So a good week, but I still miss the two days I got nothing done. But I did get a great close up of Snowdrop.#SFWApro.

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

Lost in the maze of replotting

So as I mentioned last week, I added another 12,000 words to the current redraft of my superhero novel, Impossible Takes a Little Longer. That was easy because I transplanted most of it straight from the previous draft. I like the scenes; it makes for a dramatic reveal to one of the key points in the story; and it adds a good chunk of characterization to KC’s backstory.

The trouble is, it fits very awkwardly with the new material coming before it. And that material, itself, hasn’t given me an “ah, I see where to go next feeling.”

In the original plot, KC Rogers, AKA the Champion, is targeted by Lahatiel, a metahuman—a paranormal, in my setting—who claims to be an avenging angel. She takes him down, but it soon becomes obvious there’s a bigger adversary backing him. In reality there isn’t, but in investigating who might be behind him, KC draws the attention of a number of people: Captain Wonder, the world’s strongest hero; Darla Jeffries, the mayor of New York (a villain in earlier drafts, now more of an antihero); and the archvillain of the novel. Hilarity does not ensure.

In the redraft, Lahatiel doesn’t target KC; instead he goes after her BFF, Sarah Wyzbecki. This ups the stakes as Sarah doesn’t have KC’s superpowers to fight back with. Lahatiel realizes he needs to eliminate KC first and tries to do so, but it doesn’t go well for him. Lahatiel goes down and it appears the threat is over.

It’s a good mini-arc but as neither KC nor Sarah is still under threat at the end of it, the plot tension sags. That’s not a fatal flaw — it’s just a pause before things start getting more intense — but the plot now feels like it’s going in a completely unrelated direction. The next arc brings Jeffries and a couple of other characters on stage and jacks up the threat level a lot, but the threat doesn’t feel as organically connected to my villain as in my earlier drafts. And the outcome of that second arc, which includes KC’s identity as Champion getting exposed, doesn’t flow smoothly into the old material.

Another plot point I’m having trouble with is that Sarah will disappear, not by choice, from a large chunk of the book. The sooner it happens, the more pain for KC, but given everything else going on, it’s hard for me to believe she’ll keep going without a complete breakdown. Another problem is that KC and Sarah make a great pair of buddies; I want as much of them in the book as possible, which argues for pushing it back in time. Plus, the deeper I make the friendship, the more impact Sarah’s loss will have for readers.

Yet another change I’m not sure about is keeping more of the book set in the Florida Panhandle (though my writing will not capture how pretty some of it, like the shot at left, are). In all the previous drafts, KC travels to New York to ask Captain Wonder to team up with her. This brings her into contact with the nemesis and with Jeffries. Last draft, though, this didn’t work at all. She didn’t have the same motivation for asking Wonder’s help, and even less in the current one. Nor are KC and Jeffries going to be in conflict the way I’d originally seen it.

In the new draft, Jeffries comes to Ft. Walton Beach to recruit KC to fight a misogynist paranormal committing acts of sabotage in NYC (it’s the book’s big bad, though neither of them knows it). Trouble is, there’s another powerful paranormal taking interest in KC, and possibly Captain Wonder showing up in FWB as well. That gets absurd, almost at Chosen One levels (i.e., everyone knows KC is the central character) and KC simply isn’t that. I want Captain Wonder in the book, so perhaps have KC investigate things in New York and then meet her? That would work better, except as KC points out, she’s a hitter, not a detective; until she has someone to punch, there’s not much I can think of for her to do.

This is all solvable but I admit I’m impatient to get it worked out. I put a good deal of time into plotting out this draft in the hopes I could get it done faster. I’m not entirely surprised that didn’t work, but it would have been nice.

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

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I’m counting the first week of July as a win

Partly that’s just random luck; as I’ve often observed, when performance is sub-par and problems arise, random swings of the pendulum push me back towards average, if not over it.

It’s also that I’ve solved the problem I mentioned last week of not taking breaks. A break mid-afternoon to write out Remember To Vote postcards for Activate America. A longer lunch break. That second one’s still messy because I’ve been sitting extra with the dogs this week, which limits what I can do at lunch time — if I exercise, Trixie takes it as a call to snuggle. But it does help keep me going to the end of the day.What did I get accomplished? For starters I finished Adventure of the Red Leech and sent it in to a Holmesian anthology. I put in a little work on Don’t Pay the Merryman (I so have to change that title). And while I haven’t mentioned it before, a friend of mine is putting together a collaborative self-published anthology and my Impossible Things Before Breakfast is one of the stories. I took a look at the feedback from the other authors this week and made edits. I didn’t follow all their suggested changes but the advice I did take improved the story. I’l review it again next month for final decision on a couple of points where I was uncertai.

I got 12,000 words in on Impossible Takes a Little Longer, which is less impressive than it sounds: I took most of it straight from the last draft with very little changed. The results aren’t entirely satisfactory though, something I’ll discuss in a post next week.

I started researching Amazon ads, though I balked at actually spending money on them. I will authorize a small test for Undead Sexist Cliches next week, but it’s difficult for me to spend money on something that may not pay off at all. However I felt better about it when I crunched budget numbers and even with my upcoming trip to Congregate this month I can afford at least a small trial run.

Oh, and I posted a couple of times at Atomic Junkshop about Marvel Comics in 1965, and the end of Giant-Man’s series. Go ahead and check them out if you’re interested in the topic.

And now the weekend is here.

#SFWApro. Undead Sexist Cliches cover by Kemp Ward.

 

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Trixie is adorable. Her tummy, not so much

Wednesday, Trixie once again woke up with a bad tummy. Felt bad, didn’t want to eat, not even her favorite treats. She insisted on coming down to sit with me so my morning plans went out the window. When she started throwing up later, we took her to Park Vet where they gave her an anti-nausea shot. They told us not to feed her until Thursday so I spent evening with Trixie looking around for her food every time I gave Plushie anything. Then looking at me in puzzlement.

Thursday morning, her tummy continued, which is not unprecedented. I had to skip stretching again because it’s not possible to do yoga or any sort of exercise when a small dog insists on snuggling with you. Happily by afternoon she was completely back to normal and this morning I got a full slate of stretching and yoga in.

Despite all that, and a couple of other unanticipated errands I put in a solid week of work.

More on the rewrite of Southern Discomfort.

Another article for the Accounting Seed website.

Another 3,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I got past the stumbling block I hit last week, but the changes I made still leave me unclear about what comes next. Still, my instincts have been sound so far.

I finished another draft of Adventure of the Red Leech and it’s looking quite good. I’ll be reading it to my writing group in about a week and a half. I also realized they might be right about Don’t Pay the Merryman (soon to be retitled) when they said the first section would work perfectly well if it had a better ending. I’d like to tell a longer tale and someday I hope I do, but for now I’m going to try cutting it short. I took my first shot at an ending; I’ll give it another go soon.

And I’ve picked the cover for Questionable Minds. I’ll do the requisite cover reveal soon as it’s settled.

Today I was a little exhausted; TYG and I are doing some stuff later so I had to front-load my schedule to get everything in and free up this afternoon. But I succeeded, actually coming in slightly over my required hours. Yay me.

This weekend, though, I intend to crash thoroughly.

#SFWApro.

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When superpowers reboot history

The basic idea of Impossible Takes a Little Longer is that superpowers are normal, superheroes are not.

Lots of people have paranormal abilities; only comic book nerds like my protagonist KC, dress up in costume. Which is not meant as any sort of metacommentary on comics — if you read my Books Read posts, you know I love superheroes — but just to make my world different. So no glorious gatherings of heroes like this one below from DC’s All-Star Squadron (art by Arvell Jones).My original concept for this book was to have the people with powers working behind the scenes, but then I wondered, why would they do that? Why not flaunt it if you’ve got it? And then I started to think about how the world might change …

The first “para-normal” individuals (paranormal wouldn’t become a noun for several decades) appeared at the start of the last century. “Ubermensch” Wilhelm Fischer. Randall Holcroft, the Deathless Duke. The initial assumption was that this was the next step up in evolution — the Caucasian male, the summit of human existence, was becoming something greater. More white men with superstrength or similar physical powers seemed to confirm it.

That theory collapsed in the Great War. Johnny Billings of the Harlem Hellfighters proved as strong as any paranormal white guy. Sister Mathilde, the “Iron Nun,” began walking into No Man’s Land and back with the wounded, protected from attack by an impenetrable force field. She was the first woman with paranormal ability and the first known paranormal who wasn’t simply physically enhanced. Only a few more followed, mostly claiming religion or magic as the source of their power.

Obviously if women and blacks could have powers, the theory was bollixed. In the coming years people speculated about the cause without succcess: was it possible all superhumans were gifted by God? Or Satan? Or both — beliefs that black paranormals were demons fit in very nicely with America’s history of lynching and segregation. But there’s never been a general hostility toward paranormals comparable to mutant-hating in the Marvel Universe.

At this point I haven’t thought of any radical changes to history prior to WW II, though that may change. WW II however came out very differently. Josef Mengele became the first person to successfully induce paranormal powers in himself (a lot of people tried; it didn’t go well) and the first to acquire mental powers. He became a supergenius whose Ubermenschen super-warriors and Second Horseman Virus enabled Germany to crush all opposition between the Russian front — protected by Baba Yaga — and the English Channel. After assassins took out the royal family and Winston Churchill, it looked like Hitler would take England too.

Fortunately Arthur returned to defend his kingdom, along with Merlin. Merlin’s magic stopped the invasion cold, but Arthur declared himself isolationist — no involvement in the war as long as Hitler stayed on the continent. That meant the US couldn’t base troops in England which made taking the war to Germany more difficult. Plus Germany did not declare war on us after Pearl Harbor, so the U.S. war was entirely against Japan.

After the war, things changed further. Instead of spreading communism, the Soviet Union focused on protecting itself so there was no Cold War, no Korean War, no Vietnam War. I haven’t worked out all the ways that changes things yet, but suffice to say the list of presidents will be very different. The current president is someone we’ve never heard of.

Other changes followed. Silicon Valley seceded in 1980; as they don’t share their tech, computers in the rest of the US haven’t advanced any further than what was available around that time. No cell phones, for instance; VHS tapes but no DVDs or streaming.

The heroic alien Stardians arrived in Dallas in the 1980s along with the evil adversaries, the Unhumans.

Wyoming was the victim of a white supremacist nuclear bombing incident near the end of the same decade.

The rest of the world has had its share of upheavals. Kukulcan returned to rule Central America in the 1950s, overthrowing the many American backed dictatorships in the region. Blacks in what was once Rhodesia discovered their ancestor’s lost psionic science in the 1960s, overthrow the white supremacist governments of Rhodesia and South Africa and formed New Zimbabwe.

In Iran, Zohak, the evil tyrant of the Persian Shah Nameh, returned and seized control of his former kingdom. His armies of the Corrupted swept forth in the late 1960s, forcing the Arab states and Israel to form an alliance against him. The alliance held; while Israelis and Arabs have never become fond of each other, Zohak’s threat has replaced most of the conflicts in our timeline.

Where do all these powers come from? Are supposed magicians just super-powered, or are paranormal powers just a form of magic? I’ll discuss some of the in-world theories in a later post.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders; comics cover is uncredited.

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A good week, though not because of writing

This was not a wildly productive week, but I anticipated that. Today, you see, I set aside time to give blood; after I got back, I knew I wouldn’t be feeling creative. It’s the double-dosage donation though, so I won’t be back until  September.

Wednesday, also planned, we went to the North Carolina Zoo. TYG got us memberships as an anniversary gift in 2019 but our anniversary is the summer — way too hot — and the fall got crazy. Then came the pandemic. So it’s been a while. It’s laid out very well, with large enclosures for herds and animal families and lots of walking — it’s been a long time since I walked six miles on one day. Above, a hellbender; below, a puffin.It was a great day. It turns out I can turn down the noise in my mind  and focus when I have something this cool to pay attention to. And it’s always good to see that TYG and I can still spend hours together and enjoy it. The dogs went to a local day-boarding place for the first time in two years; I was quite tickled the staff remember them. But hey, they are awesome.

Somewhere in there, I did get work done. I sent off two short stories and two nonfiction queries on Monday and revamped Undead Sexist Cliches so that the paperback version now has a table of contents (I’d screwed up and omitted it). Amazon is currently reviewing the text for problems so I’ll have to link to the ebook for now.

Tuesday was the day to bat out about 5,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It turned out to be the day that got nibbled to death by distractions. A dead animal in the driveway that TYG asked me to remove. A spider in the house (ditto). And driving the car to get the tires checked before our 90 minute drive to the zoo. Plus it turns out that I simply sketched the plot of the next few chapters, figuring it would be much like it was in the last draft. Due to the changes in the first 25,000 words, it’s not going to fly. So not much done.

I had better luck Thursday with Adventure of the Red Leech. Going over it, I found my plot holds together much better than I thought. Rewriting shouldn’t be too hard. I didn’t get as far as I expected this week, though. First, I was still tired from our hike Wednesday. Second, I discovered Oh the Places You’ll Go!, which has been at the magazine I submitted to for around two months, wasn’t being strongly considered — they rejected it the first week but didn’t say so (possibly now that they’re using Moksha they expect everyone to check for themselves). That put me in a very unenthused mood for a couple of hours.

But it’s a good week, regardless. We must make an effort to do more fun stuff like this.

#SFWApro.

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As predicted, returning to average (maybe better).

As I said last week, bad streaks don’t last any more than lucky ones. While this wasn’t a stellar week, I did get quite a bit done.

Most notably I finished the first 25,000 words of my Impossible Takes a Little Longer rewrite and it’s surprisingly good. The surprising part is that after rewriting the first few chapters it goes in several new directions. That’s usually the point at which my rewriting breaks down and becomes a struggle. Instead it’s moving along nicely. A long way from polished, but a solid draft. I added about 12,000 words to what I’d already accomplished.

I also put in a little time on my Southern Discomfort rewrite. Still going well, and putting Maria’s scenes in first person still feels like the right choice.

That was pretty much it other than some Leaf bill-paying work. And getting a rejection on Glory That Was (sigh).  On the plus side, I sold something at Amazon, though I can’t yet see which book it was (I hate that about their publishing system). Oh, and over at Atomic Junkshop I squeeze one last blog post out of rereading 1964’s comics. As you can see from the above Wally Wood illustrations, it involves Daredevil vs … a matador? Plus a remarkable Superman story. Then I cross-posted an old one from this blog, on the travesty of the Will Smith/Kevin Costner Wild Wild West reboot.

In my persona life, I got the second Covid booster Tuesday. Arm hurt way more than previous shots but no other negative effects. Regrettably it didn’t hook my brain up to 5G internet either. Just think how easy it would be to download porn if nobody could see it! And my vertigo has decreased to the point I have only one more physical therapy appointment, a month from now.

In addition to all that, I would have liked to work on the short stories I’m working to finish. Falling behind on a novel, however, usually works out worse.

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

 

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Things fall apart, the schedule does not hold

I know intellectually that an occasional crappy, unproductive week is inevitable, but I still hate the feeling.

Monday I wrote an article. I could not seem to come to grips with the information (about product accounting) and it took twice as long as it was supposed to, running into Tuesday.

Wednesday the dogs came down extremely early so I never had the hour or two of calm that helps me get my head in the game. Thursday the same; coupled with the added doggy care I’ve been doing while TYG wraps up her big project, my brain just rebelled. I spent the day mostly blogging.

And today it rebelled even more. I could tell I wasn’t going to get anything done, so I stopped. I feel guilty but I’d end up feeling worse if I sat there staring at the computer and doing nothing.

I did get a little bit of work done on Impossible Takes a Little Longer — not enough, but it’s good work. And I got a lot of hours in on my Southern Discomfort rewrite, which is also looking good.

I also got a couple of posts up at Atomic Junkshop. One deals with several open-ended plotlines in various comics at the end of 1964, such as the Outsider plotline beginning in Detective Comics 334.

The other deals with one of my favorite Silver Age love interests and Namor’s god-awful sweetheart, Lady Dorma.

So that’s about it for the week. Next week will be better!

#SFWApro. Art by Gene Colan, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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