Category Archives: Nonfiction

This is more like what I wanted from January

Admittedly the week wasn’t perfect. With snow arriving today, I went out and did my grocery shopping yesterday morning along with a couple of other errands. Between that and a miserable lack of sleep Wednesday night, I got very little writing accomplished. Despite that, it was an excellent week.

First off, Undead Sexist Cliches is now live in the ebook version. You can buy it on Amazon, or from Draft2Digital and from multiple other ebook retailers. I got a proof copy from Amazon and everything looks good, I just didn’t have time to complete the approval process today. However it will be available in paperback before the end of next week.

This is a little draw-dropping. I’ve been working on this thing for several years (I’m not a fast writer) and like wrapping up Aliens Are Here last year, it’s startling to realize I’m done. Finished. Ready to move on to other things. And you know, I think it’s a terrific book.

Good news the second, I’ve been accepted as a Congregate 2022 guest. It’s a Winston-Salem convention which means it’s only 90 minutes away, though I imagine I’ll stay over. Fingers crossed that covid is tame enough by then I can make it.

I rewrote Oh the Places You’ll Go again and read the first part for the writer’s group Tuesday. They were enthusiastic though some of the feedback pointed out things I really need to address. But now I feel it’s also on the bring of finishing — it needs some rewriting but I think the story is solid enough it won’t need more.

I put in some time on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and it went well. I got past one plot stumbling block, though it may come back to bite me later. I also made some major changes to KC’s trip to Dallas and the Stardians that I think greatly improve that section of the book.

I pitched article ideas based on Aliens Are Here to both Tor.com and the SFWA blog. I also posted two more articles to Atomic Junk Shop. One marks the Black Knight’s appearance in Eternals by looking at his Silver Age appearances (including the scene above) the other looks back at the god-awful 1967 Casino Royale. Though it does boast a wild poster.As the Leaf articles just started up for January, I don’t know if I’ll get any more fiction written. A solid week of Leafs, plus the ones I did this week, should take care of my bills for February, which is good. But either way here’s to next week being just as productive.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, comics illustration by George Tuska, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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

Second week of 2022: Progress and chaos

I came about four hours short of a full work week which is annoying. The trouble is, there are just too many unpredictable elements.

For instance Thursday I had to pick up prescription dog food after lunch, then find a gas station with diesel to fill up our almost empty car (under the assumption the winter storm this weekend might mess up supply). That took longer than planned because the diesel pump at the station we usually use was down, so I had to drive further.

Today, we took the dogs on a big lunch walk which used up some unplanned extra time, then Wisp came in, then I was chatting with TYG for a bit … and so lunch increased by an unexpected 45 minutes. As I’ve said before, there’s really no good place in my schedule to put the time back in and it adds up, day by day.

That said, the work I did get done was good and productive. I decided that Draft2Digital’s payment rate for hard-copy books was less than I liked (their ebook rates, by contrast, are excellent) so I tried KDP, Amazon’s publishing arm. This works out much less well than I remember from earlier books but it pays me more than Draft2Digital on a lower price.

Draft2Digital’s process, however, does provide an Amazon ready PDF but getting the system to handle my friend Kemp Ward’s cover proved remarkably difficult. I finally worked it out, though, and I’ve got a proof coming next week. Assuming no problems, both paperback and ebook will be available this month.

I finished another draft of Oh the Places You’ll Go. It’s very clunky but it does include all the elements I want and has (I think) a workable plot. Next week we’ll see what the writer’s group makes of it. I suspect the best solution to making it less clunky would be expanding it. I don’t want to go novel but maybe 15,000 words or so, about double the price? I think that would slow down the rate at which I share information and it will help explore the character relationships I think are the heart of the story. And it’ll give me time to work with the ending too — it’s kind of rushed right now.

Last week I found myself stymied by the next section of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. This week I saw how to get past that. There are things I don’t like — it takes Sarah off the board for longer than I wanted — but I think the revised plot holds together.

That was pretty much it. Oh, plus I’ve been posting at Atomic Junkshop: The past two weeks I’ve covered out-of-date satire, abandoning movie theaters, Batman’s con-man villains, and that bad Dunwich Horror cover I posted here Tuesday. Much less effective than the poster for the bad 1970 film.#SFWApro. Book cover by Kemp Ward, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

The scheme is sound, the execution less so

When I started this month I sat down and calculated how many hours I had for writing, not counting email and blogging. Then I broke it down. 40 hours of Leaf articles would cover my bills next month. I could divide the remaining time between Oh the Places You’ll Go!, Impossible Takes a Little Longer and nonfiction stuff (article pitches, last bits of work on Undead Sexist Cliches). That way if it was a couple of weeks before any Leaf articles came available I could spend that time putting in extra work on other projects, then put in more time on Leaf stuff when things changed.

That premise proved sound. I spent the first couple of weeks doing fiction, then plunged into Leaf. At the end of today I’d made my quota for the month, enough after taxes to cover January’s bills (assuming I don’t have a massive unplanned expenditure) and maybe have a little left over. A month ahead is good, but in freelancing two months makes me happier.

But as I mentioned last week, I wound up losing quite a few hours earlier this month. As a result I’m not anywhere near where I want to be on any of my other writing goals. While part of that is due to TYG’s unusually heavy end-of-the-year workload, a lot of it is baked into the way the dogs, Wisp and Snowdrop eat up increasing amounts of time. A half-hour less each morning is 2.5 hours less during a work week. There are other time drains, both temporary (we’re walking a neighbor’s dogs at lunch this week) and permanent (it’s hard to focus in the evenings when Plushie’s doing his Cats On The Deck! Danger! bark every few minutes).

This will have to be solved because there’s a lot I want to write next year. I will find a way to maintain my full creative work week without stiffing the puppies of TYG of what they need. And I will do it by New Year’s because I want a productive January, dammit!

For the moment, I will take satisfaction in having paid the bills for January (so to speak). That’s a good feeling. And in it being Christmas Eve, which is also a good feeling. TYG’s workload has made this a rough Christmas season but having her and our various animals around is so much better than spending it alone.

#SFWApro, merry Christmas and happy holidays. Cover by Gil Kane, all rights to image remain with current holders.

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

And now those empty hours return to mock me

I did well enough on my writing last week that the hours I lost to extra pet care or donating blood didn’t bother me too much. This week, they bother me a good deal more.

I came up 10 hours short on my writing time this week (keep reading). With two weeks left in December, I’m suddenly aware of how much could have been done with them, and the hours I didn’t write last week. Especially as the Leaf articles picked up again so I’m putting in lots of time on them. I thought I’d factored that in: x amount of Leaf articles leaves me with y hours for Impossible Takes a Little Longer and z for Oh the Places You’ll Go.  That doesn’t work as well if it’s y-10 hours

Multiple things derailed my schedule this week. For one, TYG got handed a major rush project which has led to much more dog care on my part. Even aside from that, the amount of dog and cat care in the morning just keeps increasing for various reasons. 8:30 AM is my new normal for starting work, rather than 8AM — that’s 2.5 hours gone right there. And there’s really no period to make up the time as evening writing is very iffy unless I’m absolutely completely focused.

For another, the washing machine broke last Sunday. I drained the water out, examined the drain — last time this happened, there was a sock stuck in it — but it didn’t help. I tried again Monday for about a half hour, then called in a pro. He showed up the next day (yay!) but he had more questions for me and needed my help doing things such as lifting the dryer off the top of the washing machine. That sucked up more time, but it had to be done. And he correctly diagnosed and fixed the problem, so yay again.

Third I came down with a mild cold Tuesday. Physically it wasn’t anything but a runny nose but it completely wiped me out for the afternoon and evening. My plans to make up for the washing-machine distraction went nowhere. Wednesday I was back to normal, thank goodness.

I didn’t get anything done on Impossible and maybe 3,000 words on the next draft of Places. However I also reread my earliest draft of that short story and saw what I’d been missing. I replotted and it’s much stronger and (I hope) more interesting. So that’s good.

And then I finished a bunch of Leaf articles, with more to come on the weekend and some next week. I also wrote a couple of posts for Atomic Junk Shop, one on Silver Age hero Karel Sorensen and one on how the way I read comics has changed.

I got nothing done on Undead Sexist Cliches but at least I have a cover to reveal, courtesy of my friend Kemp Ward.

I think it looks great. Now I just have to do the last little bit on the book.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

The vomit — and the victory!

No, not my vomit of TYG’s. But Tuesday, Trixie puked up while still on the bed. She had another puke later and since then she’s been fine. However Plushie, who’s more prone to puking, did so Wednesday and Thursday morning. And every time, TYG had to wash the sheets while I took care of the dogs. Given I’m already dealing with Wisp and Snowdrop in the pre-work morning, this makes for a chaotic period. As I count on a reasonably calm period to get myself in a head space for writing that was disruptive.

Despite which, the week’s writing went well (hence the “victory”). I’m now 14,000 words into a new draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I couldn’t focus enough to do much on Oh the Places You’ll Go! but I reread my earlier drafts and figured out what was missing from the current one. Earlier I’d focused on the family connection between my four protagonists but I lost that in adding more plot and incident. I sat down Thursday and replotted the story and I think I’ve melded the two approaches successfully.

I put a great deal of time into working on Undead Sexist Cliches as the proofing and spellchecking requires relatively little creative work. It’s easy to do even when frazzled. I also worked on some queries for articles related to Alien Visitors in the hopes I can both promote the book and make some extra money off my research.

Snowdrop is coming in every morning. As you can see, he’ll even sit on the couch. However it’s freezing cold and he won’t stay inside if I close the porch door. This limits how much I can keep him in. He’s made the transition to eating inside much faster than Wisp did but he’s a lot more wary about people. Even without the dogs, he’d make it hard to focus on things like yoga, stretching, exercise, etc. Wisp has her own spot, a pillow on the back of the couch where I work. She likes it even though, as you can see, it’s not always a firm foundation for her. It’s much easier to deal with the dogs at the same time if she naps up there rather than in my lap.

Oh, and I gave blood this morning! It took much longer than I expected — the tech was new — but I got it done. So despite the vomit, I think the week is a win.

#SFWApro.

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

99.99 percent done

Yesterday was a looooong day, almost an aill-nighter, but it’s done. Alien Visitors is finished, other than the mechanical steps of sending it off digitally, then mailing the hard-copy illustrations.

I thought I’d have to do a regular post this morning but nope. Not when I wound up feeling a little like this:But it was worth staying up late, knowing the whole thing is done. It feels great looking at today and knowing I have no responsibilities other than sleeping, playing with dogs, watching TV.

#SFWApro. Cover by Joe Kubert.

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Crunch time!

So my manuscript for Alien Visitors is due a week from tomorrow. The work is progressing, but nowhere near fast enough to suit me. So while I will be posting through the next week — I’m not about to break my years-long streak of daily posts — it may not be more than an image or two.

However I will present you with this photo of Snowdrop coming in this week to eat breakfast indoors.Given how skittish she is — I had to stand half the room away — I think this is a real accomplishment. A long way from getting her indoors as much as Wisp is, but she’s come this far much sooner than Wisp did, so there’s that.

And that’s about all I have time for, alas. Time’s winged chariot ain’t waiting on me.

#SFWApro.

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The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and stuff like that

Which is to say I can see real progress on Alien Visitors though nowhere as much as I’d like to see. The biggest challenge is trying to explain my insights into the various subgenres coherently and not having too much of a listicle feel. When I’ve read chapters to my writing group, the recurring complaint has been that there are too many points where I just list movies without any context or identifying information. And because several shows and films are referenced in multiple chapters I’ll eventually have to prune information that I repeat in too many places.

Still I have everything but the comedy chapter in a reasonably good shape (the superhero chapter is a little rough). I’m not sure why comedy is proving so elusive, but it is. But I’ll work on comedy and superheroes this weekend, as well as figuring out how to manage my time for November between now and the Nov. 20 deadline. Then all I have to do is deliver on it.

That includes time for watching various TV shows (Roswell Conspiracies, X-Files) and movies. Because I keep discovering new insights or examples when I watch new movies, so it’s worth making the time. This week, for example, I got good ideas from both Lilo and Stitch and Absolutely Anything (details when I get to the review post in about a week or so). So I keep pushing myself, even though it’s sometimes hard to find the time.

Other than that, I got some Leafs done — I should have most of next week Leaf free, which will be great for the book — and a friend showed me his cover designs for Undead Sexist Cliches. I think we have a winner; cover reveal will come soon. Oh, and I’ve finished all nine chapters so I just have the afterword to proof.

And showing why proofreading is necessary, I discovered I’d screwed up the footnotes to chapter nine, which I am fixing as part of the final revisions. It’s quite obvious I won’t get the book done by the end of this month but I can still finish it simultaneously with wrapping up Alien Visitors. I hope so, anyway.

I did finish and resubmit my edited golem article so that’s out the way. And I’m pleased with my work too. Much like the way I break down Alien Visitor films and TV into various patterns and themes (I did the same thing for time travel films in my last book), I look at golems as defenders, destroyers, artificial life forms, their relationships with other people and golems vs. the Holocaust. My editor was pleased with it too — the rewrites were minor.

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

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Filed under Nonfiction, Now and Then We Time Travel, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

I may be running slightly out of steam …

Which may be due to lack of sleep — okay, it’s definitely partly lack of sleep — or that to get Alien Visitors done, I’m not taking any complete days off.

Either way, I realized this morning that I needed to take a break from the book. I did a Leaf, worked on Undead Sexist Cliches and finished the Golem article. That  required rereading Gustav Meyrink’s The Golem as my editor wanted to include it (fair enough — it was a critically acclaimed novel that sold a lot). I can’t say I liked it more than my first reading, but I can appreciate why it’s strangeness found an audience.

I still have to give the article a final proofread, but I think I’m done.

Earlier in the week, though, things went great. I have a solid draft of every chapter in Alien Visitors except the comedy and Men in Black chapters. The other chapters still need rewriting, but I think they’re at the point where it’ll go smoother, and hopefully faster, than these first drafts have.

I also got lots of movies and TV watched, including more X-Files, a British show called Undermind (doesn’t quite qualify) and a couple of episodes of Ben 10.

Wisp has resumed coming in overnight so apparently she’s over the trauma of being bunged in a cage last week. Snowdrop has been showing up regularly, though she doesn’t come in yet. She and Wisp seem on good enough terms Wisp doesn’t steal her food; then again, she’s quite happy to snarf Wisp’s if she can get away with it.

We had a minor alarm with Trixie midweek, when she moped around as she does with a bad stomach upset, except she was happy to eat. We made an appointment for her but the next day she was fine. We canceled, though we both worried that once it was too late, the symptoms would recur. They didn’t. That’s a relief — I love my little terrier/chihuahua.

Come on, who couldn’t love that face?

#SFWapro. Cover by Ernie Chan, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Disruptions come on little cat feet

So last weekend, TYG noticed that Wisp’s back left foot looked as if it had some sort of bite or cut. We sprayed it a couple of times without noticeable effect, other than stressing Wisp out — she really didn’t like it and tried to avoid it. But I got photos, which we showed to the vet, and they said to bring her in. So the next morning we tried various tricks, unsuccessfully, to lure Wisp into a cage. Finally TYG just picked her up and bunged her in.

We covered it with a blanket to calm her down but it didn’t help. Piteous meowing followed. When that didn’t get her out, Wisp began clawing at the sheet under the cage, pulling it in. I’m not sure what good she thought that would do.

The vet told us the foot had been bitten or scratched, and become infected. They gave her a big shot of antibiotics and we brought her home. Since then, she hasn’t slept inside the house once. I’m not sure how much it’s Snowdrop’s influence and how much she’s lost trust that we’re a safe space. I hope she’ll be back in soon.

That made Tuesday pretty chaotic, but overall the week went well.  I got work done on several chapters of Alien Visitors and finished proofing the harassment chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. Did my Leaf articles. Accomplished some film viewing and research reading for Alien Visitors too.

I also asked my editor for an extension so that I can catch Eternals and add it to the Gods From Outer Space chapter. They’re good with it. I shall use the added time to add some depth to the chapters. I admit I’m a little disappointed not to have everything wrapped up at the end of this month, it’s also a relief not to have to wrap everything up.

Oh, and for the second time since I started paying state sales tax on copies of my books sold, the state processing fee was less than the money I made off the books. Achievement unlocked!

#SFWApro.

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