Category Archives: Nonfiction

There will be blood! And it was mine!

No, I didn’t have an accident, I finally donated blood on Thursday.

While I’d arranged my schedule to account for the wiped-out feeling a double donation of red blood cells gives me, this trip still threw me off my game. There was a rash on my left arm when they were ready to stick the needle in — probably a reaction to something on the blood-pressure cuff — and as a result they decided to use my right arm. The veins weren’t as good, so they slowed down the system and I got out 30 to 40 minutes later than I normally would have. Then I had to walk across the parking lot and almost to the street to call a Lyft because the Red Cross is in a cell-phone dead zone.

But it’s done! And with a double dose, I won’t be ready to give again until May, so being wiped out the rest of the day (the only thing I got done was a post on Death-Ray Mirror of Dr. Mabuse on Atomic Junkshop) is worth it to cut back the number of appointments. And overall this was a productive week. That’s good, as I’ll be starting back on Leaf articles next week, so there’ll be less time for other stuff.

I rewrote Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates which I’ll submit to the writing group in a week or two. Now that the McGuffin is a box of Stuckey’s praline candies, I’ll leave it up to the group whether the title still works or if I need an alternative (It Flutters on the Soul would be my backup).

I finished Chapter Six of Sexist Myths and went on to incorporate a number of bookmarked web pages into the book. I’ll jump back and start on Chapter Four next week (it’s much rougher so I figured I’d be more able to tackle it if I got a couple of other chapters under my best).

I went over the rewrite of Fiddler’s Black I did last week and it looks good. Next week I’ll start looking for markets.

I completed two more chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Despite all the changes from the last draft, it’s flowing very well. A big part of that is the first person voice works so much better than third-person did, conveying much more of the intensity. I’m on track to get to Chapter Eighteen by the end of the month, which was my plan. However it’s shaping up to be very short for a novel length work. Then again, so did Southern Discomfort and it’s now a comfortable 90,000. Fingers crossed.

I finished a first draft of Death’s Jester though that’s definitely not the final title. It involves a couple of teenage schoolgirls in 1960s London getting entangled in a supernatural struggle. However the ending is really rushed, because I was bone-weary this morning and I couldn’t think very well, so I just wrapped it up all of a sudden. There are some bits in the ending I like, but I may revisit it next week and mess around with other options.

And I gave blood which is something I take pride in doing as much as possible. So yay.

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

Productivity and plague: my last writing week of 2019

The plague was the same problem I’ve been dealing with for four years now: the combination of dry heated air from the heating system with my asthma plus bad breath control makes me vulnerable to any virus that comes along. It gets into my throat and leaves me hacking, wheezing and eventually without a voice.

Fortunately I’ve learned to strike first when I feel the symptoms, and so Tuesday, went I felt a familiar hacking and wheezing, I went in to the urgent care near our house. Good move: they confirmed I had a virus (probably the one TYG acquired on a recent trip) and gave me some nasal drops. They seem to be working, though I’m also careful about not talking (the breath control problem — I can really strain my throat). I rested most of the day, which was smart, but cost me more work time. Plus I don’t work on Christmas. Still, I got quite a bit done.

I completed the third chapter of Sexist Myths but discovered Chapter Four is one of my weakest. Nothing that can’t be fixed, but it requires more thought than I can manage with the dogs squished up against me non-stop (I didn’t get my break last week due to Trixie’s tummy troubles so I’m feeling the loss of personal space more than usual). I started Chapter Five and did much better; I’ll come back to Four when the pups are in doggy day care again next week.

I put some more work in on Oh, the Places You’ll Go and reviewed a slightly revised version of the original version. I’ve got to say, despite one member of my writing group saying it was fine as it stood, I think it does need a lot more, so the big reboot is probably necessary.

And I completed the nine chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer I set myself as one of my goals for the month. Chapter Nine introduces the villain, and I was very unsure because he’s so radically rebooted from the previous version. However early this morning I saw a way to make him work and forged ahead. Hopefully my new approach will prove itself as I progress.

Just a few more days this year and then enter 2020. But for now, enjoy the weekend!

#SFWapro. Photograph is mine.

 

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

There is disorder under heaven but the situation is pretty good

For starters, the digital magazine Kzine, which published my Kernel of Truth in 2015, now makes hard copy issues available via Amazon.

I got mine. As I love having copies in hard copy, this made me very happy. Though my smile looks weird here, it’s sincere.

The big disruption this week was Trixie. Sick stomach again on Sunday, vet appointment Wednesday. They suggested another new food, but Thursday she wouldn’t eat it, so we kept her home from daycare. At the end of the day, she scarfed down a kong full of soft food, so she’s back to normal.

But what is normal? Is her lack of interest in breakfast a sign of a constant low level of whatever this problem is? Or is it that she just doesn’t like kibble (we thought about a tooth problem but she has no hesitation with hard foods that she likes)? Given we’re supposed to feed her mostly the new kibble plus a little of the soft food, will we have to go the other way around to get her to eat? Stay tuned.

I’d planned to use my dog-free Thursday to donate blood and catch a movie. But even if Trixie had been hale and hearty, it wouldn’t have worked. TYG has a bad bug, I have a mild version, but I didn’t think I should give blood. And we had a contractor stop by in the afternoon so I couldn’t have made the movie anyway. Frustrating. And today hasn’t been massively more productive, mostly research reading. And an Atomic Junkshop post on Christmas time-loop movies.

Despite all of which, the week was productive. I did a redraft of Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and I think I see how to fix the ending on the next draft. I wrote a couple of chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer and redrafted my Oh the Places You’ll Go. I’d been planning on a much more elaborate rewrite, but one of the writers in my group said that it worked great as it was; I’ll look at the redraft next week and see if I agree (it certainly would be quicker to get it done).

I only got about 40 percent through Chapter Three of Sexist Myths And Why They’re Bullshit. I wound up doing more Leaf this week than I’d expected and for once the time came out of my nonfiction rather than my fiction. I’m okay with that, and I think I can make it up next week.

So confused, and certainly stressful when Trixie was miserable (though the veterinary drugs we got help a lot), but pretty good. And now it’s only a few days to Christmas — where did the time go?

#SFWApro. All rights to Kzine cover (art by Dave Windett) remains with current holders.

 

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Lot of stuff done, though it wasn’t very creative

But I did bake some bread that came out great. I guess that’ll be my artistic accomplishment for the week.

It’s a beer bread from 100 Great Breads, in case you were wondering. Not as strongly flavored as some beer-based breads I’ve made, but quite tasty.

So last weekend, I was housebound with the pups while TYG was traveling. Result? Sunday work didn’t come off. In the morning we had a three mile walk; by the time I got back, had some hot chocolate (it was a cold morning) and got read to work, I only had 90 minutes before lunch walk (the shrinking daylight has pushed the start time a lot later than a couple of months back). And that was another three mile walk, after which I felt too stiff and wiped to do much. So poof!

So rather than try to squeeze in my usual mix of fiction Sexist Myths and Leaf articles, I decided I’d switch to all Leaf for a week and then going all (or mostly) in on my personal stuff the rest of the month. Result? Sixteen Leaf articles done. I’d actually hoped to do more, but with no break from the work, my mind found it harder and harder to focus.

I might do some next week anyway, but a lot less than usual. Or maybe none — we’re getting close to the point where the remaining articles are topics I can’t do.

Thursday I devoted my hours to cleaning. We’re having the writers’ group Christmas Party Saturday so I wanted to get as much cleaning out the way as possible. That included bringing in a couple of contractors to check out a ceiling problem (minor, happily) and the carpet cleaning company (dogs deposit a lot of mess on carpeting. Who knew?). Plus Google Fiber is available in our neighborhood, and we’ve switched, so I had to deal with the installer. He was good, but it took more time than I expected.

So not much creative work done. But a lot will get done in the next couple of weeks. Woot!

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Now that’s what I call productive. Well, except for today

TYG, you see, has a weekend trip out of town. So this morning I made a quick run to get some dog meds and other stuff while TYG was still here; that way I don’t have to go through the routine of setting up Plushie’s cage and putting him in it, then placating the dogs after I come back, having ABANDONED THEM OH NOOOOES! That threw me off my game, plus TYG getting ready to go also pulled focus from my writing. Not that she needed my help, but as she was packing, she was chatting, and I was chatting back, and then we had the kissing goodbye, etc, etc.

(Plush Dog contemplates my ankle)

And the weather was cool enough that lunch walkies was a long one. That not only took a chunk of time out of the early afternoon (no complaints, the pups are entitled to it) but I was quite exhausted by the time we got back. I just could not get my head in the game enough to focus on work, so I just blogged for next week (and an Atomic Junkshop post that will go live tomorrow). So all I got done today was 500 words on Oh the Places You’ll Go.

Up to that point, things were productive, despite having a dental appointment Tuesday and Trixie having her recurring tummy troubles (fortunately we have meds, and I can get them into her even if she doesn’t want to eat). In addition to submitting eight Leaf articles I submitted one short story and a revised version of my Space Invaders proposal to McFarland. They liked it, so it’s a go subject to them approving a table of contents and sample chapter; I’ll submit that stuff next month.

I finished the first two chapters of Sexist Myths and Why They’re Bullshit, and got some good feedback on the title from my friends on FB (one of whom still likes Undead Sexist Cliches so I may reconsider it). The footnotes for the next few chapters are in much poorer shape, but hopefully it won’t slow me down too much.

And I got two chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer done. So far the changes have gone down smooth, but tougher changes lie ahead. Fingers crossed.

So that was my productive week. The weekend will be spent here at home with the pups, watching movies and doing some writing.

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

Thanksgiving was … different

Not the food. Eating at Café Parizade’s big vegan banquet, we found it delicious, as always. Here’s one of my dessert plates. Why yes, we did eat a lot. And enjoyed every mouthful. And they have some neat little figures outside the restaurant too.

But it was the first time in god knows how long that I’d had a day where I didn’t feel the need to do anything. It was a holiday. We didn’t have any errands to run Thanksgiving morning, nowhere to be until lunch, so I just lay around, read, petted dogs, took a walk … it felt fantastic. Even when I’m not writing, I structure (and sometimes overstructure) my time; when I give myself a day off from work, I usually use it to clean or something.

I think I need more days like yesterday. I’ll have Christmas and New Year’s Day, but I definitely need to find space for more truly lazy days in the coming year.

As for the rest of the week, it went fairly well. I got started on the next draft of Sexist Myths, did several Leaf articles and got a couple of thousand worlds on Oh the Places You’ll Go. I also sent in a revised proposal for Space Invaders to McFarland to see if they like it better (it’s tweaked to their specifications, so maybe). I submitted two short stories. And I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to accomplish next year.

Oh, and once again I had to work my schedule around contractor visits due to a plumbing problem. Not as disastrous or expensive as I’d feared though. But Plushie was exceptionally discomfited at having to be caged in with me so he couldn’t interfere with the work.

And here we are at December. Fingers crossed, I will wrap up the year with a productive bang.

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Reporting In the Internet Age, In Fact and Fiction

One of the story elements in this season of the CW’s Supergirl is that CatCo has been bought out and taken over by Andrea Rojas (Julie Gonzalo), a corporate schemer (and, we’ve learned, a supervillain on the side) under whose governance clicks, hits and eyeballs are the sole measure of good journalism. Crap is better than good journalism if the crap is serious clickbait.

Recent developments at the Deadspin sports-and-news site have demonstrated that’s a very realistic prospect. The new owners promptly told everyone that to draw more eyeballs, they should stick to sports coverage and nothing else. The flaw in this argument being that the political stuff drew lots of hits: if the owners had any brains, they’d have run with it. As former Deadspin reporter Megan Greenwell puts it, “The tragedy of digital media isn’t that it’s run by ruthless, profiteering guys in ill-fitting suits; it’s that the people posing as the experts know less about how to make money than their employees, to whom they won’t listen.” Which is why so many of the staff are resigning.

Part of the problem may be that “publishing well-written, well-researched articles that address various subjects with authority takes longer and costs more than publishing a high volume of short posts that exist only as filler underneath narrow-topic headlines designed to game Google searches.” Which fits with my experience at the Freedom News chain: I often felt like upper management would have been happy to convert the papers to endless pages of ads and “Cutest Cat” contest instead of actually paying anyone, only they, at least knew that wouldn’t work. It’s why I became suspicious of the business-speak phrase “content providers” which implies that reporters and photographers are really no different or more important than the people who submit press releases, fishing photos or letters to the editor. It’s all content, what’s the difference?

Where Supergirl gets it wrong is that, as Greenwell puts it, “the journalists at Deadspin and its sister sites, like most journalists I know, are eager to do work that makes money; we are even willing to compromise for it, knowing that our jobs and futures rest on it.” Again, that fits with my experience. I know writing about city council budget meetings or zoning hearings might as well be blank space as far as most readers are concerned (though it’s still a bad thing that local news coverage is disappearing), even though it affects their lives big-time (more than once I’ve seen someone declare at a Destin City Council meeting that there’s been no information released about a particular issue or city project, even though I’ve written dozens of stories about it). But I do the best I can to make them interesting and readable. And I also do stories that are more appealing to readers: talented kids and their accomplishments, local writer publishes book, new business development on the harbor.

Kara, Jimmy, Nia and their fellow journalists, however, don’t think about that. As Greenwll puts i, it’s a story where “idealistic journalists, unconcerned with profit, are posed against ruthless business-doers” rather than journalists trying to combine quality and popularity with management that happily flings crap against the wall in the conviction they know what will stick. Nobody argues with Andrea that their serious news article will be a better hook than whatever clickbait she has in mind, they just protest on principle.

Of course, I also have problems with the opposite handling of journalists, where their only standard in covering stories is how it will advance their career (e.g., the graphic novel Genius: Siege). Most of the reporters I’ve known find covering stories and writing about them interesting; awards are great but they’re not the prime motivator (and bosses don’t usually assign coverage based on what will advance our careers).

Still, despite my criticisms, Supergirl comes closer to capturing 21st century reporting than the comics have lately.

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It was one of those fueled by insomnia weeks

Apparently last week stressed me out more than I realized because this week I just did not sleep. Well, four hours a night, but that’s not a lot.

However this did make for a productive week, and spending yesterday without the dogs (they were in day care) apparently fixed things as I slept like a log last night.

I’m done, pretty much, with combing through bookmarks for Sexist Myths. I incorporated several useful ones into the text but I have so much material now, I don’t think I need to just keep adding (I’m around 80 to 90,000 words, which is not what I thought this would be when I began). I’ve read them over, sorted them out and now I’ll add where I need them: there are still several sections that don’t have enough information or examples or sources. This feels pretty good: scrolling through endless blog posts and articles is more tedious and draining than writing, even when the material’s interesting

I finished another draft of Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and it’s improving steadily. I thought some about what Bleeding Blue needs but didn’t actually start a second draft. I shall prioritize fiction next week to make up for it.

I submitted two short stories and searched for markets for a couple more. The ones I found were all closed until next reading period, which doesn’t help.

And as usual, I did quite a bit of Leaf work.

I also contributed an Atomic Junkshop article on why outraged supervillains don’t just destroy the DCU or MU comic-book companies for saying smack about them. Below, George Perez gives us one example of the Impossible Man running wild in the Marvel Bullpen.

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In the face of all odds, I struggled on … or something like that

This week got messy. Not as bad as October, but I did start feeling like Spider-Man on this classic Steve Ditko cover.

Monday, Trixie started having her tummy troubles again, where she’s in obvious discomfort and won’t eat anything (it’s a semi-regular thing). We made an appointment for the afternoon and I decided that when she moped off to hide in the corners I’d just steel my heart, ignore it and get to writing.

Only unlike previous incidents, Trixie didn’t hide as much. Mostly she came over and begged for petting, which of course I couldn’t help providing. So my work slowed to a crawl.

Worse, getting her drug injections at the vet didn’t help. She was just as miserable Tuesday so I had another day of distraction, another vet appointment (as did TYG, who had to break off work to come home).  I didn’t even make writer’s group. Partly that was because it had been a rainy day and it looked to get cold enough the roads might ice over (I don’t drive on ice unless it’s absolutely necessary). But I doubt I’d have had much fun if I did go.

Wednesday, thank goodness, Trixie was back to her old self. Thursday, we took her in for an ultrasound to see if the vet could find an underlying cause (they suspected pancreatitis). Nothing. Nor did the bloodwork show any signs. We’ve switched her to a more easy-digestible food, and we’re going to try and watch in case she’s eating something harmful (she likes to eat dirt. Who knows what’s in it?). Oh, and they had to shave her to make the ultrasound, which looks weird. Hopefully if nothing else, we can make sure the time between these attacks is long.

We do have pills she can take for the discomfort but it’s very difficult getting a dog that doesn’t want to eat to take a pill. I managed it, but it took a lot of work. Next time we’ll pop it in the first time we suspect a recurrence — hopefully it’ll solve things before it gets bad.

And of course, I didn’t sleep very well with Trixie in distress.

Astonishingly, I did get some writing done. I rewrote most of Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates but I couldn’t quite figure out how to revise the finish (it’s way too expository right now). And I began working through the bookmarked references for Sexist Myths — but damn, there’s a lot of them. I know I probably won’t use all of them (there are only so many examples I need to make my point) but I’m not sure which are dispensable yet. And I submitted three short stories, though one’s already back.

I did some Leaf articles and wrote a sample article for the Bakova Gallery in Hillsborough, whose owners I met with last week. If they like it, writing for them will become a regular gig — not as lucrative as the Leaf, but it’ll be lucrative enough. And I’m pleased that even with all the distractions, I’m much more efficient than when I was writing for Raleigh Public Record a few years ago.

But I’m glad the weekend’s here.

#SFWApro. Trixie photo is mine; all rights to cover remain with current holder.

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Saving Daylight, Stealing Sleep

Like so many people, the switch to Daylight Savings Time messes up my body’s clock something fierce. I’d go to bed regular hours, but if I woke up around 3:30, my body would insist it was 4:30 which is too close to 5 AM to go back to sleep. So I’m a little sleep-deprived, again.

Despite which I had a productive week, making up for the mess of October. And that’s despite Plushie and Trixie insisting an hour before lunch and dinner that Daddy, it’s time to eat, it really is, why are you writing? And having to take Trixie into the vet Thursday for a sore throat. Chihuahuas are prone to collapsing trachea, and hers was acting up (it’s not fatal, but we have to take care of it). We got some drugs, she’s doing fine.

So what did I do, besides my usual quota of Leaf articles?

•I worked on my rewrite of Rabbits Indigneotem. I think my friend Cindy was right that a more upbeat ending works, but it’s still not quite right. I feel it’s close though, so I’ll keep working on it. I think something upbeat but black-humored would be ideal, but that’s tricky.

•Having gotten such a good response to the rewritten Chapter One of Impossible Takes a Little Longer from the writing group, I followed up with the next three chapters. I’d actually already made some changes on them so it didn’t take a huge amount of effort. It’ll get tougher as move forward into terra sort-of incognita.

•I continued rewriting Oh, the Places You’ll Go. I want to either finish the story by the end of the month (if it’s a short) or get 10,000 words in (if it turns into a novel). While I’m keeping the core of the original short story, which is the relationship between the four protagonists, I’ve followed my feedback and put a lot of work into fleshing out the world of people who use maps to time travel.

•I started going through the articles and blog posts I’ve bookmarked for Sexist Myths and incorporating them into the book. It’s going better than expected. I suspect I’ll have to cut some stuff when I finish this draft, because it’s getting pretty damn big.

•I went out to Hillsborough, about 30 minutes from my house, to meet with the new owners of an art gallery there. They’re looking to have someone write some press releases and articles for them; I’m sure they can’t pay what Leaf does, but it would be a fun break and a second income stream, which I haven’t had for a while — and not one that would suck up a huge amount of time, as some projects have.

I’m crunching numbers to figure out what to charge; I’ll get back to them this weekend and we’ll do a trial run article for their opening next week. Good thing I work fast.

•I sent off three short stories to different markets.

Hopefully I can keep up the momentum next week despite a doctor’s appointment. It does feel good to be productive again.

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