Category Archives: Nonfiction

October continues to underwhelm, writing wise

But it’s not surprising. And I still feel pretty relaxed from vacation, so I guess that’s a win, sort of.

It’s not surprising because first, I was traveling Sunday so I couldn’t do any work. Tuesday I had a contractor in and had to walk the dogs before he arrived, so I figured I’d wait until he’d arrived and done the job before I started work. Only he didn’t show (for valid reasons). Then he did show Wednesday, so that ate up a couple of hours. There’s a limit to my concentration when the dogs are all Stranger Danger Daddy! Danger! and Plushie wants to climb on the lap desk to make sure he has my attention.

Good thing he’s so cute, huh?
So that took out a chunk of time. And once I accepted I wasn’t going to get in a full week, it was easy to just get less and less done. Particularly as I was out late Tuesday after writers’ group, and woke up exhausted on Wednesday.

I did get my Leafs for the week done, and another chapter of Sexist Myths redrafted. And I rewrote the first chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer in case I was called to read at the group (I’m first in line for next week, but I may pick something else by then). And I rewrote Rabbits Indignateonem based on my friend Cindy’s feedback; I think her advice was definitely what I needed, though I still need to tinker with it.

And next week I have a dental appointment to finally get that crown on, plus one of my Alexander Technique classes. But at least I’ll be able to work on this coming Sunday.

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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

A cute photo of a puppy, then my week in review.

Here’s the puppy, a corgi I met at Petco last weekend:

Now, the week. It’s part of a two week stretch with no Leaf to write, and it went well, despite the dental visit Tuesday and some extra dog-walking.

I submitted three stories to various markets.

I found an artist (my friend Samantha Collins) for the cover of my soon-to-be-self-published Questionable Minds.

I heavily reworked Chapter Three and Four in Sexist Myths (I’m also considering Lies That Sexists Tell as an alternative title), lumping “Feminists hate men” and “feminists won’t let men be chivalrous heroes” into one chapter (the latter was my original chapter four) and other “feminists destroy society/families/the government” in another. I think it works. However Chapter Four (feminists destroying stuff) needs a lot more information and examples than I’ve provided so far. Doable, but it’ll take work.

I didn’t get as much fiction done as I’d hoped, but I got quite a bit. I reworked The Schloss and the Switchblade yet again before submitting it to a movie-themed anthology. I did another draft of Death is Like a Box of Chocolates and it’s really showing some improvement now. And I finally took a second look at one of my older stories, Oh, the Places You’ll Go. When I read it for the writers’ group, the reactions were that I needed to explore the concept (people being able to time travel via antique maps) more and give it a stronger plot. They were good criticisms though I didn’t want to give up the core of the original short story, which was the family dynamic. After giving it some thought yesterday while the dogs were in day care (as I’ve mentioned before, having dogs on my lap is too distracting to just think or outline or brainstorm), I came up with a tentative outline, some ideas about the “traveling” community and various ideas to give it more plot. I don’t know how long this revised version will be (several people said I should make it a novel, but I don’t know if that’s the right length) but I’ll let the story play out and see.

Overall nothing earthshaking, and nothing actually finished (sigh), but a week to be pleased with nonetheless.

To wrap up, here’s a blackberry goat cheese tart that I made last week. Very tasty.

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It’s always a relief when the hurricane doesn’t come where I am

I don’t mean any disrespect to the people in the Bahamas and along the U.S. coast who got pummeled by Dorian. But having lived in Florida most of my life, I always have a selfish sense of Thank God! when an ominous hurricane (it could have been a problem for Durham had it tracked further west) misses us.

That aside, this has been a weird week. Last weekend, TYG cared for the dogs for most of Sunday so I decided I’d use the time to put in a full day of work without them. Much as I love them, it really is much easier to think without them squished up against me. That way, I figured, I could make up for my lost down time by taking Wednesday off and just snuggling with them.

Instead, I spent the morning reading (and yes, petting the dogs a lot), then decided to do some Leaf work for the afternoon. That way Thursday when the dogs were at Suite Paws, I could do more creative stuff in blissful solitutde. Half working on Undead Sexist Cliches — which I think I’m going to retitle Sexist Myths and Why They’re Bullshit or the like — and half on some short fiction.

Ooops. Instead I wound up working the whole day on Sexist Myths (I guess the title change is a done deal, even if I change it again later). I had lots of information from Cordelia Fine’s Testosterone Rex I’ve been meaning to record in my notes for the book, so I did that Thursday morning. Then I had to incorporate some of the details into Chapters One and Two, which I’d already written (I finished Chapter Two earlier this week) and then footnote it and insert the footnotes into the list, then change all the numbers on the subsequent footnotes. So that sucked up the rest of the day, plus some of this morning.

I also got my usual quota of Leaf articles done, plus I rewrote Bleeding Blue. It’s looking much better since I added more women to the cast, but it’s a long way from finished. I made some changes to Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates, adding to my protagonist’s personal stakes. Didn’t get that finished though.

Oh, I also submitted Southern Discomfort to DAW Books, so I guess I’m officially done with agent-hunting. I got two short stories back but I haven’t found a new market yet.

Plus I sold some of my books on Amazon (I don’t know which, I find getting specifics frustratingly opaque)

I did find an artist for the cover of Questionable Minds; my friend and fellow author Samantha Collins is available and she’s good, so I’m hiring her.

A productive week. If I can keep up the pace on Sexist Myths I’ll be satisfied. I may switch from rewriting Chapter Three next week — it’s a bit of a mess — to Four, Five or Sex, which are in better shape.

For an illustration, here are some grumpy cat clones I saw at Suite Paws when we dropped the dogs off.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

 

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Sick dog, sick car, but I did well just the same

So Monday, Trixie displayed the same stomach discomfort she did a week previously. I spent the morning worrying about her, then TYG and I taking her in to the vet. Some anti-nausea meds made her right as rain (we have a supply for the next time it happens) but that shot my morning to hell.

Surprisingly, the week was productive despite that. And despite taking the car in for some minor work Wednesday. And both dogs apparently being hit with the needy stick and wanting extra affection. Which I gave them, because I’m a soft touch, but I can’t describe how much I enjoyed my one day of doggy day care Thursday — I honestly don’t think I usually feel that good when they’re gone. This may reflect that we haven’t taken any summer vacation, so I haven’t had the long break from them I’d usually get. And it definitely reflects that I don’t get up and stretch as much as I should. I have got to make myself do that (it compensates for the weird posture that having dogs in my lap forces me into).

Despite all of which I wound up putting in a full 35 hours this week. Part of that was spending Sunday in a writer’s work day at my friend Allegra Gullino‘s house, with her and her greyhounds and husband, and several members of our writer’s group. Part of it was working on Undead Sexist Cliches at the end of the day. Lately I’ve been treating that period as a no-work zone, and that’s been good for me, but I really needed the time this week.

So what got done?

In addition to my Leaf work, I completed my proposal for Space Invaders and submitted it to McFarland. Now I don’t have to think about it again until they respond.

I worked through Chapters One and Two of the Undead Sexist Cliches book, which I’m thinking of retitling Sexist Myths and Why They’re Bullshit or something like that. The original title worked fine for blog posts, but I’m not sure it’s the best choice for a book that’s gotten much more detailed and less snarky as I’ve worked on it.

While this isn’t a huge amount (Chapter One’s very small) it still feels like an accomplishment. While Chapter Two needs some tinkering still, I got the structure set (in terms of which topics, and how they’re organized), lots of added references to sexists saying sexist bullshit and I footnoted everything. As I anticipated, getting the footnotes in place before the text was finalized meant having to shift them around, but it felt much more satisfactory even so. And by making footnotes a separate file, I avoided having to slide back to the end of the chapter whenever I added a note (I took a look at Scrivener’s automatic footnoting, but I think this approach is easier).

Annoyingly, I got very little fiction done. I did work more on Bleeding Blue and I can see it improving, but I’d have liked to get further ahead. Unfortunately it’s easier to work on Undead Sexist Cliches because it takes less creativity than solving the plot problems in fiction. However, I’ll have to push myself — I don’t want to just set fiction aside and work on fact.

And that was pretty much it. For an illustration, here’s some of the ornamentation outside the Bean Trader, a local coffee/tea place I visit semi-regularly.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine, rights to sculpture designs reside with current holders (my apologies I don’t know your names).

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One of those “why isn’t everything finished yet?” weeks

Productive, yes. But I want to see stuff completed!

I finished the current draft of Undead Sexist Cliches, which was an accomplishment. But then I immediately jumped to adding stuff from some of the PDFs I have on my computer, mostly law journal articles about rape law. This will improve the book, but it’s slow going because there’s a lot of information (at some point I may discover I have too much material and have to prune back the text). So I don’t feel I’ve gone much further, even though wrapping up the last draft was.

I have finished writing the proposal for my next McFarland book (assuming they accept it), but I didn’t finish it. I have to open my old computer, convert it into word, check for spelling and polish it up before I send it off. I’ll get it done next week for sure, but it would have been nice to send it out this week.

I sent off one of my previously published short stories, Leave the World to Darkness to a new market that takes reprints. A Famine Where Abundance Lies came back last weekend, but I haven’t found a new market yet.

Fiction just kind of flatlined. I worked on my Tarot in Hollywood story (still untitled) but when I reached the point where I really needed to take it in a new direction, I just blanked. I have ideas where it can go but I couldn’t seem to translate them to the printed page.

And sitting with the dogs is becoming even more distracting than usual. Plushie seems to delight in squirming in my lap in ways that put me in increasingly awkward, uncomfortable positions, which does not sharpen my focus (I had to give up on one Leaf article today because I was feeling that out of balance) I can’t quite bring myself to deny the dogs snuggling opportunities (and it would be a lot of effort to keep them away), but I really need to think of some sort of solution. More, shorter breaks so I’m not sitting there quite so long, maybe?

I did put up a new post at Atomic Junkshop on loving characters vs. particular incarnations of characters. And last week, though I forgot to mention it, I contributed to a round table post about geek stuff we don’t get. Mine was mostly on the sheer amount of geek stuff out there now, and how my knowledge only encompasses a small slice of it, and it’s getting steadily smaller; I have no intention of paying for Disney streaming, so I’m going to miss all the various MCU shows they have planned.

So that was my week. I’ll wrap it up with one of my favorite Hawkman covers, by Murphy Anderson.

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Cuteness and work

Here’s one slice of cute. They don’t usually sit together, but Plushie kind of slid into that position after I got up and removed my lap from around him.

The other slice, while I didn’t get a photo, was that this morning when I opened the door to clean cat dishes off the deck, Wisp plopped herself down on my feet and just lay there, inviting me to scratch her belly. I’ve always been nervous about getting that close to her claws, but she seemed to want it, so I did … and she liked it! We still have to find a way to catch her, though (I suspect doing so will set her back to Suspicious, but it needs to be done).

Now, as to work, a pretty good week. Despite having the Oberlin alumni picnic last weekend, I managed to get in my three hours of Sunday writing. So it looks like I can stick with this approach for a while and quit earlier in the day on weekdays.

I have now rewritten Undead Sexist Cliches through Chapter Eight, on abortion and birth control. Now I just have to work on Chapter Nine about the concept of the “sexual marketplace,” and I can start with the next draft, which will add footnotes as well. I also forced myself to read some of antifeminist Mona Charen’s Sex Matters to get some examples of bad sexist language (among other things, Charen blames feminism for making women cry “date rape” if they have bad sex. No, it doesn’t make any more sense in the original).

Working on the book took more time than I expected, so I didn’t get as much fiction writing done as I’d hoped. But I worked on Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and it’s starting to have an ending. Not a great ending yet, but closer than it was. I keep feeling the urge to set it in the early 1980s but I’m not sure why. I suppose I could just use 1983 as a backdrop but I can’t help thinking there’s something I’m missing. Perhaps it’ll come to me.

Tuesday, I went to the writers’ group and afterwards we went out to Motorco in downtown Durham. It’s a much better place to eat than our usual after-group hangouts and as we’re eating outside, it’s much easier to hear conversations without the background babble building up as it does in enclosed rooms. But due to limited parking in the area and lack of familiarity, I opted for Lyft. This proved more expensive than I expected, and when I called for a pickup at 10:15 PM it took longer to get a ride than I’d anticipated. Perhaps I should switch to my own car next time, but then again I really hate navigating unfamiliar places in the dark.

Oh, and I began thinking seriously about a cover idea for Questionable Minds. I got several suggestions on FB from my friends; I’m thinking a Victorian street with maybe some kind of psychedelic coloring (reflecting the paranormal elements) but I’m not quite sure what people to put on it. Jack the Ripper lurking? Or maybe have an arm wielding a scalpel and Simon’s arm grappling with it, imposed on the street scene? I’ll give it some thought, but I’m on the way there. And I found some street scenes that might do the trick, like this public domain 1867 photo by Thomas Annan below (courtesy of wikimedia commons)

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See? I told you Wisp liked me!

For starters, here’s Wisp graciously receiving my scritching.

This week went well, though I had to take time off Wednesday afternoon for an Alexander technique class. Normally that wouldn’t have affected my schedule that much, but I decided to send the dogs to Suite Paws Wednesday rather than Thursday. That way TYG didn’t need to stay home with them (she’s had a hectic week) and we wouldn’t be picking them up around 6PM Thursday. That left me free to go to a “Published Author’s Chillzone,” a MeetUp a friend from the writing group started for published authors. I’ve been meaning to go for several months, but doggy day care kept getting in the way. This time everything dovetailed. It’s a small group, but fun, though it felt much further away than it really is. Durham has a very odd pattern of development and one long stretch of road felt like I was driving out of the city and into the deep woods. But I had fun, so hey.

I worked on the sexual harassment chapter in Undead Sexist Cliches and got some good work done but not as much as I’d hoped. However I also incorporated my beta-readers’ feedback on the previous two chapters, so that’s good.

I put in some work on the Bleeding Blue short story, and it’s starting to get into shape.

And I did my usual 10 Leaf business articles. Though as sometimes happens, my brain couldn’t quite get into the zone so I took longer than I should have.

And I slept quite well. The temperature’s gone down a little outside and now the no caffeine in the afternoons policy is allowing me to sleep again. Feels good.

That was pretty much it. Satisfying, though not spectacular. Doing three hours on weekends and less at the end of the day is definitely working out — we’ll see if that holds true this weekend, when I actually have events to go to.

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Wisp likes me!

So this week I went out on the deck to trim some rosemary leaves for a roast potato dish. Wisp was out lying by the pot (like this, although it’s an older photo) and I assumed that as usual, she’d run off under the deck instead of being close to the human.

Instead, she rubbed against me as I clipped the leaves, weaving around my legs, rubbing on my butt, and letting me scratch and stroke her head and back. It was soooo cool.

If I’d had the confidence to pick her up and place her in a carrier, we’d have solved our problem of getting her to the vet. But I suspect she doesn’t like me that much yet. TYG has been trying to snag her with the kind of loop on a pole people use for wild animals, but Wisp’s wary enough to stay away from it. I think the simplest method would be dropping a laundry basket over her while she’s eating, but we’re going to try the pole a few more times.

This was a productive week, though as often happens, it doesn’t feel like it: a lot of the work I did is still in progress, so there’s no tangible result.

I’ve almost completed my proposal for the (hopefully) next pitch to McFarland, Space Invaders. If all goes well I’ll send it off next week.

I pitched my first article query in a couple of months, to The Writer. I think it’s a long shot, but it only took me a few minutes, so what’s the heck.

I posted a blog at Atomic Junkshop in my ongoing series on what comic books are like in comic-book universes. This time up: what was the Marvel Comics in the Marvel Universe like in the 1940s?

I contacted And Magazine again about writing for them, but it looks like a no-go. The current incarnation seems to be more conservative and more national-security oriented than when I was one of the contributors and I don’t think the stuff I want to write will be a good fit (this may explain why my older articles are no longer online there). A shame — I’d really like to reach a larger audience than this blog, though I appreciate all of you who do read me here.

I redrafted Death is Like a Box of Chocolates for the better and read it at Tuesday’s writer’s group. The feedback was helpful, though nobody said anything that helps me see how to end it right. I redrafted Only the Lonely Can Slay and I’m definitely getting a little closer to making it work. Not close enough yet, though. I also read over my untitled Tarot in Hollywood story, trying to figure what I want for the next draft.

I submitted my usual articles to Leaf, although I ended up one short of what I’d intended for the week. My brain just balked and I knew better than to try pushing it.

I finished the rape-cliche chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches, breaking it into two to make the size manageable. The first half deals with cliches about consent (it’s not important. The slut probably wanted to be raped.) and not believing the victim, the second deals with “she asked for it!” and “do we want to ruin his life just for a little rape?” cliches.

My work-week included three hours on Sunday, as it did the week before. It wasn’t as effective, as I was sitting with the dogs that afternoon, but it still feels good getting the last hour of the regular workday to myself.

Oh, and the Medscape video that went live last week has generated more than 1200 hits and some very favorable comments (“Visual presentation from patient makes it interesting and simulates actual consultation.”). So I guess it did some good. To celebrate, let’s look at a spooky tree!

#SFWApro. Weird Tales cover by Joseph Eberle, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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A time hack that works? Could be

I hate working on the weekends. But last Sunday I put in three hours and it went well. And by so doing I was able to take off the last hour of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday without coming up short.

That’s a very big deal. The last 90 minutes of the day are my low point in alertness. It’s worse now that we have the dogs, because I’ve often spent a couple of hours with Plushie and Trixie (adorable though she is) squishing into or around my lap. This usually results with me bending my body into positions that do not promote concentration or clear thought. Today, for example, it’s 2 PM as I write this and I already feel my brain glitching from my position.But I don’t want to just push them away so I can work.

Three hours on the weekend when I’m not worn out and the dogs may be sitting with TYG works much better. And then I can use the freed up hours in the week to read or relax, which feels great. It’s much easier to kick back and play with the pups when work finishes (with Plushie it’s more enduring his barking until Mommy comes home than actual playing) if I’ve had a break first.

Of course there will be weekends that doesn’t work or isn’t possible, but I’m going to give it a good shot.

As a result of the time hack, I had a productive week. I got my quota of Leaf articles in and a little bit more. I redrafted Death is Like a Box of Chocolates and much improved it, but the ending is still a mess. Too bad, as I’m reading it for next week’s writer’s group; I’d thought it’d be another two weeks before I read, but enough people dropped out to speed up the queue. I’ll give it another going over on Monday.

I got a little bit more done on Undead Sexist Cliches (I’m debating giving it a more serious name. Haven’t decided) but I didn’t finish Chapter Five. The amount of rape-related myths to cover is huge. It may end up the longest chapter in the book.

I spent too much time Thursday arguing on FB. One of my Florida friends, while I’ve always found her sweet and lovable, is a die-hard Trump supporter (I know possibly she’s less sweet than I thought) and she’s been posting a lot of pro-Trump, anti-the Squad stuff, so I’ve been commenting, and she’s been commenting on mine … and Thursday I wound up wasting a lot of time arguing (and by the way, calling them “the Squad” puts me in mind of the cover below, so here it is).

I also posted another Atomic Junkshop piece about my least favorite Dr. Mabuse film, Scotland Yard vs. Dr. Mabuse.

Oh, and the video I did a while back for Medscape is now online. I play Gilbert (“My blood sugars at home are ok, and I think my prostate infection has finally cleared up, but I have a new girlfriend and worry whether I am virile enough. As it is, she’s overlooking my fat belly and balding head!” [they shot me neck up, because it seems I’m not fat enough for the role. Woot!]). You have to sign in to see it, but it’s free. I was critical of my body language (some of it seemed a little melodramatic) but given I had no rehearsal, I think I did pretty well.

And now I’m quitting early for the day. Due to a couple of sleepless nights I’m actually ahead of my 35 hour quota — and as I said, I can’t keep working around the dogs much longer anyway.

#SFWapro. Cover by Mike Grell, all rights to image remain with current holder.

 

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I didn’t underperform, but I sure under-slept

So I got a little stressed for various reasons last weekend (nothing catastrophic), and as frequently happens when I stress out, I don’t sleep.

Sunday night sleep: dreadful. Monday night: not good either. Tuesday I was so zonked I took a Lyft to the writer’s group, then headed home without going out to the bar afterwards. Wednesday: more of the same. Finally Thursday I took an Ambien and got a spectacular nine hours of sleep. I feel much better today.

While I’m sure I wasn’t functioning at peak capacity, the added time balanced out for that, some, so at least it was a productive week.

I finished Impossible Things Before Breakfast, sent it off to Asimov’s and got it back the next day (which I appreciate — speedy responses are welcome, even with a rejection). The editor said she liked it, but it wasn’t right for her. I’d actually figured it was a long shot for acceptance, but it’s nice to start submissions with a top market. And today I sent it off again. I also submitted Rabbits Indignateonem and Fiddler’s Black to other markets.  I’m really pleased with finishing Impossible Things as I haven’t completed a story since January. It counters the fear that I’m just spinning my wheels and not accomplishing anything.

I might not have done as much but Leaf is wrapping up its current project. I only had a few articles to do this week, so that opened up vistas. I intend to make maximum use of the two to four weeks before the new cycle starts up.

I’d intended to incorporate my beta-readers’ comments on Undead Sexist Cliches into the manuscript this week. Instead I took my big folder of relevant bookmarks and incorporated that. It took a lot of time (there’s a lot of bookmarks). Next month I shall manage my workflow so I’m rewriting, drawing on the betas and adding bookmarked info each week. Just doing bookmark after bookmark left me numb. They had lots of good information and observation I didn’t remember though.

And that was it. I hoped to get more work done on Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates but I kept finding more Leafs to do (probably ones other people had claimed, then given up) and I hate to pass up the money stuff.

In other news, TYG and I hoped to dope Wisp’s food Thursday and cart her off to our vet. She’d vanished over the weekend but showed up Monday and then again Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday morning … not a peep. It’s like she knew. However we still want her sore/abscess/cut looked at, and she needs her booster shots, so we’ll try again. TYG and I will map out Plan B this weekend.

Oh and our dryer has been dead for a week. As we don’t have time to make it to the laundromat, clothes have been piling up in the dirty basket. The repair dude came yesterday, didn’t have all the parts, had to reschedule for today (TYG was not pleased. He’s lucky it wasn’t her at home waiting for him). Hopefully it’ll all go smoothly.

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