Category Archives: Nonfiction

Wisp says hello

As I said this morning, she showed up, climbed on top of the table (it shelters the heated house, which isn’t waterproof) and peered in at us. We were very relieved to know she was alright.

Another relatively quiet week. I got several Leaf articles done, the most interesting being 1800 words on “Job Duties of a Nun.” And that’s it until 2019; much as I enjoy the dinero, I’m happy to have added time for finishing up Southern Discomfort.

I made it over 50,000 words so I’m past the halfway mark. I think I’ll be done by New Year’s as planned. After all I have two work weeks, less Christmas, and nothing else on my plate. Fingers crossed.

I did run into one major plotting problem but I fixed it fast. First I realized Joan was breaking a promise to her father to stay at home much too casually — for good reasons, but I’d already established she feels duty bound to keep her word. Then I realized that the FBI would probably have a few questions for her, which makes getting out of the house mandatory. Problem solved!

Hopefully they’ll all be that easy.

Oh, and I received a copy of the October/November History Magazine with my story on the history of the Fordson, the first affordable tractor, and how it and its eventual replacement, the Farmall, changed agriculture.

And I spent Thursday while the dogs were out doing some major cleaning to ready the house for the writers’ group Christmas Party Saturday.

Below, Wisp’s tentative check if we were ready to feed her.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine, give credit if you use them.

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Will my reach exceed my grasp? Stay tuned!

As of today, Southern Discomfort is at almost 44,000 words. That leaves me with roughly 50,000 more to get through by New Year’s Eve to finish. That’s doable, but not a slam dunk. If I run into problems with some of my later scenes, or I get sick for a couple of days, I may be SOL.

I added 11,000 words to the book this week, which is definitely not enough if I keep going at the same speed. However I have only one more week of Leaf articles; after that, I’ll be free to work on the novel and nothing else. And this week I was sidelined Tuesday by having an opthalmologist appointment with eye dilation. As a result, I wasn’t able to use the computer for two or three hours after getting home. We’d taken the dogs in for grooming the same morning so I figured I could do some cleaning and giftwrapping while they were gone, as that doesn’t require the same level of fine eye focus. Nope, they were ready much sooner than I’d expected, so I had to push the cleaning to later in the week.

So it’s still doable. I shall stretch like Plastic Man until I achieve my glorious triumph! Or so I hope.

As my writing this week was just the novel and Leaf articles, I don’t have much else to say. Although I did have some more entertaining Leaf articles than usual, such as “Duties of a NASA Mission Specialist.”

I must admit I’ll be glad when I’m done with Southern Discomfort but if it comes to a choice between “get it done” and “make it good,” I’ll go with option B. But I’ll spend the rest of this month trying to avoid that choice.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Cole, all rights remain with current holder. I picked it to fit the “reach” theme, but also because it’s just cool.

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33,000 and counting

I accomplished 57 percent of my November goals. That’s primarily because I underestimated the impact of my colonoscopy on my work Thanksgiving week (and for that matter my off-work activities). And yes, insomnia played a role. As I sleep great on weekends, I’d anticipated making up for lost time over the four day weekend. Instead interruptions from one source or another meant I only got one night of good sleep. Bleah!

The biggest fail on my goal list was not finishing Southern Discomfort. That one I can’t really blame on my colon, though the short work week certainly had an impact. So did the Leaf articles continuing longer than I’d expected.

But the main reason is, it’s been a long while since I read an entire novel aloud, and I’d forgotten how long it takes. Rewriting and changing the scenes is taking more work than I thought too. I’m rewriting the flow of conversation so it makes more sense, adding tension to some scenes (though some of them are simply going to be about setting and character, and that’ll have to be enough), checking formatting. Every decision then leads to more changes (well, not the formatting). Making Maria more skeptical about whether it’s really magic in one scene means she needs to be skeptical in the next scene, or I have to show her changing.

Still, when I counted up the completely finished wordage this week, I was pleased. As of today, I’m a little over 33,000 words done, out of a 92,000 word book. And next month this is my only writing goal besides the Leaf articles, which will wrap up before too long. So I should be done by New Year’s Eve. Well if the good lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, as they say. Even if it rises, I can get it done in January, but I really want to start 2019 fresh.

And I wrote another Dr. Mabuse article for Atomic Junkshop. As I didn’t have time for even a half-hearted film review, I looked at two Dr. Mabuse songs, Dr. Mabuse by Propaganda and Dr. Mabuse by Blue System. Thanks to my friend Ross Bagby for alerting me they even existed. Below is the CD cover for one of the Propaganda versions (there are several of various lengths floating around).

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

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Not a surreal week, just disorganized

But I’m using a surrealist art work (by Giorgio DiChirico, on exhibit at MOMA) as an illustration anyway. What can I say, I love his work.

A big part of the disorganization was that TYG’s schedule has been crazy since last Friday. That inevitably affects my schedule — extra time spent with dogs, most obviously — and just as inevitably her stress bleeds over a little. Another part was that we had several days of drenching rain this week, which left me feeling on edge. And next week I have my every-ten-years colonoscopy, so I’m currently on a diet to ensure my colon is clean. Cereal has to be low fiber, bread has to be white, etc., etc. It’s nothing that awful, but it feels like I’m being starved. And worrying the colonoscopy might Find Something is unsettling too. Oh, and I made the mistake of buying white bread at the store, and it’s just as bland as I remember. Today I’m making Australian damper bread from one of my cookbooks instead.

Plus I lost a chunk of time Tuesday to my dental visit, and squeezing several errands into the same trip (part of the schedule disruptions). But my teeth, at least, are in good shape.

And while I’d been thinking Leaf was wrapped up for the year, it turns out we’ll be running until early/mid December. So that took about nine hours out of the week I’d planned to work on other things. When planning for next year, I really need to plan my time based on Leaf being a steady gig. It won’t be but it’ll be easier to fill the time during the periods Leaf dries up than have to cut out other stuff when Leaf sticks around.

Fiction wise, I got through several thousand more words on the last draft of Southern Discomfort and about halfway through the final draft of No One Can Slay Her. Not as much as I’d hoped; due to the schedule craziness, I wound up writing my Leafs much slower than usual. I also began flipping through Writer’s Market‘s 2018-19 edition for agents I can submit Southern Discomfort too when it’s done. Again, not quite as much.

I did another blog post on Atomic Junkshop in my ongoing series on what comic books are like in the DC and Marvel universe. This time I try to explain how if Earth-Two’s superheroes were comic book characters on Earth-One, nobody ever noticed that Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman looked exactly like the heroes in those old comic-book stories.

On the feral cat front, I had a minor scare Wednesday night when I heard some sort of snarling kerfuffle outside, peered through the back windows and thought I saw Wisp either being chased or chasing something (presumably another cat, but I couldn’t be sure) off the deck. Thursday morning we put out some food for her but she didn’t eat it, so naturally I started to worry … but then she turned up, dry as a bone and apparently uninjured. I’m guessing she wound up somewhere she could shelter from the rain and didn’t want to come for the food until it stopped.

I’ll close this post out with another deChirico. #SFWApro, all rights to images remain with current holder.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

Things I didn’t know about women: two books

One of the old jokes about the silliness of 1960s sitcoms was that some shows (e.g., Hazel, The Brady Bunch) showed the family with a made, even though the wife was a fulltime homemaker. WTF? Why would she need a maid? The obvious answer — they can afford it, and housework sucks — didn’t occur to me. Or, obviously, whoever made the jokes.

My cluelessness was brought home to me after reading MORE WORK FOR MOTHER: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave by Ruth Schwartz Cowan. The thesis is one I’ve heard before, that improvements in household technology — washing machines, vacuum cleaners — actually made life harder for housewives (in contrast to a thesis that dismissed working women as housewives liberated by technology and needing something to do).  Vacuum cleaners meant rugs didn’t have to be taken out, hung and beaten to get out the dust; that meant they could be cleaned every week instead of every couple of months. And the labor that was saved was more likely to be the man of the house or a servant than the woman of the home.

Having heard this thesis before, I wasn’t sure I’d learn much from the book, but I did. Cowan shows how this has been going on for a long time. For example, improvements in technology made it possible to mass-produce white flour and transport it for sale. No more grinding your own meal! But instead of added leisure, women wound up baking yeast breads instead of flat-breads (which are much less work), or taking up cake baking (much more work). Husbands got liberated from household work (household tech made the division into separate spheres in the 19th century attainable), women got slammed. Various alternatives — communal kitchens, commercial laundries — never took off and servants became harder and harder to find. Cowan concludes that short of attaining gender parity in housekeeping, the best hope is to lower our standards below “immaculate.” It’s a good book, and good research for Undead Sexist Cliches.

 

I thought I was also well informed on the topic of THE TECHNOLOGY OF ORGASM: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction by Rachel P. Maines but I had a lot to learn there too. For centuries doctors and healers believed hysteria (a very broad diagnosis) was the result of the womb relocating in the body, which I knew; what I didn’t know was that it moved because it was horny, and needed to discharge it’s “semen.” The solution was massage of the clitoris and labia — sure enough a woman would tense up, breathe rapidly, then suddenly relax as the womb evacuated the semen. The sexual overtones were missed (though some doctors were aware of them) due to the absolute faith penis-in-vagina sex was the only way a woman could have a real orgasm. Maines points out this may also explain why so many women weren’t that interested about sex or even “frigid” — if PIV wasn’t doing it for them, the fault had to be theirs. Vibrators were developed as a tool for doctors to deliver orgasmic relief without the grossness of actually touching anything. A really fascinating and thought-provoking book; I’d love to use this idea in a story, but I’m not sure I could do it without making audiences laugh at the wrong times.

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

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Not the blazing return from vacation I’d anticipated

It seems I never return from vacation and spring immediately into writing, refreshed and energized.

Monday I decided I would take the morning off writing and catch up on various tasks: calling the electrician about why our back deck plugs didn’t seem to work, getting a car appointment scheduled, fixing a problem with our alarm system, ordering medication for a colonoscopy next month (never fun), paying my share of the bills, going through mail. That all went well. Afternoon, as work on Leaf articles has started up, I did a couple of those, and 1,000 words of fiction (starting working with some ideas from vacation).

Tuesday I was ready to start back on Southern Discomfort. But I’d scheduled a HVAC company to check out our heat pump (all good) and Plushie and Trixie completely lost their minds. There was a Dude! He came in the house! Then he did bangy things under the house in the crawlspace!

Trixie took to the high ground which wasn’t too bad. Plush Dog got up in my face. Particularly any time I tried using the computer, he just had to have my full attention. Normally I’d discourage him (I have an unpleasant whistle app on the iPhone) but as he was upset, I didn’t have the heart. Suffice to say, this used up a lot of the morning (and I’d gotten up late, too!). Then the electrician came which took up more time.

And Plushie’s eager for longer lunch walks now that the weather’s turning to autumn. That cut into my work day some too.

On the plus side, our heat pump is fine and the electrician was able to fix the problem with our outside plug. Wisp the feral cat has been using the little under-deck shelter we made for her, but it’s not good enough for winter (too open, for one thing). So we ordered a heated shelter that will work much better, but only if we can plug it in. We can, and it looks like she’s already using it.

I got plenty of Leaf work done; much as I’d prefer to devote the time to fiction, I can’t ignore paying gigs, any more than I’d ignore a day job. I got about 3,000 words done on the short-story ideas that sprang out of the trip (nothing directly tied to it, just odd thoughts like someone stealing a suitcase off a baggage carousel and discovering a horrible something inside it).

I didn’t get much done on Southern Discomfort and I suspect it won’t be completely finished by Oct. 31. I got badly stuck Thursday — the two interweaving action threads at the climax didn’t come together right — but with a little tinkering, I was able to make it work

I still have about 5,000 words to go, then to fix a couple of medical scenes based on advice from my fellow writer and MD Heather Frederick (author of the spy-cat adventure Timber Howligan). Then I print the whole thing out and read it aloud a final (I hope) time. That’s a lot to get through. But it won’t be that long now.

#SFWApro. Photo copyright is mine.

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Dogs and disease bedevil me

An unanticipated side effect of Hurricane Florence (trivial in comparison to what some of my friends are dealing with) was that our doggy day care, Suite Paws, was shut this week.

They were shut last week for a remodeling job that was supposed to end Wednesday. However the contractors were stuck in Fayetteville due to the floods, so they didn’t reopen for daycare until today. So I haven’t had a break from dogs since Dragoncon. Well except TYG took them Friday last week when she was staying home because of Florence. After a while, the lack of any personal space adds up and stresses me out. Being squeezed together on the new love seat doesn’t help. Even though they’re so damn cute (below, Plush mid-drying after going out in the rain).

While we could have taken them in today, they have a new collar requirement so I wanted to pick up the right kind of collar before we went in (though I gather they have some on hand). So no break today.

And earlier this week, the Con Crud (most likely) hit me. Sore throat, general dragginess. So I just rested up Thursday and today, and lavished care on my throat to ensure it didn’t become really bad as it has in the past. Seems to be working — I’m definitely not feeling worse today, and maybe a little better. Maybe.

I did pass the 70,000 word mark on Southern Discomfort which was my goal for the month. I intend to get further next week, assuming I recover by Monday. And I batted out a half-dozen articles for Leaf, which brings in more money. I also discovered that if I write my 1,000 words of new material (a daily goal I have consistently fallen short on) first thing in the morning, I can actually succeed. However I tried this on Wednesday and so I haven’t been able to repeat the trick.

Wish me a full recovery by Monday.

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Distracted by dogs, flustered by Florence

Typing this Friday afternoon, I realize this was another week where I got a good deal done despite all the distractions. And so far Hurricane Florence has left us alone, though

Distraction #1: Sunday early morning Trixie woke up early so I invited her to snuggle close to me. That’s fairly normal; what wasn’t was that she was constantly restless, couldn’t sit in one spot and eventually had to go out a couple of times. In the morning she seemed normal enough, which made me think it might have been nothing; there are other nights where she’s just gotten an itch to go out in the early AM, or she has an emergency need to pee.

Monday morning, though, she needed to go out early again. And she couldn’t sit still at all; she’d settle down, then jump up as if she felt uncomfortable. When she’s done this in the past, it’s been a sign she’s having serious tummy upset. We made a vet appointment for later that morning, but then I had to deal with Trixie, when she did st still, staring sadly up at me with this Daddy, Make Me Feel Better expression. So, not much done (the photo below is Trixie when she’s feeling comfortable and at peace with the world).

Then there was hurricane prep. Despite the shrieks of Category Four Devastating Storm U Are Doomed from various news media, I wasn’t worried; concerned, yes, but there’s no point in worrying about a hurricane that far out. It can change direction (it did), or lose wind power (it did), so I believe in preparing for the storm, monitoring it but not freaking out. Too much stress for zero gain.

Still, storm prep did take up time: a couple of shopping trips for extra supplies, TYG and I clearing her container garden off the back deck, moving away anything else that might turn projectile in high winds, getting an oil change for the car, talking to a friend of mine to see if we could evac that way (yes), filling up water jugs. All in all, quite a bit of time. Annoyingly a schedule conflict meant I couldn’t get a couple of other, longer fixes done to the car, so I’ll take it back in next week.

So what got done? Well, I printed up the latest draft of the Undead Sexist Cliches book at the library last weekend and spent Monday and Tuesday going over it. This proved to be a smart move. There are a lot of places where I repeat the same information or arguments; Charlotte Allen’s “women are stupid” article in the WaPo some years back crops up in several places because its such a prime example of extreme sexism. It’s got stereotyping, gendered thinking, inaccurate science — but if I reference it in multiple places, I still shouldn’t repeat the identical criticisms in each place. So I noted those down, found points where I needed to add material, noted places where the writing wasn’t clear. I think I’m ready for the next draft. Unfortunately I don’t think I can make that the last one; I’ll probably need to solicit some beta readers, then finish it up.

I also read the excellent Carol Tavris book The Mismeasure of Woman, which gave me some added useful information for the book.

Thursday I got to work on Southern Discomfort but almost immediately found a scene that needed heavy rewriting; nobody in the scene knows the stuff I have them talking about due to earlier changes in the book. This morning I got that fixed. It’s not quite as good a scene because of the knowledge they don’t have but the book overall is better with those earlier changes. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, but I am making progress.

Hopefully we won’t deal with anything worse than drenching rain and moderately strong winds the rest of the weekend. And Trixie seems back to normal, which is an even bigger load off my mind.

#SFWApro. Image is mine.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

A short week, but it generated income

Not much else, though.

With family coming in and other activities taking up most of next week, I squeezed all my week’s Leaf articles and a couple of extra ones into three days. Which left me kind of fuzzy, but it’ll help pay the bills.

Thursday when the dogs were at Suite Paws was mostly cleaning for Tracy and Cindy’s arrival today. Plus I did a lot of thinking about my schedule and how it’s not working in some ways. Even when I schedule time to work on short stories, for instance, my brain doesn’t kick into gear. Some of that may just be feeling sick last week, and the extra dog care from TYG’s schedule. But I think I need to adjust things; we’ll see how the adjustments go after I get back from vacation.

Today I’m doing some last minute stuff, such as making cupcakes. It feels too much like a day off to write.

I did get a couple of thousand words further on Southern Discomfort but that’s it until after Labor Day.

Like I said, not productive, but I expect to bounce back with vigor after the long break.

To make up for the lack of stuff to talk about, here’s a neat cover from one of Thomas Burnett Swan’s fantasies. I don’t know the cover artist.

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

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On a pale horse — no, it’s a white horse, but that wasn’t good either

Gotta say, if I were editing Revelation, I’d tell John that having a white horse and a pale horse makes it hard to distinguish the characters …

The bowman on the white horse is plague (at least in some interpretations) as in this image from the Cathedral de Agnani. The potluck we had a couple of weeks back apparently planted a seed in TYG, who spent this week with the 24-hour bug, only it lasted around 96 hours. I’ve been feeling draggy the past two days but nothing more than that’ hopefully it won’t get any worse.

But between extra dog walks, errands for TYG and feeling wiped out, I did not get much done. I did complete my quota of Leaf articles, so I made the money shot as it were. Southern Discomfort, though? I did get past the scene that blocked me last week, but not much further. We’re getting to the point where it’s mostly new material and it’ll take seriously harder rewriting to finish it. I suspect at this point I’m going to have to push my deadline back to October 31 instead of the end of September.

I spent a lot of yesterday lying around (in between helping TYG). and most of today lying around.  And I intend to spend much of the weekend lying around, though I will have some shopping to do (I think we’re running out of food for Wisp). Usually when I feel this exhausted, simply going inert and relaxing does the trick. It’s certainly preferable to the hacking TYG has been suffering.

Wish me luck. And TYG a swift recovery.

#SFWApro. Image is public domain, courtesy of wikimedia commons.

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