Category Archives: Nonfiction

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!

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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

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.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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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.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine, any rights to figures remain with current holders.

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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

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

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.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

 

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

October was a month. It definitely happened

That feels like all I can say as far as accomplishing my goals this month. Between the teeth, contractors, insomnia, caring for Wisp, and vacation (yay!), I got maybe a third of what I wanted accomplished, and even less of my writing goals. But now it’s November, so I feel magically like everything bogging me down has been washed away. We shall see.

This final week of October was decent. I finished the latest redraft of Sexist Myths and began adding my massive list of bookmarks with specific incidents, statements or refutations to the text. It’ll be a job. I’m hoping to finish next month.

I read the most recent first chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer to the writing group. This got a much better response than previous versions; a large part of that is, I think, because first person made it more emotional and speeded up the exposition a lot. The response was so good (I got a couple of instant beta-reading volunteers), I hope to resume work on the book this month and see if I can keep it up (no, I’m not doing Nano, so it’ll be a while before it’s done).

And I got my full quotient of Leaf articles in, so that’s done.

Thursday I took off, sat down and thought about the remaining two months of the year, what I wanted to get done and how much I could get done. It was a big help to making me feel focused instead of as frazzled and disorganized as I’ve been the past few weeks. I also went over my budget because traveling to Fort Walton Beach on vacation unsurprisingly took a bite out of my finances. Nothing that will cause a problem, but it’s nice to know that for sure.

I also thought about how to incorporate petting Wisp into the work day. I really don’t have much wiggle room, particularly now that it’s cold and Plushie is up for long lunch walkies (hot days are not good for squishy-faced dogs like him). I think it’s doable, if I structure my work breaks right.

 

One of my tasks for this month is to research cat doors and see if they’re a good option for letting Wisp enter freely, as an alternative to leaving the back door open while I pet her. That will be really unpleasant as things chill down. She’s definitely not into being shut in; Thursday she explored much of the living room but fled out as soon as I made a move that might have been to trap her. The two big problems will be making sure Trixie can’t get out through the door, and how we’ll deal with Wisp if she decides to come in at will (will she climb the shelves? Hassle Plushie? Take a crap?).  We’ll figure it out.

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When will this cruel month be over?

Okay, it hasn’t been that cruel. Vacation was fantastic. But the repeated appointments and obligations keep nibbling me to death.

This week it was some extra dog-care duties on Sunday when I hadn’t expected it. And Wisp showing up to demand petting, which I’m too soft-hearted to refuse. I have to resist, but when she mews I usually get all mushy.

Tuesday I had to go back to our dentist and finally get a crown that fit. It did, but it’s still really sore. I’m hoping that’ll pass and I won’t have to go back soon to fix something. Wednesday I had my latest Alexander technique appointment. It’s really starting to have an effect on my posture and body tension.

But after repeated doctor appointments and contractor appointments and other distractions in previous weeks, my brain just entered “Screw it!” mode and tried to stop doing any work. I got my Leafs for the week done which is good (money coming in is always nice). I managed to rewrite Chapter Eight break down Chapter Nine of Sexist Myths and reorganize it while the dogs were in day care (that kind of pure thought is much harder with them around), but no fiction at all.

And Wisp has been adorable.

Next week I have my semiannual checkup but hopefully nothing else to distract me. And then November begins and I can put this month behind me.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

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