Category Archives: Nonfiction

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!

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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.

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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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This week started early

Normally I hate writing on the weekend. However, due to our late night vet visit on June 13th, I was too zonked to get any Leaf done the next day (not to mention Plushie’s cone of shame kept banging into my lap desk). As the two Leaf articles I had in my queue would have expired Sunday, and they were paying extra (an incentive to get everything completed before the project expires), I worked on them Sunday afternoon. Not the best use of downtime, but hey, it’s money.

To claim as many of the remaining bonus-price articles, and a few that were regular price but easy (articles about liquor licensing are surprisingly easy. Liquor boards have good websites), I bulked up on Leaf through Wednesday, completing 12 total (I also did an extra bonus one today). It was easier because (I think) the pressure to get them all done got in the way of sleep so I was up early Monday and Tuesday. As a result, I was able to get the Leaf done and a good chunk of Undead Sexist Cliches.

I’m feeling much better about the book after this week. The division of two and three finally makes sense. Chapter Two is sexist explanations why feminism is unnecessary and why women don’t deserve equality (because evolution made men superior). Chapter Three is the sexist rationalizations why feminism is actively destructive. I also took a lot of discussions of antifeminism and made one small chapter out of them.

I also inserted a lot of notes I’d taken on various books and websites into the post, and added examples for several points I was making, such as some Fox News hosts discussing why men get the blame if they rape drunk women: “the point is that the drunk woman is — she’s just not held accountable for anything. The drunk guy, however, is supposed to make all these amazingly perfect decisions, and not make any mistakes.” As if not raping someone who says no was like performing brain surgery while drunk (I’ll have a blog post on this topic soon).

The additions will require I make another pass to incorporate the new material better. Then I’ll sit down with all the critiques my beta-readers gave me and incorporate them. Then comes writing the finished draft including footnoting everything and indexing everything. Then to publication.

I made the book a priority this week but I found time to start redrafting a story I finished a couple of weeks back, tentatively titled Death is Like a Box of Chocolates. Tentative because much as I like the title, I don’t think there’ll be a box of chocolates in the tale when I’m finished.

Plushie’s eye infection (the one that necessitated that vet visit) has cleared up. We were even able to take the cone off after the first day. We do have a couple of worries about the dogs (nothing serious) but we’ll be talking to the vet about them tomorrow when we go in for booster shots.

All in all, a productive week.

For no reason other than my love of showing cool art, I’ll close with what I think is a neat Ghost Rider cover (the Western one) by Dick Ayers:

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Caffeine couldn’t stop me but canines did!

So after last week’s insomnia-fest I stopped using my decaf tea in the afternoons and sure enough, I slept better Sunday and Wednesday night. The other nights? Pull up a chair, I’ve got a story …

So Monday night, Trixie had this very loud hacking cough for a few minutes, loud enough to wake me up (admittedly it doesn’t take much to do that). By the time I’d checked whether she was okay, I was wide awake and couldn’t get back to sleep. Tuesday night, first Trixie demanded to go out and poop after we’d all settled into bed. Even after that she was fidgeting, or lying against me while chewing on her feet, which didn’t lend itself to sleep. So another night down.

Last night, it felt like everything would be fine. But just as I was drifting off, TYG noticed Plushie was getting restless and checked him out closely. Turns out he had some sort of swelling in his eye, so it was up and off to the 24-hour emergency vet. We brought Trixie along rather than leave her alone but oh, the alarmed whimpers when she saw them taking Plushie away without her! She did not like it at all. We finally got back a little after midnight, with medicine for the eye (it was just an inflammation). To my surprise, I slept soundly after that, but the window before I got up again was … small.

Turns out gettting up at my regular hour was a wasted effort. Plushie’s in the cone of shame and not happy about it. Dealing with him and working proved … impractical shall we say? For example I can’t use my lap desk because it bumps into his cone too easily when he’s in the lap. Fortunately the two nights of insomnia meant I’d put in some extra hours, so I only lost a little writing time.

Pretty much everything I got done was either Leaf articles or work on Undead Sexist Cliches. I’ve almost completed this draft (two or three more yet to come) and I figured out the right breakdown to chapters two and three. Chapter two will cover antifeminist arguments about why giving women equality is pointless (they don’t need it, and they aren’t actually equal) while chapter three will focus on claims feminism is not only pointless, it’s destructive. I can feel how much better it flows now.

One reason I didn’t get more done is that I took Thursday off to deal with the mundane matters. North Carolina’s Department of Revenue had sent our return back (for what I found absurdly technical reasons) so I had to print out a fresh copy of the paperwork, then redo the whole thing. Plus get my estimated taxes for the year to date in.  Plus a few minor tasks including getting a free credit report from the Annual Credit Report website (it’s legit. And actually free), an electrician appointment, bicycling for one hour (highlight of the day) and going over our emergency kit in case we have evacuate fast (not that I expect it, but it’s possible). That took up the day nicely.

Today? Work just didn’t happen.

However I did find a dead shrew in the driveway —

And removed it before Trixie or Plushie could rub themselves on its gloriously stink flesh.

So that’s something accomplished, right?

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Writing, sleep, dogs and other matters

First off, dogs, because Trixie’s butterfly ears after her Monday grooming are just too adorable not to lead with.

Here’s a picture of them both newly shorn.

They were surprisingly calm while the opossum was on the deck. Trixie has been exceptionally needy this week, wanting lots of pets (I comply as much as work allows), but otherwise the pups are as usual.

Staying off caffeine after noon was a little less effective this week — two nights of little sleep, two solid sleeps and one that was solid due to Ambien. I’m wondering if the decaffeinated tea I picked up has too much caffeine (decaffeinating tea leaves doesn’t completely eliminate it ) so I’ll skip it next week. I still drink decaf chai in the afternoon but there’s a lot less caffeine in it (among other things, because I make it half milk so the volume of actual tea is lower).

That said, things went well. I got 10 Leaf articles in for the first time in a while. And I rewrote slightly more of Undead Sexist Cliches than I’d expected. I know see that what slowed me down earlier is that Chapters two and three are badly organized — they’re both about “why feminism is bad” cliches, but the division into chapters doesn’t really make sense. Next week I’ll look at rearranging the material and maybe cutting them into three smaller chapters.

I rewrote Impossible Things Before Breakfast and I think it’s ready for one final revision. I’ll get to that at the end of the month so my mind has a little time to clear. I went over both Bleeding Blue and Only The Lonely Can Slay trying to figure out how to improve them on the next draft. I think I see a way, but I’m not sure — I had to do the work today while I was still groggy from lack of sleep.

And I finished an as yet untitled story, basically by deciding “okay, I’m ready to finish this today … guess this is the ending!” and pulling what’s close to a deus ex machina. But I’ve done that before and for some stories it works. Even a nonsensical ending frees my mind up to start redrafting and improving.

The best week in a while, I think.

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Wednesday was the App-ocalpyse!

I’ve mentioned before that Apple’s Pages is unable to follow standard manuscript format when I create documents. If I use it to edit a Word document, when I save it back to Word it ends up with a blank first page. I’ve tried using Open Office but when I download it the computer says it’s not from an authorized app source and deletes it.

Last month I discovered a Word app in the App store and figured what the heck, I’d sooner pay for the license than keep having to crack open my old computer to work on Word docs (it’s very cranky and sluggish by now). However the program required me to register with Microsoft and refused to let me do so. I gave up, shrugged and didn’t think about it until Thursday, when I found that even though i couldn’t use Word, I was still being charged.

What followed was a brief conversation with Apple help which bounced me to Microsoft. A much longer session there followed, and to the help desk’s credit, they really tried to fix the problem. But I didn’t have a product key so they told me I’d have to go to Apple for the fix. Apple said the best they could do was refund the payment.

Two hours wasted. The one good result was that in frustration I downloaded Open Office again and this time I found information on how to make the computer accept it. Success! Now I should be able to make edits on my own computer again.

Other than that, let’s see … I got my Leaf quota in, including articles on such mesmerizing topics as Pros and Cons of a Matrix Organizational Structure … okay, not very mesmerizing. But the pay’s good, and I like getting paid.

Beyond that I redrafted the rape-apologist chapter of the Undead Sexist Cliches book. It’s going slower than I’d have liked. I’m rethinking my approach to figure how I can accomplish the various goals — reorganizing, rewriting and adding some new material — more efficiently.

Annoyingly, no fiction this week at all. Blame the app issues for that. Well, and spending Wednesday at a dental appointment. Happily, though, my teeth are in great shape.

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