Category Archives: Nonfiction

It feels like a suety puddingy week, but I did get good stuff done.

For starters I finished my rewrite of Southern Discomfort. Next week I read the revised first chapter to the writing group, edit the synopsis, do a quick last-minute error check (were their places I left Maria’s scenes in third person?) and send it off.

I also finished some finance writing that should put some cash in my pocket, so that’s great.

And Wisp stayed in one night this week, which was nice. Here she is lying out on the deck.

And I participated in an online panel for the online Con-Tinual con created by my friend Gail Z. Martin. You can also access Con-Tinual on FB, rather than that YouTube link. Either way, the panel I was on, on female sleuths and killers, isn’t available yet, but I’ll link when it is.

And I posted a couple of Atomic Junkshop posts about DC’s Captain Action: one on the toyline and first issue, one on the remaining four issues. Feel free to check out my review of the TPB last Sunday too.

So why the suet feeling? Well, last weekend I developed an inexplicable rash which didn’t go away, so Tuesday I took time out of the day to see my doctor (who happily had some time to spare). She provided a skin cream that eliminated whatever it was so it’s mostly gone now. But that left me off-balance Tuesday. Wednesday I got up late after the Con-Tinual session Tuesday night and barely had thirty minutes before the dogs woke up and came down. That wasn’t enough time to get my head in the game.

But I did get Southern Discomfort done and it will go out next week. That was my big goal this month, so I shall celebrate accomplishing it. Go me!

#SFWApro. Cover by Kane, as is the Steve Ditko-style scene below from the origin of Action’s arch-foe, Doctor Evil!

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

A short week but not without merit.

Short because I took today and yesterday off for some fun stuff.

I’d hoped that in the three days remaining, I could finish my Southern Discomfort copy-edit, but I fell short. Just a little too much distraction, a couple of errands and a possible new client for my paying nonfiction. This time it’s an insurance website; they sent me a test article to write which took up a couple of hours of Tuesday morning. Without that, maybe I’d have finished but Southern Discomfort won’t put any money in my pocket for a while to come. Clients help pay the bills, so …

Still, I’m very pleased with how well prioritizing the copy-editing has worked out. None of the feedback I got said anything about “you need to edit this better” but I ran across no end of spelling errors and places where having written a paragraph two different ways, I left both in. Embarrassing. Or where someone makes the same point in two successive scenes. Tackling it so fast made it easy to spot such glitches. Hopefully I still remember them when my break is over.

That was pretty much it. Here’s a photo of Plushie and Snowdrop to brighten your day.#SFWApro

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Mine is a genius for improvisation!

Which is to say this week, while productive, did not go at all as planned. But that’s okay; there are times when throwing away the plans and improvising is the right move. I guarantee you, when my manuscript returns from McFarland I’ll be dropping everything else—okay, not the paying finance articles—to proof it carefully, then index it.

What changed things up was that Gollancz, a British specfic publisher, has announced that in June it will open to unagented submissions. I’m not sure if Southern Discomfort is right for them, but that’s an incentive to finish this rewrite ASAP. That requires putting almost everything else on hold.

It went well this week, though bogged down by continuing extra dog care. That should only last another week though. I also got the cover for Questionable Minds finally nailed down and finished another of my finance articles (on integrated accounting).  I also submitted a query to The Guardian for an op-ed on abortion. It’s timely but I know the competition is fierce, so we’ll see what comes of it.

Oh, and I had my last appointment with my physical therapist for dealing with my vertigo. It’s gone. If it comes back, I have exercises for dealing with it.

Below, another photo from our trip to the North Carolina Zoo.And here’s a gorilla. One of the kids watching him said he looked said — could she give him a hug? I love children at zoos.#SFWAPro.

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

Trixie is adorable. Her tummy, not so much

Wednesday, Trixie once again woke up with a bad tummy. Felt bad, didn’t want to eat, not even her favorite treats. She insisted on coming down to sit with me so my morning plans went out the window. When she started throwing up later, we took her to Park Vet where they gave her an anti-nausea shot. They told us not to feed her until Thursday so I spent evening with Trixie looking around for her food every time I gave Plushie anything. Then looking at me in puzzlement.

Thursday morning, her tummy continued, which is not unprecedented. I had to skip stretching again because it’s not possible to do yoga or any sort of exercise when a small dog insists on snuggling with you. Happily by afternoon she was completely back to normal and this morning I got a full slate of stretching and yoga in.

Despite all that, and a couple of other unanticipated errands I put in a solid week of work.

More on the rewrite of Southern Discomfort.

Another article for the Accounting Seed website.

Another 3,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I got past the stumbling block I hit last week, but the changes I made still leave me unclear about what comes next. Still, my instincts have been sound so far.

I finished another draft of Adventure of the Red Leech and it’s looking quite good. I’ll be reading it to my writing group in about a week and a half. I also realized they might be right about Don’t Pay the Merryman (soon to be retitled) when they said the first section would work perfectly well if it had a better ending. I’d like to tell a longer tale and someday I hope I do, but for now I’m going to try cutting it short. I took my first shot at an ending; I’ll give it another go soon.

And I’ve picked the cover for Questionable Minds. I’ll do the requisite cover reveal soon as it’s settled.

Today I was a little exhausted; TYG and I are doing some stuff later so I had to front-load my schedule to get everything in and free up this afternoon. But I succeeded, actually coming in slightly over my required hours. Yay me.

This weekend, though, I intend to crash thoroughly.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

A good week, though not because of writing

This was not a wildly productive week, but I anticipated that. Today, you see, I set aside time to give blood; after I got back, I knew I wouldn’t be feeling creative. It’s the double-dosage donation though, so I won’t be back until  September.

Wednesday, also planned, we went to the North Carolina Zoo. TYG got us memberships as an anniversary gift in 2019 but our anniversary is the summer — way too hot — and the fall got crazy. Then came the pandemic. So it’s been a while. It’s laid out very well, with large enclosures for herds and animal families and lots of walking — it’s been a long time since I walked six miles on one day. Above, a hellbender; below, a puffin.It was a great day. It turns out I can turn down the noise in my mind  and focus when I have something this cool to pay attention to. And it’s always good to see that TYG and I can still spend hours together and enjoy it. The dogs went to a local day-boarding place for the first time in two years; I was quite tickled the staff remember them. But hey, they are awesome.

Somewhere in there, I did get work done. I sent off two short stories and two nonfiction queries on Monday and revamped Undead Sexist Cliches so that the paperback version now has a table of contents (I’d screwed up and omitted it). Amazon is currently reviewing the text for problems so I’ll have to link to the ebook for now.

Tuesday was the day to bat out about 5,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It turned out to be the day that got nibbled to death by distractions. A dead animal in the driveway that TYG asked me to remove. A spider in the house (ditto). And driving the car to get the tires checked before our 90 minute drive to the zoo. Plus it turns out that I simply sketched the plot of the next few chapters, figuring it would be much like it was in the last draft. Due to the changes in the first 25,000 words, it’s not going to fly. So not much done.

I had better luck Thursday with Adventure of the Red Leech. Going over it, I found my plot holds together much better than I thought. Rewriting shouldn’t be too hard. I didn’t get as far as I expected this week, though. First, I was still tired from our hike Wednesday. Second, I discovered Oh the Places You’ll Go!, which has been at the magazine I submitted to for around two months, wasn’t being strongly considered — they rejected it the first week but didn’t say so (possibly now that they’re using Moksha they expect everyone to check for themselves). That put me in a very unenthused mood for a couple of hours.

But it’s a good week, regardless. We must make an effort to do more fun stuff like this.

#SFWApro.

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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

As predicted, returning to average (maybe better).

As I said last week, bad streaks don’t last any more than lucky ones. While this wasn’t a stellar week, I did get quite a bit done.

Most notably I finished the first 25,000 words of my Impossible Takes a Little Longer rewrite and it’s surprisingly good. The surprising part is that after rewriting the first few chapters it goes in several new directions. That’s usually the point at which my rewriting breaks down and becomes a struggle. Instead it’s moving along nicely. A long way from polished, but a solid draft. I added about 12,000 words to what I’d already accomplished.

I also put in a little time on my Southern Discomfort rewrite. Still going well, and putting Maria’s scenes in first person still feels like the right choice.

That was pretty much it other than some Leaf bill-paying work. And getting a rejection on Glory That Was (sigh).  On the plus side, I sold something at Amazon, though I can’t yet see which book it was (I hate that about their publishing system). Oh, and over at Atomic Junkshop I squeeze one last blog post out of rereading 1964’s comics. As you can see from the above Wally Wood illustrations, it involves Daredevil vs … a matador? Plus a remarkable Superman story. Then I cross-posted an old one from this blog, on the travesty of the Will Smith/Kevin Costner Wild Wild West reboot.

In my persona life, I got the second Covid booster Tuesday. Arm hurt way more than previous shots but no other negative effects. Regrettably it didn’t hook my brain up to 5G internet either. Just think how easy it would be to download porn if nobody could see it! And my vertigo has decreased to the point I have only one more physical therapy appointment, a month from now.

In addition to all that, I would have liked to work on the short stories I’m working to finish. Falling behind on a novel, however, usually works out worse.

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

 

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Writing

The work went well, the numbers vanished

So part of my improved time management this year is budgeting X hours for various projects, given what I have available. This month, for example, it’s 40 for Leaf and other nonfiction, 25 for Impossible Takes a Little Longer and 10 hours on rewriting Southern Discomfort.

Somewhere since the first of the month, the list vanished. But I can’t blame the Time Commander, I think it’s safe to say I Cut without Pasting. I remember some, but not all of the time plan so it’s not serious. However there were a couple where I had to make hard choices so I’m sure it will throw off my planning a little. Plus I just hate being that sloppy.

This week, though, went very well. I rewrote around 11,000 words of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. The changes I’ve made have improved things hugely—more action/pausing instead of looooong pauses. The little details of worldbuilding and character are falling into place better too. Of course there’s tens of thousands of words to go but hopefully I’ll be able to keep building from here. Fingers crossed.

I put in a couple of hours rewriting Southern Discomfort. The first person voice for Maria’s sections makes more of a difference than I thought. She’ s much more intense and, I think, a little more sympathetic. That should help. Enough? We’ll see when I send it out again.

I had a 1700 word article on financial statements for one of my paying clients. That took up Wednesday.

No short-story work this week. By the time I finished up on Thursday my brain was fried from working intensely, coupled with sitting with the dogs every day this week while TYG tackles a big project. Plus I spent part of my downtime writing Be Sure To Vote postcards for Activate America (if you want to help push back against the looming spread of fascism, this is one way)

So Friday I went with relatively low-intensity stuff. I spent the morning submitting multiple stories so once again everything is out, plus a couple of reprint stories. Fingers crossed for some success here too. The afternoon I did some promotional research: bookstores that I could ask to host a signing, sources for promotional bookmarks (these come highly recommended as a marketing tool), updating the About Me and Published Nonfiction pages of the blog (nothing new in fiction in a while, alas).

And now the weekend. One reason my mind was tired was that I put in extra work at the end of the day to get blog posts written for next week, both her and for Atomic Junkshop (here’s my two latest, on sexist heroes and dropping a comics series). That way I won’t have to get on my computer on the weekend and do them, which should lead to a more relaxed two days, more time to read, etc. We will see.

#SFWApro. Cover by Gil Kane (t) and Mike Sekowsky, all rights remain with current holders.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

Hating the alien: the othering of extraterrestrials

One of the things that struck me as I kept watching films for The Aliens Are Here was how much Othering some of these movies engage in.

Othering, as most of you probably know, is the process of distinguishing between Us and Them, and not in a good or harmless way (e.g., loving cricket marks off the UK and many former colonies from the US, but the difference doesn’t come with judgmental overtones). As this article explains, when a group is Othered they’re branded as less deserving of equal rights with the Us group. They can’t even be tolerated, they’re so foreign and creepy. Jews have been Othered for centuries. The Japanese were Othered as soon as they started emigrating to America. In Bogart’s Across the Pacific (1942), Victor Sen Yung plays a slang-spouting Nisei college student, apparently as all-American as they come. Underneath his American surface he’s all Japanese, a stone-cold killer in the service of his Emperor. When a people are Othered, they never truly belong.

Othering also ignores differences between individual Them. If They are the enemy, there are no dissenters, no pacifists among them; they’re all in on war. In Live and Let Die, every single African-American in Harlem and New Orleans apparently works for Kananga (Yaphet Kott0; the only good black is a CIA agent sent to back up Bond. It’s much the same way Japanese Americans were portrayed during WW II: all Japanese, zero American (Germany, by contrast, was often portrayed as a good country oppressed by an evil ideology).

Othering is a lot harder to pull off these days. A movie that, like Little Tokyo USA (1942), showed every Japanese resident of Los Angeles as an enemy and suggested shipping the Japanese to concentration camps was a necessary security measure would bring a shit-ton of flak down on people’s heads. Othering aliens isn’t going to generate angry letters from members of groups opposing ET defamation.

That makes it easy for Independence Day (1996). In a convenient telepathic flash, Whitmore learns there’s no hope in negotiating with the invaders: they’re merciless and want only to wipe us out, thens strip-mine Earth of its resources. He describes them as “locusts,” which is classic dehumanizing language, comparing the Other to animals, particularly insects. But the aliens just blew up Los Angeles and Washington DC, so who’s going to say they’re being portrayed badly?Battleship (2012) takes the same slant, and also gets exposition across by convenient telepathy. The aliens are ruthless monsters, they’re going to destroy us, there’s no point inn playing nice or showing them mercy. One character suggests even attempts to contact aliens are a catastrophe waiting to happen: if they’re advanced enough in technology to reach Earth, they’re advanced enough to annihilate us, therefore they will. The impossibility of mutual co-existence is a given.

This happens in print fiction too. In John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? — the source of the Howard Hawks and John Carpenter Thing movies — after the scientists recover an alien body from a crashed ship, they debate whether it’s safe to revive it. Several scientists emphasize the evil expression on its face; the counter-argument is that we have no idea what that facial expression means on its world, and expecting a friendly, happy face at the moment of Oh, Shit, I’m Going To Crash! is a bit much. But of course, the rational explanations are wrong: the creature is pure evil.

It’s why I was so impressed by V. As I said Saturday, there’s no Othering in this story. Most of the Visitors are evil but some are good and not happy with the conquest of Earth; others are active resisters. This mirrors the situation among the humans, some of whom collaborate, some of whom oppose, and many just keep their heads down and hope not to get caught.

A few other movies give their alien invaders some personality beyond Evil. But they’re regrettably an exception to the rule.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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A busy week, a lazy day

Not much to blog about because it was one of my all-Leaf weeks. I’m pleased I got the work done but writing about civil engineering technician job descriptions or how to launch a medical coding business doesn’t make for interesting tales. I did get two more Atomic Junkshop posts in, on bad comic-book takes and how young Captain America is.

My insomnia seems to be fading (yay) and my vertigo is so much better (yay again!). And my birthday today has been nice and lazy. I haven’t taken a day off in a while. It feels good.

So that’s my week-in-review post. Here are photos of cats to wrap up. Snowdrop coming and sitting on the couch by himself is a big step forward for him.#SFWApro.

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What a difference a year makes!

My birthday 2021 was, I wrote, “meh,” starting with having had almost no sleep. I woke up this morning refreshed. Last year we didn’t do anything much because of the pandemic; this year we’re boosted, covid’s dying down (yes, I’m aware a new variant is on the horizon) and we’re going to have fun.

It’s a sign of the changes that last weekend was well, strange. No, not because of an eclipse, that photo’s from the lunar one in December. But TYG and I were actually social, in person, for the first time in ages. A friend of ours was in town so she came over to meet the dogs and then go out to dinner. Sunday I went to my friend and fellow writer Allegra Gullino‘s birthday party (TYG had to work). I ate, chatted with Allegra and a bunch of our fellow writers and had a terrific time.

It’s also been, looking back, a good year. I didn’t get much fiction done but I finished The Aliens Are Here, finished Undead Sexist Cliches (and I hand-sold one to my friend), and finished the golem article I was working on (looking back a year ago, it’s striking how much golem-fiction I was reading). Now I’m looking at a year with lots of time to write fiction.

And of course I have TYG — my personal happy ever after — and the pups, and the cats. I know none of this is forever because nothing is (and lord knows what Republicans will do to this country before I die) but life is better right now than I ever imagined it would be at 64.

Happy birthday to me.

#SFWApro.

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