Category Archives: Nonfiction

Oh, that’s why I don’t work much in the evenings any more

I tried last night because we’re dog-sitting for Lily and Tito this afternoon so I wanted to make up for the inevitable lost time. Here’s photos of the winsome twosome, in case you were wondering (Lily’s on top)It did not go well, though I did get my next Atomic Junk Shop post up. Plushie loses it and starts barking his head off about once every five minutes. Wisp comes in, begs for food, then goes out again. I could just go isolate myself in my office, but the trouble is I like hanging out with our pets. I don’t want to isolate myself. But if I try that again, I definitely will go that route.

That aside, work went well this week. I finished our taxes, discovering we owe in a little (bad!) but at least they’re done. I’ll check them over again to make certain I figured things right, but I doubt I’ll discover a major error that gets us a refund. Oh, well.

I finished editing Chapter Six of Undead Sexist Cliches and made a final read through of Chapter Four. The latter went slower than I wanted — I had more cleaning up than I expected. I got some Veterans Network articles written (here’s one on art therapy for trauma, and one on military trivia). I did a lot of viewing for Alien Visitors but not much writing. I must compensate for that next week.

My new approach of breaking down my day and assigning a set number of units to different projects went … okay, I guess. I seem to be running out of Undead Sexist Cliches units, but we’ll see how it goes the rest of the month.

This weekend I will probably work Sunday. That’s not typical, but I have a lot to do this week once I become fully vaccinated on Tuesday. Best to make up the time in advance. I’ll be back next Friday to report how it went.

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This week unfolded almost as I anticipated

With TYG’s and my second vaccine shots on Monday and Tuesday respectively, I wanted to make sure there was nothing on my writing to-do list that had to be completed after Monday. That way, if worst came to worst, as I said a couple of weeks back, I could just lie around doing nothing.

Worst actually came to worst Monday night. I woke after a couple of hours, which was normal, but instead of going back to sleep I got hit by a panic attack: what if I couldn’t get back to sleep? How could I make it to the Walgreens some ten miles away (not my preference, but it was the first available when I was making the appointments) if I was too tired to drive? Aaaaaaah! As usual, fear of not getting enough sleep guaranteed I did not get enough sleep. Fortunately, TYG, while feeling rundown Tuesday after her shot, was able to drive me there; I could probably have managed it but I wouldn’t have trusted my judgment had I had to make any decisions.

You can see a shot of myself here on the monitor at the pharmacy. I thought I looked kind of look a weird troll out of a Twin Peaks dream sequence or something, but it doesn’t quite come across in the photo.

My decision to wrap up everything early proved wise. Wednesday I felt much like I did when my seasonal allergies kick in: tired, drained, almost feverish, strongly desirous of rest. Having gotten my golem article in on Monday, I was free to rest, or as free as possible given the need to walk and care for dogs. TYG, fortunately, was about the same level. It was unpleasant, but livable. I spent Wednesday reading and watching TV, and of course napping a lot.

Thursday I felt normal, just tiring very easily. That may also have something to do with Plushie having digestive difficulties that requires taking him out around 1:30 AM. I sat downstairs with him after that — I divined correctly that he might need more trips — and didn’t catch up on sleep. So more TV and napping, though I also batted out a final Leaf article for the month.

And then last night, it happened again. Fortunately Plushie didn’t need it more than once so I got most of a full night of sleep. I turned in a Veterans Network article this morning (and one I’d written on Atomic Veterans came out this week) and then we had a vet checkup for both pups. The rehab treatment has done well by both of them, particularly Trixie; Plushie still has some leg weakness. I suppose that may reflect his advancing age, sigh.

So not much accomplished this week, but that was planned for. Successfully, if I do say so. For the month I got about 55 percent of my goals accomplished, but given how I had to shift my schedule to prepare for this week, I don’t feel bad about that.

#SFWApro.

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On working for free

So the golem article is done and off. Which has me thinking about Harlan Ellison’s advice that you should always work for pay, because this piece was a freebie.

Generally speaking, I’m down with Ellison’s argument: this is a business, someone, somewhere is making money off your work, so you should too. But I make exceptions. One is fiction. If I can’t sell a story to a magazine that pays decently, I’ll sell it to one that pays poorly. If I can’t do that I’ll sell it to the free ones (of course, sometimes even they turn it down). Unlike Ellison, fiction isn’t where I make my money. I’d sooner have my story published and readable somewhere that’s free than go unpublished — though as I mentioned last year, I’m thinking of just self-publishing them instead, even given that won’t be massively lucrative either.

That said, even doing something for free or token payment costs me in time and effort, often in spending on research materials. So I try to keep the amount of time manageable, but that doesn’t always work. I’d figured the golem article would be a light, simple one to work on, but it turned out to be way more effort than I’d anticipated. Had I known that in advance, I might not have jumped in. My McFarland movie books don’t generate much in the way of $/hour revenue either. However writing about stuff like this is a lot of fun, so I’m willing to go for it (admittedly I sometimes regret it when I’m pressed for time and half-wiped out).  Ditto blogging at Atomic Junk Shop (where my latest, on Dc’s Bat Lash, just appeared at the link).

Undead Sexist Cliches was supposed to be a much simpler, snarkier book, but it changed as I started working on it. Footnoting alone was a ton of work. I have no idea if it will generate any sales. But it’s a cause I believe in, so why not?

And at this point in my life, I don’t feel concentrating on fiction would make it a cash cow.

That said, after Alien Visitors is done in the fall, I think I’m going to concentrate on fiction (excluding time spent on Leaf, Veteran Network and other clients who pay). I’ve only got so many years left, I might as well devote them to what’s the most fun, even if it isn’t profitable fun. As I’ve said before, if I think of writing as a demanding, time-consuming hobby, I don’t worry so much about the bottom line.

It would be nice if my fiction were selling so well that “is it a paying market?”and “why am I doing this for free when I could be selling a novel?” were pertinent questions. But it isn’t. So what the hey.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holder. Cover by Nick Cardy.

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Almost done for April

As I said last Friday, TYG and I have our second Fauci Ouchies coming up Monday and Tuesday, so I wanted to get the essential April stuff wrapped up. It took longer than expected (no surprise) so I have some wrapping up Monday, but mostly it’s good.

I finished up multiple articles for Veterans Network. Writing about Gulf War Syndrome, Agent Orange and similar topics took quite a bit of research, and then of course, some writing. They were really pleased with the results though. Oh, one of my earlier posts, about surgical empathy in counseling, came out too. Over at Atomic Junkshop you can check out my post on the Bronze Age Blackhawks and on God, gods and theology in the DC and Marvel universes.

I read a lot more golem books and have my golem piece 90 percent done. I think I can finish it on Monday. I’d better, just in case.

It’s been surprisingly cold here this week, with morning temperatures down in the 30s. On the plus side, we don’t have to worry about frozen food thawing out when it’s delivered (I will be so glad when I get back to shopping in stores!). Wisp stayed in several nights, sleeping on the bed with me as usual. When this happens she tends to scoot off pretty quick in the mornings, but I’m okay with that — it’s easier to get stretching and exercising done without her there. Though eventually, if we do get her to be a mostly indoor cat, I’ll have to adapt.

Oh, and I got some Leaf articles done. Not as many as I’d have liked — I don’t think I’m going to generate as much income this month as I wanted. When I try out my new scheduling trick for my May projects, I’ll definitely need to allow myself more time for Leaf. There were a couple of other money-making projects I’d anticipated and that threw my schedule off more than it should have. Plus, of course, prioritizing Veterans Network and golems this week — normally I’d have rolled a lot of that over to next week and concentrated on doing more Leaf stuff.

Wish me luck with our vaccine shots! I’ll hopefully be ready by next Friday to say how it went.

#SFWApro. Art by Michael Gilbert, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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My battle plan did not survive first contact with the enemy

As I mentioned at the start of the month, I thought breaking down my schedule into blocks of time and assigning them to different projects (e.g., eight units for Leaf, eight for Veterans Network articles, eight for the golem article). That way, when my schedule takes some kind of unexpected detour, I can make sure I’m still putting enough time on everything.

This week that did not work, though I think it’s less a flaw in the plan than just life. But then again, if the plan can’t cope with what life throws at me, it’s not much use. But really, this situation is exceptional. I have several projects due before the end of the month and I’m getting my second vaccine shot on April 27. If it leaves me feeling like crap I need to have all my essential projects done so I can just lie in misery. TYG is getting her shot around the same time (I really should have listened to her and gotten mine further apart, but when I saw an opening, I panicked and grabbed it) so even if I’m fine, she might be sick — and I know from experience that’s going to kill my productivity too. So the golem article and all my Veteran Network stuff has to be done by April 26.

Plus next week I have an Alexander Technique appointment, our dogs’ trip to the rehab vet and allergy shots for them. That’s going to eat up quite a bit of time.

So this week I wanted to work on veteran articles, Leaf pieces and the golem piece. I did well — the golem article is finally looking good — until yesterday. About 10:30 Wednesday night, Plushie became scared of the invisible monsters he’d spotted somewhere in the bedroom and insisted on climbing on me for safety, then licking my face for about 20 minutes. Finally he calmed down, but by that point I was completely awake. I got up, worked for a couple of hours, got ready to go back to bed … and Wisp meowed to come in and wanted attention for a little while.

I did get to sleep eventually but it didn’t help much. I finished an article on Agent Orange, and did a little work on Undead Sexist Cliches (final proof of Chapter Two. Looks good) — I’m actually quite impressed what I can do when my brain is utterly fried — but I didn’t get the golem article finished as I’d planned.

Last night I took an Ambien to ensure I’d get a decent night’s sleep. The price was waking up late, then Wisp came in, snuggled with me and fell asleep in my lap (it was cold outside).The result was that I never had the private time I need to get my head in the game. Today was not productive. If I didn’t have the deadlines and the possible sick days ahead, I’d have devoted it entirely to reading the remaining golem novels on my list.

I will try my plan again next month, but for the moment the onrushing deadlines render it moot.

Oh, I had Southern Discomfort come back from a publisher with some critical feedback. I’ll discuss what they said when I’ve had time to mull it over.

To end on an upbeat note, here’s Trixie sniffing a flower.#SFWApro.

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I thought I had it all handled, but I didn’t think of the pollen!

Pollen is always a problem in North Carolina in the spring. Behold:This year it’s worse than usual. The dogs have never left pollen stains on the couch covers before. I think that explains why I became so muzzy-headed Wednesday and Thursday; I kept working, but it was mostly reading material for the golem article when I should have been writing for Leaf or Veterans Network. I didn’t do much better today. I wound up taking some time off from work to bake bread this afternoon (a British beer bread).

It didn’t help that doggy care in the morning dragged out more than usual so I started late both Wednesday and Thursday. I got my hours in, ultimately, but I honestly don’t know if my new technique for budgeting time helped or not. I’ve been marking off units of time when I use them, but I haven’t run out of the time assigned to any projects yet (though the golem stuff is coming close). I’ll see how it goes next week.

Still, I did get quite a bit done. I redrafted the golem article to break down stories by themes: golem as Hulk-like destroyer, golem as protector, golem as artificial intelligence (yearning, like the Vision or Data, for humanity), golem stories focusing on relationships. I think it’s more interesting than just the straight chronological approach I was using. And like I said, I did a lot of extra reading, adding more stuff to the article.

I got a couple of Leaf articles done as well, and one Veterans Network piece. There’s quite a lot of work for the latter assigned for April so I hope my muzzy head clears itself up next week. I also need to account for my second vaccine dose at the end of the month: I need to assume the next couple of days will be me feeling like crap and not up for work. Great if I’m wrong, but just in case …

I completed my review of Chapter Six in Undead Sexist Cliches; now I have to go through and actually make the changes.

And now I’m off to cut a slice of the bread.

#SFWApro.

 

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Have I had a brilliant idea? Or just a dead end?

So right now, as y’all know, I have multiple projects. The golem article due at the end of the month. Alien Visitors due at the end of October. The Veterans Network and Leaf articles. Finishing Undead Sexist Cliches and Questionable Minds. Trying to keep them all on track is tricky; it’s great to have a good week turning out Leaf articles (they pay promptly) but not if I don’t get around to working on Alien Visitors, say. And if I put in extra work on one project in a given week, I don’t always figure out how to make it up on the others.

For this month I’m trying something new. Counting my afternoon and morning writing times as one unit each, I listed how many units I have, then sat down and matched them up with the work I want to get done. So many units spent on Veterans Network, so many on Alien Visitors, so many on Undead Sexist Cliches, etc. Then every time I use up a unit, cross one off. If this works, I should be able to pace myself and make progress in everything. I left several units open so that if something takes extra time, and I’m sure something will, I can adapt.

Of course things immediately got more complicated. Veterans Network wants about double the articles they requested last month, which is cool, but not what I was expecting. I’ve tentatively budgeted time for one paying gig that may not happen (details when and if it does). And this week I had a couple of units that wound up mixed between two or three different projects. Still it does give me a sense of progress that I don’t always have. I’m knocking the armored killers down — hopefully there’s nobody sneaking up with an axe (I do find this Billy Graham cover reminiscent of life).

What did I get done? Another Veterans Network article, on military kids. The first half of Chapter Five in Undead Sexist Clichés, dealing with clichés about consent (too confusing to worry about! Unimportant! All that matters is whether you’re married!) — and as I thought, it’s a much easier chapter to proof than three and four were. I got a lot of work done on the Golem article, though I also discovered a bunch more books and graphic novels that need covering.  And some more viewing for Alien Visitors. Not much different from previous weeks, but I feel more satisfied.

I feel a little less satisfied that I’m not doing more fiction. Questionable Minds is off the schedule until the golem piece is done, and I’m not even thinking about new fiction. That’s frustrating as hell because fiction’s still my favorite. But Undead Sexist Clichés is a personal project at least, which is better than if Leafs or Screen Rant articles were sucking up all my time.

I’d been wondering if Wisp would become mostly an outdoor cat again now that the weather’s heating up. Monday, when things were at their hottest, she came in and slept in my lap for a couple of hours. That’s cool; the more she stays inside, the safer she is and the fewer birds and other creatures wind up dead. Speaking of which, I’ve now heard the ululation she makes when she wants us to see her kill (or bring it in to us — which I made sure didn’t happen). It sounds like a weeping lost soul. Less of that would be good.

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

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A Too Much Research Week, I guess

Reading a lot for my golem article.

Watching alien abduction films and Stephen Spielberg’s tedious miniseries Taken for Alien Visitors.

Extra time spent on research for my Veteran’s Network blog posts this week.

A shit ton of time spent planning and thinking. First, re-evaluating the work ahead for Alien Visitors and figuring out exactly what I’m doing in the months ahead. Second, I have an offer to edit a book, for pay, but they wanted me to give them a quote. That took a lot of number-crunching and guesstimating, but now it’s done, bid submitted. Worst case, they say no — or worst case, they make me a lower offer, I accept it and it turns out it wasn’t enough for the work involved. Hopefully my estimating skills are better than my doubts.

I did finish the redraft of Chapter Four of Undead Sexist Cliches though I still have to re-edit the footnotes as I rearranged the material so much (fortunately Chapter Five is much tighter organized). And I got an Atomic Junk Shop post up marveling that some people are apparently fine with all Superman’s absurdities but balk at the idea he can put a bun in Lois’s oven.

Then there was today. Wisp woke me up early and unlike some mornings she really, really wanted me to play the laser-pointer game with her. I didn’t quite have the time to do that — I’m not so coordinated I can flash the laser light and still do whatever else I’m doing — so she eventually left in a sulk. Then we got a thunderstorm which freaks Plush Dog out (“Sky noise! Loud evil sky noise!”) and he insisted on coming downstairs and cuddling with me (Trixie came too, inevitably). I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I couldn’t cuddle him and do any stretching or exercise, which left me feeling stiff all day. And with no time to myself in the morning, I never really got my head in the game for the day’s work. I wound up doing some extra work on Atomic Junk Shop posts, which I shouldn’t have been — blogging’s never supposed to take time from productive work — but my mind was balking even at more research reading. Finally this afternoon I found presence of mind for planning, but that was all.

Oh well, as I’ve said before, sooner or later my schedule has to go kaput for a day; that’s just how life is. But only for a day — I have too much to do.

On the personal side, I did accomplish something, getting signed up with Duke as one of the Group Four (older, some health issues) vaccine recipients. Though as the governor’s declared that next month it’s open to anyone, that doesn’t make much of a difference — particularly as I haven’t found any appointments yet. TYG is planning to go out of town to find one (there are nearby communities with slots available), but I haven’t given up on locating something here. We’ll see if I’m right.

And one of my self-published books showed on Amazon, though as usual they haven’t made the data about which book or how many sales. That’s so annoying — if they’re paying me, they have to know — but the sale is great news.

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My birthday was, perhaps, a little “meh”

I didn’t expect anything spectacular, seeing as we couldn’t go out, and TYG isn’t comfortable ordering takeout during a pandemic. But a little after midnight, TYG got an emergency call from work, which woke me up. When it was obvious I couldn’t get back to sleep I went downstairs with Wisp until my eyelids started to droop. At which point Trixie had an upset tummy so I let her sit downstairs with me so that TYG (who had to work — I was taking Thursday off) could sleep. Unfortunately sleeping with a restless dog plus a cat proved unworkable.

The result was that I spent most of my birthday a little bit out of it. Fortunately I feel much better today, and my birthday did have some fun moment. Watching 63 Up. Playing Jotto (a gift from my bro) with TYG. Pigging out on junk food. Using the stationary bicycle — I’ve fallen out of the habit lately (inclement weather made outside bicycling a non-starter). The only thing that really disappointed me was that I’d wanted to sit down and think through my schedule, my projects, and which ones need prioritizing (and how much). I only managed a little of that.

The rest of the week was productive without much getting finished. Well, except for a post at Atomic Junk Shop comparing DC and Marvel Silver Age storytelling (the above image from Fantastic Four is part of it) and a Veterans Network post about burn pits and their health hazards. Other than that it was stuff worked on, nothing finished: movies watched for Alien Visitors, reading about golems and almost finishing the final edits on Chapter Four of Undead Sexist Cliches.

The work was not finished, but it did progress. And hopefully it will progress further come next week. For now, writing is done.

#SFWApro. Image by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

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I slept well this week. I imagine DST this weekend will fix that

Switching back and fro from Daylight Savings Time to Standard has disrupted my sleep schedule (and millions of other people’s) for years. As I’ve aged, it gets worse. There’s a bipartisan push in Congress to end the switch; I hope it works.

But for some reason I did sleep remarkably well this week, even with Wisp occasionally in the bed with me and demanding petting. Getting a full night’s sleep sometimes works against me — being able to work uninterrupted in the early morning has some advantages — but this week it didn’t. Partly that’s because my various projects require research reading and research viewing (for Alien Visitors) which makes it easier to squeeze in a little extra work. The doggy care wasn’t particularly demanding, though I am getting quite wiped after lunch walkies. Thinking back, it’s the first time since Trixie’s injury last year that I’ve been giving her a full morning walk while it’s still cool enough for a full lunch walk. Apparently that and the heat is taking its toll. I’m going to try hydrating heavily before lunch walks next week and see if that helps. I sure hope so — there’s no way I can rejigger my schedule to avoid working in the afternoon. Though in a couple of months it’ll probably be too hot for big walks anyway.

So what did I get done while I was so wonderfully rested?

I did my Leaf articles, of course, though there were fewer to claim than I expected. I made it up by doing a couple more pieces for the Veterans Network website (my first article, on K9 Veterans Day, is already up). This looks like it will be a steady source of additional work, which is always welcome. I also spent an hour chatting with my friend Lisa Wildman, who works there, about the gig and what they’re looking for.

I did a lot of reading on golems and wrote a rough first draft of the paper. I still have more reading to do, but having it down on paper gives me a much sharper idea where I’m going, which is reassuring. I also took time out of Wednesday to go pick up some research reading from the Durham Library. Normally I’d have waited for the weekend but I had a couple of other errands that needed doing, so …

I started the final draft of Chapter Four of Undead Sexist Cliches. It needs more work than I hoped, but it will get the work until it’s good to go.

I skipped working on Questionable Minds as I mull over a couple of edits I’m not sure about. I got a little bit of work done on the Alien Abductions chapter of Alien Visitors. I’m starting to get a feel for that subgenre faster than I thought.

Oh, and I published a blog post about DC’s Kobra over at Atomic Junk Shop.

Overall a satisfactory week. Fingers crossed DST doesn’t disrupt the flow too much next week.

#SFWApro. Kobra art by Jack Kirby, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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