Category Archives: Nonfiction

The Man Who Lost Thursday

(And yes, I picked the title because I really like the Gervasio Gallardo cover).

Following last week’s mess, I expected to rise back to my normal level of productivity this week, but it was not to be. I had three reasonably productive days, getting work done on Undead Sexist Cliches, and watching material for Alien Visitors. Plus, of course, my Leaf articles.Then came Thursday. It was one of the days where there’s a bunch of real-world stuff that had to be done — so I dropped my work and did it.

Two of them were surprises. The Low Tire warning light went on the day before and with all our driving back and forth to the veterinary rehab, it seemed wise to take care of it. That morning I took the car to the nearest gas station which has an automatic air-pump that inflates tires to the right pressure without having to check. I also figured out how to reset the tire pressure so the light goes up, something that’s not as simple as with our previous VW Golf. That way if there is a slow leak or something — I’m assuming it was just time, our lack of regular tire checks and cold air effects — it’ll alert us again.

Then there was my teeth. They normally stay sore for a while after I have work done on them, so at first the temperature sensitivity after last month’s filling didn’t bother me. But it seemed to be becoming more acute, and included heat sensitivity, which is a warning sign of Something Serious. Given that it spread over both the upper and lower right side of my mouth, TYG suggested it could be sinuses. However, while that seemed plausible, it could have been worse … and I didn’t want to have to go in two or three weeks later with COVID-19 in its winter surge and my teeth having deteriorated. So I called the doctor and made an appointment for noon.

It was sinuses. Which despite paying $120 for the exam, I was happy to hear. Relatively simple to treat and no going under the needle again! Or paying for fillings, root canals or whatever. And I don’t have to worry something’s seriously wrong, which I would have if I’d skipped going.

The other stuff I did Thursday was matters that I knew needed taking care of but I hadn’t gotten around to yet. Hall light replaced upstairs. Chatting with our medical insurer and determining that no, we hadn’t met our high deductible yet which is why a couple of bills were higher than expected. Figuring out how to access our HSA to pay for them — our old HSA let you just withdraw at the ATM, but this one is much more complicated to get money out of (I got it figured out though). I wanted to submit to our pet insurer for rehab coverage too, but that will have to wait.

So not much done. Then today we had dog stuff for much of the day: take our dogs to the vet to get their nails trimmed (Plushie’s are long enough they could break, which would be painful), then to rehab. Normally we go evenings, but this time we scored an early afternoon appointment. Preferable, but not good for productivity (it’s a good half-hour drive).

On the plus side, though, Flash in a Flash accepted my short story Rabbits Indignateonem. That’s the first new story I’ve sold in two years. It doesn’t necessarily change my October views on selling stories, but it is quite nice.

And it looks like Leaf, as usual, will not have articles for the last week of the month so I can make up for lost time next week, despite the Thanksgiving weekend.

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The day (or two) that dropped out of time!

This week was a reminder that being tighter and more efficient about my schedule is good, but it can’t always overcome bad luck. As I know from experience, sooner or later a run of good weeks will be followed by a bad. And this was the bad.

Last Friday, Plushie took a couple of indoor poops which was really unusual. Saturday night, he woke me up at 11:30 to go out for a poop. Then again at 1 AM. And a couple more times. I spent Sunday in a stupor and never got any Alien Visitors films watched.

Tuesday night, it happened again. Wednesday day I alternated sleeping— a lot of it — with reading Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill. No work. So not a productive week.

I got almost a full quota of Leaf articles and quite a bit of work done on Undead Sexist Cliches. Nothing on Questionable Minds or Alien Visitors. I wasn’t pleased by this but I won’t beat myself up over it either. Life happens.

And in a minor annoyance, the original Outer Limits, which I’d been watching on Amazon, is suddenly not available in my area. It doesn’t appear to be streaming anywhere else and the DVD set is not only pricey, the reviews saw it degrades fast.

On the plus side, after we took Plushie to the vet on Wednesday he got some meds and his poop has stabilized. Thank goodness.

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For some reason I was distracted after Tuesday evening’s events

Like a lot of people I bought into the polling which turned out to be even wronger than in 2016 (discussion to come on Monday). And the possibility that on top of everything else, President Shit Gibbon would win another term? I’m feeling much more hopeful today, even though the outcome is not completely certain.

The tension Wednesday left me too out-of-sorts to do anything creative so I stuck to Leaf articles the whole day. And wasn’t even fast with them. So no work on Questionable Minds this week. And the shift off DST threw me as it always does. I don’t mind it getting dark earlier as much as I mind the abrupt, unnatural way it happens. It leaves me feeling like the CHUD are about to swarm out of their tunnels and devour us all. End the madness! Stop switching times!

So the fact I got anything accomplished this week is a win. And I did. Footnotes proofed on Chapters Five and Six of Undead Sexist Cliches. Final draft done through Chapter Three. Several movies watched for Alien Visitors and some work on the text. That part isn’t going as fast as I’d planned: Netflix deliveries have been slow (curse you, DeJoy!) and so I haven’t been able to concentrate on films for specific chapters. That makes it hard to write about a subgenre such as “Alien Superheroes” or “ET Monsters,” even after I watch the core film for the chapter.

And the trips to the rehab vet this week actually felt like a vacation. Getting out of the house! Going somewhere new! Letting the dogs walk around the parking lot (while carefully social-distancing, of course)! It was startlingly refreshing.

Oh, and Draft 2 Digital reported one of my ebooks sold! Only one, but hey, whoever you are out there I appreciate you spending money on a no-name author.

On that note, have a great weekend.

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Not many goals accomplished, but October went well

A quck check of my list of goals for October shows I only accomplished 40 percent. But the writing went well, so these days of pandemic I’m satisfied.

Work on Undead Sexist Cliches really went well this week. I carefully bookmarked the various blog posts and news stories I referenced but searching through Firefox’s Library page was consistently slow. It turns out if I just type the title into the search engine, I get much quicker results. Doing that I’m now through with the footnotes for Chapters 1 through 4, which is better than I expected. Footnotes, barring disaster, will be completely done next month.

I did some research reading and movie watching for Alien Visitors, though not as much writing as I should. But I gave myself a very ambitious schedule so I’m not at risk for missing deadline.

Questionable Minds got bypassed because Wednesday I went to the dentist for a filling. Much as I hate sitting in medical offices these days, it went fine and I doubt I caught anything. But I’m happy that barring emergencies, I won’t need to see another doctor until next year. The tooth is unpleasantly cold sensitive, but that will pass, and Dr. Robinson is really good about providing adequate anesthetic during the procedure.

There was no Leaf work, as usually happens at the end of the month. That helped a lot with catching up on everything else, plus doing some research on self-publishing options besides Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. At this point, Amazon still looks like the best bet.

And the weather is turning genuine fall. The light today was beautiful so I went bicycling and had a blast. While I didn’t take any photographs, here’s a shot of South Roxboro Street from a recent cycling trip.Have a great weekend everyone.

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My instincts were, unfortunately, correct

While the rule of thumb is that we shouldn’t be visiting the doctor if it isn’t necessary my teeth need more care than they used to so I went to the dentist for a cleaning Tuesday. Turned out I was right to go: I have a cavity but we’ll be able to fill it before it decays all the way to the nerve. Phew! That said, not at all looking forward to going back in next week.

Despite the dental visit, I managed to put in a full week of work, so recalibrating my schedule is still working. A lot more of it was watching movies for Alien Visitors than I’d planned; I’ll have to watch for that in the future. But I did get other stuff done: proofing footnotes for Undead Sexist Cliches; making it halfway through the final proof of Questionable Minds, plus talking with my cover designer; Leaf articles; and writing more of the text for Alien Visitors.

I’d planned to concentrate my Alien Visitors work so that I’d be watching movies about kids and aliens in a clump, then ET superheroes, alien invasion films, etc. Unfortunately the Netflix DVDs that were supposed to arrive Monday never appeared (I’ve requested replacements) so that threw me off and my viewing was rather random. I could have viewed most of the films on Amazon but they were all for a fee so I chose to wait for Netflix. Perhaps that was an error.

Oh, and I sent in my sales tax for the previous quarter. Annoyingly, the sale of one Amazon print-on-demand copy translates into a $1.66 payment but the minimum fee for paying sales tax online is $2. I lose money. Still, I’d sooner have the sale.

One of our neighbors was out of town this week so TYG or I walked her dog at lunch (the puppy sitter has to work during the day). Wednesday I came across a vulture disputing the rights to roadkill with a couple of crows. The vulture won.

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I celebrate the recalibrate

So as I said a week ago, I’m trying to run my schedule much more tightly to ensure I get everything done. My first week went well. If I didn’t allocate my time as precisely as I’d hoped, I still got more done on the Questionable Minds final draft and the footnotes for Undead Sexist Cliches than I have the past few weeks. To break it down:

•I completed my usual quota of Leaf articles. There was a problem because one of the finished ones got wiped from the database but the editors took care of it so I’ll get paid for it. I greatly appreciate that.

•I got about halfway through Chapter Nine of Undead Sexist Cliches and I finished proofing the footnotes to Chapter One.

•I got several chapters done on Questionable Minds. Annoyingly, Word kept doing random, arbitrary things to my document (shifting the justification for the whole thing when I only wanted to center one line, for instance) so I put the whole thing back into Scrivener. Then I’ll export it to Word when it’s done and see if that works better.

•I watched several more movies for Alien Visitors and got a good start on the ETs and Children chapter. It’s a tough one as the range is much wider than the focus of the ET pregnancy chapter, which concentrates on the rape aspect. Kid/ET movies range from the sweetness of E.T. to the nightmarish Invaders From Mars to the goofy teenagers of Pajama Party. Still, I’ll get it worked out.

That’s pretty good given I had to devote Tuesday afternoon to multiple errands: library books back, doggy meds picked up, eye doctor appointment, checks to deposit. That way I can give myself a thorough cleansing once for all the trips.

I’ve also taken over as organizer of the local Shut Up and Write Durham! meetup which is currently virtual. Our first organizer had to move away; the second ran out of steam; now my fellow writer Allegra Gullino and I will try to run it together. I’m not sure I set up next Monday’s meeting right, as it’s not visible on the site (I have to go to the link for the specific meeting) but we’ll get it figured out.

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Recalibrating myself like a precision timepiece!

So I accomplished about 50 percent of my goals for September which is pretty much where I’ve been running for most of this crazy year. My biggest disappointment is that I went way over budget due to the various dog and cat vet bills. On the other hand, there was a time when if I went over budget I actually went negative; that I’m not in that financial space any more is pretty cool.

Writing went pretty well. I didn’t get very far on Questionable Minds but I rewrote Chapter Eight of Undead Sexist Cliches, the Alien Pregnancy chapter of Alien Visitors and watched a ton of movies. I did not get as far as I wanted proofing the Undead Sexist Cliches footnotes (though I have found several errors, demonstrating that I’m not wasting my time) for the same reason my Questionable Minds work was slow: I save that for the end of the day and I frequently wind up dealing with the dogs at that point. And they’re hyper. So focus goes away.

Plus I got my quota of Leaf articles and blogged at Atomic Junkshop about how much of the Superman mythos I grew up with got tested out first in the pages of Superboy. Case in point, Bizarro. And as my Shut Up and Write! meetup group seems to have died, I’m looking at reviving it with a friend of mine as co-organizer.

So for next month I’m going to try running a very tight ship. I’ve planned out my schedule including vet and doctor appointments and I’ve been much more precise in what I’m doing in each period. Out of two writing sessions a week on Alien Visitors, one will be watching movies, one will be writing the chapters. With Undead Sexist Cliches, one session will be working on Chapter Nine, one will be footnotes, reading the early chapters aloud and such. That was I should get the work done even if the dogs bedevil me. The more progress I make, the sooner I can get back to doing some fiction.

I’m not as good at multi-tasking as I used to be so trying to write while I’m watching films doesn’t go well. Instead I’ll use the time for things I can do: exercise, cooking, baking bread, maybe writing bills. That’ll squeeze a little more time out of the day.

When I was younger I used to obsessively micromanage my time this way, but I don’t feel like that this time. I feel relaxed and reasonably confident I can make this work. We’ll see if I’m right.

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Yesterday, I played hooky

I had to drive to the doctor Thursday morning for my flu shot. I combined that with dropping off library books and running an errand for TYG. By the time I got back I just didn’t feel like working, so I stopped. I didn’t even attempt to justify it with anything productive, I just sat and read the rest of the day. Felt good, even though it meant I once again got nothing done on Questionable Minds.

Well in fairness that’s not just because of yesterday. The dogs have been getting fidgety in the middle afternoon, so I take custody from TYG. Unfortunately they were consistently too fidgety — maybe because of confinement? — and I couldn’t get any of the little odds and ends done that I schedule for late afternoon (extra work on Questionable Minds, checking footnotes for Undead Sexist Cliches). If it keeps happening next week I may just stop work and resume in the evening.

That said, I did finish Chapter Eight of Undead Sexist Cliches, and I got a lot of work done on the Alien Pregnancy chapter of Alien Visitors. I will have to watch myself, though — it would be very easy to just fill up my writing time with watching movies even though this book is supposed to be less labor-intensive than my previous ones.

And of course, I got my Leaf work in, and blogged at Atomic Junkshop about Joe Simon’s bizarro 1970s series Prez (a rewritten version of an earlier post here).And now the weekend! Even if I’m not going anywhere or really doing much, it feels good to get here.

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Rethinking the scope

Despite Plushie’s problems this week and the related exhaustion, it was productive. Got my Leafs done. Got almost to the end of Chapter Eight of Undead Sexist Cliches (I’m pleased I didn’t try to force a finish and took breaks when I needed to). Added several extra examples to the earlier chapters, such as Gregg Easterbrook arguing the woman saying no doesn’t make it rape — she has to say something like “This is rape!” which will make guys stop (I am … skeptical) and is completely unambiguous. As noted at the link, if people refuse to accept an unambiguous no, why wouldn’t they think a woman says “rape!” when she means yes?

I got two rejections Wednesday but at least one of them was a nice “We liked it but we don’t have room.” That’s encouraging. But sigh, not a sale.

And I watched multiple movies for Alien Visitors, which has forced me to reconsider just how much work I need to put in. My initial thought was that with one movie/TV show/movie series to watch per chapter, this would be relatively low-intensity. But this week, for the ET pregnancy chapter, I watched Village of the Damned, Children of the Damned, the 1995 Village remake and started on 2019’s School of the Damned (I’ll get to the reviews in the next week or two). Plus writing the chapter. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I may need to do more and watch more than I’d initially thought. It’s true, The Astronaut’s Wife will be noted in the appendix rather than the heart of the chapter, but will seeing it help me understand the subgenre better? What about the excellent TV movie The Stranger Within? I don’t have the time to watch everything in every chapter but how much do I need to place a movie in context?

I’m confident I’ll figure it out, though this may be more demanding than I thought. But fortunately, even with an October deadline next year I should be able to get the work done without blowing off any of my other projects. Fingers crossed.

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A somewhat chaotic week, but a productive one.

Although today was pretty much a mess.

I got about a third of the way through the abortion/birth control chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. I watched E.T. for Alien Visitors, as well as the special features on the DVD (I usually skip them when it’s a Netflix DVD, but they proved useful for my Aliens and Children chapter). I got my Leafs done, and a little bit of work on Questionable Minds. I also got word that No One Can Slay Her made it out of the slush pile to the second round of reviews and so did Southern Discomfort at Baen Books. Neither of which means a sale — I know that from experience — but still, that’s good news. And I sold a couple of copies of Sex For Dinner, Death for Breakfast in a discussion of Bond on FB.

The dogs, however, ate up quite a bit of time. I took care of them Wednesday while TYG was working on something demanding and they proved, as they often do, a distraction (they’re much quieter sitting with her in the bedroom). Then early this morning, Plush dog woke up in some sort of pain, and wandered around the bedroom, with his back legs giving out a couple of times. As TYG had been up late and needed sleep, I took Plushie down with me to the living room (I was already up — bad night of sleep again). Normally I’d have tried drifting back to sleep but while Plushie seemed fine I was worried enough that I couldn’t bring myself to sleep. And caring for him meant I didn’t get any early morning work done, nor did I exercise. The rest of the day I was pretty dazed; I managed to finish my Leafs for the week, then it was pretty much sleep and blogging. I’ll be taking him to the vet later today. Prayers appreciated that it’s something simple to fix and definitely not seriously threatening.

Oh, and I published a blog post on Atomic Junkshop about the insane, illogical plot of Avengers #60 which worked for me as a teen but looks more ridiculous every time I reread it. But the John Buscema art never stops looking good, like this shot of the wedding reception.#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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