Category Archives: Nonfiction

The thing about subjective assessments

One of the reasons I like keeping written goals is that it gives me an objective standard to measure my performance. Because subjective standards are frequently wrong.

Managers doing annual reviews, for example, are sometimes waylaid by the recency effect: “Wow, Stella’s been amazing this past week, way above average. Okay, time for her annual review, I guess her performance for the year must be ‘above average.'” Likewise if my Friday writing’s going poorly, it’s very easy to feel my whole week was wasted.

And yeah, it was kind of poor today. TYG was out of town, so I took the dogs on the morning walk. Then I had to spend an hour dealing with some lingering stuff involving Mum’s estate (as my sister handled the executor’s duties, which is no small amount of work, I’m happy to do whatever I can to help her). As frequently happens when my morning goes off-schedule, I felt a little disoriented (things like that knock me off my game more than they should). I didn’t get much done today, so I feel like my whole week was unbalanced and ineffective. Actually I did okay.

Leaf work has started back up, so I got in 10 of those.

I finished the current draft of Undead Sexist Cliches. It’s around 40,000 words and I think I’ve resolved most of the problems from the earlier drafts, such as what goes in which chapter. Next up, a print-out and I’ll see if I can do one more edit. Well, plus an index for the hard-copy version. I’m also debating whether I should add endnotes (or links for the ebook).

I got several thousand words done on Southern Discomfort. I think it’s progressing well.After it’s finished, I will need to make one cursory pass though to make sure I didn’t make any massive screw-ups (pointless blank space, repeated paragraphs) — I went back to an early section this week and found a couple. But that will be pretty minor.

I got some more done on proofing Atoms for Peace. Nowhere near as much as I’d wanted, but it’s coming along.

And I got a couple of IRL tasks done that needed doing.

As TYG’s schedule was inevitably crazy after a week away, I also coped with a little extra dog care. Not as much as I’d anticipated, but I think I did well not stressing out over it.

Today was still a mess, but overall I did well.

For humor, here’s Plushie yearning to check out a dead snake (you can’t tell from the image but it’s dead as a doornail) and probably roll on it. He did not get his wish.

#SFWApro. Cover by zakarianada, all rights to it are mine.

 

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

I didn’t actually work this week

It was our annual trip to the Mensa national gathering, this time in Indianapolis. I’ll be blogging about it next week. However as this marks halfway through the year, I thought I’d look again at how my Plot Your Work Planner helped me accomplish goals (or didn’t). Or if you prefer, how well I did by the metrics I wrote into it.

Much to my surprise, I did pretty well. Which is a fringe benefit of writing down goals — it’s much easier to see how much I actually got done. Taking the April to June goals, one at a time:

Southern Discomfort went well. I’m actually further along in the final draft than I expected. I have a cover letter drafted (I’ll be revising it), though I didn’t finish my synopsis.

•I completed 30,000 words on the Undead Sexist Cliches book.

•I released Atlas Shagged in hard copy (it’s also available in ebook).

•I finished another draft The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I think I’ve figured out how to fix the problems — we’ll see if my reasoning holds up (I want to get at least half of the revised draft done in the next three months)

•I made some final changes to Questionable Minds, submitted it, and got turned down. I’m ready to go ahead and self-publish this one (though not right away). After all, Barbarian Books accepted it before closing their doors, so I have an outside verification it’s worth reading.

What I didn’t get done: Short stories. I wanted to have No One Can Slay Her done back in March and another story (probably Angels Hate This Man) in June. Nope. Neither done, though No One‘s pretty close — a final draft should have it done, but I have to work out the final fixes first.

Given I was also doing Screen Rant and all my Leaf articles, that’s pretty good results, I think. And the planner is definitely helping me keep track of things — I intend to order another one for 2019.

#SFWApro. All rights to journal design remain with current holder. Atlas Shagged cover is mine; painting is Atlas and the Hesperides by Singer-Sargent.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

I see stormy storms ahead …

So I made it up to 16,000 words of Southern Discomfort this week, which is well ahead of what I planned for this month. However I hit the first place that requires an intensive fix, and that slowed me down some. So I won’t be surprised if it starts going a lot slower from hereon in. Even so, I don’t think I’ve set myself an unreasonable pace, so by the end of September I should be done. Barring, of course, disasters. Sometimes they happen.

My Screen Rant on Deadpool 2‘s Shatterstar is now live, and it was a lot of fun. How can you not enjoy writing about someone who’s a genetically engineered mutant extraterrestrial time traveler? And also his own grandfather. And who got merged with Starfire in a DC/Marvel crossover to become — Shatterstarfire!

For some reason writing it went a lot slower than usual, which was annoying. Writing it on just Monday/Tuesday still works well for freeing the rest of the week up, but I think the work may be expanding to fill the time available. Which is Not Good.

I submitted a column pitch to The Guardian, without success. And I’m up to 20,000 words in the Undead Sexist Cliches book. It’s much better organized than the last draft, but the next couple of chapters are really fragmentary, so next month may be a lot slower.

No short story work, due to the time put in on Southern Discomfort.

A productive week, though not terribly exciting to write about.

#SFWApro. Images by Rob Liefeld and Roger Cruz (top and bottom), all rights remain with current holders.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Embrace the disorder, learn how to bend

(Title adapted from the theme song of Psych).

Sometimes my 1,000 words of fiction a day rule needs adjusting. A week and a half ago, when I accepted the Vampire Diaries romances list from Screen Rant, the due date was this past Tuesday. To get that done and get in my Leaf articles, I had to focus on them Monday and Tuesday and forget about fiction (I’ll do the same next week, with my article on Shatterstar). Under the circumstances that was okay, so long as I made up the extra wordage later in the week, which I did.

Without the demands of doctors and plumbers that bedeviled me last week, this was a productive five days. I got in my Leaf work and the Screen Rant. Plus about 4,000 more words on Undead Sexist Cliches. It’s definitely easier to make my chapters coherent when I have a big block of time to work on it.

On the fiction side, I went over No One Can Slay Her for a final review and it’s done … subject to any feedback from the writer’s group in a couple of weeks. I redrafted Angels Hate This Man; it still needs a lot of work, but I think I’m finally getting somewhere. I finished The Cheap Assassin‘s first draft and started rewriting a story called (for the moment) Neverwas (time travel, bookstores, the apostle Luke — it all makes sense!). I didn’t get any further with Southern Discomfort, but I’ll be back on that horse next week.

I also found a cover for Atoms for Peace. I’ll post it soon.

It took me over my usual 35 hours a week (or is that my theoretical 35 hours a week?) to get it all done, but I didn’t feel stressed. So yay.

#SFWApro. Image is George Frederick Watts’ Chaos via Wikimedia commons .

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

Publishing, one way or another

So last week I began the search for someone to draw my book cover for Atoms for Peace. It’s slightly nerve-wracking (what if I pick the wrong cover and destroy the book’s chances?) but it needs to be done. So I’m pleased I’m taking a necessary step.

But it also makes me appreciate why so many writers are adamant about not going indie. This is me, spending money up front with no certainty I’ll ever make it up on the back end. Making decisions about cover art which is not my forté, even given I got lots of ideas from writing friends on what to include/not include. Admittedly Atlas Shagged turned out okay visually, but finding an image is different from ordering one up.

A writer discussed the money side recently on Twitter. To get the income she needs, she has to go traditional, with more than one book a year. Spending money on cover images, marketing, etc. isn’t affordable. If it were, say, 10 years ago, I wouldn’t afford it either (this was back when Freedom Communications was getting real cheap with us employees). Even now, there’s a limit to how much I’m willing to spend on a cover. I’ve yet to spend any money on marketing. And it looks like changes at Amazon will reduce the royalties on CreateSpace paperbacks which doesn’t help.

Which is why while I’m self-publishing some stuff, I’m still going to submit Southern Discomfort to a trad publisher when it’s done. The same for The Impossible Takes a Little Longer (when I finish it) and for the nonfiction Space Invaders (assuming I do go ahead with it).  As I said back in March, the copy-editing and proofreading required for a major film book are more than I should take on myself. I’ve never finished a book that McFarland didn’t have to correct errors. I suppose I could hire someone, but that’s more outlay on my part.  Questionable Minds will probably be self-published as I think I’ve exhausted the publishing options.

Another factor, as countless indie authors have pointed out, is that what they’re doing is running a small business. Of course that’s true for every writer; every one of us, traditional or indie, is the sole proprietor of our own business. The indie end is just a lot more businessy. Being boss of myself is one thing, but dealing with (potentially) marketers, artists, editors, etc? To paraphrase John Rogers of TV’s The Librarians, lots of talented writers don’t have the skill-set to manage that kind of business, or the money to pay someone to do it. As the publisher of Falstaff Books put it, that’s why he started the company — he’s willing to take on those details and let writers get to writing.

This is a kind of rambling post as I don’t really have strong opinions yet. The stuff I’ve self-published has generated a little revenue, but nothing that makes me feel this is where I should put all my chips. So who knows? Not me, apparently.

We shall see if I figure it out.
#SFWApro. Book cover is mine, image is Sargent’s Atlas and the Hesperides.

 

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Southern Discomfort, Writing

Life vs. Art Round Two: This week it’s a win-win!

A very busy week, but very productive. Wisely when I saw the IRL stuff I had to do, I asked if I could skip a Screen Rant (normally I do one a week) which freed me up to concentrate on other stuff. While I’ll be back on the job next week (a Vampire Diaries list), it really paid off for all the other stuff I do.

But first, the IRL. Tuesday, I had a dentist appointment. Nothing serious, just a regular checkup; my teeth are fine though they’re starting to edge toward gum disease again. If I’m not in better shape next time (I will try — gums actually respond to heavy cleaning) — it’ll be a round of scaling, where they clean all the way under the gumline. Not pleasant — it has to be done under anesthetic. I’d rather avoid it, so positive thoughts toward my gums are welcome.

Second, Tuesday I took my first Alexander technique class. My friend, drama teacher/director/actor Laley Lippard, recommended this school of movement training to help me with my voice-straining problems. I finally booked some time with a local teacher. I can’t really describe the training without making it sound dumb, but I think I see how it can help my voice (other things too, it’s a full-body technique). My teacher sent me home with some lessons to work on until I can find time for another class (July, after my Leaf work wraps up and I have more time in the week).

Third, we had three plumbing problems to deal with — clogged toilet, leaking tap, possible gunk leak from another toilet — so I had to deal with plumbers. It went well (though expensive of course): new tap, snaked toilet and the gunk, whatever it was, doesn’t appear to be a leak (yay! One less expense).

Despite which, I got a lot done on writing besides my Leaf pieces and submitting my list entries for the Vampire Diaries article:

The biggest is that I started work on the final draft — and it will be final — of Southern Discomfort. I wasn’t able to print it out at the library last weekend, so our rickety printer churned out the first 10,000 words at home instead. As usual for final drafts I read it aloud, made changes, entered them in the computer. My goal for this month was 10,000 and it’s now done — though I’m not stopping there. This is the part of the story I’ve gone over the most so it’s not surprising it went fast. If I keep going through May it’ll make up when I get to the later parts that need more work. Yay, me!

I made my thousand-words of fiction a day goal, and not just the Southern Discomfort stuff. I also finished rewriting No One Can Slay Her and about 2,000 words of Angels Hate This Man. I resolved the How’s He Doing It question that stumped me last week by deciding yes, Rev. Lennier really is freeing people from Hell. So far it’s working — we’ll see if it steers me to a satisfying end. I also got in a couple of thousand words on a new story, The Cheap Assassin.

I rewrote 4,000 words of Undead Sexist Cliches. Having a solid block of time to focus on it worked really well.

And I tackled a couple of paperwork tasks. I got a question about our state taxes resolved, and I went ahead and commissioned someone on Fiverr to draw up a cover for Atoms for Peace. It’s the first time I’ve commissioned anything along those lines. Wish me luck. And I submitted Schloss and the Switchblade to Allegory—more luck, please!

Getting all that done took a lot of evening work, which I normally dislike, but I’m very satisfied with the results.

Below, a Gervasio Gallardo cover to look at, just because it’s cool (don’t let the HPL name fool you, this was 90 percent Derleth).

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

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

So today, Plushie sharted on me. The rest of the week was better.

I’m not sure how it happened. Suddenly Mr. Squirrel was up to something on the deck, Plushie jumped up while sitting in my lap and barked — and suddenly I had stains on my shirt and bits of pooh on my computer. ICK!!!!!! Possibly he just backed into me getting up and knocked off a pooh-stain, but it was as gross either way. I’m pleased I kept my cool about it, though I did have to order him off my lap, which had Plush dog staring at me puzzled. And then I washed myself thoroughly and disinfected the computer.

Due to my trip to Greenville, this was a short week. I didn’t get my Screen Rant article approved until Wednesday so I spent Tuesday working heavily on Leaf articles. I was frankly impressed I could get seven finished in a day without massive errors but I doubt I could keep up that pace regularly, even if I had the time. And finally today I finished my Screen Rant on recastings that saved shows and those that hurt them. This time all my photos came from Screen Rant’s library, so none to show here.

I rewrote a lot of No One Can Slay Her and started grappling with the problems on Angels Hate This Man. The big one is that the plot involves a right-wing minister who’s getting people out of hell for a price. If he’s scamming the people paying him, how’s he doing it? If he’s really getting souls out, how’s he doing it? I’ve been focusing more on the emotional drama and character arcs, so the How question largely flew by me. Now I need an answer.

And that’s pretty much it. And to make up for showing Plush Dog in a bad light, here’s a photo of him being adorable.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework

The Whisper of the Tax

So this week my writing time was distorted by having to finish the state and federal tax forms. Tuesday I went over them and caught a bunch of errors. One was from entering the same deduction twice; one was from writing down a deduction but not subtracting it from my writing income; and several were just math errors. I went over that last lot several times, just to be sure they were finally right.

(Title, by the way, borrows from Richard Condon’s terrorist thriller, The Whisper of the Axe)

After that was all done, I printed them up yesterday and mailed them off today. So they’re done!!! But that did cut into my writing time, so I missed my 1,000 words a day goal for Thursday and Friday. I had a productive week just the same.

I got out my latest Screen Rant, on superheroes and villains fans didn’t know had siblings. Swamp Thing’s brother from a dreadful mid-1970s reboot. Dr. Strange’s vampire brother. And Thomas Wayne Jr., the brother Batman didn’t know he had. I still find that slightly incredible, because unlike Dr. Strange, Swamp Thing and some of the other characters in the list, it was well established Bruce Wayne was an only child. But then World’s Finest as edited by Murray Boltinoff saw nothing wrong with claiming Superman and Batman had kids, either. Below, courtesy of Dick Dillin’s art, Batman learns the truth.

Nick Fury’s brother Jake, on the other hand, has been well established since the Silver Age, he just hovers right below the awareness of the average comics reader. And wow, he’s been really heavily retconned, as I discovered researching the article. Below, writer/artist Jim Steranko introduces him killing Nick.

I completed ten Leaf articles, and got about 6,000 words done on Undead Sexist Cliches. And I finally figured out how to fix No One Can Slay Her and finish it. I still want the writer’s group (or someone) to give it a beta reading, but I feel very pleased with it. I’d hoped to get some work in polishing Questionable Minds, but the taxes took care of that. I did give the green light to publish Atlas Shagged but it won’t be up for sale until next week.

On the downside, my mind could not seem to focus in the evening, so I got next to no reading done. I hate that. As of last night, though, I seem to be over it.

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

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Time management and goals

Urgh, insomnia was just too helpful

For some reason sleep this week was really appalling, even by my standards. Can’t say it wasn’t a good, productive week but I felt quite wiped out for a lot of it. Fortunately I had a good night last night or I’d be writing something as incomprehensible as Duran Duran lyrics.

I have my Leaf articles done and a new Screen Rant submitted, on bad forgotten spinoffs. For example The Dukes, Saturday morning’s take on The Dukes of Hazzard. I also talked to the new management at And Magazine about resuming work there. I’m going to give it a shot, though I won’t have time to spare until April, when the Leaf stuff winds down.

I’m giving myself a mulligan on my “1,000 words of fiction every work day” rule, as my not doing it was a calculated choice. It was more practical to do extra fiction on Wednesday and go light Thursday, so I figure I’ll cut myself some slack. Fiction writing was still productive, as I finished the draft of Questionable Minds I’ve been working on. It still needs a couple of sections touched up, then it’ll be ready to submit, self-publish or whatever. I’ll be thrilled when it’s completely finished and I don’t have to think about it.

I worked on No One Can Slay Her, ran into some trouble, stopped. I’ve figured out the solution though, so I’ll have this draft done by the end of next week.

I sold a story, The Grass Is Always Greener, to the Strange Economics anthology (specfic stories with an economic/business element). I am very pleased with that, of course. I also realized that my list of Stories Out was off — a couple of them have been out so long at particular markets it’s obvious they’re not biting. So I have them back on the To Submit list.

And I finally resolved the problems with the hard copy of Atlas Shagged. I should have a copy next week so I can double-check it’s good to go.

Today we had some landscapers come in and spend much of the day working on our yard (trees trimmed, one cut down). It needs it, but man did the dogs freak out. After a while they became sort of resigned, or I’d not have gotten anything done. Here’s Plush in a calmer moment earlier this week.

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

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, TV, Writing

Movie reference books, past and future

So I got my royalty check from McFarland, my film-book publisher last week. It’s a pleasant surprise to see that Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan still sells a couple of copies a year 18 years later (even given it fills a niche). Ditto Wizard of Oz Catalog, though less surprising — Oz fandom is pretty intense. It’s disappointing that Screen Enemies of the American Way didn’t sell any this time out. I’m really proud of that one because political paranoia in American films isn’t a subject that gets as much attention as it should. Then again, maybe that’s part of the problem: it isn’t as simple a hook as “made for TV specfic films.”

Now and Then We Time Travel sold 25 copies in the past six months. That leaves me with mixed feelings of “What, only 25?” and “Whee, 25 people bought it!” McFarland books aren’t cheap, so that’s flattering, even if I’d like it to be more. If you’re reading this and you’re one of the buyers, thanks!

So that’s the past. Now we come to Space Invaders, the idea that one university press passed on. I have three options for moving ahead;

  • Submit a proposal to McFarland. I know them, they know me, it should be simple enough.
  • Check out other university presses that do pop-culture books. I’m happy with McFarland but the press I pitched would have taken care of illustrations and indexing. That’s quite a plus, because photos cost money (not a lot, but it adds up) and indexing is a pain.
  • Self-publish. I’m disinclined to this, mostly because of the editing. I can live with typos in a self-published fiction manuscript, but in nonfiction they can be disastrous, like the small-press magazine that misplaced a 9 and referred to “the French Reign of Terror in 1978.” It’s true I pulled off Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast but that took work and it was a small book. This one would be a larger undertaking.

I shall probably check out a couple of university presses and their submission requirements/publishing process before making the decision.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders

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