Category Archives: Nonfiction

Not the blazing return from vacation I’d anticipated

It seems I never return from vacation and spring immediately into writing, refreshed and energized.

Monday I decided I would take the morning off writing and catch up on various tasks: calling the electrician about why our back deck plugs didn’t seem to work, getting a car appointment scheduled, fixing a problem with our alarm system, ordering medication for a colonoscopy next month (never fun), paying my share of the bills, going through mail. That all went well. Afternoon, as work on Leaf articles has started up, I did a couple of those, and 1,000 words of fiction (starting working with some ideas from vacation).

Tuesday I was ready to start back on Southern Discomfort. But I’d scheduled a HVAC company to check out our heat pump (all good) and Plushie and Trixie completely lost their minds. There was a Dude! He came in the house! Then he did bangy things under the house in the crawlspace!

Trixie took to the high ground which wasn’t too bad. Plush Dog got up in my face. Particularly any time I tried using the computer, he just had to have my full attention. Normally I’d discourage him (I have an unpleasant whistle app on the iPhone) but as he was upset, I didn’t have the heart. Suffice to say, this used up a lot of the morning (and I’d gotten up late, too!). Then the electrician came which took up more time.

And Plushie’s eager for longer lunch walks now that the weather’s turning to autumn. That cut into my work day some too.

On the plus side, our heat pump is fine and the electrician was able to fix the problem with our outside plug. Wisp the feral cat has been using the little under-deck shelter we made for her, but it’s not good enough for winter (too open, for one thing). So we ordered a heated shelter that will work much better, but only if we can plug it in. We can, and it looks like she’s already using it.

I got plenty of Leaf work done; much as I’d prefer to devote the time to fiction, I can’t ignore paying gigs, any more than I’d ignore a day job. I got about 3,000 words done on the short-story ideas that sprang out of the trip (nothing directly tied to it, just odd thoughts like someone stealing a suitcase off a baggage carousel and discovering a horrible something inside it).

I didn’t get much done on Southern Discomfort and I suspect it won’t be completely finished by Oct. 31. I got badly stuck Thursday — the two interweaving action threads at the climax didn’t come together right — but with a little tinkering, I was able to make it work

I still have about 5,000 words to go, then to fix a couple of medical scenes based on advice from my fellow writer and MD Heather Frederick (author of the spy-cat adventure Timber Howligan). Then I print the whole thing out and read it aloud a final (I hope) time. That’s a lot to get through. But it won’t be that long now.

#SFWApro. Photo copyright is mine.

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

Dogs and disease bedevil me

An unanticipated side effect of Hurricane Florence (trivial in comparison to what some of my friends are dealing with) was that our doggy day care, Suite Paws, was shut this week.

They were shut last week for a remodeling job that was supposed to end Wednesday. However the contractors were stuck in Fayetteville due to the floods, so they didn’t reopen for daycare until today. So I haven’t had a break from dogs since Dragoncon. Well except TYG took them Friday last week when she was staying home because of Florence. After a while, the lack of any personal space adds up and stresses me out. Being squeezed together on the new love seat doesn’t help. Even though they’re so damn cute (below, Plush mid-drying after going out in the rain).

While we could have taken them in today, they have a new collar requirement so I wanted to pick up the right kind of collar before we went in (though I gather they have some on hand). So no break today.

And earlier this week, the Con Crud (most likely) hit me. Sore throat, general dragginess. So I just rested up Thursday and today, and lavished care on my throat to ensure it didn’t become really bad as it has in the past. Seems to be working — I’m definitely not feeling worse today, and maybe a little better. Maybe.

I did pass the 70,000 word mark on Southern Discomfort which was my goal for the month. I intend to get further next week, assuming I recover by Monday. And I batted out a half-dozen articles for Leaf, which brings in more money. I also discovered that if I write my 1,000 words of new material (a daily goal I have consistently fallen short on) first thing in the morning, I can actually succeed. However I tried this on Wednesday and so I haven’t been able to repeat the trick.

Wish me a full recovery by Monday.

#SFWApro.

 

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, Writing

Distracted by dogs, flustered by Florence

Typing this Friday afternoon, I realize this was another week where I got a good deal done despite all the distractions. And so far Hurricane Florence has left us alone, though

Distraction #1: Sunday early morning Trixie woke up early so I invited her to snuggle close to me. That’s fairly normal; what wasn’t was that she was constantly restless, couldn’t sit in one spot and eventually had to go out a couple of times. In the morning she seemed normal enough, which made me think it might have been nothing; there are other nights where she’s just gotten an itch to go out in the early AM, or she has an emergency need to pee.

Monday morning, though, she needed to go out early again. And she couldn’t sit still at all; she’d settle down, then jump up as if she felt uncomfortable. When she’s done this in the past, it’s been a sign she’s having serious tummy upset. We made a vet appointment for later that morning, but then I had to deal with Trixie, when she did st still, staring sadly up at me with this Daddy, Make Me Feel Better expression. So, not much done (the photo below is Trixie when she’s feeling comfortable and at peace with the world).

Then there was hurricane prep. Despite the shrieks of Category Four Devastating Storm U Are Doomed from various news media, I wasn’t worried; concerned, yes, but there’s no point in worrying about a hurricane that far out. It can change direction (it did), or lose wind power (it did), so I believe in preparing for the storm, monitoring it but not freaking out. Too much stress for zero gain.

Still, storm prep did take up time: a couple of shopping trips for extra supplies, TYG and I clearing her container garden off the back deck, moving away anything else that might turn projectile in high winds, getting an oil change for the car, talking to a friend of mine to see if we could evac that way (yes), filling up water jugs. All in all, quite a bit of time. Annoyingly a schedule conflict meant I couldn’t get a couple of other, longer fixes done to the car, so I’ll take it back in next week.

So what got done? Well, I printed up the latest draft of the Undead Sexist Cliches book at the library last weekend and spent Monday and Tuesday going over it. This proved to be a smart move. There are a lot of places where I repeat the same information or arguments; Charlotte Allen’s “women are stupid” article in the WaPo some years back crops up in several places because its such a prime example of extreme sexism. It’s got stereotyping, gendered thinking, inaccurate science — but if I reference it in multiple places, I still shouldn’t repeat the identical criticisms in each place. So I noted those down, found points where I needed to add material, noted places where the writing wasn’t clear. I think I’m ready for the next draft. Unfortunately I don’t think I can make that the last one; I’ll probably need to solicit some beta readers, then finish it up.

I also read the excellent Carol Tavris book The Mismeasure of Woman, which gave me some added useful information for the book.

Thursday I got to work on Southern Discomfort but almost immediately found a scene that needed heavy rewriting; nobody in the scene knows the stuff I have them talking about due to earlier changes in the book. This morning I got that fixed. It’s not quite as good a scene because of the knowledge they don’t have but the book overall is better with those earlier changes. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, but I am making progress.

Hopefully we won’t deal with anything worse than drenching rain and moderately strong winds the rest of the weekend. And Trixie seems back to normal, which is an even bigger load off my mind.

#SFWApro. Image is mine.

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

A short week, but it generated income

Not much else, though.

With family coming in and other activities taking up most of next week, I squeezed all my week’s Leaf articles and a couple of extra ones into three days. Which left me kind of fuzzy, but it’ll help pay the bills.

Thursday when the dogs were at Suite Paws was mostly cleaning for Tracy and Cindy’s arrival today. Plus I did a lot of thinking about my schedule and how it’s not working in some ways. Even when I schedule time to work on short stories, for instance, my brain doesn’t kick into gear. Some of that may just be feeling sick last week, and the extra dog care from TYG’s schedule. But I think I need to adjust things; we’ll see how the adjustments go after I get back from vacation.

Today I’m doing some last minute stuff, such as making cupcakes. It feels too much like a day off to write.

I did get a couple of thousand words further on Southern Discomfort but that’s it until after Labor Day.

Like I said, not productive, but I expect to bounce back with vigor after the long break.

To make up for the lack of stuff to talk about, here’s a neat cover from one of Thomas Burnett Swan’s fantasies. I don’t know the cover artist.

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

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

On a pale horse — no, it’s a white horse, but that wasn’t good either

Gotta say, if I were editing Revelation, I’d tell John that having a white horse and a pale horse makes it hard to distinguish the characters …

The bowman on the white horse is plague (at least in some interpretations) as in this image from the Cathedral de Agnani. The potluck we had a couple of weeks back apparently planted a seed in TYG, who spent this week with the 24-hour bug, only it lasted around 96 hours. I’ve been feeling draggy the past two days but nothing more than that’ hopefully it won’t get any worse.

But between extra dog walks, errands for TYG and feeling wiped out, I did not get much done. I did complete my quota of Leaf articles, so I made the money shot as it were. Southern Discomfort, though? I did get past the scene that blocked me last week, but not much further. We’re getting to the point where it’s mostly new material and it’ll take seriously harder rewriting to finish it. I suspect at this point I’m going to have to push my deadline back to October 31 instead of the end of September.

I spent a lot of yesterday lying around (in between helping TYG). and most of today lying around.  And I intend to spend much of the weekend lying around, though I will have some shopping to do (I think we’re running out of food for Wisp). Usually when I feel this exhausted, simply going inert and relaxing does the trick. It’s certainly preferable to the hacking TYG has been suffering.

Wish me luck. And TYG a swift recovery.

#SFWApro. Image is public domain, courtesy of wikimedia commons.

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What did I do to make Friday hate me?

I must have done something because since I got back from Indianapolis, none of them have been productive. First TYG was out of town so I had the dogs to deal with. Last week I was distracted by running the car in to fix the engine (even though it turned out I didn’t need to). And then today …

Early this morning, TYG had to focus so she asked me if I’d watch the dogs for a quarter-hour. Foolishly I took them up to the bedroom without bringing my computer so I couldn’t do any work. When the 15 minutes stretched into 45 minutes, I volunteered to walk them. Plushie was up for a long walk, so we got back after about an hour, me feeling very sweaty. Then up we jumped again for a play date with Lily, Trixie’s bestie.

This took an unexpected and undeniably cute turn when we all ran into Carmela, a five-month-old puppy living down the cul-de-sac (regrettably she’ll be off to college with her owner in a few weeks). Carmella’s at the very friendly puppy stage, eager to play with Trixie and Plushie. The Plush One, as often happens when other dogs (besides Trixie) initiate play, backed off. Trixie didn’t back off, but didn’t seem entirely happy to have a puppy jumping on her. With Plushie or Lily there’d have been a tussle, so I’m guessing she was reluctant to wrestle a little puppy.

However the end result of all that hot humidity and being on my feet for more than an hour was that I felt completely wiped out. I didn’t really get my shit together until a little before noon. Then I had to devote the afternoon to a new Leaf project, 1800 word articles (three times the length, three times the $). Probably because I was still wiped, it used up the rest of the day. At least I hope that was it; if they’re all this labor-intensive, I may have to go back to shorter stuff.

For the rest of the week, let’s see …

I’ve now finished 52,000 words of Southern Discomfort. That’s better than I’d planned, but as I anticipated, it’s slowing down the further I go. Still, I think I’ll be able to finish before September, as I planned.

I finished proofing and editing Atoms for Peace. Now I just have to upload the revised text and make sure I’ve fixed all the formatting problems I had last time. And for the print version, include a table of contents.

I finally got to sit down and think about the revisions I need to make to No-One Can Slay Her. There’s still a couple of weak points I have to fix to set up the big finish, but overall it’s much stronger. Unfortunately I didn’t get to write any this morning, so I’ve only revised a couple of thousand words.

And I have another post at Atomic Junkshop, about rereading comics.

Not a bad week, but I sure would have liked more progress on No One.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine, credit for Carmela’s cuteness goes to her parents and God.

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

Bludgeoned by the battery!

So Thursday, we dropped the pups off at Suite Paws, the delightful boarding facility we use to give me a puppy-care break. Thursday evening, TYG was leaving work … and found the car battery was dead. And we had only ninety minutes before Suite Paws closed and the dogs had to stay overnight.

When it became obvious AAA wasn’t going to get to TYG in time to make Suite Paws, she texted one of her friends. He very generously picked me up, drove me to Suite Paws, then drove us home. As the car harnesses for the dogs were in the car, I held them both tight by the leash/harness. They actually liked this as it left them free to watch stuff passing by the window. They love that. However, they’ll have to live with getting buckled in when they’re back in our own car.

AAA juiced the battery enough TYG got to the battery store, bought a replacement and drove it home. But she’d never have made it to Suite Paws. So thanks Josh for the lift; I would have felt very guilty if they’d been stuck overnight without us.

A minor side-effect was that the “check engine” light came on after we got the new battery, so I decided to drive down to the VW dealer for a checkup. When I started out this morning, the light was gone so I came home. But structuring my morning around the trip threw me off my game for the next couple of hours (it shouldn’t have, but as I’ve mentioned before, disruptions in my routine often do).

And it’s not as if I got that much time to write on Thursday. I spent an hour at the bank resolving a minor problem with Mum’s estate (my sister’s the executor but I’m happy to help out when I can), and dealing with a debt collector that doesn’t believe I resolved the identity theft case from last year. And dealing with a contractor. But all that would be much tougher if the dogs had been at home.

I got a fair amount done this week. I finished going over the text of Atoms for Peace, though I haven’t made all the corrections to the document on my computer. And some of them are like “rewrite this paragraph” so it’s not just a matter of quick fixes. It’s coming along well, though.

Southern Discomfort is moving along, though slower now. I expected that would happen the further I got in. For instance, an interrogation scene between FBI agents Cohen and Dini and Olwen McAlister needed a thorough going over. The theory the feds (or “G men” as they used to call them) were pushing simply didn’t make sense; I think restructuring it, everything looks logical

I had a light level of Leaf work because the site crashed for a couple of days. Even with the added time I didn’t get much short story work done. This annoys me but if something’s gotta give, better the shorts than Southern Discomfort.

It doesn’t help the dogs are still demanding more attention than usual. And that I invariably fold and give it to them. Still, there are worse ways to spend the day.

#SFWApro

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

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