Category Archives: Nonfiction

And lo, it came to pass as I had dreaded …

So I mentioned last week that the problem with doing extra Leaf articles (or any sort of immediate-income work) instead of personal projects is that “I’ll make up the personal work next week” never seems to work out. Sure enough, having done three extra last week (based on a standard of 10 articles) I wound up doing six extra this week. There were simply too many that looked like they’d be reasonably interesting and not too hard to do (the measure of “hard” is a mix of how easy it is to find good references and how complicated the topic is). So while I did finish Chapter Five of Undead Sexist Cliches, that was it for personal stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to get the $, particularly as I had a dentist’s visit and an unexpected medical bill from a couple of months back this week (they’d been dickering with the insurer without success). But I want to work on my own stuff too (I strike a dramatic pose: “What good is wealth if my creative spirit is slowly dying?”)!  But yes, having too much paying freelance work is very much a first-world problem in these days.

And I did find one amusing moment while working on an article about copyright: the U.S. Copyright Office FAQ Page actually answers the question “How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?

I also went to the dentist and holy crap, was that terrifying! Dr. Robinson (of New Smile Magic here in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill — she deserves a plug) takes great care to prevent any transmission, but getting my teeth cleaned — which I definitely needed or I wouldn’t have gone — requires much more close-up work than the other medical stuff I’ve done lately and I was not comfortable. Still with all the face shields and masks, I can’t think of any reason I’d have trouble. Hopefully I’m right. Oh, and my teeth are in way better shape than they used to be; aggressive cleaning and using a water pick seems to have turned the tide.

And that’s pretty much it. But I’ll throw in this striking cover for the novelization of a rather dreary (IIRC) film. Art is uncredited.

#SFWApro.

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Enter the furniture, exit the work week

So we got new bookshelves this week. Like the pantry and hutch we bought a while ago, this is something TYG has talked about for awhile and with the added time from not commuting to work, she went ahead and did it. Three bookshelves, two tall one short. Unfortunately the company was nowhere near as good as the first furniture supplier: they were in poorer condition (staples and a nail or two sticking out), we kept getting contradictory delivery notices and the second tall case didn’t come with the first order. Bad!

So we spent part of Monday evening getting the two bookcases we received out of their packing. Wednesday we got the word that #3 would arrive Thursday so we began making ready. Clearing the furniture it would replace. Putting stuff on shelves. Moving one old bookcase up to my room to replace one that doesn’t have much shelf space (it’s designed primarily for CDs so the shelves are oddly sized for most other uses). Moving the old bookcase out. Putting all the books off one bookcase, then onto another one. This a)took time and b)got physically very draining. Thursday morning I felt quite wiped, and then we spent time getting the new one set up Thursday.

On the plus side, the changeover is done and the books are in place (I still need to get my issues of Vegetarian Times back in order). That’s a good thing. I’d be much more likely to dawdle but TYG’s efficient. I’d show you photos but I haven’t taken any yet.

Leaf articles were my priority this week because that’s paying work, but there were only a few in the pipeline. I did finish another chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches which is good, and one chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer which is less than I’d wanted. I read Chapter Two to the writing group and incorporated several changes based on their suggestions. That was pretty much it. Well, that and finishing our taxes: sales tax (none, I had no sales in the past quarter), estimated tax (have to pay in), federal 1040 (ditto) and state tax (they pay us). That’s a lot of paperwork that needed doing so it’s not surprising I got less actually writing done.

Next week we have nothing arriving, no appointments, no tax paperwork and hopefully no emergencies so I anticipate doing better. Certainly an easier week than these guys are having.#SFWApro. Art by Jerry Grandenetti, all rights remain with current holder.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Time management and goals

It’s the weekend, let’s hit the beach!

Okay, probably a bad idea right now with Florida cases skyrocketing … but it does give me an excuse to post this whimsical Sheldon Mayer cover.This was a productive week. Not productive enough, but when do I ever say it was enough? But I did feel at times like cabin fever was interfering with my creative process; I may take Monday off just to clear my head, even though it’s not like I can go anywhere.

I got a few Leafs done, but we were on the wrap-up end of the current spurt. It’ll start up again next month, one reason I want to take Monday off when it won’t interfere with money-making. I made good use of the added no-Leaf time, finishing the introduction and first chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. It was slow going because I rewrote more than I expected. Part of that was making the logic flow smoother, part of it just to tighten the material. I knocked 1,000 words or more out of Chapter One so I guess I succeeded.

I continued replotting Impossible Takes a Little Longer, including rearranging some of the sections for overall pacing and introducing some characters earlier. I’m still not sure whether it’s long enough and there’s one key scene, Champion’s first battle with Lahatiel, that I don’t have figured out. The original attack, which I’d thought would last into this version, doesn’t work; I have a vague idea what might work in its place but I’m not sure. I also wrote out the second chapter, as I thought I might be reading at Tuesday’s writer’s group. However that won’t happen until July 7 (a few years ago, TYG and I would have been at the Mensa national gathering but like so much else, that didn’t happen this year). I’ll give it another glance next week but I think I may have outlined as much as I can — I’ll continue with the next draft and wing it where I have to.

I finished a rough outline for the next draft of Oh the Places You’ll Go! and started on the next draft. It’s way stronger, but still needs some work. Right now I’m squeezing a ton of exposition in up front, just to make sure I get it in, but next draft I can spread it out. I have a feeling this will stretch out to substantially longer before I’m done.

I did not get anything done on the final draft of Questionable Minds. Bad me! Part of Monday will be figuring out just what I can get done and how fast, and which projects are top priority, etc. I hate to say it but I can’t do it all, at least not at once.

Oh, and a magazine called Overdraft accepted my reprint story Dark Satanic Mills so whoot! After getting so many rejections earlier this month, it feels good.

Have a great weekend everyone, and stay safe.

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

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Little baby steps feel better than crawling

Which is to say that while I haven’t brought anything to a conclusion any more than I did last week, I made enough progress I feel more satisfied.

On Oh the Places You’ll Go, for instance, switching to 1972 as the “present” works as well as I’d hoped. For the first time I feel like I’ve got a stronger plot without sacrificing the character dynamic and the McGuffin is actually something interesting. There’s still a lot of stuff to sort out on the next draft, but I’m confident the story is there.

On Undead Sexist Cliches I actually finished proofing the introduction. That’s a very small piece of the book, but it still feels like an accomplishment, as opposed to stopping somewhere mid-chapter.

I didn’t get quite as much done on Impossible Takes a Little Longer but the outline for the next draft is firming up. There’s a couple of points that have me baffled but I’m hopeful I’ll crack them by the end of the month. I’ll probably be batting out a second chapter early next week in case I’m called on to read at Tuesday’s writers’ group (I’m only one of the backups, but if anyone doesn’t show …)

While the Leaf article pipeline has been erratic, I finished several articles so I’m contributing to the family bottom line again.

I got another short story back with “we liked it but …” compliments and it’s now out again. As I said last week, it’s frustrating to come close and miss, but I’m in a good enough mood today I’m more inclined to accept the compliments.

Oh, and following up on my review of first season Star Trek, I posted about what everyone gets wrong about Kirk over at Atomic Junkshop.Still feeling a little cabin-fevery; having no meetings of any sort this week didn’t help. Neither did the drenching rain keeping us indoors Monday through Wednesday. But until I’m more comfortable going places casually (I’m still very wary), there’s not a lot of options for changing things up. All things considered though, my life is still very good.

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

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Everything in motion but nowhere near the finish line

On the whole this was a frustrating week, though part of that’s the cabin fever I was talking about this morning. However it did have one huge upside, which is that yesterday, TYG and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. This is, of course, a cool thing in itself, especially in the current crisis: I’m not alone and we don’t drive each other crazy, even with all the extra time we’re spending together. Plus I actually went out and got takeout from a local restaurant last night. We haven’t been out to eat since Valentine’s Day; my birthday and TYG’s were both spent safe at home. I’m a good cook so I don’t mind eating at home usually but it really felt good to indulge in a large pizza last night, followed by cheesecake (chocolate flourless torte for TYG).

So not such a bad week after all. And I did pet Wisp.

But things were still frustrating. For one thing I got two short stories back today. One was just a form-letter “no” which didn’t surprise me — I wasn’t at all sure my story was a good fit but I didn’t want to self-reject (as they say). The other was a disappointment: they’d told me back in December that I’d been shortlisted and I hadn’t heard since; I emailed them today to check and they wrote back (with apologies for not doing so sooner) that no, while they liked the story quite a bit, it just (drum roll) didn’t fit their needs. In some ways it’s more frustrating to come close and miss, though it’s happened to me quite a bit (nine times out of 10 getting shortlisted turns out to be the kiss of death).

The other source of frustration is that while I worked on several projects this week (plus some Leaf articles) and it was mostly productive, none of them are anywhere near finished. I’m editing the final draft of Questionable Minds but only part of the way through. I fixed the footnotes of the first two chapters of Undead Sexist Cliches and put them into a standardized format, plus starting the final draft but it’s barely a fraction of what has to be done. And I worked on redrafting Oh the Places You’ll Go! and I like the changes, but again, it’s slow going.

The biggest accomplishment was that I did some replotting on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and fixed, I think, a number of problems.

So not a bad week, but it would be nice to wrap something up or, you know, sell a story. Still, I’m better off than whoever lived here, so that’s something.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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Before Roe v. Wade and the limits of research

BEFORE ROE V. WADE: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court’s Ruling by Linda Greenhouse and Reva B. Siegel collects various speeches, articles, legislative statements and amicus curae briefs on the title topic. It’s a good addition to my reading for Undead Sexist Cliches but also shows there’s a point at which to stop researching.

The goal of the authors was to capture the period now 50 years gone when abortion was illegal in much of the country, activist groups helped arrange abortions (if you had the money, flying to Japan was one option) and reformers began to speak up. The debate over making moderate reforms was surprisingly different in the late 1960s, focusing on the right of doctors to give medical advice or the need to reduce population growth; it was only with feminism’s boom in the 1970s that the rights of women became the dominant issue.

On the right, nobody but Catholics focused on the life or rights of the fetus.For Phyllis Schlafly the issue was feminism: abortion was just part of the women’s libbers tricking women into giving up their god-given roles as mothers. Other conservatives saw abortion as a sign of society becoming more permissive about sex, which is why the Nixon campaign denounced McGovern (whose views on the topic weren’t very different) as the pro-permissive candidate of “amnesty, acid and abortion.” Nixon staffer Pat Buchanan (who would rant about feminism’s evils many times in his later career as a pundit) saw opposing abortion as a tactical move, a way to peel off Catholic working-class voters from the Democrats. It wasn’t until the end of the decade that “abortion is murder!” became the rallying cry of choice.

The authors conclude with an appendix in which they argue that contrary to some theories, the Supreme Court’s Roe decision did not spark a massive backlash against abortion rights which wouldn’t have happened if state legislatures had made the decision. At the start of the decade, several legislatures did liberalize their abortion laws, then the mostly Catholic opposition got organized and stopped further attempts. Unlike most pro-choicers, anti-abortion voters were single-issue focused, willing to vote against an otherwise favorable candidate on that basis alone.

This provided some useful context to my book’s chapter on anti-abortion cliches but not so much that I couldn’t have done without it. Which is my point about the limits of research: it’s not that I couldn’t learn more from other books, but I’m not going to learn so much that it’s worth the time to read them. I’m not sure it was worth the time for this one, though I did find it interesting (you can download it yourself for free, from a legit site, if you want). Seeking absolute knowledge is futile; at some point you’ve just got to jump in and start (and finish) writing. And with Undead Sexist Cliches, I think I’m there.

#SFWApro.

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Have you ever thought about becoming an intracranial bleeder for fun and profit?

So about a year ago I did a video for Medscape as The Man With Low Testosterone (they’re training videos for doctors to learn how to handle various situations with patients). Today I did another one, as Herman, a man with horrible headaches (caused, I believe by intracranial bleeding, though Herman doesn’t know that) who doesn’t want to go to the E/R. We did this by Zoom so I spent a lot of time yesterday finding a spot in the house where I could film myself against a white wall. Eventually I settled on putting a step ladder in the downstairs bathroom doorway and putting my computer on top of it.

The taping went quite quickly (they were very pleased) and their direction was good; the biggest problem was that I woke up this morning with a slight headache and couldn’t get the idea I had intracranial bleeding out of my mind. That aside I feel as pleased as — well, a young comic book intern!Going over the script before the filming took up more time than expected but the pay is good, so I’m not complaining. Besides that, let’s see …

I got some more Leaf articles done. Last time I was working on them it was early in the pandemic and I found it a real slog. Apparently I’ve adjusted because this batch went down smooth.

I worked on rethinking both The Impossible Takes a Little Longer and Oh The Places You’ll Go! rather than just rewriting and pantsing yet another draft. Don’t get me wrong, the only way I can do early drafts is by winging it, but these have reached the point I need a thorough plot first. Both went well, though not as far along as I wanted.

I continued editing my hard copy of Questionable Minds and I finished the latest draft of Undead Sexist Cliches. Next week I start correcting in hard copy. Reading marketing material I learned I should have started on marketing about three months ago — but if I’d done that in advance I’d have finished the pre-book marketing and wouldn’t have the work ready. So hopefully this’ll work out.

And I posted on Atomic Junkshop about the Justice League’s first story and their use of snail mail as a way to find cases to work on.

I sent out two stories, one of which came back almost immediately. It will, of course, go out again, but it would be nice to get a sale from something besides Leaf. Leaf pays better than most fiction markets I submit to, and I’m pleased with the quality of my work, but getting fiction published is a lot more personal.

I’ll close with a shot of Wisp sleeping on the carpet from the previous week. I had to work so when I got up I hoped she’d join me on the couch but this is good too. If we do bring her inside on a regular basis we won’t be able to pet her all the time so having her relax on her own is good.#SFWApro. Photo is mine; covers are by Dick Giordano (top) and Murphy Anderson and all rights remain with current holder.

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Normally I feel the other way around

I’ve noticed that in a lot of these week-in-review posts I say that while it felt like I didn’t get anything much done, when I actually write it all down, I did quite a bit. Looking over my writing goals for May, I feel the opposite: I wasn’t quite as productive as I felt I was. Not as productive on non-writing goals, either, but that’s partly still adjusting to the new status quo.

As to this specific week, it went pretty well. As TYG took part of Monday off for Memorial Day, I took it off too, something I haven’t done in a while. That felt really good; I must remember to take more holidays. However I slept wretchedly and woke up early Monday morning, which made me feel rather dazed the rest of the day.

Tuesday morning I had to visit the doctor (all well!) which consumed much of that morning. So only 3.5 days of work this week, but I managed to put in slightly more hours than that.

I redrafted Oh the Places You’ll Go! and while it still doesn’t work, I can see what it needs. This past draft I tried adding a little more adventure and danger, but I think it really needs to be a character-arc story. And it doesn’t really have a character arc as much as relationship arcs between the four core cast members, and even those arcs are a little too low-key. So that’s where I need to look at fixing it before next draft.

I got part of the way through a redraft of Laughter of the Dark. Here I really like the character development this draft, but the plot is a little weak.

And I finished Glory That Was, all ready to submit next month

I got through most of a pre-hard copy review of Undead Sexist Cliches but not all of it, which is what I wanted. This was where I got the most productivity, probably because it doesn’t require as much creative thought. And I finished a book, Before Roe v. Wade which I’ll review next week.

And I posted at Atomic Junkshop about my love of movies and the saga of writing my first one.

For the month as a whole, I know I put in plenty of time, it’s just that nothing got as finished as I wanted. Almost no work on Questionable Minds (even though my cover artist is not currently up for delivering anything, I’d like to get my edits done). No short stories finished. And Undead Sexist Cliches, as noted, remains unfinished. I suspect it’s less the distraction from the pandemic and possibly pushing to get more finished than I could.  And some of the stuff — marketing plans and related activities — are outside my usual skill set.

On the plus side, Trixie is doing so much better. Her leg occasionally gets weak, but mostly she’s bouncing around with all her old energy. It’s wonderful to see, and to know we handled everything right.

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

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Lo, there shall come furniture

I didn’t get anywhere as much done this week as I’d expected, probably about 3.5 days of actual work. Part of that was that the dilation drops from my opthalmologist Tuesday seemed to hit me harder than usual: I’d expected my eyes would be normal by afternoon but I wasn’t comfortable looking at the computer the rest of the day.

Then on Wednesday we got furniture. A few months ago, TYG had talked about replacing some of the old shelving she’s had since college with something new and pretty. I assumed she’d just given up with all the pandemic distraction but no, she hadn’t. Last weekend, a pantry arrived and we spent much of Saturday putting it together and rearranging the dining room around it.It was a lot of work, but I can’t deny it was worth it. The storage frees up a lot more space and our food stores are no longer taking up the table.

Wednesday, the second piece arrived. The good news was that it was only two pieces so we didn’t have much assembly; the bad news was that the upper half weighed more than 150 lbs so we sure as heck couldn’t put it up there ourselves. Fortunately our neighbor Eric, who’s bigger and stronger than either of us, came by (we all wore masks) and both directed us and did most of the heaving. With most of our pet treats, meds and food in the hutch (along with our small supply of booze) I was able to take some of the shelves that held that stuff and use them for my cookbooks and food-history books.I moved the plants that took up some of the shelving but I’m not satisfied with the arrangement below. I looked at ordering some shelving, but the creeping charlie is in a big, heavy pot and none of them are stable according to the reviews. As it’s hard to judge based on Internet reviews, I may just put them on a table until such time as I’m comfortable going to Home Depot or Target and checking them out physically (my ophthalmologist visit left me quite panicked so I don’t think I’m ready yet).So anyway, getting the boxes for the hutch in and putting it together consumed a lot of time, so I only had a half day of work Wednesday.

I got some more done on Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Apparently my mind has decided I should think this draft through carefully rather than just dashing it off as I usually do. I’ll trust I know what I’m doing. I also finished the redraft of Glory That Was so I’ll look for a market next week.

I went over more of Undead Sexist Cliches, prepping it before I print a hard copy for final proofing; finished a couple of Leaf articles as that source of income is back (yay!); wrote an article on Silver Age comics covers for Atomic Junkshop; and ordered the first of several reference books I’ll be buying as research for the Alien Visitors film-reference book.

Overall, pretty good. Plus I “sold” two more of the free copies of Philosophy and Fairytales (free until the end of the month, unless Smashwords extends the sale). Whoever you are out there, thanks for reading me.

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Puppy problems pummel productivity!

Along with my doctor’s appointment this week, Trixie at the vet also sucked up a lot of time. Recovery from her knee surgery was progressing great last month, but the past couple of weeks she’s been backsliding.It started about a week and a half ago, when she started limping and kept it up for about half an hour. The doctor said not to worry unless it happened again; last weekend it did, briefly. I drove her in to the vet Monday morning and they said everything looked fine and it was normal to expect some bad days. TYG and I were still unsettled that it happened after so many weeks doing perfectly well, but still that seemed reasonable.

Then this morning she didn’t want to come out of her cage (we keep her in there so she can’t jump off the bed in the night or anything that would set her back). Her leg drags when she walks and she flinched when we touched her. I took her in to the vet and picked her up a couple of hours later. Everything seems fine but clearly she isn’t. We gave her some anti-inflammatory drugs which helped, but she’s almost as miserable as when her leg first went out. The vet said she’d lost a lot of muscle in that leg — not really a surprise, she’s been on restriction since January — but I still find it hard to believe it would just suddenly affect her. We have her eight-week checkup Wednesday, combined with her knee surgeon giving her another look. Hopefully that’ll get us some answers (and treatment).

So that sucked up quite a bit of time this week. I still got a fair amount done but I was hoping to finish at least one short story draft as well.

The biggest accomplishment was that I finished going over Undead Sexist Cliches to clean it up before ordering a print copy. It was very productive — though there’ll be more cleaning in hard copy no doubt — though I think Chapter Nine, on the metaphor of the sexual marketplace (women control the sex supply and dictate the terms — cash, fancy dinners, marriage — under which men get it) still needs work. Next week I’ll look at that chapter again, and see if some bits I edited out of various chapters can be fit in anywhere else. Then I go over the footnotes to smooth them out and start indexing (won’t be finishing that next week but the sooner I start, the easier it’ll be). I’m also looking at other options for printing than Amazon’s Kindle print-on-demand service.

I put a little work in on Laughter of the Dark and Oh the Places You’ll Go! but it’s going slowly. Partly that’s because I’m putting in more planning time than I usually do on a second or third draft, to see if I can cut down the number of drafts. We’ll see how that works.

And that was pretty much it. Leaf work is starting up again, but it’s not going to be much this month, so I’m hopeful I can squeeze in plenty more work. And that Trixie isn’t too badly hurt.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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