Category Archives: Nonfiction

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.

#SFWApro.

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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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Filed under Nonfiction, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

A blog post to blow your minds! Or maybe not

First, McFarland finally accepted my proposal for a book about ETs on Earth, tentatively titled Alien Visitors. It will be a simpler structure than Now And Then We Time Travel: Rather than cover every movie, each chapter will take a different theme (alien invasion, alien superhero, aliens and kids, alien love) and focus on one particular movie as an example, with a list of other films at the end. While I enjoy the encyclopedic approach, this is probably better for me: the time travel book consumed a huge amount of time — not that I have any regrets — and I won’t be sorry to work on a more manageable project this time around. It’s due October of 2021, which is more than workable.

Second, McFarland, by a happy coincidence, is offering all its pop-culture books at 40 percent off through May 17. So if you want my time travel book or any of my others, now is the time to strike. Or if you’d look some of their other excellent books such as The Saint, Bell, Book and Camera or Keep Watching the Skies.

Besides mulling over a delivery date and then signing the McFarland contract, I had a productive week. I reviewed several chapters of Undead Sexist Cliches looking for any major glitches or edits, and added quotes from several websites and Twitter feeds, like right-wing hack Michelle Malkin declaring that Prince Harry has been emasculated by American feminism — look, here’s a picture of him in the military and now he’s married and wears a suit! Apparently Malkin would like us to think no military men pre-feminism have ever worn civilian clothes or gotten married.

I got a little more editing done on Questionable Minds and started reading up on marketing and promotion. I don’t anticipate this book (or Undead Sexist Cliches) turning into a cash cow, but I wouldn’t mind selling more copies than my previous self-published books. I’m also thinking about trying a service besides, or more likely in addition to Amazon’s self-publishing arm; some services would let me sell straight through my website, and I’d get a better slice of the profits than Amazon provides.

I didn’t get much fiction written, but I did put in a lot of work. On Laughter of the Dark I got a workable structure for the story (I think) and finally got an opening I’m reasonably happy with. Even though I didn’t get very far writing it, that’s a win. I rewrote The Glory That Was and I think it’s ready for a final draft later this month. And I worked out the rules for traveling to the past via old maps, which should make the next draft of Oh The Places You’ll Go a lot smoother.

I read some useful articles about pitching to magazines and websites because I’m in the mood to do more of that. Oh, and I had a post on Atomic Junkshop discussing comics writer Steve Englehart and his flair for turning obscure characters such as Deadshot into stars, or at least good supporting players.

And now the weekend and a chance to relax. Stay safe in these pandemic days, everyone.

#SFWApro. Comics cover by Marshall Rogers; rights to images remain with current holder.

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Titans have fallen! My week in review

First off, while it doesn’t relate to my work, here’s a shot of Wisp. I’d gone into the kitchen to get her cat food and when I came back, she’d jumped into the chair. That was a surprise as she’s usually a “bush cat” staying on the floor. Unfortunately we had to remove the pillow because Plushie’s been chewing on it and it’s worn enough he could swallow some of the stuffing.I decided this week I would focus on my two big projects, the Undead Sexist Cliches book and Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I wanted to get the current drafts done this month and … they are.

I’m really pleased with Undead Sexist Cliches. The last two choppy chapters (the final one, on the metaphor of the “sexual marketplace,” was particularly disorganized) now flow smoothly; the footnotes are all in place; and I have my bibliography and my “final thoughts” section done (I hadn’t planned to include final thoughts but my beta readers said I should).  Now I take a break, and then in June I start final revisions. I’ll probably print up one copy via Amazon next month so that I can do them in hard copy — I’m much better at spotting errors that way.

I’m a little less satisfied with Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Partly that’s because I reused the spine of the current ending, though with changes to the details (KC doesn’t have the same power level at the big finish she did previously), and it needed more changes; however I didn’t have a better idea and I really wanted to finish, so I forged ahead. The other part is that it’s simply at a much earlier stage than Undead Sexist Cliches, and it shows: there’s a whole bunch of changes I’ll need to make next draft before I solicit my beta readers. Still, so much of the book fell neatly together, I’m hopeful everything I need is lying buried in my subconscious somewhere. Current plans are to take a month off, then rewrite it over the summer. If all goes well, I’ll have it ready to beta in September.

I got A Famine Where Abundance Lies back from the last market I sent it to. Next week, with the big projects done, I’ll be submitting everything that isn’t currently out, working on a couple of short stories and resume proofing Questionable Minds, which is the project I’ve been slack about.

And I paid my state sales taxes. One book sold on Amazon so I had to send in about 16 cents … with a $2 fee to do it online. That actually costs me more than the payment for the book.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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Cats, distractions and undead sexist cliches: My week at work

This was a somewhat frustrating week. Despite working in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep and getting up early generally, I actually fell short of my desired 35 hours. Extra dog walking and multiple food and item deliveries sucked up a surprising amount of time. Worse, in the time that was left, I sometimes wound up too frazzed to focus and working in too-small bursts of time to build up any steam. Can’t be helped though: TYG’s job is less flexible than mine so I can adjust my schedule more easily (my boss is very understanding). I really must find ways to keep my focus despite distractions, though. Particularly when Leaf work gets started again — for some reason that suffers in the current environment more than anything else.

On the plus side, it seems I can work with Wisp snuggling in my lap.

So what did I get done? Well, I finally got the abortion/birth control chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches worked out and footnoted. I had to rearrange it a lot to work logically and clear up a lot of repeated information, plus adding some scientific detail (no, abortions do not cause breast cancer or depression). I also made a rough outline of Chapter Nine, on the concept of a sexual marketplace (the assumption women are supposed to trade sex for marriage). That should make it easier when I start on it next week.

I finished a couple of chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Now I’m up to the climax, but the changes I’ve made already will mandate more changes; one character who played a major role is dead, for instance, so not so major. I want this draft done this month.

I read my revised version of The Glory That Was to the writers’ group Tuesday night and got generally favorable responses. The big change from the previous draft was shifting from third person to multiple first-persons, and it seems to have worked. However there was a general consensus the opening was too rushed for anyone to find their feet, so that’ll be my primary concern on the next draft.

Oh, and over at Atomic Junkshop we’re suffering some puzzling tech problems. One post I made this week vanished, came back and now it’s vanished again. Very annoying.

Have a great weekend. Here’s another photo of Wisp, scrunching her eyes shut in response to getting petted.#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

 

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Did I mention I sold a story this week?

I did? Well here’s another link to it anyway. And to my currently free e-book, Philosophy and Fairytales. That sales lasts through April 20. And I have an article on bystanders in Golden Age Batman stories up on Atomic Junkshop (the cover to the right is actually from the late 1950s, by Sheldon Moldoff).

Now, as to new work: this was a fairly good week. A lot of extra dog care in the mornings, but I still managed to be productive (though as usual not as productive as I think I should be). I’m doing my best to squeeze out as much of my own work as possible before my Leaf articles start up again.

I rewrote one of my older stories The Glory That Was, for reading to the writer’s group next week (one of our Zoom meetings). I’d thought I’d just touch it up to fix a few flaws, but I wound up writing it in rotating first-person POV (Elizabeth, Molly and Dianne) which took a lot more time than planned. I think it’s vastly improved, but we’ll see what the group thinks. That used up most of my short-story writing time, so a couple of other stories I’d planned to work on, I didn’t get to.

I finished another chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I’m approaching the climax now, and once again it’s going to take a lot of changes; characters who were alive are now dead, KC knows much more about how things work than she did and I have no idea how to explain the rest without massive info-dumping. But my gut’s steered me well so far, so hopefully it’ll keep guiding me right.

I got a massive amount of the abortion/birth control chapter in Undead Sexist Cliches done and footnoted. There’s still quite a bit left as the forced-birth movement spews out so much bullshit. For example, Human Life International argues that having consensual sex while using birth control is rape. That’s one of many.

I also read aloud several chapters of Questionable Minds and noted down the points where it needs editing, either for typos or because my phrasing is poor.

Trixie is doing much better. She’s able to take short walks of up to five minutes at a time, which is much more fun for her. Easier for us too, as I can wait longer for her to make a poop before hauling her inside. And she’s so happy walking and enjoying the outdoors (the photo below shows her doing it a couple of years back, when she was at her shaggiest).

 

Unfortunately, she’s increasingly determined and eager to jump up and down and run wherever she wants, so it’s essential to watch her constantly. We now have a cage upstairs and one down so wherever she is, we can lock her up if we have to do something (use the restroom, cook, whatever).

We’ve decided to try bringing Wisp into the house once Trixie’s back to full health. That gives us about six weeks to work out the details. This week she came up and sat with me on the couch again a couple of times; one time was during a Zoom “Shut Up and Write” meeting and as soon as the voices came over the computer, she ran.

Have a great weekend everyone. Stay safe.

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

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Money for nothing and my books for free? It depends

So as I think I’ve already mentioned, I made my Smashwords short-story collection, Philosophy and Fairytales free as part of a promotion running through April 20. I’m quite happy that two people have already downloaded the book.I was much less happy to discover the Internet Archive had an ebook of Screen Enemies of the American Way available on its website for free reading. Camestros Felapton’s post alerted me that IA, in addition to storing old web pages, digitizes print books and lends them out, just like any other library — except, as Slate says, regular libraries don’t just digitize books under copyright and make them available (with exceptions such as services for the blind). Libraries actually pay for ebooks; IA doesn’t. So I asked the IA to take my book down (it appears to be the only one of mine up there) and they did. First time I’ve tackled a pirate site (and in my not-a-lawyer opinion, this does seem to be piracy) and it felt good.

My work on Leaf wrapped up Monday — one of their regular breaks in the work flow — which is good as Leaf articles seem to suffer from the distractions of TYG and pups in the current quarantine more than anything else I do. That’s probably because I try to keep to sharp deadlines writing them and there’s just enough distraction these days to slow them down. So maybe it’s simply more noticeable with Leaf than other work? But hopefully by the time they start up again, I’ll have a smoother process for the new normal.

I got plenty done this week. Two chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Final draft (subject to one more beta reader weighing in) of Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates. A good deal of work done on Undead Sexist Cliches. Finishing the second draft of Laughter in the Dark. And I participated in a Zoom-meeting of my Tuesday writer’s group. Damn, but it felt really good to see everyone’s faces.

As I woke up early this morning, I am now done. Bring on the weekend.

#SFWApro. Cover image by Lisa Wildman, all rights remain with current holders.

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Work in my second week of social distancing

Not so good, although not all the fault of this strange new world. I woke up way, way early two nights this week, to the point I was in something of a fog. My Leaf work slowed down to a crawl; I got it done but way slower than I’d intended. That left less time for other stuff.

Wednesday being my birthday, I goofed off and watched TV a lot of the day while clearing out my huge list of bookmarks. This was actually productive — I found several links that will be useful for current projects — but not much actual writing. But hey, birthday.

Thursday I got two more short stories submitted and talked with the artist doing the cover of Questionable Minds. She had some layout suggestions; I took a look and said which I liked best and why. It’s kind of fun. But by afternoon, my mind just stopped jelling.

Today I got a shit ton done on the sexual harassment chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. I thought I could finish it but … not quite. Next week, definitely, assuming I don’t get sick with you know what.

My schedule is still a work in progress. I tried not working Sunday and sure enough, with TYG helping take the dogs part of the day and some of the evening, it’s much easier to put in a full day’s work. And I do like not working on the weekends, so I’ll probably stick with that (though not for this coming weekend, for various reasons). I’m consistently starting later in the mornings, though, which is my best time normally; with TYG at home, it’s easy to spend more time with her and the dogs during breakfast. That’s one reason I didn’t get more fiction done this week: morning became a very small slice of time. I do not think this is an unfixable problem though (I could just go upstairs and shut everyone out of my thoughts, but I don’t feel like doing that).

While it’s disappointing not to get more fiction done this week, I think overall it was satisfactory.

Have a good weekend and remember — no matter how boring it gets in social isolation, do not experiment with weird chemicals, let alone drink them yourself!#SFWApro. Art by Jack Kirby, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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And the Red Death shall hold dominion over all

Okay, not that bad. But COVID 19 did majorly disrupt my work week (which is, obviously, far from the worst thing about it. First world problems).

The big change was that TYG started working from home, which is great for her (more time to spend with Plushie) and fun for me, plus I get a bit more of a break from the dogs when she takes them upstairs. However it also changes the rhythm of the day — when she gets up, when the dogs come down for breakfast, when she or I walk them at lunch — and it throws me off. Sometimes I start work, then the dogs have breakfast a quarter-hour later and by the time they’re finished I’ve lost momentum.

It’s a fixable problem, but this week it threw me off. It was, after all, on top of the daylight savings time hour-ahead weekend, which always leaves me sleeping poorly and feeling a little groggy. And I’m way distracted by the pandemic we’re in. It was hard not to stop whatever I was doing and check FB every so often, or browse the news, or Tweet to President Tinybrain about how he’s being a coward and putting millions of Americans at risk. I did it even as I was typing this post.

So most of what I accomplished this week was Leaf. Actually more than my usual quota: they had so many interesting articles I wound up doing 14 rather than 10. I’ll cut back some next week to make up. I really dislike doing that — somehow I never recapture the time I wasn’t spending on my own projects — but then again, my mind was so fractured, I don’t know how much good I’d have done on my own stuff.

I did look over the story I hoped to redraft this month, now titled Laughter of the Dark. And I rewrote the next chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer, which went much easier than expected. I will be thrilled if the next chapter goes as well, as it’s a twist and a big reveal that I’ve been struggling with ever since I dropped the core of the original novel. I have no regrets about the change, but I am a little nervous that it won’t go well at all.

And that was pretty much it. I think I’ll do better next week. I may even skip working on the weekend, seeing as I’m not handling the dogs all day, and see if I can put in more hours Monday-Friday.

In the minor annoyance department, I tried renewing my prescriptions online today. Turns out that as our new health coverage has an entirely different mail-order pharmacy, all my prescriptions are effectively reset to zero. Fortunately I’ll be seeing my doctors before I need refills.

And now the weekend, when I shall endeavor to chill as much as possible.

#SFWApro.

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This week’s challenges: Sickness, snow and scheduling

The scheduling issue came up Sunday. I’ve been putting in three hours of writing on Sunday for a couple of months now as I get so wiped out at the end of the Monday-Friday work days. Three hours Sunday, I can stop earlier and give myself a little break before walking and feeding the dogs. But as my lunch breaks have been quite short this month — with Trixie’s leg, they aren’t getting long walks — so I figured I could skip Sunday, get my work done in the afternoons and still finish up before dinner walkies.

And I mostly did, but there much less of a break at the day’s end than I’d expected. Either Plush dog got a longer walk than usual or there was some other distraction I was dealing with on lunch hour. For example, Wisp demanding petting. Plus, I suspect the sickness that has me in its grip today was already dragging me down.Wisp, has by the way, been a constant companion on our short walks. I wish I could capture just snuggling with the dogs but Plushie sniffing her but is as close as I’ve managed so far.

Sickness has been a bigger problem. TYG caught a bug last week, probably by the usual transmission process of kids to parents, parents to coworkers, which means her. At first it didn’t seem like there’d be much of a problem, but the past couple of days I’ve had the inflammation and irritation in my throat I repeatedly get. I’m doing my best to stay relaxed not talk and talk all appropriate meds as I have some presentations to make at the end of next week (details will follow). I’d really, really like to be able to make them and losing my voice would make that impractical.

And of course, feeling sick does not do my writing any good. Today I just wiped out in the late morning, so I did this blog post and I’m calling it a day. Unless I revive in the afternoon; I’m not betting on it.

And then snow, of all things, descended on us (and the rest of Durham) yesterday. Given temperatures we thought it wouldn’t stick, but it has. Fortunately it looks like the roads are clear so we should be A-OK if we need to drive anywhere. And TYG picked up food Thursday morning, so that’s taken care of. As long as we take care walking the dogs, we should be fine.

Now as to work … I did my Leafs for the week, though in my depleted state they took much longer than they should have. I also drafted Impossible Takes a Little Longer up to Chapter 23, which was my goal for the month; I won’t have much time for fiction next week so that’s a win. I also worked on a first draft and got a big leap forward this morning when the bad guy finally emerged from my unconscious. I might have finished the draft today but … no. I might squeeze it in next week

I also tidied and footnoted the first section of Chapter Seven of Undead Sexist Cliches. It’s on sexual harassment so there’s no shortage of examples.

Wish me luck for a better next week. I have a lot I want to be in good health for.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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