Category Archives: Nonfiction

He looked at the future and went mad!

So as I mentioned yesterday, nonfiction squeezed out a lot of fiction writing time in 2018. And the same was true for 2017. That year it hit me hard because I just assumed I’d have a short spurt, then it would fade away. So I skimped on fiction during the spurt … which didn’t go away. Which is good for my bottom line, but not so good for (strikes Byronic pose) my creative soul.

This year I did a better job balancing them at first, but like I said yesterday, the demands of Screen Rant and Leaf combined ate into a lot of time. So now that I’m looking at a year without any Screen Rant (probably plenty of leaf though it’s not guaranteed), and ready to balance fiction and nonfiction better, just how much fiction can I get written?

Answer: probably not as much as I put in the goal list. My plan is to rewrite Impossible Takes a Little Longer over the first two months while I replot another novel. Then try and write a draft of that one almost as fast. And a couple more. These are all old books I have worked on many times in the past, so the basics are there (characters, concepts, setting). It’s just revising the plots (“just” does a lot of work in that sentence, some of them need a lot of work), and in a couple of cases updating them; one of them actually starts in a contemporary setting and that’s changed a lot from the last time I tackled it.

And if I can’t work out a good new plot? Time to say goodbye and bung them into the trunk. On to newer stuff!

Plus I want to write twelve short stories this year. That’s really optimistic; it takes me forever to shape them from the first draft into something usable. But as I said yesterday, I don’t have any sort of reward/penalty system in play, so it’s not like I have anything to lose. Pride? Maybe. But I didn’t get any short stories finished this year and I’m not walking around kicking myself. So I think I can take it.

I was worried that Southern Discomfort running a little into the new year would gum up the works, but I don’t think so. I’m soooo close to done.

I have a bunch of other goals, writing and otherwise. They range from finishing reading John LeCarre to finding my sister Keri’s burial place (she died at about seven weeks).  In fact it’s an insanely long list. And a really huge list of January goals based on them, but that actually makes sense. As we all know, it’s easy to start off the year with high aspirations, then we lose focus. So I might as well make maximum use of the January vigor. We’ll see if that works.

And yes, having fun, relaxing and enjoying life, undefined though those goals are, are definitely on the list.

Here’s to 2019. I hope it’s awesome for all of you. And me too.

#SFWApro. Cover by Earle Bergey, all rights remain with current holder.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

The Dismal Dregs of Defeat! Okay, delayed victory, that’s not so bad

Well, Southern Discomfort will not be wrapped up by midnight on the 31st. However, it will definitely be done next week (barring illness, exploding computer, etc.) so I can live with it. It would have been nicely symbolic though.

Thursday did me in. One of the car dashboard Danger lights was flashing so I took it in Thursday morning. Trouble was I woke up very early as I so often do; as I was going to have to drive the car and I prefer to do that when I’m not exhausted I kept trying to go back to sleep instead of getting up and writing. Didn’t work, but I did grab enough shut-eye to make it to the dealer and back (and in the best tradition, the light went off as soon as I got there. They couldn’t find anything wrong either). But I was pretty wiped, and the day was not productive. I still made it past 85,000 words this week so the end is in sight (it’s currently at slightly over 96,000)

So as there’s not much else to talk about, let’s talk about time management.

A while back I decided to give the pomodoro method another try. This is the one where you spend 25 minutes completely focused, then five minutes doing something else; every four pomodoro half-hours, you take a longer break. I committed to doing at least one day a week that way, adjusted for the facts of life (if I followed the formula exactly I’d wind up taking the dogs for lunch walkies late. Bad idea).

It’s proven quite effective at focusing me. Even when I’m not actually running the pomodoro timer (i.e., my phone’s stop watch) I’m concentrating better. As I’ve mentioned before, whatever time hacks I try usually run out of steam but for the moment this one’s working. If anything, I’m having trouble with remembering to take breaks if I don’t use the timer. Contrary to pomodoro theory it is, in fact, possible to keep going longer than 25 minutes. However I do find my mind fritzing and getting muzzy a lot sooner, so I’m trying to avoid that. Giving myself a break is a smarter move.

A second trick I’ve found effective is keeping a short list of my most important tasks. Not necessarily immediate tasks or complicated ones but ones that have to be done for whatever reason. Having the list and marking it off works better than mixing them into my calendar app or my general list of monthly goals.

Another time tactic I’ll be imposing on myself in January is starting the day on time. Even when I wake up ultra-early, I usually start my morning routines (exercise, Yoga, breakfast, tea and TV) about the same time (5 AM roughly). But it’s very easy to watch a little extra TV or sit around playing on my computer and not start the actual work day on schedule (7 AM or 7:30 AM depending on whether I’m doing exercise in the morning). I think meeting the official start time will help my focus in the morning. And obviously make a little more space in the day for productive work. It’s particularly important because due to TYG’s schedule I’m often doing more dog-wrangling in the morning so every little bit of time gained helps.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

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

Skating along the edge of victory

So this week the only thing I worked on was Southern Discomfort. Well except, Thursday, when I was exhausted and spent the day working on my insanely ambitious goals for next year (I’ll get to that in a future post).

I wrapped up last week with slightly over 50,000 words. I’m finishing this week with slightly under 70,000. Given I have five work days left before 2018 ends, it’s possible I can finish, but I’m not quite as confident as I was last week. Especially as I’ll be working around other holiday distractions. But it’s conceivable I can make it.

I’d be better off, obviously, if I’d spent yesterday working on the book too, but cumulative insomnia finally left me worn out. Last night I took an Ambien, this weekend I should get some solid sleep in (I usually do when I don’t have to work the next day), so fingers crossed. If worst comes to worst, I can wrap it up first week of January without disrupting my other writing plans too much.

While I’ve had a lot of tidying up and cleaning up to do — making sure the reactions and conversations flow logically from moment to moment — I haven’t run into any major plot problems since last week. That’s good; hopefully it’ll stay that way as I work through the rest.

Wish me luck.

Oh, and I’ve had a couple of Christmas-themed posts up at Atomic Junkshop. One on the way Christmas sucks movies to it and one about A Christmas Carol as a story of loneliness

And the Science Fiction Research Association Review gave a great review of Now and Then We Time Travel (“Sherman has put in lots of hard work and produced a very useful reference that is fun to sample—open it to page 125 to find Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971 stop motion television special with the voices of Vincent Price and Danny Kaye) followed by Peggy Sue Got Married (1986). There are many similar delights of juxtaposition.”)

While I hope that leads to a few more sales, getting such a good review is a delight in itself.

And here’s a photo I’ve been meaning to post for a while. I batted a pillow at Plush dog but instead of chewing it as he usually does, he simply stared at me. And looked adorable doing it.

#SFWApro. All rights to Scrooge and book cover images remain with current holder. Plush photo is mine, please credit me if you use it.

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Filed under Movies, Nonfiction, Now and Then We Time Travel

Wisp says hello

As I said this morning, she showed up, climbed on top of the table (it shelters the heated house, which isn’t waterproof) and peered in at us. We were very relieved to know she was alright.

Another relatively quiet week. I got several Leaf articles done, the most interesting being 1800 words on “Job Duties of a Nun.” And that’s it until 2019; much as I enjoy the dinero, I’m happy to have added time for finishing up Southern Discomfort.

I made it over 50,000 words so I’m past the halfway mark. I think I’ll be done by New Year’s as planned. After all I have two work weeks, less Christmas, and nothing else on my plate. Fingers crossed.

I did run into one major plotting problem but I fixed it fast. First I realized Joan was breaking a promise to her father to stay at home much too casually — for good reasons, but I’d already established she feels duty bound to keep her word. Then I realized that the FBI would probably have a few questions for her, which makes getting out of the house mandatory. Problem solved!

Hopefully they’ll all be that easy.

Oh, and I received a copy of the October/November History Magazine with my story on the history of the Fordson, the first affordable tractor, and how it and its eventual replacement, the Farmall, changed agriculture.

And I spent Thursday while the dogs were out doing some major cleaning to ready the house for the writers’ group Christmas Party Saturday.

Below, Wisp’s tentative check if we were ready to feed her.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine, give credit if you use them.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems

Will my reach exceed my grasp? Stay tuned!

As of today, Southern Discomfort is at almost 44,000 words. That leaves me with roughly 50,000 more to get through by New Year’s Eve to finish. That’s doable, but not a slam dunk. If I run into problems with some of my later scenes, or I get sick for a couple of days, I may be SOL.

I added 11,000 words to the book this week, which is definitely not enough if I keep going at the same speed. However I have only one more week of Leaf articles; after that, I’ll be free to work on the novel and nothing else. And this week I was sidelined Tuesday by having an opthalmologist appointment with eye dilation. As a result, I wasn’t able to use the computer for two or three hours after getting home. We’d taken the dogs in for grooming the same morning so I figured I could do some cleaning and giftwrapping while they were gone, as that doesn’t require the same level of fine eye focus. Nope, they were ready much sooner than I’d expected, so I had to push the cleaning to later in the week.

So it’s still doable. I shall stretch like Plastic Man until I achieve my glorious triumph! Or so I hope.

As my writing this week was just the novel and Leaf articles, I don’t have much else to say. Although I did have some more entertaining Leaf articles than usual, such as “Duties of a NASA Mission Specialist.”

I must admit I’ll be glad when I’m done with Southern Discomfort but if it comes to a choice between “get it done” and “make it good,” I’ll go with option B. But I’ll spend the rest of this month trying to avoid that choice.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Cole, all rights remain with current holder. I picked it to fit the “reach” theme, but also because it’s just cool.

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

33,000 and counting

I accomplished 57 percent of my November goals. That’s primarily because I underestimated the impact of my colonoscopy on my work Thanksgiving week (and for that matter my off-work activities). And yes, insomnia played a role. As I sleep great on weekends, I’d anticipated making up for lost time over the four day weekend. Instead interruptions from one source or another meant I only got one night of good sleep. Bleah!

The biggest fail on my goal list was not finishing Southern Discomfort. That one I can’t really blame on my colon, though the short work week certainly had an impact. So did the Leaf articles continuing longer than I’d expected.

But the main reason is, it’s been a long while since I read an entire novel aloud, and I’d forgotten how long it takes. Rewriting and changing the scenes is taking more work than I thought too. I’m rewriting the flow of conversation so it makes more sense, adding tension to some scenes (though some of them are simply going to be about setting and character, and that’ll have to be enough), checking formatting. Every decision then leads to more changes (well, not the formatting). Making Maria more skeptical about whether it’s really magic in one scene means she needs to be skeptical in the next scene, or I have to show her changing.

Still, when I counted up the completely finished wordage this week, I was pleased. As of today, I’m a little over 33,000 words done, out of a 92,000 word book. And next month this is my only writing goal besides the Leaf articles, which will wrap up before too long. So I should be done by New Year’s Eve. Well if the good lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, as they say. Even if it rises, I can get it done in January, but I really want to start 2019 fresh.

And I wrote another Dr. Mabuse article for Atomic Junkshop. As I didn’t have time for even a half-hearted film review, I looked at two Dr. Mabuse songs, Dr. Mabuse by Propaganda and Dr. Mabuse by Blue System. Thanks to my friend Ross Bagby for alerting me they even existed. Below is the CD cover for one of the Propaganda versions (there are several of various lengths floating around).

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

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

Not a surreal week, just disorganized

But I’m using a surrealist art work (by Giorgio DiChirico, on exhibit at MOMA) as an illustration anyway. What can I say, I love his work.

A big part of the disorganization was that TYG’s schedule has been crazy since last Friday. That inevitably affects my schedule — extra time spent with dogs, most obviously — and just as inevitably her stress bleeds over a little. Another part was that we had several days of drenching rain this week, which left me feeling on edge. And next week I have my every-ten-years colonoscopy, so I’m currently on a diet to ensure my colon is clean. Cereal has to be low fiber, bread has to be white, etc., etc. It’s nothing that awful, but it feels like I’m being starved. And worrying the colonoscopy might Find Something is unsettling too. Oh, and I made the mistake of buying white bread at the store, and it’s just as bland as I remember. Today I’m making Australian damper bread from one of my cookbooks instead.

Plus I lost a chunk of time Tuesday to my dental visit, and squeezing several errands into the same trip (part of the schedule disruptions). But my teeth, at least, are in good shape.

And while I’d been thinking Leaf was wrapped up for the year, it turns out we’ll be running until early/mid December. So that took about nine hours out of the week I’d planned to work on other things. When planning for next year, I really need to plan my time based on Leaf being a steady gig. It won’t be but it’ll be easier to fill the time during the periods Leaf dries up than have to cut out other stuff when Leaf sticks around.

Fiction wise, I got through several thousand more words on the last draft of Southern Discomfort and about halfway through the final draft of No One Can Slay Her. Not as much as I’d hoped; due to the schedule craziness, I wound up writing my Leafs much slower than usual. I also began flipping through Writer’s Market‘s 2018-19 edition for agents I can submit Southern Discomfort too when it’s done. Again, not quite as much.

I did another blog post on Atomic Junkshop in my ongoing series on what comic books are like in the DC and Marvel universe. This time I try to explain how if Earth-Two’s superheroes were comic book characters on Earth-One, nobody ever noticed that Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman looked exactly like the heroes in those old comic-book stories.

On the feral cat front, I had a minor scare Wednesday night when I heard some sort of snarling kerfuffle outside, peered through the back windows and thought I saw Wisp either being chased or chasing something (presumably another cat, but I couldn’t be sure) off the deck. Thursday morning we put out some food for her but she didn’t eat it, so naturally I started to worry … but then she turned up, dry as a bone and apparently uninjured. I’m guessing she wound up somewhere she could shelter from the rain and didn’t want to come for the food until it stopped.

I’ll close this post out with another deChirico. #SFWApro, all rights to images remain with current holder.

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

Things I didn’t know about women: two books

One of the old jokes about the silliness of 1960s sitcoms was that some shows (e.g., Hazel, The Brady Bunch) showed the family with a made, even though the wife was a fulltime homemaker. WTF? Why would she need a maid? The obvious answer — they can afford it, and housework sucks — didn’t occur to me. Or, obviously, whoever made the jokes.

My cluelessness was brought home to me after reading MORE WORK FOR MOTHER: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave by Ruth Schwartz Cowan. The thesis is one I’ve heard before, that improvements in household technology — washing machines, vacuum cleaners — actually made life harder for housewives (in contrast to a thesis that dismissed working women as housewives liberated by technology and needing something to do).  Vacuum cleaners meant rugs didn’t have to be taken out, hung and beaten to get out the dust; that meant they could be cleaned every week instead of every couple of months. And the labor that was saved was more likely to be the man of the house or a servant than the woman of the home.

Having heard this thesis before, I wasn’t sure I’d learn much from the book, but I did. Cowan shows how this has been going on for a long time. For example, improvements in technology made it possible to mass-produce white flour and transport it for sale. No more grinding your own meal! But instead of added leisure, women wound up baking yeast breads instead of flat-breads (which are much less work), or taking up cake baking (much more work). Husbands got liberated from household work (household tech made the division into separate spheres in the 19th century attainable), women got slammed. Various alternatives — communal kitchens, commercial laundries — never took off and servants became harder and harder to find. Cowan concludes that short of attaining gender parity in housekeeping, the best hope is to lower our standards below “immaculate.” It’s a good book, and good research for Undead Sexist Cliches.

 

I thought I was also well informed on the topic of THE TECHNOLOGY OF ORGASM: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction by Rachel P. Maines but I had a lot to learn there too. For centuries doctors and healers believed hysteria (a very broad diagnosis) was the result of the womb relocating in the body, which I knew; what I didn’t know was that it moved because it was horny, and needed to discharge it’s “semen.” The solution was massage of the clitoris and labia — sure enough a woman would tense up, breathe rapidly, then suddenly relax as the womb evacuated the semen. The sexual overtones were missed (though some doctors were aware of them) due to the absolute faith penis-in-vagina sex was the only way a woman could have a real orgasm. Maines points out this may also explain why so many women weren’t that interested about sex or even “frigid” — if PIV wasn’t doing it for them, the fault had to be theirs. Vibrators were developed as a tool for doctors to deliver orgasmic relief without the grossness of actually touching anything. A really fascinating and thought-provoking book; I’d love to use this idea in a story, but I’m not sure I could do it without making audiences laugh at the wrong times.

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

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Filed under Nonfiction, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

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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