Category Archives: Nonfiction

My week, demolished by dogs (Wisp helped too)

Having Tuesday sucked up by doctor visits was only part of the distractions from writing this week.

It started Saturday night, July 3. Some clodpates decided to launch fireworks to celebrate Independence Day Eve and Plushie freaked out. He crawled across the bed and began licking at my face for comfort, which is not so comfortable for me — I kept having to shift to avoid getting my mouth or my ears licked (ick!). And he wanted to jump off the bed, which would be bad for his ongoing recovery (more on which soon).

Sunday night, July 4, there were, of course, more fireworks and more of a freakout. My writing day Monday was ultra-groggy; I’d scheduled eight Leaf articles for myself and only finished six. Catching up took more time out of the rest of my week (I try for 10 a week. It covers my share of the bills handily).

Monday night, as I mentioned in this morning’s post, Wisp kept waking me up. Tuesday and Wednesday I just didn’t sleep well. Part of that is that the endodontist gave me antibiotics (there’s a slight infection around the site of my future root canal) and my mind keeps prodding me to get up at 3 AM so I take them on a regular schedule (it’s a four times a day thing), then I can’t get back to sleep.

Then Thursday, a friend called with a problem. They’d previously asked about us dog-sitting Lily and Tito as we’d done before, but for a longer stretch, Thursday to Tuesday (the dogs have never been boarded so the owners don’t want to do that if they can avoid it). Then they’d found someone who could house-sit with the dogs, so we didn’t have to get involved. Thursday their house-sitter got slapped with an emergency and it was too late to either take the dogs or board them, so could we … And of course we said yes. Needless to say, having two more dogs slows my work down to a crawl. Plus our weekly session with our dogs at the dog rehab place took much longer than anticipated. So Thursday was a wash as far as anything involving thinking. Today was too.

At least they’re awfully cute, sweet dogs though.

I did manage to read over Chapter Nine of Undead Sexist Cliches preparatory to rewriting it. I posted on Atomic Junkshop about the obscure Superman villain Zha-Vam (“Say his name and even Superman shakes!”) I got my ten Leafs done for the week, and watched a lot of movies for Alien Visitors. Didn’t get much writing done, though and I really need to. But there’s only so much that can be done when multiple dogs clamor for attention.


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Filed under Nonfiction, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

With the year half over …

I’ve had a consistent run of completing 50 percent of my goals each month. And it happened once again for June. Writing went well, though (as usual) nowhere near as fast as I wanted. Lots of little goals didn’t get done but I kept up my exercise and (reasonably) healthy eating goals.

This week went well. My relatively new rule of not counting time spent on email or blogging as writing time really does allow me to get more done. And I don’t feel guilty if I plow through a lot of email. Both these things are good.

I rewrote the Alien Invasions chapter of Alien Visitors and put in a bunch of time breaking down my list of movies decade by decade, to see if I can spot any trends. Nothing concrete yet, but I’ll blog about it when I think of something. And, of course, I watched movies. Leaf was on hiatus most of the week so I had extra time (I’ll be back on that beat starting Monday, or maybe Sunday). I also need to rein in how much stuff I try to do during movies. Sure, lots of them are minor and not really deserving of close attention. Even so, they may spark some insight, but not if I let myself get consumed by blogging or reading the news. I used to be able to double-focus, but not so much now. And switching from close-up computer range eye use to staring at the TV creates quite a strain.

I finished rewriting the abortion/birth control chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. Now it’s just Chapter Nine (and the conclusion), then indexing, spell-checking, researching a couple of point that need clarifying …and (ugh) rereading Warren Farrel’s The Myth of Male Power. The $17 used copy I ordered vanished in the mail (I got a refund today). As every copy I can find is at least $30, I sold out and bought the Kindle edition for $8. I dislike anything that sends royalties his way, but …

For visual appeal, here’s a photo I took of the spare bedroom window early Thursday, when it’s only lit by the back porch floodlights. It came out much better than most of my darkness photos do.#SFWApro.

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Productive work but was it the right work?

Yes and no. I prioritized work on Alien Visitors but I wound up watching more movies and doing less than writing on the book than I should have.

The week started off with Trixie deciding to get up early to spend time with me. Which got more complicated than usual as Wisp decided to come in and spend time with me. Attempting to handle both of them, keep Trixie out of Wisp’s tuna (Trixie’s stomach usually gets upset after), break up any possible fights — well, I couldn’t get my usual exercises and stretching done. So I pushed that until later in the day and watched movies or TV for the book while I did my physical stuff. That kept me working, but it did not get the writing done. I did complete a rough rewrite of the introduction but I need to do a lot more next week.

I also got my Leaf articles done and proofed Chapter Eight of Undead Sexist Cliches while I was sitting in Plushie’s cage. It’s  too awkward to bring my computer into the cage, but he needed the company.

So not quite the best use of my time, but I did put it to use. And I learned something from the movies, even the crappy ones. So it’s a win, I think. Plus I spent this morning having tea with my friend HJ Frederick, catching up and enjoying real world interactions.

For an illustration, here’s some flowers from the neighborhood.#SFWApro.

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Filed under Nonfiction, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Plushie the jailbird!

So a couple of weeks back when we laid down new rugs, we had to move a lot of furniture around. In the middle of all that, the Plush One jumped up on the back of one of the couches — we’d moved it away from the wall — and jumped to the floor. So perhaps it’s not surprising that last Saturday, his back started acting up again. As in, if we even brushed it, he flinched in pain.

We rushed him to the emergency vet (we have a couple in Durham) and got the anticipated recommendation of painkillers and cage rest.  Here you can see him resting inside the bars.That Sunday I spent a lot of time caged with him because he gets so miserable when cut off from us.Unfortunately Trixie doesn’t like that solution much. Here you can see me comforting her through the bars.Fortunately TYG, being Plushie’s adoring Mommy, opted to work downstairs, outside the cage, as much as she could. She also slept on the couch-bed all week so she’d be there if he whimpered in pain (knowing TYG, I wasn’t surprised). That freed me up from working inside the cage, which is really awkward. The downside was that with her sleeping down there, I had to rearrange my morning schedule so I didn’t wake her up by coming down to get tea. That made for another chaotic week — well, by my standards — but ultimately I was able to get my work done. Not counting blogging and email time as work helped — otherwise I might have been tempted to just give up and bat out some blog posts for a couple of hours.

Happily we took Plush in to our regular vet this morning. We still have to keep him from jumping up and down or climbing the stairs, but we can probably stop cage rest after tomorrow. He’ll be much happier if we put the cage up around the couch and let him snuggle with us

I didn’t have the focus to write much on Alien Visitors but I watched a number of movies for the book. I got my Leaf quota in, and another client finally worked out the kinks in their accounting system and paid up. I was beginning to worry they wouldn’t pay, so that was a welcome resolution to the story ($850 isn’t chicken feed to me). And I finished proofing Undead Sexist Cliches Chapter Seven, on sexual harassment.

It’s hard to believe I only have a week and a half left this month. I’d better keep making good use of my time.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Chaotic but productive. I can live with that.

Yesterday, our housecleaners made their monthly appearance, as usual amazing me with how good they are. I don’t think I realized one of my shower door was actually clear glass. But I knew they’d make it hard to focus, so I put in a full day of work Sunday instead. That proved wise, because I did indeed get little done yesterday.

I completed plenty of Leafs; other than that, my priority was Alien Visitors. I watched movies (including Earth Girls Are Easy), and got around to rough drafts of several chapters. Whatever’s been bogging me down in working on the book, I’ve finally broken out of the slump. I also read my UFO Abduction chapter to the group on Tuesday, and got some excellent feedback, as usual.

I wound up taking today off to get various stuff — paperwork, mostly — done, and watching more stuff for the book.

And … huh, that’s pretty much it. When things go smoothly, there’s not much stuff to say I guess.

My article on military suicide came out on Veterans Network. I believe this is it until the fall but that works out well — more time for Alien Visitors and finishing up Undead Sexist Cliches.

Wisp has been coming in for snuggles a little more frequently this week, which is nice. Oh, and we belled Wisp, at the request of our neighbor. It’s a breakaway collar, so it’s safe for her, I hope, and perhaps it will make it harder for her to snatch any birds from the neighbor’s feeder. Fingers crossed.


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If nothing else, at least I donated some blood this week

That was this morning. I came home and collapsed much more than I think I usually do. But then it’s been a heck of a week. By the way, how do you like my blood selfie?

I’d really expected a productive week. I didn’t get one. Okay, that’s not fair: I did finish editing Chapter Six of Undead Sexist Cliches and I got nine Leaf articles done. But nothing other than a couple of movies accomplished for Alien Visitors.

The trouble started Sunday night. Wisp came in because it was unusually chilly. She wound up sleeping next to me, but positioned herself where I really couldn’t move or shift comfortably (I was afraid I’d knock her to the floor). That always ruins sleep for me (it’s happened with Plushie a couple of times too) and I’m not sure Wisp would be okay with me moving her, so I wound up not getting enough sleep.

Monday night Wisp wasn’t in. Plushie, however, decided he needed to go out around 1:30 AM, which fell to me, so that didn’t go well. Tuesday night, Plushie tried moving me over because he wanted my spot in the bed. He isn’t big enough to make that happen, but it still makes it impossible to sleep. Wednesday Wisp came in, slept in a good spot, but woke me up around 3:30 AM for attention.

So I’ve been kind of sleep deprived this week. I concentrated on Leaf articles because they don’t require much creative thinking (and yes, they pay). Thursday, though I had sleep deprivation plus taking care of the dogs the entire day, and Wisp spending a lot of time indoors (as I don’t want any fights to erupt this requires paying a lot more attention to pets). So out of a day of work, maybe three hours of writing.

On the plus side, my decision not to count blogging and email as writing time paid off. Not that it made me more productive but the periods when I was doing nothing but reading email didn’t make me feel guilty (“This isn’t productive! I shouldn’t count this as writing time!'”).

It was a mess of a week but now it’s done. I got better sleep last night — not a huge amount but waking myself early always feels better than someone else waking me up. Fingers crossed for a better second week of June.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Two against the flood-tide!

So Wednesday morning, I turned on the kitchen-sink tap to wash my hands, and the water was hot. Really hot. Scalding hot. Hotter than normal. A quick online search revealed that this was bad — either the thermostat on our hot water tank was broken or the valves were busted, forcing steam into the water. I called and made a plumbing appointment for Thursday morning, then shut off the breaker (they recommended it).

Thursday morning, no plumber. Turned out that like the previous plumber we tried, the office hadn’t informed the plumber about the appointment. Unlike the previous plumber, he got out there late afternoon, shut off the water, diagnosed the problem, and replaced the tank (it was 18 years old which for a hot-water tank is old). There was quite a bit of flooding before he shut the water down, but nothing that should be a serious problem (unlike for the Avengers).

I also went down to our dentist Tuesday morning and they were late too. Because they never are, I hadn’t brought a book, and didn’t feel like starting anything I had on my phone. Rather than wait an hour, I headed home. An annoying waste of time, but our dentist is good enough I’ll put up with it.

Despite those distractions, it was a productive week. I did my last Leaf and Veterans Network articles for the month, then plunged into a mix of viewing for Alien Visitors and rewriting Undead Sexist Cliches. I’d planned to do the writing on Alien Visitors but the various distractions made it harder to focus, and going over Undead Sexist Cliches was easier. I’ve now finished editing through Chapter Five.

I tried another new time-management trick this week. I spend the last 90 minutes of the day going through email and blogging, but those tasks often ooze into the writing part of the day. So I set myself a pure writing week of 27.5 hours, specifically excluding any email or blogging. That upped my efficiency some, I think. And I didn’t feel guilty about blogging time.

Oh, and my social life is getting back to normal. Last weekend, my writer’s group (and some associates) had a party at one member’s house. It felt sooooo good to see people in the flesh instead of just over Zoom. We’re still not able to meet in person, but my Shut Up and Write group (Monday nights) will do a mix of live-action and Zoom meetings — first live one’s Monday.

On that note, have a great weekend, y’all.

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

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My One Simple Scheduling Trick is actually working pretty well

Not that my new system made my week go smooth, but no question it’s helping me get perspective on what I should be doing. Much as I want to work on Undead Sexist Cliches, I’ve used up the time for the month and need to do a lot of work on Alien Visitors. So that’s what I shall do next week.

This week? Well, this was entirely Leaf and Veterans Network stuff (my story on VA home loans came out this week). Money assignments, alas, always take priority. And unfortunately I was bogged down by all the chaos from last week. I wound up working a little Saturday and Sunday to get extra Leafs done; with TYG’s friend visiting, that wound up taking much more time than it should have. And working on the weekend left me wiped the rest of the week so everything took longer than it should have. Including my Atomic Junkshop post on how pandemic reality once again tops fiction. Seriously, would anyone write a story where we use a lottery and offers of free beer to convince people to vaccinate against a deadly disease? And if someone did, it would be a comedy.

Between TYG’s friend (he stayed through Tuesday), taking the dogs to the groomer and my checkup yesterday, my time was further constrained. I didn’t even get to give blood yet, which was (and is) one of my priorities once the vaccine took effect. Next week, for sure! It’s in the schedule now. I didn’t even exercise as much as usual. However the doctor says I’m doing really well: cholesterol not great (it rarely is) but compared to a year ago I’ve lost weight and my blood pressure’s down. I celebrated, as usual, by spending today scarfing everything (I’m health! My body can take it!). Back to normal tomorrow.

So that’s it. Not an exciting week, though for me a profitable one. And I did sell one copy of Atlas Shagged. I made 26 cents (it was the ebook) but I still appreciate whoever took a chance on me.

To wrap up with, here’s a cover by James Bama — only it’s not the cover that grabs my attention as that thuddingly literal title. Not that thuddingly literal can’t work (e.g., Snakes on a Plane, I Married a Monster From Outer Space), but “Tyrant and Slave-Girl on Planet Venus” really doesn’t sing.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.


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I think I overdosed on freedom

So Tuesday my second vaccination took full effect. This is way cool: we made it through a pandemic without catching it and now we can resume something approaching normal life. After a year feeling as imperiled as Mr. Miracle —— it’s a real relief. I’m happy and grateful. Still, the need to do multiple things we’d been putting off did not make for a productive week. While my top goals for Freedom were to visit my comic book store and go out to eat, neither one actually happened — the Musts took priority.

Housekeepers came in Thursday. This was a “must” because we had a friend of TYG’s arriving for a mutual friend’s funeral today. The alternative to getting the cleaners in ASAP was to do it ourselves, which we weren’t looking forward to. And we wouldn’t have been as good either; anybody who thinks housecleaning isn’t skilled labor is kidding themselves. Of course them cleaning didn’t require much effort on my part, but it was distracting, especially dealing with the dogs, who freaked out.

Then we had the plumber coming in to snake the drains. We scheduled an appointment for Wednesday a week in advance. 9 AM rolled around, plumber didn’t show. Office said he’d be by 2 PM. Didn’t show. The plumber finally called, said he hadn’t been given any sort of appointment for us. I found an alternative plumber who showed up the next day and got the job done. Pricey, but satisfactory. However, it all chipped into work time. You know how it goes — it’s 8:45 AM, plumber’s going to be there, no point in starting anything …

Friday I had to take the car in for annual inspection, oil change and general maintenance. Not cheap either, but necessary. But again, distracting. In between all that, I went to the library, got a haircut (photos next week) and went shopping in a grocery store. That was a lot of fun — convenient or not, online ordering doesn’t do it for me. Hell, the store’s close enough that shopping IRL may be more convenient than all the typing and clicking. Plus it had some stuff TYG wanted that wasn’t available online. Plus cold stuff is still nice and cold when I get it home.

In the midst of all that I still got some work done. Partly because I wisely treated Sunday as a regular work day, which proved the right decision. Even so, I’ll need to do some Leaf articles over the weekend. My tax tips for veterans article came out. I finished redrafting Chapter Seven of Undead Sexist Cliches though I still have to rearrange all the footnotes. I rewrote the alien pregnancy chapter of Alien Visitors and got some good feedback from the writers group. And I posted about the early, less-remembered Adam Warlock series at Atomic Junkshop.

So a good, if hectic week.

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


Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Oh, that’s why I don’t work much in the evenings any more

I tried last night because we’re dog-sitting for Lily and Tito this afternoon so I wanted to make up for the inevitable lost time. Here’s photos of the winsome twosome, in case you were wondering (Lily’s on top)It did not go well, though I did get my next Atomic Junk Shop post up. Plushie loses it and starts barking his head off about once every five minutes. Wisp comes in, begs for food, then goes out again. I could just go isolate myself in my office, but the trouble is I like hanging out with our pets. I don’t want to isolate myself. But if I try that again, I definitely will go that route.

That aside, work went well this week. I finished our taxes, discovering we owe in a little (bad!) but at least they’re done. I’ll check them over again to make certain I figured things right, but I doubt I’ll discover a major error that gets us a refund. Oh, well.

I finished editing Chapter Six of Undead Sexist Cliches and made a final read through of Chapter Four. The latter went slower than I wanted — I had more cleaning up than I expected. I got some Veterans Network articles written (here’s one on art therapy for trauma, and one on military trivia). I did a lot of viewing for Alien Visitors but not much writing. I must compensate for that next week.

My new approach of breaking down my day and assigning a set number of units to different projects went … okay, I guess. I seem to be running out of Undead Sexist Cliches units, but we’ll see how it goes the rest of the month.

This weekend I will probably work Sunday. That’s not typical, but I have a lot to do this week once I become fully vaccinated on Tuesday. Best to make up the time in advance. I’ll be back next Friday to report how it went.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing