Category Archives: Now and Then We Time Travel

Brooding and counter-brooding

So my flash fiction Rabbits Indignateonem came back Saturday with a “Excellent piece, we enjoyed reading it but …” response. Which is nice, because compliments are always better than “that had massive flaws in it” (I get those sometimes) or a No without comments (got that on Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates midweek). But it’s not a sale. And always leaves me worried I’m good, but not quite good enough. That I can’t sell to better markets or more frequently or that I’ve just run out of steam; the last new story I sold was 2018 (two reprints from earlier sold this year). Thoughts of this nature make me broody.

But then again, part of that may be that I haven’t had that many new stories. 2015-16 I was working on Now and Then We Time Travel in addition to my Leaf work; 2017-18 I was doing Screen Rant and those eventually consumed much more time than when I started (hence no longer doing ’em). The past year I’ve put in a lot of time on Undead Sexist Cliches. And of course I was finishing up Southern Discomfort somewhere in the middle of that too.

If I had more stories out circulating, the odds one of them would find a publisher who likes one of them would go up (at least I hope so). I wouldn’t say that’s the only factor in play — I’m definitely not at the level of NK Jemisin or Robert Bloch — but it is a factor.

Once I finish Undead Sexist Cliches my slate will be a lot clearer for fiction. Still doing Leaf, and I have my upcoming Alien Visitors book for McFarland, but that won’t be as demanding as Now and Then .. was (much less ambitious). So, who knows? Perhaps I can elevate myself to at least selling semi-regularly again.

Fingers crossed.

Now, as to this week, it was moderately productive. Did my Leaf articles, and I got close to the end of Chapter Four of Undead Sexist Cliches, which has proven the toughest to organize. Unfortunately the temptation to do just a little more on that book kept me from working on either Questionable Minds or Alien Visitors (formerly titled Space Invaders). Next week I’ll start with them to make sure I put some time in. TYG’s work is going to be crazy for a while which will probably lead to extra dog care, but I’ve had practice working around that.

And unfortunately my cover artist for Questionable Minds, whom I was looking forward to working with, seems to have been sidelined by pandemic stress. No blame attached, this is a rough time for all of us (I’m obviously not finishing the book as fast as expected), but I am disappointed.

Oh, and I posted on Atomic Junkshop about Cast a Deadly Spell as a hardboiled PI movie (matching with my post here about the movie as urban fantasy).

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

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Filed under Now and Then We Time Travel, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

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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There is disorder under heaven but the situation is pretty good

For starters, the digital magazine Kzine, which published my Kernel of Truth in 2015, now makes hard copy issues available via Amazon.

I got mine. As I love having copies in hard copy, this made me very happy. Though my smile looks weird here, it’s sincere.

The big disruption this week was Trixie. Sick stomach again on Sunday, vet appointment Wednesday. They suggested another new food, but Thursday she wouldn’t eat it, so we kept her home from daycare. At the end of the day, she scarfed down a kong full of soft food, so she’s back to normal.

But what is normal? Is her lack of interest in breakfast a sign of a constant low level of whatever this problem is? Or is it that she just doesn’t like kibble (we thought about a tooth problem but she has no hesitation with hard foods that she likes)? Given we’re supposed to feed her mostly the new kibble plus a little of the soft food, will we have to go the other way around to get her to eat? Stay tuned.

I’d planned to use my dog-free Thursday to donate blood and catch a movie. But even if Trixie had been hale and hearty, it wouldn’t have worked. TYG has a bad bug, I have a mild version, but I didn’t think I should give blood. And we had a contractor stop by in the afternoon so I couldn’t have made the movie anyway. Frustrating. And today hasn’t been massively more productive, mostly research reading. And an Atomic Junkshop post on Christmas time-loop movies.

Despite all of which, the week was productive. I did a redraft of Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and I think I see how to fix the ending on the next draft. I wrote a couple of chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer and redrafted my Oh the Places You’ll Go. I’d been planning on a much more elaborate rewrite, but one of the writers in my group said that it worked great as it was; I’ll look at the redraft next week and see if I agree (it certainly would be quicker to get it done).

I only got about 40 percent through Chapter Three of Sexist Myths And Why They’re Bullshit. I wound up doing more Leaf this week than I’d expected and for once the time came out of my nonfiction rather than my fiction. I’m okay with that, and I think I can make it up next week.

So confused, and certainly stressful when Trixie was miserable (though the veterinary drugs we got help a lot), but pretty good. And now it’s only a few days to Christmas — where did the time go?

#SFWApro. All rights to Kzine cover (art by Dave Windett) remains with current holders.

 

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Now and Then We Time Travel, Personal, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

The most sensational news you’ll read today! Or at least in this post.

So McFarland, which publishes my four movie books and dozens of others, is having a 40th anniversary sale. Everything 25 percent off, including my four movie books. It’s a great opportunity to buy one, two or collect the entire set! It’s always cool to have the entire set, right?

My books are:

Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan, a book on made for TV specfic films of the 20th century.

The Wizard of Oz Catalog, an encyclopedic look at Oz books, movies, TV shows, radio shows and stage plays. A lot of oddball material such as a 1930s women’s college film and a sales-training video, The Wizard of Sales.

Screen Enemies of the American Way looks at American fears of the enemy within — subversion by Nazis, Japanese, Commies, pod people, Stepford Wives and extraterrestrials.

Now And Then We Time Travel lists and reviews time-travel television and film stories from around the world.

The sale runs through the end of the month. I’ll be buying a couple of books (maybe more) myself, though I haven’t completely settled on which ones yet. Prime contenders are one on The Saint in his many fictional forms and a book on witches in films and TV, Bell, Book and Camera.

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

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Filed under Movies, Now and Then We Time Travel, Screen Enemies of the American Way, TV, Writing

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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September goes in, August goes out

I accomplished about 55 percent of my August goals and almost none of them were writing goals. Part of that was working on the Leaf articles; part was devoting the last week to my sister’s visit and then Dragoncon; and part of that just getting distracted by extra doggy care and other duties. I also didn’t get a lot of various paperwork tasks done — no bills left unpaid or anything, but stuff like finding replacement lights for one fixture (it’s an older one and apparently it won’t be easy) has fallen by the wayside.

This month I have no Leaf to work on, and I’m determined to get tasks accomplished (I have a list). Plus, you know, regular stuff. And after the wonderful relaxing week hanging out with TYG I feel up to the job. Hopefully the feeling will stick around. To make that easier, I’ve also been rearranging my schedule in various ways so that I can hopefully adapt to unplanned extra dog care when TYG has a sudden work call or the like.

I’d expected Wednesday, the first day I got back, would be wasted. I’d be off my game and the dogs would be uber-needy after being in Suite Paws all week. Don’t get me wrong, the staff there are wonderful and clearly love dogs, but Trixie and Plushie really missed us. Surprisingly, the day went great: a few thousand words done on Southern Discomfort, a little bit of progress on No One Can Slay Her, two short stories submitted and another blog post up at Atomic Junkshop.

Thursday though? I had a great night’s sleep but when TYG got up, she found Plush had puked on the bed. Cleaning that up took us some time, then I drove to the 24-hour drugstore near us to get him some Omneprazole. Plush began puking every night mid-August so we took him and the vet suggested we try it for two weeks. It stopped the puking and generally he seemed happier and more comfortable. Tuesday evening, which was about a day after he went off the drug, he puked massively. So it looks like he needs the stuff to keep his tummy happy (the doctor says we may able to lower the dose, but it won’t hurt him if not). It’s already making him more comfortable; unsettling to realize his stomach may have been aching a lot and we didn’t know.

Anyway after all that, I finally got back to work maybe 25 minutes before my morning tea break. So it seemed pointless to start work until after the tea … yeah, you can see where this is going and it’s not “I finished the entire manuscript before dinner!”

Friday we finally had to take Plushie into the vet for the puking. No real conclusion what caused it yet, so we’re giving him special food and meds while they run some tests to rule out stuff. He did seem much better this morning so possibly whatever it was has passed but best to cover our bets.

Even so I got more work done on Southern Discomforts. I put a lot of thinking into No One Can Slay Her — I think I’m going to have to write another scene to make the plot build properly.

So a good start to September’s writing, not good at all as puppy parent.

#SFWApro. All rights to images are mine.

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Filed under Now and Then We Time Travel, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

An odd but satisfactory week (#SFWApro)

It wasn’t anywhere near as odd as Clark Kent’s dilemma (cover by Curt Swan, all rights remain with current holder). Just disjointed. I got the basics done for a Screen Rant list on Flash but I’m going to wait until closer to the S4 premiere to finish it. By the time I found that out, I had to hustle to draw up a different list … but I was told (correctly, I think) that it needs much more work to be interesting to SR readers. So I wound up not getting one done, which feels very strange after doing them so regularly for several months (I have skipped weeks but by design, not chance).

Screen Ranting aside, I did get quite a bit done

•I finished my work on the Leaf articles. That project is wrapped up, so it’ll be much more fiction the next few weeks (yay!). Though I’ll be ready if they tap me for another gig.

•I rewrote A Famine Where Abundance Lies and sent it out. I also sent out The Glory That Was.

•I almost sent out The Schloss and the Switchblade again, then I realized I need to rewrite it. In the current political climate someone who discovers a con apparently catering to Nazis isn’t going to be as surprised as when I wrote it last year. I got a first rewrite in but I’m really annoyed I have to do it at all. Thanks Trump for all the enabling you’ve done for white supremacy!

•I’m up to 18,000 words on this draft of Southern Discomforts, which is cool. And I think all the scenes I’ve done so far are much improved.

•I began work on replotting the last third and found (I think) the problem. The plot hinges on Gwalchmai kidnapping Joan, one of the lead characters, and using her life to force Olwen to surrender. The trouble is I’ve set it up as “surrender by time X or she dies” and it really doesn’t make sense. He wants things over and done, so it’d be more likely “surrender now.” So maybe he has no reason to kidnap her … but in that case what does he do? What ratchets up the tension and pushes everyone to struggle to stop him? The answers are not coming yet, but I think I’m asking the right questions.

•I got four more chapters of Undead Sexist Cliches done. Two of them are new and rough so they’ll require more tinkering than the rest, which are on their second draft (or third if you count the original blog posts).

I also received a review (via my publisher) from some German magazine for Now and Then We Time Travel. The English translation is very awkward, but I think their assessment is “impressive breadth, needs to be deeper.” But I could be wrong.

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From a one-eyed musician to a time-traveling spy: movies viewed (#SFWApro)

KUBO OF THE TWO STRINGS (2016) is an excellent animated fantasy in which the eponymous one-eyed pre-teen discovers he’s actually descended from the Japanese gods. Unfortunately, the rage grandfather Ralph Fiennes felt over his mother marrying a mortal (Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey respectively) has now descended on him full-force. Great to look and completely absorbing; Rooney Mara plays an ominous auntie. “If you’re going to blink, do it now.”

The Korean film MOTHER (2009) is a too-familiar crime drama in which a mother struggles to prove her mentally handicapped son didn’t murder the woman he was out with last night. I gave up on this one midway through — not really bad but nothing that demanded my interest either.

COME BACK TO ME (2014) has a young woman trying to make sense of her night terrors by videotaping her room at night, only to discover her weirdo teenage neighbor is using his death-cheater powers to kill, rape and resurrect her night after night. One I think I watched partway through while working on Now and Then We Time Travel but stopped after I was satisfied the protagonist’s issues weren’t time-travel related. I can’t say watching the whole thing adds anything to my wellbeing.

DIMENSION 5 (1966) is the Bond variation in which “Espionage Incorporated” agents  Jeffrey Hunter and Frances Nuyen use their time-travel belts to stay one step ahead of Chi-Com spymaster Big Buddha (Harold Sakata) while thwarting his plot to nuke LA unless the US pulls out of Southeast Asia. What makes this distinctive isn’t so much the time-travel element but how limited our heroes’ use of it is — a kind of crystal ball (see Big Buddha’s next move and counter it!) or make a fast escape from a danger zone, rather than, say, going back after a defeat and fixing things. Though as you can see, the poster plays up that as the distinctive angle, along with Nuyen’s looks and the presence of Goldfinger brute man Sakata (clearly they thought they’d grab more eyeballs than Hunter). “You can always quit and raise coconuts.”

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Time-travel love stories: some recommedations (#SFWApro)

Continuing with my recommendation for time-travel movies other than the ones every “Best” list recycles. Which is why despite its charms, Somewhere in Time isn’t on this list of love films  — that’s one everyone knows. And yes, I should have written this for Valentine’s Day, my bad.

209007_1020_AQUEST FOR LOVE (1971) is a personal favorite. It’s schmaltzy as hell and has the implausible Exact Double resolution but even so. Brilliant physicist Tom Bell is hurled into a parallel world where he’s a famous playwright (WW II never happened, JFK is alive and running the League of Nations, Everest hasn’t been climbed, to name other divergences). He’s also a complete douchebag whose wife, Joan Collins (and lord, was she gorgeous back then) despises him — can Bell convince her he’s a different man now? And even when he does, all is not well … “If the time we’ve spent together is all there is, it’s been enough.”

Molly Ringwald’s TWICE UPON A TIME (1998) has her as a frustrated business woman — didn’t get the promotion, wishes she’d married her baseball-star ex-boyfriend, tired of her beta-male beau — plunged into an alternate world where women executives bond over power croquet games, her mom is alive (better cancer treatments) and she did marry the ball player. By the end, of course, she realizes where her heart lies and it’s not with him … not an A-lister, but fun, and I like that Ringwald’s selfish parallel-world counterpart wants to get home just as much as Molly-One does.

FAMILY MAN (2000) is an excellent Nicolas Cage film in which angel Don Cheadle shows him the parallel world where he married his college sweetheart (Téa Leoni) and became a tire-store manager and yes, family man, instead of a corporate shark. Well done, charming and extra points for acknowledge the Leoni in the original timeline is not going to be the same person as the alt.version.

ME MYSELF I (1999) is an Aussie movie with Rachel Griffiths going through the Family Man experience. It’s fun too, mostly because of Griffiths’ strong performance in the lead.

11 MINUTES AGO (2009) has a time-traveler from the future (Ian Mauro) crash a wedding party in the course of gathering some samples for his research. Oddly, everyone remembers him from earlier in the evening, but why would he have come back there again when it takes so long to prepare for a time jump? Then he meets Christina Mauro, who remembers him very well indeed, and he starts to understand … I found this charming, but my sister and our best friend hated it, so fair warning.

HAPPY ACCIDENTS (2000) stars Vincent D’Onofrio as a time traveler whose come back from his dystopian future to win the heart of Marisa Tomei. She thinks he’s crazy with all his time-travel talk, but they can make this work, right? She hasn’t just fallen for the wrong guy again … has she? D’Onofrio does a great job as someone just slightly out of synch with the way people are supposed to behave in our time.

IL MARE (2000) is the Korean film remade as the Sandra Bullock/Keanu Reaves The Lake House, and I think I prefer it (though I do like the remake too). As in the later film, two people living in the same house two years apart discover they can send mail to each other, fall in love, and try to arrange a meeting. It appears, at the climax, that everything’s gone horribly wrong, but is it really too late?

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I rode myself hard and hung myself up—wait, does that sound right? (#SFWApro)

It was a week that did not go as I planned.

I submitted my first Screen Rant article, and then my second, but they both took way longer than wanted. And that required really pushing myself, hence the title. I need to trim the time down, and I need to relax and have more fun with the writing too. I love comics, which makes it easy; I’m working under a tight deadline and specific format requirements which makes me veer serious. I did better with the second one though (I’ll post a link when it’s up), so hopefully next week will be better yet.

I have my History article on tractors 80 percent done, and I should be able to get it out next week. So yay!

And I started indexing Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast for a Createspace edition. If I’m going to go hard-copy, it should have an index. Annoyingly, I found one minor error in the intro, so I have to correct the ebook too. I’ll wait to see if I find any more — indexing is good for that.

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But I got almost no fiction written, which is not yay. That’s happened before and not that long ago — back last year when I was wrapping up Now and Then We Time Travel, for instance. However, I don’t want to be doing that now, if I can help it. I enjoy nonfiction (obviously. I’ve written enough of it), but fiction is the reason I write. And I do want to get two more drafts of Southern Discomfort in this year. So like I said, I’d better get more efficient.

I am pleased that despite the rush to finish up Screen Rant #2, I made time for essential stuff like exercise, and making sourdough bread while the dogs were in doggy day-care on Thursday. It’s important not to let even demanding deadlines roll over normal life, if I can possibly help this (and if I want to do Screen Rant regularly, I have to help it). I was sufficiently rushed I forgot adding the salt to the dough (sourdough buckwheat bread) but that’s easy to fix with a little salt sprinkled on each slice. It’s an easy mistake — I’ve done it before when I was rushed.

I’ll close with a shot of some dead leaves I took this week. It symbolizes … well, whatever you want. Free symbol! Please credit me if you want to use it.

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