Category Archives: Short Stories

It is the little rift within the lute, that by and by will make the music mute

(title taken from Alfred, Lord Tennyson). Which is to say, small problems can grow into big ones, which explains some of why my weeks feel like suet.

In theory, I take an hour for lunch. That includes walking the dogs (or co-walking if TYG’s available), eating and then reading, relaxing or doing useful around-the-house stuff. This works out fine if lunch hour is 11-12, but due to TYG’s new schedule, we frequently walk the dogs around 10-10:15. I’m not ready for lunch, but instead of relaxing after walkies I just go back to walk, intending to make it up when I sit and eat. Only instead I do the equivalent of eating at your desk — eat (taking my time, I note), then get back to work.(No, that cover has no thematic connection to my post, I’m just fond of it).

The result is that I don’t take much of a lunch break. Then around 2 PM I burn out for the day. This is not unusual: I’ve had the same experience in the past when I keep pushing without a pause. “I’ll get it all done, then break” isn’t as effective for me as regular small breaks. So I need to remind myself to take a full break at lunch, even if it’s chopped up into separate pieces.

That said, the week went well. I finished my rewrite and proofing of Southern Discomfort and read the first chapter to my writing group. The verdict: Starting with Maria’s story and putting it in first person really improved it. They made several other suggestions, such as giving readers her name sooner and making it clearer this is a fantasy; I made those corrections the next day and mailed it off. Wish me luck. Even if it doesn’t sell, it’s a better book for the added work.

I also completed another draft of The Adventure of the Red Leech. I think it’s done, so I’ll print it up next week and go over it in hard copy. That should get me a solid final draft and spot any typos. After that, off to the Holmes anthology I’m submitting to. Plus I once again submitted Fiddler’s Black to the umpteenth market.

And over at Atomic Junkshop, I ponder the appeal of trains and models as kids’ toys. I didn’t get it as a kid, still don’t get it now.

#SFWApro. Cover art by Dick Dillin, all rights remain with current holder.

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Filed under Sherlock Holmes, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

The week that dropped out of time

As far as writing goes, this was a waste of a week.

For starters, I’d forgotten I had my six month medical checkup Monday morning, so there went all that writing time. On the plus side, everything checks out good, so that’s a win.

As TYG wrapped up her last week at her old job (as I mentioned this mornning), the amount of work she put into prepping her team ramped up. So more doggy care and running errands (if they had to be run) devolved to me. Which is fair — she did as much for me when I was wrapping up The Aliens Are Here — but still exhausting. Even when I had time to write, I felt too drained to get much done.

And I had to rewrite one of the Accounting Seed articles I’d done earlier this month. Perfectly reasonable, but that much more time.

I did get a good deal further in rewriting Southern Discomfort, though nowhere near as far as I’d expected. I also rewrote Adventure of the Red Leech and read it to the writer’s group on Tuesday. They really liked it, but did have a couple of suggestions how to improve things. For example, give more of Watson’s perspective on Holmes, which is, of course, a major part of the original stories. They also spotted one point where the logic didn’t hold up, but it’s fixable.

I’d thought I might make up a little time today but we had a thunderstorm this morning so Plushie was freaking. While he hid under the coffee table some of the time (as in this photo from a couple of weeks back), he also decided to climb up with me and demand cuddles for security. Cuddling a 20 pound dog is not compatible with work but obviously I wasn’t going to refuse.

This is how things go pearshaped, of course. A day here, a day there and suddenly everything’s behind. But TYG has started a new and better job and that’s a great thing.

#SFWApro. Cover by Irwin Hasen, all rights remain with current holder.

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Filed under Personal, Sherlock Holmes, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

Trixie is adorable. Her tummy, not so much

Wednesday, Trixie once again woke up with a bad tummy. Felt bad, didn’t want to eat, not even her favorite treats. She insisted on coming down to sit with me so my morning plans went out the window. When she started throwing up later, we took her to Park Vet where they gave her an anti-nausea shot. They told us not to feed her until Thursday so I spent evening with Trixie looking around for her food every time I gave Plushie anything. Then looking at me in puzzlement.

Thursday morning, her tummy continued, which is not unprecedented. I had to skip stretching again because it’s not possible to do yoga or any sort of exercise when a small dog insists on snuggling with you. Happily by afternoon she was completely back to normal and this morning I got a full slate of stretching and yoga in.

Despite all that, and a couple of other unanticipated errands I put in a solid week of work.

More on the rewrite of Southern Discomfort.

Another article for the Accounting Seed website.

Another 3,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I got past the stumbling block I hit last week, but the changes I made still leave me unclear about what comes next. Still, my instincts have been sound so far.

I finished another draft of Adventure of the Red Leech and it’s looking quite good. I’ll be reading it to my writing group in about a week and a half. I also realized they might be right about Don’t Pay the Merryman (soon to be retitled) when they said the first section would work perfectly well if it had a better ending. I’d like to tell a longer tale and someday I hope I do, but for now I’m going to try cutting it short. I took my first shot at an ending; I’ll give it another go soon.

And I’ve picked the cover for Questionable Minds. I’ll do the requisite cover reveal soon as it’s settled.

Today I was a little exhausted; TYG and I are doing some stuff later so I had to front-load my schedule to get everything in and free up this afternoon. But I succeeded, actually coming in slightly over my required hours. Yay me.

This weekend, though, I intend to crash thoroughly.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

A good week, though not because of writing

This was not a wildly productive week, but I anticipated that. Today, you see, I set aside time to give blood; after I got back, I knew I wouldn’t be feeling creative. It’s the double-dosage donation though, so I won’t be back until  September.

Wednesday, also planned, we went to the North Carolina Zoo. TYG got us memberships as an anniversary gift in 2019 but our anniversary is the summer — way too hot — and the fall got crazy. Then came the pandemic. So it’s been a while. It’s laid out very well, with large enclosures for herds and animal families and lots of walking — it’s been a long time since I walked six miles on one day. Above, a hellbender; below, a puffin.It was a great day. It turns out I can turn down the noise in my mind  and focus when I have something this cool to pay attention to. And it’s always good to see that TYG and I can still spend hours together and enjoy it. The dogs went to a local day-boarding place for the first time in two years; I was quite tickled the staff remember them. But hey, they are awesome.

Somewhere in there, I did get work done. I sent off two short stories and two nonfiction queries on Monday and revamped Undead Sexist Cliches so that the paperback version now has a table of contents (I’d screwed up and omitted it). Amazon is currently reviewing the text for problems so I’ll have to link to the ebook for now.

Tuesday was the day to bat out about 5,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It turned out to be the day that got nibbled to death by distractions. A dead animal in the driveway that TYG asked me to remove. A spider in the house (ditto). And driving the car to get the tires checked before our 90 minute drive to the zoo. Plus it turns out that I simply sketched the plot of the next few chapters, figuring it would be much like it was in the last draft. Due to the changes in the first 25,000 words, it’s not going to fly. So not much done.

I had better luck Thursday with Adventure of the Red Leech. Going over it, I found my plot holds together much better than I thought. Rewriting shouldn’t be too hard. I didn’t get as far as I expected this week, though. First, I was still tired from our hike Wednesday. Second, I discovered Oh the Places You’ll Go!, which has been at the magazine I submitted to for around two months, wasn’t being strongly considered — they rejected it the first week but didn’t say so (possibly now that they’re using Moksha they expect everyone to check for themselves). That put me in a very unenthused mood for a couple of hours.

But it’s a good week, regardless. We must make an effort to do more fun stuff like this.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

As predicted, returning to average (maybe better).

As I said last week, bad streaks don’t last any more than lucky ones. While this wasn’t a stellar week, I did get quite a bit done.

Most notably I finished the first 25,000 words of my Impossible Takes a Little Longer rewrite and it’s surprisingly good. The surprising part is that after rewriting the first few chapters it goes in several new directions. That’s usually the point at which my rewriting breaks down and becomes a struggle. Instead it’s moving along nicely. A long way from polished, but a solid draft. I added about 12,000 words to what I’d already accomplished.

I also put in a little time on my Southern Discomfort rewrite. Still going well, and putting Maria’s scenes in first person still feels like the right choice.

That was pretty much it other than some Leaf bill-paying work. And getting a rejection on Glory That Was (sigh).  On the plus side, I sold something at Amazon, though I can’t yet see which book it was (I hate that about their publishing system). Oh, and over at Atomic Junkshop I squeeze one last blog post out of rereading 1964’s comics. As you can see from the above Wally Wood illustrations, it involves Daredevil vs … a matador? Plus a remarkable Superman story. Then I cross-posted an old one from this blog, on the travesty of the Will Smith/Kevin Costner Wild Wild West reboot.

In my persona life, I got the second Covid booster Tuesday. Arm hurt way more than previous shots but no other negative effects. Regrettably it didn’t hook my brain up to 5G internet either. Just think how easy it would be to download porn if nobody could see it! And my vertigo has decreased to the point I have only one more physical therapy appointment, a month from now.

In addition to all that, I would have liked to work on the short stories I’m working to finish. Falling behind on a novel, however, usually works out worse.

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

 

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The work went well, the numbers vanished

So part of my improved time management this year is budgeting X hours for various projects, given what I have available. This month, for example, it’s 40 for Leaf and other nonfiction, 25 for Impossible Takes a Little Longer and 10 hours on rewriting Southern Discomfort.

Somewhere since the first of the month, the list vanished. But I can’t blame the Time Commander, I think it’s safe to say I Cut without Pasting. I remember some, but not all of the time plan so it’s not serious. However there were a couple where I had to make hard choices so I’m sure it will throw off my planning a little. Plus I just hate being that sloppy.

This week, though, went very well. I rewrote around 11,000 words of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. The changes I’ve made have improved things hugely—more action/pausing instead of looooong pauses. The little details of worldbuilding and character are falling into place better too. Of course there’s tens of thousands of words to go but hopefully I’ll be able to keep building from here. Fingers crossed.

I put in a couple of hours rewriting Southern Discomfort. The first person voice for Maria’s sections makes more of a difference than I thought. She’ s much more intense and, I think, a little more sympathetic. That should help. Enough? We’ll see when I send it out again.

I had a 1700 word article on financial statements for one of my paying clients. That took up Wednesday.

No short-story work this week. By the time I finished up on Thursday my brain was fried from working intensely, coupled with sitting with the dogs every day this week while TYG tackles a big project. Plus I spent part of my downtime writing Be Sure To Vote postcards for Activate America (if you want to help push back against the looming spread of fascism, this is one way)

So Friday I went with relatively low-intensity stuff. I spent the morning submitting multiple stories so once again everything is out, plus a couple of reprint stories. Fingers crossed for some success here too. The afternoon I did some promotional research: bookstores that I could ask to host a signing, sources for promotional bookmarks (these come highly recommended as a marketing tool), updating the About Me and Published Nonfiction pages of the blog (nothing new in fiction in a while, alas).

And now the weekend. One reason my mind was tired was that I put in extra work at the end of the day to get blog posts written for next week, both her and for Atomic Junkshop (here’s my two latest, on sexist heroes and dropping a comics series). That way I won’t have to get on my computer on the weekend and do them, which should lead to a more relaxed two days, more time to read, etc. We will see.

#SFWApro. Cover by Gil Kane (t) and Mike Sekowsky, all rights remain with current holders.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

A cover reveal and thoughts on goals

Much to my surprise — they hadn’t told me — McFarland has already picked a cover for The Aliens Are Here. I’m not sure what the illustration is from, because it’s not one of the ones I submitted for the book. But that’s fine, because it looks fabulous and captures the tone better than anything I would have chosen.

This was a good week for writing. I put in a lot of work rewriting Don’t Pay the Merryman (oh, it so needs a better title) and read the first section for the writing group. They loved it; now I just have to get the rest of the story up to that level. Several people said the section would work fine as itself if I strengthen the character arcs, so I’ll think about that option.

I rewrote The Adventure of the Red Leech and finally fixed the plot. Holmes is able to crack the mystery and thwart the killer without having to conveniently have a suitable mystic talisman (the rather hand-wave finish of the original published version). Still needs work, but it’s getting there.

I’ve also considerably reworked the plot of Impossible Takes A Little Longer and I’m pleased with it. No more long stretches of talk without compensating action. I managed to restore a lot of the characters who fell out of the previous draft — Rachel Chang, Darla Jeffries — and I think some of the key turning points are better placed. I shall start the next draft this month, with 25,000 words as the minimum goal. Plus fixing the remaining plot issues later in the book.

I didn’t achieve as much on my writing goals (or others) as I wanted to. I keep setting a goal to be more aware of local politics but I just can’t seem to make time. I did, however, send off another 60 postcards encouraging people around the country to vote (while this isn’t the exact link, you can find opportunities to help out here). I didn’t finish Red Leech or get Don’t Pay the Merryman as far along as I wanted. But the goals were ambitious enough to push me: everything’s progressing, even if it’s not as fast as I’d like. There are times when no matter how much I rewrite a story, I end up not improving. That’s not the case now. So setting the goals is doing the job it’s supposed to.

Oh, and I finished the tax forms. Now it’s just a matter of signing them and mailing them out. Once again I made a mistake in the write-off for our HSA, which upped our taxable income by $5,000. I caught that today, so yay!

Overall, I did complete enough goals to reward myself by buying the second Epic Iron Man Collection, which runs from midway through his time in Tales of Suspense through the launch of his own series (Gene Colan provides the cover).

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

 

 

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Thwacked by Thursday, a good week otherwise

I don’t know what it was that made me feel so unenthused about writing Thursday but something definitely did. I got some work done rewriting Southern Discomfort (I think it’s going well) but couldn’t nudge myself to do anything else.

It probably reflects that last weekend got hectic. First we attended a potluck, which was fun but I’m still having trouble scheduling around in-person social events. Then Sunday night the dogs underwent massive puking, then during the day, so there were vet visits, laundry to do and general disruption. Happily they’re fine now — whatever got into them has apparently passed out.

Thursday aside, it was a productive week. I finished Oh the Places You’ll Go and submitted it to Fantasy & Science Fiction, which is one of the few places that takes 9,000-plus stories. Plus it’s a prestige market I’ve been bouncing off (rejections with encouragement to write more) for years, so it’s often my first stop.

I finished the next draft of Don’t Pay the Merryman. The ending still doesn’t make sense, though; all the pieces of the story are there but I can’t make them add up to a coherent climax, nor figure out how my protagonists, Maud and Prudence, get out in one piece. Obviously I could have them die but I’m opting for life.

I put in some really good work replotting the first quarter (approximately) of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Just by making Sarah the target of one of the attacks instead of my protagonist, KC (AKA the superhero Champion),  I was able to increase the amount of action and make things less talky. However things apparently wrap up at the end of this section: Lahatiel the fake angel is down, there’s no other imminent threat, just a few loose ends. The obvious fix is to let the villain behind Lahatiel take a hand but I’m not sure what sort of hand he should take. I can figure it out though.

And today I did my taxes. Going to give them one more going over, then they go off.

I shall leave you with an image of Plushie in one of his favorite sports, rolling in leaves.#SFWApro.

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Dizziness, dishwashers, dogs and doom! Well, except for the doom

Yes the post title’s daft, but I can’t overcome my affection for Silver Age Marvel alliterative titles like “The Agony and the Anthill.”

First the dizziness: hasn’t gone away. Got very bad Monday, which may reflect that I’d just gotten off the anti-nausea meds. By today it’s back to manageable levels. Still sucks; I have a physical therapy session Monday as that can sometimes speed up the recovery.

Second, the dishwasher: once again we have been denied our wonderful, gleaming new energy efficient dishwasher. The delivery crew a couple of weeks back — the first failed attempt — didn’t tell us we needed to have the electrical outlet under our current dishwasher removed so the new one would fit (the junction box will go to the side, under the sink). And they weren’t electricians so back it went to the warehouse again. The service center assured us if we got an electrician in we could have the dishwasher installed a couple of days later. When I called back after making the electrician appointment, they now told me nope, not until March 22nd, period. So I canceled the electrician and will reschedule closer to the date. I am very, very unimpressed by Home Depot so far.

And then there’s the dogs. TYG’s schedule required much extra dog care on my part this week. That wouldn’t have been so bad except the weather turned cold and Wisp started coming in during the day. Dealing with three pets is invariably more complicated, particularly as Trixie gets a little jealous if I don’t give her lots of petting too. And Wisp, instead of sleeping out the way on the back of the couch——insisted on sitting in my lap which is way more distracting. Especially when my leg winds up wedged between her and Trixie.

Work went okay, but not much beyond okay. I corrected one of the articles I wrote for a new client, did several Leafs and submitted one short story. I did some more research reading on urban fantasy and worked a little on Don’t Pay the Merryman. I also got another couple of chapters done on my Southern Discomfort rewrite. That was about it — the dizziness and the dishwasher frustration made Tuesday pretty much a wash.

Oh, but I did have a couple of Atomic Junkshop posts out — one on Marvel at the end of 1964, one on why superhero teams took 30 years to become a big deal.

#SFWApro. Cover by John Buscema, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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

Surprisingly, things are still going well

Another good, productive week. Somewhat hampered by insomnia reaching peak Wednesday morning but that night and last night I slept fine. Also hampered by added dog care while TYG worked on a special project, but things still went well.

I sat down and read through Impossible Takes a Little Longer and noted the strengths, weaknesses and problems a as I went. A big part of the problems with this draft is that I eliminated several fight scenes that no longer fit. Trouble is that changes the pace from fight/talk/fight/talk to fight/talk/talk/talk. I will need to fix that, along with several other things. I got started on the outline and made a few changes; by the end of the month I should have enough changes outlined to start the next draft.

I tinkered with the ending of Oh the Places You’ll Go and redrafted Adventure of the Red Leech. I think the plot is mostly there but a lot of details need polishing. I also took a look at a story I haven’t glanced it in a year, titled (for want of any other ideas) Don’t Pay the Merryman.  Much to my surprise my first draft looks much, much better than the fourth and most recent — more plot, more action, stronger characters. For various reasons I’d wanted to age the protagonist and her friends out of teenhood but kids work better for the emotional beats. I still need to make sense of the bad guy’s magic powers because they’re at the incoherent whatever-the-plot-needs level right now. A shame, since they’re also creepy as shit, but I want it coherent as well.

I finished another financial article for the new client I mentioned last week. This was on the benefits of using automated accounting. I’m getting the hang of the format fairly fast so this took much less time than the last one.

Oh, and I’ve been remiss keeping up with my posts at Atomic Junkshop. We have one about the Martian Manhunter and his shift from Detective Comics to House of Mystery; one on the classic Le Carré novel The Spy Who Came In From the Cold; and two posts (first and second) about Silver Age Batman.

I did get another rejection but it was from a market I was pretty sure would say no — the story doesn’t quite fit their What We Want but I saw no reason to self-reject.

And now the weekend! Have fun everyone.

#SFWApro. Cover by Joe Cerna, all rights to image remain with current holder.

 

 

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