Category Archives: Short Stories

Rethinking the scope

Despite Plushie’s problems this week and the related exhaustion, it was productive. Got my Leafs done. Got almost to the end of Chapter Eight of Undead Sexist Cliches (I’m pleased I didn’t try to force a finish and took breaks when I needed to). Added several extra examples to the earlier chapters, such as Gregg Easterbrook arguing the woman saying no doesn’t make it rape — she has to say something like “This is rape!” which will make guys stop (I am … skeptical) and is completely unambiguous. As noted at the link, if people refuse to accept an unambiguous no, why wouldn’t they think a woman says “rape!” when she means yes?

I got two rejections Wednesday but at least one of them was a nice “We liked it but we don’t have room.” That’s encouraging. But sigh, not a sale.

And I watched multiple movies for Alien Visitors, which has forced me to reconsider just how much work I need to put in. My initial thought was that with one movie/TV show/movie series to watch per chapter, this would be relatively low-intensity. But this week, for the ET pregnancy chapter, I watched Village of the Damned, Children of the Damned, the 1995 Village remake and started on 2019’s School of the Damned (I’ll get to the reviews in the next week or two). Plus writing the chapter. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I may need to do more and watch more than I’d initially thought. It’s true, The Astronaut’s Wife will be noted in the appendix rather than the heart of the chapter, but will seeing it help me understand the subgenre better? What about the excellent TV movie The Stranger Within? I don’t have the time to watch everything in every chapter but how much do I need to place a movie in context?

I’m confident I’ll figure it out, though this may be more demanding than I thought. But fortunately, even with an October deadline next year I should be able to get the work done without blowing off any of my other projects. Fingers crossed.

#SFWApro. All rights to image from 1960 Village of the Damned remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies, Nonfiction, Short Stories, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

A somewhat chaotic week, but a productive one.

Although today was pretty much a mess.

I got about a third of the way through the abortion/birth control chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. I watched E.T. for Alien Visitors, as well as the special features on the DVD (I usually skip them when it’s a Netflix DVD, but they proved useful for my Aliens and Children chapter). I got my Leafs done, and a little bit of work on Questionable Minds. I also got word that No One Can Slay Her made it out of the slush pile to the second round of reviews and so did Southern Discomfort at Baen Books. Neither of which means a sale — I know that from experience — but still, that’s good news. And I sold a couple of copies of Sex For Dinner, Death for Breakfast in a discussion of Bond on FB.

The dogs, however, ate up quite a bit of time. I took care of them Wednesday while TYG was working on something demanding and they proved, as they often do, a distraction (they’re much quieter sitting with her in the bedroom). Then early this morning, Plush dog woke up in some sort of pain, and wandered around the bedroom, with his back legs giving out a couple of times. As TYG had been up late and needed sleep, I took Plushie down with me to the living room (I was already up — bad night of sleep again). Normally I’d have tried drifting back to sleep but while Plushie seemed fine I was worried enough that I couldn’t bring myself to sleep. And caring for him meant I didn’t get any early morning work done, nor did I exercise. The rest of the day I was pretty dazed; I managed to finish my Leafs for the week, then it was pretty much sleep and blogging. I’ll be taking him to the vet later today. Prayers appreciated that it’s something simple to fix and definitely not seriously threatening.

Oh, and I published a blog post on Atomic Junkshop about the insane, illogical plot of Avengers #60 which worked for me as a teen but looks more ridiculous every time I reread it. But the John Buscema art never stops looking good, like this shot of the wedding reception.#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

1 Comment

Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

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.

2 Comments

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

Say goodbye to July, hello August

So I accomplished 55 percent of my goals for July, though very few of them were writing goals. Between Leaf and Undead Sexist Cliches I got very little done on anything else. Next month I need to manage my time much better; I took Wednesday off precisely to think about what comes next.

  • Undead Sexist Cliches get top priority, though not 100 percent of my time. It’s the “eat the frog” approach — proofing it is the toughest job ahead and I’ll be happy when it’s done.
  • I need to start work on the Alien Visitors book for McFarland as it has an actual not-just-personal deadline. I’d hoped to finish Undead Sexist Cliches and Questionable Minds first, but as that’s not going to happen …
  • The final proof of Questionable Minds comes next.
  • The rewrite of Impossible Takes a Little Longer is third place.
  • And getting back to short stories comes after that.
  • I also need to read more on marketing and make some plans for my self-published stuff. The joy is in writing it, not promoting it, but if I don’t market, nobody reads and nobody pays me. Both would be desirable.

That may prove ambitious but I’m not setting my total accomplishment in any of those so absurdly high it’s unattainable. I have alternate goals depending when Leaf, which wrapped up the most recent cycle this week, starts up again.

To achieve them I really need to take breaks regularly during the day. It’s very easy to get locked in until I get just that one little extra section/chapter done, maybe five more minutes … and then I look up and it’s been an hour. I’d be fresher if I took the break with the section/chapter unfinished and came back to it. And fresher will make me more productive at day’s end.

I’m also spending some of my break time to pet Wisp. Sometimes she doesn’t want it and swats at my hand; other times she can sit there for five minutes, almost dozing while I stroke her. We’ll have to take her in to the vet next month; hopefully it won’t set back our relationship too much.

Oh, I did get one thing done I can link to: a post at Atomic Junkshop on sexy movies of my teen years. Like this mesmerizing poster.

To celebrate the ongoing struggle to finish stuff, I’ll wrap up with this Powers cover. Because it’s always good to include a Powers cover.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

 

Leave a comment

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

Little baby steps feel better than crawling

Which is to say that while I haven’t brought anything to a conclusion any more than I did last week, I made enough progress I feel more satisfied.

On Oh the Places You’ll Go, for instance, switching to 1972 as the “present” works as well as I’d hoped. For the first time I feel like I’ve got a stronger plot without sacrificing the character dynamic and the McGuffin is actually something interesting. There’s still a lot of stuff to sort out on the next draft, but I’m confident the story is there.

On Undead Sexist Cliches I actually finished proofing the introduction. That’s a very small piece of the book, but it still feels like an accomplishment, as opposed to stopping somewhere mid-chapter.

I didn’t get quite as much done on Impossible Takes a Little Longer but the outline for the next draft is firming up. There’s a couple of points that have me baffled but I’m hopeful I’ll crack them by the end of the month. I’ll probably be batting out a second chapter early next week in case I’m called on to read at Tuesday’s writers’ group (I’m only one of the backups, but if anyone doesn’t show …)

While the Leaf article pipeline has been erratic, I finished several articles so I’m contributing to the family bottom line again.

I got another short story back with “we liked it but …” compliments and it’s now out again. As I said last week, it’s frustrating to come close and miss, but I’m in a good enough mood today I’m more inclined to accept the compliments.

Oh, and following up on my review of first season Star Trek, I posted about what everyone gets wrong about Kirk over at Atomic Junkshop.Still feeling a little cabin-fevery; having no meetings of any sort this week didn’t help. Neither did the drenching rain keeping us indoors Monday through Wednesday. But until I’m more comfortable going places casually (I’m still very wary), there’s not a lot of options for changing things up. All things considered though, my life is still very good.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, TV, Writing

Everything in motion but nowhere near the finish line

On the whole this was a frustrating week, though part of that’s the cabin fever I was talking about this morning. However it did have one huge upside, which is that yesterday, TYG and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. This is, of course, a cool thing in itself, especially in the current crisis: I’m not alone and we don’t drive each other crazy, even with all the extra time we’re spending together. Plus I actually went out and got takeout from a local restaurant last night. We haven’t been out to eat since Valentine’s Day; my birthday and TYG’s were both spent safe at home. I’m a good cook so I don’t mind eating at home usually but it really felt good to indulge in a large pizza last night, followed by cheesecake (chocolate flourless torte for TYG).

So not such a bad week after all. And I did pet Wisp.

But things were still frustrating. For one thing I got two short stories back today. One was just a form-letter “no” which didn’t surprise me — I wasn’t at all sure my story was a good fit but I didn’t want to self-reject (as they say). The other was a disappointment: they’d told me back in December that I’d been shortlisted and I hadn’t heard since; I emailed them today to check and they wrote back (with apologies for not doing so sooner) that no, while they liked the story quite a bit, it just (drum roll) didn’t fit their needs. In some ways it’s more frustrating to come close and miss, though it’s happened to me quite a bit (nine times out of 10 getting shortlisted turns out to be the kiss of death).

The other source of frustration is that while I worked on several projects this week (plus some Leaf articles) and it was mostly productive, none of them are anywhere near finished. I’m editing the final draft of Questionable Minds but only part of the way through. I fixed the footnotes of the first two chapters of Undead Sexist Cliches and put them into a standardized format, plus starting the final draft but it’s barely a fraction of what has to be done. And I worked on redrafting Oh the Places You’ll Go! and I like the changes, but again, it’s slow going.

The biggest accomplishment was that I did some replotting on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and fixed, I think, a number of problems.

So not a bad week, but it would be nice to wrap something up or, you know, sell a story. Still, I’m better off than whoever lived here, so that’s something.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

1 Comment

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

Have you ever thought about becoming an intracranial bleeder for fun and profit?

So about a year ago I did a video for Medscape as The Man With Low Testosterone (they’re training videos for doctors to learn how to handle various situations with patients). Today I did another one, as Herman, a man with horrible headaches (caused, I believe by intracranial bleeding, though Herman doesn’t know that) who doesn’t want to go to the E/R. We did this by Zoom so I spent a lot of time yesterday finding a spot in the house where I could film myself against a white wall. Eventually I settled on putting a step ladder in the downstairs bathroom doorway and putting my computer on top of it.

The taping went quite quickly (they were very pleased) and their direction was good; the biggest problem was that I woke up this morning with a slight headache and couldn’t get the idea I had intracranial bleeding out of my mind. That aside I feel as pleased as — well, a young comic book intern!Going over the script before the filming took up more time than expected but the pay is good, so I’m not complaining. Besides that, let’s see …

I got some more Leaf articles done. Last time I was working on them it was early in the pandemic and I found it a real slog. Apparently I’ve adjusted because this batch went down smooth.

I worked on rethinking both The Impossible Takes a Little Longer and Oh The Places You’ll Go! rather than just rewriting and pantsing yet another draft. Don’t get me wrong, the only way I can do early drafts is by winging it, but these have reached the point I need a thorough plot first. Both went well, though not as far along as I wanted.

I continued editing my hard copy of Questionable Minds and I finished the latest draft of Undead Sexist Cliches. Next week I start correcting in hard copy. Reading marketing material I learned I should have started on marketing about three months ago — but if I’d done that in advance I’d have finished the pre-book marketing and wouldn’t have the work ready. So hopefully this’ll work out.

And I posted on Atomic Junkshop about the Justice League’s first story and their use of snail mail as a way to find cases to work on.

I sent out two stories, one of which came back almost immediately. It will, of course, go out again, but it would be nice to get a sale from something besides Leaf. Leaf pays better than most fiction markets I submit to, and I’m pleased with the quality of my work, but getting fiction published is a lot more personal.

I’ll close with a shot of Wisp sleeping on the carpet from the previous week. I had to work so when I got up I hoped she’d join me on the couch but this is good too. If we do bring her inside on a regular basis we won’t be able to pet her all the time so having her relax on her own is good.#SFWApro. Photo is mine; covers are by Dick Giordano (top) and Murphy Anderson and all rights remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

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

Normally I feel the other way around

I’ve noticed that in a lot of these week-in-review posts I say that while it felt like I didn’t get anything much done, when I actually write it all down, I did quite a bit. Looking over my writing goals for May, I feel the opposite: I wasn’t quite as productive as I felt I was. Not as productive on non-writing goals, either, but that’s partly still adjusting to the new status quo.

As to this specific week, it went pretty well. As TYG took part of Monday off for Memorial Day, I took it off too, something I haven’t done in a while. That felt really good; I must remember to take more holidays. However I slept wretchedly and woke up early Monday morning, which made me feel rather dazed the rest of the day.

Tuesday morning I had to visit the doctor (all well!) which consumed much of that morning. So only 3.5 days of work this week, but I managed to put in slightly more hours than that.

I redrafted Oh the Places You’ll Go! and while it still doesn’t work, I can see what it needs. This past draft I tried adding a little more adventure and danger, but I think it really needs to be a character-arc story. And it doesn’t really have a character arc as much as relationship arcs between the four core cast members, and even those arcs are a little too low-key. So that’s where I need to look at fixing it before next draft.

I got part of the way through a redraft of Laughter of the Dark. Here I really like the character development this draft, but the plot is a little weak.

And I finished Glory That Was, all ready to submit next month

I got through most of a pre-hard copy review of Undead Sexist Cliches but not all of it, which is what I wanted. This was where I got the most productivity, probably because it doesn’t require as much creative thought. And I finished a book, Before Roe v. Wade which I’ll review next week.

And I posted at Atomic Junkshop about my love of movies and the saga of writing my first one.

For the month as a whole, I know I put in plenty of time, it’s just that nothing got as finished as I wanted. Almost no work on Questionable Minds (even though my cover artist is not currently up for delivering anything, I’d like to get my edits done). No short stories finished. And Undead Sexist Cliches, as noted, remains unfinished. I suspect it’s less the distraction from the pandemic and possibly pushing to get more finished than I could.  And some of the stuff — marketing plans and related activities — are outside my usual skill set.

On the plus side, Trixie is doing so much better. Her leg occasionally gets weak, but mostly she’s bouncing around with all her old energy. It’s wonderful to see, and to know we handled everything right.

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

Leave a comment

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

Lo, there shall come furniture

I didn’t get anywhere as much done this week as I’d expected, probably about 3.5 days of actual work. Part of that was that the dilation drops from my opthalmologist Tuesday seemed to hit me harder than usual: I’d expected my eyes would be normal by afternoon but I wasn’t comfortable looking at the computer the rest of the day.

Then on Wednesday we got furniture. A few months ago, TYG had talked about replacing some of the old shelving she’s had since college with something new and pretty. I assumed she’d just given up with all the pandemic distraction but no, she hadn’t. Last weekend, a pantry arrived and we spent much of Saturday putting it together and rearranging the dining room around it.It was a lot of work, but I can’t deny it was worth it. The storage frees up a lot more space and our food stores are no longer taking up the table.

Wednesday, the second piece arrived. The good news was that it was only two pieces so we didn’t have much assembly; the bad news was that the upper half weighed more than 150 lbs so we sure as heck couldn’t put it up there ourselves. Fortunately our neighbor Eric, who’s bigger and stronger than either of us, came by (we all wore masks) and both directed us and did most of the heaving. With most of our pet treats, meds and food in the hutch (along with our small supply of booze) I was able to take some of the shelves that held that stuff and use them for my cookbooks and food-history books.I moved the plants that took up some of the shelving but I’m not satisfied with the arrangement below. I looked at ordering some shelving, but the creeping charlie is in a big, heavy pot and none of them are stable according to the reviews. As it’s hard to judge based on Internet reviews, I may just put them on a table until such time as I’m comfortable going to Home Depot or Target and checking them out physically (my ophthalmologist visit left me quite panicked so I don’t think I’m ready yet).So anyway, getting the boxes for the hutch in and putting it together consumed a lot of time, so I only had a half day of work Wednesday.

I got some more done on Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Apparently my mind has decided I should think this draft through carefully rather than just dashing it off as I usually do. I’ll trust I know what I’m doing. I also finished the redraft of Glory That Was so I’ll look for a market next week.

I went over more of Undead Sexist Cliches, prepping it before I print a hard copy for final proofing; finished a couple of Leaf articles as that source of income is back (yay!); wrote an article on Silver Age comics covers for Atomic Junkshop; and ordered the first of several reference books I’ll be buying as research for the Alien Visitors film-reference book.

Overall, pretty good. Plus I “sold” two more of the free copies of Philosophy and Fairytales (free until the end of the month, unless Smashwords extends the sale). Whoever you are out there, thanks for reading me.

#SFWApro.

1 Comment

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

Sherlock Holmes: “Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

The Holmes quote on my mug says that it’s a mistake to theorize in advance of the facts (though Holmes did that quite a bit), but I think his reason why is much more applicable to writers. In fiction it’s perfectly fine to theorize about your story (plot, character, twists) before you write it. The trouble comes when what we have in mind doesn’t work for the story on the page, but we don’t admit it.

Case in point, my original concept for No One Can Slay Her was set in the 1930s. Jenny was harboiled instead of aristocratic; her wife was a Nisei instead of a beatnik; the opening of the story involved a foreign agent putting her under a sleeping beauty-type spell.

Trouble was, as I fleshed out the main concept it didn’t hold up. The rationale for the spy enchanting Kate didn’t make sense, neither did Jenny’s response. Even after I changed the characters to their current, 1950s versions, the villain’s scheme still seemed pointlessly convoluted. So I rewrote pretty much the entire plot until it worked.

The alternative is to twist your story or your characters to suit your concept. One of the things I hated about Lost was that maintaining the mystery required massive amounts of idiot plot: Locke makes a cryptic comment about what the island wants, everyone looks thoughtful but nobody ever grills him about what, exactly he knows or intuits. In the mystery novel Have His Carcass the murderer’s plot is absurdly complicated because that’s the only way Sayers’ can justify her opening, in which Harriet Vane finds a fresh-bleeding corpse on a beach at low tide with nary a footprint around it.

Avoiding twisting can require changing the original concept, but it may be your characters or your story has to change. Every cozy mystery is built around the concept of an amateur detective investigating a mystery; as mystery novelist Barbara Ross says, that requires giving your protagonist a very good reason for investigating instead of leaving it to the cops. If you don’t have a good reason (and some novels don’t) you can’t drop the murder investigation so you have to change your character or your plot to provide one.

I had the same problem, as I’ve mentioned before, with Southern Discomfort. My protagonist Maria really didn’t have a good reason to help Olwen McAlister avenge her husband’s death, and I kept trying to find one that would make her stick around Pharisee and fight. Turns out there wasn’t, so I had her do what most normal people would do when threatened by a supernatural killer: run. Only it turns out this isn’t an option … This makes Maria considerably less heroic than I wanted, but there’s no way around it.

#SFWApro. All rights to mug image remain with current holders.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sherlock Holmes, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Writing