Category Archives: Short Stories

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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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Sherlock Holmes, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

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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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

As expected, a slight drop in productivity

As I’ve mentioned frequently in this week-in-review posts, if I’m performing way above average or way below average the odds are that by random chance I’ll do less well the following week. When I’m at my very best it’s just easier to drop to a lower level than stay at the top. That’s the nature of averages.

So unsurprisingly, this wasn’t as good a week as the previous two. For one thing I gave myself Wednesday off: I had to take the car in for annual inspection and checkup and decided I’d just bring a book rather than my computer. Then I kept reading that afternoon. It felt good, so no regrets. We also had the housekeepers in Thursday. I thought we’d be dealing with the new dishwasher Tuesday but that fell through — there’s a part that was out (supply chain issues) so we’re rescheduled for a couple of weeks.

My dizziness continues but at a much reduced level so my daily exercises are apparently fixing things or buying time for them to fix themselves. I could drive safely to the car place and back so that’s good enough. I’m sticking with exercises that do not involve heavy head-jerking for now, though.

This week’s big breakthrough was figuring out the problem with the ending of Oh the Places You’ll Go! My new ending, with everyone in the future world of 2015, works much better though it does need some fixing and editing. I also figured out that the problem with Adventure of the Red Leech is the third quarter: there’s a lot of necessary exposition but no tension, nothing to up the stakes. I don’t quite know how to fix it yet, though.

Other than that, it was mostly Leafs, plus a new client asking for similar business articles. Better paying per article but not as many articles available.

And I had to resolve a problem with a couple of missing photos from the set I sent in as illustrations for The Aliens Are Here. All taken care of now.

All in all, not bad for the last week of the month. Month-in-review post will come next week.

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

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals

I keep thinking there’s a deathtrap here somewhere …

No, everything went great this week — in fact, that’s the point. I keep feeling there has to be a catch, and I’ll suddenly find myself in peril mortal, like Batman in this Carmine Infantino cover.

Of course that’s not true. Practically speaking a really great week is just another variation of returning to the mean — sheer random luck means I’m bound to have a terrific week eventually. Yet it also feels more than that. For the past couple of  years — maybe three or four — it’s felt like my fiction was floundering. I couldn’t seem to finish anything. I seriously wondered if I’d just lost some kind of mojo.

Apparently not because this week the fiction went great. I completed the current very rough rewrite draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I did another draft of Adventure of the Red Leech and it looks surprisingly good. Plus a draft of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and that looks good too — though I’m still not sure the ending is what I want it to be.

Perhaps it’s simply that I’m much more focused at the moment. Even before nonfiction ate up all last year, I was putting in a lot of time on Undead Sexist Cliches and dividing the rest of my time between multiple different projects. This month my fiction goals are Impossible and the two short stories (I’m also proofing Questionable Minds but the writing is done). Perhaps that makes a difference.

So I’m feeling quite pleased with myself. Of course things could still go cattywampus when I start the next drafts of any of them, but maybe they won’t. For the moment my biggest problem is figuring out how to adjust my schedule for all the time I didn’t use on the novel. Should I give myself time off? Start a new short story (I can’t see myself starting the next draft yet)? Put more time into reviewing Southern Discomfort? This week I used the leftover hours for a couple more submissions, to do a little research and simply to check out various web pages I’d bookmarked as interesting. Next week, who knows?

And of course productive writing time doesn’t equate to sales. I sent out two stories this week but I also got my third rejection of the month back. I haven’t sold anything so far this year, though perhaps as the number of finished stories grows, that will change.

Either way, this week felt great.

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This week was pleasantly easy

Leaf articles are on a lull so I could work on my own projects. And most of those went smoothly.

I completed the 25,000 words I wanted to add to Impossible Takes a Little Longer this month, in large part because I was at a point where I could reuse a lot of older material, just in a different place in the book (I’ll be discussing this next week in more detail). I’m not entirely sure the last 5,000 words will stay in the final manuscript but I so love the telepathic dog I hated to cut him. I’m a softie on dogs, y’know? I intend to keep working on the book this month, though some of the allotted time may go to other projects.

I began work rewriting my first published story, The Adventure of the Red Leech (I discussed the reasons why here). I have one major problem, I have no idea how Holmes defeats the supernatural at the climax without telegraphing the ending in advance (e.g., if Holmes put silver bullets into a revolver, you’d know the werewolf was going to buy it). On the other hand, the mystery plot is starting to make sense, so I have hope it will all fall into place.

I got 3,500 words into the final (or almost) draft of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and I can see improvement already. If I can finish it this month I will be very happy.

As an experiment, I swapped Chapter Two and Chapter One of Southern Discomfort around. This has the advantage of introducing Maria up front, which makes it clear she’s the central character (albeit it’s still an ensemble cast, not a star vehicle). There’s more tension than in Chapter One, which is a lot lower key. On the downside, there’s no real hint of what’s going on and little evidence of a supernatural presence. I will give it another look next week after my thoughts have had time to jell.

I posted two articles to Atomic Junkshop. One is about the Marvel retcon known as the Siancong War. The other is about Reed Richards and Ben Grimm serving in WW II and why that seems so unusual today (no, not just because it would make them more than 80 if it was still canon).Less satisfyingly, I sent out three stories to various markets and got two of them back. One came with a compliment that my submission was close to several things they’d already accepted so clearly I was on the right track. Unfortunately I have nothing else that fits this particular market (sigh). And a couple of magazines I approached in hopes of getting PR for Undead Sexist Cliches didn’t respond.

Not that I don’t enjoy the creative process, but it would be really nice to have something accepted by someone. Of course Aliens Are Here is under contract, but a fiction sale would be nice. A new story rather than a reprint would be even better. Though as I barely submitted anything last year, it’s understandable I haven’t gotten any results in a while. Hopefully this year will see some improvement.

#SFWApro. Comics panels by Jack Kirby, all rights to images remain with current holder.

 

 

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January 2022: How’d it go?

Pretty good, I think.

As I mentioned at the end of last year, I’m keeping my year goals fairly simple this year, mostly inspirational. Then going into specifics for monthly goals and adjusting them as I go along. Plus rewarding myself if I do well. The big reward for January was buying myself a $100 book if got 150 points (different tasks got scored differently). I came out with 138 so I rewarded myself with a $40 purchase. I should add that dangling rewards was more motivating than I expected, inspiring me to get several little tasks on the goal list finished this weekend.

The big writing one was to finish and launch Undead Sexist Cliches. I did it. I still can’t believe that I succeeded, but I did. I’m pleased. It feels really good to have a long-running project done. And to have a book out.

Secondary goals were to finish 40 Leaf articles, 25,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and the same on Oh the Places You’ll Go (as it’s a short story, this involved multiple drafts). I didn’t achieve any of them. I hit 20,000 words on the novel and the short story which is good, though. I came close to 40 Leafs but ran out of steam.

Outside of writing, I did manage to average one book or one movie a day (another goal), which has trimmed my TBR and To Be Viewed piles slightly.

I kept up my exercise regimen and bicycled at least one hour on the stationary bicycle once.

I got a bunch of little goals done: baking more bread, emptying out my safe deposit box (branch is closing so I had to move everything to a new bolt-hole), making plans for Valentine’s Day (nothing spectacular).

What didn’t I get done? Well due to the snowfall and the freezing, biting cold, most of my goals that involved taking a walk, sitting in the back yard, bicycling outside did not get done. And with Omicron still flourishing, I didn’t go anywhere or hang out with anyone.

My efforts to contribute to fighting the Anti-American Party, formerly known as Republicans, went well. Donated money to charity and to political candidates. Began writing postcards to Democratic voters encouraging them to get out and vote. We’re the majority, we can do this. However I want to find ways to contribute more.

Other than snow (you can see from the tracks that the cats really use that tarp-covered shelter on the right. I’m so happy to know it’s protecting them), the big challenge remains the added demands from all the pets. I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been if we’d been able to take the dogs for our normal long morning walk. With a little more time I might have made my fiction goals. I would definitely have gotten a few more small goals met, but they simply get squeezed out. Admittedly pushing myself to read more makes a difference there too.

For February, therefore, I’m really going to push to manage my time better. It should be doable, even though it doesn’t always feel that way. I have X amount of time assigned to various projects and I don’t have anything as demanding as Undead Sexist Cliches. That should make it easier to not go over time on any one project. I’m doing considerably more fiction, which is nice: finishing Places, another 25,000 word goal for Impossible, starting rewrites on my first published story, The Adventures of the Red Leech. I’m also going to think about possible revisions to Southern Discomfort.

My time still feels overly squished, but we shall see how it goes.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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

Nothing as exciting to blog about as this morning, sorry!

This morning, after all, I celebrated Undead Sexist Cliches launching in paperback as well as ebook. Outside of that, this week was all Leaf articles, all the time.

I got around 20 done, which is not as many as I’d planned on. Even working late Monday I still had to deal with a dermatology checkup Tuesday (a few things frozen off but apparently my skin is mostly fine). Thursday the housekeepers made their  monthly visit, which distracted the dogs even worse than usual, which of course distracted me. Today I had to drive to Sprouts for what would normally be weekend shopping. If the projections are right we’ll wake up tomorrow snowed in for the third Saturday in a row. Snow I’m okay with, but just on the weekends? What is this shit?

So the end result was too many distractions, and after each one it takes time to get my focus back, so there you are. Still, coupled with the few I did earlier this month, I’m in good shape for February I think.

And alas, both Fiddler’s Black and Impossible Things Before Breakfast came back today (my record is three rejections in a day, in case you were wondering). I’m not entirely surprised with the second rejection as I figured it didn’t quite fit their theme. Didn’t want to self-reject, however.

I’m not sure what I’ll work on Monday to wrap up the month. Leafs are done for the month so probably some work on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and a couple of new submissions.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.

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This is more like what I wanted from January

Admittedly the week wasn’t perfect. With snow arriving today, I went out and did my grocery shopping yesterday morning along with a couple of other errands. Between that and a miserable lack of sleep Wednesday night, I got very little writing accomplished. Despite that, it was an excellent week.

First off, Undead Sexist Cliches is now live in the ebook version. You can buy it on Amazon, or from Draft2Digital and from multiple other ebook retailers. I got a proof copy from Amazon and everything looks good, I just didn’t have time to complete the approval process today. However it will be available in paperback before the end of next week.

This is a little draw-dropping. I’ve been working on this thing for several years (I’m not a fast writer) and like wrapping up Aliens Are Here last year, it’s startling to realize I’m done. Finished. Ready to move on to other things. And you know, I think it’s a terrific book.

Good news the second, I’ve been accepted as a Congregate 2022 guest. It’s a Winston-Salem convention which means it’s only 90 minutes away, though I imagine I’ll stay over. Fingers crossed that covid is tame enough by then I can make it.

I rewrote Oh the Places You’ll Go again and read the first part for the writer’s group Tuesday. They were enthusiastic though some of the feedback pointed out things I really need to address. But now I feel it’s also on the bring of finishing — it needs some rewriting but I think the story is solid enough it won’t need more.

I put in some time on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and it went well. I got past one plot stumbling block, though it may come back to bite me later. I also made some major changes to KC’s trip to Dallas and the Stardians that I think greatly improve that section of the book.

I pitched article ideas based on Aliens Are Here to both Tor.com and the SFWA blog. I also posted two more articles to Atomic Junk Shop. One marks the Black Knight’s appearance in Eternals by looking at his Silver Age appearances (including the scene above) the other looks back at the god-awful 1967 Casino Royale. Though it does boast a wild poster.As the Leaf articles just started up for January, I don’t know if I’ll get any more fiction written. A solid week of Leafs, plus the ones I did this week, should take care of my bills for February, which is good. But either way here’s to next week being just as productive.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, comics illustration by George Tuska, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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