Category Archives: Southern Discomfort

Forging ahead, regardless of the facts

“When you write a story, you have a predetermined end in mind, and the challenge is to make the facts match the ending. This is what I call “the fictific method.” The challenge of the fictific method is to make all the facts along the way to lead to a believable result based on those facts. Unfortunately, more and more we are seeing storytellers whose goal is to reach a certain result regardless of the facts.” — Brian K. Lowe.

Lowe cites two ways this happens: 1)The writer ignores the facts they’ve’ established so that they can make the ending come out the way they want it to. 2)The storyteller establishes false facts: changes history, ignores the way things normally work, or has people behave in ways nobody normally would.

Raymond Chandler’s classic essay The Simple Art of Murder really hammers the classic British mysteries of his day over #2. Cops who don’t follow any of the established rules or use the tools at their disposal to crack the case. Or consider the murder scheme in Dorothy Sayers’ Have His Carcase: it’s an absurdly elaborate plot it’s unlikely any killer would use. But it has to be used to set up a seemingly impossible crime, a man murdered on a beach at low tide with nobody leaving footprints in the sand.

Or consider Avengers #38 (cover by Gil Kane). The Asgardian Enchantress places a love spell on Hercules to get him to attack the Avengers for her. At the end, the good guys snap Herc out of the spell, but the Enchantress still has the magical power to annihilate them. Instead, when Hercules tells her to get lost, she just walks out because … she’s in love with him and can’t bear to kill him along with the others. This comes out of nowhere; she’s shown absolutely no interest in Hercules up to that point, unlike Thor, whom she was constantly hot for. But it was the simplest way to end the story, given her Asgardian magic way outclasses the team.

Or take a scene I wrote into Southern Discomfort. After some nasty magic starts paralyzing people, I had the Pharisee County Hospital treating it as if there were a strange outbreak of stroke cases. My friend doctor and author Heather J. Frederick pointed out that strokes don’t work the way the magic did, so that wouldn’t be the diagnosis. I went back and reworked it and settled on the doctors deciding it was some kind of fast-spreading disease — which was scarier because 1973 wasn’t as prepared for epidemics as we are now.

Which is the key to making the fictific method work. If you can’t get the ending you want, given the facts of your story, either change the facts or change the ending so everything flows logically. Hopefully once it’s finally published, everyone will agree that I did.

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Putting the pieces together

Like (I imagine) a lot of writers, I’m tossing around ideas in my head even when I’m not writing. Maybe more when I’m not writing, as I’m not required to focus on anything.

A lot of it is less plots or characters than just bits of things. Opening lines. Names. Ideas. Scenes unattached to a story (particularly climaxes. I love imagining dramatic climactic confrontations). I sometimes think they’ll just float around in limbo unattached because I’m very linear in my writing: I can’t start with a scene and then write the story that leads up to it. My mind just doesn’t work that way. Lately, though, I’ve noticed I’ve been able to use several them.

Death is Like a Box of Chocolates incorporates bits of several ideas floating around in my head. A story about a small-town reporter. A female lead with the first name Pershing. The idea of a thief stealing something off a baggage carousel that turns out to be supernatural — I’ve had that floating around in my head since before security cameras were everywhere, one reason I wound up setting the story in the 1980s.

Impossible Takes a Little Longer will, if it ends up the way I anticipate, use up a scene I’ve had floating in my head for a couple of decades, which I won’t spoil here. I didn’t start from that scene and work back, it just suddenly struck me how well it would work in the book.

I’ve done this occasionally with earlier stories. Not In Our Stars But In Ourselves, one of the stories in Atoms for Peace, used a name I’d had in my head, “Elegy” Walker, though very differently from my original concept. Maria, my protagonist from Southern Discomfort, drew on an earlier character in earlier drafts, an Italian-American living in a small Southern town. The difference is so marked, I may go back and reuse that earlier version somewhere else some day (ditto a supporting character, Megan O’Donnell, who got dropped entirely).

It feels really good when I get to use up one of these ideas. Really, really good, like an itch that’s been lying there, waiting for the scratching. I’ve got maybe two more climaxes I’d really, really like to put to use — let’s hope the trend continues and I can do it before too long.

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The setting novel and me

I think of myself as writing primarily plot-centered stories, or sometimes character centered. But I’m wondering if both my last novel and my next haven’t turned into setting stories like Crazy Rich Asians and Airport.

Certainly Southern Discomfort isn’t primarily a setting story. It’s the battle of Olwen McAlister, Joan Slattery and Maria Esposito, among other characters, against Gwalchmai, the elven murderer. But Pharisee Ga. and its people are very much one of the characters. What does the death of Aubric McAlister mean to them? How are they coping with the disasters his death has unleashed? What happens if Olwen dies too? In various scenes we learn about the churches, the business set-up and Pharisee’s complicated race relations. None of this affects the plot, but I think it would be a much worse book if I didn’t include all that.

The downside is that this kind of thing can easily bog down a book instead of enriching it. My previous draft did just that. The scenes that built up the town involved way too many POV characters (one per scene, but taken over the course of the novel …) and rarely had any tension. This go-round I worked on each scene so that the characters wanted something or were worried about something. And I cut into the POV characters by making Father Michael and his brother, the mayor, the key viewpoint characters in most scenes. It still might be too sprawling and lacking in tension for potential readers (certainly it didn’t grab the agents I submitted to). But I’ve rolled my dice, so hopefully it’ll find a home somewhere.

Then we have Impossible Takes a Little Longer. This has always been partly about the weird world that results when millions of people have some sort of paranormal ability — psychically healing engines, exorcising ghosts, flying, shrugging off bullets or seeing through walls. And that includes changes to history, politics and geopolitics. Silicon Valley seceded in the early 1980s. The former British colony of Rhodesia is the psionic state of New Zimbabwe. Zohak, a monstrous figure of evil in the Shah Nameh has taken over Iran and forced the rest of the Middle East to ally against him. None of this plays a major part in the plot, though the lack of a computer revolution (“Cyberia” keeps the good tech for itself) does affect daily life (no cell phones, no social media). It’s mostly told in little references and my protagonist’s narration here and there.

Overall, though, it’s been very plot-centric: someone’s targeted KC — AKA the Champion, masked guardian of Northwest Florida — and she has to find out who before everyone she cares about is dead. Now, it seems to be changing. There’s lots more about the culture and factions of the Impossibles, the really powerful paranormals. About the changes Mayor Darla Jeffries has made to New York City. Then came the chapter I worked on Tuesday.

(Dinosaurs, conquistadors and Romans hanging out? Yes, that could easily happen in Impossible).

I’d already established the existence of the extraterrestrial Stardians (think of them as a second-string 1980s cartoon/toy line) next to Dallas, replacing a kind of alt.Comanche empire I had in the previous version (as discussed here). And that KC got a lot of help climbing out of the train wreck of her teenage years thanks to the insight of the Stardian mystic Darkbreaker. So I planned to have her talk with Darkbreaker about what’s going on, but the novel’s bad guy interrupts and takes him down.

Only now the Stardian city is getting much more elaborate and colorful and taking up a lot more space. To reach it, KC’s walking across a mile-deep chasm on a bridge that appears to be crystal and ceramic. I honestly have no idea what it’s like on the other side, but perhaps I need to explore it.

As it’s a first-person narrative I don’t have to worry about too many POV characters. However this draft could easily end up being too talky or showing too much worldbuilding. Which a lot of people like, but I usually don’t, so I’d rather not go that route.

But for the moment, I guess I’ll follow where my instinct leads.

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Two views of the 1970s

As I was a teenager during the 1970s, I have a fondness for the decade irrelevant of its actual merits. After finishing Southern Discomfort back in January, I reread one book on the decade and read a new one. They present such different perspectives they make a useful reminder that decades are not easily summed up. Black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, right-wing, left-wing, they all shape our perspective. Richard Linklatter’s acclaimed Dazed and Confused was set in 1976 when I was in high school, but its Texas students might as well have been Martians for all I connected with them.

The reread was Thomas Hine’s THE GREAT FUNK: Falling Apart and Coming Together (On a Shag Rug) In the Seventies. Hine’s view of the decade is that the repeated blows of stagflation (stagnant wages + inflation), Vietnam, Watergate and the oil crisis left America uncertain about where it was going. But for a lot of people that was an opening: if the old ways weren’t working, why not try something new instead? New styles (“The seventies weren’t about bad taste, they were about rejecting taste as yet another form of authority.”), women’s liberation, sex manuals, mysticism and interest in the paranormal (one of the decade elements I played with in Southern Discomfort), consciousness raising, fashion revolution (when the big names in fashion declared the miniskirt was dead, nobody listened), Our Bodies, Ourselves (“The book’s message is that the system has failed us, so we must come together to fix things, and our feelings while doing this are as important as the hard facts.”) and being open to people whose new direction wasn’t the same as yours. Even allowing for nostalgic bias, Hine captures a lot of what I like about the decade.

By contrast, Ron Perlstein’s  THE INVISIBLE BRIDGE: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan (one of a trilogy looking at conservatives from Goldwater to Reagan) points out that faced with a chance to try new ways of doing things, a big chunk of America insisted they weren’t going to, and the hippies couldn’t make them. They wanted to believe America could and should be like the 1950s and hated being reminded otherwise, and they didn’t want to deal with the implications of Vietnam, Watergate or the Congressional investigations that showed the CIA and FBI had spied on American citizens in defiance of the law.

Enter Ronald Reagan. As Perlstein sees it, Reagan’s genius was that he divined what voters wanted to hear and gave it to them (while Perlstein was writing pre-2016, it’s hard not to see a parallel with Trump). Yes, America was the greatest country on Earth. Yes, we could be proud of what we’d done in Vietnam. No, Nixon was not a bad man (in an eerie echo of 2019, Reagan even compared impeachment to “lynching.”) No, the FBI and CIA were great American institutions, it’s the people questioning them who are bad. Never mind that his stories were often lies and also made no sense (if unelected goverment bureaucrats are bad, why are the unelected bureaucrats running the FBI and the CIA so wonderful?), they reassured people they were right not to doubt, right to think there was no need to change and try new things.

Reagan got a considerable boost from a new political funding mechanism called PACs, and from more sophisticated operations for polling and staying in touch with voters (it seems Sen. Jesse Helms was cutting edge with this back in the day). As a result, when Reagan challenged President Gerald Ford for the nomination in 1976, it came right down to the wire at the convention before Ford won, only to lose to Jimmy Carter (whom Perlstein sees as offering a similar feel-good snake oil to Reagan, though with a Southern flavor).  At 800 pages, the book is a densely detailed read — the blow-by-blow of Republican infighting was more detailed than I really needed to know, though as I’ve said before, that’s a matter of taste, not a flaw in the book. One detail that might be a flaw is that while Perlstein portrays right-wing opposition to Roe v. Wade, more recent articles show there was a lot of acceptance and support for legalized abortion on the right; I dont know how the two reconcile.

What is a flaw in both books is the effort to shape pop culture to their themes. Hine argues that Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist both reflect the baby boom’s ambivalence about settling down and having kids. Perlstein sees The Exorcist as putting the modern woman in her place (a single mom needs the help of traditional Catholic ritual to save her child from Satan!) and sees cynicism (The Parallax View0 and nostalgia (American Graffiti) in the movies as a product of their time; new therapeutic approaches such as EST, Scientology and Primal Scream Therapy likewise show a desperate search for a way to deal with what’s gone wrong in the country

I don’t buy it (even though I’ve also described Parallax View as a product of its time). There were child-centered horrors before the 1970s and cynicism wasn’t new either; the entire noir subgenre of the 1940s and 1950s shows a corrupt world that can’t be completely purified. Scientology started in the 1950s and while EST and primal screams might be newer and look flakier than psychoanalysis, it’s not like going into analysis was a more sensible, realistic approach to self-healing (Robert Bloch’s fiction frequently equated it to the lowest of superstition). Not everything fits neatly into a worldview or an interpretation.

Reading both books make me very glad I didn’t try to make Southern Discomfort any sort of statement about the era because that would be way beyond my abilities. Decades are big and complicated … but in a way, that’s liberating. All we have to do is carve off one small slice and make that real, not the entire thing; Dazed and Confused may not have worked for me, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true to its era. Hopefully my book (allowing for the elves and the magic) is too.

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It’s always a relief when the hurricane doesn’t come where I am

I don’t mean any disrespect to the people in the Bahamas and along the U.S. coast who got pummeled by Dorian. But having lived in Florida most of my life, I always have a selfish sense of Thank God! when an ominous hurricane (it could have been a problem for Durham had it tracked further west) misses us.

That aside, this has been a weird week. Last weekend, TYG cared for the dogs for most of Sunday so I decided I’d use the time to put in a full day of work without them. Much as I love them, it really is much easier to think without them squished up against me. That way, I figured, I could make up for my lost down time by taking Wednesday off and just snuggling with them.

Instead, I spent the morning reading (and yes, petting the dogs a lot), then decided to do some Leaf work for the afternoon. That way Thursday when the dogs were at Suite Paws, I could do more creative stuff in blissful solitutde. Half working on Undead Sexist Cliches — which I think I’m going to retitle Sexist Myths and Why They’re Bullshit or the like — and half on some short fiction.

Ooops. Instead I wound up working the whole day on Sexist Myths (I guess the title change is a done deal, even if I change it again later). I had lots of information from Cordelia Fine’s Testosterone Rex I’ve been meaning to record in my notes for the book, so I did that Thursday morning. Then I had to incorporate some of the details into Chapters One and Two, which I’d already written (I finished Chapter Two earlier this week) and then footnote it and insert the footnotes into the list, then change all the numbers on the subsequent footnotes. So that sucked up the rest of the day, plus some of this morning.

I also got my usual quota of Leaf articles done, plus I rewrote Bleeding Blue. It’s looking much better since I added more women to the cast, but it’s a long way from finished. I made some changes to Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates, adding to my protagonist’s personal stakes. Didn’t get that finished though.

Oh, I also submitted Southern Discomfort to DAW Books, so I guess I’m officially done with agent-hunting. I got two short stories back but I haven’t found a new market yet.

Plus I sold some of my books on Amazon (I don’t know which, I find getting specifics frustratingly opaque)

I did find an artist for the cover of Questionable Minds; my friend and fellow author Samantha Collins is available and she’s good, so I’m hiring her.

A productive week. If I can keep up the pace on Sexist Myths I’ll be satisfied. I may switch from rewriting Chapter Three next week — it’s a bit of a mess — to Four, Five or Sex, which are in better shape.

For an illustration, here are some grumpy cat clones I saw at Suite Paws when we dropped the dogs off.

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Worlds in collision: why I don’t write utopias

In a recent thread on Twitter (sorry, I don’t have a link), NK Jemisin took issue with people pushing for fewer dystopias, more utopias: people of color, women and gays (for example) all have good reasons not to feel optimism. Where utopian fiction is sunny escapism, dystopian fiction grapples with the darkness.

I see her point about the appeal of dystopia, but I think breaking utopia and dystopia into some kind of escapism/serious fiction dichotomy is wrong. Utopian fiction is traditionally educational, not escapist, starting with Sir Thomas More’s original Utopia. The goal isn’t to entertain with a fantasy but to show how an ideal society would work, or how we get from there to here.

Conversely, a lot of dystopia is escapist. Hunger Games. Cyberpunk. It can be the horror of the protagonist being ground under by a corrupt system, or the excitement of being the rebel fighting against tyranny, but the goal is, as with most fiction, entertainment. It may satisfy because it speaks to our fears about the future or our experience of life, but I don’t think it’s inherently more serious than utopian fiction.

And that got me thinking, again, about how when I write stories that change the setting’s social order — Southern Discomfort, Atoms for Peace, Questionable Minds — I change some things, improve some things, but I don’t improve everything. In Atoms for Peace, women are much better off, 1950s sexual standards are looser, but people of color haven’t gained anything. In Southern Discomfort, the McAlisters prevented the worst violence of Jim Crow from affecting the black residents of Pharisee County, but women and gays aren’t any better off. And by 1973, younger blacks see the McAlisters as more patronizing and outdated than protective.

I could have shot for utopian, or closer to it, but dramatically it doesn’t interest me. A system that’s changed from our own, or in upheaval (in Questionable Minds, Victorian England is still attempting to fit psi-powers into the established caste system) has more storytelling potential for me than a utopia where everything works.

That’s personal taste, not a writing rule: I could imagine the alt.1950s of Atoms for Peace reluctantly embracing civil rights and still tell the same stories. But a setting that works imperfectly appeals to me more. That’s not meant as an excuse — if someone thinks Southern Discomfort should have had a larger gay presence, they’re certainly entitled to criticize my storytelling decisions — just a statement of fact.

Of course, I don’t write dystopias either. But that’s just because I don’t write the kind of SF that imagines dystopia, so no great lessons to learn.

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Making choices and Southern Discomfort

“In a world where all fundamental laws can be rewritten, it is also illuminating which of them aren’t.” says Mimi Mondal in the Hindustani Times. Her point being that worldbuilding in specfic always has political overtones. A world where being gay is unremarkable and acceptable is a political statement, but so is a book that doesn’t have any gay characters.

Which seems like a good launch point for discussing how I’ve handled such questions in both Atoms for Peace and Southern Discomfort. The first is an alternative history in which SF-movies of the 1950s are everyday reality; in the second, one small town has been changed by the presence of two elves as the unofficial leaders since its founding. As a result I changed some of the real world in each book, but not all of it.

In Atoms for Peace women have made huge gains compared to our reality. Much like WW II, the government needs them to make up for the manpower shortage caused by men entering the military or the National Guard. A lot of people still give lip service to the 1950s standards of our world, and plenty of people feel like that’s the way the world should be, but in practice women get to see a lot more adventure than they would have in our timeline (no disrespect intended to those real women who pushed the envelope).

Black Americans, however, are doing worse. Blaming integration and civil rights activism on ET agitators works just as well as blaming it on Communists did. In our 1950s, the federal government’s response to civil rights was influenced by the need not to look better than the USSR (Jim Crow did not serve that end); in Atoms for Peace that pressure is removed. So it’s not looking good.

Gays? Well nothing’s changed for them; they’re still in the closet and still barred from serving in the federal government (though some people are willing to turn a blind eye if the gay’s got valuable skills).

That’s all reasonable, I think, but Mondal has a point it reflects  my writing choices, not some abstract analysis. I write a lot of women into my stories; I don’t use PoC as often. So it’s not surprising I focused on changes that improve women’s lives. I probably could have made bigger and more positive changes to civil rights too (I really don’t see gay rights budging much), but I don’t like the idea of making everything better — it feels way too utopian. So I made my call.

In Southern Discomfort, by contrast, the big change was race. The black residents of Pharisee County have been better off than most of the south, but they’ve still had to deal with slavery and Jim Crow. The role of women and gays in Pharisee isn’t much different from the real world.

As with Atoms for Peace I think that’s a plausible set of changes, but I could have rationalized different ones. With Olwen McAlister around, women could have easily been given more respect. The McAlisters aren’t bothered by anyone’s sexual orientation, so it could have been a more gay-friendly community than typical for 1973. But again, I prefer better-but-flawed over utopian in my alt.Earth settings.

Good decision? Bad decision? Too limited in rewriting the fundamental laws? Wish I knew.

#SFWApro. Cover by Zakaria Nada, all rights are mine.

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Once again, life thwarts my plans

Which is to say, this was a busy week in the non-writing areas of my life.

Wednesday we had the electrician come out to check some of our outside lights. That turned out to be more time-draining for me than I’d expected, as it was a constant “go inside and turn on the lights … turn off the lights … turn them on again …” It paid off (he identified the problem), but it took more time than I’d expected. And left me with very little time to concentrate on anything before the dogs went on afternoon walkies (I settled for research reading, which doesn’t demand creative thought). After that we had the guy in to repair the washing machine; I’m happy to say that after dealing with two other companies, Wright Appliance finally seems to be competent.

This morning I had unexpected extra dog watching, and at noon I had one of my appointments for the Alexander Technique, the body training I’ve been doing since last year.

It’s not just the time each side activity consumes, but the time it takes to get refocused on writing again. And I’m still too slow in my Leafs. Plushie’s neediness in the evening makes it very hard to make up the time then.

I did get a bunch of Leaf articles done, and even going slow, the pay is good. I got some more work done on both Let No Man Put Asunder and Impossible Takes a Little Longer, though those were the big casualties of this week’s lost time. But Impossible definitely works better in first person, as I said last week. However both of them reached a point where the relatively slight plot changes I’ve made so far have suddenly forced big changes in the next scenes. That stumped me quite a bit.

I submitted Fiddler’s Black to a new market, which means all my shorts are out. It’s been a while since that happened. And Southern Discomfort went out to five more agents.

I rewrote Only the Lonely Can Slay a couple of times, but there’s still something missing. It might be that Heather, my protagonist, needs more at stake, or maybe something else? I feel frustratingly close to what I want but I can’t quite jump across the last mental boundary to get there. I may send it out as is to a beta reader or two to get some insight.

So that was my week. On the plus side, I’m not battling a giant monster on a Silver Age Jack Kirby cover!

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Today I got that nibbled to death by ducks feeling

But first, a look at Plush Dog nuzzling with Tito, new sibling to Lily, the dog up the street we sometimes dog-sit for.

The feeling of having one’s day eaten up by multiple little distractions is in some ways worse than having one big project. With one major distraction, like a repair, I can block time and when it’s over, it’s over. Today, though, I had multiple distractions: washing-machine repair guy (third one we’ve dealt with, first one I feel good about), arranging an electrician appointment for next week, upgrading our security system, doing some research on the cost of a replacement washing machine (probably won’t be necessary), providing extra dog care … plus Plushie completely freaking out over the repair dude being In The House (we fenced off the area so the pups couldn’t get in his way).  And talking on the phone is not the best thing for my strained voice. However it’s definitely growing stronger every day so I must be nursing it sufficiently.

Despite that, it was a productive week. Though novel writing is still going slower than I want, and Leaf articles are taking way too long (not their fault, it’s me). So what did I get done?

I rewrote the first chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer in first person. It’s closer to urban fantasy as a genre than anything else, and first person is the default setting there. Plus I found I could work in a little more needed information with first-person narration.

I finished the first chapter of Let No Man Put Asunder and read it for writer’s group. The feedback was, as always helpful. As my voice frayed a little by the end of the reading, I skipped out on the usual hanging out after. A shame.

I sent a Southern Discomfort query off to five agents, queried two magazines about articles and one newspaper about an op-ed column.

I submitted A Famine Where Abundance Lies, and I may have found a publisher to submit Questionable Minds too.

I rewrote the story Neverwas, which is now titled The Impossible Years. It’s definitely closer to being readable, but I still lack the ending I need. I rewrote Only the Lonely Can Slay, and it’s coming along well. Here I have the ending and the general structure but I need more obstacles for my protagonist, Heather, to overcome. I was working on another draft today, when all the ducks began nibbling.

And I did my usual array of Leaf articles to help put bread on the table. I gave up on doing any of those today too, but I got them in, and some requested rewrites, every other day this week.

It’s helpful to write all that down and see that despite my feeling right now, I had a good, productive week.

Below, Plushie lets the greyhounds at Piney Woods Park know that he’s the boss of this cell block.

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Missed it by that much! Quite a big ‘that much’

Like most people I start off the year full of enthusiasm for my various year goals. In January that gives me the drive to complete 70 to 80 percent of them.

This January? Not so much. More like 54 percent. Part of that was having a really big goal list. Part of it was that one miserable week I experienced. And some of it was that several goals I’d written down turned out to be non-starters. Focusing on a single project one day a week (a novel, a short story, pitches) didn’t work because I’m back doing Leaf articles. It’s easier to handle them if I do a couple a day rather than clump them, but that means I can’t do a full day of anything else. So that one’s off the table.

Other ideas just need more practice. I want a more relaxing lunch break rather than rushing to eat so I can walk the pups. That takes a conscious effort. But I’ll get there.

The big disappointments for the month were a)not getting beyond a chapter or two in Impossible Takes a Little Longer; b)not getting anything done on the Undead Sexist Cliches book. Well and c)not selling anything I’d submitted to anyone, but that’s not within my control. I am very pleased that I submitted five stories (technically; some of them were the same story sent out twice), two articles and one column idea.

And I did finish Southern Discomfort and submitted that to eight agents (two refusals so far). I’ll keep sending it to agents until I’ve exhausted the list. Then I’ll switch to publishers. Then I’ll self-publish. Take that, uncaring publishing universe!

Tday I started work on rewriting another novel, Let No Man Put Asunder. This went slow too, and I’m starting to see why: I’m just thinking and editing as I go and it’s slowing me down. I need to let go and let the words flow.

I was pleased that this week I made real progress on two short stories, Only the Lonely Can Slay and Neverwas (that title will definitely be reworked). On Lonely I can actually see what the story arc should be; Neverwas is almost there. Once I get that, it’s mostly a matter or refining, fixing and improving. Being able to see progress makes me more optimistic about my ambitious goals for the year.

I did a fair amount of hanging out at Illogicon (yes, that was a goal) but I didn’t get out much the rest of the month due to my desire to rest my voice. I didn’t get as much bicycling in as I planned, either as I didn’t want to expose my throat to the cold.

I did get lots of Leaf articles done. And that helps pay the bills so yay!

Oh, and I found where my baby sister Keri was buried years ago, which was one of my goals for this year. I thought it would take a lot of work but it actually went smoothly: I checked the US Consulate records for deaths and births of American citizens abroad. That led me to ancestry.com, which, after I signed up, gave me a digital copy of Keri’s death certificate. I’m impressed with myself (I thought I’d blogged about this before but I can’t find it).

Despite what didn’t get done, I feel pretty pleased.

Below, Trixie nervously contemplates going to doggy day care. She loves it there, but she dreads the car trips.

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