Category Archives: Southern Discomfort

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.


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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

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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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Writing

Things fall apart, the schedule does not hold

I know intellectually that an occasional crappy, unproductive week is inevitable, but I still hate the feeling.

Monday I wrote an article. I could not seem to come to grips with the information (about product accounting) and it took twice as long as it was supposed to, running into Tuesday.

Wednesday the dogs came down extremely early so I never had the hour or two of calm that helps me get my head in the game. Thursday the same; coupled with the added doggy care I’ve been doing while TYG wraps up her big project, my brain just rebelled. I spent the day mostly blogging.

And today it rebelled even more. I could tell I wasn’t going to get anything done, so I stopped. I feel guilty but I’d end up feeling worse if I sat there staring at the computer and doing nothing.

I did get a little bit of work done on Impossible Takes a Little Longer — not enough, but it’s good work. And I got a lot of hours in on my Southern Discomfort rewrite, which is also looking good.

I also got a couple of posts up at Atomic Junkshop. One deals with several open-ended plotlines in various comics at the end of 1964, such as the Outsider plotline beginning in Detective Comics 334.

The other deals with one of my favorite Silver Age love interests and Namor’s god-awful sweetheart, Lady Dorma.

So that’s about it for the week. Next week will be better!

#SFWApro. Art by Gene Colan, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

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

Back to where it began: rereading Storm Front

Jim Butcher’s first Harry Dresden novel, STORM FRONT  established urban fantasy as it’s now known — magical protagonists fighting evil in an urban environment. Before that I’d seen the term used for fantasy stories set in contemporary cities but nothing like what it means now. And while Butcher isn’t the first wizard PI, Glen Cook’s Garrett and Michael Reaves’ Darkworld Detective were operating in a fantasy setting, not contemporary America.

It’s noteworthy that Butcher spends the first few pages establishing the premise. A mailman sees the “Harry Dresden, Wizard” sign on Harry’s office door and makes some jokes. Harry explains that yes, he is a real wizard tackling magical matters — something anyone picking up an urban fantasy two decades later probably takes for granted.

After the light, expository start, things get serious. Murphy, Harry’s friend on the force, calls him in to investigate two people whose hearts were ripped from their breast during sex. Harry confirms that yes, it’s magical. There’s also a worried woman who wants Harry to find her missing husband. Complications ramp up fast. Johnny Marcone, the Chicago mob-master, warns Harry off Murphy’s case (if there was an explanation later in the book, I skimmed over it). One of the victims worked for a vampire running an escort service. A wizard who thinks Harry is a killer — Harry had to murder his mentor in self-defense years earlier — is convinced he’s behind whatever’s going on. The killer’s magic attacks on Harry get stronger and stronger.

It’s a really good book and holds up despite the boom in urban fantasy since. I’m not sure if the plot ties together perfectly but it moves fast enough I don’t mind. My only real issue is that Harry’s a sexist jerk who feels women are beautiful flowers who should be sheltered and cared for accordingly, even someone as tough as Murphy. The book (and the characters) keep calling Harry on his sexism but as I’ve said before, that’s not good enough.

I was reading this to get a better handle on urban fantasy as a genre in relation to Southern Discomfort and Impossible Takes a Little Longer (you can see some of my past reading on those lines here). The first thing I noticed is that it’s very much in the hardboiled PI vein. Harry’s a loner (though unlike Raymond Chandler’s heroes he has a very large supporting cast), largely isolated from the police and almost as cut off from the wizarding world. His friendship with Murphy is a tenuous one as there are things he can’t tell her. The worried wife who hires him has a hidden agenda. There’s nasty stuff going on below the surface of Chicago and not everyone’s what they seem. And yes, the wife hiring him ties into the big murder case.

Another is that after the low-key opening, things get tense — the bloody murder doesn’t hurt — and keep getting tenser. Harry’s unable to tell Murphy everything because of wizard rules, which makes her increasingly hostile and unhelpful. Initially the focus is on the mystery; then, as he gets a few clues, the personal attacks start. They elevate in intensity until at the climax Harry is dealing with the wizard’s attacks, plus some giant scorpions, plus a demon. By the time of the recent Peace Talk, Harry’s suffered from the same kind of power creep as Superman, so nothing less than a demigod can take him down. Here, though, everything’s still manageable.

Unlike Date With Death and Crossroads of Bones (see the list-link above), the tension doesn’t fade away when Harry gets involved with Susan, a tabloid reporter interested him as both a story and a guy. Harry’s apartment is under attack and he’s dragged Susan inside a protective circle. Unfortunately she’s downed a love potion Harry made (not for unethical reasons) and now Harry’s having to fend her off while also fending off the mage attacks.

As I’ve commented before, I’m not sure much of this will help with Southern Discomfort because it’s more urban fantasy-adjacent than UF itself. But it does make me think I’m on the right track in my Impossible rewrite: tighter plot (not everything coming together), more mystery, rising threat levels. So it was worth the time, aside from my enjoyment.

#SFWApro. Cover by Lee Macleod, all rights to image remain with current holder.


Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Is Our Writers Learning?, Reading, Southern Discomfort, Writing

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

Is Our Writers Learning? A Date With Death by S.C. Stokes

A DATE WITH DEATH is a prequel to the Conjuring a Coroner series by S.C. Stokes, about coroner and unregistered with Kasey Chase. We meet Kasey going about her job, then she’s called in to autopsy the body of Lester Harrington, suddenly deceased gazillionaire. It’s off the books because Harrington’s right hand and estate manager, Vincent, doesn’t want any publicity shining on the family; in return, under-the-table payments will pad out Kasey’s department budget (her boss is down with this).

It soon becomes clear Harrington was murdered, probably by one of his five kids. And his will leaves everything, tontine-style, to the last child to remain alive, an incentive for lots more murder. While the opening of the book is insanely info-dumpy (I really didn’t need to know Kasey’s backstory and magical nature in this much detail up front), the old-school mystery set-up looked promising. Unfortunately it rapidly descends into a mass of generic magical battles that left me underwhelmed. Plus the killer was precisely who I pegged early on — this is one of those books where the least likely suspect really is the murderer.

Still, in light of my ongoing study of urban fantasy for improving Southern Discomfort and Impossible Takes a Little Longer the book did get me thinking how much urban fantasies seem to revolve around mystery. The villain’s identity, and their endgame. That has me wondering whether Southern Discomfort, where Gwalchmai spills much of the beans up front, would benefit by cutting out much of his viewpoint. Not all — he provides a lot of information you can’t get any other way — but reducing his appearances would add to the mystery aspect. It might be worth trying. Impossible already has a strong mystery set-up.

So I shall throw that thought into the mental mill and see what happens when I grind it.

#SFWApro. Couldn’t find cover credits, but rights to the image remain with current holders.


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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Is Our Writers Learning?, Reading, Southern Discomfort

I defied the dizziness!

Despite the unpleasant vertigo I endured this week, it was, once again, enjoyably productive. I finished the rewrite of Questionable Minds — it turns out I did a really thorough job last go round. Now it’s a matter of a)spellcheck, b)getting a cover and c)setting a release date so I can do some promotion. I really liked the cover artist I was working with but I think she may be overloaded with work and stress. We shall see.

I did a rewrite of Oh the Places You’ll Go! and it’s 95 percent solid. The 5 percent is that the ending still feels like it needs something and I’m not sure what. I rewrote it so it pays off what I set up the beginning but it still feels like it needs more. Only I’m not sure what. I may recruit an extra beta reader to give it a look-see. I also submitted a couple more short stories and wrote a few Leaf articles.

I rewrote the first chapter of Southern Discomfort to put it in Maria’s first-tense. It does add to her personal tension and maybe makes her a little more likable. I don’t think it ramps up the tension as much as my first feedback suggested, but we’ll see how I feel after a couple more chapters.

Snowdrop is now routinely exploring the house when he comes in, as in this shot where he’s descending from snooping around the second floor.TYG successfully put a collar with a bell on him early this week. He protested a lot and tried to bite it off, but it’s still on him several days later. It’s a little harder to hear him than Wisp as his floof mutes it some. Below, he and Wisp debate control of the couch. Never mind where I get to sit.Next week will probably not be so smooth. I have our car’s annual inspection (assuming I’m not too vertiginous to drive), the housekeepers come in for their monthly gig and we’re getting a new dishwasher installed (can’t wait!). But I’ve accomplished so much this month already, I won’t feel too bad if things slow down to a crawl.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

Is Our Writers Learning: Crossroads of Bones by Luanne Bennett

As you may recall, one of the Southern Discomfort rejections I got last year recommended reading more urban fantasy (I’m also applying the lessons to Impossible Takes a Little Longer). So here’s my latest attempts, CROSSROADS OF BONES: A Katie Bishop Novel by Luanne Bennett (cover by Deranged Doctor Design).

Katie is a recent transplant to Savannah, GA, from NYC, a tattoo artist running a studio with two employees, Sea Bass and Mouse. She’s also half-dragon, a heritage that normally manifests as a spectacular back tattoo. If she’s aroused, endangered or stressed, however, her inner dragon wants to come out and play.

The plot kickoff is a creepy customer who demands a very precise tattoo. It turns out he’s a demon-god or rather one half of a demon-god imprisoned by the local magical council. Somehow part of him got out and the tattoo helps him manifest. If he can get his other half out, he’ll be unstoppable. The council figures that he’ll inevitably come to Katie, and that as the one responsible for releasing him she has an obligation to help put the demon back in the bottle.

I enjoyed this one, certainly more than the last urban fantasy I studied. It’s a pleasant read with some cute touches such a tribe of shifters who become inanimate objects. The biggest weakness is that much like the previous book, the suspense and looming threat stops dead when Katie goes on a date with the male lead — suddenly they have the time for a lovely romantic idyll. It doesn’t help that I didn’t buy Katie’s instant attraction to the guy at all. He seemed like such an obnoxious jerk I assumed her sudden lust indicated he was an incubus or something. I concede that’s partly personal taste — I hate arrogant jerk alpha-male romantic leads — but not entirely.

The second biggest problem is that Katie is too passive a protagonist. She doesn’t act on her own initiative most of the time, she’s pushed into it by someone else — the council, the demon, her boyfriend. And her dragon side plays much less of a role than I expected, which is a little unsatisfying.

So what did I learn? Like most of the other UF I’ve been reading since the feedback, there’s a lot of emphasis on community. Katie’s friends and employees play a large role in the story even if they’re not on the front line; her boyfriend and the members of the mages’ council do too. This seems to be the norm for UF; even loners actually have a large supporting cast. That’s a plus for Impossible — KC’s friends and community are a big part of the story — but maybe not for Southern Discomfort. There’s a community but Maria, my protagonist, isn’t part of it. She does make a friend but the community doesn’t open its heart to her, nor vice versa.

Maria is also pushed around a lot, but I think she pushes back and tries to assert herself more than Katie, even if it’s only by running away. In some ways Joan would make a more typical lead: she’s part of the Pharisee community and she’s determined to fight, but I still prefer Maria. And because I use multiple POVs, neither one will work as a first-person narrator, which seems to be the UF norm.

There’s also enough exposition here to make me wonder if I overreacted keeping it trimmed down in Southern Discomfort. There’s a more in Impossible, but hopefully both interesting enough and not done to excess that it won’t turn the readers off. I will say that despite Bennett pulling the old “my character is new to this milieu so that excuses lots of exposition” I didn’t find myself turned off as I often do.

Another thing that struck me is that, even aside from the romantic break, the pace here is relatively leisurely. I don’t mean that as a criticism but one of the comments on Southern Discomfort was that the pace was too laid back — urban fantasy requires more urgency and tension. While there is plenty of urgency and tension, there’s still a lot of that epic fantasy introduce-us-to-the-world leisure; if Harry Dresden is a hardboiled PI, Katie Bishop’s more a cozy protagonist. Which isn’t a criticism, just a difference. I’m sure there’s an insight I can gain for improving Southern Discomfort but I’m not sure what it is yet.

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

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Is Our Writers Learning?, Reading, Southern Discomfort, Writing

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