Category Archives: Southern Discomfort

He looked at the future and went mad!

So as I mentioned yesterday, nonfiction squeezed out a lot of fiction writing time in 2018. And the same was true for 2017. That year it hit me hard because I just assumed I’d have a short spurt, then it would fade away. So I skimped on fiction during the spurt … which didn’t go away. Which is good for my bottom line, but not so good for (strikes Byronic pose) my creative soul.

This year I did a better job balancing them at first, but like I said yesterday, the demands of Screen Rant and Leaf combined ate into a lot of time. So now that I’m looking at a year without any Screen Rant (probably plenty of leaf though it’s not guaranteed), and ready to balance fiction and nonfiction better, just how much fiction can I get written?

Answer: probably not as much as I put in the goal list. My plan is to rewrite Impossible Takes a Little Longer over the first two months while I replot another novel. Then try and write a draft of that one almost as fast. And a couple more. These are all old books I have worked on many times in the past, so the basics are there (characters, concepts, setting). It’s just revising the plots (“just” does a lot of work in that sentence, some of them need a lot of work), and in a couple of cases updating them; one of them actually starts in a contemporary setting and that’s changed a lot from the last time I tackled it.

And if I can’t work out a good new plot? Time to say goodbye and bung them into the trunk. On to newer stuff!

Plus I want to write twelve short stories this year. That’s really optimistic; it takes me forever to shape them from the first draft into something usable. But as I said yesterday, I don’t have any sort of reward/penalty system in play, so it’s not like I have anything to lose. Pride? Maybe. But I didn’t get any short stories finished this year and I’m not walking around kicking myself. So I think I can take it.

I was worried that Southern Discomfort running a little into the new year would gum up the works, but I don’t think so. I’m soooo close to done.

I have a bunch of other goals, writing and otherwise. They range from finishing reading John LeCarre to finding my sister Keri’s burial place (she died at about seven weeks).  In fact it’s an insanely long list. And a really huge list of January goals based on them, but that actually makes sense. As we all know, it’s easy to start off the year with high aspirations, then we lose focus. So I might as well make maximum use of the January vigor. We’ll see if that works.

And yes, having fun, relaxing and enjoying life, undefined though those goals are, are definitely on the list.

Here’s to 2019. I hope it’s awesome for all of you. And me too.

#SFWApro. Cover by Earle Bergey, all rights remain with current holder.

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

2018 was not the year I anticipated

So out of 103 goals of varying complexity and importance, I accomplished 53 percent of them. That’s consistent with my performance for 2016 and 2017. As I don’t give myself any rewards for achieving them, I’m satisfied with the percentage. I set my list high, after all (rewards make a good incentive, but it’s hard to find something I wouldn’t do for myself or buy for myself anyway).

The bad news is that my creative output really fell way short of my aspirations. My top goal was to finish Southern Discomfort and submit it; didn’t happen. I wanted to finish four short stories; I didn’t manage any. I only occasionally pitched nonfiction pieces to any markets. I didn’t finish the Undead Sexist Cliches book.

The main reason was that my steady freelance gigs got in the way. Which is not a bad thing—I made well above my writing income goals for the year—but working on Leaf articles and Screen Rant took a lot of time. Particularly as the minimum Screen Rant listicle got longer and some of the topics got further away from my areas of expertise (like finding 17 secrets about the Nick TV show Victorious). Even though Screen Rants are fun and they gave me a chance to play with my writing style, I gave up the gig in the summer; it was just consuming too much of my writing week and Leaf, while duller, paid better.

I have learned from this. It’s the main reason I haven’t started submitting one nonfiction proposal in my files to publishers yet: I think it would just consume too much time and I’d like to do a lot more fiction in 2019.

I did self-publish the paperback edition of Atlas Shagged and Atoms for Peace, though, and I’m quite pleased with them. And I stuck to my goal of only checking email three times a day during work. And I finally got around to putting a PayPal donation link in the sidebar. Oh, and it occurs to me I don’t even bother setting any goals about staying as a full-time writer: barring disaster (which can’t be eliminated of course) it seems like I’m secure in that path.

In nonwriting goals, I kept the bird feeder filled, used sunscreen regularly when walking the dogs or bicycling and bicycled almost once every week (even discounting the weeks the weather didn’t permit it, I didn’t make the cut, but I’m doing better than last year). I called my elected officials off and on, and wrote them a couple of times, though I doubt it did much good (nor blogging about their pathetic performance). I traveled outside Durham several times, mostly with TYG (Mystacon was a solo act, on the other hand) and I got to see my brother and niece in October at my dad’s 90th birthday shindig.

Goals aside, it was a good year (not counting the frequent train wrecks emanating from President Shit-Gibbon). I snuggled with dogs and TYG, spent more social time than last year with friends, read a bunch of books and watched a lot of movies. I hung out more with the neighbors on our cul-de-sac and kept my weight to a reasonable level (not so much this past week, but that’s normal). I turned sixty and threw myself a birthday party (usually it’s just me and TYG). I enjoyed seeing my family (it’s not like they’re just a checkmark on a list) and catching up with my niece for the first time since she became an adult.

Next year I intend to keep having fun. But with more fiction. Details tomorrow.

Happy new year everyone.

#SFWApro. Cover by Gil Kane, all rights remain with current holder

 

 

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Atoms for Peace, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

The Dismal Dregs of Defeat! Okay, delayed victory, that’s not so bad

Well, Southern Discomfort will not be wrapped up by midnight on the 31st. However, it will definitely be done next week (barring illness, exploding computer, etc.) so I can live with it. It would have been nicely symbolic though.

Thursday did me in. One of the car dashboard Danger lights was flashing so I took it in Thursday morning. Trouble was I woke up very early as I so often do; as I was going to have to drive the car and I prefer to do that when I’m not exhausted I kept trying to go back to sleep instead of getting up and writing. Didn’t work, but I did grab enough shut-eye to make it to the dealer and back (and in the best tradition, the light went off as soon as I got there. They couldn’t find anything wrong either). But I was pretty wiped, and the day was not productive. I still made it past 85,000 words this week so the end is in sight (it’s currently at slightly over 96,000)

So as there’s not much else to talk about, let’s talk about time management.

A while back I decided to give the pomodoro method another try. This is the one where you spend 25 minutes completely focused, then five minutes doing something else; every four pomodoro half-hours, you take a longer break. I committed to doing at least one day a week that way, adjusted for the facts of life (if I followed the formula exactly I’d wind up taking the dogs for lunch walkies late. Bad idea).

It’s proven quite effective at focusing me. Even when I’m not actually running the pomodoro timer (i.e., my phone’s stop watch) I’m concentrating better. As I’ve mentioned before, whatever time hacks I try usually run out of steam but for the moment this one’s working. If anything, I’m having trouble with remembering to take breaks if I don’t use the timer. Contrary to pomodoro theory it is, in fact, possible to keep going longer than 25 minutes. However I do find my mind fritzing and getting muzzy a lot sooner, so I’m trying to avoid that. Giving myself a break is a smarter move.

A second trick I’ve found effective is keeping a short list of my most important tasks. Not necessarily immediate tasks or complicated ones but ones that have to be done for whatever reason. Having the list and marking it off works better than mixing them into my calendar app or my general list of monthly goals.

Another time tactic I’ll be imposing on myself in January is starting the day on time. Even when I wake up ultra-early, I usually start my morning routines (exercise, Yoga, breakfast, tea and TV) about the same time (5 AM roughly). But it’s very easy to watch a little extra TV or sit around playing on my computer and not start the actual work day on schedule (7 AM or 7:30 AM depending on whether I’m doing exercise in the morning). I think meeting the official start time will help my focus in the morning. And obviously make a little more space in the day for productive work. It’s particularly important because due to TYG’s schedule I’m often doing more dog-wrangling in the morning so every little bit of time gained helps.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

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

Wisp says hello

As I said this morning, she showed up, climbed on top of the table (it shelters the heated house, which isn’t waterproof) and peered in at us. We were very relieved to know she was alright.

Another relatively quiet week. I got several Leaf articles done, the most interesting being 1800 words on “Job Duties of a Nun.” And that’s it until 2019; much as I enjoy the dinero, I’m happy to have added time for finishing up Southern Discomfort.

I made it over 50,000 words so I’m past the halfway mark. I think I’ll be done by New Year’s as planned. After all I have two work weeks, less Christmas, and nothing else on my plate. Fingers crossed.

I did run into one major plotting problem but I fixed it fast. First I realized Joan was breaking a promise to her father to stay at home much too casually — for good reasons, but I’d already established she feels duty bound to keep her word. Then I realized that the FBI would probably have a few questions for her, which makes getting out of the house mandatory. Problem solved!

Hopefully they’ll all be that easy.

Oh, and I received a copy of the October/November History Magazine with my story on the history of the Fordson, the first affordable tractor, and how it and its eventual replacement, the Farmall, changed agriculture.

And I spent Thursday while the dogs were out doing some major cleaning to ready the house for the writers’ group Christmas Party Saturday.

Below, Wisp’s tentative check if we were ready to feed her.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine, give credit if you use them.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems

Will my reach exceed my grasp? Stay tuned!

As of today, Southern Discomfort is at almost 44,000 words. That leaves me with roughly 50,000 more to get through by New Year’s Eve to finish. That’s doable, but not a slam dunk. If I run into problems with some of my later scenes, or I get sick for a couple of days, I may be SOL.

I added 11,000 words to the book this week, which is definitely not enough if I keep going at the same speed. However I have only one more week of Leaf articles; after that, I’ll be free to work on the novel and nothing else. And this week I was sidelined Tuesday by having an opthalmologist appointment with eye dilation. As a result, I wasn’t able to use the computer for two or three hours after getting home. We’d taken the dogs in for grooming the same morning so I figured I could do some cleaning and giftwrapping while they were gone, as that doesn’t require the same level of fine eye focus. Nope, they were ready much sooner than I’d expected, so I had to push the cleaning to later in the week.

So it’s still doable. I shall stretch like Plastic Man until I achieve my glorious triumph! Or so I hope.

As my writing this week was just the novel and Leaf articles, I don’t have much else to say. Although I did have some more entertaining Leaf articles than usual, such as “Duties of a NASA Mission Specialist.”

I must admit I’ll be glad when I’m done with Southern Discomfort but if it comes to a choice between “get it done” and “make it good,” I’ll go with option B. But I’ll spend the rest of this month trying to avoid that choice.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Cole, all rights remain with current holder. I picked it to fit the “reach” theme, but also because it’s just cool.

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

33,000 and counting

I accomplished 57 percent of my November goals. That’s primarily because I underestimated the impact of my colonoscopy on my work Thanksgiving week (and for that matter my off-work activities). And yes, insomnia played a role. As I sleep great on weekends, I’d anticipated making up for lost time over the four day weekend. Instead interruptions from one source or another meant I only got one night of good sleep. Bleah!

The biggest fail on my goal list was not finishing Southern Discomfort. That one I can’t really blame on my colon, though the short work week certainly had an impact. So did the Leaf articles continuing longer than I’d expected.

But the main reason is, it’s been a long while since I read an entire novel aloud, and I’d forgotten how long it takes. Rewriting and changing the scenes is taking more work than I thought too. I’m rewriting the flow of conversation so it makes more sense, adding tension to some scenes (though some of them are simply going to be about setting and character, and that’ll have to be enough), checking formatting. Every decision then leads to more changes (well, not the formatting). Making Maria more skeptical about whether it’s really magic in one scene means she needs to be skeptical in the next scene, or I have to show her changing.

Still, when I counted up the completely finished wordage this week, I was pleased. As of today, I’m a little over 33,000 words done, out of a 92,000 word book. And next month this is my only writing goal besides the Leaf articles, which will wrap up before too long. So I should be done by New Year’s Eve. Well if the good lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, as they say. Even if it rises, I can get it done in January, but I really want to start 2019 fresh.

And I wrote another Dr. Mabuse article for Atomic Junkshop. As I didn’t have time for even a half-hearted film review, I looked at two Dr. Mabuse songs, Dr. Mabuse by Propaganda and Dr. Mabuse by Blue System. Thanks to my friend Ross Bagby for alerting me they even existed. Below is the CD cover for one of the Propaganda versions (there are several of various lengths floating around).

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

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals

Not a surreal week, just disorganized

But I’m using a surrealist art work (by Giorgio DiChirico, on exhibit at MOMA) as an illustration anyway. What can I say, I love his work.

A big part of the disorganization was that TYG’s schedule has been crazy since last Friday. That inevitably affects my schedule — extra time spent with dogs, most obviously — and just as inevitably her stress bleeds over a little. Another part was that we had several days of drenching rain this week, which left me feeling on edge. And next week I have my every-ten-years colonoscopy, so I’m currently on a diet to ensure my colon is clean. Cereal has to be low fiber, bread has to be white, etc., etc. It’s nothing that awful, but it feels like I’m being starved. And worrying the colonoscopy might Find Something is unsettling too. Oh, and I made the mistake of buying white bread at the store, and it’s just as bland as I remember. Today I’m making Australian damper bread from one of my cookbooks instead.

Plus I lost a chunk of time Tuesday to my dental visit, and squeezing several errands into the same trip (part of the schedule disruptions). But my teeth, at least, are in good shape.

And while I’d been thinking Leaf was wrapped up for the year, it turns out we’ll be running until early/mid December. So that took about nine hours out of the week I’d planned to work on other things. When planning for next year, I really need to plan my time based on Leaf being a steady gig. It won’t be but it’ll be easier to fill the time during the periods Leaf dries up than have to cut out other stuff when Leaf sticks around.

Fiction wise, I got through several thousand more words on the last draft of Southern Discomfort and about halfway through the final draft of No One Can Slay Her. Not as much as I’d hoped; due to the schedule craziness, I wound up writing my Leafs much slower than usual. I also began flipping through Writer’s Market‘s 2018-19 edition for agents I can submit Southern Discomfort too when it’s done. Again, not quite as much.

I did another blog post on Atomic Junkshop in my ongoing series on what comic books are like in the DC and Marvel universe. This time I try to explain how if Earth-Two’s superheroes were comic book characters on Earth-One, nobody ever noticed that Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman looked exactly like the heroes in those old comic-book stories.

On the feral cat front, I had a minor scare Wednesday night when I heard some sort of snarling kerfuffle outside, peered through the back windows and thought I saw Wisp either being chased or chasing something (presumably another cat, but I couldn’t be sure) off the deck. Thursday morning we put out some food for her but she didn’t eat it, so naturally I started to worry … but then she turned up, dry as a bone and apparently uninjured. I’m guessing she wound up somewhere she could shelter from the rain and didn’t want to come for the food until it stopped.

I’ll close this post out with another deChirico. #SFWApro, all rights to images remain with current holder.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

Fall weather, falling asleep, finishing stories

It’s been beautiful outside most of this week. I took an hour bike ride Sunday, and a shorter ride Thursday, relishing the cool air, the sunlight through the trees, all of it. The kind of weather that I mentally associate with returning to school, which gives me a nice feeling of cool new things coming down the pike.

On the downside, DST ended this week, and as usual that wreaked havoc with my sleep (which as regular readers may remember is poor even at the best of times). Normally I have trouble getting back to sleep if I wake after 3:30 AM, as a part of me feels it’s too close to time to get up. After the time change, 2:30 AM is the same as 3:30 AM was the week before. My brain has not accepted I still have lots of time before I need to get up. Not good.

Work, though, went well. I began rereading Southern Discomfort aloud, from hard copy, to spot any final mistakes, bad word phrases, etc.. It’s going well, and I’m pleased with the work so far. but it’s also going to be slower than I’d hoped. Ninety thousand words is a lot to read aloud, even without the corrections.

And I’ve worked out the problems in No One Can Slay Her. If I can print it up this weekend, I’ll read it aloud next week. Putting in hard copy works for me because it feels final. Reading it aloud forces me to pay attention.

Leaf work for the year is winding down, but I still had some to do this week. That kept me from getting a lot done on Undead Sexist Cliches.

I’m doing my 1,000 words of fiction every morning, but I’m now wondering about my approach. I’ve turned out first drafts of several stories, unfinished first drafts of possibly longer works, and second drafts of some, but I don’t feel like I’m getting close to finishing anything or even seeing the finished structure. That’s frustrating. I’ve abandoned enough unsuccessful projects that I’m always afraid I’m putting a lot of time that will accomplish nothing.

Wisp is using and presumably enjoying her little house on our deck. She’s usually waiting when I bring out food. Sometimes waiting a while as she doesn’t realize 5pm feeding is now an hour later than a week ago. Sometimes she sits on the railing and watches me through the window as I get the food — or she’s staring at the bird feeder above the window.

Oh, and I’m actually selling copies of Atoms for Peace, which is cheering. Not that I’m going to knock Patrick Rothfuss off the bestseller lists, but it’s cool to know people are buying it (thanks, whoever you are).

On a personal note, I unfollowed one right-winger among my FB friends, and “took a break” from another. Every time I do, I find the satisfaction of not dealing with their bullshit easily outweighs any concerns I might miss a charming puppy GIF.

And here’s another example of a wine with a striking label. Haven’t tried it (anything above $20 is usually a no-go for me)f, but I do like the look.

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

 

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Sleep, goals and pets

For whatever reason I kept waking up early this week. Even on nights I took something to keep me asleep. I take naps to compensate and the one flaw in the new furniture is that the new chair and love seat aren’t quite long enough for me to stretch out and sleep comfortably. Instead I have to take the dog upstairs to the bed, which doesn’t always work — they bark, or start climbing over me. They do quiet down over time, but when I nap I go to sleep instantly, usually while they’re still fidgety.

That said, I still had a good, productive week (one advantage of writing is that I can always do it in the middle of the night). I worked on No One Can Save Her and I think I have the plot problems solved; hopefully when I look at it next week, I won’t see any flaws I skipped over. I worked on several other short stories, including a redraft of Only the Lonely Can Slay, did a couple of Leaf articles, and started replotting The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. And I got a few thousand words done on Undead Sexist Cliches: the Book. While I’m not working on Southern Discomfort until I print it and read it aloud next week, I did work on the query letter (done) and the synopsis (needs more work).

Depressingly I’m wondering whether Schloss and the Switchblade doesn’t need another revision to stay up with current events. I changed it once because after Charlottesville last year, seeing Nazis would produce a much more shocked reaction in Ward, my protagonist. Now that we’re getting increasingly blatant anti-Semitism on the right I’m still not sure it’s enough. Inconvenient to me, but obviously trivial in the grand scheme of things.

After getting 52 percent on my goals for September, I rose up to 62 percent for October despite taking a week for my trip to Florida, I’d have done better, but several of my goals came in at the near-miss level: Almost completely done with Southern Discomfort. Completed five out of six daily-life projects, like getting PMI taken off our mortgage. Eating more fruit and veggie-based meals (even though I’m a vegetarian, I don’t always go with green vegetables). And I finally added a PayPal donation button to the sidebar. I won’t be announcing fund drives or anything, but I figure making the option available can’t help. In the words of countless supervillains robbing charity events, the donations will go to my favorite charity — myself!

Since I took over feeding Wisp, her dinner has been on a regular schedule and she knows it. Frequently I find her waiting on the deck, from which she retreats to the foot of the deck stairs until I set the food down. Thursday, I put it out about a half hour late and found her staring at me with disapproval and sorrow. Then I gathered up some of the old bowls and walked through the back yard to dump them in the trash. Wisp did not take this departure from routine at all well; she ran and hid under the shed in the back, and it took her several minutes watching before she decided she could eat without me infringing her personal space again. She’s getting used to us, but she’s definitely still feral.

Monday, I did my friends Celena and Eric (a few houses down our cul-de-sac) a favor and helped them introduce Tito, their new toy poodle, to their dog Lily. Tito is three years old and full of energy, darting everywhere, marking the street every few steps. He has a weak back leg but he just tucks it up like a bird and runs on three. I’m hoping he becomes a new friend for Trixie and Plush Dog too.

 

#SFWApro. Image is mine.

 

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Returning to the mean is a thing

As I’ve mentioned before, random fluctuations usually mean a really crappy week of writing will be followed by a better one; just blind chance is likely to push me closer to the mean than keep me way below it. And so, after a dismal performance last week, this week was great.

The big development was that except for a final hard-copy, out loud read through, Southern Discomfort is done. I reached the end Wednesday, then tackled some of the changes to the medical scenes. Which in turn, required changing other scenes. The part where Olwen heals the victims of a mysterious paralysis needed to be redone, and I realized I needed to put in the doctors’ reactions when they find everyone’s fine. And I’d completely forgotten that Olwen needed to deal with the sluagh, the malevolent creatures responsible. In the end with the added scenes, it clocked in around 91,000 words.

I started reading through this draft aloud, but I made so many changes, that didn’t work. This time I’ll be looking for word use, misspellings, repeated use of pet phrases, and a couple of formatting things. I’ll probably skip next week and start the week after.

It feels really good. I haven’t finished that much this year — no short stories — because I’ve had lots of Leaf articles, and when I was writing Screen Rant articles, they took up a lot of time too. I’m happy I haven’t lost my mojo.

That and my Leaf work took up most of this week, plus some extra dog walking. As I’ve mentioned before, when it gets cold Plushie is ready for much longer walks. And I hate to say no.

Speaking of pets, it’s safe to say Wisp the feral cat now considers us hers. Not that she’s rubbing me for petting or anything, but she was out on the deck when I brought out her supper and she only ran to the foot of the deck stairs. Subsequently I got a good shot of her dining out. The heated cat-house is under the picnic table under the tarp. And I do clean up the bowls every so often.

Trixie is less than thrilled with her new neighbor. When Wisp is out on the deck, sometimes gives these little angry barks, sometimes she just stands by the door and audibly sniffs the scent of Cat.

And while it wasn’t this week, earlier this month I blogged a couple of posts at Atomic Junk Shop, an in-depth review of The Invisible Dr. Mabuse, and one about comics writers in the DC multiverse. I’ve written earlier posts about the superhero comics of Earth-Two; this one deals with the way some writers are able to telepathically sense superhero adventures on other worlds (which is how Flash Comics on Earth-One could accurately portray Jay Garrick on Earth Two).

#SFWApro. Photo copyright is mine. All rights to Wisp’s dinner remain with her.

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