Category Archives: Story behind the story

Story Behind the Story: Blood and Steel

Blood and Steel is the fifth story in Atoms for Peace (available for purchase at Amazon in paperback and multiple retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble as an ebook), pitting Steve and Dani against an army of killer robots (somewhat more substantial than the illustration, and Dani’s not fighting in her nightgown). The robots were supposed to be part of a National Guard war game, testing their robot-fighting techniques. But something’s gone wrong and people are dying …

One of the challenges in writing these short stories is that when I conceived the characters in The Brain From Outer Space, I didn’t have to go into the details of their backstory. I knew Steve and Dani met during the Invasion (the Martian invasion, that is, but even years later, that’s the one that gets capitalized) and had a one-night stand. They met again when they were both working in California, Steve for the TSC, Dani for the National Guard. I didn’t have to go into detail on either encounter.

Now, though, I was writing the second meeting. I had to explain why they’d walked away from each other back in Boston even though they had a connection. And I had to make meeting each other again feel real; even though they’d had other lovers since, I had to convey that they meant something to each other, that the night they’d spent together had meant something. And that there was enough between them to keep them together after that. Fortunately, my best friend Cindy Holbrook is a former Regency romance author, so I trust her judgment that I got the emotional side right.

I also didn’t want to have Steve, or Steve and Dani, single-handedly save the day. Not that I object to characters who can; I’ve written several. But I like the idea that in this setting Steve isn’t the hero, that the other Science Investigators are perfectly capable of handling things. As a female National Guard medic, Dani’s more unusual, but she can’t do it alone either. For whatever reason, in this series that works for me. So I had to show them both getting a share of the action, contributing to the fight, but not  defeating the bad guy on their lonesome.

Rereading it as I proofed this volume, I felt very pleased with my work.

#SFWApro. Fantastic Adventures cover by Harold McCauley, courtesy of wikimedia. Cover is out of copyright. Atoms For Peace cover by Zakaria Nada, copyright is mine.

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Story Behind the Story: Fire From Space

Fire From Space is the fourth story in Atoms for Peace (available for purchase at Amazon in paperback and multiple retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble as an ebook). The goal for this one was to establish Dr. Dani Taylor, last seen in The Claws That Catch, in her new role as a National Guard medic in California, which is where we will someday find her at the start of The Brain From Outer Space.

This story is also one of the reasons I never finished the darn book.

Writing the stories led me to do a lot more fleshing out of my setting and supporting cast than I had in Brain to that point. What’s life like in Wind Song, the town neighboring the National Guard base? What does everyone do for recreation? What are Dani’s platoon-mates like? I show Dani going on dates with Trueblood and Barclay, two characters from the book (Barclay may just drop out when I get back to it, he never worked out the way I wanted). But I needed a woman for her to talk to for a couple of scenes; not that I was consciously trying to pass the Bechdel Test, it just felt right. And out of the various women in the book (Gwen, DiNaldi, Jo Davies) I settled on Dr. Claire White. It turned out that was a good choice.

Claire is a brilliant scientist who’s about as far from Dani as you can get. Dani, at heart, is still a well-bred Boston woman. Like a lot of people in that era, she feels the need to look chaste, regardless of what happens when the lights go out. Claire’s quite open about liking sex, and getting it (in the real 1950s, this would have been a career killer, but the work she does is too valuable). She’s casual and fun-loving; Dani’s sober and serious. They’re a perfect comic team.

Trouble is, my plot for Brain involved Claire putting the moves on Dani’s boyfriend Steve (introduced in The Spider Strikes) for ulterior motives. By that point, five years after this story, she and Dani are best friends; even if I keep Claire’s ulterior motives the same, there’s no way she’s hitting on her best friend’s boyfriend. Particularly when she knows Dani loves Steve. My subsequent drafts the past seven years never figured that one out.

Like The Spider Strikes I made a conscious choice not to deal with sexual harassment in the military. It might come up in the novel. But I’d sooner have Dani out there healing the platoon than fending off creeps and rapists.

This story also established several changes to the timeline, most notably Sputnik going up in 1956 thanks to Russia re-engineering a crashed spacecraft or two. Khruschev realizing that Human vs. Alien now outranks East vs. West as the struggle of our time offers to go partners on a space program with the U.S. By Not In Our Stars But in Ourselves, set in 1958, the Cold War is sort-of over and we’re about to make the first moon landing.

Pop culture changes too. Robert Heinlein’s Starship Soldiers and Captain Podkayne of Mars establish the “space realism” school of SF; they’re seen less as science fiction and more a realistic Tom Clancy-style look at what war in space will be like once we’re finally fighting out there. James Dean is in The Lonely Crowd, so obviously (at least I assume it will be obvious) he didn’t die in that car crash (it’s a fantastic film, by the way, and earns him his first Oscar).

Some things, though, are worse: the segregationist opponents of Civil Rights are blaming every black protest on alien agitators (did you know Emmett Till was some kind of alien? But the aliens working in the movement covered up the autopsy!). It’s ugly but it fits the rather noirish (I think) tone of the story.

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

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The Story Behind the Story: The Spider Strikes

The Spider Strikes is the third story in Atoms for Peace (available for purchase at Amazon in paperback and multiple retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble as an ebook). Like the others in the collection, I wrote it with an eye to setting things up for (the still-unfinished) Brains From Outer Space. Specifically, this would introduce Steve Flanagan, my primary protagonist, and introduce him to Gwen Montgomery who appeared in the initial story in the collection. It proved a lot of work, because there was a lot to introduce.

For one thing, in the two years since Atoms for Peace, Gwen’s becoming a science investigator for the Technology and Science Commission. The federal government has decided that to avoid the kind of mad-science research that figured in the first story (or in movies such as I Was a Teenage Werewolf or Fiend Without a Face), researchers must apply for a federal license. The TSC reviews them, deciding thumbs up or down. This can be based on potential risks (nuclear research is very unlikely to pass muster) or the character of the applicant (will they follow the rule). The guys behind the TSC (Senators Jack Kennedy and Richard Dorman pushed the bill that created it) realized that some researchers might just go ahead unlicensed, or start exceeding parameters once they got the license. Someone needed to investigate and prevent that, so the TSC suddenly acquired an investigating arm.

While I don’t go into a lot of detail, I had to explain the basics. And then there was Steve, whose backstory is a lot more complicated than Gwen’s or Dani Taylor’s. He and his brother Tommy grew up in a tenement, got taken away by social workers (this was largely accepted practice until decades later when it began affecting middle-class Americans) and raised in an orphanage (their parents, by the 1950s, are both dead). Tommy was a good, quiet kid; Steve pushed back against bullies, including the bullies on the staff. He got beat up a lot and went for  couple of short stays in reform school. After he realized the orphanage doctor was putting something bad in the shots he was giving the kids, he tried to smash all his equipment. That got him a long stay (what was in the injections? Well, that’s a key part of Brain).

Tommy got adopted by two Soviet agents who were caught working against the country. He disappeared. Steve, now all grown up, is determined to find him, somehow. While following up a trail in Philadelphia, he winds up helping Gwen against a killer robot spider. He doesn’t know it but his life path just changed …

One of the reasons Gwen recruits Steve to help her is that while some branches of Science Investigations allow women agents, they all insist on pairing them with men who can handle “the rough stuff.” Gwen is perfectly capable of handling trouble, but rules are rules; with her partner hospitalized early on, the only available alternative is a sexual harasser, so no. Telling her boss she’s found someone to handle the “rough stuff” so the harasser can stick to his current investigation solves that problem.

Throughout the book I’ve tried to acknowledge the sexism of the time without making it unpleasant to read. Hopefully I found the sweet spot (I feel better after reading  Robert Jackson Bennett’s argument that “realism” isn’t a good reason to show lots of rape).

*A minor alt.history point is my reference to the computer company Eckert-Mauchly. It’s named for the inventors who built ENIAC, the original computer, but wound up losing control and credit for their work. In this timeline they hung on to both. Philadelphia’s “Engineers’ Row” will wind up becoming the Silicon Valley of this timeline.

*A true history detail is the derogatory “slopie” for the North Koreans (Steve’s a Korean War vet). It occurred to me people might think it’s some kind of mutant, but no, just racist slang of the day.

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

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Story Behind the Story: The Claws That Catch

In The Brain From Outer Space I introduced Dr. Dani Taylor, National Guard medic and girlfriend to my protagonist Steve Flanagan. I referenced her fighting something in Boston called the Devilfish, so for this story I decided to focus on that incident. That would also explain how she came to be a medic.

My template for the story was a straight 1950s SF: radioactive accident mutates lobsters, creates a race of humanoid Devilfish. They swarm into the city, killing and destroying. Dr. Danielle Taylor, daughter of Paul Taylor, distinguished founder of Taylor General, finds herself cut off with a young intern, a candy striper, a black doctor and her husband. They hole up in a department store; attempts to get anywhere invariably run into the Devilfish. Rather than run, they develop an improvised clinic for other strays — tourists, an injured National Guardsman, a pregnant woman.

As I fleshed out the story, it developed something of a Cloverfield tone. These aren’t the heroes fighting the monsters, they’re ordinary people struggling to stay alive and keep others alive. The battle we’d see in the movies is taking place somewhere off screen.

This gave me a much better handle on Dani’s character. She’s a daughter of privilege, her life clearly mapped out for her. She’s been following the map even though her parents died in the Invasion a couple of years earlier. Now, for the first time, she’s starting to see a different path, and she chooses to walk it.

She’s also very bad at triage. She wants to save everyone; as the story opens she’s given their last morphine to a dying guy instead of saving it for the living. That forces Dani to go out and scavenge for more. That’s definitely something I want to work into Brain From Outer Space when I rewrite it.

I’m also pleased with the period details in this one. Senator John F. Kennedy showing up. Smoking in hospital rooms. A passing reference to the then-current bestseller The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. Dani’s awkwardness at working with a black doctor. Like I said in last week’s post, writing racist protagonists doesn’t come easily to me, but I try not to write them as too modern either.

I also included several continuity references showing how things have developed since Atoms for Peace: hearings confirming the AEC corruption, another rogue experiment with a nuclear powered rocket (the sort of thing that shows the need for Science Investigators). I’m pleased with it. Hopefully whoever buys the book is too.

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


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The Story Behind the Story: Atoms for Peace

Woot! Atoms for Peace and Other Stories is available for purchase at Amazon in paperback and other retailers such as Barnes & Noble as an ebook. Unlike Atlas Shagged, the stories in this one are all tied together, part of an alternative 1950s in which movies such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, Creature With the Atom Brain, Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Them! were all real. While I’ve covered most of the stories in early Story Behind the Story blog posts, I started this blog after the first story had come out. So here’s the odd tale of how the book and the first story came to be.

Back in the 1990s, Clinton’s Secretary of Energy, Hazel O’Leary, declassified the reports about U.S. radiation experiments on unwitting patients (they weren’t told what the doctors were doing, or given an option to consent). That started me thinking (at least I think so, the exact chain of reasoning is a bit blurry after so long) about how that mirrored so many SF films of the 1950s, like I Was a Teenage Werewolf (and gives the lie to every How To Write SF article that declares mad scientists experimenting on innocent people could never happen in real life). And then it hit me: what would the US be like if those movies had been real? If by the end of the 1950s we’d been under attack by multiple aliens, radioactive mutants, pod people and reanimated dinosaurs?

Hmmm …well scientific research would be tightly regulated, of course. With investigators to double-check nobody was doing illegal experiments on the sly. The National Guard would be busy fighting mutant horrors. And maybe we’d have made it into space years earlier than we did. Now if you throw the effects of one of those radiation experiments into the mix …

I liked it. But back then I had a day job, so The Brain From Outer Space took a long time to work on. Finally I had it in reasonably satisfactory shape around 2008 or 9. Then it hit me the first chapter, written to show investigators Steve Flanagan and Gwen Montgomery on a case and so introduce my world, worked pretty well as a standalone short story. So I tweaked it a little and sent it out.

The Big Pulp website liked it and accepted it. Then they suggested I write a series of stories leading up to it, showing how my world came to be so different. I jumped at the chance. The stories are still up there, if you’re curious. Unfortunately some of the elements and relationships in the book no longer fit the backstory. I’d also discovered problems in the story that really needed fixing. The book needed a major overhaul … and to date, I haven’t been able to fix it.

But the stories are still worth it.

The first story, Atoms for Peace, takes it’s name from the post-war slogan: sure, the a-bomb was terrifying but nuclear energy, turned to peaceful uses, was our friend! Wonderful things would come from it (check out the book Nukespeak for a look at the sunny nuclear utopianism of the era). The Atomic Energy Commission (now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) was supposed to both regulate and promote the industry; it usually came down on the “promote” side and did its best to minimize the risks of radiation.

I decided that would be the basis for my story: the first documented case of “rogue science,” using ordinary people as guinea pigs. My protagonist would be Southerner Gwen Montgomery, former OSS agent. As the story opens in 1954, Gwen thinks she’s done with adventuring. But then she found the strange half-man half-lizard under the street light …

It’s a good story and I think it’s a good book. It’s a lot whiter than I’d do it today (I hope), but I know from Southern Discomfort that simply switching some of my characters to black or Latino would take lots of work, especially in a world where segregation is still the norm. As I wrote this to reuse old work, not start fresh, I kept it as it was. Though I’m pleased with my female representation as Dani, Kate Meara, Gwen and Claire all get a good share of the adventure.

I’ll have more to say about the book next week. Hopefully you’ll all have bought it by then.

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


Filed under Atoms for Peace, Brain From Outer Space, Short Stories, Story behind the story

The Story Behind the Story: The End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor (#SFWApro)

The End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor is now out in the new issue of Space and Time. So here’s the backstory.

As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I love movies. Probably more than a decade ago (maybe twenty years? I’m honestly not sure) I had a great concept for a movie-based story. The world has somehow transformed into a movie reality where everyone has become a film character (I’ve no idea now what my original rationale for this transformation was), except for my protagonist. He’s conscious of what happened so instead of reacting as a character would, he can think outside the movie formula. In the opening scene, for example, he kills a vampire when they meet instead of blithely accepting the invitation to stay in his isolated castle overnight; the vamp dies baffled how the protagonist knew.

The two pages I wrote based on this idea then sat in my files for probably a decade. When I finally looked at the story again, I saw why. My protagonist was simply too detached, too ironic about what was happening. But hmm, what if he wasn’t detached? What if he was aware of the big change to reality, but also part of it? Knowing he was living a film cliche, but unable to change things?

So was born Harry Davis, hardboiled PI in a world that doesn’t make sense. Where the diner he meets his newest client at is frequented by the sailors from On the Town, commies from a 1950s Red Scare film and a cyborg from some direct-to-DVD SF adventure. Where you travel a few miles from the heart of New York and you find yourself at the isolated Hotel Alucard.  Harry knows the real world ended, but he doesn’t know why the afterlife — if that’s what this is — looks the way it does. He doesn’t know why he alone remembers the old world, recognizes the movie characters around him. But he can’t stop events forcing him to live the life of a hardboiled PI movie. He can’t remember who he used to be. Much to his annoyance, he doesn’t recognize whatever actor’s face he wears now.

The plot centers on finding a mysterious McGuffin and allows me to take Harry from the rougher side of the Big Apple to battling Satanic cults to meeting with an old flame. I also got to include one of my favorite Bela Lugosi lines, borrowed from Black Dragons (“All people are in danger of dying …”).

While the setting drew heavily from old 1930s and 1940s movies, I worked to add more variety in the background characters. I had one supporting character who was modeled on 1970s blacksploitation films (a PI a la Shaft) but he got dropped when the story got too cumbersome. It wound up a less diverse story than I’d intended.

I got feedback from a couple of writing groups. One point, which I fixed quickly, was that in the draft of the story I’d read, we never learned who Harry looks like. I fixed that in the subsequent draft.


Another significant change was that I’d originally had an ending in which Harry mulls over what it all means. One which set him up for further adventures, even though I didn’t have any in mind (my mind doesn’t seem to run to series — too bad as they’re a good selling point). Someone suggested cutting that and they were right. The ending as it is now packs much more punch.

So there’s the story behind the story. Now go read (you can order online here) and (hopefully) enjoy.

All rights to images remain with the current holders.


Filed under Short Stories, Story behind the story

The Story Behind the Story: Backstage With the Hypothetical Dead (#SFWApro)

As I noted Sunday, Backstage With the Hypothetical Dead is now live at On the Premises. The “second place” is because they structure each issue as a contest, and I came in second (obviously). Which was good enough to get published (and paid!) so here’s the story on how it came to be.

Back in 2012, when I read the seminal urban fantasy War for the Oaks, I commented that all the stuff about the protagonist putting a band together became very boring as the book went on. I added I’d have been more interested, maybe, if they’d been working in theater, which is much closer to my heart than music.

Then I reflected that there’s very little theater in specfic. Lots of music — Mercedes’ Lackey’s Bedlam’s Bard, Charles deLint’s buskers and Irish fiddlers — but not much theater. And then I thought hmm, why grumble about it when you could be writing a specfic theater story. So I started work on The Stage is a World, a story that begins with one of the backstage crew discovering a ghost and reacting very loudly — audible to the audience loudly. This did not go over well, particularly with Janice, the stage manager, who came close to kicking him off the show. But didn’t. And then, of course, the ghost returns …

After several drafts, I discovered two apparently intractable problems. I had Janice and Tony, my protagonist, becoming a couple, and that didn’t seem to work. And no explanation I came up with for the ghost seemed to work at all. And while I liked the structure — the ghost appears during different shows in the course of a community theater’s year — I worried it was too inside baseball (the setting is modeled on the group I worked with for years). I read Fritz Leiber’s Four Ghosts in Hamlet for inspiration but that didn’t help.

I eventually decided I’d set Tony and Janice to being friends, instead. And I’d leave the nature of the ghost, who it was, why it was, completely ambiguous. When I read it to the writer’s group, however, the consensus seemed to be that I had no conclusion — everything was too ambiguous. My best friend and fellow writer Cindy Holbrook said it needed more of a personal arc too.

So back to work. I decided the personal arc was the key to having a satisfying ending, so I de-aged Tony, made him a relative rookie with the theater group, and watched him slowly meld into the community over the course of the year. And I had the ghost do something definite at the climax, it’s just that nobody’s sure what or why. I thought that set the balance just right.

Then came submission. Then came rejection. One magazine said it simply wandered in the middle sections, which was a fair criticism, but I decided to keep it the way it was. Then I saw On the Premises was holding a contest for an upcoming issue in which the theme was community, and becoming part of a community. That fit so perfectly, I submitted. And sold it!

Go, read. Enjoy. And as proof of my theater bonafides, here’s a shot of my with one of my two awards from when I was with Act4Murder dinner theater.

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The Story Behind the Story: Dark Satanic Mills (#SFWApro)

Dark Satanic Mills is the last story in Atlas Shagged to get a Story Behind the Story blog post because it’s the first one to be published. It came out in 2007 in Tales of the Talisman, and I wasn’t doing these posts back then. I didn’t even have this blog—my writing-related blog posts were still going up on MySpace (god I’m old). The first drafts came several years earlier, and in contrast to Dean Wesley Smith’s advice, they were rewritten and transformed radically by the time I finished.

As originally conceived, the story was going to be grimdark before grimdark was a word. A bleak, unflinching look at how horrible life can be and how we paper it over with comforting lies and illusions. I’m not sure what exactly prompted me to start down that road, because that’s not my usual style. Was it some particular horror that had happened in the world? Personal issues? I don’t know.

What I do know is that at one point in the story, the protagonist’s friend quotes from a magazine article that mentions in passing that every guy working in corporate America has had the experience of banging a hot coworker in the supply closet. That was something I’d seen in an actual article about dating and sleeping with coworkers and reading it just made my eyes roll (I do not for a minute believe every man has had that experience). When the friend talks about the article, the protagonist sneers that nobody has the kind of perfect lives the friend reads about in lifestyle magazines. In reality everyone’s just as miserable as they are.

Not a crucial scene, though I did enjoy venting. But then on the next draft I threw in the protagonist saying something to the effect of “I know all those articles are shit, because I used to write for those magazines.” And on the next draft followed that up with ” … which are all the tools of Satan to make us miserable!”

Suddenly it was no longer grimdark. I suppose it could have been, but over the next few drafts it mutated into a chick-lit parody. As so many chick-lit novels involved young women trying to make it in publishing (e.g., Devil Wears Prada) so my male protagonist became Cerise, a plucky Midwestern Satanist struggling to make it in Big Apple lifestyle-magazine publishing. Which is indeed all the work of Satan to make us miserable, hence articles built around Buy this $300 tie and finally get laid! or The high-sugar diet — science proves the pounds melt away!

Suffice to say, things got absurd fast. And I really love some of the little details, such as Cerise’ boss wearing clubbed-sealskin boots. Some details I did not love so much: there was some non-consensual sex offstage that made me a little uncomfortable when I reread it, so I cut that for this publication (I think it was appropriate for the setting, but it still didn’t work for me).

The title comes from an old English hymn tied to the movement against child labor, referring to England’s factories as “dark, Satanic mills.” Photo of a dark, not particularly Satanic mill comes from Diamond Environmental Ltd., all rights remain with current holder.


Filed under Atlas Shagged, Short Stories, Story behind the story, Writing

The Story Behind the Story: Atlas Shagged (#SFWApro)

The roots of my Atlas Shagged collection’s title story Atlas Shagged unsurprisingly lie with Ayn Rand. Or more specifically the 2012 Atlas Shrugged Part Two film.

Not anything specific to the film, but after TYG and I saw it (she liked it a little better than I did) I joked Atlas Shagged would be a much better film. And then my brain went hmmm ….

TYG had mentioned once that when the Internet was in its infancy, the peopel working for online porn sites were considered very cool because they had the best, most advanced toys — porn sites were taking online payments long before anyone else, for instance. So I conceived of a future where “Big Johnson” Galt is a former porn star who sets out to stop the motor that runs the world — sex.

The story came of Big Johnson Galt and porn producer Ayn Randy came together pretty quickly. Then I read it to my writers’ group, who loved it, but made several suggestions for improvement. I followed them and sent Atlas Shagged out into the world.

The world sent it back. Repeatedly. Some of the responses were our old friend, “not quite right for us.” One humor magazine loved it, but worried too many people wouldn’t be familiar enough with Rand to get the joke (that’s certainly possible). Several complained that what I’d written wasn’t really a story: there was no central character, no dialog and the whole thing was written at a distance, like I was recapping an even for a history book instead of telling a story.

That last one is a valid criticism — I was writing it more like a news article summarizing events than regular fiction. But I think that still counts as a story; I’ve read a few published SF stories that did the same. At flash fiction lengths, it didn’t seem an unworkable tactic. But editors didn’t agree.

Besides which the range of markets I could submit to was smaller than usual. A number of magazines say flat out they don’t want erotica or graphic sex, and while nobody’s actually having sex on the page in Atlas Shagged, I was pretty sure it qualified.

So finally I tried rewriting it into a more conventional structure, using a minor government employee as my central character. But after getting a few pages into my first draft, I gave up. I was pretty sure reworking Atlas Shagged would lose a lot of the humor and wouldn’t gain much of anything. And it’s not as if reworking it would guarantee a quick sale — my stories never sell quickly. So why was I bothering?

Instead, the idea of just publishing it myself took root, and finally that’s the route I went. Backed up by multiple other stories, of course (as listed here). As it didn’t cost me anything except time, what have I got to lose?

So there you have it. I’ll be back tomorrow with the story behind my chick lit parody Dark Satanic Mills.


Filed under Atlas Shagged, Short Stories, Story behind the story, Writing

The tide has turned and caught me at full flood! (#SFWApro)

So as I mentioned a while back, I picked up three different paying gigs in addition to Screen Rant: the Leaf project (now wrapped up), freelance work for a network of legal papers and money management how-to articles for GOBankingrates. Only the latter two of the four never assigned me anything.

But then the week before my trip to Greenville, GOBankingrates asked if I was up for an article. I had to pass until after the trip, but earlier this week they called again. So I took the assignment (how to get pre-approved for a mortgage). The information was simple enough — it’s similar to the stuff I’ve done for Leaf — but like Screen Rant, they have their own format and style rules, and getting it written to comply with them consumed a lot of time. Not that they’re unreasonable, but it always goes slow the first time I try to follow a style guide. But it’s done, and assuming no problems, it will work out to a great hourly rate.

But all that work on mortgage pre-approval sucked up a lot of time I’d have spent for fiction. And the irrational conviction I Have No Time, I Can’t Get It Done when I have a tight deadline kept me up early. Plus I was working on two Screen Rants, this week’s (not out yet) and a big Wonder Woman article due in a couple of weeks. So it was a little frantic.

And today, the early rising got to me. I went to sleep right after lunch and when I woke up I just lay down with the pups for another hour. Then read for another hour instead of writing. I was in overtime for the week, so I don’t feel bad about it, but I almost never blow off an afternoon even so. Guess I was more tired than I thought.

So what did I get done?

•I reread Undead Sexist Cliches — the Book, because I did almost nothing on it last month and I needed a better sense of what I’d already covered.

•I got another 5,000 words done on Southern Discomforts.

•I had a great idea for my short story, Trouble and Glass, that will resolve some of the problems I’ve been having with it. I’d hoped to actually work on the text, but that time got lost in the nonfiction push.

•I was supposed to talk on the phone with someone I applied to for another nonfiction gig. And that we jumped to phone is a good sign, I think — however, life intervened on his end. Next week, hopefully.

On top of which I managed to keep up exercising, and to give the kitchen a really thorough cleaning while the dogs were in day care (it’s not the best way to spend my dog-free day, but it beats having them try to nose around me while I’m spraying cleaning products).

Next week, now that I know to budget time for the GOBankingrate, perhaps things will go smoother. We shall see …

Oh, and Digital Fantasy Fiction just reprinted my short story He Kindly Stopped For Me. If Death knocked on your door and asked to use your phone, how would you react? Feel free to check out the Story Behind The Story from when it first came out.

Cover art by Jack Kirby, all rights reside with current holder.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Story behind the story, Time management and goals, Writing