Category Archives: Story Problems

Second verse, same as the first

Which is to say, this week’s productivity wasn’t an improvement over last week, though the problems were different.

It started Friday night when we decided to keep Wisp in overnight. She doesn’t like being left downstairs by herself — she’s very wary about going upstairs — and around 12:30 her mewing for attention woke me up. I thought she wanted to go out, but no, she just wanted someone to sit with her. There was much petting and belly scritching, then she settled down and went to sleep on the couch cushion next to me. I, however, had no such luck. Sleep was shot for the night.

Sunday, more of the same, plus Plushie had the squirtles. TYG took him outside the first time, then I did, and then he and I settled in downstairs with Wisp. That would make it simpler if he had to go out yet again, which he did; after that, he went to sleep but again, I didn’t. And sleep Saturday and Sunday did not make up for the minimal night sleep. So I started Monday sleep-deprived and never made it up. The sense from last week that my mornings are too busy with pets and I have to get up extra early to get any work done didn’t help. The result was that I spent most of my week a little bit off peak condition.

That being the case, I pretty much dropped my initial plans and focused on the big stuff: more stuff watched for Alien Visitors, some minor formatting for Undead Sexist Cliches and finishing up Questionable Minds. Wednesday, despite all the distractions and lack of sleep, I was optimistic I’d have it done this week, but the last couple of chapter had problems. One was that a key scene involves a convenient oil lamp, but as the house is equipped with gas jets, there’s no real reason they’d have an oil lamp there. That proved relatively simple to fix, but then came the big finish where the bad guy buys it … and for some reason, it doesn’t work. I think I see a way to fix it, but it didn’t occur to me until too late today.

My schedule was also complicated because when Leaf articles were posted for writing it was at odd hours and moments. Normally I adapt to that pretty well but with my brain already foggy that didn’t go well. Still I got some done, and money coming in is always a good thing. And the dogs and Wisp are getting a little more relaxed about having each other around. Only a little, but it’s a good sign.#SFWApro.

 

 

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Filed under Nonfiction, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

I don’t think the black-eyed peas I ate New Years Day brought that much luck

Because my first work week of the New Year was kind of a mess. Still the hopping John was quite tasty

Monday went great, actually. I watched the 1953 and 2005 War of the Worlds for Alien Visitors and wrote a rough draft of the Alien Invaders chapter (Wells’ work and its adaptations will be the main focus). For the first time in a couple of months I seemed capable of organizing my thoughts, catching the key details of Alien Invader movies — it felt great! I also did another spell-check on Undead Sexist Cliches (good move — Word spellcheck caught a lot that Scrivener didn’t) and started rewriting an old short story, Love That Moves the Sun, to read to the writers’ group Tuesday. I’d thought a relatively cursory rewrite would get it in at least good enough shape for presenting, but I was wrong. About 2,000 words in I started seeing the need for substantial changes, but that’s actually good: I haven’t really had an idea how to fix this but maybe my brain’s coming up with something. Unfortunately part of the fix will be turning it into at least novella length — the ending doesn’t work and to reach one that does, I’ll need an expansion — and  I still  don’t know where it goes beyond the original story.

However, the response from the group on Tuesday was very positive, so I’m encouraged to keep working on it. I got the standard criticisms I always receive — needs more detail on the setting, things happen too damn fast — and they’re absolutely right. Slowing it down and filling in detail will improve it and perhaps somewhere in there I’ll see how to expand it successfully.

Tuesday I did some more Alien Visitors work. And then Wednesday the shit hit the fan. No, not Trump’s attempted coup, at least not at first. It was Plushie: he needs heat applied to his hip joint every day, and we’ve started doing it in the morning so we don’t let it slide (he gets painfully stiff if we skip it for a few days). Coupled with other dog stuff and coping with Wisp, I wound up starting work about 90 minutes late, which put me off my game for much of the day. I’d intended to make up the time in the evening, but then I heard about the attack on Congress and spent the rest of the afternoon on into the evening doomposting. And not the fun Doom either.

Thursday and Friday I did more doomposting. And I had either Wisp or Trixie down with me in the early morning. That’s the only time I really feel is private, because nobody’s up; normally I can adapt when pets intrude (I won’t send them away) but this time I was stressed enough that petting and watching over them became like chaff in my brain. And then Thursday afternoon we had an appointment at the rehab vet.

Today I did a little better with Wisp lying next to me. But then TYG was doing something techie and I had to get off the Internet for an hour and help her with grunt work, so that cost an hour, plus I was hardly focused when the Internet came back up. So since Tuesday all I’ve done is a small number of Leaf articles.

Frustrating, but hopefully the hopping John will kick in after this.

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

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Filed under Nonfiction, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Sometimes dogs snuggling in bed is not the cutest thing ever

Plushie, for example, has decided the solution for any stress during the night is to cuddle up with me and lick my face. Which is sweet … but not when I’m asleep. Trixie likewise came and snuggled with me one evening this week, but every time I drifted off that was apparently a sign for her to fidget and shift. One of my weaknesses is an inability to get back to sleep if I’m brought to wakefulness for more than a few seconds so this did not end well for me. I spent much of the week sleep-deprived, though I’ve made up for it today. Good thing they’re too cute to stay mad at!

My main accomplishment was doing a lot of Leaf articles. I’m not quire sure how many they’ll have to write in any given week so I did three extra this week, wrapping up today. In theory I can make up the time lost to other projects by doing less Leaf next week. That doesn’t always work because sometimes they have articles I just can’t resist writing. This week for example I had articles on how to join an actors union and how film actors get paid (every week, on Thursday — yes I did say more about it than that!).

I got a couple of chapters proofed on Questionable Minds, though I’m thinking of one possibly big rewrite of the “finished” draft. I’m honestly not sure I need all the villain POV scenes, which were meant to explain his seemingly puzzling crime patterns; it’s possible they’re necessary but it’s also possible nobody cares, or at least not as much as I do. As we get into the later part of the book I’ll see if I can wrap anything essential into some of the other exposition scenes.

I got partway through Chapter Five in Undead Sexist Cliches, which is one of the two chapters on rape cliches. I’d planned to work on Chapter Four but it’s much less tightly organized and in my tired state I couldn’t get anywhere with it.

My daily exercise routine has suffered since TYG and I started taking one dog each for morning walkies (my doctor is very clear that walking doesn’t get my heart pumping fast enough to make it the primary source of exercise). Normally, even in summer, I go out bicycling at least once a week but it’s too damn hot except for the early mornings, and those are for dogs. In theory I could make it up working on our stationary bicycle or doing some other sort of exercise later in the day, but somehow it doesn’t seem to happen.  I’m going to have to work to see that it does.

And we have begun putting out a pet carrier and leaving Wisp’s cat food inside it. Hopefully she’ll get used enough to it we’ll be able to trap her and take her in for her annual checkup soon.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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Filed under Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

I think things fell apart when I went to the library …

But I’m still glad I went.

The Durham Library recently reopened, though only for picking up books placed on hold (maximum of five). Which is disappointing — they just completed a massive remodel of the main library and I’d love to visit — but obviously the right thing to do. As my pile of new books is vastly shrinking (no used bookstores or library sales to visit) I reserved some books and picked them up Thursday afternoon, as they don’t open Saturdays. It went smoothly, with no major risk and everyone masked, though to my disappointment Ghosts of Manhattan turned out not to be the superhero novel of that name but a mainstream book about a stockbroker’s personal crises. I may read it anyway.

However, after I got back from the library I had to engage in some extra dog care and wound up getting very little done Thursday. Then this morning I took Plushie for his walk and for a change he was ready to go on a long one. We spent probably an hour, which is good — he really needs to get some weight off — but quite exhausting for me. I not only lost a chunk of writing time but it took me a while to get over the stiffness and focus on writing (I exercise plenty but walking wipes me out way more than most workouts. I’ve no idea why). This may happen again, as we’re now taking one dog each in the morning, which makes it easier to get them walked before the heat is unendurable.

I also made the mistake of dropping Thursday morning’s planned focus on Questionable Minds to do a little extra work on Undead Sexist Cliches and Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I think there are two ways to juggle multiple projects: allot each of them some time in your schedule and give them the time or make one project the priority and do whatever it takes to get that work done, even if it cuts into the time spent on others. I set my priorities based on option A — get something done on each of them per week — but then I wind up shifting them around. I still got work done in that time, but I’d be happier, I think, if I’d gotten some on all three big projects instead of skimping on my Minds final draft.

Oh, and I took Monday off, which was the right call. I’d let a lot of life stuff build up unfinished (paperwork, bills, checks to deposit, things to clean) plus my brain was slowing down from cabin fever some. That didn’t help with productivity either, but I’m glad I did it. Unfortunately the library doesn’t do appointments on Mondays or I’d have taken care of it then.

On Impossible I got through Chapter Three on the new draft which brought me up to a scene I had no idea how to fix, where Lahatiel (evil fake angel) attempts to kill KC (alias the Florida Panhandle’s superhero, the Champion). The old version didn’t work — it plays on fears and worries KC no longer has — but I think I figured out where to go with my current concept of her character. I’ll try it next week. And I posted Ch.2 to my writers’ group, as I’ll be reading it next week. Undead Sexist Cliches has the first two chapters done on the final draft. Questionable Minds … well, nothing, obviously. Plus I got some Leaf articles done (most interesting: “Do Physician Assistants Wear White Coats?” There’s more to the answer than I’d have thought.

For illustration, here’s a photo I took of someone’s broken lawn ornament recently. I’d like to claim it as an allegorical artistic statement on the ongoing statue controversies, but it’s just a photo.#SFWApro. Image is mine.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

It’s the weekend, let’s hit the beach!

Okay, probably a bad idea right now with Florida cases skyrocketing … but it does give me an excuse to post this whimsical Sheldon Mayer cover.This was a productive week. Not productive enough, but when do I ever say it was enough? But I did feel at times like cabin fever was interfering with my creative process; I may take Monday off just to clear my head, even though it’s not like I can go anywhere.

I got a few Leafs done, but we were on the wrap-up end of the current spurt. It’ll start up again next month, one reason I want to take Monday off when it won’t interfere with money-making. I made good use of the added no-Leaf time, finishing the introduction and first chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. It was slow going because I rewrote more than I expected. Part of that was making the logic flow smoother, part of it just to tighten the material. I knocked 1,000 words or more out of Chapter One so I guess I succeeded.

I continued replotting Impossible Takes a Little Longer, including rearranging some of the sections for overall pacing and introducing some characters earlier. I’m still not sure whether it’s long enough and there’s one key scene, Champion’s first battle with Lahatiel, that I don’t have figured out. The original attack, which I’d thought would last into this version, doesn’t work; I have a vague idea what might work in its place but I’m not sure. I also wrote out the second chapter, as I thought I might be reading at Tuesday’s writer’s group. However that won’t happen until July 7 (a few years ago, TYG and I would have been at the Mensa national gathering but like so much else, that didn’t happen this year). I’ll give it another glance next week but I think I may have outlined as much as I can — I’ll continue with the next draft and wing it where I have to.

I finished a rough outline for the next draft of Oh the Places You’ll Go! and started on the next draft. It’s way stronger, but still needs some work. Right now I’m squeezing a ton of exposition in up front, just to make sure I get it in, but next draft I can spread it out. I have a feeling this will stretch out to substantially longer before I’m done.

I did not get anything done on the final draft of Questionable Minds. Bad me! Part of Monday will be figuring out just what I can get done and how fast, and which projects are top priority, etc. I hate to say it but I can’t do it all, at least not at once.

Oh, and a magazine called Overdraft accepted my reprint story Dark Satanic Mills so whoot! After getting so many rejections earlier this month, it feels good.

Have a great weekend everyone, and stay safe.

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

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Little baby steps feel better than crawling

Which is to say that while I haven’t brought anything to a conclusion any more than I did last week, I made enough progress I feel more satisfied.

On Oh the Places You’ll Go, for instance, switching to 1972 as the “present” works as well as I’d hoped. For the first time I feel like I’ve got a stronger plot without sacrificing the character dynamic and the McGuffin is actually something interesting. There’s still a lot of stuff to sort out on the next draft, but I’m confident the story is there.

On Undead Sexist Cliches I actually finished proofing the introduction. That’s a very small piece of the book, but it still feels like an accomplishment, as opposed to stopping somewhere mid-chapter.

I didn’t get quite as much done on Impossible Takes a Little Longer but the outline for the next draft is firming up. There’s a couple of points that have me baffled but I’m hopeful I’ll crack them by the end of the month. I’ll probably be batting out a second chapter early next week in case I’m called on to read at Tuesday’s writers’ group (I’m only one of the backups, but if anyone doesn’t show …)

While the Leaf article pipeline has been erratic, I finished several articles so I’m contributing to the family bottom line again.

I got another short story back with “we liked it but …” compliments and it’s now out again. As I said last week, it’s frustrating to come close and miss, but I’m in a good enough mood today I’m more inclined to accept the compliments.

Oh, and following up on my review of first season Star Trek, I posted about what everyone gets wrong about Kirk over at Atomic Junkshop.Still feeling a little cabin-fevery; having no meetings of any sort this week didn’t help. Neither did the drenching rain keeping us indoors Monday through Wednesday. But until I’m more comfortable going places casually (I’m still very wary), there’s not a lot of options for changing things up. All things considered though, my life is still very good.

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

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Sherlock Holmes: Incidental vs. Vital

Looking over my Sherlock Holmes mug this week, I came upon a phrase that’s relevant to my rewriting of Oh the Places You’ll Go!: “It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to recognize, out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which are vital.” (I don’t know which story it’s from, sorry).

As a “pantser” my initial draft of any story is usually far off the final version. When I revise the first drafts into something usable that requires figuring out which arethe vital elements I want to keep and which are incidental. In One Hand Washes the Other I started with a teenage protagonist, then aged him about 15 years. In Peace With Honor I flipped from Vietnamese male and American female protagonists to the other way around. In both cases I knew the basic plot concept was sound, but my initial concept of the protagonist wasn’t vital.

With Oh the Places You’ll Go! — which involves people who can use old maps to travel to the past — I want to keep the protagonists pretty much as they are and restructure the plot around them. My core cast are best friends Charlotte and Michelle and their respective kids, Nora and Kurt. Both kids, as sometimes happens, think the other’s mom is so much cooler, why couldn’t she be my mom instead? By the end of the story, kids and parents have managed to more or less bridge the generation gap.

While one of my writing group loved the story as it was, most felt it needed a lot more, both in exploring the setting and adding some tension. Much as I’d like to agree with the dissenter, I think they were right: the conflict is so low-key it almost fades into the paper. It needs more. But I also think the family dynamic and some elements of the plot — Kurt and Charlotte in the past, Michelle and Nora in the present — are essential, so I have to find some way to keep them.

For this draft, I tried adding some action involving a McGuffin everyone is after, but that didn’t work — it’s definitely not an action story. So I’m looking at it as a character story, primarily. That fits with my original concept but it requires more of a character arc for my quartet. I haven’t figured out what that is yet, but I suspect it may be vital.

Up to this point I’ve set the “present” of the story as now, but I think that’s incidental. There’s a plot element I consider vital, involving a map from the future, but my writing group said it wasn’t that interesting a vision of the future. If, say, the present of the story is 1972, I could use a map from 2020 or 2025 (the thought of someone traveling through time and arriving in the Trump presidency is so depressing it makes me favor the latter). It’ll be an amazing future to my characters (Montenegro is a country again, Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe, no U.S.S.R. and East and West Germany one country) and it’ll be a lot easier for me.

We’ll see if any of this helps with the actual writing, but I’m optimistic.

#SFWApro. Cup design by Philosophers Guild, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Normally I feel the other way around

I’ve noticed that in a lot of these week-in-review posts I say that while it felt like I didn’t get anything much done, when I actually write it all down, I did quite a bit. Looking over my writing goals for May, I feel the opposite: I wasn’t quite as productive as I felt I was. Not as productive on non-writing goals, either, but that’s partly still adjusting to the new status quo.

As to this specific week, it went pretty well. As TYG took part of Monday off for Memorial Day, I took it off too, something I haven’t done in a while. That felt really good; I must remember to take more holidays. However I slept wretchedly and woke up early Monday morning, which made me feel rather dazed the rest of the day.

Tuesday morning I had to visit the doctor (all well!) which consumed much of that morning. So only 3.5 days of work this week, but I managed to put in slightly more hours than that.

I redrafted Oh the Places You’ll Go! and while it still doesn’t work, I can see what it needs. This past draft I tried adding a little more adventure and danger, but I think it really needs to be a character-arc story. And it doesn’t really have a character arc as much as relationship arcs between the four core cast members, and even those arcs are a little too low-key. So that’s where I need to look at fixing it before next draft.

I got part of the way through a redraft of Laughter of the Dark. Here I really like the character development this draft, but the plot is a little weak.

And I finished Glory That Was, all ready to submit next month

I got through most of a pre-hard copy review of Undead Sexist Cliches but not all of it, which is what I wanted. This was where I got the most productivity, probably because it doesn’t require as much creative thought. And I finished a book, Before Roe v. Wade which I’ll review next week.

And I posted at Atomic Junkshop about my love of movies and the saga of writing my first one.

For the month as a whole, I know I put in plenty of time, it’s just that nothing got as finished as I wanted. Almost no work on Questionable Minds (even though my cover artist is not currently up for delivering anything, I’d like to get my edits done). No short stories finished. And Undead Sexist Cliches, as noted, remains unfinished. I suspect it’s less the distraction from the pandemic and possibly pushing to get more finished than I could.  And some of the stuff — marketing plans and related activities — are outside my usual skill set.

On the plus side, Trixie is doing so much better. Her leg occasionally gets weak, but mostly she’s bouncing around with all her old energy. It’s wonderful to see, and to know we handled everything right.

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

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Titans have fallen! My week in review

First off, while it doesn’t relate to my work, here’s a shot of Wisp. I’d gone into the kitchen to get her cat food and when I came back, she’d jumped into the chair. That was a surprise as she’s usually a “bush cat” staying on the floor. Unfortunately we had to remove the pillow because Plushie’s been chewing on it and it’s worn enough he could swallow some of the stuffing.I decided this week I would focus on my two big projects, the Undead Sexist Cliches book and Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I wanted to get the current drafts done this month and … they are.

I’m really pleased with Undead Sexist Cliches. The last two choppy chapters (the final one, on the metaphor of the “sexual marketplace,” was particularly disorganized) now flow smoothly; the footnotes are all in place; and I have my bibliography and my “final thoughts” section done (I hadn’t planned to include final thoughts but my beta readers said I should).  Now I take a break, and then in June I start final revisions. I’ll probably print up one copy via Amazon next month so that I can do them in hard copy — I’m much better at spotting errors that way.

I’m a little less satisfied with Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Partly that’s because I reused the spine of the current ending, though with changes to the details (KC doesn’t have the same power level at the big finish she did previously), and it needed more changes; however I didn’t have a better idea and I really wanted to finish, so I forged ahead. The other part is that it’s simply at a much earlier stage than Undead Sexist Cliches, and it shows: there’s a whole bunch of changes I’ll need to make next draft before I solicit my beta readers. Still, so much of the book fell neatly together, I’m hopeful everything I need is lying buried in my subconscious somewhere. Current plans are to take a month off, then rewrite it over the summer. If all goes well, I’ll have it ready to beta in September.

I got A Famine Where Abundance Lies back from the last market I sent it to. Next week, with the big projects done, I’ll be submitting everything that isn’t currently out, working on a couple of short stories and resume proofing Questionable Minds, which is the project I’ve been slack about.

And I paid my state sales taxes. One book sold on Amazon so I had to send in about 16 cents … with a $2 fee to do it online. That actually costs me more than the payment for the book.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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Cats, distractions and undead sexist cliches: My week at work

This was a somewhat frustrating week. Despite working in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep and getting up early generally, I actually fell short of my desired 35 hours. Extra dog walking and multiple food and item deliveries sucked up a surprising amount of time. Worse, in the time that was left, I sometimes wound up too frazzed to focus and working in too-small bursts of time to build up any steam. Can’t be helped though: TYG’s job is less flexible than mine so I can adjust my schedule more easily (my boss is very understanding). I really must find ways to keep my focus despite distractions, though. Particularly when Leaf work gets started again — for some reason that suffers in the current environment more than anything else.

On the plus side, it seems I can work with Wisp snuggling in my lap.

So what did I get done? Well, I finally got the abortion/birth control chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches worked out and footnoted. I had to rearrange it a lot to work logically and clear up a lot of repeated information, plus adding some scientific detail (no, abortions do not cause breast cancer or depression). I also made a rough outline of Chapter Nine, on the concept of a sexual marketplace (the assumption women are supposed to trade sex for marriage). That should make it easier when I start on it next week.

I finished a couple of chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Now I’m up to the climax, but the changes I’ve made already will mandate more changes; one character who played a major role is dead, for instance, so not so major. I want this draft done this month.

I read my revised version of The Glory That Was to the writers’ group Tuesday night and got generally favorable responses. The big change from the previous draft was shifting from third person to multiple first-persons, and it seems to have worked. However there was a general consensus the opening was too rushed for anyone to find their feet, so that’ll be my primary concern on the next draft.

Oh, and over at Atomic Junkshop we’re suffering some puzzling tech problems. One post I made this week vanished, came back and now it’s vanished again. Very annoying.

Have a great weekend. Here’s another photo of Wisp, scrunching her eyes shut in response to getting petted.#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

 

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