Category Archives: Story Problems

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.

#SFWApro.

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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

A cover reveal and thoughts on goals

Much to my surprise — they hadn’t told me — McFarland has already picked a cover for The Aliens Are Here. I’m not sure what the illustration is from, because it’s not one of the ones I submitted for the book. But that’s fine, because it looks fabulous and captures the tone better than anything I would have chosen.

This was a good week for writing. I put in a lot of work rewriting Don’t Pay the Merryman (oh, it so needs a better title) and read the first section for the writing group. They loved it; now I just have to get the rest of the story up to that level. Several people said the section would work fine as itself if I strengthen the character arcs, so I’ll think about that option.

I rewrote The Adventure of the Red Leech and finally fixed the plot. Holmes is able to crack the mystery and thwart the killer without having to conveniently have a suitable mystic talisman (the rather hand-wave finish of the original published version). Still needs work, but it’s getting there.

I’ve also considerably reworked the plot of Impossible Takes A Little Longer and I’m pleased with it. No more long stretches of talk without compensating action. I managed to restore a lot of the characters who fell out of the previous draft — Rachel Chang, Darla Jeffries — and I think some of the key turning points are better placed. I shall start the next draft this month, with 25,000 words as the minimum goal. Plus fixing the remaining plot issues later in the book.

I didn’t achieve as much on my writing goals (or others) as I wanted to. I keep setting a goal to be more aware of local politics but I just can’t seem to make time. I did, however, send off another 60 postcards encouraging people around the country to vote (while this isn’t the exact link, you can find opportunities to help out here). I didn’t finish Red Leech or get Don’t Pay the Merryman as far along as I wanted. But the goals were ambitious enough to push me: everything’s progressing, even if it’s not as fast as I’d like. There are times when no matter how much I rewrite a story, I end up not improving. That’s not the case now. So setting the goals is doing the job it’s supposed to.

Oh, and I finished the tax forms. Now it’s just a matter of signing them and mailing them out. Once again I made a mistake in the write-off for our HSA, which upped our taxable income by $5,000. I caught that today, so yay!

Overall, I did complete enough goals to reward myself by buying the second Epic Iron Man Collection, which runs from midway through his time in Tales of Suspense through the launch of his own series (Gene Colan provides the cover).

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

 

 

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Sherlock Holmes, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Thwacked by Thursday, a good week otherwise

I don’t know what it was that made me feel so unenthused about writing Thursday but something definitely did. I got some work done rewriting Southern Discomfort (I think it’s going well) but couldn’t nudge myself to do anything else.

It probably reflects that last weekend got hectic. First we attended a potluck, which was fun but I’m still having trouble scheduling around in-person social events. Then Sunday night the dogs underwent massive puking, then during the day, so there were vet visits, laundry to do and general disruption. Happily they’re fine now — whatever got into them has apparently passed out.

Thursday aside, it was a productive week. I finished Oh the Places You’ll Go and submitted it to Fantasy & Science Fiction, which is one of the few places that takes 9,000-plus stories. Plus it’s a prestige market I’ve been bouncing off (rejections with encouragement to write more) for years, so it’s often my first stop.

I finished the next draft of Don’t Pay the Merryman. The ending still doesn’t make sense, though; all the pieces of the story are there but I can’t make them add up to a coherent climax, nor figure out how my protagonists, Maud and Prudence, get out in one piece. Obviously I could have them die but I’m opting for life.

I put in some really good work replotting the first quarter (approximately) of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Just by making Sarah the target of one of the attacks instead of my protagonist, KC (AKA the superhero Champion),  I was able to increase the amount of action and make things less talky. However things apparently wrap up at the end of this section: Lahatiel the fake angel is down, there’s no other imminent threat, just a few loose ends. The obvious fix is to let the villain behind Lahatiel take a hand but I’m not sure what sort of hand he should take. I can figure it out though.

And today I did my taxes. Going to give them one more going over, then they go off.

I shall leave you with an image of Plushie in one of his favorite sports, rolling in leaves.#SFWApro.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

Surprisingly, things are still going well

Another good, productive week. Somewhat hampered by insomnia reaching peak Wednesday morning but that night and last night I slept fine. Also hampered by added dog care while TYG worked on a special project, but things still went well.

I sat down and read through Impossible Takes a Little Longer and noted the strengths, weaknesses and problems a as I went. A big part of the problems with this draft is that I eliminated several fight scenes that no longer fit. Trouble is that changes the pace from fight/talk/fight/talk to fight/talk/talk/talk. I will need to fix that, along with several other things. I got started on the outline and made a few changes; by the end of the month I should have enough changes outlined to start the next draft.

I tinkered with the ending of Oh the Places You’ll Go and redrafted Adventure of the Red Leech. I think the plot is mostly there but a lot of details need polishing. I also took a look at a story I haven’t glanced it in a year, titled (for want of any other ideas) Don’t Pay the Merryman.  Much to my surprise my first draft looks much, much better than the fourth and most recent — more plot, more action, stronger characters. For various reasons I’d wanted to age the protagonist and her friends out of teenhood but kids work better for the emotional beats. I still need to make sense of the bad guy’s magic powers because they’re at the incoherent whatever-the-plot-needs level right now. A shame, since they’re also creepy as shit, but I want it coherent as well.

I finished another financial article for the new client I mentioned last week. This was on the benefits of using automated accounting. I’m getting the hang of the format fairly fast so this took much less time than the last one.

Oh, and I’ve been remiss keeping up with my posts at Atomic Junkshop. We have one about the Martian Manhunter and his shift from Detective Comics to House of Mystery; one on the classic Le Carré novel The Spy Who Came In From the Cold; and two posts (first and second) about Silver Age Batman.

I did get another rejection but it was from a market I was pretty sure would say no — the story doesn’t quite fit their What We Want but I saw no reason to self-reject.

And now the weekend! Have fun everyone.

#SFWApro. Cover by Joe Cerna, all rights to image remain with current holder.

 

 

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

As expected, a slight drop in productivity

As I’ve mentioned frequently in this week-in-review posts, if I’m performing way above average or way below average the odds are that by random chance I’ll do less well the following week. When I’m at my very best it’s just easier to drop to a lower level than stay at the top. That’s the nature of averages.

So unsurprisingly, this wasn’t as good a week as the previous two. For one thing I gave myself Wednesday off: I had to take the car in for annual inspection and checkup and decided I’d just bring a book rather than my computer. Then I kept reading that afternoon. It felt good, so no regrets. We also had the housekeepers in Thursday. I thought we’d be dealing with the new dishwasher Tuesday but that fell through — there’s a part that was out (supply chain issues) so we’re rescheduled for a couple of weeks.

My dizziness continues but at a much reduced level so my daily exercises are apparently fixing things or buying time for them to fix themselves. I could drive safely to the car place and back so that’s good enough. I’m sticking with exercises that do not involve heavy head-jerking for now, though.

This week’s big breakthrough was figuring out the problem with the ending of Oh the Places You’ll Go! My new ending, with everyone in the future world of 2015, works much better though it does need some fixing and editing. I also figured out that the problem with Adventure of the Red Leech is the third quarter: there’s a lot of necessary exposition but no tension, nothing to up the stakes. I don’t quite know how to fix it yet, though.

Other than that, it was mostly Leafs, plus a new client asking for similar business articles. Better paying per article but not as many articles available.

And I had to resolve a problem with a couple of missing photos from the set I sent in as illustrations for The Aliens Are Here. All taken care of now.

All in all, not bad for the last week of the month. Month-in-review post will come next week.

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

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals

Perhaps this time, the impossible takes a little shorter.

As I’ve said before, my list of 2022 goals doesn’t include a lot of specifics. One of the specific goals is that I want to finish rewriting Impossible Takes a Little Longer and send it off to someone (or alternatively, have it ready to self-publish).

I’ve never managed to write anything that quickly but I think it’s doable. With Aliens Are Here and Undead Sexist Cliches done, I have no other major project (lots of little ones). And this is book that I’ve rewritten several times already so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch.

I’ve been approaching the current draft like a NaNoNaNo project. Figure out where I’m going next and then just charge ahead writing the sucker. If I see possible problems, keep going. I know from experience that can waste a shit-ton of time — I get to the end, realize the draft is completely wrong — but it’s coming along well. A number of chunks are still usable, I just had to shift them around to meet my new plot structure. It’s tighter, tenser (I think) and less rambling.

It’s also created a raft of new problems. In my previous, more rambling plot, the Big Bad doesn’t become aware of KC until halfway through the book (she assumes he’s behind all her problems but it’s coincidence). Now he needs to be working against her much sooner, which will require some changes. I’m not sure what, though. And his biggest moments with her take place in scenes that got cut a couple of drafts ago. Writing now, I definitely need to build up his presence more.

Matt, KC’s close buddy, barely appears in the new manuscript. That’s bad because later events have no emotional punch if I don’t build up their friendship. I’m not sure where I fit him in. Or should I drop him and give his role to Rachel? She’s another friend of KC but much of her original subplot has been cut or handed off to KC’s best friend Sarah. This would give her something to do — perhaps there’s no longer enough material for two characters. Carla Jeffries, the mayor of New York, played a much larger role in the previous draft. It’s much diminished now, which is a shame. She’s a good character and I’d like to expand it when I rewrite this draft, if I can.

There’s also the problem of when KC learns things. A lot of the reveals got moved up much earlier, which has a ripple effect on how she reacts in later scenes and what the conversations cover. Twists I’d have preferred to hold off on until later now happen earlier. But I’m stuck with that unless I can think of a plausible reason for someone not to tell her.

Another problem could be that it’s only running into 60,000-plus words now. However that’s less of an issue than it used to be — there are publishers who’ll take a book that short — and it’ll probably expand in the next revision.

Still, I think the problems are fixable and that this rewrite is much stronger than what went before. We’ll see if I still think so when it’s done and I look it over.

Below, a paining by Giorgio De Chirico, one of my favorite surrealists, simply because I like his work.

#SFWApro. All rights to painting remain with current holders.

 

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

Second week of 2022: Progress and chaos

I came about four hours short of a full work week which is annoying. The trouble is, there are just too many unpredictable elements.

For instance Thursday I had to pick up prescription dog food after lunch, then find a gas station with diesel to fill up our almost empty car (under the assumption the winter storm this weekend might mess up supply). That took longer than planned because the diesel pump at the station we usually use was down, so I had to drive further.

Today, we took the dogs on a big lunch walk which used up some unplanned extra time, then Wisp came in, then I was chatting with TYG for a bit … and so lunch increased by an unexpected 45 minutes. As I’ve said before, there’s really no good place in my schedule to put the time back in and it adds up, day by day.

That said, the work I did get done was good and productive. I decided that Draft2Digital’s payment rate for hard-copy books was less than I liked (their ebook rates, by contrast, are excellent) so I tried KDP, Amazon’s publishing arm. This works out much less well than I remember from earlier books but it pays me more than Draft2Digital on a lower price.

Draft2Digital’s process, however, does provide an Amazon ready PDF but getting the system to handle my friend Kemp Ward’s cover proved remarkably difficult. I finally worked it out, though, and I’ve got a proof coming next week. Assuming no problems, both paperback and ebook will be available this month.

I finished another draft of Oh the Places You’ll Go. It’s very clunky but it does include all the elements I want and has (I think) a workable plot. Next week we’ll see what the writer’s group makes of it. I suspect the best solution to making it less clunky would be expanding it. I don’t want to go novel but maybe 15,000 words or so, about double the price? I think that would slow down the rate at which I share information and it will help explore the character relationships I think are the heart of the story. And it’ll give me time to work with the ending too — it’s kind of rushed right now.

Last week I found myself stymied by the next section of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. This week I saw how to get past that. There are things I don’t like — it takes Sarah off the board for longer than I wanted — but I think the revised plot holds together.

That was pretty much it. Oh, plus I’ve been posting at Atomic Junkshop: The past two weeks I’ve covered out-of-date satire, abandoning movie theaters, Batman’s con-man villains, and that bad Dunwich Horror cover I posted here Tuesday. Much less effective than the poster for the bad 1970 film.#SFWApro. Book cover by Kemp Ward, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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

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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