Category Archives: Story Problems

Trixie sees her shadow (and other events)

So Wednesday morning, TYG and I took the dogs for a walk. On the way home we were upon a slope with the sun to our right—And man, when she saw our shadows, she wanted to run down and meet us. It was adorable. And the walk also let me photograph the first heron and first sunrise of 2020:New Year’s Day was otherwise quite relaxed. New Year’s Eve was very relaxed as we don’t go out: TYG has no urge to stay out somewhere until midnight, and I worry about drunks on the road. I was also exhausted so we went to bed without even trying to stay up to midnight. It paid off though: I had a solid nine hours of sleep, which was amazingly refreshing.

Now, as to the rest of the week:

I redrafted Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and it’s getting close to the point I can show it to someone — either the writer’s group again, or one of my out-of-group beta readers. And I’m keeping the title, even though it doesn’t quite fit as it’s now a box of Stuckey’s praline candies that kicks off the plot

I worked on a first draft I’d largely forgotten about, involving a couple of teenage girls in 1969 getting caught up in a battle with a mysterious sorcerer. I have a lot of unfinished drafts on my laptop, so one of my goals for this year is to get twelve of them finished. This one’s not there yet, but it’s 2,500 words closer.

I worked two chapters on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I might have gone further, but I ran into an obstacle: I’m now at a couple of chapters where KC’s personal arc takes precedence over the action, and the arc’s changed completely. I like having a pause in the action but a lot of the discussion and conflict no longer works. Hopefully when I look at it again next week, I’ll see the path.

And I finished Chapter Five of Sexist Myths. Reordering the chapter’s argument and entering all the time was a slog … and that’s chapter was in good shape. Chapter Six is a lot less ready, so that may be all i get done on the book the rest of this month.

And I made samosas. They tasted great, but didn’t look at all like the ones you get in restaurants. I’ve had that problem before — next time I make them, I’ll make sure I have enough free time to really work on them.

A good start to 2020. Hope it keeps up.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

 

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

Productivity and plague: my last writing week of 2019

The plague was the same problem I’ve been dealing with for four years now: the combination of dry heated air from the heating system with my asthma plus bad breath control makes me vulnerable to any virus that comes along. It gets into my throat and leaves me hacking, wheezing and eventually without a voice.

Fortunately I’ve learned to strike first when I feel the symptoms, and so Tuesday, went I felt a familiar hacking and wheezing, I went in to the urgent care near our house. Good move: they confirmed I had a virus (probably the one TYG acquired on a recent trip) and gave me some nasal drops. They seem to be working, though I’m also careful about not talking (the breath control problem — I can really strain my throat). I rested most of the day, which was smart, but cost me more work time. Plus I don’t work on Christmas. Still, I got quite a bit done.

I completed the third chapter of Sexist Myths but discovered Chapter Four is one of my weakest. Nothing that can’t be fixed, but it requires more thought than I can manage with the dogs squished up against me non-stop (I didn’t get my break last week due to Trixie’s tummy troubles so I’m feeling the loss of personal space more than usual). I started Chapter Five and did much better; I’ll come back to Four when the pups are in doggy day care again next week.

I put some more work in on Oh, the Places You’ll Go and reviewed a slightly revised version of the original version. I’ve got to say, despite one member of my writing group saying it was fine as it stood, I think it does need a lot more, so the big reboot is probably necessary.

And I completed the nine chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer I set myself as one of my goals for the month. Chapter Nine introduces the villain, and I was very unsure because he’s so radically rebooted from the previous version. However early this morning I saw a way to make him work and forged ahead. Hopefully my new approach will prove itself as I progress.

Just a few more days this year and then enter 2020. But for now, enjoy the weekend!

#SFWapro. Photograph is mine.

 

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There is disorder under heaven but the situation is pretty good

For starters, the digital magazine Kzine, which published my Kernel of Truth in 2015, now makes hard copy issues available via Amazon.

I got mine. As I love having copies in hard copy, this made me very happy. Though my smile looks weird here, it’s sincere.

The big disruption this week was Trixie. Sick stomach again on Sunday, vet appointment Wednesday. They suggested another new food, but Thursday she wouldn’t eat it, so we kept her home from daycare. At the end of the day, she scarfed down a kong full of soft food, so she’s back to normal.

But what is normal? Is her lack of interest in breakfast a sign of a constant low level of whatever this problem is? Or is it that she just doesn’t like kibble (we thought about a tooth problem but she has no hesitation with hard foods that she likes)? Given we’re supposed to feed her mostly the new kibble plus a little of the soft food, will we have to go the other way around to get her to eat? Stay tuned.

I’d planned to use my dog-free Thursday to donate blood and catch a movie. But even if Trixie had been hale and hearty, it wouldn’t have worked. TYG has a bad bug, I have a mild version, but I didn’t think I should give blood. And we had a contractor stop by in the afternoon so I couldn’t have made the movie anyway. Frustrating. And today hasn’t been massively more productive, mostly research reading. And an Atomic Junkshop post on Christmas time-loop movies.

Despite all of which, the week was productive. I did a redraft of Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and I think I see how to fix the ending on the next draft. I wrote a couple of chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer and redrafted my Oh the Places You’ll Go. I’d been planning on a much more elaborate rewrite, but one of the writers in my group said that it worked great as it was; I’ll look at the redraft next week and see if I agree (it certainly would be quicker to get it done).

I only got about 40 percent through Chapter Three of Sexist Myths And Why They’re Bullshit. I wound up doing more Leaf this week than I’d expected and for once the time came out of my nonfiction rather than my fiction. I’m okay with that, and I think I can make it up next week.

So confused, and certainly stressful when Trixie was miserable (though the veterinary drugs we got help a lot), but pretty good. And now it’s only a few days to Christmas — where did the time go?

#SFWApro. All rights to Kzine cover (art by Dave Windett) remains with current holders.

 

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

It was one of those fueled by insomnia weeks

Apparently last week stressed me out more than I realized because this week I just did not sleep. Well, four hours a night, but that’s not a lot.

However this did make for a productive week, and spending yesterday without the dogs (they were in day care) apparently fixed things as I slept like a log last night.

I’m done, pretty much, with combing through bookmarks for Sexist Myths. I incorporated several useful ones into the text but I have so much material now, I don’t think I need to just keep adding (I’m around 80 to 90,000 words, which is not what I thought this would be when I began). I’ve read them over, sorted them out and now I’ll add where I need them: there are still several sections that don’t have enough information or examples or sources. This feels pretty good: scrolling through endless blog posts and articles is more tedious and draining than writing, even when the material’s interesting

I finished another draft of Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and it’s improving steadily. I thought some about what Bleeding Blue needs but didn’t actually start a second draft. I shall prioritize fiction next week to make up for it.

I submitted two short stories and searched for markets for a couple more. The ones I found were all closed until next reading period, which doesn’t help.

And as usual, I did quite a bit of Leaf work.

I also contributed an Atomic Junkshop article on why outraged supervillains don’t just destroy the DCU or MU comic-book companies for saying smack about them. Below, George Perez gives us one example of the Impossible Man running wild in the Marvel Bullpen.

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

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In the face of all odds, I struggled on … or something like that

This week got messy. Not as bad as October, but I did start feeling like Spider-Man on this classic Steve Ditko cover.

Monday, Trixie started having her tummy troubles again, where she’s in obvious discomfort and won’t eat anything (it’s a semi-regular thing). We made an appointment for the afternoon and I decided that when she moped off to hide in the corners I’d just steel my heart, ignore it and get to writing.

Only unlike previous incidents, Trixie didn’t hide as much. Mostly she came over and begged for petting, which of course I couldn’t help providing. So my work slowed to a crawl.

Worse, getting her drug injections at the vet didn’t help. She was just as miserable Tuesday so I had another day of distraction, another vet appointment (as did TYG, who had to break off work to come home).  I didn’t even make writer’s group. Partly that was because it had been a rainy day and it looked to get cold enough the roads might ice over (I don’t drive on ice unless it’s absolutely necessary). But I doubt I’d have had much fun if I did go.

Wednesday, thank goodness, Trixie was back to her old self. Thursday, we took her in for an ultrasound to see if the vet could find an underlying cause (they suspected pancreatitis). Nothing. Nor did the bloodwork show any signs. We’ve switched her to a more easy-digestible food, and we’re going to try and watch in case she’s eating something harmful (she likes to eat dirt. Who knows what’s in it?). Oh, and they had to shave her to make the ultrasound, which looks weird. Hopefully if nothing else, we can make sure the time between these attacks is long.

We do have pills she can take for the discomfort but it’s very difficult getting a dog that doesn’t want to eat to take a pill. I managed it, but it took a lot of work. Next time we’ll pop it in the first time we suspect a recurrence — hopefully it’ll solve things before it gets bad.

And of course, I didn’t sleep very well with Trixie in distress.

Astonishingly, I did get some writing done. I rewrote most of Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates but I couldn’t quite figure out how to revise the finish (it’s way too expository right now). And I began working through the bookmarked references for Sexist Myths — but damn, there’s a lot of them. I know I probably won’t use all of them (there are only so many examples I need to make my point) but I’m not sure which are dispensable yet. And I submitted three short stories, though one’s already back.

I did some Leaf articles and wrote a sample article for the Bakova Gallery in Hillsborough, whose owners I met with last week. If they like it, writing for them will become a regular gig — not as lucrative as the Leaf, but it’ll be lucrative enough. And I’m pleased that even with all the distractions, I’m much more efficient than when I was writing for Raleigh Public Record a few years ago.

But I’m glad the weekend’s here.

#SFWApro. Trixie photo is mine; all rights to cover remain with current holder.

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Saving Daylight, Stealing Sleep

Like so many people, the switch to Daylight Savings Time messes up my body’s clock something fierce. I’d go to bed regular hours, but if I woke up around 3:30, my body would insist it was 4:30 which is too close to 5 AM to go back to sleep. So I’m a little sleep-deprived, again.

Despite which I had a productive week, making up for the mess of October. And that’s despite Plushie and Trixie insisting an hour before lunch and dinner that Daddy, it’s time to eat, it really is, why are you writing? And having to take Trixie into the vet Thursday for a sore throat. Chihuahuas are prone to collapsing trachea, and hers was acting up (it’s not fatal, but we have to take care of it). We got some drugs, she’s doing fine.

So what did I do, besides my usual quota of Leaf articles?

•I worked on my rewrite of Rabbits Indigneotem. I think my friend Cindy was right that a more upbeat ending works, but it’s still not quite right. I feel it’s close though, so I’ll keep working on it. I think something upbeat but black-humored would be ideal, but that’s tricky.

•Having gotten such a good response to the rewritten Chapter One of Impossible Takes a Little Longer from the writing group, I followed up with the next three chapters. I’d actually already made some changes on them so it didn’t take a huge amount of effort. It’ll get tougher as move forward into terra sort-of incognita.

•I continued rewriting Oh, the Places You’ll Go. I want to either finish the story by the end of the month (if it’s a short) or get 10,000 words in (if it turns into a novel). While I’m keeping the core of the original short story, which is the relationship between the four protagonists, I’ve followed my feedback and put a lot of work into fleshing out the world of people who use maps to time travel.

•I started going through the articles and blog posts I’ve bookmarked for Sexist Myths and incorporating them into the book. It’s going better than expected. I suspect I’ll have to cut some stuff when I finish this draft, because it’s getting pretty damn big.

•I went out to Hillsborough, about 30 minutes from my house, to meet with the new owners of an art gallery there. They’re looking to have someone write some press releases and articles for them; I’m sure they can’t pay what Leaf does, but it would be a fun break and a second income stream, which I haven’t had for a while — and not one that would suck up a huge amount of time, as some projects have.

I’m crunching numbers to figure out what to charge; I’ll get back to them this weekend and we’ll do a trial run article for their opening next week. Good thing I work fast.

•I sent off three short stories to different markets.

Hopefully I can keep up the momentum next week despite a doctor’s appointment. It does feel good to be productive again.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

 

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It’s always a relief when the hurricane doesn’t come where I am

I don’t mean any disrespect to the people in the Bahamas and along the U.S. coast who got pummeled by Dorian. But having lived in Florida most of my life, I always have a selfish sense of Thank God! when an ominous hurricane (it could have been a problem for Durham had it tracked further west) misses us.

That aside, this has been a weird week. Last weekend, TYG cared for the dogs for most of Sunday so I decided I’d use the time to put in a full day of work without them. Much as I love them, it really is much easier to think without them squished up against me. That way, I figured, I could make up for my lost down time by taking Wednesday off and just snuggling with them.

Instead, I spent the morning reading (and yes, petting the dogs a lot), then decided to do some Leaf work for the afternoon. That way Thursday when the dogs were at Suite Paws, I could do more creative stuff in blissful solitutde. Half working on Undead Sexist Cliches — which I think I’m going to retitle Sexist Myths and Why They’re Bullshit or the like — and half on some short fiction.

Ooops. Instead I wound up working the whole day on Sexist Myths (I guess the title change is a done deal, even if I change it again later). I had lots of information from Cordelia Fine’s Testosterone Rex I’ve been meaning to record in my notes for the book, so I did that Thursday morning. Then I had to incorporate some of the details into Chapters One and Two, which I’d already written (I finished Chapter Two earlier this week) and then footnote it and insert the footnotes into the list, then change all the numbers on the subsequent footnotes. So that sucked up the rest of the day, plus some of this morning.

I also got my usual quota of Leaf articles done, plus I rewrote Bleeding Blue. It’s looking much better since I added more women to the cast, but it’s a long way from finished. I made some changes to Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates, adding to my protagonist’s personal stakes. Didn’t get that finished though.

Oh, I also submitted Southern Discomfort to DAW Books, so I guess I’m officially done with agent-hunting. I got two short stories back but I haven’t found a new market yet.

Plus I sold some of my books on Amazon (I don’t know which, I find getting specifics frustratingly opaque)

I did find an artist for the cover of Questionable Minds; my friend and fellow author Samantha Collins is available and she’s good, so I’m hiring her.

A productive week. If I can keep up the pace on Sexist Myths I’ll be satisfied. I may switch from rewriting Chapter Three next week — it’s a bit of a mess — to Four, Five or Sex, which are in better shape.

For an illustration, here are some grumpy cat clones I saw at Suite Paws when we dropped the dogs off.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

 

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

Cuteness and work

Here’s one slice of cute. They don’t usually sit together, but Plushie kind of slid into that position after I got up and removed my lap from around him.

The other slice, while I didn’t get a photo, was that this morning when I opened the door to clean cat dishes off the deck, Wisp plopped herself down on my feet and just lay there, inviting me to scratch her belly. I’ve always been nervous about getting that close to her claws, but she seemed to want it, so I did … and she liked it! We still have to find a way to catch her, though (I suspect doing so will set her back to Suspicious, but it needs to be done).

Now, as to work, a pretty good week. Despite having the Oberlin alumni picnic last weekend, I managed to get in my three hours of Sunday writing. So it looks like I can stick with this approach for a while and quit earlier in the day on weekdays.

I have now rewritten Undead Sexist Cliches through Chapter Eight, on abortion and birth control. Now I just have to work on Chapter Nine about the concept of the “sexual marketplace,” and I can start with the next draft, which will add footnotes as well. I also forced myself to read some of antifeminist Mona Charen’s Sex Matters to get some examples of bad sexist language (among other things, Charen blames feminism for making women cry “date rape” if they have bad sex. No, it doesn’t make any more sense in the original).

Working on the book took more time than I expected, so I didn’t get as much fiction writing done as I’d hoped. But I worked on Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and it’s starting to have an ending. Not a great ending yet, but closer than it was. I keep feeling the urge to set it in the early 1980s but I’m not sure why. I suppose I could just use 1983 as a backdrop but I can’t help thinking there’s something I’m missing. Perhaps it’ll come to me.

Tuesday, I went to the writers’ group and afterwards we went out to Motorco in downtown Durham. It’s a much better place to eat than our usual after-group hangouts and as we’re eating outside, it’s much easier to hear conversations without the background babble building up as it does in enclosed rooms. But due to limited parking in the area and lack of familiarity, I opted for Lyft. This proved more expensive than I expected, and when I called for a pickup at 10:15 PM it took longer to get a ride than I’d anticipated. Perhaps I should switch to my own car next time, but then again I really hate navigating unfamiliar places in the dark.

Oh, and I began thinking seriously about a cover idea for Questionable Minds. I got several suggestions on FB from my friends; I’m thinking a Victorian street with maybe some kind of psychedelic coloring (reflecting the paranormal elements) but I’m not quite sure what people to put on it. Jack the Ripper lurking? Or maybe have an arm wielding a scalpel and Simon’s arm grappling with it, imposed on the street scene? I’ll give it some thought, but I’m on the way there. And I found some street scenes that might do the trick, like this public domain 1867 photo by Thomas Annan below (courtesy of wikimedia commons)

#SFWApro. Dog photo is mine.

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Wisp likes me!

So this week I went out on the deck to trim some rosemary leaves for a roast potato dish. Wisp was out lying by the pot (like this, although it’s an older photo) and I assumed that as usual, she’d run off under the deck instead of being close to the human.

Instead, she rubbed against me as I clipped the leaves, weaving around my legs, rubbing on my butt, and letting me scratch and stroke her head and back. It was soooo cool.

If I’d had the confidence to pick her up and place her in a carrier, we’d have solved our problem of getting her to the vet. But I suspect she doesn’t like me that much yet. TYG has been trying to snag her with the kind of loop on a pole people use for wild animals, but Wisp’s wary enough to stay away from it. I think the simplest method would be dropping a laundry basket over her while she’s eating, but we’re going to try the pole a few more times.

This was a productive week, though as often happens, it doesn’t feel like it: a lot of the work I did is still in progress, so there’s no tangible result.

I’ve almost completed my proposal for the (hopefully) next pitch to McFarland, Space Invaders. If all goes well I’ll send it off next week.

I pitched my first article query in a couple of months, to The Writer. I think it’s a long shot, but it only took me a few minutes, so what’s the heck.

I posted a blog at Atomic Junkshop in my ongoing series on what comic books are like in comic-book universes. This time up: what was the Marvel Comics in the Marvel Universe like in the 1940s?

I contacted And Magazine again about writing for them, but it looks like a no-go. The current incarnation seems to be more conservative and more national-security oriented than when I was one of the contributors and I don’t think the stuff I want to write will be a good fit (this may explain why my older articles are no longer online there). A shame — I’d really like to reach a larger audience than this blog, though I appreciate all of you who do read me here.

I redrafted Death is Like a Box of Chocolates for the better and read it at Tuesday’s writer’s group. The feedback was helpful, though nobody said anything that helps me see how to end it right. I redrafted Only the Lonely Can Slay and I’m definitely getting a little closer to making it work. Not close enough yet, though. I also read over my untitled Tarot in Hollywood story, trying to figure what I want for the next draft.

I submitted my usual articles to Leaf, although I ended up one short of what I’d intended for the week. My brain just balked and I knew better than to try pushing it.

I finished the rape-cliche chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches, breaking it into two to make the size manageable. The first half deals with cliches about consent (it’s not important. The slut probably wanted to be raped.) and not believing the victim, the second deals with “she asked for it!” and “do we want to ruin his life just for a little rape?” cliches.

My work-week included three hours on Sunday, as it did the week before. It wasn’t as effective, as I was sitting with the dogs that afternoon, but it still feels good getting the last hour of the regular workday to myself.

Oh, and the Medscape video that went live last week has generated more than 1200 hits and some very favorable comments (“Visual presentation from patient makes it interesting and simulates actual consultation.”). So I guess it did some good. To celebrate, let’s look at a spooky tree!

#SFWApro. Weird Tales cover by Joseph Eberle, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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A time hack that works? Could be

I hate working on the weekends. But last Sunday I put in three hours and it went well. And by so doing I was able to take off the last hour of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday without coming up short.

That’s a very big deal. The last 90 minutes of the day are my low point in alertness. It’s worse now that we have the dogs, because I’ve often spent a couple of hours with Plushie and Trixie (adorable though she is) squishing into or around my lap. This usually results with me bending my body into positions that do not promote concentration or clear thought. Today, for example, it’s 2 PM as I write this and I already feel my brain glitching from my position.But I don’t want to just push them away so I can work.

Three hours on the weekend when I’m not worn out and the dogs may be sitting with TYG works much better. And then I can use the freed up hours in the week to read or relax, which feels great. It’s much easier to kick back and play with the pups when work finishes (with Plushie it’s more enduring his barking until Mommy comes home than actual playing) if I’ve had a break first.

Of course there will be weekends that doesn’t work or isn’t possible, but I’m going to give it a good shot.

As a result of the time hack, I had a productive week. I got my quota of Leaf articles in and a little bit more. I redrafted Death is Like a Box of Chocolates and much improved it, but the ending is still a mess. Too bad, as I’m reading it for next week’s writer’s group; I’d thought it’d be another two weeks before I read, but enough people dropped out to speed up the queue. I’ll give it another going over on Monday.

I got a little bit more done on Undead Sexist Cliches (I’m debating giving it a more serious name. Haven’t decided) but I didn’t finish Chapter Five. The amount of rape-related myths to cover is huge. It may end up the longest chapter in the book.

I spent too much time Thursday arguing on FB. One of my Florida friends, while I’ve always found her sweet and lovable, is a die-hard Trump supporter (I know possibly she’s less sweet than I thought) and she’s been posting a lot of pro-Trump, anti-the Squad stuff, so I’ve been commenting, and she’s been commenting on mine … and Thursday I wound up wasting a lot of time arguing (and by the way, calling them “the Squad” puts me in mind of the cover below, so here it is).

I also posted another Atomic Junkshop piece about my least favorite Dr. Mabuse film, Scotland Yard vs. Dr. Mabuse.

Oh, and the video I did a while back for Medscape is now online. I play Gilbert (“My blood sugars at home are ok, and I think my prostate infection has finally cleared up, but I have a new girlfriend and worry whether I am virile enough. As it is, she’s overlooking my fat belly and balding head!” [they shot me neck up, because it seems I’m not fat enough for the role. Woot!]). You have to sign in to see it, but it’s free. I was critical of my body language (some of it seemed a little melodramatic) but given I had no rehearsal, I think I did pretty well.

And now I’m quitting early for the day. Due to a couple of sleepless nights I’m actually ahead of my 35 hour quota — and as I said, I can’t keep working around the dogs much longer anyway.

#SFWapro. Cover by Mike Grell, all rights to image remain with current holder.

 

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