Category Archives: Time management and goals

This week’s challenges: Sickness, snow and scheduling

The scheduling issue came up Sunday. I’ve been putting in three hours of writing on Sunday for a couple of months now as I get so wiped out at the end of the Monday-Friday work days. Three hours Sunday, I can stop earlier and give myself a little break before walking and feeding the dogs. But as my lunch breaks have been quite short this month — with Trixie’s leg, they aren’t getting long walks — so I figured I could skip Sunday, get my work done in the afternoons and still finish up before dinner walkies.

And I mostly did, but there much less of a break at the day’s end than I’d expected. Either Plush dog got a longer walk than usual or there was some other distraction I was dealing with on lunch hour. For example, Wisp demanding petting. Plus, I suspect the sickness that has me in its grip today was already dragging me down.Wisp, has by the way, been a constant companion on our short walks. I wish I could capture just snuggling with the dogs but Plushie sniffing her but is as close as I’ve managed so far.

Sickness has been a bigger problem. TYG caught a bug last week, probably by the usual transmission process of kids to parents, parents to coworkers, which means her. At first it didn’t seem like there’d be much of a problem, but the past couple of days I’ve had the inflammation and irritation in my throat I repeatedly get. I’m doing my best to stay relaxed not talk and talk all appropriate meds as I have some presentations to make at the end of next week (details will follow). I’d really, really like to be able to make them and losing my voice would make that impractical.

And of course, feeling sick does not do my writing any good. Today I just wiped out in the late morning, so I did this blog post and I’m calling it a day. Unless I revive in the afternoon; I’m not betting on it.

And then snow, of all things, descended on us (and the rest of Durham) yesterday. Given temperatures we thought it wouldn’t stick, but it has. Fortunately it looks like the roads are clear so we should be A-OK if we need to drive anywhere. And TYG picked up food Thursday morning, so that’s taken care of. As long as we take care walking the dogs, we should be fine.

Now as to work … I did my Leafs for the week, though in my depleted state they took much longer than they should have. I also drafted Impossible Takes a Little Longer up to Chapter 23, which was my goal for the month; I won’t have much time for fiction next week so that’s a win. I also worked on a first draft and got a big leap forward this morning when the bad guy finally emerged from my unconscious. I might have finished the draft today but … no. I might squeeze it in next week

I also tidied and footnoted the first section of Chapter Seven of Undead Sexist Cliches. It’s on sexual harassment so there’s no shortage of examples.

Wish me luck for a better next week. I have a lot I want to be in good health for.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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Juggling, insomnia and a wendigo! Okay, I was kidding about the wendigo

Another rather disorderly but quite productive week. So that’s a win, I think. And my post title gives me an excuse to post one of Herb Trimpe’s Hulk covers, which is another win (Trimpe and Sal Buscema are very much “my” Hulk artists).

The disorder started around midnight Saturday when Trixie woke up, needing to go to the bathroom. I took her out, but an hour later she needed to go again. After that I just settled with her onto the couch downstairs. She was fine with that, but her constant quivering from her tummy upsets made it impossible to sleep. While I’m used to insomnia I’d had some bad nights earlier in the week and this one was just a bridge too far. I was so wiped out Saturday that everything I’d planned to do got either postponed to Sunday (planning some stuff, cleaning) or dropped (going to the movies). I wound up taking a nap that was close to three hours, which is way long for me.

On the plus side, Trixie’s tummy settled down and she went back to normal. However her bad leg definitely felt worse after doing all that extra squatting and relieving herself. But she’s been improving steadily, I think; as I said this morning, I hope she’ll escape needing surgery. Even if not, better a happy, contented puppy in recovery than a miserable sad, diarrhea-ridden puppy.

Now, the juggling; I’ve been practicing juggling for years, based on a couple of how-to books. I’ve known for a while I was never going to get any better without help, so I took a one hour class Monday at Triangle Circus Arts.My teacher was very helpful. She pointed out the mistakes in the way I was doing things and showed me some basic steps I wasn’t taking. It was a huge quantum leap in my understanding of what I was doing, and a modest leap in my performance. But even when I wasn’t doing it right, at least I could spot what I was doing wrong. I’ll keep practicing at home, then next month I’ll go back again.

But the thing is, I normally practice five minutes at a time. Juggling for a solid hour really exhausted my arms and left me wiped out for the rest of the day. Coupled with Trixie’s appointment slicing the morning in two, I got nothing done. However my insomnia was still running so I wound up making up the time at the cost of sleep. Not exactly a win, but …

And as for the writing?

I finished chapter four of Undead Sexist Cliches. I’ve gone light on a couple of sections, such as whether or not a pay gap between women and men exists (yes) and is partly due to sexism (yes), and told everyone to read some of the posts in footnotes if they want to get into serious number crunching. Still it’s in much better order, with all footnotes added.

I got one more chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. After the trip to Stardian City I’m not quite sure where it goes to get to the big superhero/supervillain confrontation (not the climax but a big turning point) but my gut’s lead me well so far; hopefully that will continue.

I redrafted and slightly shortened Death is Like a Box of Chocolates based on last week’s critique from the writers’ group. It’s improved, but I think the ending may still need work. I’ll give it another look next week, then off to another beta reader. If she thinks it works, I’ll have it finished next month.

I worked some on finishing this month’s first draft (as yet untitled), but I didn’t get very far. And other than knowing it’s a riff on Sleeping Beauty, I have no idea what kleptomaniac Mary “Stealer” Holt has to deal with. But it’s a first draft, I can always change the answer later. I hope to finish it this month, but I won’t bet on it.

That’s a satisfactory amount of work. Next week, hopefully, I can accomplish work and sleep.

#SFWApro. Rights to cover image remain with current holder.

 

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Well my output is good, but the results?

I really, really would like to sell something besides Leaf articles. I’m happy to sell those because they make me a decent income, but would it be too much to sell some fiction too?

This week I got a form letter turn-down for one reprint story, and a rejection for a regional con (I may go in person. We’ll see). Late last week, I was told another submission came within a “handwaving asymptote” of acceptance, or it wasn’t accepted because it was a handwaving asymptote. I wasn’t really clear, but a friend with better mathematical understanding thinks they meant A. Oh, and the artist who’s working on a cover design for me is way behind on responding. I know her and she’s got a lot on her plate, but it would be nice to hear back.

Sometimes, like Blue Beetle it seems there’s no escape, no chance — but then I get back up and resubmit something again.

Like the title says, output this week was good. A little disorganized due to Leaf having switched the way it posts articles; I still got in enough to pay my share of the bills, but not always at the times I’d blocked out for them. I kept working on something though, so I didn’t waste time.

I also lost time because of sleep. Got back in late after going out with the writer’s group Tuesday; couldn’t sleep Wednesday for stress (I wound up with some Leaf articles I was having serious trouble finishing — though I succeeded Thursday); and last night, Trixie woke me out of a solid sleep because she needed to go to the bathroom. As her bad leg precluded her usual body language — running to the door and waiting — I decided she was just being needy, petted her for a bit, then got up and did some work. I should have trusted my gut and taken her out, then TYG wouldn’t have had to deal with poop on the floor when she got up.

Oh, and Plush Dog spent much of today as a lap dog, choosing the most awkward positions for my writing — that is, I end up with my legs spread, tilted slightly over on one side, propping my lap desk up on the arm of the couch. Makes focus hard.

Now, as to the actual output. I got two more chapters on Impossible Takes a Little Longer done, set in the Stardian City I talked about in a previous post. This sequence turned out really well; however I’m looking back at the early chapters, which I changed relatively little, and thinking I need to change a couple of them a lot. The villain’s opening attacks on my superhero, Champion, are just not working in the context of the whole book, though I’m not sure what should replace them.

I put in some work on an as yet untitled short still in first-draft stage. It involves a 1938 socialite and compulsive thief stumbling into a portal fantasy. I’ve never figured out what’s on the other side of the portal for her to deal with, but I’ve got a better handle on her character now and that’s going to help. I hope.

I read the revised Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates to the writers’ group and got some good feedback. Mostly that a lot of background detail could be cut and should be. And that the ending needs more oomph, which I agree with — nobody could pinpoint what, but perhaps I’ll think of something. I hadn’t thought it needed that much tightening, but they’re good judges so I’ll keep that in mind when I review it next week.

And I got a start on redrafting and footnoting Chapter Four of Undead Sexist Cliches. I restructured the chapter and I think it’s in good shape. Hopefully I won’t change my mind as I go through it again.

Oh, and I submitted a story which has not come back yet! In fact all my non-reprint stories are out, so who knows?

#SFWApro. Cover by Chris Wozniak, all rights remain with current holder.

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Crawling from the wreckage

Well that’s unusual. Normally if the week goes poorly, it starts well, then tanks. This time it started as a mess, then picked up.

Due to worry and vet appointments for Trixie’s injury, Sunday and Monday crawled. I got some Leaf done, but that was it, and it took forever to focus.

After that, though, things started to resolve and I began to get into the swing of things. It was still awkward trying to fit Trixie and Plushie and me on the couch, inside the cage, but we made it work, though not very comfortably. Yeah, maybe “swing of things” isn’t the best phrasing. So along with a full slate of Leaf I made some minor changes to Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates for my reading at writer’s group next week. And I completed another two chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer, as KC enters Stardian City (which I blogged about yesterday).

And I finally got my revised proposal for Space Invaders off to McFarland. It all seemed to come together in my head Thursday, while Plushie was at Suite Paws. With Trixie at home I didn’t get my usual full day all to myself, but not having Plushie sitting in my lap and squishing me into awkward positions was apparently a brain boost (I could try moving him off, but he’s just so cute). As I couldn’t go out cycling with Trixie to watch over, I probably wound up spending more time writing than usual. My brain was quite fried by the end of the day.

As I made the most of my no-Leaf weeks the first half of the month, I ended up doing well meeting my goals. Only about 60 percent, but almost all of my writing goals, and a lot of the important personal ones. So I’m pleased.

The goals included contributing a one-day quiz to the Learned League online trivia game I play in. I’ve been working on it for a while, but I finally reviewed the feedback, fixed some problems and submitted the final draft of the questions on Monday (it went live yesterday). The topic was “The Other Oz Films” which I think I’m well-qualified to write. My description on the website:

The 1939 MGM Wizard of Oz wasn’t declared a classic until after years of TV airings. Over time, though, it eclipsed L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz novel and its sequels, not to mention casting a long shadow over every other Oz movie ever made. There are lots of other Oz films in that shadow. Oz characters are so iconic, they stay recognizable even when they’re plugged into horror films, SF, educational videos or soft-care porn. That flexibility, and Baum being out of copyright, makes them irresistible. The questions that follow cover 12 Oz films from the silent era onward. Head over the rainbow and test your knowledge of the Oz films that don’t star Judy Garland.

And now the weekend. There’s a bunch of little errands and tasks I need to deal with but I intend to get maximum relaxation in too. I think I could use it.

#SFWApro. Dog photos are mine. All rights to cover image remain with current holders.

 

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A good week, but I didn’t stick the landing

Which is to say, today was a mess. A lot of minor personal distractions added up and worried at me until I couldn’t think straight. I did get my first Leaf of the new writing cycle done, though, so money’s started flowing in again. Which is good. But that and some cleaning was all I got done.

Up until today, though, the week was productive. Let’s see …

I finished another draft of Death Is Like A Box of Chocolates for the writer’s group Tuesday. As I expected, I didn’t get to read (we do three an evening and I was sixth) so I continued tinkering with it. I may make some more changes before the next meeting, when I’ll definitely be reading. I think it’s looking as good as I can take it without more feedback.

I put in a lot of work in on Chapter Four of Undead Sexist ClichesI think I’m going back to some form of that title instead of Sexist Myths — and it’s now actually organized. That’s a big step because it’s a rather unwieldy mix of several loosely related cliches, but nowhere near as tightly tied together as the rape chapters.

Leaf articles are back although I didn’t get much done this week. The same little distractions I mentioned above.

I got one short story returned and submitted a different one. I’m not bothered by the rejection as it was quite a long shot.

And I finished two more chapters of this draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It’s consistently better than my previous “finished” version in every way, except it really is going to end up pretty short. But hey, there are publishers for long-form but not novel-length fiction, and in the worst-case scenario I can still self-publish.

And I ordered a copy of Questionable Minds, my psi-steampunk novel, from Amazon to proof. It doesn’t have the cover illustration yet, or the back-cover promotional copy, but I learned from my last two books like the one below that this is the best way to make a good, solid edit (no, I don’t intend to pay for one). I’ll start work on that next month.

Plus as I’ll be appearing at MystiCon next month, I ordered some of my own books to sell. Hopefully it’ll be worth it.

Have a great weekend everyone. I may collapse Saturday, then back to work on Leaf Sunday.

#SFWApro. Cover is mine.

 

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There will be blood! And it was mine!

No, I didn’t have an accident, I finally donated blood on Thursday.

While I’d arranged my schedule to account for the wiped-out feeling a double donation of red blood cells gives me, this trip still threw me off my game. There was a rash on my left arm when they were ready to stick the needle in — probably a reaction to something on the blood-pressure cuff — and as a result they decided to use my right arm. The veins weren’t as good, so they slowed down the system and I got out 30 to 40 minutes later than I normally would have. Then I had to walk across the parking lot and almost to the street to call a Lyft because the Red Cross is in a cell-phone dead zone.

But it’s done! And with a double dose, I won’t be ready to give again until May, so being wiped out the rest of the day (the only thing I got done was a post on Death-Ray Mirror of Dr. Mabuse on Atomic Junkshop) is worth it to cut back the number of appointments. And overall this was a productive week. That’s good, as I’ll be starting back on Leaf articles next week, so there’ll be less time for other stuff.

I rewrote Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates which I’ll submit to the writing group in a week or two. Now that the McGuffin is a box of Stuckey’s praline candies, I’ll leave it up to the group whether the title still works or if I need an alternative (It Flutters on the Soul would be my backup).

I finished Chapter Six of Sexist Myths and went on to incorporate a number of bookmarked web pages into the book. I’ll jump back and start on Chapter Four next week (it’s much rougher so I figured I’d be more able to tackle it if I got a couple of other chapters under my best).

I went over the rewrite of Fiddler’s Black I did last week and it looks good. Next week I’ll start looking for markets.

I completed two more chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Despite all the changes from the last draft, it’s flowing very well. A big part of that is the first person voice works so much better than third-person did, conveying much more of the intensity. I’m on track to get to Chapter Eighteen by the end of the month, which was my plan. However it’s shaping up to be very short for a novel length work. Then again, so did Southern Discomfort and it’s now a comfortable 90,000. Fingers crossed.

I finished a first draft of Death’s Jester though that’s definitely not the final title. It involves a couple of teenage schoolgirls in 1960s London getting entangled in a supernatural struggle. However the ending is really rushed, because I was bone-weary this morning and I couldn’t think very well, so I just wrapped it up all of a sudden. There are some bits in the ending I like, but I may revisit it next week and mess around with other options.

And I gave blood which is something I take pride in doing as much as possible. So yay.

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

 

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Overpowered by pets! My week in review

I knew that with TYG out of town Wednesday through Friday, this week would be a little demanding. But like Don Blake beholding Dr. Doom’s scarred face, I never dreamt it would be like this!

First, the background: TYG has an alumni event around this time every year. Normally it overlaps with Illogicon, the local SF con, so we board the dogs for the weekend. This year, however, hotel issues led to the con skipping until 2021. Even though TYG was out of town last month, she left Friday; this year she left Wednesday. It’s been at least a couple of years since I had to cope with handling the dogs solo on a workweek morning.

(And this is not a complaint about my spouse: I’m glad she’s having fun, and it’s not like I don’t travel solo sometimes).

Knowing they’d want long morning walks, I figured I’d get up, have breakfast, and work until it was light enough to take them out. But Trixie and Plush Dog follow me downstairs when they don’t have TYG upstairs to snuggle with. That’s distracting, plus my brain kept insisting this was my warmup period before work, not a time for actual writing, and I couldn’t seem to get past that.

Plus Wisp, as I noted this morning, has been really keen on coming in for petting, and that took up some extra time. And so did the walkies. This morning I got back from the walk at 9:15, which is almost two hours after I’d normally start writing. And I just went screw it, and gave up.

Despite which I did get some stuff done. I’m getting close to the end of Sexist Myths Chapter Six, which is all I expected to finish this month (I may have been wrong). I got through another chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Contrary to my worries last week, I think I’ve figured how to progress through some key scenes in KC’s personal arc. Didn’t get around to working on it further, though.

I redrafted Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates part-way. It’s improving steadily; I hope my next batch of beta-readers agrees with me the title works even though there’s no longer a box of chocolates — I think it’s funnier if death comes from a box of Stuckey’s praline candies.

And I submitted three stories Monday to various markets, as well as reworking and finishing Rabbits Indignateonem (thanks to feedback from my friend Cindy Holbrook). I also revised Fiddler’s Black based on feedback from the last market I submitted it to, tdotspec. They thought one of my two leads was undeveloped, and that the opening needed tightening; after looking it over, I agree on both counts. I’ll go over it again before I resubmit it somewhere.

So pretty good, even if I didn’t stick the landing. And after all my dogs are worth losing time over. So is my wife.#SFWApro. Dog photo by me, cover by John Buscema, all rights remain with current holder.

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What’s the way forward: my 2020 goals, both specific and vague

One of the basic rules of goal-setting is that they should be measurable and clear. By which standard amorphous goals and resolutions for 2020 are a bad move. If I had, say, a goal to “live my best life” … well, how would I define it? And if I did, wouldn’t it make more sense to write the definition (e.g., travel to Paris, try new sexual positions, that sort of thing).

Nevertheless, I have stuck some goals in that aren’t clear and measurable: doing stuff that’s “out of the ordinary” for instance. Right now, all I can think of is cooking stuff that’s outside my usual range, like the fried bread I made last weekend. Hopefully I’ll think of more spectacular stuff — but the point is, a goal that pushes me to do something, even if I’m not sure what it’s pushing me toward, feels like a good thing. And it’s not as if there’s any penalty if I don’t get it right.

I’ve also put down that I want to be more activist this year, because lord knows, this is the time for all good people to come to the aid of their country. I’m not quite sure what the best use of my talents is. Writing is obviously one of my talents, but since And resurrected itself as a conservative outlet I haven’t had anywhere besides my blog and FB to write. I’ll keep pitching more prominent markets but I honestly don’t think that’s the most effective way to have an impact.

Money is another, but there’s a practical limit to how much of that I can donate. So what more can I do? I’ll try to figure this out before it’s too late, and do what I can in the meantime (like giving blood).

Turning to writing, things are a lot clearer. I want to finish the next draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer, do a quick revision, have it beta-read, then start on the next draft. I’d put “finish it” but I think that’s overly optimistic.

I want to finish six short stories and complete 12 first or second drafts. I have a habit of starting stories then just forgetting about them; I think if I devote a little time to writing new stuff, it’ll be beneficial. I’ll submit shorts 36 times, at least.

I’m going to finish Sexist Myths, probably for self-publication, and self-publish Questionable Minds.

There’s also a lot of stuff about specific fun things I want to do, ranging from going to the North Carolina Zoo to visiting Florida again. I want to do as much stuff with TYG as possible, without actually pushing her to do stuff (her schedule is intense, she doesn’t need pressure from my end). The personal stuff has quite a number of things in it — it may be the largest part of the list.

And more meditation and other stuff to center me and keep me in the here and now.

While I’ve used a Plot Your Work planner the past couple of years, I have a bad habit of writing stuff down, then never checking it. So this year I simply erased everything I wrote in it last year, and I’m reusing it. If I succeed in checking it regularly, I’ll order a new one for 2021. Otherwise, I’ll just go back to relying on my laptop and BusyCal.

My list doesn’t look wildly ambitious, but if I accomplish most of it, I’ll be pretty damn impressed.

#SFWApro. Cover by Wendy Pini, all rights remain with curren tholder.

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2019: How’s my year look in the rearview mirror?

Well, in terms of goals accomplished, not so good. Normally I hit around 50 percent, this year it was 39 percent. And I fell particularly short on my writing goals. Though partly that’s because I aimed insanely optimistic in terms of the amount of fiction I could get written. My goals for 2020 (which I’ll cover tomorrow) are a lot more modest.

I finished three short stories, and Southern Discomfort. I marketed the latter to agents (no success) and I’m now sending it out to publishers. I sold no short stories out of 33 submissions. I didn’t finish Sexist Myths, which I’d expected to do. However thanks to my extensive Leaf work, I did make my financial goals as a writer. And I’m still self-employed in my chosen profession, which is cool. But I would have liked to do a lot more, especially as I don’t have as many paying gigs demanding time as I did last year.

On the personal level, let’s see … I traveled outside the Raleigh-Durham area four times, only one of them with TYG due to her schedule. I returned to Fort Walton Beach to see friends and family. I did not bicycle as much as planned, only partly to be blamed on the ever-increasing summer heat. I did not improve my amateurish juggling (everyone should have a hobby) or practice sign language as much as I did last year. I did, however, get much better at using the Alexander technique to relax and position my body. In 2018, my bread-making fell by the wayside. I wanted to get back into the swing of it, and I have. I fell short on a whole bunch of goals (cleaning, for example) because of one or two periods where I got crazy with sick dogs, busy spouse or the like. So I won’t beat myself up over that (some goals I allow myself to make up for lost time. Things like weekly cleaning are not one of them).

Wisp was not on my goal list, but things have gone well with her nonetheless. We got her to the vet for her annual checkup and she still likes us.

Despite the lack off accomplishments, I feel pretty good about the year. While TYG’s job remains demanding, it became a lot less stressful this year for various reasons. And when she’s less stressed, I’m less stressed. That’s been particularly true in the later part of the year. And there were no major crises.

But that said, I still wish I’d gotten more stuff finished.

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

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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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