Category Archives: Time management and goals

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

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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Lot of stuff done, though it wasn’t very creative

But I did bake some bread that came out great. I guess that’ll be my artistic accomplishment for the week.

It’s a beer bread from 100 Great Breads, in case you were wondering. Not as strongly flavored as some beer-based breads I’ve made, but quite tasty.

So last weekend, I was housebound with the pups while TYG was traveling. Result? Sunday work didn’t come off. In the morning we had a three mile walk; by the time I got back, had some hot chocolate (it was a cold morning) and got read to work, I only had 90 minutes before lunch walk (the shrinking daylight has pushed the start time a lot later than a couple of months back). And that was another three mile walk, after which I felt too stiff and wiped to do much. So poof!

So rather than try to squeeze in my usual mix of fiction Sexist Myths and Leaf articles, I decided I’d switch to all Leaf for a week and then going all (or mostly) in on my personal stuff the rest of the month. Result? Sixteen Leaf articles done. I’d actually hoped to do more, but with no break from the work, my mind found it harder and harder to focus.

I might do some next week anyway, but a lot less than usual. Or maybe none — we’re getting close to the point where the remaining articles are topics I can’t do.

Thursday I devoted my hours to cleaning. We’re having the writers’ group Christmas Party Saturday so I wanted to get as much cleaning out the way as possible. That included bringing in a couple of contractors to check out a ceiling problem (minor, happily) and the carpet cleaning company (dogs deposit a lot of mess on carpeting. Who knew?). Plus Google Fiber is available in our neighborhood, and we’ve switched, so I had to deal with the installer. He was good, but it took more time than I expected.

So not much creative work done. But a lot will get done in the next couple of weeks. Woot!

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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Now that’s what I call productive. Well, except for today

TYG, you see, has a weekend trip out of town. So this morning I made a quick run to get some dog meds and other stuff while TYG was still here; that way I don’t have to go through the routine of setting up Plushie’s cage and putting him in it, then placating the dogs after I come back, having ABANDONED THEM OH NOOOOES! That threw me off my game, plus TYG getting ready to go also pulled focus from my writing. Not that she needed my help, but as she was packing, she was chatting, and I was chatting back, and then we had the kissing goodbye, etc, etc.

(Plush Dog contemplates my ankle)

And the weather was cool enough that lunch walkies was a long one. That not only took a chunk of time out of the early afternoon (no complaints, the pups are entitled to it) but I was quite exhausted by the time we got back. I just could not get my head in the game enough to focus on work, so I just blogged for next week (and an Atomic Junkshop post that will go live tomorrow). So all I got done today was 500 words on Oh the Places You’ll Go.

Up to that point, things were productive, despite having a dental appointment Tuesday and Trixie having her recurring tummy troubles (fortunately we have meds, and I can get them into her even if she doesn’t want to eat). In addition to submitting eight Leaf articles I submitted one short story and a revised version of my Space Invaders proposal to McFarland. They liked it, so it’s a go subject to them approving a table of contents and sample chapter; I’ll submit that stuff next month.

I finished the first two chapters of Sexist Myths and Why They’re Bullshit, and got some good feedback on the title from my friends on FB (one of whom still likes Undead Sexist Cliches so I may reconsider it). The footnotes for the next few chapters are in much poorer shape, but hopefully it won’t slow me down too much.

And I got two chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer done. So far the changes have gone down smooth, but tougher changes lie ahead. Fingers crossed.

So that was my productive week. The weekend will be spent here at home with the pups, watching movies and doing some writing.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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Thanksgiving was … different

Not the food. Eating at Café Parizade’s big vegan banquet, we found it delicious, as always. Here’s one of my dessert plates. Why yes, we did eat a lot. And enjoyed every mouthful. And they have some neat little figures outside the restaurant too.

But it was the first time in god knows how long that I’d had a day where I didn’t feel the need to do anything. It was a holiday. We didn’t have any errands to run Thanksgiving morning, nowhere to be until lunch, so I just lay around, read, petted dogs, took a walk … it felt fantastic. Even when I’m not writing, I structure (and sometimes overstructure) my time; when I give myself a day off from work, I usually use it to clean or something.

I think I need more days like yesterday. I’ll have Christmas and New Year’s Day, but I definitely need to find space for more truly lazy days in the coming year.

As for the rest of the week, it went fairly well. I got started on the next draft of Sexist Myths, did several Leaf articles and got a couple of thousand worlds on Oh the Places You’ll Go. I also sent in a revised proposal for Space Invaders to McFarland to see if they like it better (it’s tweaked to their specifications, so maybe). I submitted two short stories. And I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to accomplish next year.

Oh, and once again I had to work my schedule around contractor visits due to a plumbing problem. Not as disastrous or expensive as I’d feared though. But Plushie was exceptionally discomfited at having to be caged in with me so he couldn’t interfere with the work.

And here we are at December. Fingers crossed, I will wrap up the year with a productive bang.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine, any rights to figures remain with current holders.

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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.

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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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