Category Archives: Time management and goals

The third axe man almost did me in

Not for the first time, I find this cover by Billy Graham embodies the way I can think I have everything handled, then discover otherwise. This week everything was going great, then Thursday and Friday rose up to bushwhack me.

Normally when Plushie has his eye checkup, TYG takes him. Wednesday she said that as she’d have to take a business call in the middle of his Friday afternoon appointment, I’d need to come along and deal with the eye-vet. As it’s some distance, that guaranteed the loss of Friday afternoon for any productive work.

That may have contributed to the stress that made me wake up a little before midnight Wednesday, I had a cup of tea, then headed back to bed, only to have Trixie wake up and insist on leaving the bedroom to join me. That, plus Wisp coming in later, killed my sleep and left me a little glazed over Thursday. I had a couple of errands, including visiting an opthalmologist to check out their eyeglass selection, but I was in no shape to drive. Friday, the schedule didn’t work out either; I can get some of the work done tomorrow but the spectacles-shopping will have to wait until next week.

Despite all that, I managed to put in a full week’s worth of work and it was good work. Impossible Takes a Little Longer is progressing slowly but the latest revisions really add a lot of oomph. Likewise Bleeding Blue looks better after another draft; Don’t Pay the Ferryman does too but the changes once again have me wondering what the right ending is. But it’s there, I just have to write and rewrite until I find it.

I also started work on a new/old story of sorts. A while back I was playing around in my head and came up with a couple of characters I liked. As an experiment I’m plugging them into an old novel I’ve been meaning to rewrite for years, Let No Man Put Asunder. It’s an odd choice as a)I really love the original leads in that book and b)the storyline started changing in other ways. Not because of the new leads, but it’s inching towards an urban fantasy/Neverwhere feel where all the magical action is going on below the surface of the seemingly placid city of Blue Ivy in 1976. I’m not sure if that’s the way I want to go, but I’ll play with it when I have more spare time and see what develops.

And, of course, Questionable Minds is now out! Not only that, but three or four people promptly bought a copy, plus a few other friends who’ve said they intend to soon. I am, of course, delighted. Thanks to all y’all, including MA Kropp.

I signed up for a blog tour through Otherworld Ink. While I have no way to measure yet whether that turns into more sales, I got extra promotion on FB and some blog tour posts done:

It feels very good. And on that note, have a great weekend.

#SFWApro. Questionable Minds cover by Samantha Collins. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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

Today was exhausting but the week was good

What was with today? TYG was out for the morning which threw my schedule off. Then at lunch she was back, plus we had the pressure washers in to clean the house, plus the dogs were freaking out because the pressure-washer team were DUDES MAKING STRANGE NOISES!!! Fortunately I woke up early enough to complete my week’s 30-hour quotient.

The week went well overall. I did a couple of presentations Tuesday night on Continual, one on small-town fantasy and another on new books we had out. I’ll share the links when I get them.

I worked on Obalus which I’m now retitling Don’t Pay the Ferryman (or maybe Pay the Ferryman) — I’d dropped that because Shadows Reflected In Darkness was titled Don’t Pay the Merryman but now that it’s changed, they’re not so similar. To my surprise when I tried writing through the parts I was uncertain about I found an ending. It’s not a good ending but unlike the deus ex machina of the previous draft’s ending, it does follow logically from what’s going on. I can work with it and improve it.

I had a similar experience working on The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. By moving up some of the bad surprises lying in wait for KC I was able to keep the tension high without feeling its too rushed. In several ways it’s going to work better than the previous draft, which is of course the goal.

The downside is that I’m cutting out a lot of stuff. The previous drafts have KC taking a trip to New York to meet fellow superhero Captain Wonder. It took up several chapters. Gone now because it doesn’t make sense (trust me). I’m wondering if I’ll end up with a really short novel or an unacceptably long novella but hey, in the age of ebooks and self-publishing that’s not a dealbreaker. So onward! The only way out of the crazy maze is to keep going!

And today I completed one of my for-pay accounting articles. I don’t know if there’ll be another assignment this month but if not, more time for fiction!

So that was all good. And Metastellar put up my short story The Savage Year on their webiste.

And now the weekend. Bread baking, a friend’s play, and reading a book about spiders. Fun!

#SFWApro. All rights to cover images remain with current holder. Strange Tales cover by Jack Kirby.

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That is a little more like it

Which is to say the week went much better than most of October did. Relatively few interruptions and most of those went well. We took the dogs for a checkup at the physical rehab place and the stiffness and pains they were experiencing a month ago (nothing horrifying, but still there) have faded. We can ease up a little on their painkillers and some of the at-home therapy. More importantly, it’s always good news to hear they’re okay. Below is Plushie with his new teddy bearish cut.I met with yet another gutter-repair professional but this one, recommended by a neighbor, was a vast improvement. No sales pitch and the price for a gutter repair plus some upgrades was only slightly higher than the straight gutter repair job we’d gotten from one of the other bidders. So yay!

As to writing, I think that well. I rewrote my short story Bleeding Blue and switched the protagonist from a rookie cop to someone drafted for temporary duty (this makes sense in the setting). This really helped the character and simplified a number of story choices. It still needs a lot of work but there is a story there now.

My work on Obalus was less satisfying, but I did make progress. I have a clearer direction for the story, which may stretch out to novella length; if not, it’s going to be a long short story (then again, I may cut much of what I’ve written in later drafts). But I still don’t know exactly what Eleanor’s going to face in the Tower Without Doors or how she’s getting a prisoner out. Hopefully by the time I resume writing, my subconscious will have dredged something up.

I completed another chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer but I realized at the end that the shocking twist I’d developed to pull the action forward didn’t work. Now I have to think of some way to keep the tension going until the next big hook.

I also submitted three short stories — one of them came back the next day but such is life.

Wisp has started coming in at night, though not consistently. She also came in a couple of mornings and took a nap on her pillow. The cats do throw off my morning routine, but they’re worth it.#SFWApro.


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Timey-wimey stuff

When I first started freelancing up here, I worked a 40-hour week. After we adopted Trixie and Plushie, it eventually dropped to seven hours a day and that was still a strain. 

About three years ago IIRC I cut back to 5.5 hours a day, excluding blogging. That made it easier to spend time on the dogs (look at them. Aren’t they worth it?) and I’d also read that when working longer than four or five hours, productivity drops. However working on proofing The Aliens Are Here showed I could do more when I pushed so in September I started shooting for six hours a day/30 a week. Given the obligations with dogs, trips to their rehab and various household stuff I take care of (my boss is a lot more understanding about me taking time off from work for such things than TYG’s), I haven’t made 30 hours except maybe once. This week I came close … but not quite. However I am putting in more work than I would if set a slightly lower goal, so I’ll stick with it.

As to what got done, I finished around 18,000 words of the Impossible Takes a Little Longer rewrite. That’s not as impressive as it sounds: the opening chapters needed very little work and as soon as I got to the major rewrites, things started to slow. However the results are good so revealing KC’s identity as the Champion was clearly the right move. I’m doing a blog tour for Questionable Minds, arranged through One World Ink and this week I sent in the four blog posts they wanted for the tour. Only the number was really five, so I’m working on the fifth. Fortunately it’s about writing with pets, so it almost writes itself. I submitted to John Scalzi’s Big Idea blog posts but they’re filled for the next two months. However Cora Buhlert, whom I know through comments at Camestros Felapton’s blog, is interviewing me at her blog about Aliens Are Here, so that’s cool. I’ll update y’all whenever of the blog posts or interviews goes live.

And today I finished one of those accounting articles that help pay my bills.

Next week will be interesting as TYG is away on business so I’ll be handling the pups full-time. We’ll see how this affects work.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover images remain with current holders; Questionable Minds cover by Samantha Collins.

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That is a little more like it!

This week went a lot better than September, as witness I made my hours for this week. And they were productive hours too.

It helped that I wasn’t nibbled to death by ducks like I was so much of September. I had a dental appointment (teeth are great!) Wednesday, deposit a state and federal tax refund, then went to lunch … which did waste some extra time as the appointment was for today (I’ve no idea how I made that mistake). The state refund was one we originally received during the pandemic, then never cashed so I had to go through a lot of hoops to get a replacement check (which is cool, for something like that NC Department of Revenue should have hoops).

Using my revised outline, I rewrote the first five chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It’s the part of the book that’s most together so it didn’t require huge amounts of rewriting. Nevertheless there’s no question the changes — letting the evil fake angel escape, outing KC as the superhero Champion — improved things. Hopefully I’ll build on them for the next section.

I had less success working on my short story Obalus. I have a clear sense of my protagonist, Evelyn Holt’s arc and who her adversary is, but the details? Crickets. Evelyn’s opposing the bad guy but I have no idea what she has to do to beat him or what obstacles he has to throw in her way. I tried doodling and coming up with ideas, sitting and thinking … nothing’s worked so far.

I got some Leaf articles done and most of the promotional material for Questionable Minds. Plus I have two Atomic Junkshop blog posts out, one on the Justice Society of America’s almost-revival in 1965, the other on the stereotype of Silver Age adventures as innocuous and harmless.

Oh, and last weekend I bought a new printer to replace our deceased one. I lucked out at Office Depot and was able to order the exact one I wanted; today I got it plugged in and set up … only it can’t hook up to the Wi-Fi yet. I will leave that to TYG who has the expertise to understand router and firewall stuff.

Despite that, a good week: let’s hope all month is this awesome!

#SFWApro. Covers by Jim Mooney and Mike Sekowsky.

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The week, the ducks, the month, the rain

So Hurricane Ian reached us today. Bad, and a downed tree took out the power for a couple of hours, though nowhere near as bad as that gorgeous Pat Broderick cover.

This was one of those weeks where I was nibbled to death by ducks. Three morning appointments — automotive, dog evaluation, booster and flu shots — which coupled with the problem of getting started later in the morning (as I mentioned last week),  takes big chunks out of what’s normally my most productive time. Tuesday, when I took the car in, it was early enough that doing anything after we finished with the dogs just didn’t seem worth it — I’d barely be able to focus before I had to leave.

The car is VW Golf, one of those subject to the rigged emissions system, and a dealer email said it was due for the second part of the government-mandated fix. Surprise! — when I got to the dealer the service department took a look at the car’s history and said we’d already gotten the fix. So I blew the morning for nothing.

On the plus side, I am boosted and flu-protected. All those chumps who declared covid is no worse than the flu must never have had influenza because the two times I had it were unbelievably horrible.

Work, you say? Better than I’d have expected. A lot of promotional work on Questionable Minds, which I hope to wrap up next week. I sat down and re-outlined the next draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer and dang, it looks very promising. I’ve upped the stakes, added some plot complications and I’ve thought of one twist that might lead to a sequel, as well as removing a plot thread that wasn’t fitting well into the book. I finished Don’t Pay the Ferryman, now retitled Shadows Reflected In Darkness, and submitted it to Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’ve never succeeded with any of my submissions, but perhaps this will be the time. If not, it’s short enough (under 4,000 words) there are several other potential markets.

I also posted on Atomic Junkshop about DC and Marvel discarding potentially good characters; blogging about The Unwritten Vertigo series; and last week speculating whether even “ordinary” people in the DCU and MU are superhuman by our standards.

And a Con-Tinual panel on mythological tropes is live on Facebook.

And in really good news, my new MacBook Air arrived at the Apple Store last weekend. It is sooo nice having a computer where the keyboard doesn’t stick constantly, and a battery that lets me go untethered.

So productive, but those wasted hours always frustrate me. Ditto for the month: I got nothing done on Impossible before this week and I’d planned to do a lot. Nor did I get any rewriting done on Obalus. Of course, with my stuttering keyboard, taking Snowdrop to the vet, etc., that’s understandable.

Bring on October. Fingers crossed for more writing done

#SFWApro. Questionable Minds cover by Samantha Collins. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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First week NOT working on Aliens Are Here

It went okay, given that I was off Monday for Labor Day and took most of today off for social activities.

With Aliens Are Here in the bag, I figured the thing I needed most to catch up on was the promotional activity for Questionable Minds. I’ve signed up for a blog tour and spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday prepping materials for that — book blurb, blog posts, stuff like that. I also contacted a couple of book bloggers to ask for reviews, though I think I’ve left it too late.

I also submitted a couple of stories and two queries for nonfiction articles.

Thursday — wait, I forget if I mentioned I’d submitted my short story Impossible Things Before Breakfast to a friend’s anthology. It’s a collective anthology with all of us giving feedback on each other’s stories, selecting the cover, etc. Based on the feedback I’ve been rewriting the story, and it’s done. I didn’t agree with all the suggested changes, but the ones I did follow improved the story. The others, not so much, but that’s typical with more than a couple of beta-readers.

However there were multiple disruptions Thursday so I lost my focus after that. I’d hoped to work on Don’t Pay the Ferryman — I’m thinking the final title will be something like Smiles in Dark Mirrors — but no. Next week, for sure, unless I get some Leaf articles to work on.

I was also slowed down by my computer keys sticking a lot. We ordered some compressed air and I gave the keyboard a blast this morning. I think it’s done the trick so I can postpone buying a computer a bit longer.

One good thing: based on the amount of time I put in proofing and indexing The Aliens Are Here, I figured I might be able to up the time I spend writing during the day. I managed six hours both days which is only a half-hour more but that’s 2.5 hours a week. However it does make it harder to get blogging done.

And speaking of blogging, I posted at Atomic Junkshop about indexing and why Marvel’s Sgt. Fury doesn’t measure up to even a bad WW II movie. Jack Kirby’s cover is for Sgt. Fury #5, the focus of my post.

#SFWApro. Questionable Minds cover by Sam Collins, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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I finished Aliens Are Here two days ahead of deadline!

And wow, was that a load off me.

I spent the last days of September noting all the corrections on the PDF. And realized that while the book would definitely have benefited from a final going-over to clean up my writing, it’s not as clunky as I thought. So yay. The Aliens Are Here should be out later this month, if everything proceeds smoothly.

The proofed manuscript was due today, but I got it in Wednesday. We had our neighbor’s dog Kaya staying with us yesterday and I didn’t want to be obligated to work. Though she spent a lot of the day sitting in her crate — she’d been staying with another family for a couple of days and I think the second move just overwhelmed her. But she and Trixie did some heavy chasing first.

I also wanted a chance to kick back before I started/resumed any projects. So I took today and yesterday to read, watch extra TV, think about September goals and donate blood (this morning).

It’s a relief to have the book off my hands, though it hasn’t entirely sunk in yet. Wrapping it up was exhausting; it’ll take me a while to feel yay! instead of phew! But soon I will have copies in hand.

Oh, and I got royalties for my previous McFarland books this week, plus someone checked out a copy of Atlas Shagged on Hoopla. Unlike regular library checkouts, this digital service pays a small fee every time someone borrows one of my books through their local library. Cool, huh?

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



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Dying is easy — indexing is hard!

(For the source of my title, click here).

But it’s done. As of this morning, I finished the index for Alien Visitors. This afternoon I reread McFarland’s instructions for indexing, corrected some errors, and proofed the whole thing.

I’ve also completed the list of errors in the text, though I still have to add notes identifying them. Fortunately I figured out how to do that in PDF. The big challenge will be that as I got the galleys — used to be we’d get edited proofs first — the pagination can’t change. So if there’s anything deleted or added that would affect the following page, I have to make a counterbalancing addition or deletion so the text stays constant. In a couple of spots, this will be a challenge.

It’s doable though. I’ll have it done by the end of the month, then take the first two days of September through Labor Day (maybe Labor Day) off.

I’m impressed to see that like so many writers, a deadline can push me beyond my limits. I’ve put in way more hours than usual this week to get the job finished. Unfortunately some of that time came out of things like exercising, which is not optional. And reading, which is optional, but not really (I can’t do without it for too long). Besides which, this isn’t creative work. Indexing and proofing requires close attention to detail but I never have to stop and ask myself what comes next or whether what I’ve written works. Accuracy is all I need. So I doubt this heralds a sudden boost in my productivity, but you never know …

And then there’s the dogs. The photo above is from a recent trip to doggie rehab — they both need it for different reasons — when Plushie decided he wanted to be drive. He didn’t get his wish, but I’m sure you knew that.

The past two weeks, though, have been less cute. First we took them in for dental checkups. Trixie was in good shape but Plushie, who resists tooth-brushing, had to have two teeth removed, plus the under-the-gums stumps from some previous effort. That meant nothing but soft food for a week, which is a problem since it excluded most of his treats. Fortunately they think pasta is delicious so I made a couple of extra pots of it and fed him that.

This week, repeated jumping off the bed upstairs threw his back out again. He’s on cage rest and heavy painkillers for ten days or possibly a little longer. That makes caring for him more complicated — we have to carry him up the stairs — though it’s easier to concentrate on work when he’s not right in my personal space. Except when he gives the agonized “my foot is caught in a bear trap, I’m suffering!” whine for being caged (no, it’s not because of pain. Trust me). However the pain meds are taking care of that by keeping him zonked.

All in all, a good week, if not exactly a lively one.

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

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

Indexing is the death of the soul. Well, not really, but it certainly isn’t fun

Not much to blog about for this week. I completed another of those articles I work on for Accounting Seed and I got through editing and indexinng the first four chapters of Aliens Are Here. I’m on track to get it done but lord, it’s tedious. There are just soooo many names to index in a movie book.

Part of the problem is that in the past I’ve always gotten the edited text to proof, then the index later. Now I’m doing both at once which sharply increases the workload, and I think the time constraints are tighter too. Needless to say, I’m also finding lots of errors in my work, which is both annoying and irritating. And means more corrections, which slows me down (McFarland didn’t catch as many of my mistakes as usual)

It’s enough that rather than simply listing them I’ll try using Adobe Acrobat to edit directly in the PDF. I can download it for a week as a free trial, then cancel; that’ll be long enough.

On the fun side, I have an Atomic Junkshop post about comics in 1965 and romance tropes I hate. And I got my royalty statement from McFarland; people are still buying my books! The royalties aren’t much but it’s cool I get them at all; if you’re reading this, thank you for spending money on my work.I’d have gone into more detail about the editing and indexing but the dogs are needy.

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

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Filed under Nonfiction, Now and Then We Time Travel, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing