Category Archives: Time management and goals

For obvious reasons, this was a short work week

As usual for the last week of the month there was no Leaf to work on. But my mind couldn’t seem to shift to Questionable Minds so I watched some movies for Alien Visitors and spent most of my time on Undead Sexist Cliches. I finished proofing the footnotes and I polished the text through the middle of Chapter Seven. So next month, I should be done with polishing too. Then it’s just going through the steps to get it into book form at Draft2Digital and then Amazon, including writing cover copy and and getting the cover art.

I’m actually a little nervous: this topic is much more serious than my film books which makes me more concerned that I’ve done everything right and that my reasoning is rigorous. But I will, of course, press ahead. It will be done within a couple of months, and I can stop spending writing time on it. And if it contributes at all to the fight against male supremacy, well that’ll be awesome.

Thursday, of course, was Thanksgiving, which hasn’t been turkey day for me for more than twenty years. Normally we’d be eating at Café Parizade, which has the largest vegan Thanksgiving in the southeast (neither TYG nor I is vegan, but we do quite a few vegan events). This year, of course, is not normal, so I paid for takeout, then drove yesterday to pick it up. That was both exhilarating (whee, a trip somewhere besides the vet!) and unsettling (driving somewhere other than the vet! What if the car explodes?).  And I was also worried I’d made a bad call and the meal wouldn’t be substantial enough to be worth the money.

I needn’t have worried. Parizade’s portions were generous and while the menu wasn’t as diverse as the usual buffet, it was quite satisfactory: seitan cubes, pasta and veggies, garlicky mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts (TYG had those. I can’t stand ’em), blueberry crumble, quinoa with veggies and several desserts. We did miss not being able to go back to the dessert table repeatedly, but on the plus side we were able to keep the leftovers so I didn’t feel the need to stuff myself to get my money’s worth. Or at least not stuff myself as much.

I’d planned a Zoom call with my family but there was a confusion about time so I had one call with my bro at 3PM and one with my sister and Dad at 4. Still fun.

Today I made a zucchini lasagna, which I’d planned to make Thursday — it’s one of TYG’s favorites — if we’d been doing our own cooking. And I started thinking about my December writing schedule and plans for next year.

To wrap up the week here’s a delightful painting by Gervasio Gallardo, who did so many amazing covers for Ballantine Books.#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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The Man Who Lost Thursday

(And yes, I picked the title because I really like the Gervasio Gallardo cover).

Following last week’s mess, I expected to rise back to my normal level of productivity this week, but it was not to be. I had three reasonably productive days, getting work done on Undead Sexist Cliches, and watching material for Alien Visitors. Plus, of course, my Leaf articles.Then came Thursday. It was one of the days where there’s a bunch of real-world stuff that had to be done — so I dropped my work and did it.

Two of them were surprises. The Low Tire warning light went on the day before and with all our driving back and forth to the veterinary rehab, it seemed wise to take care of it. That morning I took the car to the nearest gas station which has an automatic air-pump that inflates tires to the right pressure without having to check. I also figured out how to reset the tire pressure so the light goes up, something that’s not as simple as with our previous VW Golf. That way if there is a slow leak or something — I’m assuming it was just time, our lack of regular tire checks and cold air effects — it’ll alert us again.

Then there was my teeth. They normally stay sore for a while after I have work done on them, so at first the temperature sensitivity after last month’s filling didn’t bother me. But it seemed to be becoming more acute, and included heat sensitivity, which is a warning sign of Something Serious. Given that it spread over both the upper and lower right side of my mouth, TYG suggested it could be sinuses. However, while that seemed plausible, it could have been worse … and I didn’t want to have to go in two or three weeks later with COVID-19 in its winter surge and my teeth having deteriorated. So I called the doctor and made an appointment for noon.

It was sinuses. Which despite paying $120 for the exam, I was happy to hear. Relatively simple to treat and no going under the needle again! Or paying for fillings, root canals or whatever. And I don’t have to worry something’s seriously wrong, which I would have if I’d skipped going.

The other stuff I did Thursday was matters that I knew needed taking care of but I hadn’t gotten around to yet. Hall light replaced upstairs. Chatting with our medical insurer and determining that no, we hadn’t met our high deductible yet which is why a couple of bills were higher than expected. Figuring out how to access our HSA to pay for them — our old HSA let you just withdraw at the ATM, but this one is much more complicated to get money out of (I got it figured out though). I wanted to submit to our pet insurer for rehab coverage too, but that will have to wait.

So not much done. Then today we had dog stuff for much of the day: take our dogs to the vet to get their nails trimmed (Plushie’s are long enough they could break, which would be painful), then to rehab. Normally we go evenings, but this time we scored an early afternoon appointment. Preferable, but not good for productivity (it’s a good half-hour drive).

On the plus side, though, Flash in a Flash accepted my short story Rabbits Indignateonem. That’s the first new story I’ve sold in two years. It doesn’t necessarily change my October views on selling stories, but it is quite nice.

And it looks like Leaf, as usual, will not have articles for the last week of the month so I can make up for lost time next week, despite the Thanksgiving weekend.

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

The day (or two) that dropped out of time!

This week was a reminder that being tighter and more efficient about my schedule is good, but it can’t always overcome bad luck. As I know from experience, sooner or later a run of good weeks will be followed by a bad. And this was the bad.

Last Friday, Plushie took a couple of indoor poops which was really unusual. Saturday night, he woke me up at 11:30 to go out for a poop. Then again at 1 AM. And a couple more times. I spent Sunday in a stupor and never got any Alien Visitors films watched.

Tuesday night, it happened again. Wednesday day I alternated sleeping— a lot of it — with reading Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill. No work. So not a productive week.

I got almost a full quota of Leaf articles and quite a bit of work done on Undead Sexist Cliches. Nothing on Questionable Minds or Alien Visitors. I wasn’t pleased by this but I won’t beat myself up over it either. Life happens.

And in a minor annoyance, the original Outer Limits, which I’d been watching on Amazon, is suddenly not available in my area. It doesn’t appear to be streaming anywhere else and the DVD set is not only pricey, the reviews saw it degrades fast.

On the plus side, after we took Plushie to the vet on Wednesday he got some meds and his poop has stabilized. Thank goodness.

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For some reason I was distracted after Tuesday evening’s events

Like a lot of people I bought into the polling which turned out to be even wronger than in 2016 (discussion to come on Monday). And the possibility that on top of everything else, President Shit Gibbon would win another term? I’m feeling much more hopeful today, even though the outcome is not completely certain.

The tension Wednesday left me too out-of-sorts to do anything creative so I stuck to Leaf articles the whole day. And wasn’t even fast with them. So no work on Questionable Minds this week. And the shift off DST threw me as it always does. I don’t mind it getting dark earlier as much as I mind the abrupt, unnatural way it happens. It leaves me feeling like the CHUD are about to swarm out of their tunnels and devour us all. End the madness! Stop switching times!

So the fact I got anything accomplished this week is a win. And I did. Footnotes proofed on Chapters Five and Six of Undead Sexist Cliches. Final draft done through Chapter Three. Several movies watched for Alien Visitors and some work on the text. That part isn’t going as fast as I’d planned: Netflix deliveries have been slow (curse you, DeJoy!) and so I haven’t been able to concentrate on films for specific chapters. That makes it hard to write about a subgenre such as “Alien Superheroes” or “ET Monsters,” even after I watch the core film for the chapter.

And the trips to the rehab vet this week actually felt like a vacation. Getting out of the house! Going somewhere new! Letting the dogs walk around the parking lot (while carefully social-distancing, of course)! It was startlingly refreshing.

Oh, and Draft 2 Digital reported one of my ebooks sold! Only one, but hey, whoever you are out there I appreciate you spending money on a no-name author.

On that note, have a great weekend.

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

 

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Not many goals accomplished, but October went well

A quck check of my list of goals for October shows I only accomplished 40 percent. But the writing went well, so these days of pandemic I’m satisfied.

Work on Undead Sexist Cliches really went well this week. I carefully bookmarked the various blog posts and news stories I referenced but searching through Firefox’s Library page was consistently slow. It turns out if I just type the title into the search engine, I get much quicker results. Doing that I’m now through with the footnotes for Chapters 1 through 4, which is better than I expected. Footnotes, barring disaster, will be completely done next month.

I did some research reading and movie watching for Alien Visitors, though not as much writing as I should. But I gave myself a very ambitious schedule so I’m not at risk for missing deadline.

Questionable Minds got bypassed because Wednesday I went to the dentist for a filling. Much as I hate sitting in medical offices these days, it went fine and I doubt I caught anything. But I’m happy that barring emergencies, I won’t need to see another doctor until next year. The tooth is unpleasantly cold sensitive, but that will pass, and Dr. Robinson is really good about providing adequate anesthetic during the procedure.

There was no Leaf work, as usually happens at the end of the month. That helped a lot with catching up on everything else, plus doing some research on self-publishing options besides Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. At this point, Amazon still looks like the best bet.

And the weather is turning genuine fall. The light today was beautiful so I went bicycling and had a blast. While I didn’t take any photographs, here’s a shot of South Roxboro Street from a recent cycling trip.Have a great weekend everyone.

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My instincts were, unfortunately, correct

While the rule of thumb is that we shouldn’t be visiting the doctor if it isn’t necessary my teeth need more care than they used to so I went to the dentist for a cleaning Tuesday. Turned out I was right to go: I have a cavity but we’ll be able to fill it before it decays all the way to the nerve. Phew! That said, not at all looking forward to going back in next week.

Despite the dental visit, I managed to put in a full week of work, so recalibrating my schedule is still working. A lot more of it was watching movies for Alien Visitors than I’d planned; I’ll have to watch for that in the future. But I did get other stuff done: proofing footnotes for Undead Sexist Cliches; making it halfway through the final proof of Questionable Minds, plus talking with my cover designer; Leaf articles; and writing more of the text for Alien Visitors.

I’d planned to concentrate my Alien Visitors work so that I’d be watching movies about kids and aliens in a clump, then ET superheroes, alien invasion films, etc. Unfortunately the Netflix DVDs that were supposed to arrive Monday never appeared (I’ve requested replacements) so that threw me off and my viewing was rather random. I could have viewed most of the films on Amazon but they were all for a fee so I chose to wait for Netflix. Perhaps that was an error.

Oh, and I sent in my sales tax for the previous quarter. Annoyingly, the sale of one Amazon print-on-demand copy translates into a $1.66 payment but the minimum fee for paying sales tax online is $2. I lose money. Still, I’d sooner have the sale.

One of our neighbors was out of town this week so TYG or I walked her dog at lunch (the puppy sitter has to work during the day). Wednesday I came across a vulture disputing the rights to roadkill with a couple of crows. The vulture won.

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Another productive week, woot!

So far my recalibration effort has proven successful. Not perfect, but overall much more productive.

I finished Chapter Nine of Undead Sexist Cliches and the afterword which means … holy crap, I have completed this draft. It doesn’t seem quite real to say so. I still have to check footnotes; read the manuscript aloud one final time; and index. But that’s more like mopping up than writing. This will be a cool milestone once it registers that I’ve actually done it.

I got several chapters done on Questionable Minds, but not as many as I hoped. And man, 90,000 words is a lot to proof-read! Still, the journey of a thousand miles and so on …

I didn’t get much writing done on Alien Visitors but I watched some movies and TV for the book, and began breaking down the listed movies into the various categories. The Alien Invasion chapter has a really insane long list, of course (even given most of them will be just noted at the end), while other chapters are a lot lighter. I’ve no idea what to do about that yet; as I’m focusing on only one movie a chapter, maybe it doesn’t really matter. I also read a fair amount of a book on the history of UFOs that’s turning out to be quite good.

I also got my Leaf articles done, and did an over-the-phone tryout for a radio drama (no pay, but it should be fun).

Oh and Trixie’s rehab appointment shows she’s mostly in good shape. Her surgery is holding up but there’s a slight deterioration in her knee, so we need to reduce her jumping and running up stairs for a couple of months. And she’s now over 10 pounds, which is too heavy; it’s easy to forget but because she’s so small, a little treat can add up to a significant number of calories. But she can still take good long walks so that will help get some of the weight off, I hope.

Hard to believe she was a tiny five-pound dog back when we first met my little angel.

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I celebrate the recalibrate

So as I said a week ago, I’m trying to run my schedule much more tightly to ensure I get everything done. My first week went well. If I didn’t allocate my time as precisely as I’d hoped, I still got more done on the Questionable Minds final draft and the footnotes for Undead Sexist Cliches than I have the past few weeks. To break it down:

•I completed my usual quota of Leaf articles. There was a problem because one of the finished ones got wiped from the database but the editors took care of it so I’ll get paid for it. I greatly appreciate that.

•I got about halfway through Chapter Nine of Undead Sexist Cliches and I finished proofing the footnotes to Chapter One.

•I got several chapters done on Questionable Minds. Annoyingly, Word kept doing random, arbitrary things to my document (shifting the justification for the whole thing when I only wanted to center one line, for instance) so I put the whole thing back into Scrivener. Then I’ll export it to Word when it’s done and see if that works better.

•I watched several more movies for Alien Visitors and got a good start on the ETs and Children chapter. It’s a tough one as the range is much wider than the focus of the ET pregnancy chapter, which concentrates on the rape aspect. Kid/ET movies range from the sweetness of E.T. to the nightmarish Invaders From Mars to the goofy teenagers of Pajama Party. Still, I’ll get it worked out.

That’s pretty good given I had to devote Tuesday afternoon to multiple errands: library books back, doggy meds picked up, eye doctor appointment, checks to deposit. That way I can give myself a thorough cleansing once for all the trips.

I’ve also taken over as organizer of the local Shut Up and Write Durham! meetup which is currently virtual. Our first organizer had to move away; the second ran out of steam; now my fellow writer Allegra Gullino and I will try to run it together. I’m not sure I set up next Monday’s meeting right, as it’s not visible on the site (I have to go to the link for the specific meeting) but we’ll get it figured out.

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Recalibrating myself like a precision timepiece!

So I accomplished about 50 percent of my goals for September which is pretty much where I’ve been running for most of this crazy year. My biggest disappointment is that I went way over budget due to the various dog and cat vet bills. On the other hand, there was a time when if I went over budget I actually went negative; that I’m not in that financial space any more is pretty cool.

Writing went pretty well. I didn’t get very far on Questionable Minds but I rewrote Chapter Eight of Undead Sexist Cliches, the Alien Pregnancy chapter of Alien Visitors and watched a ton of movies. I did not get as far as I wanted proofing the Undead Sexist Cliches footnotes (though I have found several errors, demonstrating that I’m not wasting my time) for the same reason my Questionable Minds work was slow: I save that for the end of the day and I frequently wind up dealing with the dogs at that point. And they’re hyper. So focus goes away.

Plus I got my quota of Leaf articles and blogged at Atomic Junkshop about how much of the Superman mythos I grew up with got tested out first in the pages of Superboy. Case in point, Bizarro. And as my Shut Up and Write! meetup group seems to have died, I’m looking at reviving it with a friend of mine as co-organizer.

So for next month I’m going to try running a very tight ship. I’ve planned out my schedule including vet and doctor appointments and I’ve been much more precise in what I’m doing in each period. Out of two writing sessions a week on Alien Visitors, one will be watching movies, one will be writing the chapters. With Undead Sexist Cliches, one session will be working on Chapter Nine, one will be footnotes, reading the early chapters aloud and such. That was I should get the work done even if the dogs bedevil me. The more progress I make, the sooner I can get back to doing some fiction.

I’m not as good at multi-tasking as I used to be so trying to write while I’m watching films doesn’t go well. Instead I’ll use the time for things I can do: exercise, cooking, baking bread, maybe writing bills. That’ll squeeze a little more time out of the day.

When I was younger I used to obsessively micromanage my time this way, but I don’t feel like that this time. I feel relaxed and reasonably confident I can make this work. We’ll see if I’m right.

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Yesterday, I played hooky

I had to drive to the doctor Thursday morning for my flu shot. I combined that with dropping off library books and running an errand for TYG. By the time I got back I just didn’t feel like working, so I stopped. I didn’t even attempt to justify it with anything productive, I just sat and read the rest of the day. Felt good, even though it meant I once again got nothing done on Questionable Minds.

Well in fairness that’s not just because of yesterday. The dogs have been getting fidgety in the middle afternoon, so I take custody from TYG. Unfortunately they were consistently too fidgety — maybe because of confinement? — and I couldn’t get any of the little odds and ends done that I schedule for late afternoon (extra work on Questionable Minds, checking footnotes for Undead Sexist Cliches). If it keeps happening next week I may just stop work and resume in the evening.

That said, I did finish Chapter Eight of Undead Sexist Cliches, and I got a lot of work done on the Alien Pregnancy chapter of Alien Visitors. I will have to watch myself, though — it would be very easy to just fill up my writing time with watching movies even though this book is supposed to be less labor-intensive than my previous ones.

And of course, I got my Leaf work in, and blogged at Atomic Junkshop about Joe Simon’s bizarro 1970s series Prez (a rewritten version of an earlier post here).And now the weekend! Even if I’m not going anywhere or really doing much, it feels good to get here.

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