Category Archives: Time management and goals

Not the blazing return from vacation I’d anticipated

It seems I never return from vacation and spring immediately into writing, refreshed and energized.

Monday I decided I would take the morning off writing and catch up on various tasks: calling the electrician about why our back deck plugs didn’t seem to work, getting a car appointment scheduled, fixing a problem with our alarm system, ordering medication for a colonoscopy next month (never fun), paying my share of the bills, going through mail. That all went well. Afternoon, as work on Leaf articles has started up, I did a couple of those, and 1,000 words of fiction (starting working with some ideas from vacation).

Tuesday I was ready to start back on Southern Discomfort. But I’d scheduled a HVAC company to check out our heat pump (all good) and Plushie and Trixie completely lost their minds. There was a Dude! He came in the house! Then he did bangy things under the house in the crawlspace!

Trixie took to the high ground which wasn’t too bad. Plush Dog got up in my face. Particularly any time I tried using the computer, he just had to have my full attention. Normally I’d discourage him (I have an unpleasant whistle app on the iPhone) but as he was upset, I didn’t have the heart. Suffice to say, this used up a lot of the morning (and I’d gotten up late, too!). Then the electrician came which took up more time.

And Plushie’s eager for longer lunch walks now that the weather’s turning to autumn. That cut into my work day some too.

On the plus side, our heat pump is fine and the electrician was able to fix the problem with our outside plug. Wisp the feral cat has been using the little under-deck shelter we made for her, but it’s not good enough for winter (too open, for one thing). So we ordered a heated shelter that will work much better, but only if we can plug it in. We can, and it looks like she’s already using it.

I got plenty of Leaf work done; much as I’d prefer to devote the time to fiction, I can’t ignore paying gigs, any more than I’d ignore a day job. I got about 3,000 words done on the short-story ideas that sprang out of the trip (nothing directly tied to it, just odd thoughts like someone stealing a suitcase off a baggage carousel and discovering a horrible something inside it).

I didn’t get much done on Southern Discomfort and I suspect it won’t be completely finished by Oct. 31. I got badly stuck Thursday — the two interweaving action threads at the climax didn’t come together right — but with a little tinkering, I was able to make it work

I still have about 5,000 words to go, then to fix a couple of medical scenes based on advice from my fellow writer and MD Heather Frederick (author of the spy-cat adventure Timber Howligan). Then I print the whole thing out and read it aloud a final (I hope) time. That’s a lot to get through. But it won’t be that long now.

#SFWApro. Photo copyright is mine.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

I’d be finished if not for those meddling ideas!

When I started this draft of Southern Discomfort, I was working with a previous draft of 78,000 words. Too short for a lot of markets, but I figured I’d expand it.

And I did. It’s now up to 89,000 and a bit, which is more marketable, so good. But I can’t help thinking if I’d kept it the old length, or maybe expanded it to only 80,000 words, I’d be done by now! But at 84,300 I still have 5,000 words to go. And I suspect it’ll be a little longer by the time I reach The End.

Yes, I know, if the story needs to be longer it should be longer. I don’t think there’s any padding in the added wordage — it’s visual and action details that need detailing, conversations that need to be more explicit. But it’s frustrating to be so close and wrap up the week unfinished. More so, because I’m traveling to Florida next week for Dad’s 90th birthday (TYG will be at home with the puppies, but she’ll attend at least a bit of the festivities by FaceTime). So no work. And when I get back, I’ll be back doing Leaf again, which is money in my pocket (yay), but less time for fiction (boo). It’ll be a little harder to keep up my fiction productivity, but I’m ready.

As I mentioned last Friday, I’ve begun doing my 1,000 words of new stuff in the morning as my first writing project. Last week was too chaotic to succeed, but this week went great. I finished a first draft of one story about honey, and one about menstruating witch hunters (don’t ask). Neither of them anywhere near polished enough to show, but it felt very good finishing them. I also completed a second draft of Neverwas (I like my core idea, but my ending is a mess) and a third draft of Only the Lonely Can Slay. Which is very cool, though I’m always reluctant to feel pleased until something’s actually finished. I’ve had lots of experience with rewriting and redrafting and not having much finished output.

While I didn’t finish No One Can Slay Her, I think I solved the big plot problems. I figured out what the bad guy’s scheme is, and added a needed extra scene to replace one I took out. It’s still got some logic glitches but hopefully I’ll be able to iron them out now.

And I got another 4,000 words done on Undead Sexist Cliches. That was my quota for this month, which is good, as it frees up time for the Leaf articles.

So yeah, good week. To celebrate, here’s a shot of Wisp, “our” feral cat. She’s still around, we’re still feeding her and we bought a small heated shelter for her for when winter comes (will she use it? We’ll see).

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Filed under Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Time hacks that work, hacks that don’t

 

One that works: doing my 1,000 words of new stuff first thing in the morning, rather than squeezing it in later in the day. I really got some good work done: finished the first draft of an untitled story about honey and magic, almost completed a second draft of Only the Lonely Can Slay and got a little work done on a story set in Hollywood in the 1930s.

I’m also up to 76,000 words on Southern Discomfort, which is good, but I’d really expected to get further. Time just got away from me and there were just too many robots to smash, so to speak.

The time hack that isn’t working is doing some writing Sunday evening. I thought that way I’d be ready when unexpected problems cropped up. However between making dinner and family stuff that popped up Sunday the last two weekends, that hasn’t worked out. I could do it earlier in the day, but that feels much more like it’s cutting into my weekend. And even though I enjoy my work, I like having two days not to think about it. However I’ll try that this weekend.

It didn’t help this week was full of unexpected problems. The light downstairs died and we had to replace the whole fixture. The price was great (our electrician is very reasonable) but it took longer for him to fix things than expected.

I had another class in the Alexander Technique, for better posture and body control. And because I forgot to erase a rescheduled appointment I spent part of Thursday driving to my opthalmologist when I didn’t need to. And we got a second piece of furniture delivered today, and I spent a lot of time arranging our new layout.

Plus TYG’s schedule was a mess, so I gave the dogs a couple of extra walks. And as it’s finally cooling off, lunch walks are talking longer, which adds up to more walkies-time.

And then there was the hearings. I haven’t been this distracted and pissed about politics since the election. I don’t know that I’ve ever vented this much about politics on FB, but the sight of several high-school friends declaring that big whoop, who cares if he tried to rape someone … I read a lot about how conservatives don’t care about consent, but it’s unsettling to see that view among people I know (excepting a couple I already know are rape apologists).

On the bright side, Trixie and Plushie did get to play in the yard next door with Calla, the dog there, and with Carmella, a dog from up the cul-de-sac. She’s below. I love the ears — as a friend of mine said, she looks like she stepped out of Gremlins.

That’s a much better thought to end the week on.

#SFWApro. Cover by Billy Graham, all rights remain with current holder.

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Filed under Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

Distracted by dogs, flustered by Florence

Typing this Friday afternoon, I realize this was another week where I got a good deal done despite all the distractions. And so far Hurricane Florence has left us alone, though

Distraction #1: Sunday early morning Trixie woke up early so I invited her to snuggle close to me. That’s fairly normal; what wasn’t was that she was constantly restless, couldn’t sit in one spot and eventually had to go out a couple of times. In the morning she seemed normal enough, which made me think it might have been nothing; there are other nights where she’s just gotten an itch to go out in the early AM, or she has an emergency need to pee.

Monday morning, though, she needed to go out early again. And she couldn’t sit still at all; she’d settle down, then jump up as if she felt uncomfortable. When she’s done this in the past, it’s been a sign she’s having serious tummy upset. We made a vet appointment for later that morning, but then I had to deal with Trixie, when she did st still, staring sadly up at me with this Daddy, Make Me Feel Better expression. So, not much done (the photo below is Trixie when she’s feeling comfortable and at peace with the world).

Then there was hurricane prep. Despite the shrieks of Category Four Devastating Storm U Are Doomed from various news media, I wasn’t worried; concerned, yes, but there’s no point in worrying about a hurricane that far out. It can change direction (it did), or lose wind power (it did), so I believe in preparing for the storm, monitoring it but not freaking out. Too much stress for zero gain.

Still, storm prep did take up time: a couple of shopping trips for extra supplies, TYG and I clearing her container garden off the back deck, moving away anything else that might turn projectile in high winds, getting an oil change for the car, talking to a friend of mine to see if we could evac that way (yes), filling up water jugs. All in all, quite a bit of time. Annoyingly a schedule conflict meant I couldn’t get a couple of other, longer fixes done to the car, so I’ll take it back in next week.

So what got done? Well, I printed up the latest draft of the Undead Sexist Cliches book at the library last weekend and spent Monday and Tuesday going over it. This proved to be a smart move. There are a lot of places where I repeat the same information or arguments; Charlotte Allen’s “women are stupid” article in the WaPo some years back crops up in several places because its such a prime example of extreme sexism. It’s got stereotyping, gendered thinking, inaccurate science — but if I reference it in multiple places, I still shouldn’t repeat the identical criticisms in each place. So I noted those down, found points where I needed to add material, noted places where the writing wasn’t clear. I think I’m ready for the next draft. Unfortunately I don’t think I can make that the last one; I’ll probably need to solicit some beta readers, then finish it up.

I also read the excellent Carol Tavris book The Mismeasure of Woman, which gave me some added useful information for the book.

Thursday I got to work on Southern Discomfort but almost immediately found a scene that needed heavy rewriting; nobody in the scene knows the stuff I have them talking about due to earlier changes in the book. This morning I got that fixed. It’s not quite as good a scene because of the knowledge they don’t have but the book overall is better with those earlier changes. I didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped, but I am making progress.

Hopefully we won’t deal with anything worse than drenching rain and moderately strong winds the rest of the weekend. And Trixie seems back to normal, which is an even bigger load off my mind.

#SFWApro. Image is mine.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

September goes in, August goes out

I accomplished about 55 percent of my August goals and almost none of them were writing goals. Part of that was working on the Leaf articles; part was devoting the last week to my sister’s visit and then Dragoncon; and part of that just getting distracted by extra doggy care and other duties. I also didn’t get a lot of various paperwork tasks done — no bills left unpaid or anything, but stuff like finding replacement lights for one fixture (it’s an older one and apparently it won’t be easy) has fallen by the wayside.

This month I have no Leaf to work on, and I’m determined to get tasks accomplished (I have a list). Plus, you know, regular stuff. And after the wonderful relaxing week hanging out with TYG I feel up to the job. Hopefully the feeling will stick around. To make that easier, I’ve also been rearranging my schedule in various ways so that I can hopefully adapt to unplanned extra dog care when TYG has a sudden work call or the like.

I’d expected Wednesday, the first day I got back, would be wasted. I’d be off my game and the dogs would be uber-needy after being in Suite Paws all week. Don’t get me wrong, the staff there are wonderful and clearly love dogs, but Trixie and Plushie really missed us. Surprisingly, the day went great: a few thousand words done on Southern Discomfort, a little bit of progress on No One Can Slay Her, two short stories submitted and another blog post up at Atomic Junkshop.

Thursday though? I had a great night’s sleep but when TYG got up, she found Plush had puked on the bed. Cleaning that up took us some time, then I drove to the 24-hour drugstore near us to get him some Omneprazole. Plush began puking every night mid-August so we took him and the vet suggested we try it for two weeks. It stopped the puking and generally he seemed happier and more comfortable. Tuesday evening, which was about a day after he went off the drug, he puked massively. So it looks like he needs the stuff to keep his tummy happy (the doctor says we may able to lower the dose, but it won’t hurt him if not). It’s already making him more comfortable; unsettling to realize his stomach may have been aching a lot and we didn’t know.

Anyway after all that, I finally got back to work maybe 25 minutes before my morning tea break. So it seemed pointless to start work until after the tea … yeah, you can see where this is going and it’s not “I finished the entire manuscript before dinner!”

Friday we finally had to take Plushie into the vet for the puking. No real conclusion what caused it yet, so we’re giving him special food and meds while they run some tests to rule out stuff. He did seem much better this morning so possibly whatever it was has passed but best to cover our bets.

Even so I got more work done on Southern Discomforts. I put a lot of thinking into No One Can Slay Her — I think I’m going to have to write another scene to make the plot build properly.

So a good start to September’s writing, not good at all as puppy parent.

#SFWApro. All rights to images are mine.

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Filed under Now and Then We Time Travel, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

A short week, but it generated income

Not much else, though.

With family coming in and other activities taking up most of next week, I squeezed all my week’s Leaf articles and a couple of extra ones into three days. Which left me kind of fuzzy, but it’ll help pay the bills.

Thursday when the dogs were at Suite Paws was mostly cleaning for Tracy and Cindy’s arrival today. Plus I did a lot of thinking about my schedule and how it’s not working in some ways. Even when I schedule time to work on short stories, for instance, my brain doesn’t kick into gear. Some of that may just be feeling sick last week, and the extra dog care from TYG’s schedule. But I think I need to adjust things; we’ll see how the adjustments go after I get back from vacation.

Today I’m doing some last minute stuff, such as making cupcakes. It feels too much like a day off to write.

I did get a couple of thousand words further on Southern Discomfort but that’s it until after Labor Day.

Like I said, not productive, but I expect to bounce back with vigor after the long break.

To make up for the lack of stuff to talk about, here’s a neat cover from one of Thomas Burnett Swan’s fantasies. I don’t know the cover artist.

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

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On a pale horse — no, it’s a white horse, but that wasn’t good either

Gotta say, if I were editing Revelation, I’d tell John that having a white horse and a pale horse makes it hard to distinguish the characters …

The bowman on the white horse is plague (at least in some interpretations) as in this image from the Cathedral de Agnani. The potluck we had a couple of weeks back apparently planted a seed in TYG, who spent this week with the 24-hour bug, only it lasted around 96 hours. I’ve been feeling draggy the past two days but nothing more than that’ hopefully it won’t get any worse.

But between extra dog walks, errands for TYG and feeling wiped out, I did not get much done. I did complete my quota of Leaf articles, so I made the money shot as it were. Southern Discomfort, though? I did get past the scene that blocked me last week, but not much further. We’re getting to the point where it’s mostly new material and it’ll take seriously harder rewriting to finish it. I suspect at this point I’m going to have to push my deadline back to October 31 instead of the end of September.

I spent a lot of yesterday lying around (in between helping TYG). and most of today lying around.  And I intend to spend much of the weekend lying around, though I will have some shopping to do (I think we’re running out of food for Wisp). Usually when I feel this exhausted, simply going inert and relaxing does the trick. It’s certainly preferable to the hacking TYG has been suffering.

Wish me luck. And TYG a swift recovery.

#SFWApro. Image is public domain, courtesy of wikimedia commons.

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Life came out swinging. I took a dive

So instead of a bad Friday, the entire week was a mess for writing I think by Wednesday I’d unconsciously thrown in the towel.

It didn’t help that the next section of Southern Discomfort needs serious changes. When I got to the second scene (a confrontation between Maria and FBI Agent Rachel Cohen) I realized Cohen’s actions didn’t make sense. I’m not sure what will work, which made it very easy to wander off mentally.

Monday, disruptions in TYG’s schedule led to me sitting up in bed in the early morning with the dogs. I’d intended to write, but they positioned themselves so there was nowhere to place the computer. I settled for research reading instead. And gave way and spent the whole day (other than my Leaf articles) finishing the book.

Tuesday, I’d had my second Alexander technique class. As noted at the link, the technique is supposed to counteract bad posture and body-tensing habits, like the ones that put such strain on my voice. Taking the class, then practicing the exercises at home definitely has a good effect, though I’m a long way from incorporating them into my everyday movements.

Wednesday I woke up from a very bad night of sleep. I also had to meet with an electrician for a light-repair job. He’s efficient, but I still lost some time. And dang, I was soooo tired. So I did some work, but not much (except, again, the Leaf. That’s the money stuff at the moment).

Thursday I had to go back to my eye doctor to check on my floaters. They have receded back to normal levels so I can relax — my retina’s not about to fall off. But I’d forgotten the checkup required dilating my eyes; I arrived home in no shape to stare at a screen. Instead I took a nap, then started cleaning (which I normally do on the day the dogs are in day care). And just kept cleaning: fridge shelves wiped, spices sorted, old stuff in the back corners of the closet thrown out (sun dried tomatoes from 2013!), storage containers tidied up. It was productive, but not the kind of productive I’d planned to do. But I just couldn’t drum up any enthusiasm for writing, even after my eyes recovered.

Plus the cat that gave birth in our compost bin is still hanging around, and so we’re going to get it spayed. Working out the details with a local clinic consumed some time, and today I left work early to pick up a cat trap. Now let’s just hope the cat actually goes into the trap (we’re baiting it with tuna).

With the rewrite blocked, I went back to some of the early Southern Discomfort chapters and read them aloud to make final corrections and word-choice edits. So far I haven’t found anything that needs more work.

Oh, and I put in more time than I should on a new post at Atomic Junkshop on what comic books were like on Earth-Two. Was there a Superman in comics in a world where he was also in the newspapers (spoiler: yes).

Ah well, occasionally slacking off won’t kill me. If anything, blowing stuff off once in a while is kind of liberating. But next week I’d better do better.

#SFWApro. Cover by Carmine Infantino, all rights remain with current holder.

 

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Goals for July, accomplished (and not)

Sigh, only 56 percent accomplished. I can blame this mostly on added doggy-parenting requirements off and on, and on being really tired the first couple of days of this week.

That said, I did get the key ones done. I released Atoms for Peace and got to 52,000 words total on Southern Discomfort‘s final draft. I also completed the latest draft of Undead Sexist Cliches.  I still can’t seem to get far on my short stories though. Though that’s partly because I had to spend a lot of this week finishing Atoms for Peace. I also wound up blowing off lots of little projects, such as submitting stories, pitching article ideas and the like.

I held a writer’s work day at my house, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

And I relaxed a lot, watching movies, reading, getting out to the movies, going on our Mensa trip. And finally getting around to signing up for BritBox so I can watch more Doctor Who.

I got really sloppy about applying sunscreen, which is a big no-no at my age. It was so overcast that even knowing that cloudy weather doesn’t eliminate the need, I just shrugged it off. More generally I’m falling behind on some of the everyday paperwork tasks I need to keep up with (in fairness that’s because several new ones kept popping up).

So no particular deep insights, just one month with fewer goals completed than average. Nothing as startling as the scene below (art uncredited)

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What did I do to make Friday hate me?

I must have done something because since I got back from Indianapolis, none of them have been productive. First TYG was out of town so I had the dogs to deal with. Last week I was distracted by running the car in to fix the engine (even though it turned out I didn’t need to). And then today …

Early this morning, TYG had to focus so she asked me if I’d watch the dogs for a quarter-hour. Foolishly I took them up to the bedroom without bringing my computer so I couldn’t do any work. When the 15 minutes stretched into 45 minutes, I volunteered to walk them. Plushie was up for a long walk, so we got back after about an hour, me feeling very sweaty. Then up we jumped again for a play date with Lily, Trixie’s bestie.

This took an unexpected and undeniably cute turn when we all ran into Carmela, a five-month-old puppy living down the cul-de-sac (regrettably she’ll be off to college with her owner in a few weeks). Carmella’s at the very friendly puppy stage, eager to play with Trixie and Plushie. The Plush One, as often happens when other dogs (besides Trixie) initiate play, backed off. Trixie didn’t back off, but didn’t seem entirely happy to have a puppy jumping on her. With Plushie or Lily there’d have been a tussle, so I’m guessing she was reluctant to wrestle a little puppy.

However the end result of all that hot humidity and being on my feet for more than an hour was that I felt completely wiped out. I didn’t really get my shit together until a little before noon. Then I had to devote the afternoon to a new Leaf project, 1800 word articles (three times the length, three times the $). Probably because I was still wiped, it used up the rest of the day. At least I hope that was it; if they’re all this labor-intensive, I may have to go back to shorter stuff.

For the rest of the week, let’s see …

I’ve now finished 52,000 words of Southern Discomfort. That’s better than I’d planned, but as I anticipated, it’s slowing down the further I go. Still, I think I’ll be able to finish before September, as I planned.

I finished proofing and editing Atoms for Peace. Now I just have to upload the revised text and make sure I’ve fixed all the formatting problems I had last time. And for the print version, include a table of contents.

I finally got to sit down and think about the revisions I need to make to No-One Can Slay Her. There’s still a couple of weak points I have to fix to set up the big finish, but overall it’s much stronger. Unfortunately I didn’t get to write any this morning, so I’ve only revised a couple of thousand words.

And I have another post at Atomic Junkshop, about rereading comics.

Not a bad week, but I sure would have liked more progress on No One.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine, credit for Carmela’s cuteness goes to her parents and God.

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals