Category Archives: Time management and goals

I changed my routine. You won’t believe what happened next!

Okay, not anything shocking. But this seems to be one of those clickbait headlines and I can always use more clicks, so …

Last Thursday and Friday I accepted a bunch of articles for the Leaf content provider. However there’s a three day deadline to finishing once I accept them and for a Thursday acceptance that meant Sunday. Much as I hate breaking up my weekend, I decided to take Saturday off, work Sunday, then take Tuesday off instead. Coupled with some personal distractions, I felt very disorganized this entire week.

Nevertheless, it was productive. I got about fourteen Leaf articles done, though it took me longer than it should have — the disorganization, I imagine.

I also went over the corrections to Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and responded; mostly they were solid choices by the editor. But now there’s a final set — I probably won’t get to them until Monday.

I also completed Phase One of the index, which is going through the manuscript and putting everything in alphabetical order. I prefer doing this before submitting my manuscripts because no matter how carefully I proofread, I always find more errors. That wasn’t an option this time, as I had to push to complete the book by deadline as it was. I feel embarrassed seeing all the errors now.

It went quickly but now comes Phase Two, where I put in the page numbers. It’s slower and absolutely mind-numbing but it has to be done. Plus, of course, proofing the final copy of the text.

It’ll be a busy rest-of-the-month and the promotional effort for Questionable Minds will drag as a result. But first things first.#SFWApro. Bottom cover by Sam Collins, rights to images remain with current holders.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Time management and goals, Writing

It’s a trap — and I walked right into it!

Not really trapped but I do perhaps feel a little hemmed in. As it’s by good stuff and I had a good week, perhaps it’s more that I’m a bird in a gilded cage?

Yesterday McFarland mailed me the PDF of The Aliens Are Here for me to proof, edit and index. This is quite a job, especially the unimaginable tedium of indexing. Due by early September (the book comes out late that month). And wouldn’t you know, after a couple of months of quiet, Leaf suddenly has a ton of articles available. And one of my other clients wants me to do an accounting article.

I think this will rule out any chance of writing any more fiction this month. But that’s okay: I knew the proofs would arrive, I know from experience how much time it takes so I was prepared to drop everything. Well, except the paying stuff.

Oh, and I have a story I need to approve the edits on. I got an email Monday offering to buy Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates and of course I said yes. I got the email today saying they’d done the edits, would I take a look please? But hey, that’s a job I’ll do with pleasure.

I’ve also got some work to do on promoting Questionable Minds. That’ll have to wait, but it can’t wait too long.

But that’s a boatload of sudden deadlines when I normally don’t have any. I’m not really complaining because it’s all good, I just wish the timing had been spaced out. Still, having too much work as a freelancer is better than not having enough work.

Prior to everything heating up, I went over Don’t Pay the Ferryman and I think it’s in good shape. I’m ready to give it a final edit, but obviously not right now. And I finished this draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It’s not looking as good but a first shot at replotting went surprisingly easily. Possibly the problems are more fixable than I thought. Again, not something to tackle right now.

Oh, I also had a filling adjusted yesterday. And posted a couple of articles at Atomic Junkshop, one on the debut of Marvel’s SHIELD and another on comic reboots that missed the point.

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

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Short Stories, Time management and goals, Writing

Three good days, two that tanked

The work week went well up until Wednesday night.

We had a massive thunderstorm so Plushie freaked out, as he always does. When he’s that nervous, he doesn’t eat which meant we couldn’t give him his evening drugs. So we decided to wait out the storm which meant we got to bed close to 10. Not so late, but we’re usually asleep around 8:30. I wake up around 3:30 — and sure enough, that’s what I did. Coupled with several bad nights of sleep earlier in the week, I was too zonked on Thursday to do anything productive.

Thursday night we stayed up to about the same time because TYG was watching something on the TV. I got a full night of sleep but that meant waking up late and getting very little done before TYG and the dogs were up. Might have recovered on an ordinary morning but we had an appointment at Quartet — the dogs’ physical rehab place — so the morning was chunked up into small bits. So another day not getting anything done.

That said, I did get three productive days in. I redrafted Don’t Pay the Ferryman which I’m retitling something like Reflections in Dark Mirrors (I’d use Grin of the Dark but Ramsey Campbell beat me to it); I’m not sure the shorter ending is quite where it needs to be but I may send it out just to get feedback. I also started redrafting a short story called (for now) Obalus. It’s got a great set-up but the finish of the previous draft was a hand-wave. I’m not sure how to fix that yet. Oh, I also submitted a couple of shorts, though I got one back from a previous round of submissions.

I spent Wednesday drafting up article queries for various markets. I tend to dither when I do this, delaying until I’m completely satisfied the query is perfect. This time, while I was slower than I needed to be, I came up with three ideas and sent them out. I need to do that much more often.

I finished the 20,000 words I wanted to get done on Impossible Takes a Little Longer, once again because I could transplant a lot of material from the last draft with little changes. I think I’ve solved some of the problems I wrote about Wednesday but the new stuff and the old stuff still fit together awkwardly. But I think the components of a good book are there — I simply have to put them in the right order, tied together the right way. Easy to say, tougher to do, of course.

So a good week, but I still miss the two days I got nothing done. But I did get a great close up of Snowdrop.#SFWApro.

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

I’m counting the first week of July as a win

Partly that’s just random luck; as I’ve often observed, when performance is sub-par and problems arise, random swings of the pendulum push me back towards average, if not over it.

It’s also that I’ve solved the problem I mentioned last week of not taking breaks. A break mid-afternoon to write out Remember To Vote postcards for Activate America. A longer lunch break. That second one’s still messy because I’ve been sitting extra with the dogs this week, which limits what I can do at lunch time — if I exercise, Trixie takes it as a call to snuggle. But it does help keep me going to the end of the day.What did I get accomplished? For starters I finished Adventure of the Red Leech and sent it in to a Holmesian anthology. I put in a little work on Don’t Pay the Merryman (I so have to change that title). And while I haven’t mentioned it before, a friend of mine is putting together a collaborative self-published anthology and my Impossible Things Before Breakfast is one of the stories. I took a look at the feedback from the other authors this week and made edits. I didn’t follow all their suggested changes but the advice I did take improved the story. I’l review it again next month for final decision on a couple of points where I was uncertai.

I got 12,000 words in on Impossible Takes a Little Longer, which is less impressive than it sounds: I took most of it straight from the last draft with very little changed. The results aren’t entirely satisfactory though, something I’ll discuss in a post next week.

I started researching Amazon ads, though I balked at actually spending money on them. I will authorize a small test for Undead Sexist Cliches next week, but it’s difficult for me to spend money on something that may not pay off at all. However I felt better about it when I crunched budget numbers and even with my upcoming trip to Congregate this month I can afford at least a small trial run.

Oh, and I posted a couple of times at Atomic Junkshop about Marvel Comics in 1965, and the end of Giant-Man’s series. Go ahead and check them out if you’re interested in the topic.

And now the weekend is here.

#SFWApro. Undead Sexist Cliches cover by Kemp Ward.

 

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

It is the little rift within the lute, that by and by will make the music mute

(title taken from Alfred, Lord Tennyson). Which is to say, small problems can grow into big ones, which explains some of why my weeks feel like suet.

In theory, I take an hour for lunch. That includes walking the dogs (or co-walking if TYG’s available), eating and then reading, relaxing or doing useful around-the-house stuff. This works out fine if lunch hour is 11-12, but due to TYG’s new schedule, we frequently walk the dogs around 10-10:15. I’m not ready for lunch, but instead of relaxing after walkies I just go back to walk, intending to make it up when I sit and eat. Only instead I do the equivalent of eating at your desk — eat (taking my time, I note), then get back to work.(No, that cover has no thematic connection to my post, I’m just fond of it).

The result is that I don’t take much of a lunch break. Then around 2 PM I burn out for the day. This is not unusual: I’ve had the same experience in the past when I keep pushing without a pause. “I’ll get it all done, then break” isn’t as effective for me as regular small breaks. So I need to remind myself to take a full break at lunch, even if it’s chopped up into separate pieces.

That said, the week went well. I finished my rewrite and proofing of Southern Discomfort and read the first chapter to my writing group. The verdict: Starting with Maria’s story and putting it in first person really improved it. They made several other suggestions, such as giving readers her name sooner and making it clearer this is a fantasy; I made those corrections the next day and mailed it off. Wish me luck. Even if it doesn’t sell, it’s a better book for the added work.

I also completed another draft of The Adventure of the Red Leech. I think it’s done, so I’ll print it up next week and go over it in hard copy. That should get me a solid final draft and spot any typos. After that, off to the Holmes anthology I’m submitting to. Plus I once again submitted Fiddler’s Black to the umpteenth market.

And over at Atomic Junkshop, I ponder the appeal of trains and models as kids’ toys. I didn’t get it as a kid, still don’t get it now.

#SFWApro. Cover art by Dick Dillin, all rights remain with current holder.

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

A short week but not without merit.

Short because I took today and yesterday off for some fun stuff.

I’d hoped that in the three days remaining, I could finish my Southern Discomfort copy-edit, but I fell short. Just a little too much distraction, a couple of errands and a possible new client for my paying nonfiction. This time it’s an insurance website; they sent me a test article to write which took up a couple of hours of Tuesday morning. Without that, maybe I’d have finished but Southern Discomfort won’t put any money in my pocket for a while to come. Clients help pay the bills, so …

Still, I’m very pleased with how well prioritizing the copy-editing has worked out. None of the feedback I got said anything about “you need to edit this better” but I ran across no end of spelling errors and places where having written a paragraph two different ways, I left both in. Embarrassing. Or where someone makes the same point in two successive scenes. Tackling it so fast made it easy to spot such glitches. Hopefully I still remember them when my break is over.

That was pretty much it. Here’s a photo of Plushie and Snowdrop to brighten your day.#SFWApro

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

Not the sad, despairing post of failure I anticipated

You may recall that last week I felt blue about my performance in May.

Truth to tell, it wasn’t anything to brag about. For the first time this year, I didn’t accomplish enough goals to reward myself with a fun purchase. I blew most of my writing goals, and didn’t do well on my personal goals either. Financially I wound up spending more than I’d budgeted and my income was way below the norm for various reasons. And I won’t be able to catch up much this month because the first two weeks are consumed with various personal projects and activities, like ConCarolinas this weekend.

While I spent too much time this week catching up on stuff I should have gotten done last week, it still went well. I finished my rewrite of Southern Discomfort (which you may remember changed my May writing plans), putting Maria’s scenes in first person. I don’t know if that makes it saleable, but I think the book is good; barring some amazingly insightful feedback, I’m done changing it.

Then began the proofreading. I got a third of the way through, so I should be able to finish and get the book submitted before month’s end. I’m finding an embarrassing number of errors, ranging from the understandable (not turning a “she” or a “Maria” into an “I) to the seriously sloppy (places where I tried two versions of the same paragraph and forgot to remove one of them). But it’s going fast enough that even with the lack of time I can get it done.

And TYG is thriving in her new job. Seeing her this relaxed makes all the support stuff I did while she was wrapping up her old one worthwhile. It would have been worthwhile supporting her anyway, because she’s awesome, but—well, you know what I mean?

So I don’t feel quite so despairing now. Yay!

Not much else to say about the week, but here’s a photo of a hawk taking off from a car during morning walkies. Man, did Trixie want to mix it up with him. She doesn’t realize she’s only a tiny 10-pound dog.#SFWApro

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Filed under Personal, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

Mine is a genius for improvisation!

Which is to say this week, while productive, did not go at all as planned. But that’s okay; there are times when throwing away the plans and improvising is the right move. I guarantee you, when my manuscript returns from McFarland I’ll be dropping everything else—okay, not the paying finance articles—to proof it carefully, then index it.

What changed things up was that Gollancz, a British specfic publisher, has announced that in June it will open to unagented submissions. I’m not sure if Southern Discomfort is right for them, but that’s an incentive to finish this rewrite ASAP. That requires putting almost everything else on hold.

It went well this week, though bogged down by continuing extra dog care. That should only last another week though. I also got the cover for Questionable Minds finally nailed down and finished another of my finance articles (on integrated accounting).  I also submitted a query to The Guardian for an op-ed on abortion. It’s timely but I know the competition is fierce, so we’ll see what comes of it.

Oh, and I had my last appointment with my physical therapist for dealing with my vertigo. It’s gone. If it comes back, I have exercises for dealing with it.

Below, another photo from our trip to the North Carolina Zoo.And here’s a gorilla. One of the kids watching him said he looked said — could she give him a hug? I love children at zoos.#SFWAPro.

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

Trixie is adorable. Her tummy, not so much

Wednesday, Trixie once again woke up with a bad tummy. Felt bad, didn’t want to eat, not even her favorite treats. She insisted on coming down to sit with me so my morning plans went out the window. When she started throwing up later, we took her to Park Vet where they gave her an anti-nausea shot. They told us not to feed her until Thursday so I spent evening with Trixie looking around for her food every time I gave Plushie anything. Then looking at me in puzzlement.

Thursday morning, her tummy continued, which is not unprecedented. I had to skip stretching again because it’s not possible to do yoga or any sort of exercise when a small dog insists on snuggling with you. Happily by afternoon she was completely back to normal and this morning I got a full slate of stretching and yoga in.

Despite all that, and a couple of other unanticipated errands I put in a solid week of work.

More on the rewrite of Southern Discomfort.

Another article for the Accounting Seed website.

Another 3,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I got past the stumbling block I hit last week, but the changes I made still leave me unclear about what comes next. Still, my instincts have been sound so far.

I finished another draft of Adventure of the Red Leech and it’s looking quite good. I’ll be reading it to my writing group in about a week and a half. I also realized they might be right about Don’t Pay the Merryman (soon to be retitled) when they said the first section would work perfectly well if it had a better ending. I’d like to tell a longer tale and someday I hope I do, but for now I’m going to try cutting it short. I took my first shot at an ending; I’ll give it another go soon.

And I’ve picked the cover for Questionable Minds. I’ll do the requisite cover reveal soon as it’s settled.

Today I was a little exhausted; TYG and I are doing some stuff later so I had to front-load my schedule to get everything in and free up this afternoon. But I succeeded, actually coming in slightly over my required hours. Yay me.

This weekend, though, I intend to crash thoroughly.

#SFWApro.

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

A good week, though not because of writing

This was not a wildly productive week, but I anticipated that. Today, you see, I set aside time to give blood; after I got back, I knew I wouldn’t be feeling creative. It’s the double-dosage donation though, so I won’t be back until  September.

Wednesday, also planned, we went to the North Carolina Zoo. TYG got us memberships as an anniversary gift in 2019 but our anniversary is the summer — way too hot — and the fall got crazy. Then came the pandemic. So it’s been a while. It’s laid out very well, with large enclosures for herds and animal families and lots of walking — it’s been a long time since I walked six miles on one day. Above, a hellbender; below, a puffin.It was a great day. It turns out I can turn down the noise in my mind  and focus when I have something this cool to pay attention to. And it’s always good to see that TYG and I can still spend hours together and enjoy it. The dogs went to a local day-boarding place for the first time in two years; I was quite tickled the staff remember them. But hey, they are awesome.

Somewhere in there, I did get work done. I sent off two short stories and two nonfiction queries on Monday and revamped Undead Sexist Cliches so that the paperback version now has a table of contents (I’d screwed up and omitted it). Amazon is currently reviewing the text for problems so I’ll have to link to the ebook for now.

Tuesday was the day to bat out about 5,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It turned out to be the day that got nibbled to death by distractions. A dead animal in the driveway that TYG asked me to remove. A spider in the house (ditto). And driving the car to get the tires checked before our 90 minute drive to the zoo. Plus it turns out that I simply sketched the plot of the next few chapters, figuring it would be much like it was in the last draft. Due to the changes in the first 25,000 words, it’s not going to fly. So not much done.

I had better luck Thursday with Adventure of the Red Leech. Going over it, I found my plot holds together much better than I thought. Rewriting shouldn’t be too hard. I didn’t get as far as I expected this week, though. First, I was still tired from our hike Wednesday. Second, I discovered Oh the Places You’ll Go!, which has been at the magazine I submitted to for around two months, wasn’t being strongly considered — they rejected it the first week but didn’t say so (possibly now that they’re using Moksha they expect everyone to check for themselves). That put me in a very unenthused mood for a couple of hours.

But it’s a good week, regardless. We must make an effort to do more fun stuff like this.

#SFWApro.

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