Category Archives: Time management and goals

Rethinking the scope

Despite Plushie’s problems this week and the related exhaustion, it was productive. Got my Leafs done. Got almost to the end of Chapter Eight of Undead Sexist Cliches (I’m pleased I didn’t try to force a finish and took breaks when I needed to). Added several extra examples to the earlier chapters, such as Gregg Easterbrook arguing the woman saying no doesn’t make it rape — she has to say something like “This is rape!” which will make guys stop (I am … skeptical) and is completely unambiguous. As noted at the link, if people refuse to accept an unambiguous no, why wouldn’t they think a woman says “rape!” when she means yes?

I got two rejections Wednesday but at least one of them was a nice “We liked it but we don’t have room.” That’s encouraging. But sigh, not a sale.

And I watched multiple movies for Alien Visitors, which has forced me to reconsider just how much work I need to put in. My initial thought was that with one movie/TV show/movie series to watch per chapter, this would be relatively low-intensity. But this week, for the ET pregnancy chapter, I watched Village of the Damned, Children of the Damned, the 1995 Village remake and started on 2019’s School of the Damned (I’ll get to the reviews in the next week or two). Plus writing the chapter. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I may need to do more and watch more than I’d initially thought. It’s true, The Astronaut’s Wife will be noted in the appendix rather than the heart of the chapter, but will seeing it help me understand the subgenre better? What about the excellent TV movie The Stranger Within? I don’t have the time to watch everything in every chapter but how much do I need to place a movie in context?

I’m confident I’ll figure it out, though this may be more demanding than I thought. But fortunately, even with an October deadline next year I should be able to get the work done without blowing off any of my other projects. Fingers crossed.

#SFWApro. All rights to image from 1960 Village of the Damned remain with current holder.

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A somewhat chaotic week, but a productive one.

Although today was pretty much a mess.

I got about a third of the way through the abortion/birth control chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. I watched E.T. for Alien Visitors, as well as the special features on the DVD (I usually skip them when it’s a Netflix DVD, but they proved useful for my Aliens and Children chapter). I got my Leafs done, and a little bit of work on Questionable Minds. I also got word that No One Can Slay Her made it out of the slush pile to the second round of reviews and so did Southern Discomfort at Baen Books. Neither of which means a sale — I know that from experience — but still, that’s good news. And I sold a couple of copies of Sex For Dinner, Death for Breakfast in a discussion of Bond on FB.

The dogs, however, ate up quite a bit of time. I took care of them Wednesday while TYG was working on something demanding and they proved, as they often do, a distraction (they’re much quieter sitting with her in the bedroom). Then early this morning, Plush dog woke up in some sort of pain, and wandered around the bedroom, with his back legs giving out a couple of times. As TYG had been up late and needed sleep, I took Plushie down with me to the living room (I was already up — bad night of sleep again). Normally I’d have tried drifting back to sleep but while Plushie seemed fine I was worried enough that I couldn’t bring myself to sleep. And caring for him meant I didn’t get any early morning work done, nor did I exercise. The rest of the day I was pretty dazed; I managed to finish my Leafs for the week, then it was pretty much sleep and blogging. I’ll be taking him to the vet later today. Prayers appreciated that it’s something simple to fix and definitely not seriously threatening.

Oh, and I published a blog post on Atomic Junkshop about the insane, illogical plot of Avengers #60 which worked for me as a teen but looks more ridiculous every time I reread it. But the John Buscema art never stops looking good, like this shot of the wedding reception.#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

This would be a great time hack if it only worked

Used to be that when I woke up early I would do some writing, then start my normal morning routine (meditation, stretching, yoga, exercise, breathing exercises). Trouble was, I usually wanted to sleep by that point which means I often just stretch out or yoga it (stretching is essential for my comfort, the rest is disposable).

So the past couple of weeks I’ve tried a new approach: get up, have tea while I read, then launch my morning routine early, then start writing when I finish. It should give me a jump on the day, and if TYG and the dogs get up early, I don’t have to work my exercise around them (Trixie loves demanding attention when I exercise. The exercise usually loses). But somehow when I get a normal night’s sleep — unusually this week, I did that consistently — it doesn’t happen. Either TYG and the dogs wake up and I’m occupied with them, or Wisp wants in (adorable though she is), or there’s this narrow window of time that I don’t use productively. So I don’t gain as much breathing room as I’d like. But I do get the meditation and other stuff done, so it’s not a total washout either.

I did have a productive week, or 3/5 of a week. I finished the sexual harassment chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches, rewrote Chapter Three of Impossible Takes a Little Longer for reading at the Tuesday night SF group, read The Midwich Cuckoos (as it’s the basis for several alien-invader movies, it’s a good kickoff to my Alien Visitors research) and edited several chapters of Questionable Minds. I hoped to get more work done, but Thursday Plushie began mysteriously whimpering in pain — not consistently but it was clear something was wrong, which didn’t lend itself to creative thought. Today was oriented around watching him until we could get a vet appointment; nothing obviously wrong, so they’re just sending him home with painkillers for now. We’ll see how it goes in the coming week. Man I hate unexplained dog problems!

That left me too fragmented for creative thought so I squeezed out some extra Leaf work. If I can’t make art, I can at least make money. And hey, I had a better week than this guy did!#SFWApro. Art by Dick Dillin, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

I still keep zigging when I should be zagging

Once again, I let my work on Undead Sexist Cliches and Leaf suck up time from other activities. But hey, that’s partly because Wednesday got so crazy taking care of Wisp, plus a streaming service at noon for one of my friends. That pretty much took out the day, so I focused on Undead Sexist Cliches as that’s easier to tackle in small doses. Despite getting almost nothing done that day, I still put in 30+ hours, so that’s cool.

Frustratingly as I type this I’m one small dose away from finishing Chapter Seven, but I don’t think I have the focus to get it done. Still I’m really pleased with how the rewrite approves the flow of the arguments and I spotted one point I hadn’t before: writers who dismiss harassment accusations because they’re anonymous have no trouble offering anonymous stories from women who they say oppose #metoo but are afraid of backlash if they speak up. The writers don’t think that might apply to people who speak up about harassment? Apparently not.

Not much else to say about the week. I might have more, but I got hooked on the writing and didn’t take enough breaks to clear my head. That’s usually a mistake.

Below you see Plushie. He’s acquired a bad habit of wanting to climb onto the coffee table where I keep my books and stuff during the day. The bad part isn’t the risk to the books (though that is a factor) but Plush is a klutz who could easily fall off, or try to jump over the couch arm to reach me (the odds of him injuring himself would be high). Putting these collapsible chairs between his ramp and the table has blocked him.

#SFWApro.

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

What rough book slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

So this week I began work on the new Alien Visitors book for McFarland. Not much done: work out my battle plan for the coming year, submit a list of possible movies to a friend to see if he could think of some I’d missed. But it’s begun! Next week I may begin the watching, or work a little on the writing side.

Otherwise I didn’t get much done besides Leaf but that’s partly because I took Thursday off. I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning (blood pressure is higher than usual but not in the threatening zone) after which I took the rest of the day off to think, read and chill (I try to do that at least once a month). That knocked out a chunk of time, obviously. I did get a little done on Undead Sexist Cliches and submitted a couple of stories though, so that’s cool. And I posted an Atomic Junkshop piece about a Strange Adventures story I thought captured why the Julius Schwartz edited books of the Silver Age were so fun. Yep it’s the one posted here with the giant winged gorilla snatching planes out of the sky.

I might have gotten more done but I had a little extra dog walking, and the temperature dropped enough I could give them both long walks. Which is a net win, but it did cut into my time.

And I did spend a lot of time reading Homeward Bound by Elaine Tyler May. Amazon had recommended it when I was looking for books on 1950s movies for Alien Visitors research, but it’s actually just a book about family life in the 1950s. Very good, though, in contrast to the previous two books I read (Welcome to Mars and Them or Us) and it has some useful information for Undead Sexist Cliches, which is why I kept reading.

Oh, and I sold one of my books on Amazon, though I can’t quite figure out which one yet (they notify me before the sale shows up on the site, apparently). So whoever you are, thanks!

One more full week to this month. I do hope to get more done before we enter September.

#SFWApro. Cover by Sid Greene, all rights 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

Brooding and counter-brooding

So my flash fiction Rabbits Indignateonem came back Saturday with a “Excellent piece, we enjoyed reading it but …” response. Which is nice, because compliments are always better than “that had massive flaws in it” (I get those sometimes) or a No without comments (got that on Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates midweek). But it’s not a sale. And always leaves me worried I’m good, but not quite good enough. That I can’t sell to better markets or more frequently or that I’ve just run out of steam; the last new story I sold was 2018 (two reprints from earlier sold this year). Thoughts of this nature make me broody.

But then again, part of that may be that I haven’t had that many new stories. 2015-16 I was working on Now and Then We Time Travel in addition to my Leaf work; 2017-18 I was doing Screen Rant and those eventually consumed much more time than when I started (hence no longer doing ’em). The past year I’ve put in a lot of time on Undead Sexist Cliches. And of course I was finishing up Southern Discomfort somewhere in the middle of that too.

If I had more stories out circulating, the odds one of them would find a publisher who likes one of them would go up (at least I hope so). I wouldn’t say that’s the only factor in play — I’m definitely not at the level of NK Jemisin or Robert Bloch — but it is a factor.

Once I finish Undead Sexist Cliches my slate will be a lot clearer for fiction. Still doing Leaf, and I have my upcoming Alien Visitors book for McFarland, but that won’t be as demanding as Now and Then .. was (much less ambitious). So, who knows? Perhaps I can elevate myself to at least selling semi-regularly again.

Fingers crossed.

Now, as to this week, it was moderately productive. Did my Leaf articles, and I got close to the end of Chapter Four of Undead Sexist Cliches, which has proven the toughest to organize. Unfortunately the temptation to do just a little more on that book kept me from working on either Questionable Minds or Alien Visitors (formerly titled Space Invaders). Next week I’ll start with them to make sure I put some time in. TYG’s work is going to be crazy for a while which will probably lead to extra dog care, but I’ve had practice working around that.

And unfortunately my cover artist for Questionable Minds, whom I was looking forward to working with, seems to have been sidelined by pandemic stress. No blame attached, this is a rough time for all of us (I’m obviously not finishing the book as fast as expected), but I am disappointed.

Oh, and I posted on Atomic Junkshop about Cast a Deadly Spell as a hardboiled PI movie (matching with my post here about the movie as urban fantasy).

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

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Filed under Now and Then We Time Travel, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

It was overall a good hand, but not the cards I expected

So after putting lots of extra effort into Leaf work the previous couple of weeks the latest cycle of articles ended last week. I figured I’d make up for the lost time on personal project this week … but to my surprise, the new cycle started up Monday. As I like making money, I immediately started claiming Leafs, but it was a little disappointing. My work on Impossible Takes a Little Longer Monday morning really felt good and I wanted more. However for the moment it’ll have to wait as Undead Sexist Cliches, Questionable Minds and my Alien Visitors film book come first.

Unfortunately, my sleep Monday – Wednesday night was for shit. The first two nights may be the Zoom writing meetings — I’m beginning to feel there’s something to the idea being on computers/phones in the hours before bedtime interferes with sleep. Wednesday night Trixie, who’s been very restless of late, paced up and down for a bit, clacking her claws on the hardwood floor. That woke me up and I couldn’t get back to sleep. As a result I didn’t get much done beyond Leaf, and some work on Chapter Four of Undead Sexist Cliches (feminism destroys families, education and the workplace!).

I thought I’d make up for that today a little, but today I woke up sick and draggy. No, doesn’t appear to be COVID-19, most likely it;s allergy-based (possibly because that morning I was coping with Wisp and Trixie, I forgot my meds). I know from experience the best treatment is simply to do nothing all day, and so I did.

On the plus side, I’m seeing a marked improvement in my juggling this week, and much better focusing in my meditation practice. So at least something of my own is getting done. And I did make money, which right now is very reassuring.

I’ll leave you with this uncredited cover (though a friend of mine says the art is by Emsh). #SFWApro, all rights to image remain with current holde.r

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Say goodbye to July, hello August

So I accomplished 55 percent of my goals for July, though very few of them were writing goals. Between Leaf and Undead Sexist Cliches I got very little done on anything else. Next month I need to manage my time much better; I took Wednesday off precisely to think about what comes next.

  • Undead Sexist Cliches get top priority, though not 100 percent of my time. It’s the “eat the frog” approach — proofing it is the toughest job ahead and I’ll be happy when it’s done.
  • I need to start work on the Alien Visitors book for McFarland as it has an actual not-just-personal deadline. I’d hoped to finish Undead Sexist Cliches and Questionable Minds first, but as that’s not going to happen …
  • The final proof of Questionable Minds comes next.
  • The rewrite of Impossible Takes a Little Longer is third place.
  • And getting back to short stories comes after that.
  • I also need to read more on marketing and make some plans for my self-published stuff. The joy is in writing it, not promoting it, but if I don’t market, nobody reads and nobody pays me. Both would be desirable.

That may prove ambitious but I’m not setting my total accomplishment in any of those so absurdly high it’s unattainable. I have alternate goals depending when Leaf, which wrapped up the most recent cycle this week, starts up again.

To achieve them I really need to take breaks regularly during the day. It’s very easy to get locked in until I get just that one little extra section/chapter done, maybe five more minutes … and then I look up and it’s been an hour. I’d be fresher if I took the break with the section/chapter unfinished and came back to it. And fresher will make me more productive at day’s end.

I’m also spending some of my break time to pet Wisp. Sometimes she doesn’t want it and swats at my hand; other times she can sit there for five minutes, almost dozing while I stroke her. We’ll have to take her in to the vet next month; hopefully it won’t set back our relationship too much.

Oh, I did get one thing done I can link to: a post at Atomic Junkshop on sexy movies of my teen years. Like this mesmerizing poster.

To celebrate the ongoing struggle to finish stuff, I’ll wrap up with this Powers cover. Because it’s always good to include a Powers cover.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

 

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

And lo, it came to pass as I had dreaded …

So I mentioned last week that the problem with doing extra Leaf articles (or any sort of immediate-income work) instead of personal projects is that “I’ll make up the personal work next week” never seems to work out. Sure enough, having done three extra last week (based on a standard of 10 articles) I wound up doing six extra this week. There were simply too many that looked like they’d be reasonably interesting and not too hard to do (the measure of “hard” is a mix of how easy it is to find good references and how complicated the topic is). So while I did finish Chapter Five of Undead Sexist Cliches, that was it for personal stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to get the $, particularly as I had a dentist’s visit and an unexpected medical bill from a couple of months back this week (they’d been dickering with the insurer without success). But I want to work on my own stuff too (I strike a dramatic pose: “What good is wealth if my creative spirit is slowly dying?”)!  But yes, having too much paying freelance work is very much a first-world problem in these days.

And I did find one amusing moment while working on an article about copyright: the U.S. Copyright Office FAQ Page actually answers the question “How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?

I also went to the dentist and holy crap, was that terrifying! Dr. Robinson (of New Smile Magic here in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill — she deserves a plug) takes great care to prevent any transmission, but getting my teeth cleaned — which I definitely needed or I wouldn’t have gone — requires much more close-up work than the other medical stuff I’ve done lately and I was not comfortable. Still with all the face shields and masks, I can’t think of any reason I’d have trouble. Hopefully I’m right. Oh, and my teeth are in way better shape than they used to be; aggressive cleaning and using a water pick seems to have turned the tide.

And that’s pretty much it. But I’ll throw in this striking cover for the novelization of a rather dreary (IIRC) film. Art is uncredited.

#SFWApro.

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Sometimes dogs snuggling in bed is not the cutest thing ever

Plushie, for example, has decided the solution for any stress during the night is to cuddle up with me and lick my face. Which is sweet … but not when I’m asleep. Trixie likewise came and snuggled with me one evening this week, but every time I drifted off that was apparently a sign for her to fidget and shift. One of my weaknesses is an inability to get back to sleep if I’m brought to wakefulness for more than a few seconds so this did not end well for me. I spent much of the week sleep-deprived, though I’ve made up for it today. Good thing they’re too cute to stay mad at!

My main accomplishment was doing a lot of Leaf articles. I’m not quire sure how many they’ll have to write in any given week so I did three extra this week, wrapping up today. In theory I can make up the time lost to other projects by doing less Leaf next week. That doesn’t always work because sometimes they have articles I just can’t resist writing. This week for example I had articles on how to join an actors union and how film actors get paid (every week, on Thursday — yes I did say more about it than that!).

I got a couple of chapters proofed on Questionable Minds, though I’m thinking of one possibly big rewrite of the “finished” draft. I’m honestly not sure I need all the villain POV scenes, which were meant to explain his seemingly puzzling crime patterns; it’s possible they’re necessary but it’s also possible nobody cares, or at least not as much as I do. As we get into the later part of the book I’ll see if I can wrap anything essential into some of the other exposition scenes.

I got partway through Chapter Five in Undead Sexist Cliches, which is one of the two chapters on rape cliches. I’d planned to work on Chapter Four but it’s much less tightly organized and in my tired state I couldn’t get anywhere with it.

My daily exercise routine has suffered since TYG and I started taking one dog each for morning walkies (my doctor is very clear that walking doesn’t get my heart pumping fast enough to make it the primary source of exercise). Normally, even in summer, I go out bicycling at least once a week but it’s too damn hot except for the early mornings, and those are for dogs. In theory I could make it up working on our stationary bicycle or doing some other sort of exercise later in the day, but somehow it doesn’t seem to happen.  I’m going to have to work to see that it does.

And we have begun putting out a pet carrier and leaving Wisp’s cat food inside it. Hopefully she’ll get used enough to it we’ll be able to trap her and take her in for her annual checkup soon.

#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

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