Category Archives: Time management and goals

Considering how it started, this week went quite well

When TYG and I got back from our madcap Mensa weekend we picked up the dogs from doggy boarding, then I made chili (quick, easy, tasty — perfect for the end of a long day driving). I’d already planned to take Monday off so that if the dogs, Wisp or Snowdrop wanted some extra attention after our absence I’d have no conflicting obligations. That proved fortunate because Sunday night, Plushie came down with the every-two-hours squirtling diarrhea.

As TYG has a less forgiving boss than I do, I took point on walking him and spent most of Monday in a daze. I tried taking naps during the day but invariably Wisp would start demanding to come in or Plushie would suddenly discover it was time for a new squirtle. He stabilized Monday night thank goodness, then Tuesday TYG took him to the vet. They found nothing; we brought him in for an ultrasound Thursday but haven ‘t heard the results. While we’d love to know why he’s had this problem more than once this year, we’re relieved they didn’t find cancerous lumps in his stomach or anything like that. If diarrheal 1AM walkies are the trade-off for keeping him around, so be it.  But for the moment he’s back to normal potty hours and solid poops.

Oh, here’s a look at him after the ultrasound. He’s so sensitive to pain (“A sensitive boy” as they put it at the vet’s), they drugged him to be comfortably numb. He remained stoned the rest of the evening.I was quite exhausted the rest of the week. Coupled with the cats spending time in the morning, I wound up not getting any exercise done; my diet was none too healthy too. Work, though, went pretty well

First up, I finished the revised Mage’s Masquerade and it looks good. I started looking for markets without any success so far though I did stumble across markets for Bleeding Blue and Fiddler’s Black. Both are now out.

I also put in work on The Cheap Assassin and have at least a working idea of the story/character arc (it’s a character-centric story). At this point, however, it’s heavy on talk rather than action. I need to find a way to have something happen besides exposition. I’ve had that problem before; it’s fixable.

I put in a couple of thousand words on Let No Man Put Asunder which gives me the 10,000 I wanted for this month. I may do more next week but there are other projects I can concentrate on. I also spent some time planning the next draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I’ve realized KC needs to be a lot more intense from the first chapter; I can see how to do it.

I also worked getting the manuscripts for 19-Infinity and Oh the Places You’ll Go ready for self-publishing. That included sending the latter story out for beta-reading. I have a cover image for it as well; hopefully I can have it out and for sale by the end of April.

And over at Atomic Junk Shop I look at the impact of Steve Ditko leaving Marvel plus a couple of stories I just like. Over at Con-Tinual’s YouTube channel, I’m one of the panelist discussing mythological tropes.#SFWApro. Have a great weekend everyone. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

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

In a sense, this week was inevitable

As I’ve written before, things such as workweeks have a tendency to average out — just by random fluctuation a string of good writing weeks will be balanced out by a bad one. Which was this week.

I knew today would be a non-starter because I’m spending it doing stuff with TYG, but I’d planned to make the most of the other four days. Monday I got maybe 2,000 words done on Let No Man Put Asunder; however I think much of it will need reworking before I go on.

Tuesday I put in some work on a short story and its showing progress.

Wednesday the cats came in and snuggled with me for around an hour (as in this older photo).That’s very cool, and Snowdrop even stayed in when I closed the door. However it left me no time for exercise or stretch before the dogs woke up which left me feeling off. After breakfast, I wound up squished between Wisp in the lap and Trixie next to her, both demanding petting and erasing my personal space — and my mind just balked. I got some blogging done, and a little research reading but no writing (blogging, when I’m point, does not count against writing time).Thursday my focus didn’t come back up. It’s partly my old devil of knowing I’m not going to work a full week so why bother to put in any work at all? I did get some stuff done, but low priority, low-intensity stuff, research for my planned Jekyll and Hyde and Doc Savage reference books. Writing would have been better.

Like I said, the law of averages says not every week is going to be stellar. This one wasn’t. But I did get $16 bucks for some of my books from Draft2Digital sales (thank you, whoever you are!). And over at Atomic Junk Shop I published some thoughts on what makes the Bronze Age of comics distinctive and a couple of Silver Age stories that just stuck with me.


Leave a comment

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

Did I miss a golden opportunity?

With my regular cash clients on indefinite hiatus, I’ve been applying steadily to freelance positions advertised on journalism websites, Linked In and the like. The most interesting was for a “with” ghostwriting gig, as in The Perfect Assassin by James Patterson with Brian Sitts. The company in question provides the plots, then pays a writer to flesh out the details — dialogue, setting, etc.

They’re doing this in several genres so I applied for the fantasy gig. Last week I turned in a 1,000-word scene following their plot, and I think it was good, but they gave me a No at the start of this week. The problem may have been that my tone was urban fantasy when they wanted a Tolkien or George RR Martin vibe. Did I miss a golden opportunity? It would have certainly been more fun than most of my paying gigs and might have boosted my name recognition factor. On the other hand, I don’t know what length of book they wanted: the pay would have been good for 60,000 words, unsatisfying for 100,000. Plus it would come in three scheduled payments per book (one when the first quarter is done, one when the manuscript is done, one when revisions are finished or something like that). I don’t suspect them of chicanery but a new company might run out of funding before I got the cash.  Who knows?

Otherwise the week went well. I spent some time jotting down ideas for the next phase of Let No Man Put Asunder and got about 5,000 words done. I’m already thinking of revisions; if I hit my minimum for the month, 10,000 words, I may go back and polish everything, as I did with the first few chapters already.

I rewrote Mage’s Masquerade and I’m really pleased with it. I’ll print it out and do a final read in hard copy later in March.

I finished rereading The Impossible Takes a Little Longer and it’s much better than I thought. Not publishable but as I’d hoped, the story arc is largely there. I started jotting down notes on fixing things; a big one is a lot more intensity in my protagonist’s emotions. I’m putting her through the ringer but it’s not showing on the page.

I read the second half of Obolus to the writing group — well, I got about halfway through in the time allotted. That’s frustrating as I need feedback on the ending, so I’ll wait and read that part again at the next meeting. Otherwise the reading went great. They found it much improved over the draft I read them a couple of months back. One guy said my lines were so good that like Douglas Adams I distracted him from the flow of the story. I can live with that.

I also reread Oh the Places You’ll Go! which I intend to release as a solo short story. It looks good but it made take more editing to make it good enough.

That plus a little bit of research reading covers it, I think. Plus I had articles about comics writer Jim Shooter and a noteworthy Silver Age Hulk tale over at Atomic Junkshop. On Con-Tinual’s Facebook page I participated in a discussion about Wonder Woman, a topic you may have noticed I’m fond of.

#SFWApro. LOTR covers by Barbara Remington, Wonder Woman cover by Gene Colan. All rights remain with current holders.


Leave a comment

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

March came in like a … well, it came in like March, I guess.

Which is to say this was not a spectacular week, but it was a solid, productive one. Well, if you discount Monday.

Sunday night it was Plushie’s turn to get diarrhea and need to go out every two hours or so. As my boss is much more understanding than TYG’s, I volunteered to take point. I spent most of Monday in a daze, without the presence of mind to do more than blog posts (here’s one on superhero teams and another on the debut of Poison Ivy). After that, things picked up.And hey, he’s cute enough to be worth a little sacrifice. Though the strange squirting sound he made when he pooped was gross.

I got a lot of prep work done on marketing for 19 ♾️. Things like local bookstores that might host a signing, book events in the area, book bloggers who might be up for reviews, etc. Of course this will be no use unless I forge ahead and contact the bookstores, which I never did with Questionable Minds. This time I must not fail!

I wrote about 1,600 words on Let No Man Put Asunder. I stopped right before the next big fight because I’ve painted Paul and Mandy into a corner and I’ve no idea how to extract them successfully. Hopefully I’ll find the solution next week.

I submitted two short stories to various markets and applied for several freelance job openings. And I began rereading Impossible Takes a Little Longer to see how well it works and what I need to fix next go-round.

Last weekend we stopped by PetSmart to shop for pet toys and found an adoption event in progress. Didn’t adopt — we have enough — but I did get to see my first polydactyl cat.#SFWApro.

Leave a comment

Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Two months into 2023, I have not lost my way

One-sixth of 2023 is now in the rear view mirror. I think I’ve made good use of it.

I’ve no idea why but I’m getting a lot more fiction done, and finding answers to short stories I thought were hopeless dead-ends such as Paying the Ferryman (I think I’m going back to my old title, Obolus) and Mage’s Masquerade. And writing on Let No Man Put Asunder has gone surprisingly smoothly for a first draft. Is it that TYG is so much less stressed the past few months? That I’m not currently putting any time on the boring bills-paying gigs? Or is it that after working on Jews in Popular Science Fiction, Undead Sexist Cliches and The Aliens Are Here, the break from fiction left my mind refreshed? Either way, I just hope it keeps up.

On the downside, those boring bills-paying gigs have disappeared which makes paying my share of the household bills much tougher. My fiction and personal non-fiction writing don’t contribute much. I will make it work though, whether that means scrimping by (not that we’re in any danger of ruin but I like contributing to our bottom line, not to mention having money for fun stuff)

A side effect of my writing being so productive is that the everyday maintenance details get left. Nothing urgent but there are various tasks I’ve been putting off because I wind up writing through the time I intended to spend on them. I take care of anything that has to be done now — our car’s annual state inspection/tune-up, for instance — but not the “we need to do something about that” stuff that’s important but not urgent. I may have to jigger my schedule a little this month to improve.

I’m also really bad about taking regular breaks. That makes a big difference: as I’ve said before, without breaks I burn out sooner in the day. Once the work gets going I forget, or there’s some disruption in my schedule that throws me off.

On the personal goals front TYG and I have made travel plans for this year (figuring out where we’d go and when was a goal of mine) and we’ve been having regular dates, which has been fun. Everything from a recent production of Hamlet to shopping for dog toys at PetSmart to visiting a local graveyard (photos soon).

My blood pressure is up so I’ve been pushing myself to emphasize more fruits and veggies in my diet. I’m a vegetarian already but it’s still easy to go heavy on grains or cheese and not enough produce. We’ll see how well this works out at my next checkup. I’ve been falling short on my exercise goals but only slightly — not, I think, enough to matter.

And slowly but surely my TBR pile is shrinking. Of course, not buying any new books doesn’t hurt.

Fingers crossed the rest of the year is even better. As a statement of optimism, here’s a photo of a recent sunrise.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holder.

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal, Time management and goals

An unprofitable but productive week

“Unprofitable” in the literal sense: my writing cash flow is the lowest it’s been in a couple of years. One rejection today from a good-paying market. A possible client who said they’d be in touch has ghosted so I’m guessing they found a writer they liked better. But one of my rules is to keep writing even if the cash flow is low. I managed that.

I completed another chapter of Let No Man Put Asunder which puts it over the 10,000 words I wanted to finish this month. I do think I’ll have to go back and rewrite a couple of fight scenes — I was reading up on fight-scene construction today — but overall I’m very pleased.

Last week I mentioned I had problems with the mystery plot of Mage’s Masquerade and the villain’s motive for using a rather clumsy plan. Much to my surprise, when I sat down this week the solution came fairly quickly (I’ll blog about it soon). I think the story’s looking much better.

Plus I put in a lot of work on The History Arcane, including changing the title. I have enough 20th century works that I can make a slightly smaller anthology purely drawn from that era; I think that gives it a stronger feel so I’m going with it. The title is therefore changed to 19 ♾️, which one of my writing friends suggested (I forgot whom, alas). I also put in a lot of time with initial editing and straightening up the manuscript; some of the stories date back to when I’d use underlining to indicate italics rather than just italics (that’s how it used to be done). I’m also going to try for a bigger publicity push and see if I can sell more books. Though I did sell another digital copy of Questionable Minds this week — thank you, whoever you were!That’s pretty much it, but it’s a satisfactory work week. Two months into 2023 and it seems I still have game.

#SFWApro. Cover by Samantha Collins, all rights remain with me.



Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories, Time management and goals, Writing

A good week, if you discount the three rejected short stories

Because that part kind of sucked. Of course, it’s par for the course in this business, but it’s still no fun. At least two of the three were “send us more stuff some time.”

That makes me that much happier that some of my unpublished stories will come out in my self-published anthology, The History Arcane (no release date yet). As I’ve mentioned before, submitting to magazines takes time to review the guidelines, make any odd changes required to the manuscript and of course to read the magazine and see if the story’s a good fit. Self-publishing is unlikely to turn a profit but they’ll be out in the world at last, and that will be great.

(The cover, if you were wondering, is from a story arc dealing with the occult history of America, as is the Dr. Strange below)

Another disappointment this week: I’m postponing my plans to open a store. I’d planned to open a Shopify store and incorporate it with this website, but that costs more money than I have right now. So then I thought I’d go with a stand-alone Shopify store — it’s about $5 a month — but then I bogged down. Picking themes, dealing with legal questions about how much data the store retains (I’d prefer “nothing I don’t need to function” but that’s not an option … I think) and the need to pay extra for more apps to do this or that. I’ll stick with making the store part of this website as I’m familiar with the environment. I’ll wait until it’s time to renew my domain name and then upgrade my plan. That’ll also give me time to work out some details.

The writing went well. Normally I don’t rewrite first drafts as I go, but I went back over the first five chapters of Let No Man Put Asunder and got part of Six done. It was a wise choice as a couple of things I planned to do in Chapter Six I’d already done earlier in the book. Now, though, I think they’ve had enough of “run, get attacked, fight back” so I need to change things up. I’m not quite sure how yet.

I rewrote Mage’s Masquerade and it’s much improved. However I’m still not sure it’s improved enough: the romantic arc works but the murder mystery still hinges on a couple of handwaves. Fixable but, again, I’m not sure how.

I took a look at one of my older, unfinished stories, The Cheap Assassin, and found it frustrating. It’s got a great opening and I know there’s a killer story there, but at the moment I can’t see how to unearth it. But it’s much easier to try when I’m confident something is there.

I worked on History Arcane, drafting an introduction and collecting the stories. The total’s about 90,000 words so I may opt to take a couple out and make it smaller and cheaper. Or maybe not.

And I took up part of the week doing our taxes. They’re unusually complicated this year and I can’t quite believe we owe as much as my figures say. But part of my reason for doing them early was so that I have time to double-check everything; indeed, I already shaved the bill down by correcting a couple of mistakes.

A minor win: I have consistently put in more than my self-imposed minimum of 30 hours a week every week this month. This is a good thing as my time management has been running in the opposite direction in recent months.

So that was my week, bring on the weekend. To close this column, here’s our ever vigilant guard dog, Trixie, alert to the scent of evil.#SFWApro. Covers by Tom Mandrake (top) and Gene Colan, all rights to images remain with current holders.

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

It’s a shame I cannot work full-time on fiction and pay the bills

Because as my one of my main nonfiction clients (I’m not counting McFarland) has wrapped up its project (I suspect they’ll be back with something else eventually) and the other hasn’t contacted me in a while, I’ve been doing mostly fiction. I’m enjoying it. When I’m too tired for fiction, I work on submitting shorts or paying taxes.

It can’t last though because I need to make money on top of my Social Security, and make it more regularly than occasional short story sales and McFarland royalties. Though speaking of sales, I sold another copy of Questionable Minds recently, so thank you unknown purchaser.

So I’m applying for various other freelance gigs. I’ll let you know if any work out.

But this week, at least, I got to make fiction a priority. I rewrote Mage’s Masquerade and while it’s not finished, I think I’ve licked the problems with both the mystery plot and the protagonist’s love relationship, building them up so they make sense. I rewrote Paying the Ferryman (I have got to think of a better title) and much improved it. However I think it’s as good as I can get it without feedback so I’ll read it to the writing group soon. I also worked on a couple of short stories that are still in the Oh God, This Will Never Work phase. If I keep working on them hopefully they’ll be in better shape soon; one I think is close, the other … may be a waste of time. We’ll see.

I got some more writing done on Let No Man Put Asunder. It’s going well, though that has me pessimistically waiting for when I discover I’ve plotted myself into a dead end. But you never know, maybe I haven’t.

I also started work on putting together my Magic in History anthology (which will have a better name soon). I know the stories I want to include and I’ve begun the editing.

I also began thinking about my next film book, though I’m not pitching McFarland right away. Out of three possibilities, I’m inclined to go with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde b0ok. It’s a small enough number of movies that it won’t consume as much time and effort as Aliens Are Here did. However I will have to answer several questions before I propose it, mostly about boundaries. For instance, where is the line between Jekyll and Hyde and split personalities in general? Or a film such as The Nutty Professor which is very much a Jekyll and Hyde variation even though it’s different characters? Stay tuned.

Satisfactory all in all though it is sometimes hard maintaining a high creative level. As I mentioned in a previous post it would help to get up and take breaks but it’s hard sometimes to break away, especially with dogs in my lap.

Speaking of which, here’s Trixie hoping I’ll play with her favorite toy, the rubik’s cube on the floor.#SFWApro. cover by Samantha Collins, rights are mine.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Thinking a lot gets very tiring

Seriously. I put in a good week’s work and by the end of every day I feel wiped. Not quite as bad as Sgt. Rock, but still exhausted. But it is, as they say, a good tired. I even got in slightly more hours than I’d planned to, which will make up for whenever my schedule goes south later this month.

I added 4,ooo words to my rewrite of Let No Man Put Asunder. It’s holding together surprisingly well considering I’m really pantsing it — finish one scene, think what comes next, jump on that. It may turn out I’ve plotted myself into an unworkable hole but it’s going A-OK so far. Fun too.

I worked on Mage’s Masquerade which has reached the point I need plotting rather than pantsing. I think I’ve solved the main flaws in the last draft and I got halfway through the next one.

I worked on a werewolf comedy short story, Inherit the Howling Night, but I’m not sure there’s a story there yet. Or maybe ever. But I’ve thought that before and proven myself wrong after a few more drafts. Another (untitled) story — an unusual riff on Jekyll and Hyde — has characters and a message, but no real plot. Hopefully I can find one.

I finished Bleeding Blue and sent it off to F&SF. I admit I’m not hopeful — I’ve never gotten better than “Thanks, try again some time” but why not start off with a prestige market? And hey, even with a no, that’s my first finished short story of 2023, already subbed. Regrettably the market-guide website shut down this week — they were easily the best guide to which markets were open, when new markets started up and so on. There are alternatives but none I like as much.

I looked at Shopify, the online-sales app, and it should be doable to integrate it with this website. By the end of the month I hope to have stuff up for direct sale. Doesn’t mean anyone’ll be buying but as with F&SF, there’s no reason not to try.

And my new plan for managing email — basically devote an hour at the end of the week to going through whatever hasn’t been opened — is working well.The romance anthology Starlit Bridges is now out, with my Wodehouse Murder Case included. You can buy it in ebook or paperback. And I have more Con-Tinual panels available, one on writing in the Roaring Twenties, one on how to write psychic detectives, as in Questionable Minds.

#SFWApro. Covers top-to-bottom by Joe Kubert, unknown (sorry!) and Samantha Collins, all rights remain with current holders.

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Contrary to “Macbeth,” it’s sometimes good to cry “Hold, enough!”

Which is a way of saying I need to take more breaks. Not the vacation kind, but during the day. It’s less eye-strain if I get up and away from the computer regularly, plus I have non-writing chores that need doing. But when I get caught up it’s easy to forget and only realize it when my brain’s fried and I still have writing to do. So next week, I’ll try setting a timer.

That said, this week went well. I finished the current draft of The Impossible Takes a Little Longer and I’m pleased with it. A long way from publishable but the story has taken on the right shape for what I want and the ending finally works for me. Though admittedly I cheated by having one big battle take place off-stage — I’d love to do that in the finished draft but I doubt I could pull it off. But we’ll see. Now I put it aside for a month, then review.

I rewrote my short story Mage’s Masquerade and it improved considerably. I need to build up the romance more but I think the relationship is on a solid foundation — Cecily shows she has both intelligence and a cool head — and I think I have the plot holes in the previous draft fixed.

I started rewriting another untitled story, an oddball take on Jekyll & Hyde set during the early 1980s. Then I got restless and started (as in at least a couple of paragraphs) for other Jekyll and Hyde versions. The trigger being viewing the 1931 and 1941 adaptations of the novel, which I’ll review in tomorrow’s post.

I’ve started researching Shopify to see about setting up an Internet store to sell some of my stuff directly. Not that I’m going to dump Amazon but they take a lot of the sale price — so why not explore alternatives? You will, obviously, hear when anything is for sale.

I also spent way too much time reviewing my performance for the month and my plans for next month. It’s a very easy way to avoid writing when my brain’s tired and it’s necessary work, so I gave in.

All in all, I should have been more focused, but I’m still pleased with what got done.

I got Shadows Reflected in Darkness back again but I also sold another book. Or maybe two, Amazon announces the sale well before details like what sold and how many become available. It’s annoying, given that if they know the sales took place, they should certainly be able to share the data.

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


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