Category Archives: Time management and goals

Lo, there shall come furniture

I didn’t get anywhere as much done this week as I’d expected, probably about 3.5 days of actual work. Part of that was that the dilation drops from my opthalmologist Tuesday seemed to hit me harder than usual: I’d expected my eyes would be normal by afternoon but I wasn’t comfortable looking at the computer the rest of the day.

Then on Wednesday we got furniture. A few months ago, TYG had talked about replacing some of the old shelving she’s had since college with something new and pretty. I assumed she’d just given up with all the pandemic distraction but no, she hadn’t. Last weekend, a pantry arrived and we spent much of Saturday putting it together and rearranging the dining room around it.It was a lot of work, but I can’t deny it was worth it. The storage frees up a lot more space and our food stores are no longer taking up the table.

Wednesday, the second piece arrived. The good news was that it was only two pieces so we didn’t have much assembly; the bad news was that the upper half weighed more than 150 lbs so we sure as heck couldn’t put it up there ourselves. Fortunately our neighbor Eric, who’s bigger and stronger than either of us, came by (we all wore masks) and both directed us and did most of the heaving. With most of our pet treats, meds and food in the hutch (along with our small supply of booze) I was able to take some of the shelves that held that stuff and use them for my cookbooks and food-history books.I moved the plants that took up some of the shelving but I’m not satisfied with the arrangement below. I looked at ordering some shelving, but the creeping charlie is in a big, heavy pot and none of them are stable according to the reviews. As it’s hard to judge based on Internet reviews, I may just put them on a table until such time as I’m comfortable going to Home Depot or Target and checking them out physically (my ophthalmologist visit left me quite panicked so I don’t think I’m ready yet).So anyway, getting the boxes for the hutch in and putting it together consumed a lot of time, so I only had a half day of work Wednesday.

I got some more done on Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Apparently my mind has decided I should think this draft through carefully rather than just dashing it off as I usually do. I’ll trust I know what I’m doing. I also finished the redraft of Glory That Was so I’ll look for a market next week.

I went over more of Undead Sexist Cliches, prepping it before I print a hard copy for final proofing; finished a couple of Leaf articles as that source of income is back (yay!); wrote an article on Silver Age comics covers for Atomic Junkshop; and ordered the first of several reference books I’ll be buying as research for the Alien Visitors film-reference book.

Overall, pretty good. Plus I “sold” two more of the free copies of Philosophy and Fairytales (free until the end of the month, unless Smashwords extends the sale). Whoever you are out there, thanks for reading me.

#SFWApro.

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Puppy problems pummel productivity!

Along with my doctor’s appointment this week, Trixie at the vet also sucked up a lot of time. Recovery from her knee surgery was progressing great last month, but the past couple of weeks she’s been backsliding.It started about a week and a half ago, when she started limping and kept it up for about half an hour. The doctor said not to worry unless it happened again; last weekend it did, briefly. I drove her in to the vet Monday morning and they said everything looked fine and it was normal to expect some bad days. TYG and I were still unsettled that it happened after so many weeks doing perfectly well, but still that seemed reasonable.

Then this morning she didn’t want to come out of her cage (we keep her in there so she can’t jump off the bed in the night or anything that would set her back). Her leg drags when she walks and she flinched when we touched her. I took her in to the vet and picked her up a couple of hours later. Everything seems fine but clearly she isn’t. We gave her some anti-inflammatory drugs which helped, but she’s almost as miserable as when her leg first went out. The vet said she’d lost a lot of muscle in that leg — not really a surprise, she’s been on restriction since January — but I still find it hard to believe it would just suddenly affect her. We have her eight-week checkup Wednesday, combined with her knee surgeon giving her another look. Hopefully that’ll get us some answers (and treatment).

So that sucked up quite a bit of time this week. I still got a fair amount done but I was hoping to finish at least one short story draft as well.

The biggest accomplishment was that I finished going over Undead Sexist Cliches to clean it up before ordering a print copy. It was very productive — though there’ll be more cleaning in hard copy no doubt — though I think Chapter Nine, on the metaphor of the sexual marketplace (women control the sex supply and dictate the terms — cash, fancy dinners, marriage — under which men get it) still needs work. Next week I’ll look at that chapter again, and see if some bits I edited out of various chapters can be fit in anywhere else. Then I go over the footnotes to smooth them out and start indexing (won’t be finishing that next week but the sooner I start, the easier it’ll be). I’m also looking at other options for printing than Amazon’s Kindle print-on-demand service.

I put a little work in on Laughter of the Dark and Oh the Places You’ll Go! but it’s going slowly. Partly that’s because I’m putting in more planning time than I usually do on a second or third draft, to see if I can cut down the number of drafts. We’ll see how that works.

And that was pretty much it. Leaf work is starting up again, but it’s not going to be much this month, so I’m hopeful I can squeeze in plenty more work. And that Trixie isn’t too badly hurt.

#SFWApro. Photo is mine.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

Second month of writing while quarantined; how’d I do?

Decently. I met 58 percent of my goals which is better than the last two months (particularly March). Part of that’s because my goal list has dwindled — nothing that involves hanging out with people besides TYG, no plans to catch plays or go to museums, etc. Not even visiting the nearby coffee/tea shop, though I did order some tea from them (I’d like them to be there when this mess ends).

I do not see this changing any time soon. Durham’s stay-in-place order ends the 15th of this month, but TYG and I were social distancing before it became official and we’re still going to stick with it. This shit is scary; much as I’d like to see my friends other than on Zoom, it won’t be happening soon. When? I wish I knew.

The improvement in goal-meeting also reflects that I’m adapting. I’m getting exercise done, cooking regularly and managing to get work done despite a lot of extra dog care. And my Leaf work hasn’t started up again which meant I had a lot more time to work on my own stuff. Much as I enjoy that, I’d prefer to have steady income; next month I’ll be working on drumming up new clients, as a good freelancer should.

As I mentioned last week, I finished the latest drafts of Undead Sexist Cliches and Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I submitted four short stories, finished an untitled first draft, rewrote Laughter of the Dark and Glory That Was and finished Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates. I resumed work on proofing and correcting Questionable Minds, though I’m far from where I wanted to be (the extra work on the other two books had to come out of something).

The biggest obstacle to getting even more done is that Trixie’s injury requires a lot more time. A lot more watching to ensure she isn’t doing anything to hurt her leg. Walking her separately from Plushie — if I’m doing both morning walks or both lunch walks (or both of both) that adds up to quite a bit more time (same if TYG’s doing the work). So this month I’m assuming I’ll start work 8:30 AM, work for two hours, get four hours in the afternoon and make up the last hour of my day after dinner. Planning for that will make me less frustrated in the morning, I think, which should help me focus better.

For today’s visual entertainment here’s something Wisp (I assume) puked up on our front stoop. You can make out the eye of whatever she ate.#SFWApro.

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Cats, distractions and undead sexist cliches: My week at work

This was a somewhat frustrating week. Despite working in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep and getting up early generally, I actually fell short of my desired 35 hours. Extra dog walking and multiple food and item deliveries sucked up a surprising amount of time. Worse, in the time that was left, I sometimes wound up too frazzed to focus and working in too-small bursts of time to build up any steam. Can’t be helped though: TYG’s job is less flexible than mine so I can adjust my schedule more easily (my boss is very understanding). I really must find ways to keep my focus despite distractions, though. Particularly when Leaf work gets started again — for some reason that suffers in the current environment more than anything else.

On the plus side, it seems I can work with Wisp snuggling in my lap.

So what did I get done? Well, I finally got the abortion/birth control chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches worked out and footnoted. I had to rearrange it a lot to work logically and clear up a lot of repeated information, plus adding some scientific detail (no, abortions do not cause breast cancer or depression). I also made a rough outline of Chapter Nine, on the concept of a sexual marketplace (the assumption women are supposed to trade sex for marriage). That should make it easier when I start on it next week.

I finished a couple of chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Now I’m up to the climax, but the changes I’ve made already will mandate more changes; one character who played a major role is dead, for instance, so not so major. I want this draft done this month.

I read my revised version of The Glory That Was to the writers’ group Tuesday night and got generally favorable responses. The big change from the previous draft was shifting from third person to multiple first-persons, and it seems to have worked. However there was a general consensus the opening was too rushed for anyone to find their feet, so that’ll be my primary concern on the next draft.

Oh, and over at Atomic Junkshop we’re suffering some puzzling tech problems. One post I made this week vanished, came back and now it’s vanished again. Very annoying.

Have a great weekend. Here’s another photo of Wisp, scrunching her eyes shut in response to getting petted.#SFWApro. Photos are mine.

 

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Did I mention I sold a story this week?

I did? Well here’s another link to it anyway. And to my currently free e-book, Philosophy and Fairytales. That sales lasts through April 20. And I have an article on bystanders in Golden Age Batman stories up on Atomic Junkshop (the cover to the right is actually from the late 1950s, by Sheldon Moldoff).

Now, as to new work: this was a fairly good week. A lot of extra dog care in the mornings, but I still managed to be productive (though as usual not as productive as I think I should be). I’m doing my best to squeeze out as much of my own work as possible before my Leaf articles start up again.

I rewrote one of my older stories The Glory That Was, for reading to the writer’s group next week (one of our Zoom meetings). I’d thought I’d just touch it up to fix a few flaws, but I wound up writing it in rotating first-person POV (Elizabeth, Molly and Dianne) which took a lot more time than planned. I think it’s vastly improved, but we’ll see what the group thinks. That used up most of my short-story writing time, so a couple of other stories I’d planned to work on, I didn’t get to.

I finished another chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I’m approaching the climax now, and once again it’s going to take a lot of changes; characters who were alive are now dead, KC knows much more about how things work than she did and I have no idea how to explain the rest without massive info-dumping. But my gut’s steered me well so far, so hopefully it’ll keep guiding me right.

I got a massive amount of the abortion/birth control chapter in Undead Sexist Cliches done and footnoted. There’s still quite a bit left as the forced-birth movement spews out so much bullshit. For example, Human Life International argues that having consensual sex while using birth control is rape. That’s one of many.

I also read aloud several chapters of Questionable Minds and noted down the points where it needs editing, either for typos or because my phrasing is poor.

Trixie is doing much better. She’s able to take short walks of up to five minutes at a time, which is much more fun for her. Easier for us too, as I can wait longer for her to make a poop before hauling her inside. And she’s so happy walking and enjoying the outdoors (the photo below shows her doing it a couple of years back, when she was at her shaggiest).

 

Unfortunately, she’s increasingly determined and eager to jump up and down and run wherever she wants, so it’s essential to watch her constantly. We now have a cage upstairs and one down so wherever she is, we can lock her up if we have to do something (use the restroom, cook, whatever).

We’ve decided to try bringing Wisp into the house once Trixie’s back to full health. That gives us about six weeks to work out the details. This week she came up and sat with me on the couch again a couple of times; one time was during a Zoom “Shut Up and Write” meeting and as soon as the voices came over the computer, she ran.

Have a great weekend everyone. Stay safe.

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

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Money for nothing and my books for free? It depends

So as I think I’ve already mentioned, I made my Smashwords short-story collection, Philosophy and Fairytales free as part of a promotion running through April 20. I’m quite happy that two people have already downloaded the book.I was much less happy to discover the Internet Archive had an ebook of Screen Enemies of the American Way available on its website for free reading. Camestros Felapton’s post alerted me that IA, in addition to storing old web pages, digitizes print books and lends them out, just like any other library — except, as Slate says, regular libraries don’t just digitize books under copyright and make them available (with exceptions such as services for the blind). Libraries actually pay for ebooks; IA doesn’t. So I asked the IA to take my book down (it appears to be the only one of mine up there) and they did. First time I’ve tackled a pirate site (and in my not-a-lawyer opinion, this does seem to be piracy) and it felt good.

My work on Leaf wrapped up Monday — one of their regular breaks in the work flow — which is good as Leaf articles seem to suffer from the distractions of TYG and pups in the current quarantine more than anything else I do. That’s probably because I try to keep to sharp deadlines writing them and there’s just enough distraction these days to slow them down. So maybe it’s simply more noticeable with Leaf than other work? But hopefully by the time they start up again, I’ll have a smoother process for the new normal.

I got plenty done this week. Two chapters of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Final draft (subject to one more beta reader weighing in) of Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates. A good deal of work done on Undead Sexist Cliches. Finishing the second draft of Laughter in the Dark. And I participated in a Zoom-meeting of my Tuesday writer’s group. Damn, but it felt really good to see everyone’s faces.

As I woke up early this morning, I am now done. Bring on the weekend.

#SFWApro. Cover image by Lisa Wildman, all rights remain with current holders.

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Pandemics and productivity: my new normal

Happily, I recovered a lot of my regular rhythm this week. Exercise, meditation, juggling practice, cooking (baked bread last weekend). It feels good to have structure.

This is slightly complicated by having TYG at home. I spend a lot less time with the dogs, which frees up a little more concentration. However I can’t predict when she’ll need me to take Plushie because he’s acting up and distracting her, or when she’ll come down and eat lunch (again, I have to distract Plushie so he doesn’t just demand food). I have no problem with the request — she is, after all, watching them most of the day now — but it does make my schedule less predictable: I may end up feeding Plushie lunch early or walking him late or having to watch him when I was anticipating going outside. The first couple of days that really seemed to throw me off my game, but things have picked up since. I’m not sure if that means I’m adapting or that Trixie going to surgery and back was really pulling focus or that I was working on Leafs both days and they didn’t hook me the same way my own work does.

But I did make my Leaf quota, and I got some of my personal work done too:

•I finished the Undead Sexist Cliches chapter on sexual harassment. Two more chapters to go; I’m hoping to finish this draft next month.

•I tackled the big reveal of Impossible Takes a Little Longer which as I mentioned last week I had no idea how to pull off. When I actually sat down and started, however, it was obvious: the hell KC winds up trapped in is an emotional one, targeting her particular vulnerabilities (which have nothing to do with sex — I was determined not to have the villain rape her or reduce her to a sex slave). It worked, and segued neatly into the follow-up chapter. As it turns out, it no longer reveals who the villain is, but I may change that back again. I think he needs at least a little build-up before the climax or the reaction will be “Huh? When did he show up in the book?”

The Schloss and the Switchblade came back, which I expected. A story taking place at a con feels wildly unreal right now (of course that may not have been the issue); sure, everyone’s still gathering together on TV, but even so it seemed to scream “pre-social distancing.” So I rewrote it and set it in 2014; I think it actually works better, plus it avoids having to rewrite again the next time President Tiny-Brain does something that changes the world around us. I resubmitted it yesterday.

•I rewrote Laughter of the Dark, but didn’t finish it. It’s shaping up, but still a long way from usable.

•I attended a local writing meet up, Shut Up and Write, which I’ve been meaning to get to for months but never got around to. No, I didn’t break social distance, we did it on Zoom. My regular writing group will be doing the same with their next meeting.

•I posted on Atomic Junkshop about the enduring mystery of Teen Titans #32.

•And I’ve joined in a Smashwords promotion so Philosophy and Fairytales is free from Smashwords until April 20.

I’ll wrap up with a 1959 cover dealing with the pros and cons of self-isolation. Art by Curt Swan.

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

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Work in my second week of social distancing

Not so good, although not all the fault of this strange new world. I woke up way, way early two nights this week, to the point I was in something of a fog. My Leaf work slowed down to a crawl; I got it done but way slower than I’d intended. That left less time for other stuff.

Wednesday being my birthday, I goofed off and watched TV a lot of the day while clearing out my huge list of bookmarks. This was actually productive — I found several links that will be useful for current projects — but not much actual writing. But hey, birthday.

Thursday I got two more short stories submitted and talked with the artist doing the cover of Questionable Minds. She had some layout suggestions; I took a look and said which I liked best and why. It’s kind of fun. But by afternoon, my mind just stopped jelling.

Today I got a shit ton done on the sexual harassment chapter of Undead Sexist Cliches. I thought I could finish it but … not quite. Next week, definitely, assuming I don’t get sick with you know what.

My schedule is still a work in progress. I tried not working Sunday and sure enough, with TYG helping take the dogs part of the day and some of the evening, it’s much easier to put in a full day’s work. And I do like not working on the weekends, so I’ll probably stick with that (though not for this coming weekend, for various reasons). I’m consistently starting later in the mornings, though, which is my best time normally; with TYG at home, it’s easy to spend more time with her and the dogs during breakfast. That’s one reason I didn’t get more fiction done this week: morning became a very small slice of time. I do not think this is an unfixable problem though (I could just go upstairs and shut everyone out of my thoughts, but I don’t feel like doing that).

While it’s disappointing not to get more fiction done this week, I think overall it was satisfactory.

Have a good weekend and remember — no matter how boring it gets in social isolation, do not experiment with weird chemicals, let alone drink them yourself!#SFWApro. Art by Jack Kirby, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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And the Red Death shall hold dominion over all

Okay, not that bad. But COVID 19 did majorly disrupt my work week (which is, obviously, far from the worst thing about it. First world problems).

The big change was that TYG started working from home, which is great for her (more time to spend with Plushie) and fun for me, plus I get a bit more of a break from the dogs when she takes them upstairs. However it also changes the rhythm of the day — when she gets up, when the dogs come down for breakfast, when she or I walk them at lunch — and it throws me off. Sometimes I start work, then the dogs have breakfast a quarter-hour later and by the time they’re finished I’ve lost momentum.

It’s a fixable problem, but this week it threw me off. It was, after all, on top of the daylight savings time hour-ahead weekend, which always leaves me sleeping poorly and feeling a little groggy. And I’m way distracted by the pandemic we’re in. It was hard not to stop whatever I was doing and check FB every so often, or browse the news, or Tweet to President Tinybrain about how he’s being a coward and putting millions of Americans at risk. I did it even as I was typing this post.

So most of what I accomplished this week was Leaf. Actually more than my usual quota: they had so many interesting articles I wound up doing 14 rather than 10. I’ll cut back some next week to make up. I really dislike doing that — somehow I never recapture the time I wasn’t spending on my own projects — but then again, my mind was so fractured, I don’t know how much good I’d have done on my own stuff.

I did look over the story I hoped to redraft this month, now titled Laughter of the Dark. And I rewrote the next chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer, which went much easier than expected. I will be thrilled if the next chapter goes as well, as it’s a twist and a big reveal that I’ve been struggling with ever since I dropped the core of the original novel. I have no regrets about the change, but I am a little nervous that it won’t go well at all.

And that was pretty much it. I think I’ll do better next week. I may even skip working on the weekend, seeing as I’m not handling the dogs all day, and see if I can put in more hours Monday-Friday.

In the minor annoyance department, I tried renewing my prescriptions online today. Turns out that as our new health coverage has an entirely different mail-order pharmacy, all my prescriptions are effectively reset to zero. Fortunately I’ll be seeing my doctors before I need refills.

And now the weekend, when I shall endeavor to chill as much as possible.

#SFWApro.

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Clobbered by the cleaners

So while I was at Mysticon, TYG did something we’ve occasionally talked about: she hired a cleaning service to come in this week and clean the house. She made the appointment for Thursday when Plushie was in doggie day care, and that’s a good thing: Trixie getting excited I can handle (she’s only ten pounds, after all) but Plushie is 20 lbs and very forceful when stirred up.

They arrived around 10:30 and did a fantastic job. I clean regularly and I’m proud I keep the kitchen and bathrooms sanitary and the floors vacuumed. However they showed me how inadequate my work is compared to a real professional. As Sherlock Holmes says, true talent has to recognize genius, and I do. So we’ll be doing this monthly.

Unfortunately, it pretty much wiped out my Thursday afternoon. I’d planned to do some Leaf articles, but Trixie decided with all these STRANGERS in the house she was going to be very needy, so nothing got done. I wound up blogging, then just fiddling around. However I woke up this morning early and got one Leaf in so I’m only short one for the week. Insomnia is occasionally useful.

Beyond Leaf, what got done?

I got another chapter of Impossible Takes a Little Longer finished. After one more chapter of action, though, I’ll have to deal with one of the major changes to my previous draft’s plot. I’m really not sure how to pull it off or exactly what I’m going to do, but I’m hoping it just flows as smoothly as adding Stardian City to the story did. Fingers crossed.

I finished my first draft of an untitled story I’ve had sitting on my computer for a while (one of my goals for this year is to finish up a lot of those drafts). I think the core of the story is there, but it may be buried pretty deep. Still as long as it’s there, I’ll unearth it eventually.

I submitted three short stories. One came back the same day, which is good — I can send it out again — except for the coming back part. Some positive comments on it, an encouragement to try again, so I will. But that’s still not as good as a sale.

I got some work done on Undead Sexist Cliches and I began proofing the hard copy of Questionable Minds. As usual, lots of red pen marks in just the first two chapters. I’m going to have to take it slow and try reading a chapter or two a day so as not to overstrain my overtaxed voice.

And that’s on top of voting (looks like me voting Warren did not turn any tides) and going to the dentist Tuesday morning.

So while I’m tired and ready to call it a week, I don’t feel anywhere near as stressed as this guy. Art by James Meese.#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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