Category Archives: Time management and goals

This week was pleasantly easy

Leaf articles are on a lull so I could work on my own projects. And most of those went smoothly.

I completed the 25,000 words I wanted to add to Impossible Takes a Little Longer this month, in large part because I was at a point where I could reuse a lot of older material, just in a different place in the book (I’ll be discussing this next week in more detail). I’m not entirely sure the last 5,000 words will stay in the final manuscript but I so love the telepathic dog I hated to cut him. I’m a softie on dogs, y’know? I intend to keep working on the book this month, though some of the allotted time may go to other projects.

I began work rewriting my first published story, The Adventure of the Red Leech (I discussed the reasons why here). I have one major problem, I have no idea how Holmes defeats the supernatural at the climax without telegraphing the ending in advance (e.g., if Holmes put silver bullets into a revolver, you’d know the werewolf was going to buy it). On the other hand, the mystery plot is starting to make sense, so I have hope it will all fall into place.

I got 3,500 words into the final (or almost) draft of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and I can see improvement already. If I can finish it this month I will be very happy.

As an experiment, I swapped Chapter Two and Chapter One of Southern Discomfort around. This has the advantage of introducing Maria up front, which makes it clear she’s the central character (albeit it’s still an ensemble cast, not a star vehicle). There’s more tension than in Chapter One, which is a lot lower key. On the downside, there’s no real hint of what’s going on and little evidence of a supernatural presence. I will give it another look next week after my thoughts have had time to jell.

I posted two articles to Atomic Junkshop. One is about the Marvel retcon known as the Siancong War. The other is about Reed Richards and Ben Grimm serving in WW II and why that seems so unusual today (no, not just because it would make them more than 80 if it was still canon).Less satisfyingly, I sent out three stories to various markets and got two of them back. One came with a compliment that my submission was close to several things they’d already accepted so clearly I was on the right track. Unfortunately I have nothing else that fits this particular market (sigh). And a couple of magazines I approached in hopes of getting PR for Undead Sexist Cliches didn’t respond.

Not that I don’t enjoy the creative process, but it would be really nice to have something accepted by someone. Of course Aliens Are Here is under contract, but a fiction sale would be nice. A new story rather than a reprint would be even better. Though as I barely submitted anything last year, it’s understandable I haven’t gotten any results in a while. Hopefully this year will see some improvement.

#SFWApro. Comics panels by Jack Kirby, all rights to images remain with current holder.

 

 

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January 2022: How’d it go?

Pretty good, I think.

As I mentioned at the end of last year, I’m keeping my year goals fairly simple this year, mostly inspirational. Then going into specifics for monthly goals and adjusting them as I go along. Plus rewarding myself if I do well. The big reward for January was buying myself a $100 book if got 150 points (different tasks got scored differently). I came out with 138 so I rewarded myself with a $40 purchase. I should add that dangling rewards was more motivating than I expected, inspiring me to get several little tasks on the goal list finished this weekend.

The big writing one was to finish and launch Undead Sexist Cliches. I did it. I still can’t believe that I succeeded, but I did. I’m pleased. It feels really good to have a long-running project done. And to have a book out.

Secondary goals were to finish 40 Leaf articles, 25,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and the same on Oh the Places You’ll Go (as it’s a short story, this involved multiple drafts). I didn’t achieve any of them. I hit 20,000 words on the novel and the short story which is good, though. I came close to 40 Leafs but ran out of steam.

Outside of writing, I did manage to average one book or one movie a day (another goal), which has trimmed my TBR and To Be Viewed piles slightly.

I kept up my exercise regimen and bicycled at least one hour on the stationary bicycle once.

I got a bunch of little goals done: baking more bread, emptying out my safe deposit box (branch is closing so I had to move everything to a new bolt-hole), making plans for Valentine’s Day (nothing spectacular).

What didn’t I get done? Well due to the snowfall and the freezing, biting cold, most of my goals that involved taking a walk, sitting in the back yard, bicycling outside did not get done. And with Omicron still flourishing, I didn’t go anywhere or hang out with anyone.

My efforts to contribute to fighting the Anti-American Party, formerly known as Republicans, went well. Donated money to charity and to political candidates. Began writing postcards to Democratic voters encouraging them to get out and vote. We’re the majority, we can do this. However I want to find ways to contribute more.

Other than snow (you can see from the tracks that the cats really use that tarp-covered shelter on the right. I’m so happy to know it’s protecting them), the big challenge remains the added demands from all the pets. I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been if we’d been able to take the dogs for our normal long morning walk. With a little more time I might have made my fiction goals. I would definitely have gotten a few more small goals met, but they simply get squeezed out. Admittedly pushing myself to read more makes a difference there too.

For February, therefore, I’m really going to push to manage my time better. It should be doable, even though it doesn’t always feel that way. I have X amount of time assigned to various projects and I don’t have anything as demanding as Undead Sexist Cliches. That should make it easier to not go over time on any one project. I’m doing considerably more fiction, which is nice: finishing Places, another 25,000 word goal for Impossible, starting rewrites on my first published story, The Adventures of the Red Leech. I’m also going to think about possible revisions to Southern Discomfort.

My time still feels overly squished, but we shall see how it goes.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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

Nothing as exciting to blog about as this morning, sorry!

This morning, after all, I celebrated Undead Sexist Cliches launching in paperback as well as ebook. Outside of that, this week was all Leaf articles, all the time.

I got around 20 done, which is not as many as I’d planned on. Even working late Monday I still had to deal with a dermatology checkup Tuesday (a few things frozen off but apparently my skin is mostly fine). Thursday the housekeepers made their  monthly visit, which distracted the dogs even worse than usual, which of course distracted me. Today I had to drive to Sprouts for what would normally be weekend shopping. If the projections are right we’ll wake up tomorrow snowed in for the third Saturday in a row. Snow I’m okay with, but just on the weekends? What is this shit?

So the end result was too many distractions, and after each one it takes time to get my focus back, so there you are. Still, coupled with the few I did earlier this month, I’m in good shape for February I think.

And alas, both Fiddler’s Black and Impossible Things Before Breakfast came back today (my record is three rejections in a day, in case you were wondering). I’m not entirely surprised with the second rejection as I figured it didn’t quite fit their theme. Didn’t want to self-reject, however.

I’m not sure what I’ll work on Monday to wrap up the month. Leafs are done for the month so probably some work on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and a couple of new submissions.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.

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This is more like what I wanted from January

Admittedly the week wasn’t perfect. With snow arriving today, I went out and did my grocery shopping yesterday morning along with a couple of other errands. Between that and a miserable lack of sleep Wednesday night, I got very little writing accomplished. Despite that, it was an excellent week.

First off, Undead Sexist Cliches is now live in the ebook version. You can buy it on Amazon, or from Draft2Digital and from multiple other ebook retailers. I got a proof copy from Amazon and everything looks good, I just didn’t have time to complete the approval process today. However it will be available in paperback before the end of next week.

This is a little draw-dropping. I’ve been working on this thing for several years (I’m not a fast writer) and like wrapping up Aliens Are Here last year, it’s startling to realize I’m done. Finished. Ready to move on to other things. And you know, I think it’s a terrific book.

Good news the second, I’ve been accepted as a Congregate 2022 guest. It’s a Winston-Salem convention which means it’s only 90 minutes away, though I imagine I’ll stay over. Fingers crossed that covid is tame enough by then I can make it.

I rewrote Oh the Places You’ll Go again and read the first part for the writer’s group Tuesday. They were enthusiastic though some of the feedback pointed out things I really need to address. But now I feel it’s also on the bring of finishing — it needs some rewriting but I think the story is solid enough it won’t need more.

I put in some time on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and it went well. I got past one plot stumbling block, though it may come back to bite me later. I also made some major changes to KC’s trip to Dallas and the Stardians that I think greatly improve that section of the book.

I pitched article ideas based on Aliens Are Here to both Tor.com and the SFWA blog. I also posted two more articles to Atomic Junk Shop. One marks the Black Knight’s appearance in Eternals by looking at his Silver Age appearances (including the scene above) the other looks back at the god-awful 1967 Casino Royale. Though it does boast a wild poster.As the Leaf articles just started up for January, I don’t know if I’ll get any more fiction written. A solid week of Leafs, plus the ones I did this week, should take care of my bills for February, which is good. But either way here’s to next week being just as productive.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, comics illustration by George Tuska, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Second week of 2022: Progress and chaos

I came about four hours short of a full work week which is annoying. The trouble is, there are just too many unpredictable elements.

For instance Thursday I had to pick up prescription dog food after lunch, then find a gas station with diesel to fill up our almost empty car (under the assumption the winter storm this weekend might mess up supply). That took longer than planned because the diesel pump at the station we usually use was down, so I had to drive further.

Today, we took the dogs on a big lunch walk which used up some unplanned extra time, then Wisp came in, then I was chatting with TYG for a bit … and so lunch increased by an unexpected 45 minutes. As I’ve said before, there’s really no good place in my schedule to put the time back in and it adds up, day by day.

That said, the work I did get done was good and productive. I decided that Draft2Digital’s payment rate for hard-copy books was less than I liked (their ebook rates, by contrast, are excellent) so I tried KDP, Amazon’s publishing arm. This works out much less well than I remember from earlier books but it pays me more than Draft2Digital on a lower price.

Draft2Digital’s process, however, does provide an Amazon ready PDF but getting the system to handle my friend Kemp Ward’s cover proved remarkably difficult. I finally worked it out, though, and I’ve got a proof coming next week. Assuming no problems, both paperback and ebook will be available this month.

I finished another draft of Oh the Places You’ll Go. It’s very clunky but it does include all the elements I want and has (I think) a workable plot. Next week we’ll see what the writer’s group makes of it. I suspect the best solution to making it less clunky would be expanding it. I don’t want to go novel but maybe 15,000 words or so, about double the price? I think that would slow down the rate at which I share information and it will help explore the character relationships I think are the heart of the story. And it’ll give me time to work with the ending too — it’s kind of rushed right now.

Last week I found myself stymied by the next section of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. This week I saw how to get past that. There are things I don’t like — it takes Sarah off the board for longer than I wanted — but I think the revised plot holds together.

That was pretty much it. Oh, plus I’ve been posting at Atomic Junkshop: The past two weeks I’ve covered out-of-date satire, abandoning movie theaters, Batman’s con-man villains, and that bad Dunwich Horror cover I posted here Tuesday. Much less effective than the poster for the bad 1970 film.#SFWApro. Book cover by Kemp Ward, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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

Not exactly the finish to 2021 I expected …

I’m still dealing with so much non-writing stuff during the morning that it’s very difficult to get into a creative headspace. So nothing on fiction this week.

On the plus side, I gave Undead Sexist Cliches it’s final proof (via a PDF downloaded from Draft 2 Digital). I spotted a few mistakes and several places where I need to clarify what I meant, but it’s done. The Ebook will go out next month; the hard copy too if I can index it fast enough. So woot! I admit I haven’t followed best policy and hyperlinked the footnotes to the text, but that’s more work than I’m willing to take on right now. Hopefully it won’t be a big issue.

I also squeezed three more Leaf articles out of my brain as those don’t require a creative headspace. And batted out an Atomic Junkshop post about Christmas just so I had something up this week.

Looking back at 2021 — man I remember when that was such a futuristic setting — and my goals, it’s obvious I fell way short. Part of that was covid and the anti-vax covidiots ensuring we wouldn’t get out of the pandemic for more than a few months. It was also the sheer amount of work it took to get Alien Visitors — oh, the official title from McFarland is now The Aliens Are Here — finished on deadline. So I’m not beating myself up. And I did well — Undead Sexist Cliches and The Aliens Are Here done (and both good), that golem article finished (and also good) — even if I didn’t get any fiction written.

Still for 2022 I feel quite unenthused about coming up with my usual detailed list of goals, so I’m not. While I’m a firm believer goals should be specific and measurable — it’s much easier to quantify success or failure with “submit sixteen short stories next year” than “submit lots of shorts” — I’ve got a lot of general goals such as “do something interesting locally,” “travel,” “push myself in writing” and “end the year with more money than when you started” (usually my financial goals are more specific). My intention is to set more specific goals for each month and see what works and what doesn’t. Maybe I don’t eat out in January but we have two dinners out in February; if TYG’s schedule doesn’t permit us to take joint day trips, maybe I go solo.

I’ve also got a number of specific goals written, mostly writing related. Publish Undead Sexist Cliches — that one, at least is a done deal at this point. Finish Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Finish six short stories — I do variations of that one every year but this year with no massive nonfiction projects, it should be doable (I hope). And readjusting my schedule to make it more effective again. Eating healthier but also cooking more desserts. If I keep it sensible, both should be doable — though the pecan cream cheese bundt cake I made last weekend is definitely not sensible. I would have made it for a potluck or something but I really liked the recipe and the results were delicious.For January I want to get in 25,000 words on Impossible Takes a Little Longer and the same on Oh the Places You’ll Go (as it’s a short story, that represents multiple drafts). A bunch of other projects too. And to resume bicycling regularly. My aerobic workouts in the morning are good, but too many push-ups and lifts takes a toll on my elbows and shoulders (though my impinged shoulder has improved — I think general strengthening has helped). I’d like to shift more of the exertion to my legs.

I’m also going to reward myself if I get a lot of stuff done. I haven’t done that in years but I’m thinking it might be feasible financially to make more big-ticket purchases this year. So why not treat myself to an expensive book if I do well on my goals?

And I’m also going to research just how to adapt to our current reality. I’ve bookmarked a number of articles about “what is safe to do now” and I’ll be browsing them and thinking what’s possible and what isn’t.

If you’re reading this, you too made it through 2021, hopefully without too many battle scars. Here’s to wishing all of us a better 2022.

#SFWApro. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holder.

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The scheme is sound, the execution less so

When I started this month I sat down and calculated how many hours I had for writing, not counting email and blogging. Then I broke it down. 40 hours of Leaf articles would cover my bills next month. I could divide the remaining time between Oh the Places You’ll Go!, Impossible Takes a Little Longer and nonfiction stuff (article pitches, last bits of work on Undead Sexist Cliches). That way if it was a couple of weeks before any Leaf articles came available I could spend that time putting in extra work on other projects, then put in more time on Leaf stuff when things changed.

That premise proved sound. I spent the first couple of weeks doing fiction, then plunged into Leaf. At the end of today I’d made my quota for the month, enough after taxes to cover January’s bills (assuming I don’t have a massive unplanned expenditure) and maybe have a little left over. A month ahead is good, but in freelancing two months makes me happier.

But as I mentioned last week, I wound up losing quite a few hours earlier this month. As a result I’m not anywhere near where I want to be on any of my other writing goals. While part of that is due to TYG’s unusually heavy end-of-the-year workload, a lot of it is baked into the way the dogs, Wisp and Snowdrop eat up increasing amounts of time. A half-hour less each morning is 2.5 hours less during a work week. There are other time drains, both temporary (we’re walking a neighbor’s dogs at lunch this week) and permanent (it’s hard to focus in the evenings when Plushie’s doing his Cats On The Deck! Danger! bark every few minutes).

This will have to be solved because there’s a lot I want to write next year. I will find a way to maintain my full creative work week without stiffing the puppies of TYG of what they need. And I will do it by New Year’s because I want a productive January, dammit!

For the moment, I will take satisfaction in having paid the bills for January (so to speak). That’s a good feeling. And in it being Christmas Eve, which is also a good feeling. TYG’s workload has made this a rough Christmas season but having her and our various animals around is so much better than spending it alone.

#SFWApro, merry Christmas and happy holidays. Cover by Gil Kane, all rights to image remain with current holders.

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And now those empty hours return to mock me

I did well enough on my writing last week that the hours I lost to extra pet care or donating blood didn’t bother me too much. This week, they bother me a good deal more.

I came up 10 hours short on my writing time this week (keep reading). With two weeks left in December, I’m suddenly aware of how much could have been done with them, and the hours I didn’t write last week. Especially as the Leaf articles picked up again so I’m putting in lots of time on them. I thought I’d factored that in: x amount of Leaf articles leaves me with y hours for Impossible Takes a Little Longer and z for Oh the Places You’ll Go.  That doesn’t work as well if it’s y-10 hours

Multiple things derailed my schedule this week. For one, TYG got handed a major rush project which has led to much more dog care on my part. Even aside from that, the amount of dog and cat care in the morning just keeps increasing for various reasons. 8:30 AM is my new normal for starting work, rather than 8AM — that’s 2.5 hours gone right there. And there’s really no period to make up the time as evening writing is very iffy unless I’m absolutely completely focused.

For another, the washing machine broke last Sunday. I drained the water out, examined the drain — last time this happened, there was a sock stuck in it — but it didn’t help. I tried again Monday for about a half hour, then called in a pro. He showed up the next day (yay!) but he had more questions for me and needed my help doing things such as lifting the dryer off the top of the washing machine. That sucked up more time, but it had to be done. And he correctly diagnosed and fixed the problem, so yay again.

Third I came down with a mild cold Tuesday. Physically it wasn’t anything but a runny nose but it completely wiped me out for the afternoon and evening. My plans to make up for the washing-machine distraction went nowhere. Wednesday I was back to normal, thank goodness.

I didn’t get anything done on Impossible and maybe 3,000 words on the next draft of Places. However I also reread my earliest draft of that short story and saw what I’d been missing. I replotted and it’s much stronger and (I hope) more interesting. So that’s good.

And then I finished a bunch of Leaf articles, with more to come on the weekend and some next week. I also wrote a couple of posts for Atomic Junk Shop, one on Silver Age hero Karel Sorensen and one on how the way I read comics has changed.

I got nothing done on Undead Sexist Cliches but at least I have a cover to reveal, courtesy of my friend Kemp Ward.

I think it looks great. Now I just have to do the last little bit on the book.

#SFWApro.

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

The vomit — and the victory!

No, not my vomit of TYG’s. But Tuesday, Trixie puked up while still on the bed. She had another puke later and since then she’s been fine. However Plushie, who’s more prone to puking, did so Wednesday and Thursday morning. And every time, TYG had to wash the sheets while I took care of the dogs. Given I’m already dealing with Wisp and Snowdrop in the pre-work morning, this makes for a chaotic period. As I count on a reasonably calm period to get myself in a head space for writing that was disruptive.

Despite which, the week’s writing went well (hence the “victory”). I’m now 14,000 words into a new draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I couldn’t focus enough to do much on Oh the Places You’ll Go! but I reread my earlier drafts and figured out what was missing from the current one. Earlier I’d focused on the family connection between my four protagonists but I lost that in adding more plot and incident. I sat down Thursday and replotted the story and I think I’ve melded the two approaches successfully.

I put a great deal of time into working on Undead Sexist Cliches as the proofing and spellchecking requires relatively little creative work. It’s easy to do even when frazzled. I also worked on some queries for articles related to Alien Visitors in the hopes I can both promote the book and make some extra money off my research.

Snowdrop is coming in every morning. As you can see, he’ll even sit on the couch. However it’s freezing cold and he won’t stay inside if I close the porch door. This limits how much I can keep him in. He’s made the transition to eating inside much faster than Wisp did but he’s a lot more wary about people. Even without the dogs, he’d make it hard to focus on things like yoga, stretching, exercise, etc. Wisp has her own spot, a pillow on the back of the couch where I work. She likes it even though, as you can see, it’s not always a firm foundation for her. It’s much easier to deal with the dogs at the same time if she naps up there rather than in my lap.

Oh, and I gave blood this morning! It took much longer than I expected — the tech was new — but I got it done. So despite the vomit, I think the week is a win.

#SFWApro.

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Back in the saddle for December

So starting Wednesday my vacation ended and I was back writing once more. I’m moderately pleased with the results.

I submitted No-One Can Slay Her to a noir anthology, which is a good way to start the week. I got Famine Where Abundance Lies back from another market with lots of specific compliments, which is cool — but they still didn’t take it. I’m guessing that like a lot of markets these days they don’t stockpile — if it’s not right for the upcoming issue, they’re not going to take it.

I got in a few thousands words to Oh, the Places You’ll Go and around 9,000 on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Of course, with the book I was mostly reworking the early chapters in response to writer-group feedback and ideas I’ve developed over the past year. Unsurprisingly, when I reached the point of adding completely new material in the short story my brain slowed down massively. That won’t work as my goal for this month is a NaNoWriMo like rush — get the words down, then revise later. That’s how I’ve always done it but the past couple of years my revising process just seems to freeze up. Thinking about it now, I realize part of  that is that I’m trying to plot it out more between revisions and thereby have fewer drafts. Perhaps that’s counter-productive for the way my mind works. We’ll see.

I definitely need to structure my day with more breaks in. Even without the pressure to complete Alien Visitors I find it very easy to just write non-stop, without getting up and stretching or clearing my head. I know that’s not good for my writing but it’s a hard habit to break. But I will break it.

Oh, and I went and got the alphabetical index to Undead Sexist Cliches even though I don’t have page numbers to assign it too yet. It may take some tinkering as I figure out the categories, which isn’t a huge problem with film-reference books though. Here I have to decide if “brain theories of gender differences” is, say, it’s own entry or goes in “gender differences (brain-based theories).”

I thought I’d plan out my goals for next year this week too, but no. Outside of my writing, I usually set goals that are challenging, but not too specific — somehow that’s not working. Whether I need more challenges, more specificity or some kind of incentives I’m not sure. I definitely need to get out of the house more. But I’ll work on all that through this month.

For illustration, here’s Wisp in her new downstairs turf, under the dining room table.#SFWApro

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