Category Archives: Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

Books about women, by women

I honestly don’t remember why I wanted to read A HISTORY OF WOMEN’S BOXING by Malissa Smith, and it was definitely more information than I needed to know (which is not the author’s fault). Still, it was an interesting and informative work, showing that women’s boxing has been around since at least the 1700s, with bare-knuckles brawlers such as ass-driver Ann Field, who fought in the 1720s. Needless to say, women boxers suffered from mockery, sexism and a lack of support on into the 20th century — as amateur boxing associations wouldn’t accept women as members, that limited the experience they could get before turning pro. Even so by the late 20th century, women’s boxing was on a firm footing, though as bedeviled as the male sport by manipulative promoters and celebrities (Muhammed Ali’s and daughter, Smith writes, sucked a lot of attention away from better boxers). There are several interesting profiles in here, such as Barbara Buttrick, a 4′ 11″ Brit who became known as the Mighty Atom when she was boxing in the US in the 1950s. I sooo want her to be a superhero on the side.

ASKING FOR IT: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture — and What We Can Do About It, by Kate Harding, does an excellent job covering its subject. Chapters deal with the fear of false rape charges, the desire to blame the victim (“Even if both parties are drunk, so what? We don’t excuse a drunk driver because the person they hit and killed was drunk too.”), persistent failures in investigating and prosecuting rape (cops are often quick to conclude there’s nothing to investigate) and the assumption the victim should have done something different like pack heat or take self-defense courses (as she points out, one woman wound up with a three-year sentence for firing a warning shot at her attacking husband). Harding predicts in her intro that events will outstrip her book and she’s right. She celebrates the then-new Title IX protections for rape victims and now Betsy DeVos (who says she has no idea whether there are more fake rape accusations than true ones) is dismantling them; that Harvey Weinstein was a major figure in the push to let Roman Polanski return to the US without being imprisoned for rape has more significance now than it would have then.  Despite that, it’s still a very strong book on the subject.

When I first read THE BEAUTY MYTH: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women, by Naomi Wolf, I found it both brilliant and frustrating; rereading it, I felt the same. The frustrating part is that in showing the overpowering effect of beauty on women’s lives, Wolf strains and interprets facts more drastically than they deserve (her arguments about Beauty as Religion just don’t work for me). But enough of her analysis hits home I’m glad I reread it. For example, discussing how women have been fired for looking too sexy, not looking sexy, wearing too much makeup, not wearing makeup, looking feminine and not looking feminine — there’s simply no rule that can guarantee she looks “right.” And the constant emphasis on beauty in society leaves women vulnerable to doubt and insecurity (e.g., “Yes, you’ve put on weight, but I think you’re incredibly sexy” doesn’t go over well … er, not that I’ve ever said anything like that) to say nothing of the added expense looking attractive requires (even earning the same salary as men, the makeup and fashion expenses will cut into it). Despite its flaws worth reading.

#SFWApro. 1912 photo shows Fraulein Kussin and Mrs. Edwards boxing. Public domain, courtesy of wikimedia.

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Sleep, car repairs and work: my week

This wasn’t as successful a week as last week, but it was productive enough to feel content.

And my doctor’s recommendation to avoid caffeine after noon is really paying off. I got a full night of sleep most nights this week, and I’ve adapted to it. It was hard the first week not having that extra time in the morning, but the feeling of being fully rested more than makes up for it.

I did have to sacrifice part of two mornings to take the car in. Wednesday we had a combination appointment to take care of a recall issue, a minor unrelated problem and a Check Engine light that randomly comes on and off. Finally they found the problem, a throttle issue, but they had to order the replacement. This morning I went in again and got it done. I was able to get a fair amount done at the dealer’s office, but I also tend to give in and scarf snacks from the vending machines. Bad me!

My big project this week was the Undead Sexist Cliches book. I didn’t get a lot written because I was digesting the feedback from my beta readers. Among the good points were that I needed to make it clear when I was citing a sexist belief rather than declaring it as my own. And that some other stuff wasn’t clear, too. It was a lot of feedback to take in, but it will help. But it also convinced me to rearrange the topics in Chapter One, which slowed me down from a straight rewrite. It’ll make it flow better though.

My current plan is to redraft, then fill in all the footnotes. Then I can do a final proof and begin the process of publishing it.

And that plus Leaf took up most of my week. I started work on another draft of Impossible Things Before Breakfast but I didn’t get very far. No other short stories either. Oh, I did cut about 300 words from No One Can Slay Her to submit it to a particular market. I succeeded without hurting the story; we’ll see if that helps. I’m also kicking around an idea for finishing some of the stories I have lying around undone. If I write on those in the evening it won’t suck up time from more advanced stories, but I’m not great at writing in the evening. We’ll see.

Wisp is back on a regular feeding schedule and rubbing against my legs when I open the door. We’re going to put a cage around the tomato plants on the deck this weekend; I’m hoping it won’t freak her out. She seems to like napping next to the containers, as you can see here. But we’re done with having the squirrels steal the tomatoes. Hopefully she can adapt.

#SFWApro. Image is mine.

 

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Back to the mean and then rising above it

As I’ve mentioned before, my performance, like most things in life, is subject to the law of returning to the mean: if it’s really, really poor, the odds are I’ll do better the following week just from blind chance. Or if I’m doing really, really well, I won’t do as well the following week.

And sure enough, after the last week of April turned into a mess, I had a good, above-average performance the past four days (having been off Monday for my return from South Carolina). My Goals Accomplished for April was only 46 percent, which is exceptionally low; I have no trips anywhere this month though and relatively few appointments so I should do better.

I made another draft of Impossible Things Before Breakfast, read it for the writers’ group and got an enthusiastic response. There was also lots of feedback and problems they thought should be fixed, several of them things I’d wondered about myself. Work on the next draft starts next week.

I also worked on Bleeding Blue, Only the Lonely Can Slay and an as yet untitled story involving Pandora’s Box. Didn’t get far with any of them, though. There was just enough extra dog care to distract me and throw me off-focus when I was trying to concentrate and imagine What Next? But I’ve got four more weeks this month to revisit them.

I did some more research for the Undead Sexist Cliches book (I’ll be blogging about that next week) and went over the last draft part way. I think (as my friend Heather suggested) I need to tighten the organization in each chapter some, but that’s doable. I’d like to finish the next draft this month, but I’m not sure that is. We’ll see how it goes next week. It doesn’t help that I have several topics I want to add to the various chapters, based upon my reading. That seems enough reason to display Caroline Marsh’s suffragette poster above.

I also drew up a rough draft of my proposal for my next McFarland book. I’m quite pleased that I set aside Undead Sexist Cliches to work on the proposal; focusing on one project to the exclusion of others I need/want to get done doesn’t usually work well for me.

I got out on my bicycle for the first time in a couple of weeks and had a beautiful ride.

And I did plenty of Leafs. They make a good go-to project when I’m too frazzed to be creative. I got slightly more done than I’d planned, so I’ll make up the creative time by slightly less Leaf next week.

And avoiding caffeine once again proved helpful for getting in a full night of sleep. Of course I’ve thought my insomnia banished before only to be wrong, so we’ll have to see. I’m hopeful though.

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

 

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A week of sleep and ducks

When I went to my doctor a couple of weeks back, I mentioned my ongoing insomnia. She suggested I stop my tea intake after noon, or switch to decaffeinated brands. I didn’t think much of it, but this week, starting Sunday, I tried it.

Sunday night I slept well. Ditto Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I woke up early as usual. I’ve no idea if that means the first couple of days were a fluke or there were other reasons I woke up in the early A.M. Thursday (last night I took an Ambien so I slept well). Still, it’s been quite a while since I actually slept well for three nights in a row, I’ll try this again next week (the weekend doesn’t count, I almost always sleep well). More data!

Unfortunately I’ve become so used to waking up ultra-early, having a cup of tea, then starting work, that getting up at a normal hour actually threw me off. I could not seem to find my feet this week,  on top of which I had another crop of tasks to distract me (hence the ducks, as in nibbled to death by). Appointment for the car. Arranging for the trapper to set out a trap for the raccoon. Arranging plane travel for an upcoming trip. Hunting dog-training classes because Plushie and Trixie get very excited when they meet new dogs and we worry they might eventually annoy a big dog that bites them. It looks like finding a good trainer will be expensive, possibly prohibitively so, but we’ll think about it.

I did get my Leaf work on, so that’s something. And I redrafted my short story Impossible Things Before Breakfast for reading at the next (or more likely the one after) writer’s group. It still needs work, but it’s definitely a lot closer. Hopefully a good group critique will make me see what else is needed.

I also read Naomi Wolf’s 1990s book The Beauty Myth, which has some great insights and incidents I can use for Undead Sexist Cliches.

And that was it. I took off today, which didn’t help. But hey, at least we live in a world where a Dutch street artist can turn an apartment building wall into a bookshelf.

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The taxman cometh! And so did the pollen!

Durham has heavy pollen this time every year. This year it got really heavy.Running down the gutters after a rain.

Washing off the driveway.

Even turning our dogs’ leashes yellow.

It got so bad that even though I’m on Claritin (to avoid rashes from all the grass pollen carried on the pups’ coats), allergies laid me low mid-week. This was a regular problem a couple of times a year back in Florida but I’ve never had it here before. No sneezing, just this insane draggy feeling that nothing in the world would be better than lying down and watching television all day (trust me, that’s not normally a thing I say). So that cost me a day and a half.

And then about two days went to taxes. I had almost everything figured out, but the state income tax form wouldn’t let me enter data on the computer so I had to print it up, then write it out. Then print it out again to fix my mistakes. I suspect it will come back to me: the NC Department of Revenue scanning system is much stricter in how it’ll take data than the IRS, so most years I’ve had to re-enter my return because of some technicality. But it’s done, so that’s good. We’re paying in this year, but that’s primarily because I made more money than I expected and didn’t have to pay estimated taxes, so we got socked with a bigger bill than usual. Ouch. And our printer is slow, which drew the process of printing the forms out longer than it should have. Next year I shall take steps to avoid that.

In the remaining time, I did some research reading for the Undead Sexist Cliches book and got some useful feedback from beta readers (one yet to come). I got a lot of work done on a redraft of Impossible Things Before Breakfast, though I still lack a good finish. And that was pretty much it. But taxes needed doing before Monday, like it or not.

Wisp has been an erratic presence on the deck. She’s still not showing up regularly for her meals the way she used to, and there’s another cat we caught eating at least one of the meals we put out. As Wisp has fought to drive off strange cats before, I’m guessing she’s getting food at someone else’s house and so can afford to turn up her nose at ours. Even though someone else might be better situated to take her in, I do feel a twinge of jealousy at the thought.

Trixie has had a hacking cough the past couple of weeks. It’s mostly faded, but we kept her home from Suite Paws day care this week just in case. Much as I enjoy a dog-free day, she’s pretty easy to handle when she’s by herself. But if the hack doesn’t go away, we’ll call the vet next week (I’m wondering if it’s pollen-based).

I’ve also realized that one reason I have trouble focusing after lunch is that Plushie likes to settle into my lap, then stretch out, rather than curling into a ball. This usually puts me in a position that, while not exactly uncomfortable, it strains my body enough that I have a hard time focusing (Trixie’s position on either side of me sometimes makes it worse). I like Plushie curling up in my lap, but I’ll have to position my legs so he can’t expand out.

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My answer was ‘recalled to life’

The use of the Dickens quote in the title is my way to say after close to two months of lackluster performance, I had a good week of writing.

The biggest accomplishment was that I finished a draft of the Undead Sexist Cliches book. This was a minor landmark because it’s the first coherent draft. I kept shifting back and forth in earlier drafts on how to break things down, which fact or anecdote went in which chapter and frequently repeating myself. Now I think I’ve honed it so that it has a logical structure. There’s the introduction (about why I’m writing it, and about sexism in general). A chapter on “everyone knows men and women are different” which is the bedrock on which most of these cliches rest. A couple of chapters on why feminism is supposedly evil. One on why all the heroes have to be men. One on rape cliches (probably the largest), one on sexual harassment and one on sex and relationships in general. I may expand them with more examples of sexism, but I think the set-up is solid.

Next up: beta reading! I sent it out to a couple of friends, one in the writing group, one generally interested in this sort of thing. Both women, because the one thing I can’t provide is a woman’s point of view. I might ask a couple of others (I’ve asked one more beta, but haven’t heard back). And then, after I get their feedback, the revisions begin.

It feels really good to have made significant progress on something.

I also mailed out three short stories (one already came back), found a possible market for one of my older novels (hopefully it’ll go out next week), submitted a query for a column (no interest), and put up a couple of items on eBay. They’re movie posters from some of my movie books, so I count that as writing time — and I’d be quite happy to get rid of them productively (i.e., putting them in the trash is just a waste).

I also got back to my regular exercise routine, which had tanked with everything else during March. It looks like I’ll make about 50 percent of my March goals at best (I may accomplish a couple this weekend). However I rearranged my schedule some, and I think that helped. I’ll blog more about that next week.

Wisp, alas, was not happy with us leaving her for last weekend’s Mensa trip. Whether it was not getting her food on the schedule she’s used to or having our neighbor come over to put the food out (Wisp’s still pretty cautious — I could easily see her having a Stranger Danger reaction), she’s gone back to staying invisible and quiet (the photo’s an old one). Usually we don’t even know she’s there until after the food is eaten. Hopefully having us put out food regularly will restore her confidence in us; she did show up one evening and stare at the dogs through the window so she’s not completely alienated.

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i bounce back, at least a little

Not a stellar week, but more productive than last week. I still didn’t have the presence of mind to focus on fiction so I returned to my Undead Sexist Cliches book. I got about 11,000 added words done. That felt good. And I got my Leaf articles done for the week.

And that was about it. Added dog care used up some of the time. So did a trip for a car check-up (unnecessary as it turned out; things were fine). And Tuesday, both pups freaked out because the gutter cleaners came and that meant STRANGER DANGER! HE”S MAKING NOISES! HE HAS A LADDER! DADDY, DO SOMETHING! That kind of thing makes it really hard to work.

I did, however, finish my first post at Atomic Junkshop in a while, dealing with what comic books on DC’s Earth-One were like.

Plus I seem to have maxed out my body’s insomnia tolerance. I still wake up early, but my naps have been getting a lot longer.

However, we’ll be doing some fun stuff this weekend, and I’m confident next week will see some real improvement.

Below, a symbolic photo of a flour arising amidst winter’s detritus Deep, aren’t I?

#SFWapro. Photo is mine, please credit me if you use it. Comic book panel by Carmine Infantino with Joe Kubert inks, all rights remain to current holder.

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Missed it by that much! Quite a big ‘that much’

Like most people I start off the year full of enthusiasm for my various year goals. In January that gives me the drive to complete 70 to 80 percent of them.

This January? Not so much. More like 54 percent. Part of that was having a really big goal list. Part of it was that one miserable week I experienced. And some of it was that several goals I’d written down turned out to be non-starters. Focusing on a single project one day a week (a novel, a short story, pitches) didn’t work because I’m back doing Leaf articles. It’s easier to handle them if I do a couple a day rather than clump them, but that means I can’t do a full day of anything else. So that one’s off the table.

Other ideas just need more practice. I want a more relaxing lunch break rather than rushing to eat so I can walk the pups. That takes a conscious effort. But I’ll get there.

The big disappointments for the month were a)not getting beyond a chapter or two in Impossible Takes a Little Longer; b)not getting anything done on the Undead Sexist Cliches book. Well and c)not selling anything I’d submitted to anyone, but that’s not within my control. I am very pleased that I submitted five stories (technically; some of them were the same story sent out twice), two articles and one column idea.

And I did finish Southern Discomfort and submitted that to eight agents (two refusals so far). I’ll keep sending it to agents until I’ve exhausted the list. Then I’ll switch to publishers. Then I’ll self-publish. Take that, uncaring publishing universe!

Tday I started work on rewriting another novel, Let No Man Put Asunder. This went slow too, and I’m starting to see why: I’m just thinking and editing as I go and it’s slowing me down. I need to let go and let the words flow.

I was pleased that this week I made real progress on two short stories, Only the Lonely Can Slay and Neverwas (that title will definitely be reworked). On Lonely I can actually see what the story arc should be; Neverwas is almost there. Once I get that, it’s mostly a matter or refining, fixing and improving. Being able to see progress makes me more optimistic about my ambitious goals for the year.

I did a fair amount of hanging out at Illogicon (yes, that was a goal) but I didn’t get out much the rest of the month due to my desire to rest my voice. I didn’t get as much bicycling in as I planned, either as I didn’t want to expose my throat to the cold.

I did get lots of Leaf articles done. And that helps pay the bills so yay!

Oh, and I found where my baby sister Keri was buried years ago, which was one of my goals for this year. I thought it would take a lot of work but it actually went smoothly: I checked the US Consulate records for deaths and births of American citizens abroad. That led me to ancestry.com, which, after I signed up, gave me a digital copy of Keri’s death certificate. I’m impressed with myself (I thought I’d blogged about this before but I can’t find it).

Despite what didn’t get done, I feel pretty pleased.

Below, Trixie nervously contemplates going to doggy day care. She loves it there, but she dreads the car trips.

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My plan was perfect! How could I have failed?

Ever since Wisp settled onto our porch, Trixie has been increasingly fascinated. Some evenings when Wisp is out there, Trixie will sit by the door sniffing for her.  When the blinds are open, Trixie watches, as you can see.

The past week or so, though, she and Plushie have gotten more frantic. Trixie claws at the door and sticks her nose under the blinds to get a better look. Plushie barks loudly from the couch. Almost as if they imagine Wisp is—

Tuesday morning it just reached fever point. It was freezing cold so they didn’t get much of a morning walk. They then channeled all that energy into barking their heads off. It was … distracting. And that was on top of being very sleep-deprived (even by my standards). Plus the bug TYG brought back from her travels was now in me, leading to hacking and sore throat and worries my voice was fading.

The long and short of it is that while I had a good Monday, Tuesday fell apart. I got some Leaf writing done, that was it. Otherwise it was sleep, or hacking, or dogs, or doing some budget-crunching that needed doing (not during work, but I did it anyway). As I thought we might have some emergency expenses, the paying stuff was a high priority.

Wednesday I was worried my throat might be worse than it appeared, so I hit the urgent care in the morning. I was fine, but by the time I got back I was again, too distracted to focus. More Leaf!

Thursday I took the car in to get a recurring issue looked at. I took my computer but I didn’t get much done before starting on the paperwork for a loaner. Because like Scotland Yard in an old mystery, they are baffled (the VW dealer’s service people are really good so I take that as a sign the problem is challenging, not that they’ve screwed up). I came home in a loaner and mostly collapsed into extra naps.

Today I just threw in the towel and did more Leaf. As it turns out, we may not need the extra money, but still, it’s nice to have.

Not getting anything else done? Not so nice. I know sometimes it can’t be helped, but this was an exceptionally poor week.  I even skipped writers’ group because I was so tired and I hate skipping group.

Oh well, next week will almost certainly be better.

I did send Southern Discomfort out to three more agents. No One Can Slay Her came back with some positive comments (it’s always nice to be told “remember us for your next story” but not as nice as being accepted) and went out again. I started several other projects, but got nowhere.

But the weekend’s here. I can collapse, watch movies, finish the budgeting, etc., etc. And start over next week with renewed vigor and make up for what lost time I can.

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Fall weather, falling asleep, finishing stories

It’s been beautiful outside most of this week. I took an hour bike ride Sunday, and a shorter ride Thursday, relishing the cool air, the sunlight through the trees, all of it. The kind of weather that I mentally associate with returning to school, which gives me a nice feeling of cool new things coming down the pike.

On the downside, DST ended this week, and as usual that wreaked havoc with my sleep (which as regular readers may remember is poor even at the best of times). Normally I have trouble getting back to sleep if I wake after 3:30 AM, as a part of me feels it’s too close to time to get up. After the time change, 2:30 AM is the same as 3:30 AM was the week before. My brain has not accepted I still have lots of time before I need to get up. Not good.

Work, though, went well. I began rereading Southern Discomfort aloud, from hard copy, to spot any final mistakes, bad word phrases, etc.. It’s going well, and I’m pleased with the work so far. but it’s also going to be slower than I’d hoped. Ninety thousand words is a lot to read aloud, even without the corrections.

And I’ve worked out the problems in No One Can Slay Her. If I can print it up this weekend, I’ll read it aloud next week. Putting in hard copy works for me because it feels final. Reading it aloud forces me to pay attention.

Leaf work for the year is winding down, but I still had some to do this week. That kept me from getting a lot done on Undead Sexist Cliches.

I’m doing my 1,000 words of fiction every morning, but I’m now wondering about my approach. I’ve turned out first drafts of several stories, unfinished first drafts of possibly longer works, and second drafts of some, but I don’t feel like I’m getting close to finishing anything or even seeing the finished structure. That’s frustrating. I’ve abandoned enough unsuccessful projects that I’m always afraid I’m putting a lot of time that will accomplish nothing.

Wisp is using and presumably enjoying her little house on our deck. She’s usually waiting when I bring out food. Sometimes waiting a while as she doesn’t realize 5pm feeding is now an hour later than a week ago. Sometimes she sits on the railing and watches me through the window as I get the food — or she’s staring at the bird feeder above the window.

Oh, and I’m actually selling copies of Atoms for Peace, which is cheering. Not that I’m going to knock Patrick Rothfuss off the bestseller lists, but it’s cool to know people are buying it (thanks, whoever you are).

On a personal note, I unfollowed one right-winger among my FB friends, and “took a break” from another. Every time I do, I find the satisfaction of not dealing with their bullshit easily outweighs any concerns I might miss a charming puppy GIF.

And here’s another example of a wine with a striking label. Haven’t tried it (anything above $20 is usually a no-go for me)f, but I do like the look.

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

 

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