Tag Archives: Atomic Junkshop

Creative amidst the chaos — that seems an appropriate way to end the year

Which is to say that during 2022’s final fortnight (you may remember I didn’t do a week-in-review last week because of the power outage) I got some good work done but not as much work as I’d hoped. Simply too many distractions.

This week, for example, we had to pick up our car Monday (it was just a dead battery so nothing overly pricey) and drop off the rental car. As I’d canceled my blood-donation appointment Friday due to car complications, I went in Tuesday morning. Then in the afternoon I braved the mall traffic (it’s easy to forget lots of people are still off the week after Christmas) to visit the Apple store and figure out the problem with my phone. It’s been randomly opening apps or switching from one app to the other which is ultra-frustrating; fortunately it turned out to be a simple fix. The replacement glass I got from a repair store had come loose (“If I can look at where it meets the screen and see through to the pixel cells, there’s a problem.”) — though whether they did a half-assed job or I jarred it loose with a couple of subsequent drops (TYG told me I didn’t need a phone cover; she underestimated me) I know not.

That, of course, took up most of Tuesday afternoon so I was irrevocably behind the eight-ball in making my hours this week; the blood donation didn’t help either but I place I high priority on donating regularly. Wednesday and Thursday we took the dogs for long lunch walks which threw off my afternoon planning, but again being a good dog-parent is a priority. Today it was just a matter of “well I’m not going to get everything done, am I?” undercutting my commitment. Plus I woke late which I almost never do. Plus we have Lily and Tito over for the day and they always require extra attention. There’s Tito, from an earlier visit. And here’s Lily.But work still got done. I added several thousand words to the current draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Much of it was reworked from an earlier draft but I moved on at the end into new stuff and it worked. However I reached one of those points where I simply don’t know what to do next and didn’t have the focus to tackle it, so I didn’t meet my quota (30,000 words) for December.

My rewrite of Paying the Ferryman was excruciatingly slow due to the distractions but the story improved considerably. I think it may have reached the point where I can show it to the writing group and benefit from feedback.

I finally drew up a list of my published books and short stories for TYG. While I doubt my intellectual property (e.g., Questionable Minds) will be hugely valuable for her if I pass first, I might be wrong.

I also redrafted Oh the Places You’ll Go! slightly based on editorial feedback and completed the revised draft of The Love That Moves the Sun. Both go out next month, assuming I can find markets.

There’s other stuff I’d hoped to get to but I think I can feel pleased with all that work. And I published several blog posts at Atomic Junkshop variously dealing with how to spend Christmas money, a great Teen Titans scene, the teenage crimefighter Tomboy and the disappointing end of a Silver Age story arc.

Happy New Year everyone! I wish all y’all a fabulous 2023.

#SFWApro. Book cover by Samantha Collins.

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

Working is now, thoughts are on then

Overall a good week. Except my insomnia — sleep-maintenance insomnia, where the sufferer wakes up and can’t get back to sleep — was in overdrive. Coupled with a couple of unexpectedly late nights and the time Plushie kicked me awake — he sometimes likes to sleep where my feet are — I’m feeling way zonked as I type this. Hence once again using this Jack Kirby cover for the Sandman story “The Man Who Never Sleeps.”But fortunately writing is something I can do in the dead of night if I’m up, then nap during the day. I did that at one point today only Plushie (again) nudged me awake, then waited expectantly for — well, I’ve no idea. Good thing he’s so adorable.As I mentioned last week, Paying the Ferryman loses a lot of the tension — okay, almost all of it — once we get out of New York. This week I rewrote it to increase tension and I succeeded. I also sharpened the direction of the story to fit with the ending — except I still have no idea what’s going to happen to Eleanor, my POV character in the remaining stretch before the end. She needs a challenge to fit her skills (amateur but gifted thief), a danger to go with it and so far I’m coming up empty. But I will find the answer because the rest of the story’s too good to give up on.

I also put some thought in on the next section of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Depending who KC turns to for help, we either get to use a lot of the previous draft or I do more new stuff. I’m not sure yet which is the right way to go.

Today I worked on an old short story, The Love That Moves the Sun. After reading over the feedback from my writing group, I made a few changes but it really required much less work than I’d expected. With any luck, I’ll have it off after the holiday, assuming I can find a compatible market.

I also took one day off to handle various chores: contractor appointments for this or that repair, mailing some presents, planning for the writers’ group Christmas party TYG and I are hosting this weekend. Full credit to my wife, she’s amazing at organizing To Do lists for this stuff. I mostly handle invitations and the cooking (chili, apple tart, cookies, cornbread from the Bread Head book I mentioned this morning).

I also spent some time thinking about next year and what I want to accomplish. Coming up with a not-too-specific list of 2022 goals and getting detailed month by month worked well for me this year. I intend to do it again next year. But I’m also working on a 101 in 1,001 list of goals — 101 things to accomplish in the next 1,001 days — for the first time in several years. I may not use it as an actual goal list but coming up with so many forces me to be creative and think of things I’d like to do or need to do. That will help with whatever list I do make.

And I had two blog posts out, as usual, at Atomic Junk Shop. One expresses my distaste for nonfiction writers who think they’re the story, the other discusses pets and comic books, reworking a post of mine here from several years back. I have to say, this John Romita sketch (over Kirby layouts) of Ka-Zar snuggling with his sabertooth Zabu and talking to him like a beloved pet really touches me.  Wises, bravest, swiftest, I talk to Trixie like that all the time.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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

First week NOT working on Aliens Are Here

It went okay, given that I was off Monday for Labor Day and took most of today off for social activities.

With Aliens Are Here in the bag, I figured the thing I needed most to catch up on was the promotional activity for Questionable Minds. I’ve signed up for a blog tour and spent much of Tuesday and Wednesday prepping materials for that — book blurb, blog posts, stuff like that. I also contacted a couple of book bloggers to ask for reviews, though I think I’ve left it too late.

I also submitted a couple of stories and two queries for nonfiction articles.

Thursday — wait, I forget if I mentioned I’d submitted my short story Impossible Things Before Breakfast to a friend’s anthology. It’s a collective anthology with all of us giving feedback on each other’s stories, selecting the cover, etc. Based on the feedback I’ve been rewriting the story, and it’s done. I didn’t agree with all the suggested changes, but the ones I did follow improved the story. The others, not so much, but that’s typical with more than a couple of beta-readers.

However there were multiple disruptions Thursday so I lost my focus after that. I’d hoped to work on Don’t Pay the Ferryman — I’m thinking the final title will be something like Smiles in Dark Mirrors — but no. Next week, for sure, unless I get some Leaf articles to work on.

I was also slowed down by my computer keys sticking a lot. We ordered some compressed air and I gave the keyboard a blast this morning. I think it’s done the trick so I can postpone buying a computer a bit longer.

One good thing: based on the amount of time I put in proofing and indexing The Aliens Are Here, I figured I might be able to up the time I spend writing during the day. I managed six hours both days which is only a half-hour more but that’s 2.5 hours a week. However it does make it harder to get blogging done.

And speaking of blogging, I posted at Atomic Junkshop about indexing and why Marvel’s Sgt. Fury doesn’t measure up to even a bad WW II movie. Jack Kirby’s cover is for Sgt. Fury #5, the focus of my post.

#SFWApro. Questionable Minds cover by Sam Collins, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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I’m counting the first week of July as a win

Partly that’s just random luck; as I’ve often observed, when performance is sub-par and problems arise, random swings of the pendulum push me back towards average, if not over it.

It’s also that I’ve solved the problem I mentioned last week of not taking breaks. A break mid-afternoon to write out Remember To Vote postcards for Activate America. A longer lunch break. That second one’s still messy because I’ve been sitting extra with the dogs this week, which limits what I can do at lunch time — if I exercise, Trixie takes it as a call to snuggle. But it does help keep me going to the end of the day.What did I get accomplished? For starters I finished Adventure of the Red Leech and sent it in to a Holmesian anthology. I put in a little work on Don’t Pay the Merryman (I so have to change that title). And while I haven’t mentioned it before, a friend of mine is putting together a collaborative self-published anthology and my Impossible Things Before Breakfast is one of the stories. I took a look at the feedback from the other authors this week and made edits. I didn’t follow all their suggested changes but the advice I did take improved the story. I’l review it again next month for final decision on a couple of points where I was uncertai.

I got 12,000 words in on Impossible Takes a Little Longer, which is less impressive than it sounds: I took most of it straight from the last draft with very little changed. The results aren’t entirely satisfactory though, something I’ll discuss in a post next week.

I started researching Amazon ads, though I balked at actually spending money on them. I will authorize a small test for Undead Sexist Cliches next week, but it’s difficult for me to spend money on something that may not pay off at all. However I felt better about it when I crunched budget numbers and even with my upcoming trip to Congregate this month I can afford at least a small trial run.

Oh, and I posted a couple of times at Atomic Junkshop about Marvel Comics in 1965, and the end of Giant-Man’s series. Go ahead and check them out if you’re interested in the topic.

And now the weekend is here.

#SFWApro. Undead Sexist Cliches cover by Kemp Ward.

 

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

Robin Hood and the evil rich

“In times of economic downturns, in times of tyranny and oppression, and in times of political upheaval, the hero Robin Hood makes his timely call.” — from a history of Robin Hood discussing why the legend stays strong, even attaching itself to other people. For instance, the article notes, Jesse James was often portrayed as a Robin Hood figure who’d help out the poor — though I’ve read elsewhere that was a conscious Southern effort to hold him up as the enemy of Northern banking interests after the Civil War.

Part of that, perhaps is that the image of the corrupt rich, trampling are rights, is just as eternal as Robin of Sherwood. As the TV series Leverage put it, “The rich and powerful take what they want — we steal it back for you.” The series showed a team of crooks using their skills as modern-day Robins, providig the poor and pushed-around with “leverage” against the oppressor.

Go back 100 years and George Allen England’s The Air Trust isn’t that different. A grasping millionaire, bummed out that he’s gotten his hands on everything possible, thinks of something he doesn’t own yet — air. He establishes a series of oxygen extraction factories that provide pure, bottled oxygen for people who want it to pep them up. Nobody’s going to realize the amount of oxygen he’s extracting will eventually make air unbreathable — at which point we’ll have to pay any price for his oxygenators if we want to survive. It’s a great concept though heavy socialist exposition undercuts it (there’s even socialist poetry!).

Move to the 1940s and Leading Comics #5 (author unknnown, art by Ed Dobrotka) gives us the heartwarming story of “The Miracles Money Can’t Buy.” That is, I thought it would be heartwarming (“With all my money what I really want is love — a miracle money can’t buy.”) but the miracles in this case are things like the world’s largest diamond and the world’s greatest racehorse. The Skull, world’s wealthiest man, can’t buy them simply because the owners won’t sell. His solution is to bust five criminals off death row and send them out to bring in those wonder items. You could update that one easily, just give the Skull a made-up name — hmm, how does Elon Bezos sound?

Jump forward to the Silver Age and we have another timeless rich dude, Gregory Gideon (whom I wrote about recently at Atomic Junkshop). Gideon is a gazillionaire on the brink of total control of the world’s economy. When his three closest competitors beat back his takeover attempt he proposes a wager: set him any task and when he succeeds, they sell out. The trio come back with something they imagine not even Gideon can achieve — destroy the Fantastic Four! Gideon comes closer than you might expect (details at the link) before learning that yes, the best miracles are those money can’t buy, like the love of his son. Schmaltzy, yes, but Lee and Kirby make it work.

The idea of the rich screwing us over has lasting power because it’s so often true. So it’s not surprising we fantasize someone — the FF, the Seven Soldiers, Robin Hood — who can give us that leverage.

#SFWApro. Covers by Mort Meskin (top) and Jack Kirby.

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As predicted, returning to average (maybe better).

As I said last week, bad streaks don’t last any more than lucky ones. While this wasn’t a stellar week, I did get quite a bit done.

Most notably I finished the first 25,000 words of my Impossible Takes a Little Longer rewrite and it’s surprisingly good. The surprising part is that after rewriting the first few chapters it goes in several new directions. That’s usually the point at which my rewriting breaks down and becomes a struggle. Instead it’s moving along nicely. A long way from polished, but a solid draft. I added about 12,000 words to what I’d already accomplished.

I also put in a little time on my Southern Discomfort rewrite. Still going well, and putting Maria’s scenes in first person still feels like the right choice.

That was pretty much it other than some Leaf bill-paying work. And getting a rejection on Glory That Was (sigh).  On the plus side, I sold something at Amazon, though I can’t yet see which book it was (I hate that about their publishing system). Oh, and over at Atomic Junkshop I squeeze one last blog post out of rereading 1964’s comics. As you can see from the above Wally Wood illustrations, it involves Daredevil vs … a matador? Plus a remarkable Superman story. Then I cross-posted an old one from this blog, on the travesty of the Will Smith/Kevin Costner Wild Wild West reboot.

In my persona life, I got the second Covid booster Tuesday. Arm hurt way more than previous shots but no other negative effects. Regrettably it didn’t hook my brain up to 5G internet either. Just think how easy it would be to download porn if nobody could see it! And my vertigo has decreased to the point I have only one more physical therapy appointment, a month from now.

In addition to all that, I would have liked to work on the short stories I’m working to finish. Falling behind on a novel, however, usually works out worse.

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

 

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Things fall apart, the schedule does not hold

I know intellectually that an occasional crappy, unproductive week is inevitable, but I still hate the feeling.

Monday I wrote an article. I could not seem to come to grips with the information (about product accounting) and it took twice as long as it was supposed to, running into Tuesday.

Wednesday the dogs came down extremely early so I never had the hour or two of calm that helps me get my head in the game. Thursday the same; coupled with the added doggy care I’ve been doing while TYG wraps up her big project, my brain just rebelled. I spent the day mostly blogging.

And today it rebelled even more. I could tell I wasn’t going to get anything done, so I stopped. I feel guilty but I’d end up feeling worse if I sat there staring at the computer and doing nothing.

I did get a little bit of work done on Impossible Takes a Little Longer — not enough, but it’s good work. And I got a lot of hours in on my Southern Discomfort rewrite, which is also looking good.

I also got a couple of posts up at Atomic Junkshop. One deals with several open-ended plotlines in various comics at the end of 1964, such as the Outsider plotline beginning in Detective Comics 334.

The other deals with one of my favorite Silver Age love interests and Namor’s god-awful sweetheart, Lady Dorma.

So that’s about it for the week. Next week will be better!

#SFWApro. Art by Gene Colan, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

Dizziness, dishwashers, dogs and doom! Well, except for the doom

Yes the post title’s daft, but I can’t overcome my affection for Silver Age Marvel alliterative titles like “The Agony and the Anthill.”

First the dizziness: hasn’t gone away. Got very bad Monday, which may reflect that I’d just gotten off the anti-nausea meds. By today it’s back to manageable levels. Still sucks; I have a physical therapy session Monday as that can sometimes speed up the recovery.

Second, the dishwasher: once again we have been denied our wonderful, gleaming new energy efficient dishwasher. The delivery crew a couple of weeks back — the first failed attempt — didn’t tell us we needed to have the electrical outlet under our current dishwasher removed so the new one would fit (the junction box will go to the side, under the sink). And they weren’t electricians so back it went to the warehouse again. The service center assured us if we got an electrician in we could have the dishwasher installed a couple of days later. When I called back after making the electrician appointment, they now told me nope, not until March 22nd, period. So I canceled the electrician and will reschedule closer to the date. I am very, very unimpressed by Home Depot so far.

And then there’s the dogs. TYG’s schedule required much extra dog care on my part this week. That wouldn’t have been so bad except the weather turned cold and Wisp started coming in during the day. Dealing with three pets is invariably more complicated, particularly as Trixie gets a little jealous if I don’t give her lots of petting too. And Wisp, instead of sleeping out the way on the back of the couch——insisted on sitting in my lap which is way more distracting. Especially when my leg winds up wedged between her and Trixie.

Work went okay, but not much beyond okay. I corrected one of the articles I wrote for a new client, did several Leafs and submitted one short story. I did some more research reading on urban fantasy and worked a little on Don’t Pay the Merryman. I also got another couple of chapters done on my Southern Discomfort rewrite. That was about it — the dizziness and the dishwasher frustration made Tuesday pretty much a wash.

Oh, but I did have a couple of Atomic Junkshop posts out — one on Marvel at the end of 1964, one on why superhero teams took 30 years to become a big deal.

#SFWApro. Cover by John Buscema, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Surprisingly, things are still going well

Another good, productive week. Somewhat hampered by insomnia reaching peak Wednesday morning but that night and last night I slept fine. Also hampered by added dog care while TYG worked on a special project, but things still went well.

I sat down and read through Impossible Takes a Little Longer and noted the strengths, weaknesses and problems a as I went. A big part of the problems with this draft is that I eliminated several fight scenes that no longer fit. Trouble is that changes the pace from fight/talk/fight/talk to fight/talk/talk/talk. I will need to fix that, along with several other things. I got started on the outline and made a few changes; by the end of the month I should have enough changes outlined to start the next draft.

I tinkered with the ending of Oh the Places You’ll Go and redrafted Adventure of the Red Leech. I think the plot is mostly there but a lot of details need polishing. I also took a look at a story I haven’t glanced it in a year, titled (for want of any other ideas) Don’t Pay the Merryman.  Much to my surprise my first draft looks much, much better than the fourth and most recent — more plot, more action, stronger characters. For various reasons I’d wanted to age the protagonist and her friends out of teenhood but kids work better for the emotional beats. I still need to make sense of the bad guy’s magic powers because they’re at the incoherent whatever-the-plot-needs level right now. A shame, since they’re also creepy as shit, but I want it coherent as well.

I finished another financial article for the new client I mentioned last week. This was on the benefits of using automated accounting. I’m getting the hang of the format fairly fast so this took much less time than the last one.

Oh, and I’ve been remiss keeping up with my posts at Atomic Junkshop. We have one about the Martian Manhunter and his shift from Detective Comics to House of Mystery; one on the classic Le Carré novel The Spy Who Came In From the Cold; and two posts (first and second) about Silver Age Batman.

I did get another rejection but it was from a market I was pretty sure would say no — the story doesn’t quite fit their What We Want but I saw no reason to self-reject.

And now the weekend! Have fun everyone.

#SFWApro. Cover by Joe Cerna, all rights to image 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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