Tag Archives: golem article

Clawed by Cats! Clobbered by Computers!

No, not literally clawed, thank goodness. Neither Snowdrop nor Wisp seems inclined to get physical, even when the dogs get in their grill. But Snowdrop did tear up a chunk of writing time for me this week.

As our cats live outdoors most of the time, catching them for the annual checkup is hard. We caught Wisp in July and now it’s Snowdrop’s turn. We couldn’t get him last week but I’d already made a backup appointment for Tuesday the 13th. Monday night, while I was hosting my Shut Up and Write Zoom group, TYG called me down. Some years back she bought a pole-and-lasso contraption to catch Wisp, but it never worked — until now. However, ensnaring Snowdrop in the loop did not get him into the cage for transport so she needed my help.

Eventually we caged him, but not before he’d astonished up by running up the blinds on the French doors and then up the outside of a bookcase. Of course, once he was caught we were in for hours of plaintive meowing, and more in the morning. So my regular morning routine went out the window, plus I was the one who had to take him to the vet (my freelancing schedule is way more flexible than TYG’s time).

It used to be they’d tranquilize the cats before examining them, but they’ve moved away from that now. Which is good, except that meant I stuck around with Snowdrop instead of coming back hours later. You can see him below, looking at me and hoping for rescue. He didn’t get it.To my surprise, he didn’t put up a fight at all, but let the vets examine him, give him his shots and so forth. He’s in great shape (yay!) and not overweight (yay again!). I took him home, then we let him out in the backyard. He didn’t bear us a grudge and was quite happy to accept petting later.

Now, as to the computer: my laptop has been suffering from keys sticking for a while but it’s been getting really bad lately. I cleaned out the keyboard with compressed air but it didn’t improve things enough, so Monday I ordered a new laptop. Arrival: Wednesday.

Or so I thought. Because I added memory, they couldn’t just take one off the rack and the delivery date is Oct. 5. I didn’t realize that — they didn’t exactly highlight that detail — so Tuesday afternoon after getting back from the vet I just blew work off, ditto Wednesday morning. Why work with a glitchy keyboard when I’d have a smooth-operating computer so soon?

That’s a couple of days I won’t get back. I’m annoyed at my inefficiency, though I still finished one of my paying accounting articles. And I got most of my advance promotional work for Questionable Minds done Monday. I also posted at Atomic Junkshop about the New Mutants team and Richard Powers’ cover art.For really good news, I got my payments from Draft2Digital for a couple of books that sold this summer. And my golem article came out in Jews in Popular Science Fiction at last.I haven’t read it yet but the table of contents looks interesting.Being published makes up for a lot. Have a great weekend everyone.

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The Dismal Diarrhea of Defeat!

I thought I would end July with a productive week.

Alas, not so much.

I spent last weekend at ConGregate, a Winston-Salem con, and had a great time. I was on eight or nine panels, chatted with a lot of NC writers I know and discovered an excellent coffee/tea shop across the street (really good loose leaf tea). The hotel restaurant was reasonably priced. I also picked up some good used books at a sale table (two Philip K. Dick, one Andre Norton) though that kept me from buying anything new from my friends.

There was also a nice moment on one panel — I forget which one — in which I was commenting on how many of my stories get turned down of late, and John Hartness of Falstaff Books commented “and yet, you’re in this side of the table as a published author.” I think I needed to hear that.

Oh, and I sold one of my books after one of the attendees heard me give a reading from The Wodehouse Murder Case.

I came home Sunday and decided to devote Monday to various tasks around the house, such as finding a contractor to fix a small siding problem. Then back to work Tuesday. In hindsight, not the best call … and not productive on the task side either. Neither of the contractors I asked for quotes were free to do the job.

Monday afternoon, Trixie began demanding to go out and crap every couple of hours. The poop wasn’t as runny as in some times past, but it was semisolid at best, and in remarkably small quantities every time. Knowing this could keep up a while, I volunteered to sleep with Trixie in the spare bedroom (the shot of her in the laundry basket has no relation to her being ill, it just looks cute) so that TYG could get some sleep. Sure enough, every couple of hours Trixie decided she needed to go out. I’d thought I might be able to work in between walkies as I wouldn’t get back to sleep but various matters distracted me so no sleep and no work.

Needless to say, I was a total wreck Tuesday, unfit for work; besides sleeping I think I might have done some blogging, but not much else. We tried making an appointment for Trixie but had to settle for Wednesday. Tuesday night passed without problems and I slept like a log. So soundly I woke up late which left me off-balance the rest of the day. I know it’s a weakness but I really need a couple of hours before the dogs join me downstairs if I’m to get my head in the game.

As Trixie seemed fine we canceled the appointment, then guess what happened Wednesday night? I slept through it with an Ambien — I was going to drive the car to our dealer for some servicing and I wanted to be awake for that — but we canceled that and made another appointment for Trixie that day. The doctor decided the antibiotics from her UTI might be the cause. We have her on a concentrated probiotic regimen for a couple of days. Last night she slept with me in the spare room again, just in case. She had no problems but as often happens the night after I take Ambien, I didn’t sleep well.

So the long and short of it is I got next to nothing done. What I did accomplish included proofing the golem article I worked on last year and doing some promotional work for Questionable Minds. I signed up for a blog tour to promote it so I spent Thursday getting a lot of details for that in place. We’ll see if it gets results down the road.

I didn’t get my exercise routines or most other routines done this week either. Though looking over my July goals, I got way more of them done than usual, and all the important ones done. That’s cool, even if this week doesn’t feel that way.

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What a difference a year makes!

My birthday 2021 was, I wrote, “meh,” starting with having had almost no sleep. I woke up this morning refreshed. Last year we didn’t do anything much because of the pandemic; this year we’re boosted, covid’s dying down (yes, I’m aware a new variant is on the horizon) and we’re going to have fun.

It’s a sign of the changes that last weekend was well, strange. No, not because of an eclipse, that photo’s from the lunar one in December. But TYG and I were actually social, in person, for the first time in ages. A friend of ours was in town so she came over to meet the dogs and then go out to dinner. Sunday I went to my friend and fellow writer Allegra Gullino‘s birthday party (TYG had to work). I ate, chatted with Allegra and a bunch of our fellow writers and had a terrific time.

It’s also been, looking back, a good year. I didn’t get much fiction done but I finished The Aliens Are Here, finished Undead Sexist Cliches (and I hand-sold one to my friend), and finished the golem article I was working on (looking back a year ago, it’s striking how much golem-fiction I was reading). Now I’m looking at a year with lots of time to write fiction.

And of course I have TYG — my personal happy ever after — and the pups, and the cats. I know none of this is forever because nothing is (and lord knows what Republicans will do to this country before I die) but life is better right now than I ever imagined it would be at 64.

Happy birthday to me.

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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.

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The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and stuff like that

Which is to say I can see real progress on Alien Visitors though nowhere as much as I’d like to see. The biggest challenge is trying to explain my insights into the various subgenres coherently and not having too much of a listicle feel. When I’ve read chapters to my writing group, the recurring complaint has been that there are too many points where I just list movies without any context or identifying information. And because several shows and films are referenced in multiple chapters I’ll eventually have to prune information that I repeat in too many places.

Still I have everything but the comedy chapter in a reasonably good shape (the superhero chapter is a little rough). I’m not sure why comedy is proving so elusive, but it is. But I’ll work on comedy and superheroes this weekend, as well as figuring out how to manage my time for November between now and the Nov. 20 deadline. Then all I have to do is deliver on it.

That includes time for watching various TV shows (Roswell Conspiracies, X-Files) and movies. Because I keep discovering new insights or examples when I watch new movies, so it’s worth making the time. This week, for example, I got good ideas from both Lilo and Stitch and Absolutely Anything (details when I get to the review post in about a week or so). So I keep pushing myself, even though it’s sometimes hard to find the time.

Other than that, I got some Leafs done — I should have most of next week Leaf free, which will be great for the book — and a friend showed me his cover designs for Undead Sexist Cliches. I think we have a winner; cover reveal will come soon. Oh, and I’ve finished all nine chapters so I just have the afterword to proof.

And showing why proofreading is necessary, I discovered I’d screwed up the footnotes to chapter nine, which I am fixing as part of the final revisions. It’s quite obvious I won’t get the book done by the end of this month but I can still finish it simultaneously with wrapping up Alien Visitors. I hope so, anyway.

I did finish and resubmit my edited golem article so that’s out the way. And I’m pleased with my work too. Much like the way I break down Alien Visitor films and TV into various patterns and themes (I did the same thing for time travel films in my last book), I look at golems as defenders, destroyers, artificial life forms, their relationships with other people and golems vs. the Holocaust. My editor was pleased with it too — the rewrites were minor.

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I may be running slightly out of steam …

Which may be due to lack of sleep — okay, it’s definitely partly lack of sleep — or that to get Alien Visitors done, I’m not taking any complete days off.

Either way, I realized this morning that I needed to take a break from the book. I did a Leaf, worked on Undead Sexist Cliches and finished the Golem article. That  required rereading Gustav Meyrink’s The Golem as my editor wanted to include it (fair enough — it was a critically acclaimed novel that sold a lot). I can’t say I liked it more than my first reading, but I can appreciate why it’s strangeness found an audience.

I still have to give the article a final proofread, but I think I’m done.

Earlier in the week, though, things went great. I have a solid draft of every chapter in Alien Visitors except the comedy and Men in Black chapters. The other chapters still need rewriting, but I think they’re at the point where it’ll go smoother, and hopefully faster, than these first drafts have.

I also got lots of movies and TV watched, including more X-Files, a British show called Undermind (doesn’t quite qualify) and a couple of episodes of Ben 10.

Wisp has resumed coming in overnight so apparently she’s over the trauma of being bunged in a cage last week. Snowdrop has been showing up regularly, though she doesn’t come in yet. She and Wisp seem on good enough terms Wisp doesn’t steal her food; then again, she’s quite happy to snarf Wisp’s if she can get away with it.

We had a minor alarm with Trixie midweek, when she moped around as she does with a bad stomach upset, except she was happy to eat. We made an appointment for her but the next day she was fine. We canceled, though we both worried that once it was too late, the symptoms would recur. They didn’t. That’s a relief — I love my little terrier/chihuahua.

Come on, who couldn’t love that face?

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The Secret Origins of Superman? Maybe (A books read post)

Based on a recommendation from my friend Ross I checked Brad Ricca’s SUPER BOYS: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster out of the library to gain more perspective on the Alien Superheroes chapter (which focuses on Superman for obvious reasons). Ricca does a very good job chronicling the guys’ lives and early creative endeavors (Siegel wrote some remarkably funny columns for his high school paper) to the later years when Shuster did kinky illustrations for one magazine and Siegel was working on Archie Comics’ way too camp line of superheroes (curiously, given Ricca mentions Siegel’s fondness for the Shadow, he doesn’t mention his work on Archie’s painfully bad Shadow comic).

Ricca also does a very good job showing how Cleveland, the guys’ home town, was an inspiration. Cleveland was a city of notoriously reckless drivers; Superman makes war on reckless drivers in a couple of stories. Some of his early stunts weren’t that far off from what professional strongmen touring the Midwest were doing. However his determination to trace everything Siegel wrote to a real-world root or some element of Siegel’s tortured soul gets old and unconvincing fast. Overall, though, a good read.

DISGUISED AS CLARK KENT: Jews, Comics and the Creation of the Superhero by Danny Fingeroth is less persuasive in arguing that contrary to popular assumptions about comics’ many Jewish creators (that the field was desperate enough not to have issues hiring Jews that more prestigious publication avenues might), Jews were naturally drawn to create characters who championed the oppressed and the vulnerable.  And wasn’t Superman losing his entire planet a reflection on how Jews had been cut from their culture when they emigrated, then later on the impact of the Holocaust (while Peter Novick argues the Holocaust wasn’t a major issue for American Jews in the 1950s and ’60s, I suppose a subconscious reaction isn’t out of the question)?

Some of this was interesting: while the idea of the X-Men as a metaphor for Jews isn’t new to me, I had no idea Claremont was half-Jewish himself and specifically referenced that and anti-Semitism as an influence. A lot of the time, he comes off as reaching — the idea Doctor Doom as a Roma is lashing out because of his people’s deaths during the Holocaust doesn’t fit the Silver Age take on Doom at all. This was worth a look but not as insightful as it might have been.

Moving from one project to another: the editor on my golem article specifically asked me to include Marge Piercy’s HE, SHE AND IT in my revisions so I read it this week. While I knew Piercy equated a cyborg character to a golem I wasn’t aware it went beyond that, to include an entire retelling of the Golem of Prague legend.

The story concerns Shira, a Jewish woman in a dystopian, corporate-dominated near future. Having lost her son in a custody dispute, she returns to her Jewish hometown and discovers her mother’s neighbor, Avram Stein, has built a cyborg, Yod, to defend them (yes, the use of “stein” for the scientist is not coincidental). Both Joseph the golem and Yod the cyborg have no problem dealing with ruthlessly with threats, but have to ask if that’s really how they want to live their life.

Unfortunately Piercy’s writing embodies everything I hate about literary SF — constant info-dumps, lots of navel gazing, characters who can understand and discuss the torments of their soul with crystalline clarity, then talk about them at length. I forced myself through so I can finish the article but I am massively underwhelmed.

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White dogs on dope!

So Sunday I was applying the hot water bottle to Plushie’s hips (they get very stiff otherwise) and he began wriggling out of my arms as if uncomfortable. I resisted, he tried climbing up over my arms and then he gave the pain whimper. Once we confirmed that yes, he was in pain, we took him to the emergency vet. This time he managed something new, pulling one of the long muscles in his side. So back on cage rest just a couple of months after last time. I’d be worried it would be non-stop but this is a separate problem from last time.

The painkillers and muscle relaxants he’s on make Plushie dopey, so he spends most of the day dozing in there. Still he gets miserable and demanding enough to distract me from work. And as TYG sleeps downstairs to be near him, just in case he has a pain attack or something, our schedule is a mess. Usually I start writing when I wake up, come down when TYG wakes, write some more (mixed in with dog care) and do my stretching, yoga and exercise later.

Happily, Plushie is improving fast so it couldn’t have been too bad an injury. This makes him needier and more demanding for Freedom!! but we’re happy about it just the same.

Wisp has been a surprisingly good trooper for all this. I have to sleep in the main bedroom with Trixie (Trixie would freak out if we left her alone) so Wisp spends her nights alone in the spare bedroom. Didn’t faze her as much as I thought. Last night she didn’t come in but that’s more because White Cat was hanging around. They seem to get along — no catfights so far — but last night Wisp seemed to be hissing and asserting her dominance a lot.

Despite all that, it was a productive week. I redid the introduction, which I’ll be reading to the writers’ group next week, plus the Invasion chapter and got several other chapters rough drafted. I watched some X-Files and did some research reading.

I finally read my editor’s critique of the golem article. There’s a couple of books she wants me to add to the piece, and a little more commentary in spots (how well did the different stories work?). It’ll be easier to deliver by deadline (end of next month) than I feared.

I also got a couple of chapters final-rpoofed on Undead Sexist Cliches; happily it’s still requiring only light copy-editing. I hope that keeps up. I have an appointment for early October to talk to a cover designer a friend recommended. I’ve also begun work on the book blurb.

There were, surprisingly, no new Leafs this week. I’m guessing it’s the end of the fiscal year and things’ll be back to normal next month. While this is a hit to my bottom line, the timing is great for extra work on Alien Visitors. I’ll be putting in more of that tomorrow, while TYG’s free to sit downstairs with Plush and Trixie.

One more month and I’ll have both books and the golem story done, barring disasters. I like that thought. Oh, and one of my Philosophy and Fairytales collections sold on Smashwords. I like that too! Thanks, whoever you were!

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A man, a plan, a canal — only no canal and not really a plan

(For those who don’t know, the title comes from the palindrome “A man, a plan, a canal — Panama.”).

So last month I just threw up my hands and stopped my usual efforts to make a monthly to-do list. Due to Wisp coming in every morning, the stuff I do early (meditate, voice exercises) hasn’t been getting done. And my writing to-dos are pretty basic: 1)Finish Alien Visitors by the end of October; 2)finish my article on golems by the same date; 3)finish Undead Sexist Cliches, ditto. So why worry beyond mapping out my work for the week?

Now that we’ve moved out of August and into September, I’m finding that a little uncomfortable. I like the structure my monthly to-do list gives me, even if I don’t handle more than half of the list. So I’ll probably bite the bullet and resume for October. I’m already trying to reinstitute some of my morning activities into my day somewhere. It’s just difficult, as I get caught up in writing or I suddenly have to take care of the dogs. I love them, but they are not helpful to achieving a meditative state.

This week I had no Leaf articles so it was almost all Alien Visitors, and it went well. I rewrote the introduction into a reasonably polished state, then rewrote the Invasion chapter as well. Having something finished enough I can say “Yeah, I’ll get this book done” is very satisfying. And that despite some extra dog care, including an unplanned vet trip — nothing serious, just Trixie needed a checkup for a sore foot. She’s now in the cone of shame to stop her chewing on it.

Oh, and I updated one of my old posts — about the Bronze Age Freedom Fighters series — and posted it at Atomic Junkshop.

I also made a start on adding a few final notes to Undead Sexist Cliches — items I bookmarked that were worthy of adding, some information from Jesus and John Wayne. I’d meant to start revising my golem piece as well, but the vet visit took up too much time. I’d thought I could get some research reading done but Trixie, who’s usually into wandering around sniffing everything, insisted on sitting on my lap and getting stroked. So she got her wish, of course.

Wisp has still been coming on at night on a regular basis. This morning she came in mid-morning, which hasn’t happened in a while. I suspect she’ll be spending more time indoors as the weather drops. Hopefully she’ll go back to snoozing while she’s in — it’s much easier to get work done that way. There’s a white cat that’s been sniffing around our house lately, but Wisp doesn’t seem compelled to establish her turf and drive the stranger off. If the new cat comes regularly enough, we’ll schedule a spay/neuter at the local clinic, then trap it. We don’t see it consistently enough yet.

Fall has definitely started. Temperatures were relatively mild earlier this week (I emphasize “relatively”) and this morning it was almost chilly enough to require more than shorts and a T-shirt. It’s quite welcome.

For this weekend, I anticipate cooking, reading and as usual watching Alien Visitor films. If the weather stays nice, maybe bicycling as well.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

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This week unfolded almost as I anticipated

With TYG’s and my second vaccine shots on Monday and Tuesday respectively, I wanted to make sure there was nothing on my writing to-do list that had to be completed after Monday. That way, if worst came to worst, as I said a couple of weeks back, I could just lie around doing nothing.

Worst actually came to worst Monday night. I woke after a couple of hours, which was normal, but instead of going back to sleep I got hit by a panic attack: what if I couldn’t get back to sleep? How could I make it to the Walgreens some ten miles away (not my preference, but it was the first available when I was making the appointments) if I was too tired to drive? Aaaaaaah! As usual, fear of not getting enough sleep guaranteed I did not get enough sleep. Fortunately, TYG, while feeling rundown Tuesday after her shot, was able to drive me there; I could probably have managed it but I wouldn’t have trusted my judgment had I had to make any decisions.

You can see a shot of myself here on the monitor at the pharmacy. I thought I looked kind of look a weird troll out of a Twin Peaks dream sequence or something, but it doesn’t quite come across in the photo.

My decision to wrap up everything early proved wise. Wednesday I felt much like I did when my seasonal allergies kick in: tired, drained, almost feverish, strongly desirous of rest. Having gotten my golem article in on Monday, I was free to rest, or as free as possible given the need to walk and care for dogs. TYG, fortunately, was about the same level. It was unpleasant, but livable. I spent Wednesday reading and watching TV, and of course napping a lot.

Thursday I felt normal, just tiring very easily. That may also have something to do with Plushie having digestive difficulties that requires taking him out around 1:30 AM. I sat downstairs with him after that — I divined correctly that he might need more trips — and didn’t catch up on sleep. So more TV and napping, though I also batted out a final Leaf article for the month.

And then last night, it happened again. Fortunately Plushie didn’t need it more than once so I got most of a full night of sleep. I turned in a Veterans Network article this morning (and one I’d written on Atomic Veterans came out this week) and then we had a vet checkup for both pups. The rehab treatment has done well by both of them, particularly Trixie; Plushie still has some leg weakness. I suppose that may reflect his advancing age, sigh.

So not much accomplished this week, but that was planned for. Successfully, if I do say so. For the month I got about 55 percent of my goals accomplished, but given how I had to shift my schedule to prepare for this week, I don’t feel bad about that.

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