Tag Archives: let no man put asunder

It’s day 139 of 2023; so how am I doing?

The 139th day of 2023 — 38 percent of the year — isn’t any sort of benchmark, but I did spend a morning this week reviewing my year goals and how they’re progressing. I had a couple of nights of really bad sleep this week so by mid-week I needed to work on something that didn’t require any creativity.

(Here’s another photo of Wylan the kitten, with one of his favorite toys.)

The year is going well in many ways. I’ve already finished the six shorts I wanted to get done this year. I’ve written 150,000 words of fiction when I’d planned on 100,000 by this point. Work on 19-Infinity is progressing well (I’m debating using the word Infinity rather than the symbol). So is the work on Let No Man Put Asunder and Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I wanted to make 10 story submissions by the end of May; I’ve submitted 18. My blood pressure has improved from late last year (next week my doctor will tell me if it’s improved enough) and I had a fun birthday.

This month, however, I’ve felt the energy slacken. Part of that is that instead of focusing on one or two short stories at a time, I’m now working on multiple stories so none of the get anywhere. Partly that’s because they’re still raw enough I don’t know which one of them will finish first. Even so, I think I need to start concentrating on one or two at a time. I also need to prioritize in other ways. 19-Infinity, Oh the Places You’ll Go and Let No Man Put Asunder come higher than first or second draft stories.

My writing income is still flat since Leaf and my other client stopped soliciting my services last year. Fortunately I have Social Security but it’s still a lot tighter — and lord knows what will happen with the looming debt crisis. And of course it would be really nice to sell something now and again.As for this week’s performance, it was underwhelming. Even with a writer’s work day last Sunday, I just barely made my hours for the week. Maybe it’s that working six days is pushing it, or some other reason but today and yesterday I really slumped. It felt like the days before TYG worked from home, when the dogs would scrunch up with me and erode my personal space to the point my brain fried. As I haven’t had more dog-care than usual this week, I don’t know why that would be. But it was.

That said, I did get some of those 18 submissions out and I met my monthly quota for Let No Man Put Asunder. I read part of Chapter Two to the group and got a big thumbs up (some criticism but more enthusiasm). Big enough I feel slightly nervous living up to it with Chapter Three. But that’s far from the worst problem to have.

Hopefully next week I’ll be fully focused. Wish me luck …


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Magic in fantasy: use vs. works

Back last December on Camestros Felapton’s blog (I don’t remember the specific post) there was a comment about two ways of approaching magic in fiction: “it seems to me that some ways of thinking about magic are ontological/analytical, and some are teleological/practical. How does the magic “work” vs how the magic is used. Which is most important to you as a reader/reviewer/critic? Which is most important to the writers creating these systems? Which is most important to the people who live in the worlds created by the writers? There isn’t a single right answer.”

Stories about how magic works would include, of course, the many stories with magic systems: the Mistborn books, Alan Moore’s tedious Promethea comics (very much about his theories of magic), D&D novels. Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry where wizards draw power from an individual’s life force. Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories. A. Merritt’s science fantasies.

The Silver Age Dr. Strange stories by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (who was probably the prime mover ont he project) are much more about how magic is used.  What’s important is that Stephen Strange uses magic to stand between us and the dark forces: Baron Mordo, Dormammu, Nightmare, Umar and Taboo, Tyrant of the Eighth Dimension.

Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books likewise focus on magic in action: the bad guys using it to hurt people, Harry using it to protect them, as in the first book in the series, Storm Front. In Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, what matters is Conan fighting the magic, not how it works.That doesn’t mean “magic has no rules” (the standard complaint by those science fiction fans who dislike fantasy). The Dresden books give us magic rules but the system isn’t the important thing; Ditko’s Dr. Strange stories use magic consistently, they just don’t spell them out. Conversely, stories that emphasize magic systems usually deal with how magic is used: the Lord Darcy stories are all about Darcy and his sidekick Sean using magic to solve crime.

Some stories are a mix of both. In Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife, there’s a lot about the rules of magic; protagonist Norman wins because he’s able to analyze them logically and apply them more effectively than his adversaries. However it’s also about how magic is used: stay-at-home wives working sorcery covertly to advance their husband’s careers.

In Southern Discomfort I deal with the rules enough to keep things consistent but I’m much more interested in what magic does. In Questionable Minds, the rules governing psychic power are much more important. In Let No Man Put Asunder, it’s all about how it’s used: there are multiple character operating under different magic system so the rules are a free-for-all (though individual characters’ skills stay consistent).No real deep insights, I know, but I still find Camestros’ comment interesting.

#SFWApro. Images top to bottom by Rodney Matthews, Steve Ditko, Lee Macleod and Samantha Collins. All rights remain with current holders.

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This is why I haven’t made it to the in-person writer’s group for a while.

In addition to the bi-weekly writer’s group Zoom meetings, I really enjoy the live action meetings on the alternate Tuesdays … but I haven’t gone to many this  year. It means staying out late, which is fun, but I do need to get to work the next morning. And with the dogs needing more morning care as they age, plus the cats, I don’t have as much flexibility as I used to.

Tuesday I went anyway, had a great time but even though I skipped the after-meeting get-together I got home late enough to be exhausted. That did not leave me in peak form Wednesday morning; coupled with knowing I had a blood donation appointment that afternoon, my brain just stopped cooperating. I did some blogging, that was about it.

Then Wednesday night I had an absolutely awful insomnia leaving me largely fried mentally the next day.  I’ll definitely have to plan better next time I go.

I wound up spending a lot of time on my Savage Adventures book about Doc Savage because polishing and expanding my blog posts is a lot easier than writing more creatively. I’ve now completed about 19,000 words.

I got some work done on the rewrite of Oh the Places You’ll Go and another chapter finished on Let No Man Put Asunder. I edited my rewrite of Love That Moves the Sun and did some more proofing of 19-Infinity. I met with Kemp Ward, who did the cover on Undead Sexist Cliches and he’s going to work up some cover sketches from my ideas.

I was on a  time travel panel at Con-Tinual and posted on Atomic Junk Shop about Fantastic Four Annual #4 and the tragedy of Quasimodo, the Quasimotivational Destruct Organism, shown below. I also blogged about comic-book loose ends.

Sunday I’m hosting a writer’s work day so I’ll make up some of the lost time.

#SFWApro. Cover by James Bama, comics panels by Jack Kirby.

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Week in review: No need to cry “Mayday!”

Which is to say the week went well. Okay, Obolus got its first rejection but I’ve never sold anything to Fantasy and Science Fiction and have no reason to think this one would do any better. But why not start with an A-list market? To their credit, they always respond fast. I submitted two stories to other markets; perhaps they’ll do better.

I’m having fresh challenges with Wisp as she’s decided my lap on the couch is preferable to her pillow on the back of the couch. That’s fine in itself but if Trixie’s there too she’ll demand equal petting time so I wind up with both hands on my pets and none free to write with. No hostility beyond that, even when I get up and leave them on the couch.

First, I am now officially the publisher Behold the Book, having filed a “doing business as” certificate with Durham County. I have made that official on all my published books at Draft2Digital but haven’t figured out how to do it with the Amazon paperbacks yet.

I got some more work done on my Doc Savage nonfiction book, including rereading The Red Skull; despite the relatively low stakes (land containing valuable deposits) it’s a dynamic, action-packed adventure and a pleasure to reread. There are no scenes as cool as the James Bama cover though.

I got around 3,000 words done on Let No Man Put Asunder. It’s going a lot slower now but I think that’s necessary. As I mentioned earlier this week it’s lost focus along the way and I need to get that back. Part of that is that I’m having to think through What Comes Next a good deal more. But I’m pleased with the results so far.

I read the book’s second chapter to the writer’s group. I’d been concerned they’d find it too slow-paced as the section I read is heavy on talk and not much action. Instead they thought it was a little too fast and needed more moments for Paul and Mandy to pause and reflect (see this post from last month about speed in fiction). Good information to have.

I also got further on the rewrite of The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It’s also slowing down as I get out of the opening chapters (frequently rewritten) into terra relatively incognita.

I worked on rewriting Oh the Places You’ll Go — feedback from the group was way helpful there — and rewrote The Cheap Assassin, getting it much closer to what it needs to be. If the next draft improves as much, it might be ready for beta-reading. The big problem is that I haven’t come up with an ending that works yet; I may just take it to group with a bad ending and ask for suggestions (I’ve done that before. It helps).

I worked on proofing 19-Infinity and I have a meeting with a possible cover artist next week.Over at Atomic Junkshop I look at Marvel in ’66 and rewrote and reposted and old blog entry here about DC’s Guy Gardner. I’m also over on YouTube in a Con-Tinual panel about the future of pandemic fiction. You can see one of the Marvels I mention, Millie the Model reuniting with the hip Liverpool band, the Gears.

Oh, and someone bought a copy of Undead Sexist Cliches on Amazon! Thanks, stranger (if you are, in fact, a stranger).#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders, Millie cover by Stan Goldberg, Undead Sexist Cliches cover by Kemp Ward.

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Where are we now? Writing and setting

As I mentioned last year, when I started rewriting Let No Man Put Asunder I switched the opening chapter from a small college town to Blue Ivy (I suspect the name will change), an industrial, working-class city in 1976 with a few excellent colleges. The opening scenes around Rolly’s, a grimy diner, were vivid enough I decided to keep Paul and Mandy in town, rather than plunging them into the interdimensional adventures of the previous version.

Trouble is, now I have to come up with more settings that keep me, and hopefully readers, interested. Instead of abandoned cities or sinister towers, I need Blue Ivy settings that look just as cool, and provide somewhere interesting for the action scenes. Up until this month, I’ve been falling down on the job. The settings either felt unreal or generic, like the big, long-established church for one fight scene. Aside from Mandy’s house, the first time since Rolly’s that I said “yes!” was when they stayed at the Mercury Motel.

In the 20th century tradition of quirky roadside lodging (like the windmill image above, courtesy of the Library of Congress), the Mercury remodeled itself in 1961 to take advantage of interest in the Mercury space missions. Space-capsule salt and pepper shakers, cool space and rocket-related decor, all of which has stayed in place as the space program faded away. It’s no longer trendy but it’s colorful enough to attract drivers going by. But between that and Chapter Three it felt like the environment was dull.

My first step was to get a clearer idea of Blue Ivy. I didn’t want it to be the kind of small town where everyone knows everyone. I eventually settled on Pittsburgh as a model, but only a loose one: keeping the town fictional means I don’t have to be accurate about real-world details. Looking at photos of Pittsburgh in the 1970s gives me visuals, like the bridge Paul and Mandy drive over in one chapter(As TYG and I stayed in Pittsburgh for a Mensa event some years back, my photos might be useful too, even though they’re not period).

Even if I didn’t (yet) use specific photos like this one below of the Union Trust Building —— they’ve prompted my mind to start thinking of other locations. Rather than the big old church, it’s now a small church in a working-class neighborhood; when Paul and Mandy run they hop a chain link fence into a warehouse parking lot, then sneak under the nearest road via a drainage culvert. That’s much more what I’m shooting for.

Another drawback to keeping things on Earth was that inevitably the cops got involved. As I mentioned last month, that led to too many sit-and-discuss scenes and a loss of tension. In the course of changing the setting around I’ve also isolated my protagonists so they have little choice but to run. I can always bring the cops back in if Paul and Mandy need help later.

#SFWApro. Pittsburgh images from Only in Your State, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Thwacked by Thursday!

Writing for April is now done. Despite everything collapsing on Thursday, it was overall a productive week.

Thursday I’d had a bad night of sleep, then got some bad news about a friend of mine so the day was off to a poor start. Then the dogs came down so early I didn’t have time to stretch out or exercise until afternoon. Trying to exercise with Trixie around invariably convinces her to come over and snuggle; Wisp is much the same.

(Speaking of which, here’s a short of them sharing the couch. It’s an awkward situation for me as I usually wind up having to pet them both so nobody gets jealous. this time, as you can see, I’m up doing something).But as I’ve said before, that’s the nature of “average” —  some days just by blind chance will come out below average. I recovered today, applying for a writing gig and submitting a couple of shorts, but I wound up short of my hours for the week. I’ve been over in other weeks, though, so that averages out too.

I rewrote some more of Let No Man Put Asunder, which I’ll discuss in detail next week. I did a final proof/rewrite of Obolus — formerly Paying the Ferryman — and sent it off to Fantasy and Science Fiction. I also finished rewriting Impossible Things Before Breakfast, based on suggestions from other collaborators in the Ceaseless Way anthology. Plus I began proofing 19-Infinity. As usual, there’s more that needs fixing than I thought.

And that was pretty much it. Except over at Atomic Junk Shop I blogged about the end of Marvel’s Silver Age crime cartel, the Secret Empire, and the creepy way Chris Claremont handled the romance between 14-year-old Kitty and 19-year-old Colossus.

Now the weekend, then a new month starting Monday. To mark the transition, here’s an early morning photo I took a few weeks back.#SFWApro

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An unsuccessful experiment in time management, but first: thank you!

First, thank you to whoever checked out Atlas Shagged on Hoopla. I’m glad you took the time to try my stuff. Second, thanks to everyone who reads this blog regularly. It’s good to know there are people out there reading my words, whether it’s books or blog posts.

The unsuccessful experiment was trying to put all my tasks for a given day in the to-do list of my BusyCal app (which I switched to when Apple changed iCal to make it unusable for my style of scheduling). It’s a quicker read than when I plot out my whole schedule in Scrivener but it feels more awkward to use, particularly if I want to change and rearrange things (that happens). So probably back to some form of Scrivener page next week.

This week turned out well despite Trixie having combined diarrhea/vomiting late Monday, with some blood in the stool. Whatever it was, it went away after some doses of probiotics and a day of restricted meals, so phew! I hate it when my little angel is sick.For once it was TYG and  not me who woke up because I’d knocked myself out with my ambien prescription and slept through it. I did take Trixie to the vet the next day which threw me off my game I spent Tuesday mostly doing blogging rather than the fiction I’d had scheduled.

I worked a little more on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. This rewrite is still going well. Let No Man Put Asunder less so. I’ve been feeling something about the last few chapters was off and so I spent a couple of hours early in the week trying to nail down the problem. Finally I got it: the interactions with the police have lessened the threat level as Paul and Mandy aren’t going it alone. Not only that, the story’s gotten too talky. So I went back to chapter five and started reworking the story. Chapter Six ends with one cop dead, Paul and Mandy on the run from the law, a ruined church and the threat level upped. However that means the following four chapters are now no good, except for helping show me what not to do.

A couple of my writers’ group friends sent me feedback on Oh the Places You’ll Go. It was really helpful, as I’ll detail in a blog post next week. I’d hoped to start rewriting it but Tuesday threw everything off. Still, overall it was a productive week, so yay.Over at Atomic Junkshop I channeled my past writing on political paranoia in Screen Enemies of the American Way into a general blog post on American political paranoia and one about the JFK assassination in the movies. At Con-Tinual’s YouTube channel I’m on a panel about Hammer horror.

I’ll leave with a couple of photos of Snowdrop when he let me pet him on the couch recently.#SFWApro.

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We have a rose. Also poison ivy

A few years back, TYG asked for a rose for one of our special-day gifts — I don’t remember if it was a birthday, Valentine’s Day or an anniversary. Trouble was, whenever rose-planting season rolled around, she was slammed with work and could neither go shopping nor work with me to plant it.

This year, however, she has the time. After I read up on roses, we decided we’d be better off with a professional and I contacted Witherspoon Rose Culture. They planted it earlier this month.It’s grown a couple more blooms since then.

Unfortunately the rose dude pointed out that we had poison ivy in the same bed. I’ve sent out bids to several contractors who specialize in dealing with it, though if need be it’s doable by myself. Very carefully of course.

Once again this week I planned to attend the in-person meeting of our writing group (it’s live/Zoom on alternating Tuesdays) but didn’t make it. Just too tired, so I sat around and watched TV instead. I didn’t second guess my decision which tells me I made the right call, but I will get back to it soon. The Zoom group is great but it’s nice to see people in person too.

I finished the 10,000 words I committed to writing on Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It slowed down this week as I got into relatively new material (as opposed to chapters that have survived at least two or three drafts) but everything worked. Hopefully I can keep that up. I may write more on the book assuming I stay current on my other goals. I didn’t feel ready to return to Let No Man Put Asunder this week so that one comes first.

I worked on various short stories, mostly doing research or kicking around ideas for stories that have stalled.

I put in a lot of time in correcting 19-Infinity (I’m debating whether to stick with that for a title rather than the infinity symbol. No firm opinion yet) and ordering a hard-copy proof from Amazon. That’ll help me make the final corrections and decide if the fix I put in for the formatting problems works.

Oh, and our taxes are off. TYG dug up the last forms we needed. That took some time — good thing we bought a new printer last year because it’s way smoother than doing it on the old, broken one.

While I didn’t get any Atomic Junk Shop posts up this week, my Con-Tinual panel dealing with mythological tropes is up on YouTube. You can read my most recent mythological contribution, Death is Like a Box of Chocolates, at Mythaxis. I’ll have more in 19-Infinity later this year.

I’m also almost ready to apply for a “doing business as” name for my new self-publishing house. I’ve narrowed it down to two but I’m going to sleep on it over the weekend.

At the end of a week like this I still feel frustrated with my progress. I didn’t sell any stories, didn’t finish anything, 19-Infinity is still several months from going live. I know that’s the nature of the game — writing’s not the sort of career where I get concrete, finished results every week — but it still bugs me. Such is the writer’s mind.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

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First quarter of 2023 done!

To my surprise, I’m not feeling the usual sense of “where did the time go?” I guess when I’m doing fiction and personal nonfiction full-time, rather than the usual business and finance articles, I feel I’ve filled the unforgiving minutes with 60 seconds worth of distance run (as Kipling puts it). Even if the last week of March hasn’t been so satisfying.

TYG’s schedule this week was insane so I’ve been taking care of the dogs for even longer than I normally do when she’s busy. As the weather dipped back into the cold again, Wisp sometimes came in, which made it more complicated: if she sits in my lap, Trixie expects equal amounts of petting so I don’t even have one hand free.

While I didn’t have to get up to care for Plushie’s diarrhea, I woke up one night because some tech problem set off the work alarm on TYG’s phone, then I couldn’t get back to sleep. Next night Trixie woke TYG up and while she was in the kitchen, her making coffee woke me up (not her fault, the spare bedroom’s right over the kitchen and I sleep light). So I’m pretty zonked. I’ve had to spend much of the week doing work that wasn’t overly creative because I simply wasn’t awake enough.

That said, I did get a fair amount done, starting with our income taxes. My first draft, so to speak, had us owing three grand and change; turns out I carried over the wrong figure from one form to my 1040 so the bill is much more reasonable. W00t! Always proofread your work, people!

I solicited some beta readers for Oh the Places You’ll Go which means postponing publication by a month, possibly more if they find problems that need serious rewriting. But the feedback won’t hurt, particularly on whether I do a good job with a heavily gay, one-third black cast. The title when it goes live will be Oh the Places You’ll Go (Not the Doctor Seuss Book) just in case the Seuss estate gets PO’d.

I gave some thought to rewriting Love That Moves the Sun based on editorial feedback and started the next draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer.  I got another draft of Inherit the Howling Night (which is not going to be the title, even though I like it) done. And I spent a lot more time than I wanted on formatting 19-Infinity and Oh the Places You’ll Go. The Draft2Digital formatting system wants to turn all the subheads — like the dates when stories bounce back and forth in time — into chapter headings. Their support team is very helpful — unlike many tech companies, they provide easy access to real people — but it appears there is no easy solution given what I want to do (I’ll detail it at some later date, perhaps).Oh, and I posted at Atomic Junk Shop about DC comics house ads in 1966. Some, like the humorous approach to the Inferior Five above or the Superman below worked great.Others, as you can see at the link, were painful attempts to talk to kids in their own hip language.

Now, as to the first quarter, I took a look at my year’s goals and they’re going well, except for the money (and that’s still better than I initially anticipated). I wanted to write at least 240,000 words of fiction this year and I already have a third of that done. I’ve finished three shorts — my 2023 goal was six — and I’ve submitted to 14 markets (my goal for the first quarter was six), though with no sales. I’m making steady progress toward other goals. On the personal side, I signed up for Medicare and had a great birthday.

Here’s to keeping things going well in Q2!

#SFWApro. Cover by J. Winslow Mortimer, first ad by Joe Orlando, second by Curt Swan. All rights remain with current holders.

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Considering how it started, this week went quite well

When TYG and I got back from our madcap Mensa weekend we picked up the dogs from doggy boarding, then I made chili (quick, easy, tasty — perfect for the end of a long day driving). I’d already planned to take Monday off so that if the dogs, Wisp or Snowdrop wanted some extra attention after our absence I’d have no conflicting obligations. That proved fortunate because Sunday night, Plushie came down with the every-two-hours squirtling diarrhea.

As TYG has a less forgiving boss than I do, I took point on walking him and spent most of Monday in a daze. I tried taking naps during the day but invariably Wisp would start demanding to come in or Plushie would suddenly discover it was time for a new squirtle. He stabilized Monday night thank goodness, then Tuesday TYG took him to the vet. They found nothing; we brought him in for an ultrasound Thursday but haven ‘t heard the results. While we’d love to know why he’s had this problem more than once this year, we’re relieved they didn’t find cancerous lumps in his stomach or anything like that. If diarrheal 1AM walkies are the trade-off for keeping him around, so be it.  But for the moment he’s back to normal potty hours and solid poops.

Oh, here’s a look at him after the ultrasound. He’s so sensitive to pain (“A sensitive boy” as they put it at the vet’s), they drugged him to be comfortably numb. He remained stoned the rest of the evening.I was quite exhausted the rest of the week. Coupled with the cats spending time in the morning, I wound up not getting any exercise done; my diet was none too healthy too. Work, though, went pretty well

First up, I finished the revised Mage’s Masquerade and it looks good. I started looking for markets without any success so far though I did stumble across markets for Bleeding Blue and Fiddler’s Black. Both are now out.

I also put in work on The Cheap Assassin and have at least a working idea of the story/character arc (it’s a character-centric story). At this point, however, it’s heavy on talk rather than action. I need to find a way to have something happen besides exposition. I’ve had that problem before; it’s fixable.

I put in a couple of thousand words on Let No Man Put Asunder which gives me the 10,000 I wanted for this month. I may do more next week but there are other projects I can concentrate on. I also spent some time planning the next draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I’ve realized KC needs to be a lot more intense from the first chapter; I can see how to do it.

I also worked getting the manuscripts for 19-Infinity and Oh the Places You’ll Go ready for self-publishing. That included sending the latter story out for beta-reading. I have a cover image for it as well; hopefully I can have it out and for sale by the end of April.

And over at Atomic Junk Shop I look at the impact of Steve Ditko leaving Marvel plus a couple of stories I just like. Over at Con-Tinual’s YouTube channel, I’m one of the panelist discussing mythological tropes.#SFWApro. Have a great weekend everyone. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

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