Tag Archives: Oh the Places You’ll Go

May ends. June begins. Things occur. And there’s a cat photo in the middle of this post, so keep reading

One occurrence: I applied a month or so back to do some freelancing for The Local Reporter, a Chapel Hill nonprofit newspaper (Chapel Hill, like Raleigh, neighbors Durham). This week they contacted me, said a change in editor led to my response falling through the cracks, and they were interested. We talked on the phone; sounds like I’d be doing mostly business-related stories, and not a lot of them (the budget, at the moment, won’t stretch to a ton of articles). But it would be income, and the kind of gig I’m familiar with, so I’m down with it. I’ll let you know when something comes out.

Another occurrence: as I mentioned last week, I was blocked on Oh the Places You’ll Go because I hadn’t reconciled to doing more rewriting than my beta-readers had suggested. Monday, I got down to it; by Tuesday evening I’d gone through two rewrites and much improved things, including fixing the problems my beta-readers flagged. However I’ve introduced a couple more: a change in the time-travel rules required more exposition but what I wrote is neither clarifying nor enjoyable, just muddled and confusing. So more work ahead to smooth it out.

I sat down and rewrote the third chapter of Let No Man Put Asunder as I’ll be reading that to the writing group soon as I get on the schedule. I realized the fight scene needed a lot of work — too much banter instead of attacking — and I think I’ve fixed it. We’ll see what the group thinks.

That took up most of the week. Plus I had a post at Atomic Junkshop on Silver Age DC (possibly) knocking off Marvel’s storytelling style. Below, for instance, Gil Kane and John Broome inflict some atypical angst on Green Lantern. Plus I’m in Con-Tinual’s YouTube channel discussing mythological tropes in fantasy.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Dogs, disorder and doom! Okay, not much doom.

Another week where things did not go as well as planned. But let’s start off with good news: I had my semi-annual checkup this week and all my signs (cholesterol, weight, blood pressure) are better than last time. So yay! This is good.

Otherwise this was a sub-par week. Wednesday Plushie was having a mood, constantly barking whenever I came close to having a coherent thought. Thursday morning, before the doctor’s appointment, I just couldn’t focus. I suppose not eating so they could get clear lab results might have something to do with that. The dogs were both needy this morning, plus we had the housekeepers in.

At several points I wound up working on The Savage Adventures because it required much less creative thought than anything else.

It would have been worse if I’d gone to the in-person writing group Tuesday (as I’ve mentioned before, I wake up exhausted), though next time I’m going. I’ll have to schedule around sleeping late Wednesday or something. I intend to read the first chapter of Let No Man Put Asunder so I worked on that this week, tightening it up.  I got a little work done on Oh the Places You’ll Go; in hindsight not getting more was because after getting it beta-read, I’d started seeing a bunch more stuff I wanted to change. Today I faced up to that and started a more thorough rewrite than I’d planned.

Oh, I also finished proofing 19-Infinity and got some cover sketches. So I guess I’m on the way to publication, though also nervous that somehow I’ll have missed something in editing. Maybe one more pass, just focusing on spelling and grammar? We’ll see.

A few links of interest: I have a post on various Silver Age comics scenes up at Atomic Junk Shop. For example —Does that look like a plain Jane to you? Another post looks at how often superheroes wind up fighting when a little talk could resolve things, like in the Spectre’s encounter with Anti-Matter Man below.Two of the Con-Tinual panels I’ve been on are up on YouTube, one on worldbuilding for small towns, one on Hammer Horror.

One last good note: someone checked out one of my books again on Hoopla. Thanks, whoever! Still, next week needs to be better.

#SFWApro. Art by Bob Kane, Carmine Infantino and Mike Sekowsky, all rights remain with current holders.

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

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

Cutting exposition isn’t always the smart play

First off, here’s the cover for Oh the Places You’ll Go. Still needs some added lettering of course but I think the image works for a story about traveling through maps.

Earlier this month I solicited beta readers from my writing group. Normally I’d have submitted it for feedback in one of our meetings but at 8,000 words it would take around three sessions to finish and that’s a minimum of six weeks, assuming I read every meeting. I wanted quicker. The results were helpful but showed I’d made some mistake revising from the original.

The premise is that when countries die — annexed by bigger nations, split up by secession — the passion of their inhabitants doesn’t disappear. If you have, say, a 10th century map of Burgundy, you’re within those borders and you have the knack for “traveling,” you can will yourself back there. Ditto the Ottoman Empire, the Confederate States of America, the USSR, etc.

When I read the first version of the story to the group, several points kept coming up in the feedback. It’s too talky and expository. Not enough happens once my protagonists go back into the past. A map of the future that plays a role in the plot wasn’t imaginative enough.

I solved that last problem by setting the story in 1970 so the map is our time. From the 1970 perspective a world where part of Pakistan is Bangladesh, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have broken up, etc., is radical change, and I didn’t have to strain my brain to come up with it. I worked to have encounters with other travelers and to reduce the exposition. This is one of the standard bits of writing advice, of course: don’t assume your readers need everything explained. If the story is strong they’ll wait until you explain the rules. Don’t bog down the opening with exposition. Resist the urge to explain unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Judging from the feedback, I took it too far. My betas were completely confused by some stuff that I never explained — I was hoping it would be understandable by inference — and other stuff they needed much earlier in the story than I covered it. I shall rewrite accordingly.

This is why beta reading matters. I’m sure there are writers brilliant enough to do without it, but for most of us — particularly in specfic, where readers may not know how the world operates — it’s essential. I’m so lucky to have such a cool group.


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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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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Short Stories, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

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