Tag Archives: Questionable Minds

I slept well this week. I imagine DST this weekend will fix that

Switching back and fro from Daylight Savings Time to Standard has disrupted my sleep schedule (and millions of other people’s) for years. As I’ve aged, it gets worse. There’s a bipartisan push in Congress to end the switch; I hope it works.

But for some reason I did sleep remarkably well this week, even with Wisp occasionally in the bed with me and demanding petting. Getting a full night’s sleep sometimes works against me — being able to work uninterrupted in the early morning has some advantages — but this week it didn’t. Partly that’s because my various projects require research reading and research viewing (for Alien Visitors) which makes it easier to squeeze in a little extra work. The doggy care wasn’t particularly demanding, though I am getting quite wiped after lunch walkies. Thinking back, it’s the first time since Trixie’s injury last year that I’ve been giving her a full morning walk while it’s still cool enough for a full lunch walk. Apparently that and the heat is taking its toll. I’m going to try hydrating heavily before lunch walks next week and see if that helps. I sure hope so — there’s no way I can rejigger my schedule to avoid working in the afternoon. Though in a couple of months it’ll probably be too hot for big walks anyway.

So what did I get done while I was so wonderfully rested?

I did my Leaf articles, of course, though there were fewer to claim than I expected. I made it up by doing a couple more pieces for the Veterans Network website (my first article, on K9 Veterans Day, is already up). This looks like it will be a steady source of additional work, which is always welcome. I also spent an hour chatting with my friend Lisa Wildman, who works there, about the gig and what they’re looking for.

I did a lot of reading on golems and wrote a rough first draft of the paper. I still have more reading to do, but having it down on paper gives me a much sharper idea where I’m going, which is reassuring. I also took time out of Wednesday to go pick up some research reading from the Durham Library. Normally I’d have waited for the weekend but I had a couple of other errands that needed doing, so …

I started the final draft of Chapter Four of Undead Sexist Cliches. It needs more work than I hoped, but it will get the work until it’s good to go.

I skipped working on Questionable Minds as I mull over a couple of edits I’m not sure about. I got a little bit of work done on the Alien Abductions chapter of Alien Visitors. I’m starting to get a feel for that subgenre faster than I thought.

Oh, and I published a blog post about DC’s Kobra over at Atomic Junk Shop.

Overall a satisfactory week. Fingers crossed DST doesn’t disrupt the flow too much next week.

#SFWApro. Kobra art by Jack Kirby, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Filed under Nonfiction, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

To market, to market

In between working on Questionable Minds and Undead Sexist Cliches, I’ve also been studying how to market them. My main source has been my friend Gail Z. Martin’s videos on the Continual Facebook page (sample here). They’ve been very helpful, though I also see a problem (for me, not inherent in the advice).

The helpful part is that to market your books, study how other people market theirs. How do they describe them? Do you see consistent words coming up again and again in blurbs? What sort of experience do they promise: cool worldbuilding, humor, friends you’ll want to stay with? Do they highlight the tropes the book contains? Trigger warnings? Then take all that and refine it.

The problem is that Gail recommends planning this out several months ahead of your book launch. Which would require me to know when my books are going to launch, and let’s face it I don’t. I thought they’d be done last year. They weren’t. Then I thought they’d be done by my birthday this month: Questionable Minds may be (though the cover may not be ready) but Undead Sexist Cliches almost certainly won’t. Is it because I consistently misjudge the time I’m going to take? Or that with no deadlines, it’s easy to let them slide a little so I can complete paying gigs or meet other people’s deadlines?

Is the solution to just sit on the book for a few months once it’s actually done and the cover is set? Or to speed myself up (yeah, good look with that)? I don’t know, but at least I’m asking the right questions.

#SFWApro.

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I put in the hours, but the work did not flourish

Just as I planned last week, I skipped watching movies for Alien Visitors in favor of getting the writing done … only not much got done. A rewrite of the introduction, which is an important chapter — it’s a capsule the history of ETs in print and in popular belief, coupled with an overview of film and TV versions — but I’d really hoped for more.

Unfortunately this was one of those weeks when the doggy care was very demanding. Our visits to rehab are once a week instead of twice, but they’re around 2 PM or so for the next few weeks, so that takes a bite out of the day. Wisp has been in a lot, demanding petting (she gets it) and throwing my morning routine off. The lunch walkies after Monday were all mine; Wednesday, for whatever reason, I was completely wiped out. I’ve no idea why — it’s not like double walks are anything new — but I was not in peak condition to write that afternoon. And last night and the night before, Wisp woke me up around 1 or 2 AM when she decided she was lonely. On the plus side, she’s coming up into the spare bedroom (I sleep there when the dogs get too fidgety for me to sleep in our queen-size bed) when she wants me. She rushes away as soon as I move — she gets very nervous if she’s far away from the doors downstairs — so perhaps eventually she’ll come up and sleep next to me or something. That would be a lot easier. But yesterday and today I was wiped out.

And this morning she was hyper-fidgety. Rush in, get a quick pet, rush out again into the cold and rain. Decide she doesn’t like it, come back. Rinse, repeat. I know, cat, but it’s not typical for her. At the moment she’s snoozing on the couch again. I had Trixie on the other side of me so I could pet them both, but Trixie sulked and went to the other couch. I really hate feeling that she feels neglected (especially when I was making a point not to neglect her).

So not much Alien Visitors. I might have squeezed some in during my morning viewing while I exercise and eat, but I wound up bingeing and finishing DC’s Swamp Thing, now streaming on the CW website. I don’t feel bad about it (I’ll have a review up soon).

On the plus side, I did turn Undead Sexist Cliches into a print manuscript on Amazon and ordered a copy. I’ll go over it for any final errors/changes and then I’ll be done. Well, once I get a cover. I intend to try Draft 2 Digital‘s print-on-demand service too, but they require a cover before I start. I’ve been very pleased with their ebook service so I want to see if their paperback publishing works better than using Amazon’s kindle POD service.

And I got started on another project, contributing an article on golems in fantasy and comics to an anthology on Jewish specfic. Truth is, the only reason I made my hours this week is because I pushed to finish Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman’s The Golem of Hollywood — dreadful book (reviews will follow) but definitely relevant.

And I did do plenty of Leafs which is more money in the bank. That’s always welcome.

And now the weekend. I’m ready.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Reading, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, TV, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Too many movies, too little writing

Which is to say I put in a full week of writing, but “writing” in this case mostly meant watching movies for Alien Visitors. Which is necessary, of course, but I have other things that need doing too. I didn’t get them done, other than writing Leaf articles.

Once again, we can blame my pets. Sunday night, Wisp stayed in, and decided about an hour after I went to bed that she wanted company. Her meowing woke me up and even after she went out, I couldn’t get back to sleep. That left me in piss-poor shape. By the time of Monday evening’s Shut Up and Write session (I’m one of the co-organizers for our local group), I was zonked. I had to settle for research reading as that was all I could manage. And for a couple of mornings this week I had Wisp in first, then the dogs coming down early to join me. That left me with little opportunity to do my early morning exercise/stretching/meditate routines, which always leaves me feeling I’ve started the day on the wrong foot. I think it’s aggravating my insomnia too, as I know if I get a normal night’s sleep I’ll be dealing with pets almost immediately on waking. So in that state, movies were about all I could manage to focus on.

Good thing the animals are so cute and adorable. Look at my shaggy little Trixie.I had two short stories returned, one with several positive comments (and some criticism, which obviously carried greater weight). And I discovered Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan cited as a reference for one article on Wikipedia, which is cool.But the writing needs to get done. I shall make that a priority for next week and let the movies fall behind this time. At least that’s the plan.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Nonfiction, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Exit January, Enter February

The first month of 2021 went reasonably well, despite the Wisp problems and TYG’s crazy schedule. I have Undead Sexist Cliches and Questionable Minds ready to start the Draft2Digital book-making process. I got work done on Alien Visitors. About 50 percent of my goals for the month completed in total. But almost nothing on fiction. So I’m revising my 2021 plans.

There doesn’t seem to be any chance that I can focus on fiction until the two self-publishing jobs are done, so I’m not even going to try. For February, I’ll work on getting the two books done, plus as much Alien Visitors as I can handle. In March, hopefully, I can get back to fiction alongside Alien Visitors and make up for lost time. Apparently my ability to bounce from project to project is not what it used to be.

I’d planned to apply myself to using the pomodoro technique — 25 minutes on, five minutes off, bigger break every 90 minutes or so — regularly this year, but I’m just giving up on that. It’s always been a bit impractical because my big breaks are dictated by dog needs. Now that I’m dealing with Wisp, food deliveries, occasional requests for assistance from TYG and a schedule that’s much less predictable overall, it’s just pointless to try. So I won’t.

On the plus side, doing little mental exercises and such on a daily basis is working out well, though hampered by not having my mornings as free as I used to. So I’ll stick with that. For example setting a reminder in my to-do list to take two photographs a day reminds me to keep looking out for interesting visuals, like this one from our recent cold snap.

I had the sense to put a lot of my goals as conditional on vaccinations: plans to eat out, visit the North Carolina Zoo or drink coffee with someone are contingent on getting vaccinated. Which so far ain’t happening. When it does it will shake up my schedule in lots of ways, as I’ll have many more options for what to do with my time. But that will be a pleasant bridge to cross.

#SFWApro.

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This harrows me with dread and awe

This was a much better week than last week.

You may recall my big disappointment (if you don’t recall, click on the link!) was running into a plot hole at the climax of Questionable Minds. This week, I sat down and started doodling ideas and presto, I found the solution. I’ll want to look over the ending again, but the book is done. I also completed the footnotes of Undead Sexist Cliches so that’s done too. That explains the awe.

The dread is that now I’m going to release them into the world. Self-published stuff, and not previously published like the stories in Atlas Shagged or Atoms for Peace. And much more substantial than Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast. I feel the inevitable trepidation — what if despite all my work, they suck? What if nobody buys them, like, ever? But regardless I’m forging ahead (well of course).

I did have a talented friend working on the cover for Questionable Minds but I think over the course of the pandemic she’s wound up checking out. Which I didn’t worry about when I was slogging through the middle of the book, but now? Kind of need it. So if I don’t get a response to my recent “how’s it going?” I’ll have to hunt elsewhere. Darn it. And also for Undead Sexist Cliches. Though that one’s slightly easier as I have a good idea what I want.  Assuming I can find a cover artist, I’ll be done with both before my birthday. The biggest obstacle will be indexing Undead Sexist Cliches for the hard copy version.

Dread, but definitely awe.

Other than the two books, I did some leafs, watched some movies for Alien Visitors and wrote some of the chapters. I’d hoped to work on some short stories, but no, the added demands of dog care ate into that. Still, I’m pleased with what I accomplished.

Definitely some awe.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover are mine.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Atoms for Peace, Nonfiction, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Second verse, same as the first

Which is to say, this week’s productivity wasn’t an improvement over last week, though the problems were different.

It started Friday night when we decided to keep Wisp in overnight. She doesn’t like being left downstairs by herself — she’s very wary about going upstairs — and around 12:30 her mewing for attention woke me up. I thought she wanted to go out, but no, she just wanted someone to sit with her. There was much petting and belly scritching, then she settled down and went to sleep on the couch cushion next to me. I, however, had no such luck. Sleep was shot for the night.

Sunday, more of the same, plus Plushie had the squirtles. TYG took him outside the first time, then I did, and then he and I settled in downstairs with Wisp. That would make it simpler if he had to go out yet again, which he did; after that, he went to sleep but again, I didn’t. And sleep Saturday and Sunday did not make up for the minimal night sleep. So I started Monday sleep-deprived and never made it up. The sense from last week that my mornings are too busy with pets and I have to get up extra early to get any work done didn’t help. The result was that I spent most of my week a little bit off peak condition.

That being the case, I pretty much dropped my initial plans and focused on the big stuff: more stuff watched for Alien Visitors, some minor formatting for Undead Sexist Cliches and finishing up Questionable Minds. Wednesday, despite all the distractions and lack of sleep, I was optimistic I’d have it done this week, but the last couple of chapter had problems. One was that a key scene involves a convenient oil lamp, but as the house is equipped with gas jets, there’s no real reason they’d have an oil lamp there. That proved relatively simple to fix, but then came the big finish where the bad guy buys it … and for some reason, it doesn’t work. I think I see a way to fix it, but it didn’t occur to me until too late today.

My schedule was also complicated because when Leaf articles were posted for writing it was at odd hours and moments. Normally I adapt to that pretty well but with my brain already foggy that didn’t go well. Still I got some done, and money coming in is always a good thing. And the dogs and Wisp are getting a little more relaxed about having each other around. Only a little, but it’s a good sign.#SFWApro.

 

 

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Filed under Nonfiction, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

What rough year slouches towards Bethlehem, ready to be born?

Welcome to 2021. While I can imagine all kinds of ways in which it could be worse for me than last year, I’m nonetheless feeling hopeful that it’ll be better. And that I’ll do better with my goals, particularly writing goals. I’ve run over what worked and what hasn’t worked, plus what has to work (Alien Invaders is due in October, so I’d better be ready). I’m probably still a little optimistic, but not unattainably so. But I’m making hopping John today because Southern tradition says that brings in the good luck. And it’ll be tasty, so why not?

The two immediate goals are to self-publish Undead Sexist Cliches and Questionable Minds. Deadline: My birthday. It’s doable (the one big obstacle might be indexing USC) assuming my cover artist for the novel delivers and I can find a cover artist for USC. Later in the year, I’ll publish a short story collection, Magic Through History, with a mix of published and unpublished shorts. Though I will be submitting the unpublished stuff so it’s possible some of them will be off the table.

I want to finish three short stories — okay, I’d like to finish more than that, but I think that’s doable. That includes finishing Oh the Places You’ll Go! and rewriting my first published story, The Adventures of the Red Leech (which I wrote about here last year).

I want to finish my new draft of Impossible Takes a Little Longer, submit it to beta readers and finish a redraft based on their suggestions. That’s the schedule where I’m really pushing it, but I enjoy writing novels and I want to push on this so why not?

I also have odds and ends: try making YouTube videos, earn at least $20,000, prepare my “writing estate” (so TYG knows what I have out and where the rights are tied up) and pitch several articles and columns. I haven’t had much luck with either (outside of my Leaf articles) but it’s worth a shot, and I have some ideas that might sell.

In the personal field, I want to make my exercise schedule more demanding, and improve my diet: not that it’s massively unhealthy but upping my fruit and vegetable intake can’t hurt. I want to bicycle as much as two hours at least once, and walk six miles at some point, both of which are beyond my current range. I’m planning carefully so that I can (hopefully) work up to that level of intensity.

And there’s a bunch of activities and goals that apply if and when it’s safe to walk outside and mingle with people again. Hopefully not too long.

I want to increase my reading; obviously I read a lot already, but there’s so much to read and there’s more books I can squeeze in if I focus better (with dogs and Wisp, it’s sometimes hard). I also plan to keep improving my photography, just because it’s fun. As a token of which, here’s a recent image from a late night walk.I wish y’all the best for 2021. Let’s roll.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

2020: not my most productive year

And I can’t even blame the pandemic: after all, I was working at home long before the Trump Virus made it a life-saving option. TYG working from home has in some ways made my work easier, as I don’t have dogs all day. I do, however, get randomly called to take over dog-car for her when she gets busy or Plushie gets fidgety, but it’s still mostly a win.

Nevertheless, I didn’t get anywhere near as much done as I’d anticipated. Partly that’s because pandemic stress did slow me down the first two or three months. Plus Undead Sexist Cliches took much more time to complete than I’d planned (Which is typical. Nonfiction always eats into my fiction-writing time). Redrafting Impossible Takes a Little Longer did too — so much more that I didn’t get beyond four chapters in, though they’re much better chapters. I finished two short stories, submitted shorts 27 times, and sold three (two of them reprints), none of which met my goals. And I fell just a few hundred dollars short of my income goal for the year, due to Leaf work stopping in early December. But I did finish Undead Sexist Cliches, and I’m almost done with Questionable Minds; I’d wanted them finished and published, but I’m still pleased to know they will be done soon.

Plans for travel and for local social events didn’t happen, obviously. Neither did a lot of my personal goals for doing stuff with TYG: she had some ultra-demanding personal projects going on the first couple of months of 2020 and by the time they wrapped up, we were hunkering down at home. The brightest spot of the year for us, though, was her working from home and discovering she not only liked it, she could be more productive even when dealing with dogs. So she’s not going back. It’s much less stress for her, no time spent driving to work, and having added help with the dogs is easier for me.

I donated more money this year, and contributed regularly to a local food bank. Didn’t do as much to contribute to the commonweal as I’d intended to, even so; I’ll work on doing more in 2021.

Wisp was a big success. She’s gone from occasionally coming in the door to eat and get petting to coming in and snuggling on the couch. Last weekend we brought her in late in the evening and left her downstairs all night; I wasn’t sure she’d be happy with that, but it turned out fine. We’re still some ways from making her a permanent indoor cat (we’d like to do that — much safer for the birds) but maybe it’s not as impossible as I was starting to think. In any case, she’s definitely part of our family now: like Plushie and Trixie she has her own Christmas ornament.

And I did accomplish two personal goals. In 2019 I got out of the habit of baking bread regularly so I set myself a goal for 2020 of baking at least twice a month (including muffins and scones). I succeeded. And for the first time since moving up here—okay, and a long time before that—I cleared all the new books out of my to be read shelf. Yes, I know, that just means I’m not buying enough books, but seriously, having a book sit on my shelves for three years before I get to it just annoys me. We’ll see if I can keep up in 2021. Total books read, 214, if you’re wondering, including about 40 percent graphic novels.

Despite the disappointments—all those submissions and only one new story sold?—this was overall a good year for me. Even with all the things I missed, like visiting my family and friends in Florida, it turns out TYG, writing and our pets can keep me pretty happy.

Still I’m ready for the vaccine, though it’ll be a while before TYG or I get a dose. Ready for Trump to be gone. Ready for 2021.

#SFWApro.

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Filed under Comics, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Reading, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

A short week because Christmas!

And Christmas Eve, which I’m taking off.

My big push this week was with Questionable Minds. If I could finish the final draft of the book this month, that would feel great, and as noted last week, I’m most of the way there.However this proved tougher than expected. I finished the week with about 40 pages left and it’s slow-going. Everything is coming to a head, there’s constant action, betrayals, impersonations, and I keep finding scenes or actions, or decisions that don’t make sense. For example, Simon deducing the bad guy’s master plan hinged on something I must have cut out of the book because it isn’t there now. Easy to fix, but I keep stumbling across other details like that.

I also need to slow things down a little. Rereading, it’s slam-bang, constant action which is a good thing up to a point, but I suspect I passed the point. A standard complaint when my writing group beta-reads my stuff is that I don’t give readers a chance to breathe, or to absorb what’s happening; while I can’t slow down too much I’ll do what I can. There’s also a couple of abrupt transitions and some lack of description in spots. I’m happy to say I did a much better job on Southern Discomfort so apparently I’m capable of learning and improving.

I have read all the way to the finish, red-inking (okay, black-inking, my red pen died) wherever necessary. But a lot of that is just “fix this” or “need to set this up earlier” notes so there’s still a lot of work. Maybe I can make all the changes next week, but my gut says it’s better not to push it. So I’ll see how I do without pushing.

Wisp came in a lot this week but she doesn’t seem ready to become an indoor cat. Either Plushie or Trixie startle her, or there’s a noise, or she just decides she wants out. I’ve considered not letting her and seeing if she’ll settle down, but I keep thinking it’s better if she knows she can come in or out as she chooses. The most inconvenient is when she wants to go out, feels the cold outside and sits in the doorway debating. Hey, she’s a cat.

Here she is resting her head on my leg one morning.Here’s Plushie resting his head on me, mostly because he’s pleading for an early lunch.And here’s Trixie, looking quite leonine (neither dog has been to the groomers since the pandemic started).#SFWApro.

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing