This wasn’t as poor a week as last week, but it wasn’t as big an improvement as I’d hoped.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a bad habit when circumstances leave me really behind: my brain decides it’s hopeless trying to do anything as I’m clearly not making my goals, and balks at doing more work. After last week’s mess, that’s dogged me all this week. It didn’t help that I have a couple of other things to take care of for Mum, and that I gave up Tuesday to get recertified in CPR/First Aid. I gave serious thought to postponing so I could some extra writing done, but I’d have had to eat my reservation fee. And on the whole, I’m glad it’s done.
Output this week was pretty mediocre. I got a little bit more done on Brain From Outer Space, continued to toy with Fiddler’s Black and finished my replotting of Southern Discomfort. I gave a last redraft to Original Synergy and Learning Curve, which will be in the collection I hope to have out on Smashwords by the end of June. That was much less than I wanted to do.
I did keep my Demand Media stuff up, though today I just threw up my hands. I’m still dealing with Mum’s stuff, and I’ll be quitting early anyway (TYG and I have plans) so my brain is once again saying, what’s the point?
Still I did get these done:
•What Happens When You Borrow From Life Insurance?
•Do I Owe Taxes if I Got Money From My Mother When She Died?
•Can You Write Off Your Homeowners Insurance Deductible on a Claim?
•Can Babysitting Be Considered Charity on Federal Taxes?
•Can Credit Card Debts Be Attached to Real Estate?
•Do You Pay for Property Taxes & Homeowner’s Insurance if You Own a Timeshare?
•Can I Invest in My Husband’s Business With a Self-Directed IRA?
•Can You Dissolve an LLC if You Owe Creditors?
•Can I Claim Private Pre-K as a Tax Deduction?
•Do Losses Have to Be Reported in the Same Tax Year?
•Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Stolen Equipment?
•Should I Convert $10,000 to a Roth IRA?
•If My Husband Has a Mortgage on a House He Bought Before We Were Married, Is it Half Mine?
•Can I Contribute to an IRA With a Credit Card?
•How to Lower Taxes on the Sale of Inherited Rental Property
•Can I Deduct College Student Rent From My Income Tax?
•Can You Deduct Shipping Costs for Medical Supplies on Your Tax Return?
•Can I Deduct My Labor Expense for Investment Property Repairs?
•Do IRA Fees Go Against the Annual Contribution Limit?
•Can a Sole Proprietor Sell Capital Assets?
•How to Deduct Losses With a Roth IRA
•What Is the Monthly and Annual Net Profit Margin?
•How to Estimate a Claim on Homeowner’s Insurance for Storm Damage
•What Types of Investment Theft Losses Are Deductible?
•IRA Contributions’ Effects on Income Tax Owed
•Are Homeowner’s Insurance Loss Payouts Taxable?
•Is Landscaping Tax Deductible?
•Illinois Real Estate Law – Quitclaim Deed Vs. Warranty Deed
•Can a Live-In Partner Take Children as a Deduction on Tax Returns?
•Can You Take a Tax Deduction for Wedding Receptions?
And that’s that. Rather than make ineffective efforts at work, I’m going to quit now and enjoy myself. Hopefully I’ll be able to reset after the three-day weekend.
Category Archives: Short Stories
This wasn’t as poor a week as last week, but it wasn’t as big an improvement as I’d hoped.
The week went well. My new schedule definitely gets more productivity out of me. As I said last week, though, it’s really draining and I have to make myself take breaks. Trying to squeeze everything into a 7 am – 5 pm workday plays on my impulse to just go and go and go (there’s always something I can be working on) which gets stressful fast. More so as I don’t exactly kick back at five: I do my blogging in the evenings, and there’s also dinner to cook (at least a couple of nights) and stuff to clean (I much prefer getting that done in the evening to the weekend).
Another problem is that if I have repair-people or anything to deal with or stuff to work on for Mum, I have much less down time during the day to tackle it.
Still, these are all fixable if I just make myself relax and mark off my breaks so I can feel Yes, I’m Off Now. I’ll work on that next week.
As for actual work:
•I got Happiest Place on Earth back last weekend, sent it out to an anthology yesterday, got it back yesterday (they already had two Lovecraftian parodies). I sent it out again this morning.
•I finished 13,000 words on the new draft of Brain From Outer Space. It’s looking better, but I think I’m going to show the prologue and first chapter to my group soon—I’ve worked with it so much, it’s getting hard to see if it sets up my world (which I, after all, know intimately) or just confuses people. Still, I’m liking it.
•I finished my first draft for Monster Earth II, a story tentatively titled The Fox and the Hedgehog. I did something I don’t usually do, rush the work just so I could get it done. Hopefully coming to an end has stirred up enough ideas that when I look at the draft again, I’ll be able to shape it into something.
•I rewrote Original Synergy in response to suggestions from some of my beta-readers. I think it’s done.
•I started a new story, which I’ll say more about when it’s a little clearer—right now it’s just an opening. It may be a while before I go any further with it.
•I took a look at one of my older stories, Fiddler’s Black, and I found it frustrating. I like everything up until the protagonists get trapped in a plane of darkness … but after that, it just doesn’t work. I feel very strongly it’s fixable but I can’t see the path from there to here yet.
•My new And column is out, dealing with the fantasy we can stop terrorism by stopping immigration.
Demand Media for the week:
•How Much Tax to Withhold as an Independent Contractor?
•Can a Married Couple File Jointly From Different States?
•How to Buy a House Jointly When You Are Not Married
•What Happens When a Mortgage Holder Never Filed a Claim in Bankruptcy?
•Can Employers Discriminate Against People Who File for Unemployment?
•The Cancellation of Debt on Investment Properties
•Can Married People Collect Separate Retirement Benefits?
•Can I Keep My Timeshare if I File Bankruptcy?
•Can You Do a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure if You Have Filed for Bankruptcy?
•IRS: Tax Liability Upon Death if Married & Filing Separately
•Are Legal Fees for Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Tax-Deductible?
•Can Fitness Be a Tax Deduction?
•Tax Deductions for Rental Property & Homeowners Association Fees
•Are Fees for the SHRM Certification Tax Deductible?
•Spousal Support as a Tax Deduction
My new schedule continues working okay, but I definitely need to make a break at mid-day—not just a hurried pause, but something to relax me. Read. Sit outside. Whatever. Just not chores (unless it’s something fun like bread baking) or anything on the computer. I’m getting much too tired and slow-thinking by the time 5 pm rolls around.
That said, things went well:
•I got a rough plot outline for the next draft of Southern Discomfort. It looks satisfactory, and I’ve fixed several things that bothered me about the last draft (more black characters, no plotlines that just disappear). I’ll give it one more look near the end of May, then start writing.
•I did some more plotwork on the last section of Brain From Outer Space. As I mentioned Tuesday, that part of the plot is still fuzzier than I’d like. The hour I put in this afternoon was dogged by that dragginess I mentioned above, but I do feel strongly that I’ve got the right setting (inside the TSC’s underground base, where everything’s going to come to a head). I’d prefer to have more details fleshed out but I’m going to go ahead with the rewrite starting next week. My biggest worry is less the ending than that it’ll still turn out too short to be marketable. Sometimes I think I’d have been much better off when a big genre novel ran around 70,000 words.
•I gave Mage’s Masquerade another draft. It’s improving, but still needs some tinkering and tightening. The villain’s plan is looking particularly silly—I can explain it (mages aren’t prone to subtlety, they’d much sooner do something dramatic) but I’d rather change it if I can figure out how.
•I got the first 2,000 words or so of my new Monster Earth story under way. It’s tougher than the first one, as I don’t have the Vietnam War to give it a focus, so it’s a very vague discovery draft so far. With lots of talking as the characters say all the things I’m trying to work out. But it’s a first draft. I know it’ll improve (it had better!).
•I also gave blood without letting the schedule disruption throw me off-course too much.
•Demand Media articles approved this week (slow because I did so few last week):
•How to Get All the Deduction Possible When Filing
•Roth IRA Conversions for Married and Filing Separately $
•What Are the Disadvantages of Withholding Taxes?
•Can College Students Deduct Car Mileage on Income Tax?
•Can Legal Expenses in Tax Amnesty Be Claimed as a Tax Deduction?
•Do Senior Citizens Have to File a Return on the Sale of a House?
For the second month in a row, I made all my writing goals. So yay.
•I finished Affairs of Honor and submitted it.
•I applied for four different freelance gigs and submitted one magazine query (the latter fell short, I wanted a second query but couldn’t get a good one going)
•I finished Southern Discomfort and added another 5,000 words to Let No Man Put Asunder.
•I started a Jekyll and Hyde sequel set in the Depression. No idea where it’s going yet.
•Sold one article to Brass (not out yet) and published two And columns.
•I completed two drafts of End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor, which I should have done next month.
•I reworked Love Is in the Air, Original Synergy and Mage’s Masquerade.
•I almost completely replotted Brain From Outer Space (that’s another miss, but a near one). I like my reworked version and I’ll start turning it into a novel next month, but I would be much happier if the last section of the book had come together.
•I completed enough Demand Media articles to qualify for a bonus.
And I’m particularly pleased that as of a week ago, all 12 unpublished shorts (the figure excludes finished stories such as Mage’s Masquerade that need reworking) are out with some publisher, somewhere.
My new schedule seems to be working at squeezing more writing time into the day.
TYG and I have a lot to do this weekend (much of it fun stuff) so I’m wrapping up work today and taking it off. Posting may be erratic or non-existent over the weekend, depending how things play out.
This was the first month I tried squeezing in more Demand Media articles up front (there’s a $200 bonus if your output’s high enough) and applying myself to other projects at month’s end. So this week after Tuesday I was Demand-free.
That proved weirdly disorienting. As nothing I worked on generated an immediate profit, I was less focused than I should have been, and didn’t use my time as effectively (knowing I was taking a day off didn’t help). I’ll do better in May. Still, I was pleased with my output:
•I worked out my pitch for the second Monster Earth anthology, and with some tweaks, the editors approved it. It’s due in October, which should be time enough as I don’t have to do the same buttload of research I did for Peace With Honor in the first book.
•I reviewed Southern Discomfort and I think the story is, at base, definitely solid. Unfortunately, on top of the base there’s very little substance. I made a list of all the characters I neglect, the plot elements I forget, the logic gaps I need to fix … Nothing terribly worrying (early drafts are never good for me) but much work ahead. I’ll start replotting next month.
•I almost finished reworking the plot of Brain From Outer Space. The first 75 percent is good, but after that,for the climax, everything gets all wobbly and confusing. I don’t think disastrously so, but I’ll do my best next week to think the last bit through.
•I started work on a proposal for a new film reference book. I’ve been tinkering with it for a while, but there’s no point in waiting: next month, I submit!
•I began turning my Undead Sexist Cliche posts into a book. I don’t have a publisher in mind, but this is something I’ve also been thinking about for a while, and it’s time to put pedal to the metal and see what happens.
That pretty much covers it.
My flash fiction fantasy, Heads Up! is now out on Every Day Fiction (it’s been up over a month, somehow I missed it). It’s the first story I’ve ever sold that was based on a dream.
The last time I stayed out at my brother’s house for Thanksgiving (2009, I believe), I had a dream about finding a head in his washing machine. That thought stayed with me, so I decided to write a story about it. Except, of course, the head would be alive and talking (I don’t remember now if that was part of the dream, though I think it was).
My first version was just a long gag. The narrator can’t believe what’s happening, but at the same time he has no trouble believing all kinds of absurdity (the Earth is flat, Obama is the Antichrist, NASA faked the moon landing). It was kind of an ironic observation on how we’re not as rational as we think.
It also wasn’t very good. As one editor pointed out (and while I forget which magazine it was, I thank you for the feedback), there was no real plot, no conflict, so I set out to fix that. Instead of irony, I went with the classics: Along with man vs. god, man vs. man, man vs. nature, we would now have man with a load of laundry vs. a head in the washing machine that doesn’t want to be disturbed.
This partly draws on my own early twenties experience of being dead broke (my struggling, starving writer days. Don’t miss’em). Getting access to a friend or family member’s washing machine was a blessing. So my protagonist has a big date, he’s worn the same briefs for two days, he has no other clean ones and he can’t afford to buy dinner if he has to use the laundromat. And then he discovers the uncooperative head.
(Before you ask, no, the situation of washing two-day-old briefs before a big date was not based onpersonal experience).
After several further turndowns, I sent it to Every Day Fiction. The reviewers said they liked it, but the emphasis on just how grungy and gross his underwear was needed to get toned waaaaay down. I was fine with that, and with the other changes requested.
They liked the rewrite. And now it’s out! Yaaaaay! Go read!
On the whole, my new schedule worked quite well. It would have worked better if I hadn’t been so tired (various reasons, including social events). By the end of the week, I wasn’t at all as efficient as I should have been. Still, I did get more done than when I tried working in the evening, and I didn’t stress out from the short lunch hour. So, yay.
•I finished—tentatively—replotting Brain From Outer Space. I’m going to go over it next week and see if it makes as much sense as I think it does, and fill in some of the “Harry and Mickey investigate this” bullet-points with more detail. But as I said last week, it’s definitely shaping up.
•I made a few changes to End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor, based on writing-group feedback. Nothing substantial, just adding a little tension to the story.
•I sat down and worked through my characters for Mage’s Masquerade. Lengthening it by a couple of thousand words is really helping—the flashbacks provide a lot of information so I don’t overwhelm readers by flinging too much at them at once (I’ve been told by the group this is sometimes a problem with my work).
•I rewrote one of my older ones, Original Synergy. It needs more work, but it’s a good start. I saw it published a few year back, but I want to release it via Smashwords along with three others, so I’m making some improvements.
•I looked at one of my older stories, Bros Before Ho’s, and discovered it’s better than I thought. I’ll present it to the writing group some time next month (under a new, more appropriate title, Love is in the Air).
•I submitted an article to Brass. Took longer than I should have for the money (my fault, not there’s), but they took it, so I get the money.
•I applied to two freelance gigs (no word yet) and Savage Year came back from the most recent publisher (with several nice words).
•I delivered enough articles to Demand Media to land my monthly bonus. Speaking of which:
•Can Real Estate Taxes on a Rental Be Taken on Schedule A?
•Do Real Estate Liens Expire?
•Tax Deductions for Medical Expenses Paid by Fund-Raisers
•Is the Deductible Paid on a Homeowners Claim Tax Deductible?
•Can You Deduct Products That You Buy to Sell for a Home-Based Business?
•Insurance Company & Ordinary Negligence Vs. Willful Negligence
•Can I Write Off a Mortgage Insurance Premium Paid at Closing?
•Can I Deduct a Dance Tuition From My Federal Taxes?
•Tax Deduction for the Points on a Second Home Mortgage
•How to Classify Work Clothes as a Small Business Deduction
•Are Capital Gains From Real Estate Part of My Income?
•The 1099 Implications of a Short Sale of Real Estate
•Can I Refinance to Drop FHA Mortgage Insurance?
•An Umbrella Policy for Homeowners Liability Insurance
•Can an Insurance Agent Roll Over a 401(k)?
•Inheritance Tax on Joint Tenancy With Right of Survivorship
•Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Detached Garages?
•How to Pay Stockholders When a Company Goes Bankrupt
•Is Flood Insurance Usually Included Under Homeowners & Renters Policies?
•Distance Required for Out-of-Town Business Meals Deduction
•How Long Do Homeowners Insurance Claims Stay on Your Record?
•Can Long-Term Disability Be Contributed to an IRA?
•Homeowners Policy Vs. Flood Insurance
•Can I Deduct Realtors’ Commissions on My Income Tax Return?
I’m blaming the pollen. It’s spreading everywhere, including grass pollen which is very much my weakness. So I’ve been feeling wiped all week, but that didn’t stop me being productive.
•I finished my 5,000 words for the month on Let No Man Put Asunder.
•I did a final proof of Affairs of Honor, in hard copy, reading every line aloud. Trust me, it’s the best way to finish and spot all the little problems. That done, I sent it off to Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
•I did a few paragraphs on a new story, tentatively titled Children of Hyde. I’ll say more when it develops.
•I read End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor to the writing group and got solid thumbs up (one or two unenthused) and a couple of good critical comments.
•I was invited to pitch a story for the second volume of Monster Earth (here’s the background on my previous story). I have a couple of ideas and should have the pitch sent in within a couple of weeks.
•Work on replotting Brain From Outer Space went very well. Okay, it’s not entirely a good thing that I’m suddenly spotting problems I’ve never seen before, but then again, it is a good thing, right? For example, I have an early meeting between a couple of FBI agents and a stool pigeon that gives some valuable information … but they never act on it. No further investigation, it’s just a big info dump (and sets up the stoolie getting whacked a few chapters later). So I have to figure where they go from there.
I’m also finding it easier to make decisions. I was torn between using the opening of this latest draft and going back to the opening of the previous draft (which is also a short story, Instruments of Science). Going over things this time I realized that as the opening, the short story is actually weak as it doesn’t really flow into the main plot at all. The starting scene in the briefing room (or one damn close) needs to stay to give people the feeling of the new normal, but that’s it.
Hopefully next week’s session will be just as good.
Despite the draggy feeling, I did finish all my Demand Media articles. Fortunately, they’ve developed a title-picking tool that allows me to select topics much more precisely (I choose articles from a list of available titles), so it’s much easier to find low-hanging fruit, so to speak.
Speaking of which, Demand Media article list:
•Do Roth IRAs Lower SS Taxes?
•IRS Rules Governing Rollover of Inherited 401(k) Funds Into Inherited IRA
•Can I Claim My 401(k) as a Deduction on My Taxes?
•What Percentage of Expenses Are Tax Deductible for a Home Business?
•Can a Person Inherit a Mortgage?
•What Is Needed for Proof of a Home Business for Tax Deductions?
•Can Homeowners Insurance Drop You for Moving?
•Is an Inherited House Taxable Income?
•Can Micromanaging Be Harassment?
•Is Home Insurance for a Rental Property More Than for a Primary Residence?
•How to Roll Over a 401(k) While Still Working
•Tax Consequences for Renting an Inherited House
•Procedures for Disclaiming an IRA Inheritance
•Are Refinance Fees & Points Tax Deductible?
•Types of Retirement Benefits
•Are Automobile Insurance Proceeds Taxable?
•What Is a Taxable Distribution From a Qualified Retirement Plan?
•Does an Inherited IRA Have to Be Set Up by End of Year Following the Year of Death?
•Inheritance Taxes on Jointly Owned Bank Accounts
•What Is Protection Class for Homeowners Insurance?
•Do You Pay Inheritance Tax on a POD Account?
•IRS Rules on Naming a Trust as a Beneficiary of an Inherited IRA
•Can I Roll the Money in a Health Savings Account Over Into an IRA?
•Can a Person Deduct Mortgage Interest on Schedule E if She Is Not on the Mortgage?
•If You Are Married, Is Dependent Care a Taxable Benefit?
•Tests for Health Insurance
•What Is the Difference Between Assessed Value & Taxable Value of Real Estate?
It’s been a good week, but a busy one. Feels more busy because last weekend I was caught up in doing our taxes. The IRS online system took a lot of work, but it did pay off: Not only are they done (state too) but the system caught a major error on my part. Mis-entering one number had added about $1,000 to the tax bill, so I feel very pleased to have corrected that (even if I can’t take the credit).
•I read over my Applied Science stories as preparation for replotting Brain From Outer Space. I picked up several details I want to incorporate, several that I probably can’t (I’d love to use Elegy Walker and Eisenstein from Not In Our Stars But in Ourselves, but they just don’t work) and occasionally winced. The side effect of doing 12 stories in a series and at a fairly rapid pace (for me) apparently led to my reusing lines and phrases here and there (all the guys seem to fiddle with their ties a lot, for instance). Overall though, I still like them.
•I reworked The End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor and it looks good. We’ll see if the writing group thinks so next week.
•I got 3,000 words further into Let No Man Put Asunder. Still missing all those chapters I lost, and I think one change I made today (to a key setting midway through the book) may need to change back. The original setting now looks fresher than I thought and it suits the plot better. But we’ll see.
•I finished Southern Discomfort. It was a rushed ending, perhaps (I was still squicked out by writing about rape apologist Steven Landsburg), but it brought out lots of elements I’ll need to deal with in the rewrite. One of them being Maria’s character arc: It ends very awkwardly, and none too happily. Not death, but emotionally painful and not in a satisfactory way. The sad ending of Affairs of Honor worked for me, but it doesn’t feel right here. I’m not sure what will work, though.
•I submitted two stories (one already came back) and applied for two freelance gigs.
•My newest And column came out.
•Demand Media has been running a bonus program where if you turn in 75 articles in a month, you get a cash bonus. March was the second month I’ve qualified (payment came today). And I’m about 25 articles into this month’s quota. But I’m not going to post this week’s work—it’s later than planned, and TYG is upstairs waiting for company.
Wow. For the first time since I started tracking my monthly goals, I’ve actually made them—not all of them, but 15 out of 20, which was the minimum I was shooting for. And I did the same with my various personal goals too (x amount of cleaning, practice massage, keep up my personal blog (separate from this one) and so on.
Looking back at my 101 in 1,001 list, not so good. The first time I tried it, I think I completed about two-thirds of my goal list. The second list, which expires at the end of September, it’ll be around 50 percent at best (a couple of goals, like short-stories sold, will come in just a little short, I suspect). The time I spent with Mum last year threw me off a lot. One reason I’ve put more flexibility into the list I started this year.
One reason my monthly goals are doing better is that I’m getting a better sense of how much time my fiction is going to take, and calculating how many stories I can work on in a month. Not as many as I’d like, of course, but I don’t feel like I’m taking it easy on myself, so I’m okay with that.
For next month, I intend to replot Brain From Outer Space before the next draft (based on last week’s review), finish the current draft of Southern Discomfort and get the final draft of Affairs of Honor. And resubmit all my short stories now out: In the past month, in addition to the usual crop of “no’s” I took one story back for lack of response (when they don’t respond to a polite query, it’s never a good sign, trust me) and another market folded while it had Number of the Beast under review.
I’ll let you know how it goes.