Category Archives: Personal

Paper and Pen: two weeks of organizing old school (#SFWApro)

So as I mentioned after buying my new computer, I found myself dissatisfied with the new Calendar app. I went out a week later and picked up a planner (I did try a couple of new apps, but none of them worked as well as iCal for me).  It turns out I’m not one of those people who desperately needs to kick it old school.

The planner is way better than Apple’s Reminder, and much easier to use than the other calendar/list making apps I tried. But still, I’m not going to carry it along with me when I move my computer from one room to another, which makes checking on my progress a little more awkward.

And also I just picked the wrong planner. Understandable, as I haven’t used one in what, six or seven years? This is a page-a-day planner, and I think a bigger one with a week per two pages would have suited me better. That way I can see all the tasks I have for the week without flipping any pages.

Come the end of 2017 I think I’ll take a much closer look at what planners are out there, see which will really suit me.

But I miss my iCal.

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I totally did not see these plot twists coming (#SFWApro)

Plot twist the first: after a big get together last weekend, TYG came down with a nasty cold. As of today, it appears I’ve caught it too, but in much less virulent form (that’s how it usually works with us). I felt like all I want to do is nothing, but I’m not hacking or sneezing any. So yay for small mercies.

Plot twist the second: I routinely submit query letters to various non-fiction magazines, but my success rate is so low I’ve often wondered if writing and finishing more fiction wouldn’t be smarter. But this week, guess what? I got a go-ahead from History magazine for an article proposal. After the initial panic at having committed myself (I’m so used to working without deadlines or obligations these days) I took a deep breath, relaxed, and enjoyed the moment.

PT the third: I also apply for freelance gigs through the Journalism Jobs website, usually without much success. But this week I pitched Screen Rant on a gig writing about comic books, and they liked my stuff. It’ll be a trial run at first to see if it really works out on both sides, but writing about comic books (list-style articles) is like a dream job. More details when I have something posted.

This, of course, leaves me with the challenge of adjusting my schedule for the new assignments. That’s tougher than you’d think, simply because I don’t want to give up time on fiction — but most probably, work on short stories will take the hit. Next to actual paying gigs, Southern Discomforts is the top priority, lesser projects will have to go on stand-by.

Speaking of which, this week’s replotting went reasonably well. I have a rough outline of how things should happen and how everyone reaches their endpoints. I do not have, however, the scene by scene breakdown that I wanted; my vague outlines tend to fall so far apart midbook that I have to give up and start over, and I don’t want that. I’ll continue scene-by-sceneing it but I may start work on the early, well-detailed chapters as well. But I’m still concerned that I may be losing some of the sense of Pharisee as a community outside the plot of the story. I’ll have to watch that as things progress.

I delivered my next And column, though it’s not out yet, and got another 12,000 words written on Undead Sexist Clichés: The Book (not how it will be titled, but it’s the simplest way to distinguish from the same name blog-post series). I also took care of getting a second opinion on one household project (major repairs not necessary for a while, whoot!), and took the car in for its annual inspection.

A good week. With surprises that were mostly pleasant ones. I’m as happy as a plush dog chewing on a stick.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

Out of the gate: January goals (#SFWApro)

Like last year this time, I did well meeting my January goals: 79 percent. That may merely be the same determination that fuels most people to work on their New Year’s Resolutions right after they make them, but it does feel good.

Unfortunately my biggest writing goal was completely replotting Southern Discomfort and I didn’t manage that. There were several short stories I’d planned to work on too, that I didn’t get around to. And I didn’t get any work done on my taxes. I did get my 35 hours a week in, but just barely.

On the other hand, I did finish redrafts of three stories, so that’s not bad — though Rabbits Indignationem still needs a better ending. I got in several non-fiction queries, published Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast and submitted two and columns. I submitted Fiddler’s Black to a new market, but it came back (though with Send Us More attached).

I tinkered with a rewrite of Atlas Shagged but decided it wouldn’t actually fix the problems so many editors have with it. I’ve gotten enough positive feedback (from editors and others) I think I’m going to self-publish it with reprints of some previously published short stories.

I researched starting a Patreon (haven’t decided), and I redesigned this blog so that you can see covers in the sidebar. Hopefully that will help sales.

I had a number of personal and exercise goals this month, including rereading a book on photography (I did, now I’ll start applying the lessons) and bicycling for one hour twice — if we’re ever going to travel the American Tobacco Trail from Durham to Raleigh again, I need to start rebuilding my exercise legs. Only made it once, but I did manage to get one hour-long exercise walk in (another goal). I hadn’t thought I would, but I took the dogs for a lunch walk last Saturday and they were in the mood to walk a lot.

And speaking of the dogs, here’s Trixie with the Big Ball–it doesn’t show here but it’s bigger than her head.


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Old problems, new tools (#SFWApro)

So as of Tuesday I had a reasonable outline plotted for the first half — though with the cuts to the last draft, it may only be the first third — of Southern Discomfort. But as I tried to reach beyond that, I hit a wall.

I have increased the pressure on Maria (reflecting lessons learned from Whispers Beyond the Veil) and I’d like to keep her under pressure. Getting arrested by the feds does that, except Gwalchmai’s threat level drops at the same time. I need to fix that. But given Maria has no power of her own, I need reasons he won’t, or can’t kill her. Having her arrested took her off the board in the last draft, so he stopped worrying about her — but like I said, that reduced the pressure too much.

Another challenge is that while my betas wants a higher level of magic and danger — which I think is the right call — I have lots of character stuff I don’t want to lose, or need to add. Liz and Susan trying to make sense of Pharisee. Joan learning about her heritage. Maria discussing her complicated racial makeup (dark enough to pass for a light-skinned black woman, and with one-eighth black ancestry). The relationship and power structures in Pharisee are important too: I spent way too much of the opening of the last draft talking about them, but if I don’t deal with them I’m short-changing the book. Getting all of that in may be a challenge (“Listen, before that dragon attacks, explain to me again about the racial makeup of the Pharisee County Commission?”).

So I spent Thursday employin the methods I don’t normally use. Writing different events down on index cards I can shuffle to change the order. Mind-mapping ideas — start with one concept (visit to the Hither Country, say), then see what ideas it sparks. Plus just sitting and thinking. It did generate some useful ideas, but nothing that helps me see where everything fits in the plot. So I took a break today, to resume on Monday and Tuesday as January ends.

I worked on some sort stories too. I started the next draft of Oh the Places You’ll Go! based on writing-group feedback. I also read A Famine Where Abundance Lies to the group, and the feedback helped there too (the takeaway: I really need more supernatural overtones earlier in the story). I worked on Trouble and Glass and decided (after doing a few pages) not to rewrite Atlas Shagged. Everyone who reads it likes it except the editors I submit it too (even some of them like it) so I think I’ll include it with a couple more stories in another ebook.

I found a couple of online freelance job openings and submitted a resume and writing samples. I submitted two magazine queries, and I have a couple ready to go next week. Those two are to high-profile markets so I want to reread and proof them once more to ensure they sound good.s too.

I checked up on a couple of stories that had been out for a while. Sigh — one was rejected last year but the No email got lost. The other publisher no longer exists. Back out they will go — in fact Schloss and the Switchblade already went out. But  Philosophy and Fairytales had a couple more sales. As Kristine Kathryn Rusch has pointed out (not a link to that specific post), one advantage of self-publishing is that you don’t have to worry about your book going out of print — you can keep it available as long as you want.

So that was my week. Plus getting outside a little. Here you can see part of the American Tobacco Trail near our house (photo by me, acknowledge if you use it)


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Filed under Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Writing

I bought a new computer! What happened next won’t shock anyone (#SFWApro)

So last month my Dad offered to send me money for a new computer. No dummy me, I accepted (and thanks, Dad!). And last weekend, after having perused the options, picked up a new MacBook Air. I gave thought to some of the newer MacBook Pro models, but they all felt heavier in the local Apple store — not a lot heavier, but I move around with my laptop so much, light weight is very important for me. So I stuck with the most recent version of the 13″ MacBook Air I already have.

Everything works much smoother of course (the touchpad on my old one was slowing down). It has way more storage and much more RAM (“It has eight of those things, my old computer has two!” was how I explained it to TYG, who as an IT professional convulsed into laughter). Saturday, I transferred everything over using Mac Assistant, then closed out the old computer and put her in the closet (not for long; read on). And then faced the inevitable transition problems:

•Apple stopped supporting Word so now I have to write in Pages. It’s a standard word-processing program, but I still have to save documents in Word to submit them and both times I’ve done it, something (headers, pagination, spacing) has been off. Maybe I just need to learn the trick, but it’s annoying; I had to turn on my old Word-supporting computer to double-check and then fix. This is actually what made me consider switching to Microsoft this time. I’m sure the switch makes business sense for Apple, but I get zero benefit and some inconvenience. The description of Pages shrieks about the awesome graphics and design, but that doesn’t do shit for me.

•I’d noticed when trying out the new Macs in the store that the Calendar app didn’t have a to-do list but figured I’d just have to look harder when I had my own. Nope, there is none. And that’s incredibly irritating because I liked having my schedules and to-dos in one program. Now To Dos are in Apple’s Reminder program, which doesn’t suit me.  Plus it ate them all after I closed it. I downloaded ToDoist, a free program that works better, but I think I may just get a good paper planner and transfer the old computer’s to-do list into that. Apple, ya blew it.

And then midweek I upgraded to Sierra (my machine was on the older system). Sierra wanted to move everything to iCloud (I didn’t) and when I opened my calendar it ate this week’s schedule transferring it To The Server.

Still, I’m overall very happy with her. But to mark my calendar woes, here’s a look at the Calendar Man, one of the typical gimmick villains of the 1950s Batman era. For some reason, he returned several times where other comparable gimmick thugs (Zodiac Master, the Gong, Mr. Hydro) vanished into deserved obscurity. Cover by Curt Swan, all rights remain with curren tholder.


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Illogicon: Don’t be koi (#SFWApro)

So last weekend was Illogicon, the local SF convention. It’s small (around 300-400 people) but that has its own charms. I got to chat with Gail Z. Martin, whom I’ve met at previous cons, and with a few of the con-goers. Plus talking to friends from my writing group (Allegra Gullino, Michele Berger, Bill Ferris, Ada Milenkovic Brown) and one or two from outside the group.

There was some really good discussion about representation of minorities, time management, writing magic, but nothing that stood out enough to discuss (unless I have an epiphany later). So I’ll just give you some photos. All by me, please credit if you use.

illogicon-princeWe had to ask whether he was Prince or a character from Hamilton. It’s Prince (though way taller).

illogicon-dinoEven dinosaurs come up to the con suite for lunch. Seriously, the sweet potato chili, the brownies, the vegetarian curry, all delicious.

koiThe restaurant area has a koi pond. I don’t think this captures how huge some of the fish are, though.

illogicon-elfAnd here we have a cosplay outfit I liked.

When I did my reading of Wodehouse Murder Case, the staff videotaped it for the YouTube Illogicon channel. I’ll post a link as soon as it’s up.

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It snowed on me. You won’t believe—actually, what happened next is pretty believable (#SFWApro)

But first, some PR: annual Raleigh-Durham Illogicon is here again. And as I have been the past few years, I’m on some panels:

Friday 7pm: Magic Systems in High(ish) Fantasy
Saturday 10am” Repeating Itself: Historical Fiction
6pm: Writing Real People and Places (or, That Looks Familiar!)
Sunday 11am Reading: Fraser Sherman
12pm: Time Management for Writers.

And here’s the Illogicon mascot, Schrodinger, from last year:

professor2Now, the week. As  I mentioned this morning, I was snowed in with the dogs until Tuesday evening. To put it mildly, that did not work out well for me: Tuesday work I pretty much zoned out (I love the pups, but constant confinement for four days with them got to be a little much. Okay, a lot much). Happily it thawed out enough that I could make writers’ group Tuesday night. It’s always fun to hang out, more so after not getting to go anywhere.

What I did get done was the first chapter of my book version of Undead Sexist Cliches. I hadn’t planned to put that much work into it this month, but I was kind of zoned Monday too, and nonfiction is easier.

The rest of the week I worked primarily on Southern Discomfort, thinking about the character arcs, the characters and some of the plot holes. My brain moved slower than I wanted, but it did move and I got a lot of thinking and revising and changing accomplished. I’ll probably discuss it next week.

Then Thursday TYG had an unexpected schedule glitch. So she was up late. So I was up late. Trust me with the dogs there’s no way for her or me to slip quietly into bed. So I was pretty zonked today. I’d planned to work on Trouble and Glass but wound up mostly doing more thinking about Southern Discomfort. I definitely think I’d have made more progress if I hadn’t been so thrown off by schedule.

One distraction did work out well. We had to take Plushie in to the vet to check his kidney levels — they were a little high last year — but it turns out that the kidney food we put him on did the trick. They’re fine. So yay.

And by the time you read this, I’ll probably be at Illogicon while TYG gets to make up all her lost time with the pups.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead sexist cliches, Writing