Category Archives: Personal

It’s all happening at the zoo (#SFWApro)

Although I went to Greenville SC a month ago and took photos, I just realized I never got around to posting any of them. So without further ado, here are some from Greenville Zoo:

First, we have a chameleon, though obviously not very blended in.

Second, an orang-utan whom I’m convinced was mugging for the public, clowning around in the sheet. Though he clearly enjoyed doing it.

The parental unit was unamused.

Then there’s the anteater.

A rhea from the same enclosure.

Plus a hungry giraffe

Photos are all my work. Please credit me should you choose to use them.

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OMG, I’m writing the raunch werewolf comedy! (#SFWApro)

My standard joke about not having a multi-book contract with a major publisher (for example) is that it does at least leave me free. If I choose to write a magical realist story about Dadaist ghosts in Zurich rather than sign a contract to write a big-budget werewolf raunch comedy, it’s unlikely to affect my bottom line.

But in a sense, isn’t that exactly what I’ve been doing lately? This time last year I was focused overwhelmingly on fiction (95 percent of the time, say). The past two or three months it’s been predominantly nonfiction, which pays the bills, but doesn’t satisfy me. With the exception of my movie books and Screen Rant lists, but they’re still not as fun as fiction.

However, I like having money coming in, so I’ll have to find a way to make it work. Faster work on the nonfiction (my Screen Rant columns take less and less time to write as I get better at them). Forcing myself to squeeze in fiction time — I worked late Thursday just to get a little more done Southern Discomfort in (my own fault. I’d run out of steam and gotten next to nothing done on the book that afternoon). This is hardly a revolutionary plan, of course, but time management really isn’t a field where new discoveries shake things up.

So in addition to finishing two Screen Rants this week (one of them will be out next week) I did get several thousand words in on Southern Discomfort. And that was pretty much it. If push comes to shove, the novel has to take top priority behind the paying gigs.

The book is progressing well (over 40,000 words as of today), but I’m getting to the point where I need to make big, big changes, and I’m not sure what those are. I can sort of sense the path I want, but “sense” is a long way from actually having an outline. I did figure out one major plot point, but I’m not sure if it’ll make sense when the book is written. I’m beginning to think my goal for this draft should be to put in the stuff my beta-readers wanted, take out the stuff they hated and make sure the plot hangs together. Then go back and make it all seem coherent in the next draft, like I knew where I was going from the first.

Oh, and I talked to a publisher about a possible new film-reference book. More details if I go ahead with it.

I put in well over 35 hours thanks to waking up early most days. That more than made up for the time we spent Thursday taking Trixie and Plushie to the groomers. The new looks are revealed below

We don’t usually cut Trixie this much, but she seems to be shedding a lot.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

Mental static (#SFWApro)

I’m increasingly frustrated lately by not being able to focus when I’m reading.

I do most of my reading in the evening. Downstairs with TYG (if she’s home) and the pups, then upstairs in the bed. If I wake up early and I’m not under deadline pressure for anything, I’ll read for a half-hour before starting work. Sometimes that’s enough to put me back to sleep.

I’m finding, though, that I’m getting all monkey-mind during the evenings. My mind wanders and I don’t focus.  Not because of the quality of the book, either, or because I don’t want to read. There’s just too much static in my head and I find myself checking the computer or doing something else that isn’t reading.

(Don’t worry, she’s just squishing against my leg. My photo, please attribute to me if you use)

Part of it is that there’s a lot to distract me lately. The dogs have been needier for some reason (in Plushie’s case it’s because he needs to lose weight, so fewer treats). We have some eyedrops we give Plushie in the evening. Throw in a couple of other distractions and it slices and dices time so I can’t really sit for very long. That said, there are lots of nights where I have an hour or ninety minutes to read. I think even then, my mind may be conditioned to not focusing on the reading.

Another aspect is that I spend most days sitting in the living room with the dogs, then I spend the evenings sitting in the living room with the dogs. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m off work and free to relax. I’ve used various tricks to relax and mark the end of the work day in the past, but they don’t work with the dogs around (taking a walk by myself, meditating, stretching out. Trixie takes stretching out as body language for “sit on me immediately please.”). That works against relax-and-enjoy, much the same way they say working in bed all the time makes it hard to feel it’s a place of rest.

I could solve the problems by going upstairs and reading alone, but I really prefer to be downstairs with my family.

A possible solution might be to do more reading during the day — morning break, say. Shifting my schedule so I take an hour off in the day to read, then work at night would be fine, but I don’t want to work if TYG feels like talking. That’s why I do most of my work when she’s at work.

This has been a problem for a while, but I think it’s getting incrementally worse. So I’d better work on a solution. Life without reading is miserable.

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

The tide has turned and caught me at full flood! (#SFWApro)

So as I mentioned a while back, I picked up three different paying gigs in addition to Screen Rant: the Leaf project (now wrapped up), freelance work for a network of legal papers and money management how-to articles for GOBankingrates. Only the latter two of the four never assigned me anything.

But then the week before my trip to Greenville, GOBankingrates asked if I was up for an article. I had to pass until after the trip, but earlier this week they called again. So I took the assignment (how to get pre-approved for a mortgage). The information was simple enough — it’s similar to the stuff I’ve done for Leaf — but like Screen Rant, they have their own format and style rules, and getting it written to comply with them consumed a lot of time. Not that they’re unreasonable, but it always goes slow the first time I try to follow a style guide. But it’s done, and assuming no problems, it will work out to a great hourly rate.

But all that work on mortgage pre-approval sucked up a lot of time I’d have spent for fiction. And the irrational conviction I Have No Time, I Can’t Get It Done when I have a tight deadline kept me up early. Plus I was working on two Screen Rants, this week’s (not out yet) and a big Wonder Woman article due in a couple of weeks. So it was a little frantic.

And today, the early rising got to me. I went to sleep right after lunch and when I woke up I just lay down with the pups for another hour. Then read for another hour instead of writing. I was in overtime for the week, so I don’t feel bad about it, but I almost never blow off an afternoon even so. Guess I was more tired than I thought.

So what did I get done?

•I reread Undead Sexist Cliches — the Book, because I did almost nothing on it last month and I needed a better sense of what I’d already covered.

•I got another 5,000 words done on Southern Discomforts.

•I had a great idea for my short story, Trouble and Glass, that will resolve some of the problems I’ve been having with it. I’d hoped to actually work on the text, but that time got lost in the nonfiction push.

•I was supposed to talk on the phone with someone I applied to for another nonfiction gig. And that we jumped to phone is a good sign, I think — however, life intervened on his end. Next week, hopefully.

On top of which I managed to keep up exercising, and to give the kitchen a really thorough cleaning while the dogs were in day care (it’s not the best way to spend my dog-free day, but it beats having them try to nose around me while I’m spraying cleaning products).

Next week, now that I know to budget time for the GOBankingrate, perhaps things will go smoother. We shall see …

Oh, and Digital Fantasy Fiction just reprinted my short story He Kindly Stopped For Me. If Death knocked on your door and asked to use your phone, how would you react? Feel free to check out the Story Behind The Story from when it first came out.

Cover art by Jack Kirby, all rights reside with current holder.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Story behind the story, Time management and goals, Writing

So I had a good weekend after all (#SFWApro)

Since blogging about Trixie’s illness and our canceling our Greenville trip to stay with her, I’m pleased to report things have gone well. Trixie crapped a big poop out around noonish on Friday so her system is back to normal. TYG and I are a little frustrated there was nothing obviously to blame in her stool (a big wad of grass, some pantyhose, etc.) but we can live with that (I felt the poop through the plastic of our poop bag, no direct touching. Thanks for asking). As you can see, she’s back to grappling with Plushie when the mood strikes her.

I’d figured the weekend would be miserable — TYG would be stuck dealing with a work emergency, I’d be moping — but it was actually quite nice. We caught Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, played some games of Chronology (I won. Probably because she had a mimosa and I didn’t), and went bicycling together for the first time in probably a year. As TYG always pushes a little harder than me, we wound up doing 90 minutes, maybe a little more. It’s been longer than a year since I went that far up the trail.

Plus I found a bread recipe that uses tomato paste for part of the liquid and it was almost exactly the amount of leftover paste I had in the fridge. I made the bread Sunday and it’s delicious (spicing includes paprika, pepper and garlic salt).

Don’t get me wrong, I’d have preferred Greenville. I don’t see my pre-Durham friends anywhere as often as I’d like. But I really did have a good time staying here.

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I had a fabulous weekend. What happened next will shock you! (#SFWA)

Last weekend was awesome. Friday (apr. 28) I drove down to Greenville SC to visit my friends Neil and Courtney (that’s their dog, Watson, in the photo) . Every year there’s a Mensa trivia contest, Culture Quest, and I go down and play with them rather than with the local Durham teams. No disrespect meant to them (they often outscore us), but it’s nice to spend time with people who know me from back before I moved up here.

We hung out and lay around a lot, watched movies (see tomorrow’s reviews) and TV (Westworld, which will get a review of its own eventually), competed in Culture Quest, visited the Greenville Zoo (very nice!) and Neil’s comic book store plus hitting the Greenville library’s book sale. Everything’s cheap and the last day everything’s half-off the cheap price. There’s more stuff to do, and sometimes I’ve spent the whole week there as the Greenville Mensa gathering takes place the following weekend. This time, though, I came back Monday, planning to come back with TYG for the gathering on Friday.

(A brief aside: Gaffney, SC is on the way and has a ginormous water tower painted into a peach. It’s a real shock seeing it when you’re not prepared, like someone in a movie confronting a giant kaijin).

So I spent the three days I had to work concentrating on my Screen Rant column, and doing some more research reading for Southern Discomfort. Plus taking time out for Plushie’s noon eye appointment on Thursday.

But then Thursday morning Trixie suddenly sat on the ground midway through her walkies and refused to budge. She didn’t eat when she got home. And she was lethargic and withdrawn, which is very un-Trixie. We called and got a 10:30 appointment at our vet. Unfortunately they were slammed so TYG had to leave and take Plush dog to his appointment while I waited on Trixie’s results.

The long and short of it: Trixie had eaten something (cloth, hair, grass) which had filled up her stomach. Fortunately it had passed out by 4ish. However we still have to wait and see whether it passes out her intestines or sticks (which could require surgery).

I was still fairly comfortable with boarding Trixie at the vet’s for the weekend, but TYG wasn’t. She volunteered to stay behind and watch Trixie while I went to Greenville, but I decided I’d be too worried about Trixie (and guilty about leaving) to enjoy myself. So I stayed. I wasn’t happy with the decision, but I wouldn’t have been happy going either …

While the stuff hasn’t passed out yet, Trixie is back to her normal high-energy self again, so yay! And I did get a little extra work done (submitted a couple of stories, applied for an editing gig, worked on Trouble and Glass for the first time in forever) which made me feel less disappointed in my choice. I do miss seeing all our Mensa friends though. But Trixie’s my little girl, so there you are.

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Filed under Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

April goals: No covering myself with glory (#SFWApro)

Goals accomplished: 45 percent. My lowest so far this year. Even given I spent a week sick, I should have done better.

Part of the problem was that I still had the last of my Leaf work to wrap up, which took a lot of time. And then I compensated by focusing heavily on Southern Discomfort, which meant lesser stuff — marketing, short stories — didn’t get done. I’d have caught up (maybe) last week, but the sick thing kicked in. Likewise lots of little things — exercise, for instance — got lost here and there in the rush.

I did get 25,000 words written on Southern Discomfort, which is great, and I finally saw Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast out in hardback. Plus my Screen Rant columns were all turned in.

May will suffer from having very little time this first week of May. I got back Monday from visiting friends (details in this afternoon’s post), I’m taking today off (details later), and I had multiple appointments and errands during the three work days. But I think I’ve calibrated tasks to time available effectively. Or so I hope.

For your entertainment, I’ll conclude with a cover by Richard Courtney (all rights retained by current holder). Michael Moorcock novels often promote imaginative covers though I’ve seen wilder ones.

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Filed under Personal, Screen Rant, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals