Category Archives: The Dog Ate My Homework

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.

Leave a comment

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.

2 Comments

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

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.

4 Comments

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

The tide has turned. That may be a good thing (#SFWApro)

So a couple of weeks ago I was dealing with four different sources of nonfiction, income generating projects. At this point it looks like next week I’ll be down to one. I don’t feel bad about (perhaps in a few months).

The legal articles I was doing for Leaf has now wrapped up. It was fun doing it again — after several years with them back when I first moved up here I know the format and a lot of the topics well — but simply because it was for a limited time I put in a lot more effort than if it had been long-term. So that’ll free up quite a bit of time.

Two of the other income streams I was dealing with have yet to send me any work. Which is good because I had the Leaf stuff — it paid a lot better — and I don’t know how much more I could have handled. I keep wondering if one of them will start next week, enabling me to keep the money flowing. But I wouldn’t mind a week of getting back to mostly fiction, even though I’m still hustling for nonfiction gigs and magazine article ideas.

Screen Rant, of course, remains. I did my newest article this week (Dalek trivia!) but it’s not online yet. Rights to image remain with current holder.

And I did get close to 3,000 words of Southern Discomfort done, but that’s 2,000 short of what I’d planned. I should have stuck with the impulse I followed the previous week: when the nonfiction gets tough, just make myself put in the extra time to get 1,000 words each day. I’d figured I could catch up today — I did my last Leaf article (on the educational power of attorney) yesterday — but no. We had a somewhat chaotic morning with me walking the dogs (TYG was stuck handling something else) and then Plushie went and sat up in the bedroom. When I checked on him he stared at me as if he couldn’t quite figure out why he didn’t have one of his parents next to him to snuggle with (he’s not the sharpest card in the deck). So I settled in with him until he finally headed downstairs. All of which apparently left my brain too unfocused to work on fiction, so I switched to batting out some of Undead Sexist Cliches (The Book). I’m pleased I kept my nose to the grindstone, frustrated I got thrown so easily by morning events (and I had such a good night’s sleep, too!). But like I said, next week looks free and clear for catching up (fingers crossed).

Leave a comment

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

So Trixie ate a button … (#SFWApro)

That was Wednesday night. We were up in bed when TYG noticed she sounded like Trixie was chewing something hard. Which shouldn’t be possible in our bed. And yep, she’d been gnawing on a button on the duvet and bitten part of it (we will not be using that duvet again). She didn’t seem to be choking or in pain so after some Internet research we decided to see if she’d poop it out. And she has, or around 80 percent of it. How do I know? Squeezed the poop bag and felt something that was definitely a button.

Wednesday was also odd because when I sank into bed Tuesday night I didn’t get up until 5:30. Which for me on a weekday is oversleeping. And I never oversleep. Not that I’m complaining — I had an exceptionally bad night Monday and I eeded every minute of extra sleep.

Thursday was odd because we didn’t want to take the dogs in to doggy day care as we usually do — after all we could hardly ask them to inspect her poop for buttons. So I lost my day to work without pups to parent. I had to pass up plans for a haircut — I rarely go out when they’re home because I have to set up Plushie’s cage and that’s more bother than it’s usually worth. This weekend, perhaps.

Of course the dogs being home meant that when a contractor showed up — I’d set the time precisely because they wouldn’t be here — the pups lost their shit (“PET ME, PET ME, PETTTTT ME!!!!”). The contractor crew bore it with good grace, though.

And in the evening, when I had to do my cleaning (I normally do that on day-care day too) the pups lost their mind again. I was home — but I wasn’t sitting with them! Or doing something with them! I was doing Other Stuff! Departure From Routine! Apocalpyse! Noooo! But after I was done we all calmed down and settled on the couch again. What the heck, no matter what they need, they’re worth it.

Leave a comment

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

Another changing tide? (#SFWApro)

But changing in a good way, happily. As King Cnut demonstrated (image borrowed from Medievalists, don’t know artist, all rights reside with current holder) we cannot hold those tides back. Before I get to tidal matters, here’s a quick overview of the week:

•I wrote and submitted my newest Screen Rant, as I mentioned this morning.

•I submitted more articles on the current Leaf project.

•I sent in my first sales tax payment on sales of Philosophy and Fairytales. It was less than a buck so the charge for paying online was actually more than the tax. On the other hand, it is kind of cool that I need to pay sales tax.

•I continue to struggle with fixing up Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast. I think I have the problems fixed but I’m ordering a test copy (about $6) just to make sure.

•The best part of the week is that I got back to work on Southern Discomfort. I just promised myself that no matter what, I’d get a thousand words done every day, and I did. I’d like to do more, but it feels wonderful to be moving forward with it.

And that’s the tide part — after swinging so heavily to nonfiction, they’re moving me back to fiction. Okay, technically I moved myself back by conscious effort. So much for the metaphor. But then again, the nonfiction does seem to be slowing down a little. This latest Leaf project will wrap up by the end of next week at the latest. One of those nonfiction projects I talked about at the link just isn’t happening (not the first time I’ve gone through Welcome Aboard! followed by Crickets!). I have another one that may start next week — we’ll see what happens. So that could mean less money (boo!) but more fiction time (yay!). And I have a few potential nonfiction projects, both articles and long-term gigs, to look into next week.

On a non-writing note, I had a frustrating experience making calzones this week. The dough just didn’t work, which I assume is my fault though the recipe did seem off (very little time for the dough to rise). However I made the filling without the calzones and its delicious.  I shall make it again soon.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

March in review (#SFWApro)

Given the chaos, the unexpected extra assignments and everything else, I’m pleasantly surprised I got 58 percent of my goals done (I’m writing this Thursday night, but I don’t see the figure changing today). Unfortunately most of them weren’t writing goals. They were things like practicing meditation, wrapping up the taxes, using sunscreen, meeting my quota of exercise, etc. All important, but more personal than professional.

Part of that is that I overestimated how much I could get done after having Lily stay over and visiting Florida. Part of it is that Screen Rant and all the other unplanned nonfiction I did steered work away from my plans for fiction. I’m particularly disappointed that I couldn’t pull off the 25,000 words I wanted on Southern Discomfort. And got bupkiss done on short stories.

But that’s basic to the writing game. If something new comes along — a paying gig, an invitation to write for an anthology — then you adjust your plans accordingly. I shall spend this weekend setting goals for April and figuring out how to balance everything. I hope.

For bonus amusement, here’s a cover (don’t know photographer, all rights remain with current holder) of a 1970 decorating book, courtesy of Awful Library Books. That woman appears to be seriously stoned, or she’s just had some really great sex.

1 Comment

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