Category Archives: The Dog Ate My Homework

Why no, this was not a productive week, how did you guess? (#SFWApro)

Well, other than me mentioning it in this morning’s post of course. Plus getting back from Fort Walton Beach on Monday, so I had one day down to start with.

Having three dogs, all of whom want to sit either beside me or on my lap, made working on my computer difficult. And Lily seems to be even more eager for cuddles than when we’ve dog-sat her before. Even my backup plan — do some reference reading offline for Southern Discomforts — didn’t quite fly. Partly that’s because dog shenanigans in the bed Wednesday night left me utterly exhausted Thursday (and as noted, my holiday trip had hardly been a haven of sleep, so I had no reserves left).

On the plus side, waking up early Thursday enabled me to finish my next Screen Rant article early Thursday morning (Fifteen Super Heroes Who Quit and Never Returned). And I completed my interview with one news service that wants to use me as a reporter — it’ll be about 10 to 15 hours a week, I think. I’d prefer a little less, but as I’m getting faster and smoother at the Screen Rant articles, I think I can do it without stinting on the Southern Discomfort rewrite.

And that was it. Of course, I was prepared for this to happen — we’ve dog-sat Lily a couple of times — but it is a little frustrating to get so little done after a week of vacation. But no regrets, either. She’s a sweet dog and she’s much happier with us and getting to rough-house with Trixie than if she were in a kennel somewhere alone.

Next week, back into action!

 

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

Enter the Lily (#SFWApro)

So once again we dog-sat for Trixie’s best friend Lily while her owners were away. Which meant lots of madcap dog-ninja grappling, some really tricky walkies (how the hell do professional dog-walkers manage so many at once?) and lots of dogs wanting to cuddle with me at once. So not a lot of work accomplished (I’ll discuss that in this afternoon’s post). And not a lot of sleep, either. I’m not sure what we’re doing differently, but fitting Lily onto the bed proved a very difficult endeavor. And sometime early Thursday morning she wound up waking me up with the “please can I climb up and cuddle with you?” look (no, unfortunately — TYG was sleeping so far on my side there was no space for a dog). Still, it’s cute having Lily over, and I know she enjoys it more than staying at a kennel. So we’re cool.

(A clash of titans! Very small titans).

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework

Puppies will make them sleep! Actually no (#SFWApro)

Case in point, Monday morning. Sunday night, TYG had startled Plush Dog with Sudden Motions (getting rid of a bug) so he decided his safe space would be lying on top of me in the bed. When it came time for me to close my eyes, TYG and I managed to nudge him off to sleep between us, but no further. Which was fine … until 2 AM or so when he decided to sleep on the other side of his mommy. Only instead of trying to climb over her, he climbed over me. Specifically my crotch. So I woke up. And didn’t get back to sleep.

But I’m still absurdly happy we have them in the bed with us every night.

plush-tongue

Trixie, meanwhile, has been very needy lately. More insistent on snuggling and petting during the work day, more interested in reaching over the lap desk to get my attention, which is usually Plushie’s trick. Is it just a phase? Or is she needy because Plushie keeps taking the lap and she feels left out. A couple of times, they’ve decided to share the lap, which is cute but really a stretch for my legs to encompass them both. I’m too soft to say no, though. Probably a good thing we don’t have kids (“Well, if blowing up the school will help you feel better about your grades, Susie, go right ahead.”)

trix-asleepBoth photos are mine. Feel free to use them, please give me credit.

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My week in review makes me think of that TV series Hindsight (#SFWApro)

One of the things I liked about VH1’s Hindsight was that after the protagonist travels 20 years into the past and fixes her big problems (her train-wreck first marriage and her dead-end job), she has no idea what to do next. Knowing what was wrong in her past doesn’t show her what path will lead to happiness (her best friend points out that she’s no worse off than anyone else). Which is sort of what I felt like working on Southern Discomfort this week.

The one part of the book I still haven’t outlined is Joan and Maria journeying to Caer Gwalchmai. It has to be less than the relatively simple “waltz through the Otherworld and get the magic McGuffin” sequence in the last draft, but I’m not sure what. This week I got a clearer idea of what I don’t want: it shouldn’t be just a struggle fighting through supernatural forces and monsters. My gut says that’s wrong, and I trust my gut. However I’m not sure what the alternative is. A series of traps and wards they have to circumvent? Maybe. Or something I haven’t yet thought of. Quite possibly. I’ll keep pushing until I figure it out. And start on the earlier chapters while I’m thinking, so I don’t waste too much time staring into my navel for inspiration.

I did not get as much work on the novel done as planned because of those two assignments I mentioned last week — a History Magazine article assignment and a trial run as a writer for Screen Rant. I got the History research collected and managed to bat out a rough draft (very rough, but it gives me a sense of how I want the piece structured). And I found the photos I need online.

The first Screen Rant column, as I suspected, took much longer than I wanted it to. If I’m going to stick with the gig (assuming they like my work), I’ll have to write much more efficiently. But that was the case with Demand Media: the first few articles were crawling, then I found my rhythm. I’ll also have to structure my time so that I don’t work on them over the weekend — this one will have to be wrapped up Sunday. The writing’s done, except for proofreading, but I have to enter it in the system, which will probably take a bit longer. And I have to find illustrations and crop them which will be a pain. But then again, writing about comics and getting paid for it is pretty damn cool, so onward!

I applied for a couple more freelance jobs, and that was about it for work, even with more than the usual number of hours in. Of course that’s partly because reading White Flight was slow going, because the book’s so packed with information. And I got stressed and tired Wednesday which made hump day less productive than I’d planned.

To end on a high note, here’s a look at Plushie after his new cut. Adorable, is he not?

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Filed under Nonfiction, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

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

You’re stark, raving mad! Goals for 2017 (#SFWApro)

For 2016, I had 55 year goals, mostly patterned on my most recent 101 in 1,001 list. I wanted to write at least 10 short stories over the 1,001 days that started 1/1/16, so my 2016 goal was to write three (I finished four). As noted yesterday, my success rate was around 54 percent. So I’m not sure upping my goals to around 80 for 2017 makes a lot of sense. But I did it anyway.

Some of the growth was because there were a couple of 101 items that I haven’t begun yet, so I might as well start. A lot of it was personal stuff, though. Sitting with the dogs all day sometimes gives me a bad case of cabin fever. As we didn’t hit Dragoncon this weekend, I haven’t had a break of more than a day since our trip to the Mensa gathering in July. Coupled with TYG’s heavy workload, watching the pups has been more exhausting than usual of late (I should make it clear, she really appreciates and is grateful for the time I put in with them).  I feel the need to counteract that by coming up with more goals that involve getting outside, even simple ones like “walk or bicycle outside every weekend.” Or go beyond my usual outside travels by finding roads or bike paths I don’t know.

I also want to get out and do more stuff with TYG. Which takes a conscious effort (hence putting it in the goals) because it’s so easy for us to stay home with the pups. However she’s got some heavy-duty time commitments in 2017, so I won’t be working on those goals until after she’s free.

On top of that, I feel a need to push or challenge myself in some new ways. Experiment with and improve my photography. Improve my inept juggling. Not that I expect to become professional-class in either, but I do enjoy trying to improve myself, particularly in areas where I don’t stand to gain anything but fun.

While it’s not exactly a goal, pushing myself is definitely part of what I want to do. Need to do. Looking at some of the goals I didn’t do last year, it’s because I just never pushed myself to do them (work backstage in one of the local theatrical productions, say). Part of that’s a variation of the cabin-fever thing: it seems so natural to stay at home and not go out, it makes it easy to just pass up alternatives. I don’t think that’s a good thing, much as I enjoy the house, the pups and TYG. Even when I put stuff on my goals list, I don’t make any effort to actually do it. Possibly I don’t really want to and I’m fooling myself, but more likely it’s inertia. So this year, I push to change that.

My two most ambitious goals? To bicycle to the Raleigh trail-head, one of those I failed to push for in 2016 (as noted yesterday). And to finish Southern Discomfort. I’m not a fast writer, so the latter will take work. And bicycling will require getting out on my bike regularly so I can build up the stamina for a 28-mile trip. Next would come finishing six shorts this year; that’s more ambitious than last year, and I’m not sure I’m a fast enough writer, but we’ll find out.

trixie big eyes(See? Trixie may be a lot of work at times, but she’s worth it. Photo is mine, rights to photo are mine, please credit me if you want to use it).

I’ve also got a fairly ambitious list of goals for January — like most people, my determination is strong in the New Year — which given TYG’s schedule and other distractions (I may have jury duty) may be foolishly optimistic. Or as the post title suggests, barking mad. We’ll see as the month unfolds.

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

Summing up: my goals achieved (or not) in 2016 (#SFWApro)

Wow. Looking back it seems a)incredible 2016 is over (setting aside any questions about how good a year it was). Where did all that time go? b)It seems like a very busy 12 months, full of stuff that used up time. Short stories. Snuggling with TYG. Lots and lots of puppy care. Traveling to San Diego in the summer. And working on my goals for the year, of course.

I was initially disappointed that I only accomplished around 55 percent of my 2016 goals. Then I looked back at this time last year and saw for 2015 I only managed 18 percent. So this year is 300 percent better. Not that I was 300 percent better or more efficient, but Now and Then We Time Travel hogged a lot of time (ROFL!) in 2015, more than I’d expected. It did this year too, but there was less work on the book to do, so the effect wasn’t as bad.

My monthly average is actually better, 70 percent. But that reflects that I include lots of little goals each month that aren’t part of the year-goals. For example I set the amount of hours I’m going to write based on all the other activities (vacations, TYG’s schedule, contractor visits, etc.) I have to handle; that’s better done at the monthly level.

Regrettably most of the goals I accomplished were personal, not professional, like reducing my cooking schedule so I don’t have too many leftovers; having multiple irregular social events (i.e., in contrast to my writer’s group, which is a regularly scheduled event); traveling outside the triangle four times; watching films without doing stuff (email, work, whatever) during them (watching all the time-travel movies on the job gave me bad habits); and keeping up a regular cleaning schedule (45 minutes a week, which seems to be the most I can pull off between dogs and writing).

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(All rights to cover and cover image reside with current holders)

I did make two of my big writing goals. I wrote another draft of Southern Discomfort and I finished Now and Then We Time Travel. So both of those deserve a huzzah! I wrote four short stories, and kept Questionable Minds out constantly, instead of letting it lie fallow after a rejection. I finished Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, though it isn’t actually out (via Draft2Digital) yet. And the dogs and I have successfully adapted to a work day where I’m typing most of the time, instead of just watching movies (and therefore have hands free to pet them).

I wanted to sell five short stories; I managed four. Which is good, but didn’t let me check off the goal. I also wanted to sell one to a magazine considered a major market, and I didn’t manage that either (no disrespect intended to the magazines that did publish me).

And I really wanted to make more money than I did. I wasn’t fantasizing about a six-figure income, just something comparable to what I earned as a journalist. While I did make some sales for actual cash, I’ll end up with a net loss for the year. Fortunately we’re a two-income family, and I will be able to claim a legitimate loss on our taxes for this year.

The personal goal I most regret not making is that I wanted to bike to the Raleigh trailhead of the American Tobacco Trail again. After we adopted Trixie and Plushie slightly over two years ago, our bicycling time plummeted, and it’s hard to get back in the groove. I thought we’d be more back in it by now, but nope. So I’m putting it on next year’s goal list.

I’ll be back tomorrow with plans for 2017.

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Filed under Movies, Nonfiction, Now and Then We Time Travel, Personal, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing