Category Archives: The Dog Ate My Homework

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).


(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

Here’s why proofing my time-travel book doesn’t happen overnight (#SFWApro)

img_1008And no, my Christmas cactus has nothing to do with the book, but it is blooming so prettily!

I’m now well over p.150 in proofing Now and Then We Time Travel. No indexing—there’s no point until I correct all the names and spelling errors. Given that unlike the previous three books (listed on my non-fiction page), I don’t have to wrap the work around a day job, I think I’m in good shape. Certainly I’m less stressed about it than last week. And I think I’m doing a better job than I’ve done before, precisely because I have less time pressure.

The most basic part of the gig is spelling and grammar errors. Then comes writing choices — long sentences I want to chop in two, better phrasing, rewording for clarity, etc. But then there’s the stuff that’s unique to a book like this, which is where things get really slow.

Let’s say I have Generic Time Travel Movie in the text with a release year of 1994. I look it up in a reliable source such as Leonard Maltin’s movie guide, it says 1995, I change the text. I look it up online and find a reliable source — a New York Times review from 1995 — I do likewise. If it’s somewhere crowdsourced such as Internet Movie Database, I try to find confirmation — other sites, the studio, etc. A lot of times the disagreements are errors of definition, not fact: a film may have played at a movie festival two years before it was released to theaters or DVD.

Or let’s say Generic Time Travel Movie‘s director is given in my text as Pompous McArtyPants. I have to check that, and the screenwriter names, and the actor names. If IMDB says his name is really Pompeii McArtyPants, I then have to search online until I find some sort of confirmation which of us is right. It’s more likely to be the website, but it’s not guaranteed. For a minor example, the 1993 film Official Denial identifies Chad Everett’s role as General Spalding, but every online source says “Spaulding.” I had it right. Very minor, but I prefer having the facts right to having them wrong, even in details. It’s one reason I actually watch every movie whenever possible: what’s on the screen is decisive. Lots of sources spell out the title of +1 as Plus One but that’s not what’s on-screen, so in my text it’s +1.

Plus I’ve never done a book with so many foreign films. That requires checking twice as hard because spelling mistakes in Japanese or Finnish names (yes, I have Finnish films) don’t leap out at me as easily as, say, Jjohn Smiht would (of course even then I’d check that the guy isn’t spelling it with two J’s). And with cyrillic, Korean or Chinese lettering, I can’t get the names off the screen so I have to rely on good sources and hope they got it right. And then double-check.

So it’s not a snap. But I am making progress and I will be done in time. Even if the dogs get periodic needy attacks at my focusing so much on work. Even if the practical challenges of handling a manuscript and a computer and sitting around two dogs are sometimes difficult.

Even if I do sometimes feel I’m in some kind of a—a two-way deathtrap (cover by Carmine Infantino, all rights to current holder).


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Filed under Movies, Now and Then We Time Travel, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

A little less formless (#SFWApro)

A much better week than last.

Part of that is that I’m feeling much less freaked out over the election. Not that I’m any less worried about the USA, or its people, or that I’m normalizing Trump in my head (“All these racists in the cabinet? What can you expect, it’s the Donald.”), but that I can only dread for so long. And dread neither fixes the problem nor improves my life (no offense intended to anyone who’s still freaked out).

Another part is that I got past the stage where none of my stories are working (as was the case last week). Specifically:

Let No Man Put Asunder is a 1980s manuscript I’m now rewriting, hamstrung by having lost most of the manuscript somewhere in my moves of the previous decade. For a while now I’ve been trying to replot it, but this week I realized that’s silly. I know the plot already — of all my early manuscripts this is the one I think I loved best, and I haven’t forgotten it — so why not just forge ahead and rewrite?

Of course it’s not an exact copy so it’s no surprise (at least to me) that after a chapter and a half, I ran into a plot problem — how exactly does the high-tech barbarian thief Renador rescue one of my protagonists, Adrienne? I know he managed it before … but for the life of me I don’t recollect how. But I’ll think of something, somehow, and then onward!

A bigger problem is that the book is written in alternating first person, Adrienne/Neil, and current Neil’s taking up much more of the word count (that definitely wasn’t the case before). Rewriting some sections from Neil’s voice into Adrienne’s is going to be a pain in the butt, but I think I’ll have to eventually (and possibly vice versa). Still it feels really good to be writing this again.

Brain From Outer Space finally has (I think) a working outline. My last finished draft had multiple plotlines and a big, sprawling cast. Rewriting that wasn’t getting anywhere. So I went back and focused only on the Steve/Gwen/Dani plotline and I actually got an outline that looks like it might be workable. I’m going to put in a lot more work before I’m convinced of that (and probably working in some added subplots with the other characters) but I feel more optimistic than I have in ages.

Of the two, Asunder is definitely the higher priority.

•I thought I’d finish the final draft of Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast this week but unsurprisingly it’s a little slower than I wanted. I still expect to have it out by the end of the month (providing I can find a cover image, but I’m working on that).

Actually getting stuff done, I’ll note, helps a lot with the election-related stress.

Plushie has continued staking out my lap as his new base of operations. I can discourage him if I really want to, but I’m too soft (and he’s just too cuddly) to do it all the time. Here you can see what working on the computer while accommodating both dogs looks like (I’m not in pain, that’s my I’m Being Photographed grimace). Photo is TYG’s.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

I did not surpass my expectations and my expectations were low (#SFWApro)

I set them low because, you see, TYG was out of town for three days, leaving me as solo dog parent. Which as I mentioned this morning does get tiring, plus the practical needs of providing all the walkies. And a new wrinkle, resulting from Plush wanting to sit on my lap so much: Trixie, being denied her usual place, keeps demanding extra attention as reassurance (which I invariably cave and give her). Though I think I’m finding ways to seat myself that will keep everyone happy: If I sit in the corner of the couch I can keep the lap desk in a comfortable position while Plushie and Trixie can both squeeze between my legs (get your mind out of the gutter).


Plus Thursday I went and gave blood (photo copyright is mine, credit me if you use it). Which takes a couple of hours, counting driving and rehydrating afterwards, and because I gave a double-portion of red blood cells, I got wiped out (it’s so long since I’ve done that, I forgot). On the plus side, I don’t donate again until late February; on the down, I didn’t get much done the rest of the day. Which is partly my own fault: once I tell myself “don’t expect a full week’s work,” it’s tempting to do even less than I had scheduled. Which is what happened Friday: TYG was getting home way earlier than I expected, and I don’t want to be working after that, so I won’t put in a full day so hell, goof off!

As mentioned in this morning’s post, I finished up Martinis, Girls and Guns, though I’m going to give it another going over later this month. I still need to find a cover illustration. I also need to change the title as there’s already book on Bond by the same name. I’ll probably change it to Sex For Dinner, Death for Breakfast (a quote from Die Another Day). Good thing I didn’t get cover art based on the first title yet, I guess.

I rewrote Trouble and Glass and I got some work done on two different short stories, Unnamed Portal Fantasy (I’ll think of something once I get it finished) and Children of Hyde. And that was pretty much it. My bad.

TYG has a demanding schedule next week so I may have to reduce my hours to provide extra walkies (we’re not sure yet). But I’ll be careful to set a minimum this time so I don’t make the same mistake.

And TYG is back, and that feels very good.

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