Category Archives: Writing

One of those God Says Ha weeks (#SFWApro)

Not in a drastic way like where the car blows up or the a.c. runs down. Just in little ways.

The project for Leaf wrapped up this week, but that did consume some time. Plus as usual, Screen Rant, this one concerning people who got their powers from Captain America’s super-soldier process, like the Captain America of the 1950s (seen above grappling with Steve Rogers, art by Sal Buscema, all rights remain with current holder). It was pretty much done by Wednesday, but then I got a call from GoBankingRates, another website I do stuff for. Short article, $125. I said yes. That took up a few hours Thursday (the information was easy to gather, but fitting it to their format is tougher).

And then late Thursday my Screen Rant editor emailed to ask if I knew anything about the Golden Age Captain Marvel (seen below with the Marvel Family and the wizard Shazam; art by C.C. Beck, all rights remain with current holder). They just announced this week that the Shazam film is the next DC movie to start filming, so SR wanted a story ready by end of day today. That consumed some of yesterday evening and all of today. Though it may not go up tomorrow, if it looks like there’s bigger news coming up that would make for more page views.

Plus I have another GoBanking article due Monday. But after that I’ll be free to focus on fiction the rest of the week. That will be fun.

So outside of the various articles I did this week, I submitted a book proposal (superstitiously I’ll keep mum about it until I know if it’s a go or not) and I finished reading Backlash for my Undead Sexist Cliches book, as I mentioned yesterday.

I had several house and paperwork tasks to do this week, but most of them didn’t get done. Among other things the transition to a new insurer is gumming up getting some prescription refills; I need some records for TYG to file some of the paperwork; but I did get a couple of stuck drawers in the living room unstuck, so yay (didn’t do it myself. Contractor took care of it).

Oh, and I sold a couple more copies of Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast. Kind of cool.

But now it’s all done. I plan a relaxing weekend. Have fun, y’all.



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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Time management and goals, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

Hard copy short story out! (#SFWApro)

I love having hard copy versions of my story so I was delighted to receive a contributor copy of CRIMSON STREETS: A Story a Week and Other Tales (cover art by John Waltrip, all rights remain with current holder). This was the first collection of stories from the Crimson Street neo-pulp web magazine, and it included my No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. So obviously it’s the most awesome anthology you will read this year.

I read it while I was down in Florida earlier this month, and I enjoyed it. But I do think it would have been better read at a slower pace, instead of sitting and paging through it in that period before my fellow Mensans arrived (I’ve found this true of a number of anthologies over the year) Read as a clump, there are a few too many Tough PIs Backstabbed By Beautiful but Dangerous Broads stories — individually fine, but not so much one after the other. And I feel a little guilty to realize that my PI story (they’re not all in that genre) had a tough white male protagonist like all the others. Next time I submit, I won’t default to that template.

As individual stories, though, there were a number I really liked:

The Worst Gift by Jordan King-Lacroix is the best of the Backstabbed PI stories, if only for how convoluted the doublecrossing gets.

Ghost Boss by Jamie Mason is a well-done urban fantasy. A federal investigator discovers the mess created by some crooked occultists is more tangled than expected.

Seducing the Angel by Garry Kilworth has a Regency rake set out to prove he can seduce even an angel. Hilarity does not ensue.”

She’s a Knockout by Bruce Harris is a boxing story — there were a lot of those in the old pulps — and does a good job with a familiar set up. There’s a fighter who refuses to take a dive and the manager who has to explain this to the mob, and it doesn’t look good for either of them. I’m curious to people who’ve never seen this kind of story (it was used in more than a few movies and TV shows too, back when boxing was several degrees cooler than I think it is now) make of it.

A Story a Week by Trevor Boeltor was a lot of fun. A writer’s new agent demands he deliver a short story a week. It’s a struggle at first but then the ideas come to him. But it turns out there’s a drawback to his new profession …

King’s Ransom by Don Katnik may have been my favorite in the collection (well, not counting my own work). A group of hoods put the snatch on their small town’s famous writer. But he doesn’t have any money, and he’s not worth enough to his publisher or his agent … so he works out a plan with them to turn himself into a cash cow.

Like I said, this is probably best read slowly. But it is worth reading. So if you want to

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Filed under Reading, Short Stories

Pretty good for a four-day week (#SFWApro)

Due to taking yesterday off for cleaning, I only had four days of writing this week, but I think I did well with them.

The high point was finishing another draft of Trouble and Glass, which I think I’m renaming, No One Can Kill Her. This is a quantum leap beyond the first draft in both plot and the character arcs, and setting it in the 1950s works much better. And I like one of the new settings (an abandoned movie studio) much better than I do the setting of the climax. With a little tinkering, I think I can relocate the climax for the better. I still have some problems to fix though, like one supporting character trailing off into nothing. Still, I’m quite pleased with my work.

I finished my next Screen Rant (15 Things You Don’t Know About the Sinister Six), and some more articles for Leaf. I have my proposal for the new movie book ready to go and I picked out a cover for the Atlas Shagged anthology. However, I’m going to get some feedback from friends before I do any cover reveals.

I also did some more research reading for Undead Sexist Cliches and my ideas for the next draft are starting to take shape.

And my day of isolation yesterday really did make me feel much more comfortable with the pups today.

I’ll wrap up with a shot from my Screen Rant, of Spider-Man delivering the smackdown on Electro. Art by Steve Ditko, all rights to current holder.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

Goals for June (#SFWApro)

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been on vacation, so there won’t be a “week in review” post this afternoon (can you soldier on?). Details of my week’s fun will come some time next week.

I came out with 48 percent of my goals accomplished, which I’m reasonably happy with. A lot of the stuff that didn’t get done was due to being full-time doggy daddy five days a week with no break (due, as I’ve mentioned before, to an outbreak of canine flu in the area). That affected lots of little things — the extra bicycling I normally do on daycare days, juggling practice (I’m a lousy juggler but I do enjoy practice. Only not when the balls can land on the dogs), cleaning time (dogs + cleaning chemicals is a suboptimal mix). Plus our surprisingly busy weekends kept me from some of the little activities I might have done during the same period. That suits my fine — social events are way preferable to ticking off stuff on my lists.

I finished a draft of Southern Discomfort, which is a big check mark for me. I did not, however, make it to the after-writer’s group bar to hang with everyone. Next month, for sure! I accomplished several other writing goals though with the Leaf project I worked on, didn’t get much in the short story vein done (but paying gigs are paying gigs). I caught up with a friend of mine whose health I was concerned about and kept up a reasonable exercise schedule. Though it’s possible the health benefits were neutralized by all my anniversary chocolate.

With things back to normal this month, I’m hoping to do better. And I’ve had a week of vacation to contemplate what I want to do and how to organize my time. We’ll see if that helps.

For illustration, here’s a Madonna by Titian, from the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Venice exhibit. Photo by me.

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

Is Our Writers Learning? Worldbuilding and tension (#SFWApro)

When I read Cherie Priest’s Brimstone last month, I’d hoped to use it for an Is Our Writers Learning post. But I didn’t like it much, and that would make four negative reviews in a row, so I decided not to (hopefully whatever I get to this month, I’ll find fun). But I did learn something, hence this post.

As I mentioned in blogging about City of Blades (cover by Sam Weber, all rights to current holder), it seems I find world-building much less fascinating than a lot of specfic readers. What turned me off to Brimstone was that of the two POV characters, Anne’s chapters for the first half of the book were all about world building and scene setting. See Anne go to Florida! See her learn all about spiritualism and tarot reading! See the small town she lives in! The other protagonist, Tomas, carries the weight of the plot at first; Anne’s just sort of there.

But the book sold, and garnered some good reviews. Which made me think again about all the scenes I cut from this draft of Southern Discomfort. As I’ve mentioned before, I had a lot of scenes with the townies discussing politics and life in Pharisee. They didn’t advance the plot, just explored and developed the concept of life in a sleepy Georgia county controlled by elves. They didn’t go over so well with my beta readers, and they didn’t work that well for me when I reread them. So I cut or reworked them.

So …. did I make a mistake? Is this something that my someday-audience would delight in if I kept them?

I honestly don’t think so. If I’m not satisfied with them, it’s unlikely anyone else will be. I could rework and improve them, and I’ve done that in the scenes that I’ve kept. Part of the problem was a complete lack of tension or conflict in many of them; I could go back, put some in.

But I don’t think that would fix them. One big difference between Brimstone and my book is that Priest has exactly two POV characters. I have several — Joan, Cohen, Maria, and that’s just the core cast. The world-building scenes (or county-building scenes at least) used lots more. Most of them only appearing once. I know that left my betas at sea. And there’s no way I can use Maria for them, even though she’s an outsider like Anne. The truth is, Maria just wants to get out of Pharisee ASAP, so she really doesn’t care about politics.

For the background scenes I did think worth keeping, I used Liz Mitchell in many of them. Giving her a larger role and tying her more closely to Pharisee ties them together. Plus in this draft she has conflicts that will (I think) add some conflict to the scenes. All that will help, I think. I’ll see what I make of it when I reread it, probably at the start of August (I think a month break will give me a clearer head.


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Filed under Is Our Writers Learning?, Southern Discomfort, Writing

Strong female characters (again) (#SFWApro)

In a June post on Deviant Dolls (hat tip to Magical Words), Steve Wetherell vents that he’s “bored of strong female characters.” As he sees it, “the Strong Female Character is a damned yawn fest and I’m sick of it” — just as much a stereotype as the Love Interest or the Mother. People talk about turning the cliche on its head by making the tough hero a woman, but that’s been done so often it’s now a cliche itself. There have been so many strong warrior women, they’re boring.

And a cliché that doesn’t make sense: if Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy is so badass, why isn’t she the team leader? If Hermione is so much smarter and better at magic than Harry, why isn’t she the hero? More to the point, because these characters are so awesome, invincible and flawless, they’re boring, just like men would be.  What we need, Wetherell concludes, are more female protagonists like John McClane or Peter Quill, someone who sweats, gets beaten down, shows fear. Less awesome, more human. He ends wondering if Wonder Woman will prove the exception (cover by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, all rights to current holder).

First off, it’s certainly fair to argue Hermione could have been the hero. The Chosen One turning out to be the white male is an old complaint, and a valid one — as one critic put it, why is Neo better suited to be The One in The Matrix rather than Trinity or Morpheus? Hermione certainly qualifies to be the hero, but I’d disagree completely with Wetherell that she’s boring. As Sarah Gailey points out on Tor, Hermione has her own story. She’s not just competent, she’s an overachieving nerd obsessed with studying to the point of being comical — what school stories in my youth called “a swot.” While she fights alongside Harry she’s not just his support person/sidekick. And she’s hardly written as a flawless character: that she wants to liberate the house elves is presented as comical foolishness on her part (I don’t think it is, but that’s how it comes across).

And while I don’t doubt Wetherell would like more human male protagonists too, the fact is he’s written about female characters. This kind of argument always seems to be about female characters, and how they shouldn’t be too damn awesome.

I think having a variety of female characters is great. Tech nerds like Caitlin and Felicity on the CW shows. Cat Grant, Lena and Kara on Supergirl, none of whom I think are stereotypes. Bo on Lost Girl and Xena on Xena, both of whom have dark pasts that overshadow their present.The casts of Lumberjanes and Princeless. But I can’t see that Female Badass is such an overwhelmingly overused type it needs to be retired (and I doubt I will ever see as many calls for retiring Male Badass). And I don’t have a problem with Gamora being the straight man (so to speak) on the team.

If a Strong Female Character is boring, the problem’s the writing or acting, not that she’s strong. Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies is every bit as kick-ass, and not particularly vulnerable or flawed. Played by Michelle Yeoh, she’s awesome.

I agree it would be a shame if every female character were a tough, no-nonsense action hero. But I see no reason not to have them in the mix.

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Filed under Undead sexist cliches, Wonder Woman, Writing

Social butterfly me (#SFWApro)

Last weekend was surprisingly social.

Usually I don’t interact with people beyond librarians and salesclerks. But Saturday a friend from the writer’s group had a birthday party, so I went and even got TYG to go along. It was enjoyable, including meeting some writing professionals from outside our group (his sister and her partner).

Sunday, writer Allegra had one of her work days where we’re all invited over to her place, bring food, eat. I haven’t made it in a while, but this time, success! I brought a fig muffin recipe I’ve been meaning to try for a while; very tasty, but a bit dry.

We spent about ninety minutes sitting around, eating and chatting. Then we got to work, intermixed with more chatting. While I don’t usually like working weekends, I got a solid three hours of work done. In between I petted Allegra’s greyhound.

This was all fun in itself. It also left me in much better shape to face the week. I think it was the combination of getting out and hanging with having so much time away from the pups, and from sitting in the living room. I wasn’t anywhere near as stressed about puppy care and personal space until it caught up with me again at the end of the week. Next week I’m giving myself a vacation so that will help.

I did another nine articles for the Leaf project (my favorite: “How to Become an Evangelist”) and another Screen Rant. And I finished the proposal for a new film book, though I’ll want to look at it once more next month before I mail it off.

Once again fiction got short shrift. I did put in some work on Trouble and Glass, shifting it forward to the 1950s. That really seems to have helped, but I won’t know for sure until I finish this draft.

I submitted one short story (Backstage With the Hypothetical Dead) and one query for a column.

I did a lot of research reading for the book version of Undead Sexist Cliches. After I read my first draft over, I felt it was missing something, but I’m not sure what. So possibly reading more on the subject will either help me see the problem, or convince me I’m just reinventing the wheel and give up. Stay tuned for the answer!

And once again I put in more than 35 hours. But once we can take the dogs to day care without worrying about canine flu, I’ll use some of it to take my dog free day and catch up on cleaning and similar duties. The house has gotten messy enough I’m actually looking forward to it.


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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Undead sexist cliches, Writing