Category Archives: Writing

I rode myself hard and hung myself up—wait, does that sound right? (#SFWApro)

It was a week that did not go as I planned.

I submitted my first Screen Rant article, and then my second, but they both took way longer than wanted. And that required really pushing myself, hence the title. I need to trim the time down, and I need to relax and have more fun with the writing too. I love comics, which makes it easy; I’m working under a tight deadline and specific format requirements which makes me veer serious. I did better with the second one though (I’ll post a link when it’s up), so hopefully next week will be better yet.

I have my History article on tractors 80 percent done, and I should be able to get it out next week. So yay!

And I started indexing Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast for a Createspace edition. If I’m going to go hard-copy, it should have an index. Annoyingly, I found one minor error in the intro, so I have to correct the ebook too. I’ll wait to see if I find any more — indexing is good for that.

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But I got almost no fiction written, which is not yay. That’s happened before and not that long ago — back last year when I was wrapping up Now and Then We Time Travel, for instance. However, I don’t want to be doing that now, if I can help it. I enjoy nonfiction (obviously. I’ve written enough of it), but fiction is the reason I write. And I do want to get two more drafts of Southern Discomfort in this year. So like I said, I’d better get more efficient.

I am pleased that despite the rush to finish up Screen Rant #2, I made time for essential stuff like exercise, and making sourdough bread while the dogs were in doggy day-care on Thursday. It’s important not to let even demanding deadlines roll over normal life, if I can possibly help this (and if I want to do Screen Rant regularly, I have to help it). I was sufficiently rushed I forgot adding the salt to the dough (sourdough buckwheat bread) but that’s easy to fix with a little salt sprinkled on each slice. It’s an easy mistake — I’ve done it before when I was rushed.

I’ll close with a shot of some dead leaves I took this week. It symbolizes … well, whatever you want. Free symbol! Please credit me if you want to use it.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Now and Then We Time Travel, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

Bizarro: Superman’s powers, none of his brains (#SFWApro)

Which is the topic of my first article on Screen Rant — 17 things you didn’t know about Bizarro. It was quite a challenge adapting to their style and process (not a criticism—it always is with a project like this) and I didn’t get it quite right; i.e., they had to do more editing than they should have. But I’ll use what I learned and do better on #2 (due in today).

Below, Curt Swan does a Bizarro cover. All rights reserved to current holder.

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Filed under Comics, Nonfiction, Writing

Fandom, sexism and other writing-related links (#SFWApro)

Foz Meadows looks at the assumption talking about race and representation in YA is, itself, racist. After all, you’re talking about how many black or women or gay characters are in fiction, so obviously you’re not seeing them as people, just diversity hires (so to speak), right? No, as detailed at the link.

•No, comics are not innately a man’s world. Women were involved in comic strips and comic books even before second-wave feminism started.

•SF and comics are not the only creative field with a history of sexism.

•Atomic Junk Shop looks at the roots of sexism in comics fandom (I’ve linked to this before, I know, but it seemed to fit in two different posts).

•Freelancer Renae deLiz had a big hit with Legend of Wonder Woman but her relationship with DC has been less than amicable. Heidi McDonald looks at the history (which includes some crowdfunded projects that did not deliver as planned) and the tricky questions of freelancer vs. corporation.

•Need images? The Metropolitan Museum of Art has them online for free.

•Fake news as a tool for promoting a movie?

•Duke’s Center for the Public Domain puts out a comic-book explaining fair use.

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Filed under Writing, Politics, Undead sexist cliches, copyright

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

Paper and Pen: two weeks of organizing old school (#SFWApro)

So as I mentioned after buying my new computer, I found myself dissatisfied with the new Calendar app. I went out a week later and picked up a planner (I did try a couple of new apps, but none of them worked as well as iCal for me).  It turns out I’m not one of those people who desperately needs to kick it old school.

The planner is way better than Apple’s Reminder, and much easier to use than the other calendar/list making apps I tried. But still, I’m not going to carry it along with me when I move my computer from one room to another, which makes checking on my progress a little more awkward.

And also I just picked the wrong planner. Understandable, as I haven’t used one in what, six or seven years? This is a page-a-day planner, and I think a bigger one with a week per two pages would have suited me better. That way I can see all the tasks I have for the week without flipping any pages.

Come the end of 2017 I think I’ll take a much closer look at what planners are out there, see which will really suit me.

But I miss my iCal.

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Filed under Personal, Time management and goals

Research for Southern Discomfort (#SFWApro)

My research this past week or so was pretty grim. A reminder that America has always been haunted by the shadow of racism, and the resistance of whites to doing anything to change their privileged status.

According to HOW THE IRISH BECAME WHITE by Noel Ignatiev, the early Irish immigrants were the lowest of the low, little better than blacks, and considered by Protestant America the ones most likely to “amalgamate” with blacks. The Irish had been treated as a lower race in their own country since the English occupation, and many of them — such as Daniel O’Connell, who was active in Ireland fighting to repeal the union of Ireland and England — were abolitionist. Others were not, seeing abolition as alienating potential American support for repeal. Many embraced the white labor axiom that the life of a slave, with guaranteed shelter and food, was easy compared to that of the real slaves, the white working men (Frederick Douglass pointed out that if they really believed that, his running away had left a slave position vacant). Beyond that, racism against free blacks became common, both before and after the Civil War. Free blacks doing the same job as whites was seen as lowering white workers to their level. The Irish, like most whites, wanted to establish they were well above that level, which meant as much segregation as possible.

Ignatiev’s focus is primarily the north, which limits its usefulness for Southern Discomfort. It does make me conscious that I’m not going to be able to sum up all of Irish/black race relations in one novel (yeah, I know, obvious). However it does give me ideas for a couple of background details.

345070(Cover image from the Calvin Fred Craig papers at Emory University. All rights reside with current holder)

WHITE FLIGHT: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism by Kevin M. Kruse looks at how Atlanta, known as “the city too busy to hate” for its moderate desegregation efforts (in contrast to other parts of the South that believed the color line had to be defended at all costs), actually did quite a bit of hating from the post-war years through the 1970s. While the civic and business leaders were willing to work with black Atlanta — allowing blacks to buy homes in white neighborhoods, desegregating some public parks, minimally desegregating schools — the working-class saw this as a sell-out by rich people whose private schools and private parks wouldn’t be affected. For some the solution was neo-Nazi groups or the KKK, but over time they adopted more euphemistic approaches, such as their right to “freedom of association” — which in their eyes meant a)they should be free not to associate with blacks; b)therefore segregation so blacks were kept away from them, even in public spaces; c)if segregation fell, then whites simply abandoned facilities to Those People and over time fled to segregated suburbs. Kruse argues that the roots of modern conservative attitudes were born here: a conviction white taxes went to support black moochers, enthusiasm for privatizing public facilities (in the hopes they could then deny blacks the right to use them), opposition to spending on public projects or infrastructure (when Those People would use it) and so on. While Kruse didn’t tell me anything about racism I didn’t already know, it’s gut-wrenching to read 250 pages about so much hate.

This book definitely got me thinking about how I handle racism in Pharisee, and how desegregation came to the town. And also about the makeup of the white newcomers from Atlanta; obviously if they’re moving to a town that isn’t all-white, they probably aren’t the die-hard segregationists. Not necessarily liberal on racial issues, but more moderate than I’d be thinking. It also gives me some insight into the generational divide for Pharisee’s blacks (the older go-slow generation and younger more aggressive activists).

In its own right, a very good book but horribly depressing.

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Filed under Politics, Reading, Southern Discomfort

More time travel films that don’t get recommended a lot (#SFWApro)

As I mentioned the last time I posted on this topic, Best Time Travel Film lists simply recycle the same selections over and over. So as a new-made expert, I’m broadening the list a little.

CRUSADE (2006) has a frustrated young man use his mother’s experimental time machine to travel back to the Children’s Crusade (which also figured in the anime Sins of the Sisters). He tries to save lives as he travels with them (using his knowledge of basic first aid, quarantine, etc.) though he’s worried that by keeping the crusade going, more kids will end up dying or enslaved (it didn’t end well). The protagonist’s pragmatic approach — no worries about time-tampering, just helping people when they’re in trouble — gave this a different feel than most time journeys.

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TOMORROW I’LL GET UP AND SCALD MYSELF WITH TEA (1977) is a delightfully goofy Czech comedy in which aging Nazis in a utopian future conspire with a time-travel pilot to go back and give Hitler a suitcase nuke to turn the tide of the war. Only everything goes wrong, starting with the pilot dying and getting replaced by his identical twin … I love this one, which is available subtitled on YouTube (all rights to image reside with current holder).

THE GRAND TOUR (1992) has Jeff Daniels coming to realize the strangers staying at his hotel are bored time travelers visiting the present for the thrill of watching one of the great disasters of history—which is obviously very bad news for his small town. A TV movie based on CL Moore’s Vintage Seasons, this is an ingenious tale with a good character in Daniels’ inn-keeper

TIMESHIFTERS (1999) also has a time-tourism premise but it’s more about action than character. Casper van Dien averts the disasters one tourist is here to watch, changing the future. To restabilize it and restore her time-erased child security agent Theresa Saldana must make sure the next disaster happens without a hitch; as it’s going to kill van Dien’s son, he’s not okay with this. A surprisingly well-done time adventure from the TBS cable channel.

5 DAYS TO MIDNIGHT (2004) was a SyFy (I think it was still SciFi then) miniseries in which someone sends Timothy Hutton a 40 year old briefcase containing a case file about his murder, five days in the future. Can he identify his future killer when so many people around him turn out to have a motive?

SOURCE CODE (2011) has Jake Gyllenhaal waking up on a train as someone he knows isn’t himself … and eight minutes later the train blows up. It turns out that a government counter-terrorist project has projected his mind into the memories of one of the victims so that he can identify the killer by time looping the events — but is it just a memory, or could it be a new reality? I like this, though I should note that both this and the Czech film have a happy ending where the guys pair off with a woman who thinks they’re someone else — for some people that’s creepy rather than romantic (they have a point, but it’s not a point that bothers me if I like the film).

STAR TREK IV: The Voyage Home (1986) is the “save the whales” film in which an alien probe is destroying Earth in its efforts to communicate with the now extinct humpback whales. The Enterprise crew head back to the past to bring back some whales, but find San Francisco in the 1980s takes a lot of getting used to. The most light-hearted of all the films, with the cast playing characters they know well and lots of cross-time humor.

More film recommendations at a future date.

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Filed under Movies, Now and Then We Time Travel