Category Archives: Writing

Screen Rant: 15 Things You Need to Know About Apokolips (#SFWApro)

My latest article is now live. I think the biggest takeaway is that Jack Kirby’s Apokolips was shaped by the idea the struggle wasn’t Good vs. Evil but Free Will vs. Mindless Obedience (aka Life vs. Anti-Life). Something that’s missing from the New 52’s version (and admittedly lots of other attempts by other writers to tackle Kirby’s New Gods).

I’ll be posting about the Fourth World mythos soon, as writing the article gave me an excellent excuse to reread the old Bronze Age books. But for now, just go read my list, okay?

Images by Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.



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Sometimes the good guys lose (#SFWApro)

Okay, one week of poor productivity isn’t comparable to being gunned down by Hydra agents, but it did give me an excuse to use this cool Jack Kirby cover (all rights remain with current holder).

Mostly it was a few more the thousand cuts I mentioned last week. Monday I went in for the MRA (like an MRA for artery) to check my small aneurysm hadn’t grown. Raleigh Radiology were awesome, getting me in and out lickety-split, but the drive was long, and that used up most of my morning before time for walkies.

This morning we had to get Trixie to the vet a little after 7am because some of her teeth are a mess so she’s getting a deep cleaning. I feel slightly nervous about having to put her under anesthetic for this so when I got up I spent most of the early morning snuggling and petting her (my body definitely feels stiff from my failure to stretch out, though).

We also have to add AdBlue to our diesel engine every so often (it helps keep down emissions — though given it’s a Volkswagen, that seems almost ironic)) and according to the Warning! on the dashboard the car will shut down if we don’t. While we have time (the amount we drive is small enough 400 miles isn’t a tight deadline) the constant Warning! didn’t turn off so I decided to take it in this morning, after dropping Trixie at the vet. That took a little more time, then I had a quick bit of shopping … so again, a lot of the morning got eaten up. In hindsight I rather wish I’d taken even more and donated blood — enough time has elapsed since my last donation I’m eligible again — but I wasn’t sure when TYG would absolutely have to have the car.

Since then we picked up Trixie, who is completely sacked out. At this point I’m pretty sure nothing but blogging will get done today. I’ll come up about a day short for writing hours this week.

So not much accomplished. My next Screen Rant is done (15 Things You Need to Know About Apokolips, to tie in with the Justice League movie), and I got some work done on Southern Discomfort, but that’s about it. And the latter didn’t go at all well this week. I had a tricky key moment in the plot and I while I eventually figured out how to progress, it took time. More generally my brain just didn’t seem to be plugged in. Oh, well, as I’ve mentioned before, sooner or later returning to the mean is inevitable.

It feels more frustrating though, because with Thanksgiving ahead, I’ll lose part of the next work week. Plus I’m once again doing some online articles for Leaf, which pay well but cut into the time for other writing (I was planning to do some today, but I don’t think I’ll make it). So Southern Discomfort, not to mention short stories such as Angels Hate This Man or Oh the Places You’ll Go! will get shorter shrift.

While I had been planning to take the day after Thanksgiving off, perhaps I’ll use it to catch up on fiction. But Trixie’s fine, and that’s the most important thing.

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

If I could catch the ducks, I’d stop them nibbling me to death (#SFWApro)

I am once again falling behind on my non-writing to-do list.

This includes a variety of odds and ends I do around the house (clean, water plants, keep the bird feeder filled); arranging for contractors to fix things and assorted paperwork (reapplying for my pension from my previous employer). I’m doing fine with the stuff that has to be done, such as watering plants or arranging dog medical appointments but not so much the rest of it.

Normally my solution is to do a little thing each day, on morning tea break for example. Then that didn’t seem to be working for me, so I tried catching up on things in one big clump on the weekends. Only I found devoting a large chunk of time to that stuff unsatisfying.

So I thought hmm, maybe I just need a schedule adjustment: I’ll use my morning break to read, then do my task of the day in the evening (unless it involves calling people to make appointments, etc.) in part of my reading time.

Unfortunately it hasn’t worked well so far. Monday I had to work late in the evening to ensure I finished this week’s Screen Rant. And if TYG gets home late, it’s harder to deal with paperwork while I’m still minding the dogs. So presto, I’m already behind my new schedule.

I’ll find a way to catch up eventually, but right now it’s very frustrating as crap remains uncompleted.

Cover by Al Plastino, all rights remain with current holder.

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I survived the death of a thousand cuts! (#SFWApro)

Events whittled away at my time this week, but it was productive just the same.

The first cut was Monday morning having to drive about half an hour to a local clinic for a preliminary interview. A few years ago I learned I had a too-small-to-operate aneurysm, and it’s overdue to be checked up on — the possibility it’s expanded is unsettling enough I’ve been lax in following up, then the insurance company kicked up a fuss. So the clinic visit was part of the insurance approval process, though it seemed like everything could be handled over the phone. The drive actually took longer than the session — I will give Duke neurology credit for doing everything smooth and efficiently.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was bogged down by the time change, the seeming greater darkness, and an overcast, drizzly sky on top of that. It all got inside my head and distracted me — plus I kept reading up on all the good election news from Tuesday. Nice to be distracted by good political news for a change.

And then this morning … TYG had to stay up late last night, which led to me going to bed late. Then about 3AM, Plushie puked up this new treat we’d gotten him (it was very large, apparently too large for his digestion) and TYG cleaning that up (even though she’d crawled into bed in the spare room to avoid waking me) woke me up. I wound up going downstairs with the pups (Plush was fine post-pukies) and working on the couch, shuffling my morning schedule because if I tried exercising or stretching out I’d have dogs on me (“It’s human body language for ‘play with me!’ We’d love to!”). And I wound up walking them because while I knew TYG would do it, she needed a little extra sleep. Then we took them in to the groomer, which gave me three hours to work solo and get my exercise done. Except the groomer had a cancellation so I got less than planned, plus I had to take a nap … so anyway, less productive than I’d planned.

Still, I got quite a bit done:

•Submitted several ideas for Screen Rant columns, none of which made the cut.

•Confirmed that an article I submitted to History Magazine earlier this year on tractors will be coming out in a couple of months.

•Submitted Fiddler’s Black to Fireside Magazine.

Atlas Shagged is now live on Kindle as well as the other outlets. I hope to have Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast up soon but like the paperback of Atlas Shagged there are cover issues I have to fix.

•Got up to 62,000 words on Southern Discomfort. So far all proceeding more or less smoothly, though I’m approaching the point at which it all spiraled into chaos last draft. Positive thoughts welcome.

•Finished another draft of No-One Can Slay Her and read it for the writers’ group Tuesday. It got good reactions all round, which satisfied me I’m on the right track. Some of the group did think the opening scene with Jennifer and her aunt was wasted space; I shall give that some thought (I have reason to want it there, and I think I can make it worse).

•I reread the Undead Sexist Cliches manuscript and started the next draft. Like Southern Discomfort, I want this to be the last draft before hard copy review, so I’m taking my time and resolving any problems, like topics I bring up in multiple different chapters. I got through Chapter One and Two today, despite the craziness.

So a good week, even if I do feel dead to the world.

Atom cover by Gil Kane, all rights to image remain with current holder. Photo of Plush Dog below by me, all rights mine. Please credit me if you use it.

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

I’d never have imagined it! (#SFWApro)

The late specfic critic Baird Searles had a great comment some years ago in discussing Sean Connery’s 1981 SF film Outland: there wasn’t a single detail in the film that made him think “Yes, that’s exactly the way the future would be — only I’d never have imagined it!” Which as soon as he said it, made me realize that’s what the film lacked — it’s far-future High Noon riff didn’t offer anything unexpected or surprising. It does offer other good things, such as Sean Connery in the Gary Cooper role, but it’s definitely a weakness (all rights to image with current holder).

Outland is hardly unique in this. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Thendara House, for example, takes us inside the Free Amazons, the one place for independent women on the violent, patriarchal, psionic world of Darkover. Unfortunately it turns out that the Free Amazons deal with exactly the same problems as a twentieth-century US feminists at the time (should we accept men as allies in the movement?). I found that thuddingly unimaginative (it’s an extreme case of the problems I have with some female leads in historical fantasy).

It’s certainly not a fatal flaw not to offer the audience something they’ve never seen before. Lots of people enjoy series that go over the same ground with minor variations. Why else would I like comic books or Doc Savage, for instance? Even in specfic, there’s no shortage of stories that make no attempt to reinvent the wheel.

Others try to be new and different but are just variations on a theme. A different magic system. A colorful, eccentric detective whose eccentricities are different from all the other colorful eccentric detectives. A cozy mystery set in a different kind of shop from the other shop-owner amateur-detective cozy mysteries. Then again, if you’re a fan of a subgenre, mild differences may be enough. And if the book is really good (great characters, terrific writing, clever plotting, whatever),  familiarity may not be an issue. Conversely it’s possible to write a book or movie showing readers something new, but the book still sucks.

Still, if we can write something that’s both groundbreaking and good, that’s a very cool thing. Lovecrafting creating the Cthulhu Mythos. Steampunk when it began (even given there were precursors). Urban fantasy when it started.

I’m not sure I’ve written anything that would qualify, even though I’m pretty proud of my work. But I’m still writing, so who knows?



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Update: New Screen Rant is live (#SFWApro)

Thor’s been stabbed. Backstabbed. Beaten to death. Every bone in his body broken. For his most brutal injuries, click here. For Dave Cockrum showing Thor hit by a meteor, glance below (all rights remain with current holder).

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The tail end of October proved surprisingly beneficial (#SFWApro)

I got a surprising amount done at the start of the week.

Sunday, I had one of the writers’ group’s work days at our house: I provide food (chili, chickpeas and tomatoes, cornbread) and soft drinks, guests bring what they can, we sit around and chat, pet the pups, and work, in various quantities.

(art by Jack Kirby)

As I had a screen rant (Thor’s Most Brutal Injuries) due Monday, the timing worked out very well. It was harder to talk with my friends when I had a deadline to meet, but by early Monday morning I was done. That left me the rest of Monday and Tuesday to squeeze out a bit more of my October writing goals. I rewrote the opening of Questionable Minds and went on through Chapter Ten. And I finally finished the next draft of No-One Can Slay Her.

Plus I got various odds and ends of my goals done, so I ended up with 72 percent of my goals met. That’s most satisfying.

(Art by John Romita Jr., I believe)

The rest of the week I worked mostly on Southern Discomfort. I turned in another 4,000 words, but haven’t had much luck with replotting ahead. However as I seem to be doing okay on the plotting, I guess I’ll keep winging it without.

I also did yet another rewrite of No-One Can Slay Her because I’d like to read it at next week’s writers’ group. However I couldn’t quite complete the last stretch — either I wrap the rewrite up Monday or I go with a chapter of Southern Discomfort. But the story is looking way better than before this week: I have most of the plot and Jennifer’s personal arc sorted out, it just needs tidying and strengthening.

Alas, I still couldn’t make the cover for Atlas Shagged work for CreateSpace.

(Art by Walt Simonson)

The dogs were somewhat needy. Mornings, due to shifts in TYG’s schedule, I’m dealing with them a little more in the mornings, which sometimes makes getting going a lot harder. When Plushie gets into my recliner, he tends to just stretch out over me and I wind up petting him instead of writing. Still thanks to the extra hours on Sunday and a couple of nights of bad sleep, I wound up with more hours than usual. That’ll make up for next week when I’ll spend a few hours in a doctor’s appointment (don’t wanna! But needs must when the devil drives and all that).

All rights to images remain with current holders.

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