Category Archives: Writing

The camel stuck its nose under the tent. You won’t believe what happened next! (#SFWApro)

Having learned not everyone’s familiar with the camel’s nose metaphor, I shall explain. Supposedly a camel that doesn’t want to be outside on a cold desert night will stick its nose under the edge of its owner’s tent. If the owner whacks it a good one, the camel withdraws. If not, the camel starts pushing further. And further. And eventually gets inside the tent.

Time management is sometimes like that for me. If I know I’m not going to put in a full week, it’s very tempting to put in even less — I have Monday off, say, giving me four days, but the camel keeps pushing, I find things to do and presto, I only get three and a half days! The past few years, I’ve been much better about it, but not this week. The nose was Tuesday morning: I had a dental and an eye checkup, with errands in between. Plus I had to print up some paperwork for various tasks. And I had enough stuff going on in the evenings that I knew I wouldn’t make up the time.

Okay, no problem, I can count Tuesday morning all the “overtime” that I earned in previous weeks. Except that the off-time just seemed to accumulate. Getting up late one morning. Getting distracted another. And Thursday morning a need bomb went off in the pups’ heads — after TYG left for work, Trixie was constantly demanding petting, and keeping up the demands if I tried to ignore her (she keeps learning new ways to draw my attention). And if I said anything aloud, they both acted like I’d said “out!” and got excited. It did not help me focus.

It turned out to be closer to four days of work than five, which is disappointing. But still, the work was good.

•I turned in another Screen Rant, 16 Comic Book Cover Mistakes You Can’t Unsee. Like Rob Liefeld’s cover above where Steve Rogers has a face growing out of his leg. Or the one below where the Star Wars cast look a little … off.

•I finally got back to work on Trouble and Glass, my 1950s urban fantasy. I fixed a lot of the plot problems which gives me confidence I can sort out the rest.

A Famine Where Abundance Lies came back from Fantasy and Science Fiction. It went out again. Go me!

•I reviewed the first few chapters of Questionable Minds for changes. Most of them are minor but after reading over the feedback from my writer’s group, I think I will make bigger changes to the first chapter, cutting down exposition and intensifying Simon’s PTSD over finding his wife dead a couple of years earlier.

•I continued replotting the finish of Southern Discomforts and it’s progressing. I didn’t any rewriting done this week, but I think I can make it up next week.

•I sold a couple more copies of Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast. For whatever reason the paperback sales are slow but they keep happening; the ebook doesn’t budge. Probably that’s because the ebook’s not on Amazon.

So not a bad week despite disruptions and needy dogs.

All rights to comics images remain with current holders.


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

We need a term for art equivalent to “chickenhawk”

As Roy Edroso says, there’s a long tradition of right-wingers who complain the arts world skews liberal because of bias (“conservatives in the arts tend to be treated as outsiders at best and pariahs at worst”). Their solution is to demand that “conservative artists” get out there and create some great art. Just as chickenhawks think someone else should be heroic and fight the wars,  the artsy equivalent never offer to create anything themselves (except blog posts), they call for someone else to do it.

Cover artist unidentified in the book; all rights to image remain with current holder

As noted at the link, the claims there’s no conservative art doesn’t hold up. Christian pop culture is a conservative multimillion-dollar industry (I highly recommend Rapture Ready for a look at this parallel universe). On TV, we’ve had the anti-Muslim, pro-torture exploits of Jack Bauer on 24, and countless Law and Order and CSI episodes present cops and prosecutors as the heroes we’d like them to be. Or the Law and Order I blogged about a while back that turned into a Very Special Episode about how bad affirmative action is.  In SF, there are conservative writers including the late Poul Anderson, Shadow of the Torturer author Gene Wolfe (I’ve been told he’s a devout Catholic), John Ringo and John C. Wright. In the mainstream, Michael Crichton’s given us the racist screed Rising Sun and the anti-climate change State of Fear. Whatever their merits (and Torturer certainly has merit) real conservative artists are doing fine.

So what’s got the pundits’ underwear in a twist? As Edroso says, it’s resentment conservative art doesn’t have the status they think it should. The books aren’t NYT bestsellers (which one pundit blames on liberal bias), Christian fiction is still a sideshow to the mainstream media, conservative specfic writers don’t win “enough” awards (remember the Sad Puppies flap?). Conservatives would like to be cool and they’re not; that may be one reason I’ve seen so many articles struggling to prove the greatest movies/novels/music are all right-wing (see! They’re cool by association and they didn’t have to create anything!).

That liberal art (defined very broadly) does as well or better than the stuff they like sticks in their craw. There those liberals go affronting traditional values by showing casual sex, gay relationships, women with careers, women as capable as men. Wright had a hissy fit about one Avengers team having no white males; conservative SF author Brad Torgersen bewails SF books tackling questions of oppression and sexism. As long as non-conservative art attracts viewers and readers, some conservatives are going to complain that the game is rigged.

For bonus squawking, we have chickenhawk Jonah Goldberg (of the evil veggie burger idiocy) complaining he’d rather be writing comics or SF than being a pundit, but “I need time and/or f-you money” (he also makes the All Great Art Is Conservative claim, which the commenters at the link gut with gusto). No, all he needs is to sit down and write. I wrote a half-dozen (unpublished) novels during the three decades I had a day job. Several of my writing group have written novels despite full time day jobs. Heck, Goldberg’s written three nonfiction books (starting with Liberal Fascism) and has a fourth coming out next month. It ain’t the lack of f-you money, Mr. Goldberg, it’s you.

I don’t think “chicken-artist” really sings as a term for this kind of bullshit, but it’s the best I’ve got.


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Filed under Politics, Writing

An odd but satisfactory week (#SFWApro)

It wasn’t anywhere near as odd as Clark Kent’s dilemma (cover by Curt Swan, all rights remain with current holder). Just disjointed. I got the basics done for a Screen Rant list on Flash but I’m going to wait until closer to the S4 premiere to finish it. By the time I found that out, I had to hustle to draw up a different list … but I was told (correctly, I think) that it needs much more work to be interesting to SR readers. So I wound up not getting one done, which feels very strange after doing them so regularly for several months (I have skipped weeks but by design, not chance).

Screen Ranting aside, I did get quite a bit done

•I finished my work on the Leaf articles. That project is wrapped up, so it’ll be much more fiction the next few weeks (yay!). Though I’ll be ready if they tap me for another gig.

•I rewrote A Famine Where Abundance Lies and sent it out. I also sent out The Glory That Was.

•I almost sent out The Schloss and the Switchblade again, then I realized I need to rewrite it. In the current political climate someone who discovers a con apparently catering to Nazis isn’t going to be as surprised as when I wrote it last year. I got a first rewrite in but I’m really annoyed I have to do it at all. Thanks Trump for all the enabling you’ve done for white supremacy!

•I’m up to 18,000 words on this draft of Southern Discomforts, which is cool. And I think all the scenes I’ve done so far are much improved.

•I began work on replotting the last third and found (I think) the problem. The plot hinges on Gwalchmai kidnapping Joan, one of the lead characters, and using her life to force Olwen to surrender. The trouble is I’ve set it up as “surrender by time X or she dies” and it really doesn’t make sense. He wants things over and done, so it’d be more likely “surrender now.” So maybe he has no reason to kidnap her … but in that case what does he do? What ratchets up the tension and pushes everyone to struggle to stop him? The answers are not coming yet, but I think I’m asking the right questions.

•I got four more chapters of Undead Sexist Cliches done. Two of them are new and rough so they’ll require more tinkering than the rest, which are on their second draft (or third if you count the original blog posts).

I also received a review (via my publisher) from some German magazine for Now and Then We Time Travel. The English translation is very awkward, but I think their assessment is “impressive breadth, needs to be deeper.” But I could be wrong.

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Filed under Now and Then We Time Travel, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals

1959’s Anatomy of a Murder and historical fiction (#SFWApro)

Although a little dated, ANATOMY OF A MURDER (1959) — all rights to image remain with current holder — is an excellent film. And it’s a good example of what a gold mine movies can be for writers.

Taking the film first: based on a roman a clef novel, this stars Jimmy Stewart as Biegler, a prosecutor now listlessly running a private practice since his Michigan county voted him out of office. He becomes less listless when Laura Manion (Lee Remick) recruits him to represent her husband, an Army lieutenant charged with gunning down a local man. Lt. Manion claims the man raped Laura, but Biegler explains to him that avenging her isn’t a defense (it was well after the crime took place). Instead, he goes with an “irresistible impulse” defense — that Manion lost control of himself in the heat of learning what happened. Prosecutor Dancer (George C. Scott) will try to prove Mannion was completely rational, and that maybe he killed the man because Laura was sleeping with him.

It’s a great cast (also including Arthur O’Connell as Biegler’s sidekick and Eve Arden as his long-suffering secretary), a well-done film (for an analysis of its legal weaknesses, check out the book Reel Justice). What was once shocking — a discussion in court about Laura’s underwear — now seems tame, but that’s not the movie’s selling point. And I wasn’t as bothered as usual by the “was she really raped?” aspect as the issue isn’t “did she falsely accuse a guy?” as much as “is she giving her husband a phony alibi?” (though Reel Justice points out that even if she hooked up voluntarily with the victim, irresistible impulse could still apply). Though the ending has overtones (involving Manion’s alleged spousal abuse) that make me a little queasy. Still, even at 2hrs 40 minutes, it never felt slow to me.

Now, back to the gold mine. In his Hollywood History of the World, novelist George MacDonald Fraser said he would give his eyeteeth to have a visual record of the Victorian age equivalent to 1930s Hollywood films: the way people dress, the way the streets and fire escapes look, the way a man holds a cigarette or clasps a woman. And that’s pretty much true of Anatomy of a Murder. Shot on location, it gives us a view of a small Upper Peninsula town, a cluttered law library, a trailer park. Manion smoking a fancy cigarette holder. Descriptions of women’s underwear (even as someone born in 1958, it’s startling to realize how many underwear items a woman might be wearing). The streets. A small bar. Cars. Men’s clothes. Men’s hats. Women’s clothes. Of course, it’s fiction and can’t sum up the entire era or even the year (the book Hatless Jack points out that a lot of younger men in this period went hatless), but it brings to life what books about past fashions or styles can only describe.

And it’s a heck of a good movie.

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Filed under Movies, Writing

New Screen Rant out— (#SFWApro)

This should be my book review post for the week, but my schedule got messy, so that’ll be out Tuesday. For today, my new Screen Rant featuring nine superheroes who are secretly jerks. Eight who are secretly sweethearts.

For one of the sweethearts we have Herb Trimpe’s Hulk from the Bronze Age, when Hulk was just a lonely kid who desperately wanted friends.

For a jerk, here’s Otto Octavius (from his time as Spider-Man) deciding not to get Mary Jane into bed (she thinks he’s Peter) because he can voyeuristically experience Peter’s sex with MJ in the past. There is much debate online whether the creators really appreciated what a dick Otto was in this story. Art by Ryan Stegman.

All rights to images remain with the current holders.

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Filed under Comics, Screen Rant

I know where I’m going (#SFWApro)

While I’ve been calling the current draft of Southern Discomfort my “next to last” I’ve been a little fuzzy in my head on how to make that happen, or even what exactly I meant by that. For some reason this week clarified things a lot.

Working on the rewrite for the first couple of chapters I suddenly understood exactly what I meant: I want to finish this draft ready to print it out and give it the final, hard-copy proofread every story of mine gets (though not right away, I’ll need a break so I can see it clearly). Which is a big job, but I’m ready to get this sucker done and move on.

To make it happen, I have to rewrite every chapter until I’m satisfied, no fixing it next draft. If I discover a problem, I fix it. If I realize in Chapter 10 that Chapter 2 has to change to foreshadow things, I make the change, then go on. If I come up with a “hmm, that might be neat” idea, I try it, or discard it, and keep writing. For example I’ve added one bizarre event at the start of the book that I’d kept for mid-book. If I discover a few chapters in that it raises too many problems, I fix it. Likewise, I made FBI agent Drake into Agent Dini, a guy from northern Italian stock. The north has a history of looking down on Sicilians like Maria, so that should juice up some of the FBI scenes. If it doesn’t work, it shouldn’t be too hard to fix.

I got about 7,500 words on this draft done, which is good but not that amazing — the early chapters are the ones that need least editing and fixing. But I’m pleased with the results. I did not get to replotting on the remaining chapters; having taken Monday off, I only had a four-day week. I’m glad I took the break though — I felt incredibly refreshed Monday (in case you’re wondering it was a quiet weekend at home, though TYG and I did go out bicycling).

I got several more articles done for Leaf and submitted a revised proposal for the Space Invaders book. I also submitted my next Screen Rant, but as usual it’s not out yet. I started turning Atlas Shagged (which is also available via Apple Books) into a paperback, but I haven’t finished the process yet.

Once again, no short story work and also no Undead Sexist Cliches.

Still, I think I’m pretty pleased.

All rights to image remain with current holder. I Know Where I’m Going is a charming movie by the way, worth a look if you get the chance.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

Assorted writing-related links, mostly about copy (and related) rights issues (#SFWApro)

Not all related to writing though. For example, the Supreme Court has ruled that cheerleader uniforms can be copyrighted, which is a big break from past. Though I admit the difference between “copyright the design elements” and “copyright the uniforms” still isn’t clear to me.

•A bong-maker must pay Starbucks almost a half-million for its use of “Dabbacino.”

•Lucasfilm is none too happy with the operator of the Lightsaber Academy.

•Bob Segar’s albums aren’t staying around physically, there’s no digital versions — will his work fade away?

•No, a printer company’s patents do not give it the right to tell you which toner cartridge you use.

•A National Review writer says the Bechdel test for movies (are there more than two women in the film? Do they talk to each other? About something other than the hero?) is as silly as rating a movie by whether it has cowboys in it.

•A federal court has rejected one patent troll’s claim that they own the rights to podcasting.

•Atari says Nestle ripped off a classic videogame for a TV commercial.

•Has Google become a generic term?

•A racist YouTube video used a Marvel cosplayer’s image without their consent.

•A streaming service that lets you edit out cussing/bare boobs/etc. to your own taste doesn’t have the right to make those cuts.

•I’ve heard of books gaming the bestseller lists before, but this is an extreme case.

•I didn’t realize San Diego Comic-Con claims a trademark on Comic-Con and apparently variations of the name.

•The creator of Pepe the Frog shut down a publisher using Pepe in racist children’s books. Said publisher will have to pay the settlement in the case to the Council on American Islamic Relations.


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Filed under copyright, Politics, Writing