Category Archives: Nonfiction

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

When you gaze into insomnia, insomnia gazes back into you (#SFWApro)

Ironically, after mentioning last week that sleeping well cuts into my writing time, this week I found myself sleeping very poorly. That did indeed help get work done, though not as much as usual — I indulged in some pleasure reading during a couple of the early mornings.

A big part of the problem is psychological. To go back to sleep I have to relax. A lot of nights, my inner voice blocks that: “What if you lie here for an hour trying to sleep? You’ll wake up late or nap during the day, and then you won’t get all your writing done! Get up and work until breakfast, it’s the only way to win!” Feeling dog-tired is not actually a win, but knowing that doesn’t help me shut out the voice. As others have observed, worrying about whether you’re going to get to sleep is guaranteed to keep you awake. If I knew why I slept so much better last week, I would apply that knowledge … but I don’t.

All that said, I did get a productive week:

•I fixed almost all the issues with the paperback version of Atlas Shagged on CreateSpace. Unfortunately the one that remains — getting the cover image right — poses technical problems beyond my capability, so I’ll have to turn to some of my friends for help before completing it.

•I’m up to 37,000 words on Southern Discomfort. They’re looking good, though I’ll need to schedule time at some point to go back and revise a few sections. I also put in some time replotting the ending third (finally!) though I’m far from finished. The big challenge is needing something for Joan to do after she’s kidnapped — even if I allow time to run differently in the Hither Country, her situation stretches out over more chapters than it should while everyone else is reaching her. I need to have her doing something different or handle what she is doing so it works better.

•I rewrote Angels Hate This Man! and it was a big improvement, which is not to say it’s actually good yet. But the central character has much stronger scenes than the main characters I started with, so that’s a win.

•I finished another Screen Rant, 17 Things You Didn’t Know About Jor-El, and it’s now live. Below is a great Nicholas Cardy cover I used for one of the illustrations (all rights remain with the current holder).

•I started another draft of Trouble and Glass (I still haven’t found a replacement title I like) and it went well. Rather than try to squeeze in condensed information, I’m letting it expand, filling in whatever worldbuilding details feel necessary as I go along. The results are much more to my liking. However the plot still doesn’t hang together.


•I gave a last review to the proofs of Backstage With the Hypothetical Dead and signed the contract. It should be live next week.

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

New Screen Rant out (#SFWApro)

15 Times Flash Teamed Up With His Villains. Not just Barry but Wally, Jay and Wally’s future daughter Iris. Plus Mirror Master teaming with an evil parallel-world Flash. And below we have Flash in disguise as the Dude, teaming up with the Rogues to fight himself (art by Irv Novick, all rights remain with current holder). Read it and find out why.

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Despite a couple of setbacks, a good week (#SFWApro)

Setback one: as our dogs don’t get vaccine boosters until this weekend, we couldn’t take them to doggie day care this week, so I lost my day of freedom from the pups.

Setback two, had not one but two contractors to deal with: a heat pump checkup (we’re fine) and a bathroom drain problem (fixed!).

Setback Three, had to take Trixie into the vet Monday, with

So what got accomplished?

First, I got another Screen Rant done to tie in with next week’s Flash season premiere: 15 times Flash teamed up with his foes. For example the scene below in which the ghosts of several dead Flash villains unexpectedly help Flash take down the (also dead) Flash foe the Top.  Art by Paul C. Ryan, all rights remain with current holder.

I finished another draft of Undead Sexist Cliches. Later this month I hope to reread it and figure out what to change for the next draft, but that might have to wait until November.

I got another 7,000 words done on Southern Discomforts, so I’m on track for this month’s word count. The story has already changing from my “final” outline, but hopefully for the better. One of the supporting characters will, I think, be the one to reflect the changes in Pharisee as the power of the McAlisters wanes. However I’ll really have to watch all my minor characters — I plotted out mini-arcs for several supporting characters and the further away I get from the outline the more I’ll lose track. I also did some research reading, which I’ll review this weekend.

While I completed my thirty-five hours of writing for the week, it was more of a strain than usual. As usually happens when the weather cools, I’m sleeping much better. Sometimes oversleeping, though that’s easy to fix by setting an alarm. But I think I’ve underestimated how much waking up early some mornings helped me meet my goals — I definitely prefer getting a good night’s sleep, but I no longer have the margin of error waking up at 2:30 AM Monday and not getting back to sleep gave me. I’ll have to be more mindful of my time, and this week I wasn’t — things like Trixie coming down to join me earlier than usual and demanding petting kept throwing me off my game (she’s so cute — just look below — and sometimes so needy).  And although we didn’t have any long walks, Plush dawdled enough (Smell Everything! Chewe Every Stick!) that it took longer than planned.

While I don’t want to live in isolation, having time to work by myself really helps get things done.

On the plus side, even when I was bog tired the morning after going out with the writers’ group, I resisted the impulse to just blog and count that toward work time. More precisely, I’m only allowing myself a limited amount of blogging and email time to count as work time — a necessary step because email has been sucking up a lot more time lately (Screen Rant’s Google Groups list has a lot of discussion). That’s definitely going to help with my productivity.

So on that cheery note, adieu to the week.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

Time management is much easier in splendid isolation (#SFWApro)

I do not, however, want splendid isolation. Splendid isolation is not actually splendid. I’m much happier living a life full of TYG and the puppies. But there’s no question, it can make time management tougher.

Monday, for example, was a relatively cool day. Trixie and Plushie decided they wanted a long walk, so I complied (they’re fat. I’m never going to turn down a long walk if they want one). That wound up cutting an extra hour out of my work day. Today wasn’t quite as bad but it still took extra time. I tried making it up in the evenings, but between chatting with TYG and playing with Trixie, it wasn’t very productive time (yes, I could go upstairs and work in private; no, I don’t want to)>

I fell a couple of hours short of my hours for the week, which was better than I did last week. And I didn’t let the lost time tempt me into goofing off extra.

I did hit my 25,000-word goal for this month’s work on Southern Discomfort, but didn’t get any further in replotting the end.

I submitted my next Screen Rant piece, focusing on deleted scenes from DC movies (everything from the Chris Reeves Superman to A History of Violence)

I did a quick proof of the edited version of Backstage With the Hypothetical Dead, my short story coming out next month.

I completed a redraft of Angels Hate This Man. It’s still a mess, but I figured out what’s really going on behind the scenes at Rev. Lagerholt’s megachurch. That should be a big help with the next draft.

I also finished a draft of Trouble and Glass. It’s a mess of a different sort — the plot and story arc are actually there, but it’s a very bad story arc. However I have all the elements in place, now I just ahve to rearrange them.

And after several months of hitting 50 percent of my goals, for September I’ll be around 66 percent (specifics varying depending on how tomorrow plays out). So all in all, a satisfactory week.

On a minor note, I picked up a cheap paper journal. While doing most planning and goal-setting on my computer works great, coming up with new “hmm, what if I tried this?” approaches doesn’t work so well. So I’m going to see if writing stuff down with a pen jars a few ideas loose.

Cover by Ernie Chan, all rights remain with current holder.

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

Goals and Progress (#SFWApro)

For most of the first eight months of 2017, my goals have hovered around 50 percent. August, with 49 percent, was fairly typical.

I feel more satisfied than July because of making progress on several stalled projects:

  • I rewrote the first four chapters of Undead Sexist Cliches.
  • I reviewed Questionable Minds, beginning the first steps to self-publication.
  • I finally made it to the new restaurant the writing group goes to. It was ridiculous to decide it was too far to go — though I suspect Location B will still be impractical (further to drvie and further home).
  • I’m getting much better at checking email constantly during work. Due to the amount of email Screen Rant staff discussions take, the volume’s a lot higher than it used to be, so it’s more tempting to check in.
  • I also got an assortment of personal projects done.
  • And Leaf used one of my articles as an example of How To Do It Right.

On the downside, I didn’t get any short-story work done, due to the Leaf online articles (plus distractions like my tooth of doom). And I didn’t finish replotting Southern Discomfort, which is easily my biggest disappointment. I have enough I can start the next draft this month while I work on finishing the replot, and I did solve a lot of the problems with the finish that were bugging me. However, I would have felt much happier if I’d completed the whole thing.

I’m meditating at least semiregularly during the week, first thing in the morning. I think it might do me more value in the evening, but with the dogs there’s no way it’ll fly.

I didn’t get much bicycling done until last weekend, due to the heat. And TYG and I didn’t get to go bicycling at all. Perhaps this month!

As for this week, I finished another Screen Rant column (not out yet), struggled to finish the replotting, and worked on revising the proposal for Space Invaders, the proposed film book on ETs visiting Earth. I might have gotten that one done but the dogs have been very needy this week. About thirty minutes before it’s time for lunch walkies or after-work walkies, they get very insistent I need to take them NOW. Not because they have to pee or anything, they just want out. And if I refuse, they start trying to climb on the computer or the like, as they’ve figured out that gets attention. Sometimes as I’m not getting work done anyway, I cave and take them early. Which of course just reinforces the behavior, sigh. I suspect it’s the cold weather making them friskier, as our walks are also getting longer.

Bonus art: Leo and Diane Dillon’s cover for Man Who Fell To Earth. All rights to image remain with current holder.


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