Category Archives: Nonfiction

I found her

So it was Valentine’s Day Wednesday. Which put me in mind of Kipling’s poem The Thousandth Man, albeit genderflipped:

“One woman in a thousand, Solomon says
Will stick more close than all others.
And it’s worthwhile seeking her half your days
If you find her before the other.”

It did take half my days (we met when I was fifty), but I did find her. And that’s made such a wonderful difference. For Valentine’s Day we went out to Ted Turner’s Montana Grill (it’s close, and we had a limited time window). TYG got me a new belt, which I’d asked for. I got her bath bombs and typhus (see left).

Now, as to this week’s writing:

First, the Space Invaders proposal for a movie book got thumbed down. The editor I’d been working with contacted me Monday to let me know. Apparently they’re having some internal upheaval and he’s no longer associated with them either. However even though it was his idea, he gave me the blessing to shop it around on my own. I intend to do so, possibly to McFarland, maybe to a different press that works with this topic. And there’s always self-publishing. Though my experience with editing and proofing my McFarland books makes me slightly dubious about the editing: even my relatively short Bond book took a lot of work (errors in fact are far more grievous than errors in self-published fiction, I think).

Another thing that’s not happening, at least yet: I received an email from the new owners of And Magazine, asking if I wanted to take up column-writing again. I’m interested, but I haven’t heard back since I said “Let’s talk.” Whether they lost interest or something fell through I don’t know, yet.

Other news was more upbeat. I reviewed the last draft of my Undead Sexist Cliches book at the start of the week rather than leaving it to the end. I was pleasantly surprised that it went much smoother that way. By the end of the week I had a much clearer idea of what will go in which chapter (some chapters will be substantially larger than others, but I think that’s okay). And I went through a ton of articles I’d bookmarked around the web and mined them for more stuff. I’ll start the next draft in March.

Despite my pessimism last week, I also figured out how to fix No One Can Slay Her and completed the latest draft (number fifteen, sheesh!). I feel much more optimistic I’ll have it polished and finished by the end of March. I also did a lot of work on The Impossible Takes a Little Longer and Questionable Minds.

I didn’t get a Screen Rant done. I pitched several ideas but I only got a green light on one, with instructions to wait a couple of weeks (it’s close to another we did recently). A couple of others are still maybes.

And I got my quota of Leaf articles done.

I also dealt with a couple of different contractors and got the state car inspection taken care of Monday. So a good, productive week.

I shall attempt to make the weekend as unproductive and leisurely as possible.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover image remain with current holder (it’s a very good book by the way, i read it some years back).

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Short Stories, Story Problems, Writing

It’s too easy … it could be a trap!

When I was younger I had dreadful trouble when I worked hard and got ahead of my self-imposed deadlines. Rather than get a little extra work done on something else, I’d wind up dawdling or daydreaming until my deadlines caught up with me.

I think I’m over that. This week my two big goals — spruce up Southern Discomfort and send this draft off to a couple of beta readers and redraft No One Can Slay Her — wrapped up surprisingly fast (hopefully that’s a sign the novel is in really good shape). Despite that I stayed busy and put in time on a few other projects:

I began redrafting The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I’ve worked out the kinks in the story, at least in theory, and I hope to get it rewritten this year (most of it’s in good shape, so it’s not as big a project as it sounds).

I also continued working on Questionable Minds. This one’s also in good shape — this is more double-checking than a serious rewrite.

I finished Schedule C for my writing taxes and the related forms (business use of the home, self-employment taxes).

And I started my new round of Leaf articles. I’m going to try to crank out slightly more than usual, if I can do it without slacking up on the fiction side too much.

 

I didn’t complete a Screen Rant — suggested some ideas, didn’t get a go-ahead — but I did get one assigned for next week (X Character Deaths That Ruined TV Series, X That Saved Them). And while I got a paperback copy of Atlas Shagged from CreateSpace, apparently in all the cover changes I messed other stuff up, so I’m going to have to put in more work.

I also went to my FB friends for advice on a cover for Instruments of Science, the collection of my Applied Science stories from Big Pulp. The feedback was very helpful, but I’m definitely going to have to pay for a cover — I can’t see myself finding a stock cover that works. And I may change the collection title to Atoms for Peace, the first story in the series. I think it captures the feel of the stories better.

I’d have gotten more done, but Thursday I just took off work to get non-writing stuff done. Some extra cleaning. Paperwork dealing with my share of Mum’s inheritance. Paperwork for Plush and Trixie’s dog tags (they need a special tag to use the city dog parks). Various other odds and ends. It’s a lot easier to do all that stuff when the pups are in doggy day-care.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the week.

#SFWApro All rights to image (art by Murphy Anderson) remain with current holder.

 

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

This simple trick made me much more efficient!

Ever since I started writing for Screen Rant, I’ve been getting a lot more email from the SR Google Group. As a result I’ve been spending a lot more time reading email. If work’s going sluggishly, I just take a break, check email and wind up going even more sluggishly. I’ve been trying to resist that impulse, but I’ve had little luck.

Last week I tried something new: don’t read email until the afternoon. In the morning, which is my most productive time, I check my phone to see if there’s anything I actually need to answer (rare), everything else waits. This was a big improvement, but it occurred to me that my least creative period in the work day is the 90 minutes or so before I wrap up for the day at 5pm. What if I pushed email to that last sector of the work day?

Success! I’ve slashed my mail time, and not allowing it earlier in the day keeps me from “oh well, might as well check the mail” moments. It really has helped. Even Trixie and Plush Dog are over the moon about it!

Okay, they’re actually in ecstasy because they’re rolling on a dead shrew (I think). But why quibble?

As for actual work accomplished this week —

I got in my next Screen Rant, on comic book relationships that would never fly today (adults banging teenagers, mind-controlled sex, rape played for laughs). At least I hope they wouldn’t. I’ll post a link when it’s up. Below, one example drawn by John Buscema, from when the Wasp married Hank Pym knowing perfectly well he was clinically insane at the time, because it was the only way she could get him to tie the knot.

I submitted one article (to Writer’s Digest) and one column pitch (to The Guardian), and two short stories to new magazines.

I finally started my next-to-last-draft revision of The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I think I have the problems analyzed and fixed; we’ll see how it goes as I rewrite it. Unanticipated problems usually show up. I also I got about halfway through another draft of No One Can Slay Her. I think it’s showing much improvement.

I posted a blog entry at Atomic Junk Shop about Doc Savage as a creation of the Depression.

And I began work on my taxes. It goes much smoother if I start well in advance and do a little bit every time. I completed most of Schedule C (self-employment income) but I have yet to complete the related forms (business use of my home, self-employment tax).

I think it helped that as TYG was snowbound for Wednesday through Friday, she sits down on the couch with the dogs. And I had two scheduled events (car maintenance and dentist) that had to be postponed because of the weather. But I’ll be glad to have clear roads again next week.

Photo is mine, credit me if you use. Avengers panel rights remain with current holder.

#SFWApro

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Filed under Doc Savage, Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Time management and goals, Writing

The upside of returning to the mean

I’ve mentioned the Law of Return to the Mean several times in this blog: If I’m performing way above average, sooner or later random chance will bring me back to my norm. The upside is that after a crappy pair of work weeks like Christmas and New Year’s, the odds are things will improve. And behold, they did.

The big news is that I finally finished the next-to-last draft of Southern Discomfort. I will clean it up a little before the end of the month and send it out to two friends who volunteered to beta. Later this year I will print the whole thing out and do the final final draft fix.

I can’t tell you how good it feels. Brain From Outer Space has languished for years because every time I rewrite it, I get to the last third and the plot falls apart. I was really afraid I wouldn’t be able to wrap up Southern Discomforts successfully, or I’d wind up doing endless redrafts. Apparently not. This is very good news.

And as if that wasn’t enough:

My new Screen Rant is out, spotlighting 9 embarrassing final roles for talented actors (e.g., Boris Karloff in House of Evil) and nine that were awesome farewells (Carrie Fisher in The Last Jedi). Below we have a photo from Lon Chaney Jr’s miserable last film (Dracula vs. Frankenstein)

And a shot of Marilyn Monroe working on The Misfits (a good final film for both her and Clark Gable)

I also finished a new draft of No One Can Slay Her. It still needs work, but I got enough of the ending worked out, and enough of the villain’s plan, that I think I can rework the whole thing much better on the next draft. It never hurts to know where you’re going.

I finally sorted out my cover issues with the paperback version of Atlas Shagged. I ordered a print copy to check everything is kosher; it’ll be here next week. Assuming it all checks out, the book will go live by the end of next week (it is, of course, already available in ebook).

And I’ll be a guest at Illogicon in Raleigh this weekend, which is always fun. My voice is still a little strained from last week’s sickness, but I think I’ll be able to manage.

It’s so nice to be productive!

#SFWApro, all rights to images remain with current holder.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Brain From Outer Space, Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Is Knowing the Problem Really the First Step to a Solution? (#SFWApro)

If so, this was a good week for Southern Discomfort. Not a great week. I’m up to 69,000 words and I’d hoped to be a little further. But as I expected, the two days off this week put the kibosh on that idea. But sitting and planning I finally figured out why the ending of the last draft didn’t click.

Trying to figure out how the last 15,000 or so words should go, I took a look at Lester Dent’s standard outline to see if that gave me any ideas. Two things jumped out at me. One, that “Action must do more than advance the hero over the scenery.” The other, that in the last quarter, “Difficulties increase.
The hero is almost buried in his trouble.”

Not that Dent’s advice is any kind of rule (as I say at the link, his outline is useful if it helps you write better stories, nothing more), but I think those lines capture my problem. Most of my cast are just advancing over the scenery, running through Pharisee or the Hither Country to reach the bad guy. I need more. Things are already bad (Maria facing life in prison or death at Gwalchmai’s hands, the town being sucked into Faerie, Joan Gwalchmai’s captive) but they need to build, if only by having some deadline that’s steadily approaching … Hopefully while I take this time off, my subconscious will work on that.

I didn’t get a Screen Rant done this week: I proposed an outline of items, but it hasn’t been approved (no surprise, I imagine everyone’s scurrying around Thanksgiving). And while I submitted a half-dozen articles for the new Leaf project, none of them have been approved (again, no surprise).

Thursday we had a blast attending Café Parizade’s vegan Thanksgiving event. It’s amazing food, all vegan: shepherd’s pie, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, apple-pecan stuffing, chocolate pudding, ginger cookies, mac and cheese, chocolate cupcakes, seitan … normally I overeat to the point of discomfort but this year I actually controlled myself. I ate, yes, but I took small enough portions of everything I wanted that I didn’t absolutely have to try anything else after I was stuffed. Regrettably the way the invitations are structured we don’t really get to hang with our other friends there (we did stop by tables on our way out though) but it’s still an awesome meal, very reasonably priced for the quality and quantity.

Today I did what I could to catch up on some of the little stuff I’ve been neglecting: cleaning, bills paying, and various minor tasks that haven’t been getting done lately. It was worth not getting any writing done to take a few of them off the to-do list.

To close out, here’s a post of the black-bottom praline pie I took to a potluck last weekend. Chocolatey bottom, sugary pecan top. After I made pralines for TYG for our anniversary, I went looking for a better recipe (the one I got off the Internet didn’t quite satisfy me) and found several other tempting choices.

As you can see, there wasn’t much left.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals

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