Category Archives: 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

Delusions of Gender

DELUSIONS OF GENDER: How Our Minds, Society and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine (cover design by Kelly Blair, all rights remain with current holder) was one I had on the list of research of Undead Sexist Cliches: the book. I’m not sure it told me anything I had not heard at some point, but putting it all together makes it that much more compelling.

Fine’s point is that the belief gender is fixed and immutable (gender skills, gender roles, whatever) doesn’t hold up. Specifically the assorted tests and science “proving” women can’t X doesn’t pan out, and most of the evidence can be explain by the items in the subtitle:

Minds: Our minds swim in a sexist sea where gender rules and roles are everywhere. So it’s not surprising at some level they’re waiting to burst out when prodded. People who take tests measuring gender abilities in different skills are influenced by knowing that, say women aren’t supposed to be good at this (advanced math) or have a natural flair (empathic reading of other people’s feelings). The counter evidence is that if the tests are framed differently, performance changes. Matching and comparing 3D images, for instance, is something men usually do better at. Scores of both genders can be influenced by describing the skill as one used in “male” fields (architecture, engineering) or female (fashion, decorating). Men’s performance on empathy tests goes way up if they’re told things like “women find empathic men who can pick up on their feelings very attractive.” (go figure).

Society. One of the standard arguments for gender differences is that even kids raised gender neutral conform to them. Fine shows (much as I’ve always suspected) that it’s next to impossible to block out the gender messages society, and other children, send. By two, kids are aware of the differences men and women display; by four, they’re typically following the script. But again, the script can be shuffled: a My Little Pony tricked out to look dangerous becomes a boy toy, pretend guns with satiny coverings are for girls.

Neurosexism: Fine goes into detail how must neurological theories demonstrating men and women just don’t think the same way (men can’t express emotion, men are more logical, whatever) have gaping holes. And the typical magazine and newspaper reports on them are even weaker, battening onto whatever conforms our stereotypes (I’ve seen “men want to get laid, women want love” tossed off as a proven scientific truth a hundred times).

It’s a good book, and adds a couple more ideas to my own work.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Politics, Uncategorized, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

Best and Worst Bond Girls: New Screen Rant Out (#SFWApro)

Above: Amasova from Spy Who Loved Me, One of my favorite Bond girls, though she’s not top of the list. Who is? And who’s at the bottom? Can you stand the suspense? Click and find out!!!!

Below, a few more Bond girls: Octopussy from Octopussy

Pussy Galore from Goldfinger

Fiona Volpe from Thunderball

Miranda Frost from Die Another Day

And Kara from Living Daylights

For more of my unbelievably deep thoughts on the Bond films (but no illustrations, alas), you can check out Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast.

All rights to all images remain with current holders.

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Filed under Movies, Screen Rant, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast

Who Stole My Mornings? The week in review (#SFWApro)

For some reason, mornings this week were not friendly to work.

Monday: Had to walk dogs (it’s normally TYG’s gig). They wanted a long walk and I didn’t have the heart to say no.

Tuesday: Dentist replaced the temporary crown from my root canal with the permanent one.

Wednesday: Tuesday after writers’ group I woke up way late. And although I always plan for that in my schedule I almost always get up at the regular time so that threw me off.

Thursday: No problems.

Friday: Woke up only slightly late, but still wound up lagging behind.

After each disruption I had trouble getting focused again. I still got a lot done, but I definitely felt off. Particularly today — this afternoon I just threw in the towel and did some research reading. No focus for anything else.

•I completed about nine article for Leaf, the company I’ve worked for before. That also took up a lot of time I’d planned to devote to other things, but it pays, and I like money.

•The book proposal I sent out last month came back — not a rejection but the editor had some changes to the proposal and wanted to see if I was OK with them before we sent it to his bosses. If it goes through it’ll be another film/TV book, on aliens visiting Earth. There isn’t a definitive book on this (lots of alien-invasion books but all focused on the 1950s stuff) so I think it’s a cool project.

•I ran into a sticking point on Southern Discomforts — a jail conversation that seemed extremely unlikely — but after a couple of days away, saw how to get past it. However I’m now at the ending chapters I finished in such a rush last draft and I’m not sure yet how to fix them. Hopefully when I look at it again next week, inspiration will come.

•I read the prologue of my steampunk fantasy, Questionable Minds, to the writing group and got some good feedback. I’m determined not to completely rewrite the whole book (it’s done. Good or bad, I want to get it out there) but I do want the best opening possible (well yes, obviously).

And of course I took good care of the dogs between all of that. Here’s a shot of Plushie beseeching me for a treat. Yeah, I caved.


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

Last weekend: Chores and writing (#SFWApro)

It was a good, if busy weekend.

Normally my approach to tasks of one sort or another — cleaning, paperwork, errands — is to dole them out in little bits each day. That hasn’t worked so well lately what with dog crises and the intense heat (bicycling to run out on errands has been a no-go). So last Saturday I set out to wrap up as many as I could.

  • Mailing off some paperwork to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, which is responsible for my Freedom Communications pension now that Freedom went belly up.
  • Picking up dog food. I wanted to get a replacement dog toy too — Trixie’s favorite ball probably won’t last too much longer — but they were out.
  • Replacing light bulbs. Got one set, the other (from before we bought the house) is apparently a specialty item we’ll have to hit a lighting store for.
  • And the library, picking up some interlibrary loans for research.

Then Sunday I had a writer’s work day at my house. Normally Allegra, one of the other members of the group, hosts these, but she was slammed this month, so I took it up. We had a small turnout (four people) but it was cool: extra writing time, food, conversation, petting puppies (who can resist?).

Unfortunately this lovely, productive weekend didn’t translate into a wave of energy during the week, as my week in review post will discuss …

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Filed under Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

White supremacy and characterization (#SFWApro)

By now, probably all of you have heard that white supremacist Christopher Cantwell, who talked very tough about Charlottesville, broke down in tears on video when he learned the cops might be looking to arrest him. And along with thoughts about politics, that got me thinking about writing characters who are not what they appear to be. Jekyll and Hyde, though not in the sense of good/evil (Cantwell’s evil in either mode)

In his first video interviews, Cantwell came off like the baddest of bad asses. When the heat was on, he crumbled. It’s a very old trope, of course, the tough guy, the successful guy who turns out to have a yellow streak a mile wide. But it’s still striking to see such a thing in real life. If I were writing an alt.right character, I’m not sure I’d even try it. I’d probably find it too cliched, particularly since Cantwell’s not facing the death penalty or a lynch mob — just an arrest warrant. The advantage of real life, as Lawrence Block once put it, is that you don’t have to justify what your characters do because they did it, whether it makes sense or not.

If I were writing from Cantwell’s point of view, I could write him as someone who knows from the first that he’s bluffing, and nowhere near as confident as he sounds. Or maybe someone who sees himself putting on an act to intimidate his adversaries. Or possibly in denial — he doesn’t realize his tough shell is a bluff until he gets into trouble. Any of these could work, depending on what sort of character I needed the fictional the white supremacist to be. But I think I’d have to deal with what he imagined the consequences would be. Did he really believe no bad would come his way? Was that sheer arrogance or just delusional thinking? Again it depends on what I need for the story.

Writing from another POV, I suppose the reaction to the change could be shock (his best friend had no idea he wasn’t a genuine badass), or relief (the big bad man-monster isn’t so tough) or wry amusement. Or maybe my POV character is the kind of brilliant detective who sizes him up from the start and tells the other characters they’re going to see him break.

Come to think of it I do have a character like that. An arrogant, rich Southerner who enjoys screwing people over (it’s not enough for him to win, somebody’s got to fail). At the climax, when he realizes he’s completely lost everything, including his life, he cracks. Trouble is I don’t have a story to fit him into. Yet.

Hopefully when I write it the story will be good enough nobody will tell me the character shift is unbelievable.

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Despite politics and pups, a good week (#SFWApro)

They kept flying at me and pounding me, just like Superboy, but I persevered (cover by Curt Swan, all rights remain with current holder).

Politics: Well, let’s face it, it’s been a horrifying week. Much like the post-election period, I couldn’t completely keep my mind off the news and kept checking blogs, news sites, etc.

Pups: Trixie and Plushie were really needy this week. Demanding much more attention during the day than they usually do. As they don’t follow politics, I’ve no idea what triggered it.

But despite that, the week went well. I started my replotting for Southern Discomfort and it’s going well so far. Of course it’s early days, so to speak — the first few chapters are much stronger than the later ones — but I also put a lot of thought into character arcs, how the magic works and so on and I think I cleared up most of the problems. We’ll see if I’m right when I reach the chapters where those things are at issue.

I got several chapters done on the Undead Sexist Cliches book and it’s feeling much better than the first draft. Mostly I’m getting the information organized so that there’s a logical progression to chapters and the book as a whole.

I completed another Screen Rant, but as often happens it’s not out yet.

And I did some planning for self-publishing Questionable Minds. I’m definitely going to have to go through the book page by page and check spelling, plus a couple of changes (some things no longer work as well as I thought when I wrote this a decade ago). But it will happen unless I find a publisher first.

I’d hoped to get some short fiction done too, but I put more time into Southern Discomfort and some research reading instead (it’s inter-library loan, so the due date is fairly tight).

All in all, I’m pleased.

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