Category Archives: Writing

Cyborgs, Santa Claus and Satan: Looking Back (#SFWApro)

So while doing research on one of my Screen Rant articles, I realized I’d forgotten a lot of the movies I’d watched and reviewed for my first film book, Cyborgs, Santa Claus And Satan, on made-for-TV specfic films. So I trotted the book out and reread it. Which makes me appreciate why some actors say they can never watch themselves on film.

Okay, not that bad. And seeing as it’s 17 years old, I should be fairly critical of my past work. The biggest criticism is my sentence structure. Writing nonfiction I have an odd resistance to short sentences. In my most recent books I have that under control. Here, I didn’t. So there are lots and lots of parentheses, and lots and lots of sentences with semicolons instead of periods. Bad me!

Besides that, the writing is … variable. Some of the entries read smoothly, if not quite nicely. Others turn out to be just jumbles of names thrown at the reader to the point it must have been confusing for people who didn’t see the movie (that’s something else I’m better at now).

Writing flaws aside, I’m quite pleased with the book. It’s not complete — I later stumbled across several movies I’d missed — but overall I did a damn good job, in a field that simply wasn’t covered by anyone else (this was, of course, when the Internet was in its infancy). SF movie books tended to dismiss TV movies; actor filmographies did the same.  And I think I did a good job positioning the films in both how they relate to the print SF world and the recurring tropes and shticks of specifically TV specfic:

•Robot/android goes on the run when it turns out the government wants to use him as an assassin.

•Human cop pairs with robot/android.

•Human cop pairs with a psychic.

•Endless knockoffs of The Fugitive, the 1960s series (basis for the Harrison Ford film) in which the protagonist wanders endlessly across America getting involved in people’s lives as he struggles to escape a murder charge. The Immortal, The Phoenix, the Visitor, The Incredible Hulk, Dr. Franken, the list of Fugitives is huge.

So while I wince at my stylistic weaknesses, I still feel happy I wrote the book.


Filed under Movies, Nonfiction, TV, Writing

On the plus side, I slept well (#SFWApro)

And I did finish Southern Discomfort, which is a big win. I also got more articles in for the Leaf project, which will put a little more money in the bank. And as usual, submitted a Screen Rant, 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Spider-Girl (cover by Pat Olliffe, all rights remain with current holder). I even found a little time to work on a short story, though it got squished between talking to a contractor and taking care of the dogs.

And sleeping well is a very sweet thing. I’ve found that if I wake up in the middle of the night, I’ll go back to sleep once I lie on the couch. This hasn’t always worked in the past and may wear off at some point, but for the moment it’s great.

Unfortunately, I’m still spending lots and lots more time than usual with the puppies, and as I said last week, my sense of personal space has evaporated. It’s not affecting the way I treat them, thank goodness — I still have no trouble cuddling and petting them, etcetera. But they leave me with zero space and zero privacy, and that leaves me feeling very uncomfortable a lot of the time (I can’t quite describe it, but it’s a very physical sensation). And that cuts into my ability to work and concentrate. Fortunately Screen Rant and Leaf don’t require as much creativity as working on a short story.

It doesn’t help that they’re really demanding of attention when I’m done for the day (I think it’s because they’re used to TYG coming home to play, and so if she’s out late, I’m the designated petter). So I can’t really do anything that gets away from puppy care. I’ve been compromising this week by putting in a movie so I have my hands free for petting and playing.

Another bright moment, there was an identity theft incident (someone took out a Verizon account in my name) and I got it successfully resolved this week. Kudos to Verizon’s fraud department and the Durham PD for being so helpful.


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

Southern Discomfort: draft done (#SFWApro)

Which is good. But then again, it’s done because it ended about 8,000 words sooner than the last draft. 78,000 which is a little short. But not so short I can’t make it up next time. Add sensory detail, clarify some scenes that I suspect are confusing, etc.

This draft is, I think, a huge improvement (and the scenes I’ve read to the writing group confirm this). Characters are stronger, confusing bits are clearer, and the challenge level for the characters is higher. The troubled parts where I move into the Hither Country still need the most work, but they’re better too.

On the downside, I think character suffers as things move to the climax. Of course with everything that’s going on, personal issues are going to take a backseat, but still, Maria feels too much Generic Character and not herself. I’m not sure how to fix that, but I want to. And I think I need to.

Joan on the other hand, is a lot better, with more to do and a stronger character arc.

I think I have a better handle of all the supporting-cast scenes. Fewer POV characters, less scenes where people just stand around chatting with no tension. And I think the people who need ending scenes will all get them.

Of course, I feel like focusing on all the things that are still wrong, but I shall not. It’s finished, it’s improved, I think I can get the next draft I want done by the end of the year (story and scenes complete, so there’s only a final edit and proofread to go). This is good.

I shall probably wait until August to start replotting and rethinking. That will give my mind some clarity and I’ll be able to look at it with at least slightly fresh eyes.

Whoot! To celebrate, here’s a Pissaro from the North Carolina Museum of Art. I love the impressionists.

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Filed under Southern Discomfort, Writing

The week in which the effects of various things caught up with me (#SFWApro)

One of them being last week’s lack of sleep. This week I actually slept well. Unfortunately as my sleep got more normal, I started to get tired — as I’ve noticed in the past, it’s like my body wants to make up for the sleepless periods I was doing without slumber. So that slowed things down.

The other being the constant puppy care. After two weeks without the usual day off, I feel like my personal space is nonexistent (when I was at my writer’s group Tuesday night it felt incredibly crowded — which it is, but that doesn’t normally bother me). You might not think that would make such a distraction, but it really lowers my ability to concentrate. I got some help this week, though, by finally getting Plushie to take longer walks. He’s been unenthused (to put it mildly), but it seems if I feed them lunch before going out, then simply stand and wait when he gets stubborn, he’ll walk. That means less time to write, but getting outside for thirty minutes or so really reduces some of the stress of being stuck in the living room most of the day. Though I don’t know if we’ll be able to keep it up into the summer — it was really uncomfortable for us today.

(Plushie practices his flirtatious head toss)

So after Wednesday’s day off, I found it very hard to get back in the swing of things. I couldn’t get my brain to work on Southern Discomfort at all, but I’ve still got enough time this month to finish it. I finished a second Screen Rant (not out yet) and clarified some questions before starting on a new book proposal (details to follow). I did get a couple of thousand words done on Discomfort earlier in the week. And I corrected the proofs of my Atlas Shagged short story collection, so it should be out next month.

And as another Leaf Media gig opened up, I jumped on it — writing informational articles for the Career Trend website. It’s another temporary gig, so I’d hoped to squeeze several in this week. I managed two, but that’s still money I didn’t have, so yay.

I wound up putting in more hours than I’d planned, but more of them were research reading or blogging than I would have preferred. Useful things, yes, but more actual writing would have been good.

Hopefully I will back up to full strength next week. Positive thoughts welcome.


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

Face front, true believers, my new Screen Rant column is out! (#SFWApro)

And it covers people who died because of Spider-Man. Not killed by him, but got targeted by his enemies, died trying to revenge themselves on him or fell as collateral damage. Such as the Green Goblin, killed when he tried to send his glider into Spider-Man’s back (he got better later). Art by John Romita and Gil Kane, all rights remain with current holder.

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Filed under Comics, Screen Rant

Talking the talk: more on language (plus faith and politics) (#SFWApro)

After reading High Deryni recently, I began thinking about Ursula LeGuin’s 1970s essay, From Elfland to Poughkeepsie. Why? Because LeGuin cited Deryni creator Katherine Kurtz as a perfect example of How Not To Do It.

LeGuin’s specific issue was that Kurtz’ language didn’t have a fantasy feel to it. Not that LeGuin thought it should all be “thee” and “thou,” but she did believe fiercely fantasy shouldn’t sound like ordinary every day speech. Which Kurtz does.

I can’t agree with LeGuin that language is some absolute standard fantasy has to meet, but it is a fair criticism. Kurtz is a good storyteller but her dialog doesn’t exactly sing. At times, such as when the Camberian Council (the secret Deryni leaders) engages in detailed political debate, it does feel very modern. That didn’t bother me as a teen, but it bugs me more now.

Similarly, the references to Deryni powers as psychic rather than magical or holy (as some characters believe their gifts to be) feels very contemporary for such a medieval setting. Not impossibly so — the Deryni may have greater understanding of such things — but annoying.

I give Kurtz some extra slack because political discussion wasn’t something fantasy dealt with much back then. I mean, there was the monarchical stuff — siblings scheming to seize the throne from each other — but certainly not politics the way we think of it now (and which they certainly did have in the medieval world). It’s less unusual for the time but back then it was quite startling.

On the downside, though, the treatment of religion is really shallow. It doesn’t seem to be anything but politics, except of course for the fanatics who want all the Deryni killed. While politics and power hunger are certainly built into organized religion, Kurtz doesn’t leave room for any genuine religious feeling — the church could as easily be the DEA for all the difference it makes. But as I recall, she did better with that in subsequent books.

For a previous discussion of language in fantasy, see here.

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Filed under Reading, Writing

Strangling in the arms of Morpheus (#SFWApro)

Sleep and I were strangers this week.

Monday morning, I always wake up early.

Tuesday morning I woke up early because TYG had rolled across the bed and into me (she never wakes up. She’s a much sounder sleeper than me).

Wednesday morning we got a very early morning phone call that could have waited until after daybreak.

Thursday Trixie decided she wanted to go out. Didn’t need to go out, just wanted to.

So by Wednesday I was slowing down. Thursday I just ground to a halt after lunch.

Despite which I did complete my next Screen Rant, 15 characters whose origins have never been explained. This was a surprisingly tough one, as there are very few characters left who don’t have an origin. And some of the ones I picked did have explanations, it’s just they were subsequently retconned away. But I think that’s a forgivable fudge.

The Phantom Stranger (the original rather than the New 52 version) is one who’s never been definitively explained, although there have been lots of suggestions, hints and possible origins (the New 52 version did have an origin. Trust me, he’s better without one). The image (all rights remain with current holder) is by Jim Aparo, who will always be the definitive Phantom Stranger artist for me.

I finished 7,000 words on Southern Discomfort which was my quota for the week. I’d have been happy to complete more but if I keep up that pace I’ll have this draft done by month’s end. It’s not going as fast or as smooth as it did at the end of May, but it is going. I’m definitely veering further into Terra incognita more, but this the point at which my previous draft was really struggling, so that’s not surprising. A lot of it’ll have to be heavily fixed, but I think I’m generating some ideas I can use.

And that was pretty much it. Plans for work on short stories didn’t pan out, due to the sleep-deficit slump. Still, as long as Southern Discomforts moves ahead, I’m entitled to feel satisfied.

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Filed under Screen Rant, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing