Category Archives: Short Stories

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

Crazy dog parent week

So Tuesday I discovered we’d lost Plush Dog’s tags. They were hooked to his collar, the metal loop was loose and he was wandering through brambles. Or it could have been one of his roll-in-the-dirt moments. No way to tell now. But as a result we’ve been doing most of their walkies in the back yard. Yes, he’s microchipped, but we still don’t want him running off without an easily identifiable phone number on his harness (I’ve ordered new holders and tags, but they ain’t here yet).

Possibly that’s why the pups have been so wired this week. I don’t recall them being quite so frantic and excited in the mornings. Thursday (doggy day care day this week) they were so needy and lively I wound up playing with them for an hour so TYG could get some stuff done. Not the best use of my day off, but such is dog-owner life.

Oh, and Plush chewed through one of their balls Wednesday, and had licked some of the stuffing out. Fortunately I caught him before he could swallow.

Then this morning Trixie came downstairs with me for the first time in a while. This slightly disrupted my schedule as I always wind up snuggling on the couch with her. Still, she’s worth it.

So, all that said, how did the work go? Not too bad.

I think I completed about fourteen articles for Leaf, which will help pay for — well I’m not sure yet, but it’ll certainly help pay for something.

I continued working on the rewrites of Questionable Minds and Impossible Takes a Little Longer. I also read a couple of heavy-exposition scenes from Southern Discomfort to the writing group and got (as usual) great feedback.

I got next to nothing done on No One Can Slay Her. The last half of the story needs heavier restructuring than I’d thought and while I’ve diagnosed the problems, I don’t have the solution yet. I’ll blame that partly on the dogs — it’s really hard to do thinky/planny stuff when they’re piled on my lap. And Thursday was devoted to Screen Rant work (not out yet) and the Leaf stuff. Regrettably I wasn’t able to make my 1,000 words of fiction a day on Thursday. I was hoping I’d keep it going the whole year, but I could be happy with “every day of 2018 but one.”

And I worked out my transportation and hotel for Mysticon later this month — I’m a guest. Actually credit goes to Carla at Mysticon for finding a room at the con hotel when I wasn’t able to do it.

Plus I squeezed in a dentist visit. Teeth are in good shape, yay.

And now I crash. Slept poorly last night and I’m done in. But the weekend is here.

 

#SFWApro Photos are mine, please credit me and source blog if you use ’em.

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

I hate working working on the weekends, but …

Given that I had an eye doctor appointment Tuesday morning, and that I wouldn’t be much use for a while afterwards (I can’t stand using a computer with dilated eyes), I did some advance work Sunday. Definitely not my ideal weekend, but I got some work done on my new Screen Rant (Deaths That Destroyed TV Shows and Deaths That Saved Them) and some of those Leaf articles.

Necessary, but it left me feeling a little stressed the rest of the week. I felt waaay more relaxed this morning when I had all my deadline-related stuff done. And I did have a productive week.

I completed about 12 Leaf articles for the Houston Chronicle’s website, our current client. Not exciting, but profitable.

I got several more chapters done on my rewrite of Impossible Takes a Little Longer. It’s going well but the really tricky chapters (which I will probably blog about soon) are yet to come. I also resumed rewriting Questionable Minds, which is much closer to getting done. I don’t think there are any major problems with it, this is just one final going over before I either self-publish or start sending it out again.

I started on a fresh draft of No One Can Slay Her. It’s really improving, though I didn’t get as far as I’d hoped. And it just sunk in I want it finished by the end of March. No, no market call or anything, but if I’m going to finish four stories this year — well, do the math. So I really need to push.

I also posted a blog post about the Dr. Mabuse films over on Atomic Junkshop. I’ll be reviewing the films in more detail over there than over here, as I have more than enough post topics for this blog.

Given I’m juggling multiple projects,  I ordered a planner some writer friends recommended for setting deadlines and tracking performance when you’re writing several things at once. I seem to be doing okay, but as I’ve liked using a journal again, I thought it would be worth expending some Christmas money to see if this thing helps.

Oh, and my eyes are in good shape. Always nice to hear. And after my eye appointment, I finally got my first haircut in several months. I definitely look better with short hair.

I’ll close with this 1970s historical-adventure cover (courtesy of Books from the Crypt) by Frank Brunner, better known for his Marvel work on Howard the Duck and Dr. Strange. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Filed under Impossible Takes a Little Longer, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

January goals: how’d I do?

Before we get to that, here’s a photo of the Denver sky, 2008. My sky photos like this one don’t usually work, but I think this came out great. I stumbled across it looking at photos of the Denver national Mensa gathering where I met TYG.

As usual for January, I did well meeting goals — 76 percent. What surprised me is that I did much better with my writing goals than usual, probably because I really thought them out this year and tried to keep them realistic.

I completed Schedule C for my taxes (that one covers my writing income)

I finished the next to last draft of Southern Discomfort and sent it out to beta readers.

I started rewriting The Impossible Takes a Little Longer and I got two redrafts in on No One Can Slay Her.

I finally broke myself of wasting too much time on email.

I wanted to get the cover selected for the Atoms for Peace short-story collection and fix the cover problems for the Createspace Atlas Shagged. But the paying work I’m doing for Leaf squeezed that stuff out. However I did keep my goal of putting in at least 1,000 words of fiction a day, despite the paying gigs.

On the personal stuff, I got my bicycling and walking goals done by default: I have a “weather permitting” out and the weather this month really didn’t permit. Okay, technically I could go cycling in freezing weather — I’ve done it before — but l’m willing to cut myself some slack.

By meditating in the morning, before the dogs are up, I’m finally doing it regularly, though not always effectively (but that’s why I practice). I’d like to do something at the end of the day to mark the break from work but Plushie and Trixie don’t see much point in the contemplative life (“Daddy, play now! Now Daddy!”).

I think you can see why my sweet pup distracts me so.

There were several projects I’d hoped to start, such as finding where some of my English relatives are buried, but I didn’t get very far with that. The missed goal that surprised me most was not keeping the bird feeder filled — I didn’t buy bird seed one week and when the blizzard hit, the food ran out. My bad.

I don’t know how well I’ll do next month, as I have a trip to Mysticon planned and the Leaf work. I’m taking that into account setting my goals, but I fear it will slow me down for the year. But I like money and I like being a con guest, so there you are.

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

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

The Story Behind the Story: The End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor (#SFWApro)

The End of the World on the Cutting Room Floor is now out in the new issue of Space and Time. So here’s the backstory.

As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I love movies. Probably more than a decade ago (maybe twenty years? I’m honestly not sure) I had a great concept for a movie-based story. The world has somehow transformed into a movie reality where everyone has become a film character (I’ve no idea now what my original rationale for this transformation was), except for my protagonist. He’s conscious of what happened so instead of reacting as a character would, he can think outside the movie formula. In the opening scene, for example, he kills a vampire when they meet instead of blithely accepting the invitation to stay in his isolated castle overnight; the vamp dies baffled how the protagonist knew.

The two pages I wrote based on this idea then sat in my files for probably a decade. When I finally looked at the story again, I saw why. My protagonist was simply too detached, too ironic about what was happening. But hmm, what if he wasn’t detached? What if he was aware of the big change to reality, but also part of it? Knowing he was living a film cliche, but unable to change things?

So was born Harry Davis, hardboiled PI in a world that doesn’t make sense. Where the diner he meets his newest client at is frequented by the sailors from On the Town, commies from a 1950s Red Scare film and a cyborg from some direct-to-DVD SF adventure. Where you travel a few miles from the heart of New York and you find yourself at the isolated Hotel Alucard.  Harry knows the real world ended, but he doesn’t know why the afterlife — if that’s what this is — looks the way it does. He doesn’t know why he alone remembers the old world, recognizes the movie characters around him. But he can’t stop events forcing him to live the life of a hardboiled PI movie. He can’t remember who he used to be. Much to his annoyance, he doesn’t recognize whatever actor’s face he wears now.

The plot centers on finding a mysterious McGuffin and allows me to take Harry from the rougher side of the Big Apple to battling Satanic cults to meeting with an old flame. I also got to include one of my favorite Bela Lugosi lines, borrowed from Black Dragons (“All people are in danger of dying …”).

While the setting drew heavily from old 1930s and 1940s movies, I worked to add more variety in the background characters. I had one supporting character who was modeled on 1970s blacksploitation films (a PI a la Shaft) but he got dropped when the story got too cumbersome. It wound up a less diverse story than I’d intended.

I got feedback from a couple of writing groups. One point, which I fixed quickly, was that in the draft of the story I’d read, we never learned who Harry looks like. I fixed that in the subsequent draft.

 

Another significant change was that I’d originally had an ending in which Harry mulls over what it all means. One which set him up for further adventures, even though I didn’t have any in mind (my mind doesn’t seem to run to series — too bad as they’re a good selling point). Someone suggested cutting that and they were right. The ending as it is now packs much more punch.

So there’s the story behind the story. Now go read (you can order online here) and (hopefully) enjoy.

All rights to images remain with the current holders.

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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.

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