Category Archives: Southern Discomfort

An odd but satisfactory week (#SFWApro)

It wasn’t anywhere near as odd as Clark Kent’s dilemma (cover by Curt Swan, all rights remain with current holder). Just disjointed. I got the basics done for a Screen Rant list on Flash but I’m going to wait until closer to the S4 premiere to finish it. By the time I found that out, I had to hustle to draw up a different list … but I was told (correctly, I think) that it needs much more work to be interesting to SR readers. So I wound up not getting one done, which feels very strange after doing them so regularly for several months (I have skipped weeks but by design, not chance).

Screen Ranting aside, I did get quite a bit done

•I finished my work on the Leaf articles. That project is wrapped up, so it’ll be much more fiction the next few weeks (yay!). Though I’ll be ready if they tap me for another gig.

•I rewrote A Famine Where Abundance Lies and sent it out. I also sent out The Glory That Was.

•I almost sent out The Schloss and the Switchblade again, then I realized I need to rewrite it. In the current political climate someone who discovers a con apparently catering to Nazis isn’t going to be as surprised as when I wrote it last year. I got a first rewrite in but I’m really annoyed I have to do it at all. Thanks Trump for all the enabling you’ve done for white supremacy!

•I’m up to 18,000 words on this draft of Southern Discomforts, which is cool. And I think all the scenes I’ve done so far are much improved.

•I began work on replotting the last third and found (I think) the problem. The plot hinges on Gwalchmai kidnapping Joan, one of the lead characters, and using her life to force Olwen to surrender. The trouble is I’ve set it up as “surrender by time X or she dies” and it really doesn’t make sense. He wants things over and done, so it’d be more likely “surrender now.” So maybe he has no reason to kidnap her … but in that case what does he do? What ratchets up the tension and pushes everyone to struggle to stop him? The answers are not coming yet, but I think I’m asking the right questions.

•I got four more chapters of Undead Sexist Cliches done. Two of them are new and rough so they’ll require more tinkering than the rest, which are on their second draft (or third if you count the original blog posts).

I also received a review (via my publisher) from some German magazine for Now and Then We Time Travel. The English translation is very awkward, but I think their assessment is “impressive breadth, needs to be deeper.” But I could be wrong.

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Filed under Now and Then We Time Travel, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals

I know where I’m going (#SFWApro)

While I’ve been calling the current draft of Southern Discomfort my “next to last” I’ve been a little fuzzy in my head on how to make that happen, or even what exactly I meant by that. For some reason this week clarified things a lot.

Working on the rewrite for the first couple of chapters I suddenly understood exactly what I meant: I want to finish this draft ready to print it out and give it the final, hard-copy proofread every story of mine gets (though not right away, I’ll need a break so I can see it clearly). Which is a big job, but I’m ready to get this sucker done and move on.

To make it happen, I have to rewrite every chapter until I’m satisfied, no fixing it next draft. If I discover a problem, I fix it. If I realize in Chapter 10 that Chapter 2 has to change to foreshadow things, I make the change, then go on. If I come up with a “hmm, that might be neat” idea, I try it, or discard it, and keep writing. For example I’ve added one bizarre event at the start of the book that I’d kept for mid-book. If I discover a few chapters in that it raises too many problems, I fix it. Likewise, I made FBI agent Drake into Agent Dini, a guy from northern Italian stock. The north has a history of looking down on Sicilians like Maria, so that should juice up some of the FBI scenes. If it doesn’t work, it shouldn’t be too hard to fix.

I got about 7,500 words on this draft done, which is good but not that amazing — the early chapters are the ones that need least editing and fixing. But I’m pleased with the results. I did not get to replotting on the remaining chapters; having taken Monday off, I only had a four-day week. I’m glad I took the break though — I felt incredibly refreshed Monday (in case you’re wondering it was a quiet weekend at home, though TYG and I did go out bicycling).

I got several more articles done for Leaf and submitted a revised proposal for the Space Invaders book. I also submitted my next Screen Rant, but as usual it’s not out yet. I started turning Atlas Shagged (which is also available via Apple Books) into a paperback, but I haven’t finished the process yet.

Once again, no short story work and also no Undead Sexist Cliches.

Still, I think I’m pretty pleased.

All rights to image remain with current holder. I Know Where I’m Going is a charming movie by the way, worth a look if you get the chance.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, 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

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

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

Context and culture (#SFWApro)

So recently I read a post from Wading in the Shadows about cultural appropriation of Celtic mythology. The problem not being appropriation in itself but a)not getting Celtic culture right and b)in taking legends out of the original Irish context, they inevitably distort them. Heroes and monsters are part of a tapestry and if you pluck out when thread, you inevitably distort the meaning:  “The problem, however, is that mythology is CULTURALLY based. Mythology contains elements of fantasy but at its most fundamental it’s an intellectual framework used by our ancestors to make sense of the world around them. Because it’s culturally based, many of the mythological elements and associated context have been passed down through generations and incorporated into national identity and belief systems. Today of course, the use of Irish mythology has been superseded by scientific rationale, but its core narratives remain intrinsically linked to Ireland’s self-identity and cultural values.”

Which is a fair point. Taking anything out of its original culture is going to change the meaning. Titus Andronicus meant something different to Elizabethan audiences accustomed to revenge plays than it does to modern viewers. The Aztecs probably reacted to their human-sacrifice customs very differently than I do. To one Korean blogger, replacing a Korean condiment with Sriracha because that’s what was available was outrageous because it’s a fundamental change to the dish. Heck, pop-culture Christianity where humans turn into angels when they die is a big change from actual Christianity, where angels are entirely separate.

But I’m not so sure it’s a negative thing.

It can be bad if a writer passes off a patchwork creation as authentic, as Nisi Shawl points out: “In one unpublished story I’ve seen, the writer took a sacred song here, a tattoo there, snapped up a feast featuring roasted pig and manioc root from somewhere else and presto! South Pacific Island culture at our fingertips! That this Islands analogue was inhabited by blond, blue-eyed people may have been meant to soften the act of appropriation by distancing readers from its victims. Or the point may have been to allow the blond, blue-eyed author or reader easier identification and access. The effect, unfortunately, was one of cultural theft squared. Not only were the appurtenances of the culture removed from their native settings, they were placed in the hands of people deliberately marked as racially distinct from their originators.”

On the other hand, transplanting myths and legends from one culture to present-day America can create a remarkable result. A Grail quest in Mobile, Alabama. Or in Las Vegas (Tim Powers’ Last Call). The sidhe showing up in rural Georgia in Windmaster’s Bane by Tom Dietz, or in California in Mercedes Lackey’s Serrated Edge series (curiously although Dietz’s book is far superior, it had less influence on Southern Discomfort than Lackey’s). Or the gods of everywhere showing in Wicked and the Divine (same link as earlier in the paragraph). Or Thor swinging his hammer as a super-hero. Etcetera, etcetera (cover art by Gervasio Gallardo, all rights remain with current holder).

I think planting Celtic magic in Georgia for Southern Discomfort works fine, or will once I finish. But there’s no question I’m willing to bend established myth where it improves the story. I don’t think I’m doing anything objectionable; quite possible Wading in the Shadows (or anyone who really knows the lore) would disagree.

Is it the quality that decides what works out of context and what doesn’t? How respectfully it’s adapted and changed? Whether you’re reinforcing stereotypes (e.g., presenting Native American gods as some kind of devils or Lovecraftian horrors)?  I don’t really know what I think, and if I did know I might look back in a year or two and decide I was clueless. For whatever that’s worth.

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Filed under Reading, Southern Discomfort, Writing

All things considered, not a bad week (#SFWApro)

Before Wednesday’s root canal, I’d been guessing how I’d handle the rest of the day: would I feel up for writing? Or just huddle on the couch watching movies with the dogs (Trixie’s a huge fan of classic Italian neorealist cinema)? As it turned out I felt surprisingly good (as I said this morning, Dr. Robinson knows her stuff), but I decided to kick back and do nothing anyway.

Despite which it was a fairly productive week. I finished going over Southern Discomfort, breaking everything down chapter by chapter. Now hopefully I can start to rebuild it — not that it’s a shambles, but there is, unsurprisingly, much improvement needed. We’ll see if the breakdown helps.

I also finished rereading my old steampunk novel Questionable Minds. Other than a few minor changes it looks in great shape. Now I have to start thinking about the self-publishing thing seriously — well, and double-check to see if there are any new publishing houses that have cropped up.

I got my next Screen Rant in (actors who don’t get along with their families).  And I did some research for an older story, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! that needs heavy work. As it deals with maps, I hope reading about them will trigger some ideas.

No short story work, though, and no work on Undead Sexist Cliches. But I did finally make it to the new after-writers’ group bar and hang out. It’s really not that far to go, I’m happy to say.

To celebrate getting through the root canal, here’s footage from an old Crest commercial showing the Cavity Creeps attacking Toothpolis. Commercial here, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Undead sexist cliches, Writing