Category Archives: Southern Discomfort

Defying gravity! Will I fall off the cliff? (#SFWApro)

This was a good writing week.

I wrote last Friday that I was nervous about Southern Discomfort because I didn’t have a clear path, plotwise, as I progressed through the book. Surprisingly, that wasn’t even slightly a problem this week. If anything, writing was easy. I finished one chapter, asked myself “Okay, what next?” and presto, I got the answer. That’s surprising — I very rarely get into that kind of flow state — but it’s really enjoyable.

However I know from experience, that’s not a guarantee I’m on the right path (though it certainly feels like I am). Hence the use of the Fool of the Tarot’s Major Arcana (Arthur Waite version). According to one interpretation of the card, it represents the quester passing through the spiritual stages of the other Arcana. Walking to the edge of the cliff, he may be the naive, beginning quester who doesn’t realize the danger he’s in. Then again, he may be the enlightened quester who knows that if he walks off the cliff, he’ll land safely.

And it’s possible I’m either one. If it keeps going this well, I’m the enlightened quester. But it’s possible that 10,000 words from now I’ll discover everything I wrote this week has steered me into a dead end. One potential problem is that several key events, while they flow much better in this draft, now take place about 15,000 words earlier. If I don’t make up the 15,000, I’d end up about 68,000 words, which is way too short.

Nevertheless, writing the book this week felt very good.

That consumed most of my writing week. I also got off one query (as And magazine stopped using my columns, I’m hitting other markets), worked some on Undead Sexist Cliches—the Book, and started a new draft of the short story Trouble in Glass. I also tackled various paperwork issues (taxes and other financial stuff) I needed to catch up on.

I’d planned to take about four hours off to use up some of the extra hours I’d built up, but I just didn’t get around to it. Still with Memorial Day coming up, if TYG takes time off, maybe I’ll use it then.

 

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Filed under Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

OMG, I’m writing the raunch werewolf comedy! (#SFWApro)

My standard joke about not having a multi-book contract with a major publisher (for example) is that it does at least leave me free. If I choose to write a magical realist story about Dadaist ghosts in Zurich rather than sign a contract to write a big-budget werewolf raunch comedy, it’s unlikely to affect my bottom line.

But in a sense, isn’t that exactly what I’ve been doing lately? This time last year I was focused overwhelmingly on fiction (95 percent of the time, say). The past two or three months it’s been predominantly nonfiction, which pays the bills, but doesn’t satisfy me. With the exception of my movie books and Screen Rant lists, but they’re still not as fun as fiction.

However, I like having money coming in, so I’ll have to find a way to make it work. Faster work on the nonfiction (my Screen Rant columns take less and less time to write as I get better at them). Forcing myself to squeeze in fiction time — I worked late Thursday just to get a little more done Southern Discomfort in (my own fault. I’d run out of steam and gotten next to nothing done on the book that afternoon). This is hardly a revolutionary plan, of course, but time management really isn’t a field where new discoveries shake things up.

So in addition to finishing two Screen Rants this week (one of them will be out next week) I did get several thousand words in on Southern Discomfort. And that was pretty much it. If push comes to shove, the novel has to take top priority behind the paying gigs.

The book is progressing well (over 40,000 words as of today), but I’m getting to the point where I need to make big, big changes, and I’m not sure what those are. I can sort of sense the path I want, but “sense” is a long way from actually having an outline. I did figure out one major plot point, but I’m not sure if it’ll make sense when the book is written. I’m beginning to think my goal for this draft should be to put in the stuff my beta-readers wanted, take out the stuff they hated and make sure the plot hangs together. Then go back and make it all seem coherent in the next draft, like I knew where I was going from the first.

Oh, and I talked to a publisher about a possible new film-reference book. More details if I go ahead with it.

I put in well over 35 hours thanks to waking up early most days. That more than made up for the time we spent Thursday taking Trixie and Plushie to the groomers. The new looks are revealed below

We don’t usually cut Trixie this much, but she seems to be shedding a lot.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Writing

I had a fabulous weekend. What happened next will shock you! (#SFWA)

Last weekend was awesome. Friday (apr. 28) I drove down to Greenville SC to visit my friends Neil and Courtney (that’s their dog, Watson, in the photo) . Every year there’s a Mensa trivia contest, Culture Quest, and I go down and play with them rather than with the local Durham teams. No disrespect meant to them (they often outscore us), but it’s nice to spend time with people who know me from back before I moved up here.

We hung out and lay around a lot, watched movies (see tomorrow’s reviews) and TV (Westworld, which will get a review of its own eventually), competed in Culture Quest, visited the Greenville Zoo (very nice!) and Neil’s comic book store plus hitting the Greenville library’s book sale. Everything’s cheap and the last day everything’s half-off the cheap price. There’s more stuff to do, and sometimes I’ve spent the whole week there as the Greenville Mensa gathering takes place the following weekend. This time, though, I came back Monday, planning to come back with TYG for the gathering on Friday.

(A brief aside: Gaffney, SC is on the way and has a ginormous water tower painted into a peach. It’s a real shock seeing it when you’re not prepared, like someone in a movie confronting a giant kaijin).

So I spent the three days I had to work concentrating on my Screen Rant column, and doing some more research reading for Southern Discomfort. Plus taking time out for Plushie’s noon eye appointment on Thursday.

But then Thursday morning Trixie suddenly sat on the ground midway through her walkies and refused to budge. She didn’t eat when she got home. And she was lethargic and withdrawn, which is very un-Trixie. We called and got a 10:30 appointment at our vet. Unfortunately they were slammed so TYG had to leave and take Plush dog to his appointment while I waited on Trixie’s results.

The long and short of it: Trixie had eaten something (cloth, hair, grass) which had filled up her stomach. Fortunately it had passed out by 4ish. However we still have to wait and see whether it passes out her intestines or sticks (which could require surgery).

I was still fairly comfortable with boarding Trixie at the vet’s for the weekend, but TYG wasn’t. She volunteered to stay behind and watch Trixie while I went to Greenville, but I decided I’d be too worried about Trixie (and guilty about leaving) to enjoy myself. So I stayed. I wasn’t happy with the decision, but I wouldn’t have been happy going either …

While the stuff hasn’t passed out yet, Trixie is back to her normal high-energy self again, so yay! And I did get a little extra work done (submitted a couple of stories, applied for an editing gig, worked on Trouble and Glass for the first time in forever) which made me feel less disappointed in my choice. I do miss seeing all our Mensa friends though. But Trixie’s my little girl, so there you are.

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

April goals: No covering myself with glory (#SFWApro)

Goals accomplished: 45 percent. My lowest so far this year. Even given I spent a week sick, I should have done better.

Part of the problem was that I still had the last of my Leaf work to wrap up, which took a lot of time. And then I compensated by focusing heavily on Southern Discomfort, which meant lesser stuff — marketing, short stories — didn’t get done. I’d have caught up (maybe) last week, but the sick thing kicked in. Likewise lots of little things — exercise, for instance — got lost here and there in the rush.

I did get 25,000 words written on Southern Discomfort, which is great, and I finally saw Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast out in hardback. Plus my Screen Rant columns were all turned in.

May will suffer from having very little time this first week of May. I got back Monday from visiting friends (details in this afternoon’s post), I’m taking today off (details later), and I had multiple appointments and errands during the three work days. But I think I’ve calibrated tasks to time available effectively. Or so I hope.

For your entertainment, I’ll conclude with a cover by Richard Courtney (all rights retained by current holder). Michael Moorcock novels often promote imaginative covers though I’ve seen wilder ones.

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Filed under Personal, Screen Rant, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals

Inspiring news! (#SFWApro)

So Tuesday I read some of the latest draft of Southern Discomfort to the writing group (Chapter Two, which introduces Maria). The response was enthused.

The people who’d read the previous version said I’d fixed a lot of their criticisms. The people who hadn’t read it liked it. A couple of people said if I finished it and released it now, they’d buy it. That’s very cool. And gives me a big incentive to put in the hours and get this done at last.

A little intimidating too, of course. If I’ve set that high a standard for the opening, now I want to keep it up the rest of the book. And the scene with Maria is one I’ve worked on extensively, so it’s not surprising it’s in good shape. A lot of the later scenes are going to be new material, and doing that well will be difficult. Then again, everyone liked the second scene in Chapter Two with Sean and Susan (a couple of teenagers. Young, happy, in love and with everything to live for — uh-oh) and that was new. So onward!

Oh, and I’m now well up over 25,000 words, so I feel a little better about all the time I spent recently working on other gigs.

Speaking of which, I had a heavier-than-usual Screen Rant schedule this week. I’d been working on “Super Hero/Super Villain Team-Ups” which was my assigned column for this week. But then one I’d pitched — 15 WTF adaptations of King Arthur, to coincide with an upcoming movie — got bumped on the schedule. I don’t know why they wanted it so early, but I trust they know what will grab eyeballs. And in case you’re wondering here it is. Learn how Merlin became Dr. Strange’s teacher in a 1978 TV movie. The amazing link between Galahad and Superman. How Merlin had his own sitcom. The times MacGyver, the GI Joes and the Thundercats met Merlin or the Lady of the Lake. And the physically impossible sex scene in Excalibur (source of the still below — all rights to image with current holder).

I also completed the CreateSpace process for Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast.It is now available in hard copy via Createspace. Done!

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Filed under Screen Rant, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

The tide has turned. That may be a good thing (#SFWApro)

So a couple of weeks ago I was dealing with four different sources of nonfiction, income generating projects. At this point it looks like next week I’ll be down to one. I don’t feel bad about (perhaps in a few months).

The legal articles I was doing for Leaf has now wrapped up. It was fun doing it again — after several years with them back when I first moved up here I know the format and a lot of the topics well — but simply because it was for a limited time I put in a lot more effort than if it had been long-term. So that’ll free up quite a bit of time.

Two of the other income streams I was dealing with have yet to send me any work. Which is good because I had the Leaf stuff — it paid a lot better — and I don’t know how much more I could have handled. I keep wondering if one of them will start next week, enabling me to keep the money flowing. But I wouldn’t mind a week of getting back to mostly fiction, even though I’m still hustling for nonfiction gigs and magazine article ideas.

Screen Rant, of course, remains. I did my newest article this week (Dalek trivia!) but it’s not online yet. Rights to image remain with current holder.

And I did get close to 3,000 words of Southern Discomfort done, but that’s 2,000 short of what I’d planned. I should have stuck with the impulse I followed the previous week: when the nonfiction gets tough, just make myself put in the extra time to get 1,000 words each day. I’d figured I could catch up today — I did my last Leaf article (on the educational power of attorney) yesterday — but no. We had a somewhat chaotic morning with me walking the dogs (TYG was stuck handling something else) and then Plushie went and sat up in the bedroom. When I checked on him he stared at me as if he couldn’t quite figure out why he didn’t have one of his parents next to him to snuggle with (he’s not the sharpest card in the deck). So I settled in with him until he finally headed downstairs. All of which apparently left my brain too unfocused to work on fiction, so I switched to batting out some of Undead Sexist Cliches (The Book). I’m pleased I kept my nose to the grindstone, frustrated I got thrown so easily by morning events (and I had such a good night’s sleep, too!). But like I said, next week looks free and clear for catching up (fingers crossed).

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Filed under Personal, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

City of Blades and worldbuilding (#SFWApro)

Reading reviews of Robert Jackson Bennett’s CITY OF BLADES (cover by Sam Weber, all rights to current holder) it struck me that what most of the reviewers were impressed with (I’m talking review columns, not individuals on Goodreads) was not at all what I liked about it.

First, the story: grizzled Saypuri General Mulaghesh, a supporting character in City of Stairs, gets dragged from her retirement to investigate the disappearance of a Saypuri official in the city of Voortyashtan.  Voortyashtan was the heart of the Divine Empire, which once ruled the world, until the Saypuri brought it down with anti-magic weaponry. Now they’re trying to rebuild the port city, despite the unrest of various local factions (it seems the Iraq War was a big influence on the politics here). And as Mulaghesh learned in the previous book, not all the miracles have gone …

I thoroughly enjoyed it, except for some awkward modern terminology (not totally inappropriate for the setting, but it jarred just the same). I like Mulaghesh as a middle-aged lead (much more interesting than the oldsters in Black Wolves), the magic set up is intriguing, and the story is solid. But most of the reviews I read didn’t think Bennett was that much as a storyteller, they liked him (to the extent they did) as a world-builder.

It’s not the first time I’ve seen a book recommended because of cool world-building, and it didn’t make sense to me then, either. I’ve seen many books where I love the setting and the premise, but for me world-building is only important to the extent it generates a great story and good characters. The depth that Tolkien gave to Middle Earth is impressive, but I’ve never had the slightest urge to read through those appendixes in LOTR. Elaborate magic systems, as I’ve mentioned before, usually bore me. As I mentioned in the Black Wolves review, endless exposition about culture, society and whatever usually leaves me cold if it’s not in the service of the story (or the characters). I had the same reaction to An Accident of Stars — the world is interesting, but nothing much is happening.

Yet obviously for lots of people the world-building is fascinating. And I can sort of understand it: I have the same reaction to super-hero comics. The endless details of how the Scarlet Witch’s powers or Superman’s abilities work are something I can immerse myself in happily. Ditto the details of real history. But fantasy worlds? I need to know as much as will advance the story or dramatize the characters’ reactions, but not much more than that (as I mentioned in the Black Wolves link, something I’m having to think about working on Southern Discomfort).

Does that indicate my writing is fundamentally out of sorts with what publishers and readers want? Maybe. Or maybe not: most of the Blades reviews on Goodreads liked Bennett’s story a lot more than the formal reviews. Whatever that signifies.

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