Category Archives: Southern Discomfort

Goals for June (#SFWApro)

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been on vacation, so there won’t be a “week in review” post this afternoon (can you soldier on?). Details of my week’s fun will come some time next week.

I came out with 48 percent of my goals accomplished, which I’m reasonably happy with. A lot of the stuff that didn’t get done was due to being full-time doggy daddy five days a week with no break (due, as I’ve mentioned before, to an outbreak of canine flu in the area). That affected lots of little things — the extra bicycling I normally do on daycare days, juggling practice (I’m a lousy juggler but I do enjoy practice. Only not when the balls can land on the dogs), cleaning time (dogs + cleaning chemicals is a suboptimal mix). Plus our surprisingly busy weekends kept me from some of the little activities I might have done during the same period. That suits my fine — social events are way preferable to ticking off stuff on my lists.

I finished a draft of Southern Discomfort, which is a big check mark for me. I did not, however, make it to the after-writer’s group bar to hang with everyone. Next month, for sure! I accomplished several other writing goals though with the Leaf project I worked on, didn’t get much in the short story vein done (but paying gigs are paying gigs). I caught up with a friend of mine whose health I was concerned about and kept up a reasonable exercise schedule. Though it’s possible the health benefits were neutralized by all my anniversary chocolate.

With things back to normal this month, I’m hoping to do better. And I’ve had a week of vacation to contemplate what I want to do and how to organize my time. We’ll see if that helps.

For illustration, here’s a Madonna by Titian, from the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Venice exhibit. Photo by me.

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

Is Our Writers Learning? Worldbuilding and tension (#SFWApro)

When I read Cherie Priest’s Brimstone last month, I’d hoped to use it for an Is Our Writers Learning post. But I didn’t like it much, and that would make four negative reviews in a row, so I decided not to (hopefully whatever I get to this month, I’ll find fun). But I did learn something, hence this post.

As I mentioned in blogging about City of Blades (cover by Sam Weber, all rights to current holder), it seems I find world-building much less fascinating than a lot of specfic readers. What turned me off to Brimstone was that of the two POV characters, Anne’s chapters for the first half of the book were all about world building and scene setting. See Anne go to Florida! See her learn all about spiritualism and tarot reading! See the small town she lives in! The other protagonist, Tomas, carries the weight of the plot at first; Anne’s just sort of there.

But the book sold, and garnered some good reviews. Which made me think again about all the scenes I cut from this draft of Southern Discomfort. As I’ve mentioned before, I had a lot of scenes with the townies discussing politics and life in Pharisee. They didn’t advance the plot, just explored and developed the concept of life in a sleepy Georgia county controlled by elves. They didn’t go over so well with my beta readers, and they didn’t work that well for me when I reread them. So I cut or reworked them.

So …. did I make a mistake? Is this something that my someday-audience would delight in if I kept them?

I honestly don’t think so. If I’m not satisfied with them, it’s unlikely anyone else will be. I could rework and improve them, and I’ve done that in the scenes that I’ve kept. Part of the problem was a complete lack of tension or conflict in many of them; I could go back, put some in.

But I don’t think that would fix them. One big difference between Brimstone and my book is that Priest has exactly two POV characters. I have several — Joan, Cohen, Maria, and that’s just the core cast. The world-building scenes (or county-building scenes at least) used lots more. Most of them only appearing once. I know that left my betas at sea. And there’s no way I can use Maria for them, even though she’s an outsider like Anne. The truth is, Maria just wants to get out of Pharisee ASAP, so she really doesn’t care about politics.

For the background scenes I did think worth keeping, I used Liz Mitchell in many of them. Giving her a larger role and tying her more closely to Pharisee ties them together. Plus in this draft she has conflicts that will (I think) add some conflict to the scenes. All that will help, I think. I’ll see what I make of it when I reread it, probably at the start of August (I think a month break will give me a clearer head.

 

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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.

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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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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.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, 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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Southern Discomfort: More Research (#SFWApro)

I read OUR KIND OF PEOPLE: Inside America’s Black Upper Class by Lawrence Otis Graham when it came out in the 1990s, but it holds up well as it examines the various groups, cliques, sororities and schools popular with generations of well-to-do blacks (though some of those institutions were losing ground as integration and entry into the white world became more acceptable); whether they’re bastions of snobbery or simply like calling to like (“We’re selective because we associate with people we have something in common with.”); the movers and shakers in different cities around the country; and passing (confirming my view that Lovecraft Country botched that aspect). I reread it because one character, Liz Mitchell, comes from the Atlanta black upper class, and it forced me to revise my concept of her: women in the circles Graham writes about were expected to be more than just housewives so Liz having career ambitions wouldn’t be at all a shock to her family.

REMEMBERING JIM CROW: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South by editors William Henry Chafe and Raymond Gavins collects dozens of stories from back in the days of segregation, courtesy of a Duke University project. These include little humiliations (walking miles past a neighborhood school because it was whites-only), terrifying threats and the institutional road blocks against improving things. What surprised me the most was the number of accounts where the tale-teller fought back against the system despite the risks. Refusing to enter the house by the back door. Saying no. Threatening violence if whites didn’t back off. Or simply negotiating for a brief pass across the color lines, like eating in a restaurant during a trip. I’m not sure quite how or if this affects my story (Pharisee County runs on different rules), but it’s good information to have. All rights to cover image remain with current holder.

SOUTHERN STORM: Sherman’s March to the Sea by Noah Andre Trudeau is even less relevant, as the Civil War history of Pharisee has faded a lot in this draft (I mentioned it more in the last one). However it does nudge me to get clearer on the geography of the county and its location, so that’s a win. In its own right a good look at the battles Sherman’s troops faced, the angry reactions of the Georgia residents faced with scavenging “bummers” (back then a name for soldiers who went out to scrounge) and the bummers efforts — if I was writing a story about an army living off the land, this would be an excellent resource for that.

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