Category Archives: Southern Discomfort

Sometimes the good guys lose (#SFWApro)

Okay, one week of poor productivity isn’t comparable to being gunned down by Hydra agents, but it did give me an excuse to use this cool Jack Kirby cover (all rights remain with current holder).

Mostly it was a few more the thousand cuts I mentioned last week. Monday I went in for the MRA (like an MRA for artery) to check my small aneurysm hadn’t grown. Raleigh Radiology were awesome, getting me in and out lickety-split, but the drive was long, and that used up most of my morning before time for walkies.

This morning we had to get Trixie to the vet a little after 7am because some of her teeth are a mess so she’s getting a deep cleaning. I feel slightly nervous about having to put her under anesthetic for this so when I got up I spent most of the early morning snuggling and petting her (my body definitely feels stiff from my failure to stretch out, though).

We also have to add AdBlue to our diesel engine every so often (it helps keep down emissions — though given it’s a Volkswagen, that seems almost ironic)) and according to the Warning! on the dashboard the car will shut down if we don’t. While we have time (the amount we drive is small enough 400 miles isn’t a tight deadline) the constant Warning! didn’t turn off so I decided to take it in this morning, after dropping Trixie at the vet. That took a little more time, then I had a quick bit of shopping … so again, a lot of the morning got eaten up. In hindsight I rather wish I’d taken even more and donated blood — enough time has elapsed since my last donation I’m eligible again — but I wasn’t sure when TYG would absolutely have to have the car.

Since then we picked up Trixie, who is completely sacked out. At this point I’m pretty sure nothing but blogging will get done today. I’ll come up about a day short for writing hours this week.

So not much accomplished. My next Screen Rant is done (15 Things You Need to Know About Apokolips, to tie in with the Justice League movie), and I got some work done on Southern Discomfort, but that’s about it. And the latter didn’t go at all well this week. I had a tricky key moment in the plot and I while I eventually figured out how to progress, it took time. More generally my brain just didn’t seem to be plugged in. Oh, well, as I’ve mentioned before, sooner or later returning to the mean is inevitable.

It feels more frustrating though, because with Thanksgiving ahead, I’ll lose part of the next work week. Plus I’m once again doing some online articles for Leaf, which pay well but cut into the time for other writing (I was planning to do some today, but I don’t think I’ll make it). So Southern Discomfort, not to mention short stories such as Angels Hate This Man or Oh the Places You’ll Go! will get shorter shrift.

While I had been planning to take the day after Thanksgiving off, perhaps I’ll use it to catch up on fiction. But Trixie’s fine, and that’s the most important thing.

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

I survived the death of a thousand cuts! (#SFWApro)

Events whittled away at my time this week, but it was productive just the same.

The first cut was Monday morning having to drive about half an hour to a local clinic for a preliminary interview. A few years ago I learned I had a too-small-to-operate aneurysm, and it’s overdue to be checked up on — the possibility it’s expanded is unsettling enough I’ve been lax in following up, then the insurance company kicked up a fuss. So the clinic visit was part of the insurance approval process, though it seemed like everything could be handled over the phone. The drive actually took longer than the session — I will give Duke neurology credit for doing everything smooth and efficiently.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was bogged down by the time change, the seeming greater darkness, and an overcast, drizzly sky on top of that. It all got inside my head and distracted me — plus I kept reading up on all the good election news from Tuesday. Nice to be distracted by good political news for a change.

And then this morning … TYG had to stay up late last night, which led to me going to bed late. Then about 3AM, Plushie puked up this new treat we’d gotten him (it was very large, apparently too large for his digestion) and TYG cleaning that up (even though she’d crawled into bed in the spare room to avoid waking me) woke me up. I wound up going downstairs with the pups (Plush was fine post-pukies) and working on the couch, shuffling my morning schedule because if I tried exercising or stretching out I’d have dogs on me (“It’s human body language for ‘play with me!’ We’d love to!”). And I wound up walking them because while I knew TYG would do it, she needed a little extra sleep. Then we took them in to the groomer, which gave me three hours to work solo and get my exercise done. Except the groomer had a cancellation so I got less than planned, plus I had to take a nap … so anyway, less productive than I’d planned.

Still, I got quite a bit done:

•Submitted several ideas for Screen Rant columns, none of which made the cut.

•Confirmed that an article I submitted to History Magazine earlier this year on tractors will be coming out in a couple of months.

•Submitted Fiddler’s Black to Fireside Magazine.

Atlas Shagged is now live on Kindle as well as the other outlets. I hope to have Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast up soon but like the paperback of Atlas Shagged there are cover issues I have to fix.

•Got up to 62,000 words on Southern Discomfort. So far all proceeding more or less smoothly, though I’m approaching the point at which it all spiraled into chaos last draft. Positive thoughts welcome.

•Finished another draft of No-One Can Slay Her and read it for the writers’ group Tuesday. It got good reactions all round, which satisfied me I’m on the right track. Some of the group did think the opening scene with Jennifer and her aunt was wasted space; I shall give that some thought (I have reason to want it there, and I think I can make it worse).

•I reread the Undead Sexist Cliches manuscript and started the next draft. Like Southern Discomfort, I want this to be the last draft before hard copy review, so I’m taking my time and resolving any problems, like topics I bring up in multiple different chapters. I got through Chapter One and Two today, despite the craziness.

So a good week, even if I do feel dead to the world.

Atom cover by Gil Kane, all rights to image remain with current holder. Photo of Plush Dog below by me, all rights mine. Please credit me if you use it.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing

The tail end of October proved surprisingly beneficial (#SFWApro)

I got a surprising amount done at the start of the week.

Sunday, I had one of the writers’ group’s work days at our house: I provide food (chili, chickpeas and tomatoes, cornbread) and soft drinks, guests bring what they can, we sit around and chat, pet the pups, and work, in various quantities.

(art by Jack Kirby)

As I had a screen rant (Thor’s Most Brutal Injuries) due Monday, the timing worked out very well. It was harder to talk with my friends when I had a deadline to meet, but by early Monday morning I was done. That left me the rest of Monday and Tuesday to squeeze out a bit more of my October writing goals. I rewrote the opening of Questionable Minds and went on through Chapter Ten. And I finally finished the next draft of No-One Can Slay Her.

Plus I got various odds and ends of my goals done, so I ended up with 72 percent of my goals met. That’s most satisfying.

(Art by John Romita Jr., I believe)

The rest of the week I worked mostly on Southern Discomfort. I turned in another 4,000 words, but haven’t had much luck with replotting ahead. However as I seem to be doing okay on the plotting, I guess I’ll keep winging it without.

I also did yet another rewrite of No-One Can Slay Her because I’d like to read it at next week’s writers’ group. However I couldn’t quite complete the last stretch — either I wrap the rewrite up Monday or I go with a chapter of Southern Discomfort. But the story is looking way better than before this week: I have most of the plot and Jennifer’s personal arc sorted out, it just needs tidying and strengthening.

Alas, I still couldn’t make the cover for Atlas Shagged work for CreateSpace.

(Art by Walt Simonson)

The dogs were somewhat needy. Mornings, due to shifts in TYG’s schedule, I’m dealing with them a little more in the mornings, which sometimes makes getting going a lot harder. When Plushie gets into my recliner, he tends to just stretch out over me and I wind up petting him instead of writing. Still thanks to the extra hours on Sunday and a couple of nights of bad sleep, I wound up with more hours than usual. That’ll make up for next week when I’ll spend a few hours in a doctor’s appointment (don’t wanna! But needs must when the devil drives and all that).

All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Like Macbeth, my dog doth murder sleep (#SFWApro)

(Jack Kirby cover for the story The Man Who Never Sleeps. All rights remain with curren tholder).

I could not figure out why every night this week I woke up at almost exactly 3 a.m.  Then when I mentioned it to TYG this morning, she said she kept waking up too. Apparently some vehicle going by or something is causing the pups to wake up and move around on the bed, enough that even with its motion-absorbing properties it wakes us. Unfortunately, while TYG can get back to sleep, I haven’t been able to manage it. So I’ve been feeling pretty tired (particularly today. My two attempts at a nap were spoiled by the dogs barking at various car doors opening in the vicinity. Apparently a lot of car doors).

And they’re continuing to require longer walks and more petting. Fortunately TYG spent some extra time at home this week and took over dogsitting, so that helped me a lot.

In any case the week was going to be off-kilter, as I took Thursday off to catch up on various non-writing stuff. I’m trying to find a lawyer to handle some paperwork for my mum (no look so far); completed paperwork for my pension application to the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (I’d like to get at least a little money before Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan decide to axe it so they can have bigger tax cuts); cleaned out the fridge again; bicycled; worked out our health insurance (time to pick a new plan again!); and kicked back and read some (it wasn’t all grunt work). Worth passing up a day of writing.

In the remaining four days I got Southern Discomfort up to 50,000 words, which was my goal for this month, and still had time to go over and check the newer sections for problems (I have about two chapters left to check). I finished my next Screen Rant (Twenty films that got forbidden messages past the censor), and started on next week’s (Thor’s most brutal injuries) as it’s due Monday to be ready for Thor: Ragnarok.

With the day off, I didn’t get the work in on No-One Can Slay Her that I wanted. Perhaps Monday or Tuesday, if I’m lucky.

And I’m having no luck turning Atlas Shagged into a Createspace paperback. The image I used on the ebook isn’t right (not enough DPI), and I haven’t been able to fix it so far. So I’m now scouring the Internet for more images.

It was actually a very good week. I’d feel better about it if I wasn’t so exhausted.

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

When you gaze into insomnia, insomnia gazes back into you (#SFWApro)

Ironically, after mentioning last week that sleeping well cuts into my writing time, this week I found myself sleeping very poorly. That did indeed help get work done, though not as much as usual — I indulged in some pleasure reading during a couple of the early mornings.

A big part of the problem is psychological. To go back to sleep I have to relax. A lot of nights, my inner voice blocks that: “What if you lie here for an hour trying to sleep? You’ll wake up late or nap during the day, and then you won’t get all your writing done! Get up and work until breakfast, it’s the only way to win!” Feeling dog-tired is not actually a win, but knowing that doesn’t help me shut out the voice. As others have observed, worrying about whether you’re going to get to sleep is guaranteed to keep you awake. If I knew why I slept so much better last week, I would apply that knowledge … but I don’t.

All that said, I did get a productive week:

•I fixed almost all the issues with the paperback version of Atlas Shagged on CreateSpace. Unfortunately the one that remains — getting the cover image right — poses technical problems beyond my capability, so I’ll have to turn to some of my friends for help before completing it.

•I’m up to 37,000 words on Southern Discomfort. They’re looking good, though I’ll need to schedule time at some point to go back and revise a few sections. I also put in some time replotting the ending third (finally!) though I’m far from finished. The big challenge is needing something for Joan to do after she’s kidnapped — even if I allow time to run differently in the Hither Country, her situation stretches out over more chapters than it should while everyone else is reaching her. I need to have her doing something different or handle what she is doing so it works better.

•I rewrote Angels Hate This Man! and it was a big improvement, which is not to say it’s actually good yet. But the central character has much stronger scenes than the main characters I started with, so that’s a win.

•I finished another Screen Rant, 17 Things You Didn’t Know About Jor-El, and it’s now live. Below is a great Nicholas Cardy cover I used for one of the illustrations (all rights remain with the current holder).

•I started another draft of Trouble and Glass (I still haven’t found a replacement title I like) and it went well. Rather than try to squeeze in condensed information, I’m letting it expand, filling in whatever worldbuilding details feel necessary as I go along. The results are much more to my liking. However the plot still doesn’t hang together.

 

•I gave a last review to the proofs of Backstage With the Hypothetical Dead and signed the contract. It should be live next week.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

Anime, animation, Mona Lisa and architecture: the week in books (#SFWApro)

PERSONA4 Volume 1 by Shuji Sogabe is an anime based on a videogame, which may explain why the story dissolves into confusing battle sequences. Starts off well as the protagonist becomes the new transfer student in a small town, but before long he’s sucked into a nightmare world on the far side of the TV. Battle sequences aside, readable, but not readable enough.

ANIMATION MAGAZINE: A Celebration of 20 Years is a 2007 coffee-table book focusing primarily on reprinted covers, ranging from the A-list (Spirited Away and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) to such flops as Small Soldiers. I was more interested in the collection of essays by animators and enthusiasts on what the previous two decades had wrought as animation went big time (in 1987 both Pixar and Batman: The Animated Series were years in the future). Surprisingly the enthusiasm is rather muted as the various writers worry about overreliance on CGI and glitz instead of stories and the movie industry’s willingness to imitate whatever’s successful rather than keep looking for something new. Minor to me, but if you’re a fan of the magazine it might be worth it. All rights to the cover remain with the current holder.

THE VANISHED SMILE: The Mysterious Theft of the Mona Lisa by R.A. Scotti is a good account of the 1911 disappearance and 1913 recovery of La Giaconda, including wild speculations (had it been a pre-emptive first strike by Germany against France?) before the eventual exposure of the thief as a self-proclaimed Italian patriot recovering his country’s lost treasure (Scotti doesn’t entirely buy his claims). Readable but the book Becoming Mona Lisa does at least as good a job writing about the theft and in less space; Scotti is also very prone to gratuitous literary flourishes in her writing.

THE 70s HOUSE by David Heathcote was the book I read last week as Southern Discomfort research, mostly to add a little visual detail to the scenes in people’s homes. Unfortunately this wasn’t quite what I needed since this is less about typical houses and more a view of broad trends (modernism; efforts to blend modernism with traditional local styles; rehabbing older houses rather than building new) with various high-end homes offered as examples. Still it did give me some ideas and it’s a good book in its own right; given more time I’d have read it in detail, but I had to squeeze it in to make the return date.

 

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Despite a couple of setbacks, a good week (#SFWApro)

Setback one: as our dogs don’t get vaccine boosters until this weekend, we couldn’t take them to doggie day care this week, so I lost my day of freedom from the pups.

Setback two, had not one but two contractors to deal with: a heat pump checkup (we’re fine) and a bathroom drain problem (fixed!).

Setback Three, had to take Trixie into the vet Monday, with

So what got accomplished?

First, I got another Screen Rant done to tie in with next week’s Flash season premiere: 15 times Flash teamed up with his foes. For example the scene below in which the ghosts of several dead Flash villains unexpectedly help Flash take down the (also dead) Flash foe the Top.  Art by Paul C. Ryan, all rights remain with current holder.

I finished another draft of Undead Sexist Cliches. Later this month I hope to reread it and figure out what to change for the next draft, but that might have to wait until November.

I got another 7,000 words done on Southern Discomforts, so I’m on track for this month’s word count. The story has already changing from my “final” outline, but hopefully for the better. One of the supporting characters will, I think, be the one to reflect the changes in Pharisee as the power of the McAlisters wanes. However I’ll really have to watch all my minor characters — I plotted out mini-arcs for several supporting characters and the further away I get from the outline the more I’ll lose track. I also did some research reading, which I’ll review this weekend.

While I completed my thirty-five hours of writing for the week, it was more of a strain than usual. As usually happens when the weather cools, I’m sleeping much better. Sometimes oversleeping, though that’s easy to fix by setting an alarm. But I think I’ve underestimated how much waking up early some mornings helped me meet my goals — I definitely prefer getting a good night’s sleep, but I no longer have the margin of error waking up at 2:30 AM Monday and not getting back to sleep gave me. I’ll have to be more mindful of my time, and this week I wasn’t — things like Trixie coming down to join me earlier than usual and demanding petting kept throwing me off my game (she’s so cute — just look below — and sometimes so needy).  And although we didn’t have any long walks, Plush dawdled enough (Smell Everything! Chewe Every Stick!) that it took longer than planned.

While I don’t want to live in isolation, having time to work by myself really helps get things done.

On the plus side, even when I was bog tired the morning after going out with the writers’ group, I resisted the impulse to just blog and count that toward work time. More precisely, I’m only allowing myself a limited amount of blogging and email time to count as work time — a necessary step because email has been sucking up a lot more time lately (Screen Rant’s Google Groups list has a lot of discussion). That’s definitely going to help with my productivity.

So on that cheery note, adieu to the week.

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