Category Archives: Story Problems

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

Rewriting old stuff: The Impossible Takes a Little Longer

I really like my novel The Impossible Takes a Little Longer. Enough that I’m rewriting it for probably the fourth time.

When I wrote the original version back in the 1990s, I was intrigued by the idea of cabal of people possessing metahuman powers, manipulating the rest of us behind the scenes. Then I wondered, given the level  of power they wielded, why they’d be behind the scenes. Wouldn’t they be more likely to flaunt their powers? Not necessarily by conquering the world. Some paranormals would be happy using their powers as wizards or wonder-working preachers. Or getting elected mayor or senator as often as they want the job. Or using their healing powers as an EMT. Or believing themselves to be the Second Coming, Thor incarnate, the Antichrist, etc. As the nature of paranormal power baffles science, everyone interprets their abilities differently.

My protagonist, KC, is a comics nerd, so she became Nighthawk, one of the few superheroes in the world. In contrast to most superhero novels, KC doesn’t have all the cool stuff — awesome adversaries, amazing adventures — and settles for bodyguarding abortion doctors, getting battered women to shelters (she’s bulletproof, so if the husband objects she doesn’t have to use lethal force), fighting the occasional paranormal. And wishing she could have foes as cool as in comics. As you can probably guess, KC gets a real A-list supervillain and finds herself in over her head.

Part of her backstory was sex abuse, which wasn’t too overused back in the 1990s. I think I handled it well, and it did figure into the novel thematically (the bad guy’s fatal mistake is assuming abuse defines her — it doesn’t). But since then, abuse has become a cliche (and one I hate), so that aspect of the story has bothered me more and more. I read one chapter for my writing group and they weren’t keen on that aspect either.

I’m also uncomfortable with my handling of the Comanches. They’ve been manipulated by a powerful paranormal with a yen for Westerns into keeping part of Texas as Indian Country, where they ride and raid just like characters in an old movie. Even though it’s been forced on them, it still feels uncomfortably stereotypical.

But I really like the book. I enjoy writing a superhero novel, I like some of what I do with genre tropes, and I like playing with the idea of how paranormal abilities have changed history. Europe between the English Channel and the Russian front is now “Germanic Europa,” ruled by the Third Reich. Silicon Valley seceded. King Arthur returned and now rules England. So I’m working to see if I can fix the problematic parts.

KC’s past is easy enough to fix, but since it does play into her character arc and the villain’s goals I have to rework them. The character arc I think I have a handle on. The villain’s role? I think so, but I’m less sure. The Comanche? Still working on that.

So I’ll use this draft to solve the problems and get it into a workable rough draft. Then once I’m satisfied with the bad guy’s agenda, I’ll rewrite the earlier chapters to take into account the changes. And hopefully I’ll finish it up and make it good.

Of course I’ve rewritten other things, gotten to the end and discovered they didn’t hold up. Hopefully that won’t be the case.

Wish me luck … Like Mr. Miracle, let no trap hold me!

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

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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

The upside of returning to the mean

I’ve mentioned the Law of Return to the Mean several times in this blog: If I’m performing way above average, sooner or later random chance will bring me back to my norm. The upside is that after a crappy pair of work weeks like Christmas and New Year’s, the odds are things will improve. And behold, they did.

The big news is that I finally finished the next-to-last draft of Southern Discomfort. I will clean it up a little before the end of the month and send it out to two friends who volunteered to beta. Later this year I will print the whole thing out and do the final final draft fix.

I can’t tell you how good it feels. Brain From Outer Space has languished for years because every time I rewrite it, I get to the last third and the plot falls apart. I was really afraid I wouldn’t be able to wrap up Southern Discomforts successfully, or I’d wind up doing endless redrafts. Apparently not. This is very good news.

And as if that wasn’t enough:

My new Screen Rant is out, spotlighting 9 embarrassing final roles for talented actors (e.g., Boris Karloff in House of Evil) and nine that were awesome farewells (Carrie Fisher in The Last Jedi). Below we have a photo from Lon Chaney Jr’s miserable last film (Dracula vs. Frankenstein)

And a shot of Marilyn Monroe working on The Misfits (a good final film for both her and Clark Gable)

I also finished a new draft of No One Can Slay Her. It still needs work, but I got enough of the ending worked out, and enough of the villain’s plan, that I think I can rework the whole thing much better on the next draft. It never hurts to know where you’re going.

I finally sorted out my cover issues with the paperback version of Atlas Shagged. I ordered a print copy to check everything is kosher; it’ll be here next week. Assuming it all checks out, the book will go live by the end of next week (it is, of course, already available in ebook).

And I’ll be a guest at Illogicon in Raleigh this weekend, which is always fun. My voice is still a little strained from last week’s sickness, but I think I’ll be able to manage.

It’s so nice to be productive!

#SFWApro, all rights to images remain with current holder.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Brain From Outer Space, Nonfiction, Screen Rant, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Given Mum’s death, I’m doing surprisingly well (#SFWApro)

I wasn’t quite sure what I’d feel like after Monday, but I’m doing okay. Frequent moments of my guts clenching up. Occasional sniffling. But having a clear path — we have the service date set, I have my tickets booked — is very reassuring, compared to heading down to Ft. Walton Beach with no idea when I’d be back.

And more than that, people talking about her on FB has helped me recover memories of her when she was young and healthy. Most of my memories of Mum are dominated by her illness. Increasing listlessness. Worry and nervousness as she becomes more and more helpless. Going up to help her with one thing or another when she was in Maryland (these were rarely fun trips). Mum spending all day sitting in front of the TV. All of that added a level of misery to my thoughts of her that I now seem to be getting past.

I imagine there’ll be more tears at the service, but we’ll see.

I didn’t attempt to put in a full week’s writing, which was wise. It’s not just that I sometimes had difficulty focusing, it’s that I just lost too much time on practical stuff. Helping my sister with the obit. The travel to the airport Monday and back. A long session with Delta transferring my Monday ticket to a new date (they were very helpful once I explained the situation).  So not enough time, and I didn’t want to do anything with a deadline (Screen Rant knows I’m out of action for a couple of weeks).

That meant getting ahead on blogging, which requires less effort than fiction. I also wrote my first post for the Atomic Junkshop blog, which I’ll link to once it’s up. I’ll be following up with more semi-regular posts.

I also finished polishing the Applied Science collection for reprinting, probably under a different name. Next up: find a cover. This one I’ll probably have to pay for as I doubt there’s existing art as appropriate as the cover for Atlas Shagged.

I rewrote No-One Will Slay Her and got the draft almost finished. Unfortunately the ending still needs work. I know the broad outline but the details — why don’t the cops show up? Just what does the villain anticipate Jennifer (POV character) doing? — need sharpening. I’d hoped to accomplish that today, but my brain

I’d have liked to work on Southern Discomfort but that didn’t happen.

I’ll leave you with a shot of Mum (l.) and our cousin Mary from a long time ago. Looking at the photos from when she was healthy helps too.

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Filed under Atlas Shagged, Brain From Outer Space, Personal, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals, Writing

Is Knowing the Problem Really the First Step to a Solution? (#SFWApro)

If so, this was a good week for Southern Discomfort. Not a great week. I’m up to 69,000 words and I’d hoped to be a little further. But as I expected, the two days off this week put the kibosh on that idea. But sitting and planning I finally figured out why the ending of the last draft didn’t click.

Trying to figure out how the last 15,000 or so words should go, I took a look at Lester Dent’s standard outline to see if that gave me any ideas. Two things jumped out at me. One, that “Action must do more than advance the hero over the scenery.” The other, that in the last quarter, “Difficulties increase.
The hero is almost buried in his trouble.”

Not that Dent’s advice is any kind of rule (as I say at the link, his outline is useful if it helps you write better stories, nothing more), but I think those lines capture my problem. Most of my cast are just advancing over the scenery, running through Pharisee or the Hither Country to reach the bad guy. I need more. Things are already bad (Maria facing life in prison or death at Gwalchmai’s hands, the town being sucked into Faerie, Joan Gwalchmai’s captive) but they need to build, if only by having some deadline that’s steadily approaching … Hopefully while I take this time off, my subconscious will work on that.

I didn’t get a Screen Rant done this week: I proposed an outline of items, but it hasn’t been approved (no surprise, I imagine everyone’s scurrying around Thanksgiving). And while I submitted a half-dozen articles for the new Leaf project, none of them have been approved (again, no surprise).

Thursday we had a blast attending Café Parizade’s vegan Thanksgiving event. It’s amazing food, all vegan: shepherd’s pie, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, apple-pecan stuffing, chocolate pudding, ginger cookies, mac and cheese, chocolate cupcakes, seitan … normally I overeat to the point of discomfort but this year I actually controlled myself. I ate, yes, but I took small enough portions of everything I wanted that I didn’t absolutely have to try anything else after I was stuffed. Regrettably the way the invitations are structured we don’t really get to hang with our other friends there (we did stop by tables on our way out though) but it’s still an awesome meal, very reasonably priced for the quality and quantity.

Today I did what I could to catch up on some of the little stuff I’ve been neglecting: cleaning, bills paying, and various minor tasks that haven’t been getting done lately. It was worth not getting any writing done to take a few of them off the to-do list.

To close out, here’s a post of the black-bottom praline pie I took to a potluck last weekend. Chocolatey bottom, sugary pecan top. After I made pralines for TYG for our anniversary, I went looking for a better recipe (the one I got off the Internet didn’t quite satisfy me) and found several other tempting choices.

As you can see, there wasn’t much left.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, Screen Rant, Southern Discomfort, Story Problems, Time management and goals

Sleep. And dogs (#SFWApro)

So I’ve spent the past week sleeping (along with TYG and the pups, of course) on our gorgeous new king-size bed. With the added space I’m sleeping much better, but I’m still falling short of a full night’s sleep. I’m waking up around 4 AM and that close to getting up (typically I’m up at 5) my brain doesn’t want to go back to sleep. So while I’m doing much better and feeling much less zonked during the day, it’s not quite as much sleep as I need. Hopefully I’ll adjust and start sleeping a full night soon. But heck, it’s still great being able to spread out comfortably and having a supportive surface that doesn’t jiggle like jello every time TYG or the dogs moves around.

(Unlike me, Trixie can sleep anywhere).

Another problem is that the dogs are sucking up extra time. Longer walks, now that the weather’s cooler. And about fifteen minutes before 11 A.M. and 5 P.M. walkies, they’re getting really, really restless and needy. Today, for instance, I was reduced to checking email starting around 10:45 because they were too distracting for me to focus on anything else. I don’t have a real solution. I know they want to go out sooner than they do, but I suspect if I went with that, they’d still be pushing for earlier walkies. So no.

Now, as to the writing—Southern Discomfort is up to 45,000 words, though I definitely need to rewrite some sections before I wrap up this draft. Everything is proceeding well. The arcs (or at least recurring appearances) of minor characters are shaping up without feeling forced, the main plot is developing smoothly, but I’ve added quite a few new scenes, and they need tidying up, adding sensory detail, etc.  While I’m on line to get up to 50,000 words by Oct. 31 (my plan for the month), I may have to extend writing/polishing into December to get this draft finished.

I didn’t get any work on the ending plotting done this week, alas. But I think I’m definitely doing better on word count. Last time it was under novel length by a few thousand words, but this draft looks to be back up. I think — obviously it’s hard to tell when I’m mid-book, but by this point (Maria’s been busted, Olwen’s under suspicion and the Hither Country is merging with Georgia) in the last draft, I was several thousand words behind where I am now.

I’m also going to need to fact-check some scenes dealing with medical stuff, to make sure it’s all accurate. Fortunately I know doctors.

I turned in my next Screen Rant though it isn’t out yet: 20 Terrible Sci-Fi Shows You’ve Forgotten.

I proofed about half my next ebook (Applied Science, a collection of stories I did almost eight years ago). It’s pretty clean, but I think I’ll have to go over it and make some minor rewrites. These originally appeared one a month on Big Pulp and information I thought necessary to update new readers probably isn’t now — nobody needs to have Steve’s brother’s life as a spy explained more than once.

I worked some more on Trouble and Glass, now retitled No-One Can Slay Her. I think I have a better grasp of the plot but not quite good enough to finish this draft. I’m hoping to read this at the next writers’ group, but I still have time.

And I rewrote The Schloss and the Switchblade because after this summer, the reaction to being in a room of people wearing Hitler masks is not going to be the same as when I wrote it last year. The rewrite wrapped up, I sent it off.

Ultimately due to dogs and a couple of other issues, I didn’t quite make my 35 hours for the week. Nevertheless I choose to be pleased with what I accomplished. I’ll worry about fixing schedule problems next week.

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Filed under Screen Rant, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Writing