Current News: Cats, Freelance and Staying Focused/Interested in Writing

I’ve inherited a cat. I’ve never owned a cat and hadn’t really planned on getting one, but Callie the Calico became part of my  life just a little more than a month ago after a friend’s death.20180430_201537

Now, I wonder why I haven’t had a cat before, though I know next to nothing about them, other than they apparently evolved some 6-7 million years ago in the Middle East and were worshiped as gods.

Callie seems to be a good companion so far, and I’m glad I was able to adopt her. It’s probably good for writers to have cats and clearly there are some famous literary cats, like Hemingway’s six-toed feral cats that  roam his Key West estate.


Since February I’ve had a regular freelance gig writing advertorials for local newspapers. These have been fun and a nice source of side/supplemental income. At the same time they’ve juiced  my journalism jones again.

I guess I’m like James Bond, never say never, again. I was convinced I was done with journalism last September, at least daily newspaper journalism, and maybe that part of my writing life — at least full time — is done. It’s hard to tell.

The renewed interest in journalism has also led me to reading some great nonfiction again, including Mary Roach’s Grunt, about which I’ll write more in another post.

Reading nonfiction and writing a form of it, though, has put me in the mood to write more of it and that’s why I’ve been blogging more lately. I hope you’ve enjoyed the output.


This freelance gig and a renewed interest in journalism and nonfiction, though, has also distracted me from working on the second draft of a novel, a second draft I had fully expected to have finished by now.

Getting distracted by different forms of writing seems a constant for me. At times all I want to write is fiction or a specific genre of fiction such as science fiction or mystery.
Then I get occupied with wanting to write more nonfiction.

Do you experience this as a writer? Does your interest in a form jump around?

But, besides my mind jumping around from fiction to nonfiction, I’ve lost interest in the second draft, lost interest in the novel itself. In one way, this is a bit discouraging. I really wanted to see this thing to the end. But will I? I’m feeling doubtful about this.

Then again, it was about this time last year I was growing tired of the first draft and was ready to chuck in all in the trash bin.

So, maybe, I’ll push through and complete it. Maybe, what I need is some distraction like blog posts to push through the block. To keep writing.




After reading and a few cups of coffee in the morning, I like to start my morning off with this radio show out of Austin, Texas. Its host, Dale Dudley, fairly frequently gets fed up with commenters on FaceBook, Twitter and text messages, and just as frequently bans, blocks and busts the balls of the trolls who go off the rails in the comments.

One of my recent morning ritstfuual additions is reading writer John Scalzi’s blog Whatever, who just happened today to have linked to a Scientific American post about commenting on social media. Which, besides making think about my favorite morning radio show, also made me think about just how skewed and rambunctious commenting and commenters can be. I thought this bit about a study to reveal attitudes about commenting was quite revealing:

A couple of weeks ago, an article was published in Science about online science communication (nothing new there, really, that we have not known for a decade, but academia is slow to catch up). But what was interesting in it, and what everyone elsejumped on, was a brief mention of a conference presentation that will be published soon in a journal. It is about the effect of the tone of comments on the response of other readers to the article on which the comments appear.

I have contacted the authors and have received and read a draft of that paper. Since it is not published yet, I will not break all sorts of embargoes by going into details, but can re-state what is already out there. An article about nanotechnology, a topic most people know very little about and usually have no a priori biases for or against, was presented to the test subjects. Half the people saw the article with (invented) polite, civil and constructive comments. The other half was given the same article but with uncivil comments – essentially a flame-war in the fake commenting thread. The result is that readers of the second version quickly developed affinity for one side of the argument and strongly took that side, which affected the way they understood and trusted the original article (text of which was unaltered). The nasty comment thread polarized the opinion of readers, leading them to misunderstand the original article.

The assumption is that on hot topics, like climate change, readers already come to the article with pre-concieved notions, and thus the civility of the comments would have no effect on them – they are already polarized. Chosing nanotechnology as a topic was a way to see how comments affect “virgin minds”, i.e., how the tone of comments starts the process of polarization in new readers.

They specifically chose a topic about which most people know very little and do not already have any opinion. Neither the article nor the comments contain sufficient information to turn the readers into experts on the subject. So they have to use mental heuristics – shortcuts – to decide what to think about this new subject. Uncivil, aggressive comments resulted in quick polarization. Readers, although still not well informed about the topic, quickly adopted strong opinions about it.

Sometimes it’s a street fight out there and all you want to is  scream . . .



Dear Blog: Sorry for the Neglect

Dear Blog and Blog Reader:

Sorry for the neglect over the past few weeks. There are times I’ve meant to write interesting posts like the one I had in mind of defending genre fiction, science fiction in particular. I’ll put a link here to China Mieville doing a good job of that, or parts of this piece in The Guardian do so.

I really have intended to write more here. But things were happening that weren’t so great. Or maybe they were. I ran away; I came home; I moved to a new place; I don’t know what to make of all that, except to say my Memorial Day weekend was interesting and maybe one day I can write about it.

Speaking of writing, Blog, one chief reason I’ve been neglectful is because I’ve been writing, almost daily, with a few interruptions (see above). When I get on writing jags, I tend to neglect you.

I’ll try to be more attentive, Blog. But I won’t make any promises.



Shameless Self-promotion: A Look at SF movie novelization

I took part in a blogging round table discussion of  favorite movie tie-ins/novelizations at SF Signal. My favorite was Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the original Star Wars film. That novel is as responsible for introducting me to the SF genre as any book or film and certainly was an early influence on me as a writer. As you’ll see from the other guest posters, Foster is a master of the novelization. Anyhow, go read the post.

I Should Be Writing

I’m probably late to send writers to this blog by writer Mur Lafferty:

I Should Be Writing

Her podcasts on writing are informative. I’m listening to one as I’m writing this post and she’s talking about blogging and about what to write on blogs.

That’s been something I’ve wondered about for this blog. Should it be personal? Should it be much more objective, focusing on careers or advice?

Go check it out.

There Are No Rules – Your Online Presence Can’t Just Be a Gimmick (Or: Using Twitter Meaningfully While Unpublished) via Writer’s Digest

Below is another post on writing, publishing and marketing. Regarding using Twitter as a marketing tool, I think the key word in the title is “meaningfully”. I signed up on Twitter just to see what it was all about. I gained some followers. Tweeted some, but never continually on a daily basis. I still don’t. Sometimes I try to tweet regularly as I have today, at the same time, I wonder how much of me is too much of me. How many of my tweets are really meaningful? Which ones will gain an audience? Which ones might snag a freelance assignment?

There Are No Rules – Your Online Presence Can’t Just Be a Gimmick (Or: Using Twitter Meaningfully While Unpublished).

Best Blogging Practices, Part Five: Blog Vital Signs via Big Bad Book Blog

This is part five of Big Bad Book Blog‘s series on blogging and publicity. I’m like the Double Rainbow guy when it comes to reading stats. I love looking at my stats, and seeing that at the very least I’m attracting spam, but the stats . . . What do they meaaaaaaan?!

Of course, WordPress doesn’t allow Google Analytics. And I don’t know of any WordPress source for analyzing stats.

Do you read your stats? What do they mean to you?

via Best Blogging Practices, Part Five: Blog Vital Signs.