A bit of a soapbox here. Earlier this week, I discovered my landline wasn’t working. No dial tone. I knew what was wrong because it happens about once a year. A technician visiting one of the other apartments unplugged it.

So I contacted the phone company via text. It took about 30 minutes to establish that a technician needed to come out. Then comes the spiel.

Help desk guy said that if the technician had to do any work, such as cutting open a wall and doing rewiring, it would cost me $99 for the visit. It was a little vague when that $99 would kick in during a visit. But I could save half that if I signed up for their $15 a month maintenance program. Under the terms, I would be able to cancel after 3 months.

I said no. Got a second spiel. Said no thank you again. There was no on the fence about this decision. Companies do not offer these plans to save you money. They offer them because they’ll make a profit. Most people are likely to lose visibility of it after the first month and let it continue to renew.

In my case? The technician came, checked the line inside. Then went down to the closet and plugged the line back in. If I’d signed up for the subscription service, I would have been charged $45 for a visit that didn’t cost anything.

This week’s report:

This week turned crazy fast. Next week will be worse.


I started Broken Notes. This was a novella I started in 2018, based on an exercise from Dean Wesley Smith’s Research for Fiction Writers. Work overload sneaked up behind me and suddenly caught up, and this story fell victim.

During Heinlein’s Rules workshop, I had to list all the unfinished projects. I think I had about 25%, mainly because of that time frame. So I spent about a month warming into the idea of finishing this story. Critical voice: What if it hits you with a two-by-four again?

I had to work through some of my fear of tackling this particular story. I’m in a very different place from 2018. I decided at that point to change it from a fantasy to a mystery. I think originally that’s where it should have gone, but critical voice jumped in. Though I read lots of mysteries, I’m afraid to write novel-length mysteries. So another reason to tackle it.

However, a spoiler alert: Things never go as intended.

I started with building a cover to help inspire me:

Blonde woman in red coat races through night in Broken Notes

After that, I did some preliminary research. The story was going to be set in a historical house, but I didn’t want to set it in the mid-West. I wanted a location I was more familiar with. So I searched on Queen Anne houses in Virginia.

I found a house that caught my creative side’s attention. The house was built in 1890 and used as a music conservatory. The owner taught students music. Remember, this story was titled “Broken Notes.” Yeah, my creative side liked that a lot.

I did screenshots and pasted them into PowerPoint. The site also provided some terminology for the house parts, so I copied those down too. It looks different from the historic house in my family: white with cool blue trim, about 2,000 square feet.

I thought going into the story I would reuse the opening that I’d done for the workshop. I write 1,046 words.

And my creative side was unhappy.

I think that was critical voice swooping in to not waste any words, even if the words didn’t work anymore.


I tossed everything I’d written the day before and drafted the opening. New character names, except for a dog’s name. That stayed the same. One of the big nagging things was that the setting had changed from what I used in the exercise.

982 words.

Then I wandered onto Facebook and spotted a post from Kevin J. Anderson about the Dark Mermaid anthology call. He said there were 10 days left. I’d been thinking it ended on October 31. When had he posted the message?

Five days ago.

I emailed a writer friend who also wanted to submit a story to it. Our mutual response: “Oh, crap.”

So I dropped everything else and wrote 1273 words on a short story called Voices in a Calm Sea. It’s science fiction.

I struggled with what I would write for the call. The call wanted darker stories, but dark is not where I want to write. After Desert Storm, my fiction got really dark. I had to consciously shift away from those kinds of ideas. But science fiction allowed me to use an area that’s a little dark.

This was the cover, which I did a few weeks ago while I was thinking through the story. I saw that image and immediately said “That’s the story!”

A mermaid couple hug underwater in Voices in a Calm Sea


I wrote 1082 on Voices.

I started a new scene and realized critical voice was rubbing its hands together because it could see the ending was near. I actually looked at the word count and thought the story was only going to be 2,500 words.

So I stopped immediately to cut that off.


It was a bit of a struggle with Voices today. If I wasn’t going to finish the story, I had to get to 800 words. I hit 812 and felt like I was missing something though I didn’t know what.


I started out cycling through the entire Voices story. I immediately discovered the first thing I was missing. I’d skipped ahead a little in the opening (critical voice strikes again), so I needed to flesh that out more.

No word count today because I was entirely cycling.


Enter the reason next week will be worse. Work is suddenly requiring me to go into the office 60% of the week. It starts Tuesday!

Most of this hit me like a snow globe that you shake up. It takes a few seconds and then starts spreading out:

  • Extra cost for the gas. Maintenance costs will also increase.
  • An hour of commute for three days of the week. In turn, that impacts both my morning time and my dinner time. If dinner gets pushed back, writing gets pushed back.
  • Making food to take to work. This was something I didn’t miss. It was so challenging that I defaulted to spending money in the cafeteria.

And probably a few more challenges I haven’t thought of yet.

I veered off my admin day to get Voices finalized. Now I did some research for the story and Googled “How to swim like a mermaid.” There were videos!

I fleshed out a few more details, both in the beginning and the climax. Then I discovered I’d written past the validation, so I wrapped it up and shipped it. Story weighed in at 3,400 words.

Kevin posted generally that it was a bad idea to send a story at the last minute like that. The first readers are getting overwhelmed by the last-minute submissions, so they start looking for any reason to reject. All I can say is that it is what it is. If it gets rejected, I’ll send it somewhere else.


I took the day off from what. Spent most of it doing GALCOM refreshes. With Space Derelict in for editing, the others needed a little love. I updated Last Stand with a new blurb and cover, adding the first chapter from Space Dutchman at the end. Then I reviewed the blurb on Crying Planet. It was good to go, so I added the first chapter from Ghost Ship. Repeated for Ghost Ship, adding the first chapter of Cursed Planet at the end.

Then I had to stop because that was a lot of work!

I took some random videos from writing workshops, starting with some on POV for Broken Notes. I found some information on a summary chapter, which I will be using in the book. I also found a definition of a prologue (it’s an event that leads to the rest of the story, so it works well for a mystery.).

I didn’t want to take whole classes because I don’t have time, not without sacrificing writing. But I can target a few areas I want to know more about.

And that was my week!