Caturday quickies: Springtime in Sudz

Just dropping y’all a quick note today. I’ll be doing my month-end writing roll-up (the next chapter) tomorrow.

Usually, the pin cherry trees are in bloom for the Victoria Day long weekend (weekend before last), followed within a week by the lilacs. The tree blooming is, for me, the true sign of spring here in Northern Ontario.

This year, due to our long, cold, and snowy winter, the ground frost has been slow to leave (hence our flood issues). So everything was delayed , just a bit.

The pin cherries came in to bloom just this past week. This picture, on such a bright and sunny day, does not do them justice, but here they are …

pin cherry trees

And just below are the hostas, bleeding hearts, ferns, and scads of forget-me-nots.

The wild garden

Finally, by the house, the monster rhubarb is growing like mad. We’ve already had to cut off three “flowers.”

the monster rhubarb

Everything’s dusty, as you may be able to see, because of the road construction in the area. Can’t be helped.

This week has been wonderful weather.

Everybody up here is hoping for it to continue.

TTFN! Off to a bridal shower. ‘Tis that time of year 😉

Caturday Quickies

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Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz May 18-24, 2014

A fascinating article from The Smithsonian Magazine on the microscopic structure of dried human tears.

This article on and video of the fungus cordyceps in action creeped me out. I fucking love science.

Discovery presents the top ten species of 2014.

Part of me cringed at the wanton destruction. The other part drooled a little. Book art by Brian Dettmer.

Web Urbanist presents 15 of the world’s most magical lodgings. Bucket list!

I love dogs. LOVE. So, of course, I could resist sharing these pups with gorgeous coats.

Here are two videos from a crazy Finnish magician, who figured it would be fun to make dogs’ treats disappear. It’s funny. Also a little mean. Dogs NEED their treats. Mind you, the dogs take it well. A testament to their species and a confusing commentary on ours. (I’m including myself in this indictment – I laughed.)

 

 

The Pentatonix, Love Again:

 

I just can’t get enough of their lovely harmonies 🙂

Images of Earth captured from the International Space Station. The Atlantic.

National Geographic contributing photographer Peter Essick pays homage to Ansel Adams.

Worried about using unlicensed images on your blog? Here are some alternatives to stock imagery.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just made images of their collection and archives free to access (!) Talk about an alternative to stock imagery 🙂

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And … this deserves a category all its own. Thanks to Jenny Hansen for this.

A hilarious guide to pooping at work:

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz May 18-24, 2014

Tipsday

Roz Morris responded to a writer in a bind. The result was this post.

If you’ve read Lifeform Three, you’ll find this Roz Morris post on the inspiration of the Surrey landscape interesting. If you haven’t read the novel, you’d better get cracking!

The Geeks’ Guide to the Galaxy interviews Mary Robinette Kowal. Listen to the podcast.

Speaking of podcasts, listen to K.M. Weiland’s fourteenth instalment in the Creating Stunning Character Arcs series. Or read the post. As you wish, dear reader.

The draws and drawbacks of success as an author from The New York Times.

Jan O’Hara tells us why our characters need to make tough choices. Writer Unboxed.

And yes! Now WU has its web issues sorted, here’s Lisa Cron’s wonderful post: What kindergarten got (and still gets) really, really wrong.

Three more things you need to know about exposition and telling by Victoria A. Mixon.

Agent Carly Watters has some advice for when you start comparing yourself to other writers.

Maggie Stiefvater writes about how her characters are not based on her experiences, but they answer the questions she asks in her head.

Tech Crunch interviews Hugh Howey.

The Paris Review resurrects their interview with John Steinbeck.

Anne Lamott on how to handle the haters. Brainpickings.

Two of my favourite Neils talk about genius. More Brainpickings brilliance.

Writers’ Relief offers five techniques to help turn short stories into novels.

The Bookbaby blog presents this interesting infographic about 24 books that predicted the future.

Enjoy, my writerly peeps 🙂

A poetic road trip to Rutherglen

Yesterday, those of you who follow me on Facebook may have noticed that I was out of town again for a bit. This time, it wasn’t for work, though!

My gifted, poet friend, Kim Fahner (who is likely cringing as she reads this—stop that—you are gifted), was invited to a reading, irreverently called Fools on Stools at the La-Tea-Da Cafe in Rutherglen (about 20 minutes outside North Bay, ON).

She asked me to go with her and we decided to turn the reading into an opportunity for a poetic road trip—my FAVOURITE kind!

At the reading was fellow Sudbury author Ric deMeulles, and North Bay area authors Steve Pitt, Barry Grilles, and Ken Stange. We saw several poets and writers from the Conspiracy of Three reading series, and the host, Carin, who owned the La-Tea-Da Cafe, was gracious and welcoming.

Fools on Stools readers

Ken Stange, Kim Fahner, Barry Grilles (behind Kim–sorry Barry), Carin, Ric deMeulles, and Steve Pitt

The group rotated through three sets of readings with breaks for refreshments. At the end, the readers were invited to make Fools on Stools a regular event.

It was a lovely and creative afternoon.

Kim sold several copies of The Narcoleptic Madonna, and received some publishing advice from the other readers.

Then we returned to North Bay, checked into a hotel for the night, and set off in search of supper. The parking lot of Average Joe’s, to which we were referred by the helpful young man at the front desk, was full, so we turned into the downtown area to find sustenance.

Since neither of us had had much by way of lunch, we were ravenous by this time.

Fortunately, we saw My Thai Palace, a restaurant that we were both familiar with from Sudbury, parked, and dined.

After a delicious supper and a half litre of wine, we moseyed down to the lakeshore for a walk.

Lake Nipissing

There was a beautiful ray of sun shining down on the water, but by the time I got my phone out for a picture, this was all that was left. Still, Lake Nipissing is wonderful.

Back at the hotel, we settled into our lovely suite, watched Orphan Black, read, and chatted until we fell asleep. It was an adult sleepover 🙂

This morning, after a tasty breakfast at the hotel, we returned to town briefly to capture a daylight picture of the most amazing house.

Crazy collectible house

The house Kim had to go back to see.

Turns out, the Canadian Pickers (the Canadian edition of the US franchise) had visited. I’m sure they found a lot of interesting stuff. As we drove away, we had to turn and drive around the block. The entire property, yard, and garage were similarly festooned with collectibles.

The drive back was uneventful and we continued our discussion of the world’s troubles and how to solve them.

Sometimes you just have to get away and have some fun. Though I’ll admit, our fun may be tame in the eyes of others, but we had a blast.

Poetic road trips ROCK!

Have you gotten away for a fun weekend with friends lately?

Ad Astra 2014: It’s a wrap!

Doctor Who Welcomes You

The TARDIS and a Dalek formed the welcoming committee

I’ve been blogging this puppy for a month and a half now (!)

There was so much more to Ad Astra than the awesome sessions, though. There was so much that I couldn’t take part in.

I mentioned waaaaay back in my first post that there was Klingon Karaoke (not karaoke in Klingon, though that might be cool …). There was an anime lounge with various series and movies running all three days of the convention, an art room, a Lego room, the book store, author readings, and signings.

Also, for every session I attended, there were, like six others. There was astronomy in the parking lot at night, the masquerade, gaming sessions, Consuite events, and book launches by various SF/F publishers.

And there was the Guest of Honour brunch, which I foolishly chose not to purchase a ticket for (hey, it was my first time, I didn’t know it would be so awesome).

If I thought it was possible, I could have stayed up for the entire three days and done something different every hour.

What I did do (aside from the sessions)

I attended readings by Patricia Briggs, Julie Czerneda, Marie Bilodeau, Matt Moore, and Dennis Lee.

Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs

Julie Czerneda

Julie Czerneda

I bought (way too many) books and got some of them signed by the authors.

I bought a couple pieces of jewellery and a t-shirt.

Had a tonne of fun.

Not bad.

Think I’m going back next year 🙂

The book haul

The book haul

What about you? Have you attended any conventions or conferences recently?

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz May 4-17, 2014

A.K.A. Catching up on the catching up.

Just a little of the thoughty today. Far more fun.

How a bacterium was engineered to use two ‘alien’ bases, from Nature.

How an autistic boy’s love of wind chimes grew into something wonderful. Upworthy.

A Psychiatric Times article on creativity and mental illness. Interesting stuff about writers in particular.

Kevin Briggs’s TED talk on suicide.

 

Look up. Spoken word awesome by Gary Turk.

 

What you see in the mirror. A comic by The Oatmeal.

How one little letter can raise your IQ. Really?

Love these fantastic children’s rooms. In fact, I want the Narnia one!

Mary Robinette Kowal sings “Roxanne” in a puppet voice, while dressed in a Regency gown (which she made herself). Brilliant!

Another cover of Pharell’s “Happy.” A bunch of dogs and a cat frolic on the beach.

Cows like jazz. Who knew?

Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” a la Star Wars. Just fun.

 

The kakapo is a rare, flightless parrot. Watch this hilarious video to find out what it did to a photographer. Plus, Stephen Fry 🙂

Enjoy, my writerly friends.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the Interwebz May 4-17, 2014

Yes, you read that date correctly. It’s a double shot of Tipsday this week (since I missed out on last week).

A writer friend actually called me the queen of curation this past week 🙂 I think that title belongs to Elizabeth Spann Craig, but I was duly flattered, nonetheless.

Part 12 and Part 13 of K.M. Weiland’s Creating Stunning Character Arcs series.

Lisa Cron’s TEDx lecture, Wired for Story:

 

I would have posted Lisa Cron’s Writer Unboxed: What kindergarten got (and still gets) really, really wrong, but WU is having some technical difficulties right now. I’ll try to keep it in mind for next week. It’s an excellent post. Heart Lisa Cron.

A little more brain science for you here. Frank Bruni encourages kids to read, kids, read.

Anne Ursu examines the phenomenon of ‘Greenlit.’ Contemporary realism in MG and YA.

Jami Gold asks the question, when should we skip a scene in our stories? And she answers it too, clever lady.

Janice Hardy makes a case for prologues: not as evil as you think.

Victoria Mixon’s three things you should know about exposition and telling.

6 tips to modernize your prose for the 21st century reader from Anne R. Allen’s blog. This one generated a few comments. Who should be more accommodating, the writer or the reader?

Roz Morris’s tips for using Amazons keywords and categories intelligently.

Joanna Penn interviews Jane Friedman on money, writing, and life.

Publishing industry news: Pay equity and gender parity are still issues. Why Jill Abramson was fired.

Carly Watters offers 5 easy steps for formatting your next query.

Laura Pepper Wu write a guest post for Catherine Ryan Howard about 11 inspiring quotes from the world’s best writers.

10 more inspiring quotes from the Procrastiwriter.

And even more inspirational quotes from Jane Friedman:

 

George Saunders on the power of kindness, animated, from Brainpickings.

You may remember I posted the Rolling Stone interview with George R.R. Martin a couple of weeks ago. Well, here are the “outtakes.”

And, I know it’s been everywhere, but I love this clip about George R.R. Martin’s secret weapon.

See you all on Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

Ad Astra 2014 day 3: Biotech, identity, and personal freedom

Panellists: Alison Sinclair; Shirley Meier

SM: Everyone is terrified of the loss of control. We use plague zombies to explain our fear. Dracula was about the fear of women’s power and blood magic. One of our biggest fears in biotechnology. There are a couple of good TED talks on the subject (Mel’s note: I found this one and this other one). Chemotherapy can be delivered directly to the tumour.

AS: Spider Robinson wrote about electrodes implanted in the pleasure centre of the brain. In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “Crossroads,” the Federation becomes a dystopia. The Borg are biological machines. In Star Trek: Voyager, 7 of 9 and Hugh explore these ideas.

SM: The essential questions are: Who am I? Who owns my thoughts?

Q: In Brave New World, what was horrifying then is common place now. People fear science. What’s the positive side of biotechnology?

SM: In my books, MOM (the medical override module) is corrupted. Technology is what saves people, frees them from the villain, Prime. Pets are modified into true companions. Of course, then you have the issue of old age, disease, and how you can justify putting the dog down. They rejuvenate animals, mammals specifically.

Q: What about clones? Currently they age rapidly to the age of the animal they were cloned from.

AS: Medical technology is always advancing. Right now, they’re working on cloning the heart. The brain is still too much of a mystery. Is it ethical to “treat” mental illness? How does the process impinge on personal freedom?

SM: Heart surgeons have noticed personality changes after bypass surgery. There is a distinctive decrease in, or complete loss of, empathy.

Q: Who should be afraid of biotechnology? Who will suffer?

SM: We add to our knowledge; we don’t replace it. The old doesn’t disappear. Norms shift.

Q: Do you have statistics regarding the percentage of personality change in heart transplant patients?

SM: It was in a Smithsonian Magazine article. The percentage isn’t certain. They’re not even sure why it happens. It might be a drug interaction.

Q: If we look at biotechnology rationally, our fear is relatively low. Irrational fear is automatically high, however. People forget our own criminal predisposition.

SM: Look at the military. They have drills for the nuclear fighter jets frequently. They have to make sure that all is in readiness in case the worst happens. They don’t run in these drills. They walk slowly. If the jets take off, the world will probably end. The ground crew is assessed. If they don’t react appropriately, they will be removed. When we write SF, we are troubleshooting. What if? Utopias are boring. Consider the controversy over stem cells.

AS: But what about the cost? We need to invest in quality control. In our society, who can afford it? In Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, the main character is autistic and offered a cure. Who chooses?

Q: What do you consider “you”?

AS: My mother has Alzheimer’s. Her personality hasn’t changed yet, but layers of memory get stripped off.

SM: Treatment is not the same as a cure. It makes illness tolerable. There’s a loss of dignity in Alzheimer’s that’s difficult to deal with. In the early stages, patients can be mistakenly addressed as if they are in the advanced stages. They don’t need that.

Q: There’s a tension between internal and external identity. Who we are vs. who others think we are. Is it the same person? I’m thinking of Heinlein’s Puppet Masters.

AS: Do we have a problem with free will?

SM: Yes. Our monsters steal our free will. Truth, justice, and the American way vs. the New World Order.

Q: What about mind control?

SM: Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent is a fascinating look at mind control and possession in our society.

AS: There’s also a struggle between personal and medical personhood.

SM: Why do things not work? We’re essentially monkeys. Would you give a monkey “the button”?

AS: Technology both reinforces and subverts existing power structures.

And that is the last session I attended at Ad Astra this year.

I’ll save the wrap post for next weekend.

In the meantime, have a fabulous weekend, my writerly peeps. I’ll be back on Tuesday with my regular Tipsday curation.

Hell month, meet the week of epic . . . stuff

A.K.A. Where the hell has Mel been?

To preface this, admittedly lengthy, post, I have to admit that my “problems” are all of the first world variety. Also, as with all problems, I’m generally the author of my own misery. Even with events over which I have no control, I can still control my reaction to them. While I’m usually good at this, occasionally things stack up in such a way that I end up overwhelmed and unable to function. Then, I simply have to reposition, admit that the universe is trying to tell me something, and adjust my attitude appropriately.

Sometimes that means letting a few things go for a bit.

That’s the short version.

The long version follows.

What I thought I Mothers’ Day weekend would look like

At the beginning of this month, all I knew about Mothers’ Day weekend was that a friend was doing a Twitterview on Saturday at noon, and that I would be heading out to my sister-in-law’s for Mothers’ Day supper Sunday afternoon.

Outside my house

Outside my house

The city has started to work on Regent Street, the main traffic artery that borders the west side of my property. This has been a minor inconvenience, but since they’ve been tearing up a different part of the street every day, it’s been difficult to know which detour will actually get me and Phil home after work.

This municipal project will be ongoing until the snow flies and the ground frost shuts things down. I’d accepted the inconvenience. This work has to be done. All the catch basins, storm drains, and water supply lines will be replaced. The traffic and street lights will be replaced. It’s just going to be very dusty and noisy in the interim.

Construction panoramic

Google’s auto-awesome is so cool. It made a panoramic shot out of my pictures!

My mother is getting some work done at her house. The roof of the carport, upon which a deck had been built years ago, was leaking, and in a driving rain, water would run down the wall in her entry and on two occasions, it has trickled through to the light fixture in the hall and burst the bulb.

Construction at Mom's

Construction at Mom’s

She got several quotes and settled on a solution which involved removing the wooden deck and the gravel and tar beneath, sloping the surface for drainage purposes, installing cement backer board, new membrane, a thin layer of concrete, a non-slip surface, and new, aluminium railings. All of the new materials will be water-tight, up-to-code, and weigh much less than the layers of tar, gravel, and the substantial wooden deck that was there.

On May first, I signed up for an introductory month with myoga.ca. Having thrown my back out last month, it was important that I start doing something to get back into shape. Though I haven’t attended a tonne of classes and have had to rearrange my schedule a few times, I’ve already seen the benefits with regard to the way I feel. I’m strengthening my core and stretching my joints. It’s a good thing.

Early in the month, I had also looked into changing insurance providers (house and automobile). I found a quote that Phil and I were happy with, and had planned to call on May 10 to finalize things.

So I expected a busy weekend. I just wasn’t prepared for a confluence of events to derail my plans.

Complications arise

At the end of last month, I applied for membership in, and was accepted into, SF Canada. I soon learned through the listserv that the online annual general meeting (AGM) would be held on the afternoon of May 10, starting at 2 pm. No problem, I thought, there will be ample time for me to attend both the Twitterview and the AGM and still get the insurance finalized.

Then a friend’s spouse died and the viewing/funeral was also scheduled for Saturday, at 1 pm. At that point, I knew I’d have to miss the Twitterview, but I had to go support my friend. I also set aside the insurance. Though there might have been time, I didn’t want to cram too many things into one day.

The final straw was good thing. The weekend previous, I finally ordered the adjustable desk I’ve been thinking about for a long time. The company, Candesk, is Canadian and offered the best value for the quality and price. I had only paid for standard ground shipping, but shortly received a notification from FedEx indicating that they were handling the shipping.

I can only think that the Guy Viner, the man behind Candesk, upgraded my shipping. Many thanks for that grace.

I got the call on Friday from my mom. The desk had arrived. I emailed Phil and suggested that we not spend all of what was already promising to be a busy weekend dealing with the deskage, but Phil wanted to get to it, he said, so we wouldn’t be tied up beyond the weekend.

Plans change

Upon arriving home, I promptly cancelled my yoga class, and got to work emptying out my existing desk. The plan was for Phil to set it up in his office space downstairs. He needed the real estate, he said. Phil also got to work emptying out his old desk, dismantling it, and taking the bits out to the pick up for a future trip to the dump.

Then, he took a nap.

After a brief break, I continued the emptiage, storing the contents of my desk in tubs and boxes and in stacks on the dining room table and coffee table.

I decided that I wouldn’t go online that night.

Out of the box

Out of the box

Mom was going out for brunch with friends and cancelled our Saturday morning breakfast date. So that morning, after a breakfast of bacon and eggs (there have to be some compensations), Phil and I got to work dismantling my big desk and moving its parts into the basement. We started to put my new desk together, but I then had to get ready to go to the viewing.

Upon my return, I promptly fired up my computer, temporarily relocated to the dining room table, and joined the SF Canada AGM. It was three hours. It was also very interesting, and I may have gotten myself noted for a committee or two. No word yet on when said committees will be struck, who will be on them, or what work will be required.

The desk assembled

The desk assembled

Phil had, in the meantime, finished assembling the desk, and after the AGM, we relocated it in its destined position.

I then started working on rearranging the remainder of the office, moving book shelves, dusting, and emptying out the wooden filing cabinet I got from Kim last year.

That jewel has been sitting in the living room, serving as storage for CDs, DVDs, and board games. Now it would be moving into its proper place, in my office.

I determined that blogging was probably not going to happen that weekend.

Checking email, I noticed that I’d received a request from the editor of Bastion Magazine for further revisions to my short story. I made a note and hoped not to forget.

On Sunday, after French toast with Mom, I resumed the work. I attached the computer cradle and cable minder to the desk and set up my computer. Phil had to help me move the filing cabinet into the office. Then came the work of trying to get all the stuff I’d unpacked from the old desk into the filing cabinet.

The desk at sitting height

The desk at sitting height

The desk at standing height

The desk at standing height

My old/Phil's new desk

My old/Phil’s new desk

I didn’t get it all done before leaving for my sister-in-law’s.

Mothers’ Day dinner was lovely and the day was so pleasant that we ended up sitting outside until the sun had almost set. We also got a bucket of potatoes and some eggs. My sister-in-law’s partner is a farmer 🙂

We got home in time to watch Game of Thrones, and then I set to on the revisions to my story.

Off to the races

The week at worked promised to be a hectic one: meetings, overviews of the new performance management process and program, training, the onset of monitoring, and working group meetings.

Hectic might be an understatement.

It was also raining. All week long.

When we got home from work, I went into the basement to put a couple of winter coats in storage and find Phil’s spring jacket. I also found an inch of water on the floor.

I later confirmed with my mother, who had lived in the house since she and my father bought it from my grandparents when I was two years old, that it was the first flood she’d ever known about. The first flood in 42 years.

I grabbed a mop and bucket while Phil got the sump pump in order. Though we’d had it for 15 or 16 years (since a basement repair required its installation), we’d never had to use it. The pipe expelled into the garden, and Phil had to dig it up and extend it to the driveway.

He temporarily rigged up an old vacuum cleaner hose, ran across to the hardware store, and got the tubing and clamps he required.

Phil later explained that with our unusually long, cold, and snowy winter, the ground frost was high enough to prevent the water from running through as it normally would.

Monday night, work on my office resumed at a much slower pace, I went to yoga, and then revised my story one last time for Bastion.

On Tuesday, we had a vet appointment for Nuala. Good news there. Nu is on a reduction plan for her prednisone, and her ears have continued in fair health.

The contract for Bastion arrived and I filled it out and returned it.

By Thursday night, I had almost everything sorted, but by then, the week of epic stuff had taken so much out of me, I got sick. Go figure.

I made good use of my day at home and finalized the insurance arrangements.

And today, I was ready to get back on the social media horse and resume blogging.

So that’s the story of my epic week of stuff, a week that wore me out more than hell month. Some of it was good, and some of it was bad, but all of it was epic. It’s always a mixed bag here at writerly goodness.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz April 27-May 3, 2014

Thoughty ThursdayThis week, a recipe for inspiration. For your consideration.

A pinch of introspection. How we know who we are. Joshua Knobe on BrainPickings.

A spoonful of introversion. 30 Problems only introverts will understand from Tickld.

A wee tipple of a comic on what to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

A taste of Neil Gaiman’s anti-bullying sentiments. Difference is magic.

A little edumacation on autism. What we know, and what we don’t know. Wendy Chung’s TED talk.

 

A smidgen of imagery. The 2014 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest. The Atlantic.

A fair bit of travel. Distractify’s 25 cities your should visit in your lifetime.

Too much of one place I wouldn’t want to go. The forecast calls for spiders, from I fucking love science.

Some physical activity. Walking leads to increased creativity. The American Psychological Association.

A heaping serving of mortality. I guess I was feeling a little morbid this week.

And … to make it all better, and because I love you, a sweet bit of PUPPY STAMPEDE!

Mix it all together and what do we have? You tell me, folks 😉

It’s all Writerly Goodness.