Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 21-27, 2014

I keep catching myself as I write these posts. Though I know it’s September, I keep on wanting to type August in the date (!) And here we are, almost at the end of September and I haven’t gotten used to typing the month yet.

Just a wee testimony, I think, to just how tired I am these days 😛 That, or just how crappy a summer it’s been here in northern Ontario. I’m still waiting for a few nice days. Just a few. Can we have August weather in October, please?

Find out why K.M. Weiland says you’ve been writing sentences incorrectly all your life. All about the impact sentence.

The wrong way to write a smart character. Katie gets feisty about Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Jami Gold explores how we can balance emotion in our writing without telling too much.

Laura Drake on the conscious use of adverbs. Writers in the Storm.

Dan Blank wants to help you create capacity on Writer Unboxed.

Chris Winkle shares how to use the heroine’s journey (as outlined by Maureen Murdock) in your novel. Mythcreants.

This is an older i09 post that saw a little renewed circulation this week: The seven deadly sins of religion in science fiction.

33 books to read to celebrate banned books week. BuzzFeed.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet was Irish, not Danish. IrishCentral.

Slow reading helps your brain and eases stress. The Wall Street Journal.

An old favourite from The Oatmeal: how to use a semicolon.

Have a fabulous week, everyone!


Pupdate, part the whatever

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these. Phil and I had, foolishly, fell into complacency, having felt that the worst of Nuala’s troubles were behind us.

Not so, apparently.

When we had seen the veterinarian in June, following up on Nuala’s persistently inflamed and fibrocystic ear canals, we had been sent home with Nu on a regimen on low dose prednisone and periodic flushing of the problematic canals with TryzEDTA. She would be due for further blood tests in September to follow up on her kidney function and liver function to see how she was tolerating the pred.

September hit and Nuala started to behave poorly again. Her ears started to throw off more crud/pus, and we thought we’d up her pred for a bit to see if we could clear it up. She became listless and her bladder control was practically non-existent. She also started to drink a lot of water. A lot. It was so bad that I’d have to restrain her from drinking from puddles when we walked. We had to remember to keep the toilet lid down.

We noticed she was losing weight, too. We theorized, because we both knew the symptoms, that she might be diabetic, but I preferred to remain in denial for a while and hoped that her difficulties resulted from an existing condition that we could treat.

I thought initially that we could wait until the vet called for her follow up blood work, but week before last, we decided we couldn’t wait any longer and made an appointment for this Tuesday just past.

We brought in a urine sample as well, just in case. Turns out it was good that we did.

The first thing we did upon entering the office was to weigh her. It’s something we do every time. If there is any medication to be doled out or adjusted, the vet needs to know her weight.

She was 25 kilograms. The last time we’d weighed her in June, she was 31.4 kilograms. That was a shock.

In the examination room, though he confirmed the increased inflammation/infection in her ears and her poor physical condition, the vet said that we were to return to the lower dosage of pred with an eye to eliminating it altogether. Pred can apparently exacerbate the onset of diabetes. Joy.

He said that his immediate diagnosis would be diabetes, but that he’d actually like to perform the tests to confirm his diagnosis before prescribing anything.

Wednesday, Phil received the call at work: Nu was indeed diabetic, and there were ketones in her urine.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, this is bad. It means that Nu had depleted her fat stores and that her body was now consuming her muscle mass in an attempt to compensate for her inability to metabolize sugar properly.

I noticed that she had been a bit unsteady on her pegs in the last couple of days.

So, we both took off work early on Thursday to get back to see the vet before he left for the day. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to get the insulin pen and supplies he wanted for Nu, but he had some canine insulin and syringes that had been returned by another client. She’d need 12 units of insulin, morning and night.

We were also given new food, a diabetic diet, and advised to feed Nu between three and four cans of it a day (she was doing well on a half a can and a cup of kibble a day before) to bring her weight back up.

And finally, I’ll be taking her back in this coming Tuesday for a glucose curve to see how she’s doing and if we have to adjust the dosage or the food in the next little bit.

In the three days she’s been on the insulin, I’m happy to say that Nuala is already looking better, drinking less, peeing in the house less, and enjoying her usual activities (like eating garbage on our morning walks) again.

The hope is that getting the diabetes under control will also reduce the stress on Nu’s body and reduce the inflammation in her ears, if nothing else. Otherwise, it’s a game of wait and see. We’ll address her health issues as required, moving forward.

This is not new territory for Phil and me. Our cat, Thufir, was diabetic for the last three years of his life. Plus, Phil was a medical laboratory technician in a past career, so he’s cool with the whole injection thing.

The unfortunate part for me is that Nu needs her insulin an hour before her meals, morning and night. So . . . there will be no more sleeping in for Mellie on the weekends. I’ll either have to take up napping (something I’ve never been good at) or try to find some other way to recover from my weekly sleep deficit from working.

Something tells me I shouldn’t have decided to defer my leave with income averaging until the spring.

The important thing is that Nuala is on the road to recovery again.

I hope I won’t be writing another pupdate for some time. My poor dear has been through quite enough.

Next week: I’ll be posting my Next Chapter monthly update. There are still a few days left in the month and I want to make the most of them 🙂

So, this dog walks into a writer’s office and says, “Whatchya up to?”

WWC 2014, Day 1: Evening keynotes

Here we are at the end of day 1 (for me–I know others partied into the wee hours). At other conferences and conventions, guest of honour keynotes are generally spread throughout the event, often at or after a meal.

The When Words Collide organizers chose to do something different.

Prior to the literary festival, there were several master classes offered by the keynote speakers, and the night before, they all delivered their presentations at a branch of the public library.

Between the extra days of leave I would have had to sacrifice, the cost of the master classes, and the expense of a longer stay, I had to opt out of the pre-conference program.

On the first night (formally speaking) of WWC, then, all of the keynote speakers were well into conference mode and had an opportunity to work out the bugs.

The keynotes were presented as a panel, with all of the speakers up on the stage, seated at tables.

Randy McCharles offered a few opening words, and then introduced the first of the speakers.

  1. Jacqueline Guest, author of 18 published novels, spoke about her adventures as aJacqueline Guest touring author. She has been all over the world, in the arctic, and had some very interesting tales to share. The old advice to writers is to write what you know. Travelling and experiencing all the world has to offer is a valuable way of gathering experience that can translate into your writing.
  2. Mark Leslie, of Kobo Writing Life, chose the subject of the mark-lesliehistory of story. From our earliest gatherings to share news around a fire, through the oral traditions of Greece and Rome, the invention of the printing press, and the advent of the novel, to today’s proliferation of traditionally published and independently published novels, novellas, short stories, anthologies, and all other manner of written storytelling, Mark spoke eloquently of the purpose and value of story in our lives. He ended his keynote with this: when words collide, magic happens.
  3. Dorothy (DJ) MacIntosh, author of the (in progress) Mesopotamian trilogy, spoke
    DJ McIntosh

    photo by Robert Rafton

    about passion and how to keep that precious flame burning. She related the experiences, hers and those of other renowned authors, with rejection, and various reactions to rejection letters. How can we keep our passion alive amidst the darkness that can assail us?

  4. Brandon Sanderson, author of—oh, I’ll just say it—a shit load of bestselling fantasy novels including the
    Photo by Nazrilof

    Photo by Nazrilof

    posthumous conclusion of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, addressed the problem of telling a compelling lie. He started with a grade school experience in which he realized that the story of Columbus and his discovery of the new world was all propaganda. In short, it was a lie, but it’s a lie that has been perpetuated over the years by quality storytelling. You could say that’s when the seed of his desire to become a professional liar was planted. He spoke of Sturgeon’s Law: that ninety percent of everything is crap. He wanted to test that hypothesis and started with Roger Ebert’s movie review site, which revealed between sixty and seventy percent good movies (two thumbs up). He then went to Rotten Tomatoes, a review site contributed to by the movie-going public. He found roughly the same results. There were exceptions, of course. He found one reviewer who didn’t like Return of the King, for example. Reviews are one of the most power tools in any author’s service. Word of mouth is what really translates into sales and a groundswell of support. The bad reviews can be damaging in all kinds of ways. We have to be able to distinguish between someone expressing a personal opinion, e.g. I didn’t like this book, and someone who’s going for the hurt, e.g. this is crap. They are two completely different judgements.

  5. Jack Whyte. I’d seen him last year at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference jack-whyteand knew the power of his presence, but, when Jack took the stage, I put my pen down and sat back. I knew I was about to be entertained. Jack basically extemporized (or, he made is sound like he was), drawing in elements of each of the previous speakers, adding colour with a touch of personal humour, and wrapping up the evening in style.

Next week: We enter day 2 with the Blending Science Fiction and Fantasy Panel.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Sept 14-20, 2014

Wow, I wasn’t very thoughty this week at all (!) Oh well, enjoy the puppies.

BBC News reports on new discoveries regarding the death of Richard III.

Bloom’s Taxonomy infographic and explanation on Eudemic.

Who better to protect a tiny baby than a huge dog?

I actually found these underwater dogs rather creepy . . . Mother Nature Network.

I saw this video on Canada AM last week, and then what should show up in my feed? Yup. Baby bear cuteness.


Did you enjoy them? The puppies, I mean? And the bear?

Be back on Saturday with more WWC2014 and, egads, a pupdate.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 14-20, 2014

I’ve an interesting variety this week.

How to use rewards and punishments to encourage your character to change, by K.M. Weiland.

Katie shares how she learned to write on her Wednesday vlog.

How to plot your novel with mini arcs. Janice Hardy’s Fiction University.

Marcy Kennedy guests on Fiction University, writing about ways to save money on editing.

Jamie Raintree asks, why are you really stuck on your novel? On Thinking Through our Fingers.

Roz Morris discovered that the pebble phone she conceived of for Lifeform Three, is a little closer to becoming a reality.

How Stephen King teaches writing, by Jessica Lahey for The Altantic.

Eight authors who experienced their biggest successes after 50. BookRiot. Take comfort. I did 🙂

Janna Marlies Maron shares how she used writing to heal her depression without taking drugs on Jeff Goins’s blog.

The real link between the psychopathology spectrum and the creativity spectrum. Scientific American.

How Jane Friedman recovered from three years of chronic back pain. It’s an injury that visits most authors at one point or another.

i09 shares 10 lessons from real-life lessons revolutions that fictional dystopias ignore.

Landmarks of feminism in science fiction, from The Cut.

Obsession and madness mark the best episode of Doctor Who in years. Polygon. Not sure if I agree with this assessment. I think I’m still warming up to Capaldi. Mind you, it’s the best episode so far this season.

Good words at you, my friends.

See you Thursday!


WWC 2014, Day 1: Doctor your book with Randy McCharles

randymccharlesRandy McCharles is active in Calgary, Alberta’s writing community with a focus on speculative fiction, usually of the wickedly humorous variety, with short stories and novellas available from Edge SF&F Publishing, House of Anansi, and Reality Skimming Press. He is the recipient of several Aurora Awards (Canada’s most prestigious award for speculative fiction) and is short-listed in three categories for the upcoming 2014 Awards. In 2013, his short story Ghost-B-Gone Incorporated won the House of Anansi 7-day Ghost Story Contest. Randy’s first Tyche Books publication, Much Ado About Macbeth, will be available in August 2015.

In addition to writing, Randy chairs the award-winning When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers as well as organizing various reading and craft events for writers.


As writers, we love our literary children. We are also our own worst critics. We need to find a middle ground, an objective perspective. A peer review or critique groups can be of great value in this respect.

When we write, we see the story in our heads so clearly we may forget to put it all down on paper. We need to learn how to doctor our work.

Self-publishing is another reason. Learning to edit your work can help save costs.

The less work an editor has to do, the better. Also, cheaper. (Mel’s note: even if you think that your work is well-edited, a professional editor will always be able to identify further corrections, whether substantive, copy, or line editing. Also, many freelance editors charge by page or words, so you won’t necessarily save any money if you have 75k well-edited words, or 75k poorly edited ones. With an editor who charges by hour, you might do better.)

Theme will help you keep on track.

Then ensued much discussion regarding the relative merits of David Brin’s The Postman and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, both books and movies.

Many inexperienced writers choose the wrong place to start the story. Too soon and unimportant events won’t capture your reader’s attention. Too late and the reader won’t be engaged by your character, or you’ll find yourself explaining—telling—events that have just happened. That’s a tell-tale sign you’ve started too late.

Aim for in media res, but don’t misunderstand the technique. Too much action can confuse the reader. Give the reader a reason to care.

Try not to be “married to the line,” that is, if you think you have to start in a particular place because you’ve come up with the “perfect” line, that line may be one of the darlings you have to kill. You have to be willing to set it aside to find the true beginning of your novel.

Other issues are genre-specific. In fantasy or science fiction, you may spend too much time on worldbuilding or on backstory. Sometimes chapter one is just a distraction and your real story starts in chapter two or even three.

Some opening scenes are missing the hook, that story question that will propel the reader through the novel. New York Times Bestselling Authors (NYTBSAs) can get away with this, but not the first time author.

You may also be missing scenes. This comes from writing “in your head” too much.

Unnecessary scenes may be a sign of too much thinking on the page, on the other hand.

We talk about wearing your writer’s hat and your editor’s hat, but what’s missing from the equation is the reader’s hat.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Sept 7-13, 2014

Once again, IFLS seems to have taken over Thoughty Thursday. I guess I really do fucking love science 😉

Most undergraduates are now being taught by poorly-paid, part-timers. CBC.

Ten surprising benefits of Earl Grey tea. Lifehack.

The Earth’s new address: planet Earth, Solar System, Milky Way, Laniakea. IFLS.

Ten myths about space we need to bust. IFLS.

Underground map reveals the secrets of Stonehenge and nearby “superhenge.” IFLS.

Less than 1% of Sweden’s trash ends up in landfills. We should all aim for this! IFLS.

Your blood type could affect your memory. IFLS. Improved methods identify half of Viking warriors as women. Are we surprised?

The Daily Mail: how DNA evidence helped track down the identity of Jack the Ripper.

How to stop your brain from hijacking your goals. IttyBiz.

Vi Hart. They became what they beheld: medium, message, and YouTubery.


Thirty old, but useful, names for parts of the body. Mental Floss.

Don’t you just feel like this every Monday morning?


This young pug loves his ball pit.


32 animals being total jerks. Diply.

Hope you thought thoughts, and laughed laughs 🙂

See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 7-13, 2014

Anne R. Allen writes about the biggest mistake new writers make and how to avoid it.

K.M. Weiland returns to her most common mistakes series with this post on why you should show important scenes rather than telling.

Katie’s Wednesday vlog covers how to use a surprising detail to give greater impact to a tragic scene.

And a bonus Katie post: her one-question interview on the Community.

Writing a book? Try Jeff Goins’s five-draft method.

Robin LaFevers writes about the surprising importance of doing nothing on Writer Unboxed.

How to deal with a bad review, by Roz Morris.

After a speaking engagement during which she was asked a lot about the topic, Roz decided to post this ultimate beginner’s guide to ebook publishing.

J.K. Rowling shuts down a homophobic troll. Class act, that Joanne. Refinery 29.

The attic that inspired Charlotte Bronte opens for public tours. The Independent.

Wired Science. How movies encourage audience empathy. Something that might help you with your literary endeavours?

John DeNardo of Kirkus Reviews offers his top picks for speculative reading in September.

Lifehack’s Joseph Hindy offers a list of 25 words you may be using incorrectly.

It’s short and sweet, this week.

See you Thursday!


WWC2014 Day 1: The Perfect Pitch Package with Jacqueline Guest

Before we begin, some context

Jacqueline publishes, and always has published, in the Canadian market. As such, she doesn’t have, nor does she need, an agent. Jacqueline pitches her publisher directly. This is a little different that pitching an agent, or querying an agent.

It’s more like a book proposal. Many of Jacqueline’s tips can be amended slightly for agent queries.

First, you have to make sure your manuscript is perfect. Edit it. Print it out. Read it aloud. Don’t edit on the computer screen. You’ll miss too much on the screen.

There’s an editor’s checklist for writers in the package. This document covers the basics that every editor looks for.

Mel’s note: Jacqueline’s package included a sample query letter, tips on submitting to a publisher, the editor’s checklist for writer’s, a tip sheet from Frank L. Visco called “How to Write Good,” and a page of resources about free and purchased writing software, and recommended writing craft books.

Know your audience.

Do you need an agent? In the American market, yes, but not in the Canadian one. You can pitch directly to a Canadian publisher. Best to make sure that the publisher has American distribution, however.

Contracts are tricky. Check out the Writers’ Union of Canada (WUC) site for assistance.

Everything is electronically generated these days.

Start with the Writer’s Market. It’s published in print annually, but there is also a web site that you can access that is continually updated.

Do your homework. Identify the publishers that publish the kinds of novels you write.

If you use the print version of the Writer’s Market, go to the publisher’s web site to make sure there have been no changes to the editors since the publication date. I’d recommend that you call the publisher to confirm.

What goes in your package:

  • Your query letter.
  • A 1-2 page synopsis.
  • 3 chapters, or the number of chapters/pages/words the publisher specifies.


  • Double spaced
  • Single sided
  • 1” margins
  • Header: On the left, type the title of the novel and beneath it, your name. On the right insert the page number.
  • Use clips for synopsis and sample pages. Use an elastic when sending a whole manuscript.

There are lots of “How-To” books out there on how to write a query or proposal. Get them from your public library and read them.

I use what I call the two-sentence sell.

In the first sentence, you identify your audience, the word count of your novel, and the story line (Mel’s note: Think tag line).

In the second sentence, identify your novel’s unique qualities, and any marketing points (Mel’s note: For example, if you write middle grade fiction, mention if you’ve prepared teaching guides, or activity guides for librarians. If your book is for adults, you may consider mentioning, or suggesting, book club notes.)

These two sentences must be succinct and on target.

Jacqueline then set us the assignment of writing our 2 sentence pitch.

If you need to include a chapter outline, write no more than 1 or 2 sentences on each chapter.

Everything needs to work together. Print it out and read it aloud. You’ll find more errors and awkward phrasing that way.

If you want to write and learn to write better, you must read.

Jacqueline brought out several resource books that she recommends, including Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.

Jacqueline GuestAbout Jacqueline:

Jacqueline is a Metis writer who lives in a log cabin nestled in the pinewoods of the Rocky Mountain foothills of Alberta.

Her award-winning books are unique in that many of the main characters come from different ethnic backgrounds including First Nations, Inuit or Metis. Her well-drawn characters face issues common to every child such as bullying, blended families and physical challenges and are strong role models for today’s youth. Jacqueline’s historical novels for young readers’ present Canada ’s vibrant past as an exciting read every child will enjoy. Her young adult mysteries address teenage problems in a sensitive way while still providing a great page-turner.

Jacqueline’s interactive curriculum-based History & Literacy Presentations appeal to students in all grade levels and are of interest as they incorporate her own background as she shows how the Metis people are a strong part of the fabric of Canada ’s past. Her Easy Key Writing Workshops provides the EasyKey Method to facing a language arts exam and passing! She also teaches writing how-to’s and encourages children to follow their own literary dreams.

Jacqueline has participated in Mamawenig, the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Literacy Gathering, where she helped shape the direction of Native literacy in Saskatchewan . She has performed pro-bono workshops at the Edmonton Young Offenders Centre, presented for the Cultural Diversity Institute, University of Calgary , Batoche Historical Site and participated in Back to Batoche Days, and Fort Calgary ‘s Metis Cultural Festival. Jacqueline has also presented at the Manitoba Association of Teachers of English, the Alberta Association of Library Technicians as well as numerous Writers’ Conferences.

She is the current Writer-In-Residence for the Marigold Library System and a member of Calgary Arts Partners in Education Society.

Jacqueline has been nominated for a National Aboriginal Achievement Award and the prestigious Esquao Award for outstanding achievement by an Aboriginal woman. She has travelled extensively and as far away as Nunavut to spread the good word on literacy.

A strong advocate of reading, Jacqueline believes the key to the future is through better literacy today.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Aug 31-Sept 6, 2014

First, because 9/11.

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum

The new head of the Ontario Bar Association goes on record about his struggle with depression. The Toronto Star.

Five supplements that may help with depression. IFLS. Please read the whole post, including the very important caution that you not begin any supplemental regimen without first consulting a medical health professional.

What happens when a therapist who’s counselled patients through loss faces the death of his father? Psychiatric Times.

Renewable energy sources now provide 22 percent of the world’s energy. IFLS. C’mon, people! We can do better than that, can’t we?

Fifteen thou a litre? Holy horseshoe crab blood, Batman! Mind you, I still feel sorry for the poor wee things. They really need to work on that whole synthetic thing a little harder, don’t you think? IFLS.

Deep sea life form that resembles a mushroom could mean a new branch on the tree of life. IFLS.

What makes the rocks of Death Valley “slither”? When one researcher decided to put cameras on the rocks, they found out . . . IFLS.

The silent line: photographer Pierre Folk captures images of a 160 year old Parisian rail line. This is Colossal.

What the fugu? Japanese puffer fish create lovely works of underwater art.

And here’s the video of one of the little guys at work:


What personal space? Dogs without boundaries from Pet Stuff Web.

30 little-known features of your favourite social media, by Kevan Lee for Buffer.

Isabel Allende’s TED Talk on how to live passionately:


Test your Highland IQ with the verra much harder Outlander quiz, from The Daily Record’s Scotland Now.

New Pentatonix video, La La Latch:


Kina Grannis, Tyler Ward, and Lindsey Stirling cover Coldplay’s The Scientist:


See you Saturday, with more WWC2014 🙂

Thoughty Thursday