Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, July 19-25, 2015

Thoughty Thursday is back with a thick, frosty shake of inspiration-y, research-y bits. Just watch you don’t get a brain freeze 😉

Ten words every girl should learn. Alternet.

Surprise, surprise . . . Men who harass women online are, quite literally, losers. The Washington Post.

Matt McGorry provides a Twitter lecture on why responding to #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter is pure dip-shittery. Buzzfeed. Peeps have tried this before with #YesAllWomen/#NotAllMen etc. What’s the best way to promote social injustice? Waste energy denying you’re part of the problem/trying to distract from the real solution. #MethinksTheyProtestTooMuch

No, it’s not your opinion. You’re just wrong. The Houston Press.

Danielle Seewalker invites us to meet the generation of incredible Native American women fighting to preserve their culture. Marie Claire.

If your dream is calling to you, are you willing to answer? Anna Lovind guest posts on Carri-Anne Moss’s Annapurna Living.

Anna, on her own blog, writing about how to address fear in your creative life.

i09’s True Crime beat presents the mystery of Agatha Christie’s disappearance. In response, a friend posted this article from The Guardian (from 2006, no less), which reveals the cause. Either way, Doctor Who got it wrong (OMG!).

NASA shares their “blue marble” gallery via National Geographic.

A brief history of everything with Neil deGrasse Tyson. IFLS.

NASA’s Kepler mission discovers a bigger, older Earth-like planet. Please note: the images you may have seen in media are artists’ concepts. There’s no way Kepler could see that kind of detail 🙂

The science of stress: Our emotions affect our susceptibility to burnout and disease. BrainPickings.

This teen developed a test that can diagnose Alzheimer’s before symptoms are exhibited. IFLS.

I’m not sure why, but i09 ranks the five best and worst demons by which to be possessed.

Weird, but marvelous: a wearable hummingbird feeder. Incredible Things.

Here’s a feel-good puppy story for you. Just because. Good.

See you Saturday for the Ad Astra 2015 wrap post and the next chapter update.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 19-25, 2015

As I post this, I am MELTING. Today it was 36 degrees Celsius (with humidex, it was over 40). For my American friends, that’s about 100 Fahrenheit. We have no air conditioning. This is not a complaint, just a statement of fact. We haven’t had weather like this in the Sudz for a number of years.

Now the sun has set, we have all the windows open and all the fans on.

And now, back to your regular programming.

This is just . . . read it and beware of strangers bearing option deals! Tess Gerritsen explains why she dropped her Gravity lawsuit and now advocates for authors in Hollywood. The Mary Sue.

Who should you be writing for, your readers, or yourself? Helping writers become authors. K.M. Weiland.

Katie shares the key to writing good action scenes in her Wednesday vlog.

Writer Unboxed begins a new series on diverse voices in writing and publishing. Their first guest was Grace Wynters: Why diversity in publishing matters.

Steven Pressfield makes the distinction between the craft of writing, and your craft of writing.

How to write with confidence. MythicScribes.

The anatomy of a page turner with Barbara Kyle.

This is incredible fun: Atlas Obscura presents their obsessively detailed map of American literature’s most epic road trips.

Here’s a lovely Tumblr: Where do you write, my lovely? They just featured my friend Kim Fahner and her wonderful writing space 🙂

Buzzfeed offers their list of 51 books for animal lovers.

Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land is one of my favourite classic SF novels. So, of course I was attracted to this post on MentalFloss on 15 things you might not know about the Heinlein classic.

Buzzfeed shares 29 pictures that only booklovers will relate to. Regarding #20: I can do this just fine, thankyouverymuch.

If you’re of the techie persuasion, Bustle presents seven gadgets for booklovers.

Isaac Asimov predicted social media and knowledge bases. Fusion.

Here’s a fun interview with Sam Heughan: My acting teacher once told me I couldn’t act. My Fox LA.

TV After Dark shares their chat with the Outlander cast and crew about season two from San Diego Comic Con.

Just for fun, here’s Kirby Krackle’s “Villain Song.”

See you Thursday!


Ad Astra 2015, day 3: The hero’s journey and the story promise

I lied. Last week I’d said that I’d be reporting on fairy tales this week. Turns out that my notes from that panel were less than a page (!) I was enjoying rather than making notes, again (bad Mellie). So I’m fast-forwarding to the last session I attended at Ad Astra this year.

Panellists: Catherine Fitzsimmons, Cathy Hird, Kelley Armstrong, Nina Munteanu

the hero's journey panel

KA: The first stop on the hero’s journey is the ordinary world. Science fiction and fantasy authors can struggle with this because of the urge to info-dump. We want to share all the details of our intricate world building. You can’t jump straight to the call to adventure, though. You have to set the stage.

NM: The call to adventure is often refused and may require the appearance of a mentor figure.

CH: Refusal is an interesting moment, though. It’s great conflict.

NM: Threshold guardians are another great source of conflict. In most cases, your hero will need help to defeat or circumvent them. Mentors or allies. The descent and return must be accomplished by your hero alone, however. Your hero must transform.

KA: That’s the return with the elixir. Sometimes, though, the hero does not refuse. Sometimes, it’s awesome. I’m in! Hella yeah! And sometimes the threshold guardian just doesn’t want the hero to get hurt. It’s still conflict. It’s just not so overt.

NM: It’s the belief in the quest that carries the hero over the threshold. The mentor believes in the hero. The threshold guardians do not.

CH: In Tanya Huff’s The Enchantment Emporium, the quest is hidden.

NM: The story promise requires the hero to progress on the journey to its ultimate fulfillment.

CF: There has to be a hint, even when the quest is hidden.

KA: Even romance novels follow the hero’s journey.

CF: Literary fiction can be more metaphorical.

CH: Two people may want to achieve the same goal, but in different ways or for different reasons. In some of the epic stories, things fall apart. Every King Arthur has his Mordred.

Q: Is the hero’s journey a western convention?

NM: The template aspect is western, but Campbell studied cultures all over the world to identify the pattern. The basis of the hero’s journey is universal.

CH: The hero’s journey doesn’t fit with some of the eastern stories, though. They can be more cyclic in nature. The Shiva trilogy by Amish Tripathi is an example.

CF: It’s a matter of interpretation.

KA: If you want a simplified version of the three act structure: chase your character up a tree; throw rocks at them; have them climb back down.

NM: In the third act resolution, the hero’s resolve must be tested.

And that was time.

Next week: The Ad Astra 2015 wrap post with my usual picture of my bookish purchases.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, July 12-18, 2015

Time to get your thoughty on.

Perfectionism is creativity’s wicked stepsister. Kaizen Muse Creativity Coaching.

LifeHack presents their list of 20 things only highly creative people would understand.

Want to know twelve type secrets to the INFP personality? Introvert, Dear.

The ten things you should expect to happen once you embrace being alone. Higher Perspective.

The science behind why we feel emotions in our chests. IFLS.

Trying to remember multiple things at the same time may be the best way to forget them. NPR. Read the post, or listen to the broadcast.

Molybdenum. Too much and you’ll die. Too little and you’ll die. Find out about this important element. i09.

Denmark produces 140% of its energy needs through renewable sources. We so need to do this. The Independent.

The earthquake that will devastate the west coast is coming. The question is, when? Kathryn Schulz for The New Yorker.

The big astronomy news of the week: The New Horizons spacecraft explores Pluto and its moons. i09.

Six things we learned about Pluto last week. IFLS.

Super massive black hole informs current theories of galaxy evolution. IFLS.

Dolphins riding whales off the coast of Hawaii. Just because. IFLS.

Any of this lovely stuff give you ideas? Good. Go write ‘em down.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 12-18, 2015

Wow. Kind of short of writerly goodness this week. I blame it on work 😛 I do that a lot, don’t I?

K.M. Weiland shares the secret to a satisfying character arc. Read the post, listen to the podcast, or both 🙂

Katie’s Wednesday vlog covers why even positive story events should have negative consequences.

What are the five dimensions of character personality? MJ Bush knows. Writingeekery.

The novelist’s dilemma is not really a dilemma at all. Kathryn Magendie.

Porter Anderson revisits the trolling furor on the interwebz and offers a suggestion for a way forward on Writer Unboxed.

Kameron Hurley writes about her struggles as a writer with anxiety. Self care is so important.

The flipside of diversity: What’s wrong with cultural appropriation? Every Day Feminism.

Here are fourteen science fiction short movies from Adobe Inspire.

Outlander news from Comic Con. Hypable.

Well that’s all I gots for you until next week.


Ad Astra 2015 day 3: Making a living isn’t just for the cream of the crop anymore

Here we are, finally, on day 3!

Saturday evening, I attended the Edge book launch event for Jane Ann McLachlan and Aviva Bel’Harold and then on Sunday morning, I got to sit between Charles de Lint (eeeee!) and then president of SF Canada, Peter Halasz at the Guest of Honour Brunch.

EDGE Launch

Jane Ann McLachlan and Aviva Bel’Howard at the EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy launch event

All that to say that there are only three sessions left to report on (including today’s). So we are almost at the end of Ad Astra 2015.

Also, as we’ve hit a new day, I thought it might be handy to reiterate my disclaimer:

These posts are composed of my notes. Often, because of the scheduling, I enter sessions after they’re already in progress. I write by hand, so as I’m writing what I believe to be a salient point, I may miss the next one. I do my best to catch as much as I can, but things will be missed. Also, if, in my haste I recorded something incorrectly, please don’t be shy about coming forward and letting me know. I will correct all errors post-hasty once informed of them.

Panellists: Gail Z. Martin and Mary MacVoy

GZM: Publishers pay twice per year. You have no idea what your royalties might be. When sales trickle off, multiple streams of income is a wise approach.

MM: Multiple streams on income could include traditional publishing, epublishing or self-publishing, Wattpad, crowd funding, Patreon, etc. You have to educate yourself on how each potential stream works.

GZM: Athena’s Daughters was the most successful literary Kickstarter at the time. Be aware, though, that 75% of all literary Kickstarters fail.

Q: How do you grow your following?

GZM: Your current discoverability/sales for your current work will be based on how successful your last novel was. Crowd funding is a way to identify your audience/readers before you have a project out. Kickstarter will not allow charities anymore. Indie-gogo will, however. Go fund me and Patreon might be options, too.

MM: Crowd funding is just one element of building your audience.

GZM: Do you have a newsletter? Do you have YouTube videos? Do you podcast? Can you teach a class? Building an audience is largely about what you can offer.

Q: What advice do you have about working with small or indie publishers?

MM: It’s an option to explore. Some small publishers have excellent marketing and PR packages. Confidence is key when approaching a small publisher.

GZM: Different streams will compensate for each other.

MM: People are looking for an experience. Make sure your audience leaves with a piece of you. Check out the rules of your various social media periodically. They change and you don’t want to run afoul.

GZM: Facebook and Twitter are essentials. Talk about what you’re doing. Build relationships. Don’t spam.

And we got the nod that it was time to clear out for the next panel.

Next week: Fairy tales!

Have an awesome weekend and we’ll catch up with you on Tipsday.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, July 5-11, 2015

Anna Lovind shares the life-changing lessons chronic pain has taught her.

After an incident in which she received unwanted sexual attention, Elyse Anders posted this rant. The response to her rant was insane, so she elaborated further. MofoNation.

Why many rape victims don’t fight or yell. James W. Hopper, PhD, explains what happens when the fight or flight response short circuits. The Washington Post.

Emily Hart(ridge) on depression and anxiety:

Why one black man won’t discuss race with white people. Those People.

Africans tweet pictures of their real lives to combat “poverty porn.” Plaid Zebra. #TheAfricaMediaNeverShowsYou

Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist Paul Watson quit The Toronto Star because they refused to publish his story. The subtlety of censorship in Canada. The Huffington Post.

Our economy grew, but our income did not keep pace. The Huffington Post.

In this article from The Globe and Mail, David Helfand reports that businesses say they want workers with a liberal arts background, with strong communication skills, and who are agile in their willingness to learn and adapt. Industry in general and the government are pushing young people into the trades. In both cases (in my experience, anyway) graduates from both programs are wandering, jobless, for years, with crippling debt-loads. There aren’t enough jobs for everyone and that is our biggest problem. Are we just waking up to this now?

When did we decide kids shouldn’t suffer? Renegade Mothering.

Dear parents: please raise boys who will respect my girls. The Huffington Post.

Empathy is a choice. The New York Times.

Creativity can be learned. Canva. I find that keeping a journal of random and weird associations was what helped me most, pre-interwebz. Now, I get all the thoughty, all the time! In these posts I share the things that set off that random pinball machine in my head. I hope they do that for you, too!

Lifehack offers 11 illustrations of the difference between busy and productive people.

Would you pass this grade eight examination from 1912? Boredom Therapy.

Who owns the moon? Vsauce.

Nikola Tesla predicted the ascendance of women through technology. Brainpickings.

IFLS lists ten things you may not know about Tesla.

Someone assigned email addresses to trees and people started writing to them. The Atlantic.

Fuck that. A guided meditation for today’s world:

Why Japanese bathrooms are awesome. Distractify.

This guy’s wife left him alone with the dog. He got bored. Click through to see what happened. BoredPanda.

And that’s a wrap.

On Saturday, I’ll have more Ad Astra reportage. We’ll be starting day three! Finally!

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 5-11, 2015

Okay. Several instances of trolling and cyberbullying against writers have come to the fore in recent weeks. Here are a few posts that seek to address the issue.

Anne R. Allen outlines the issues and offers some strategies you can use to avoid or address them without becoming a target.

Chuck Wendig posted Online is IRL (in response to the #AskELJames fiasco), and then, after a narsty Twitter attack, posted In which I learn to talk less and listen more.

This made Porter Anderson’s radar and he posted this analysis of the fallout.

In other, related news, there were discussions across Facebook and Google+ regarding the above (Delilah S. Dawson was caught in the fracas), and about a libellous review posted for Roz Morris. If it had merely been a poor review, meh. This review, however, accused Roz of plagiarism. How do you respond to these kinds of accusations without chumming the waters? We really have to learn to be kinder to one another online.

Agent Sarah Negovetich offered these thoughts on safely navigating social media.

Unit sales (of print books) inched up in the first half of 2015. Publishers Weekly.

Elending won’t put a big dent in books sales. The Guardian.

Court denies class action in Author Solutions case. Publishers Weekly.

Jane Friedman explains the profit and loss statement and how publishers use it to make purchasing decisions.

What happens if your story stakes aren’t high enough? K.M. Weiland answers in part 42 of her Most Common Writing Mistakes series.

Katie looked at Jurassic Park as an example of how to compound your conflict in your story. Think perfect storm 🙂

E.C. Ambrose offered these nine ways to use point of view to strengthen your characters. Helping Writers Become Authors.

Chris Winkle writes another great post for Mythcreants: Why social justice is intrinsic to storytelling.

Roz Morris writes about the importance of names. I love names, too.

Agent Carly Watters lists seven things that writers should stop wasting their time on.

Sarah Callender explores the practice of success for Writer Unboxed.

Anna Lovind writes about finding true support on your writing journey. Scoutiegirl.

Are we pandering to, or presuming, short attention spans? Publishers Weekly.

Grammarly presents eleven untranslatable words from other cultures and eleven words for the self-proclaimed smarty-pants.

Jane Ann McLachlan wrote this article on ethics and science fiction for SF Signal.

You should know about the Fermi Paradox before you read The Dark Forest. Chris Lough for

Ten things you may not know about Pride and Prejudice. Mental Floss.

BuzzFeed lists 35 Canadian bookstores you need to visit.

Check out the Con Man trailer. Entertainment Weekly.

A first look at the new MTV series, The Shannara Chronicles:

Here’s some news from the Doctor Who panel at Comic Con. i09.

Also at Comic Con, Joss Whedon expounds on the meaning of life and more. i09.

True Detective teaches how NOT to write dialogue. Electric Lit.

Y’all come back on Thoughty Thursday, now, ya hear?


The shape of our lives has changed: A tribute to Nuala, April 15, 2005 to July 9, 2015

At 10:45 am on July 9, 2015, Phil and I guided our little sweat pea on her final journey. She was suffering from kidney failure, a condition for which there is no treatment in dogs. She’d stopped eating and most of what she drank came back up.

We could not give her a celebratory day. She barely had the strength to walk, let alone play, and, as I mentioned, she wouldn’t eat—even her favourite treats. The best we could do was to be with her and let her know she was loved until the end.

We had ten years of joy with her from the disgruntled yawp she offered us upon our first meeting, to her final, peaceful sigh.

In 2005, a little more than two years after the tragic death of our last dog, Zoe, from hemangiosarcoma, Phil and I were finally ready to look for another dependent quadruped to share our lives with. We had a cat at the time, Thufir, but we missed having a dog.

It was Phil’s sister, Stephanie, who saw the listing as she was perusing The Pennysaver (think print version of Kijiji). She brought it to my attention at break, giving me the magazine to bring home.

We called and made arrangements to see the pups. We drove down to Dill Lake Road and up to the house at the address we’d been given.

We knocked, the door opened, and we were led downstairs. The bitch and her pups were nestled in the space under the stairs in the midst of blankets and newspaper. The pups were all nursing, squirming as they do. Adorable. Kawaii even.

The owner crawled under the stairs. “Would you like to see one?” she asked.

“Do you have any girls left?” I asked. We’d been told on the phone earlier that several of the pups had already been claimed.

“We have one left,” the owner said, examining the pups. “Ummmm . . . this one.”

She grabbed the pup right off her mother’s teat and held her out to us. That’s when we received the disgruntled yawp. There she was, pudgy little belly, stubby little legs, delicate paws with tiny nails, ears folded over, and tail quivering, and she opened her mouth and cried, as if to say, “Hey! I was eating! That’s rude!”

Of course, I took the pup with an “aw, poor thing.” One sniff of that milk-laden breath, one touch of that soft butter-belly, and that was it. I wanted to take her home.

She was only three weeks old, though, and we’d have to wait.

In the meantime, we bought all the necessary puppy supplies and I finalized the arrangements for a self-funded leave. It was important to me to solidify the bond with our new pup and to ensure that I wasn’t a zombie at work because of the initial midnight feeding and outing or crying during the first nights.

For a name, we settled on Nuala. Even though the name refers to she of the white shoulders and Nu was a black dog with white bits, Phil wanted to name her one of my crazy Irish names. The world is grateful he didn’t convince me to call her Siobhan 🙂

No one could spell or pronounce Nuala correctly as it was. Our vet even included the notation (Noo-la) on her file.

We tried to crate train her. We really did, but she never felt comfortable. Remembering the time Zoe wedged her head between the bars and was stuck like that—panicking—for hours before we got home, we decided to relent. Baby gates around the kitchen would suffice.

There were the usual trials with house training, but Nuala was pretty good. Once she matured enough to control her bladder, we were golden.

Elegant pup

When I returned to work, we generally took her over to my mom’s. She was still working then, though, and when we had to leave Nu on her own, we were pleased to discover that she was not destructive. She valued her home. We appreciated that.

Nuala also didn’t bark. Except in the rare case where she was freaked out by something, or wanted to be brought in from the back yard (a vocalization we called the bark of command) she was quiet. It was almost like she thought barking was rude.

I started walking her in the mornings, and made friends with another morning dog-walker who lived up the street from me. Stacey (human) and Daisy (canine) became our buddies, not only sharing morning walks, but also going to the Laurentian Conservation Area on the weekends to let the dogs run wild in the bush.

I even jogged with Nu for a while. I called it puff-a-lumping, and even at a trot, Nuala could stay well ahead of me.

We attended puppy classes at the local PetSmart and Nuala proved to be a submissive girl. Her routine with the more rambunctious puppies was to roll over on her back and pee.

puppy class

She was just a really good dog. Cuddly and patient and incessantly licky 🙂 We really didn’t mind puppy kisses.

She never really caught on to the whole fetch thing. She preferred to play keep away, or, if playing with Daisy, she would defer to her canine playmate. She just loved to run.

Nuala and Daisy

Nuala learned to do all the standard things: sit, lay down, stay, come, and eventually, she shook both paws and could do high-fives with both. She wouldn’t stay still long enough to balance a biscuit on her nose. Still, we tried.

She didn’t like swimming, either. She loved the water, but her paws could not leave the lake bottom. This is one of the reasons we think she had husky in her. Huskies aren’t great swimmers. They’ll do it if they have to.

Nuala not swimming

The one bad habit Nuala had was that when she could, she dashed out the door and ran across the street to the neighbour’s. They had four Persians and Nuala loved kitties. We think she missed Thufir, who died in 2008.

Nuala’s early years were fairly uneventful, health-wise.

Then I noticed that she was losing patches of hair on her chest. Turns out she had food allergies. Enter expensive prescription food after a summer of making her food (salmon and rice, or salmon and potato, plus supplements). It also explained the periodic ear infections she got, as they could be an extension of the allergies.

Treats were now replaced with carrots or apples. Nuala loved them. She was quite the veggie dog.

Our pup-friends moved away and I continued to take Nuala to the Conservation Area until my father was hospitalized. Then I went to visit him on the weekends instead. Nuala adjusted graciously.

In 2011, she cracked a tooth length-wise and had to have dental surgery. Due to the stubborn nature of her roots (the roots of all dog molars are hooked), the surgery took longer than expected. She recovered fairly quickly, though.

The next year, she started showing evidence of arthritis. We thought her hips. She went on a regular regimen of Meta-cam.

We renovated our bedroom that year and Phil sawed the legs off the bed frame so Nuala would have an easier time getting in and out of bed. Yes. She slept with us. It’s why we had a king sized bed.

We also installed a runner beside the bed so that when she jumped down, she wouldn’t slip and end up doing the doggy splits.

It turned out, though, that she didn’t have arthritis. Her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) was slowly tearing. By December of 2012, the ACL had torn and Nu couldn’t put any weight on that leg, her right hind.

Post ACL surgery

So she had surgery to replace her torn ACL with a length of cable in January of 2013. In the wake of the surgery, she developed urinary tract infections (UTIs) (yes, that was plural) and the vet discovered that she was shedding protein in her urine, a sign that her kidneys were in distress. Further blood tests revealed that her kidney enzymes were just fine.

Still, we started her on Fortekor and switched from the allergy food to kidney support diet as precautions.

Then her ears started to get bad. She gave herself a couple of aural haematomas from scratching, one in each year, and eventually, the vet diagnosed her with fibrocystic ears. Her ear canal started to produce fibrous cysts. Enter the prednisone.

We tried to wean her off the pred, because long-term use was not good for her liver or kidneys, but we had no choice but to continue. The only permanent treatment was to remove her ear canals, something we weren’t prepared to do to our dear little pup.

The following year, in the summer, Nuala developed diabetes, which was a possible consequence of prolonged prednisone use of which we were unaware. We started a regimen of insulin and low calorie prescription diet.

We tried an alternate medication to the prednisone, but it was not effective and we returned to using the pred.

With the new treatment plan, Nuala was behaving like a pup again. She was playing again. We were happy.

Over the next months, we took Nuala in for several glucose curves and adjusted her medications, eventually reaching a good balance in about March of 2015.

All seemed well.

And then, three weeks ago on Friday, Nuala stopped eating.

It started with her leaving carrots uneaten. Remember, she LOVED carrots. We tried apple. No go. She left increasing amounts of her breakfast and supper uneaten, of concern because she had to eat a certain amount to process her insulin.

We took her in to the vet on Tuesday. Urinalysis, blood tests, and x-rays revealed another UTI and the beginnings of kidney failure, liver failure, or both. She ate a full meal at the vet’s, though, and they weren’t concerned about that. We were sent home with antibiotics and a plan to revert to the kidney support diet.

The next day was Canada Day, and Nuala continued to refuse any food we gave her. Then she started to throw up.

Thursday was worse. I resorted to cooking up a batch of rice and salmon, which she did eat, and subsequently threw up. I talked to the vet that day and he told me that we were overcharged for the x-rays and that he would leave some medication and the kidney support diet for us the following morning.

Phil picked up the meds: a anti-ulcer medication and an appetite stimulant along with a case of the kidney diet and the veterinary emergency number (just in case). When he got home, he gave Nu the anti-ulcer med and she promptly went over to her food bowl and started licking it.

So he fed her more rice and salmon. Two bowls. Which she ate. For supper, she ate a can of the kidney diet and we hoped that Nuala was past the worst of her illness.

Then she threw up.

Despite the administration of the appetite stimulant, the only thing we could get her to eat for the weekend was biscuits. She continued to throw up. On Saturday night, I reviewed the instructions on the medications and the antibiotic indicated that it should be discontinued if vomiting and/or diarrhoea developed. We discontinued the antibiotic.

Monday, I was sick (legitimately) and I called the vet in the morning to tell him the latest and see what he could suggest. I ended up making an appointment to bring Nuala in Tuesday morning.

I had a huge breakdown Monday night because Nuala was doing so poorly. I was certain we were going to have to euthanize her in the morning.

Phil took Tuesday off and I went to work. When we left to take Nuala to the vet, I called my mom and asked her to meet us at the door. I wanted her to have the chance to say good bye.

When he got into the office and examined Nuala, the vet said that he wanted to try one more therapy. He wanted to put Nuala on fluids to rehydrate her and administer anti-nausea drugs. He wanted to keep her overnight. If he could flush the urea from Nuala’s system, we might gain some time and, more importantly, quality of life for her.

He did this at no charge. He knows us and knows that we would always wonder if we had done absolutely everything we could. He wanted to exhaust this last possibility.

Wednesday morning, we brought Nuala home to stay with my mom. The techs had taken additional blood samples when they discharged Nu.

Around noon, the vet called and indicated that despite 24 hours on fluids, the level of urea in Nuala’s blood was exactly the same as it had been when we brought her in on Tuesday morning. Her kidneys had failed.

I asked if Nuala might make it to the weekend. The vet told me that she might not make it through Thursday. When we got home on Wednesday evening, Nuala hadn’t eaten anything.

On Thursday morning, we knew it was time. It was heartbreaking because she would still wag her tail when she saw us. She still had light in her eyes. She wanted to be happy, but felt too ill. She wanted to eat, but couldn’t bear to. Both Phil and I stayed home from work, we called the vet to wait for an appointment, and called my mom to come over and sit with Nu and us until it was time.

Enjoying the sun on her last morning

We bundled Nu into the car and went for her final vet visit. Phil brought all the leftover food and meds into the vet’s office and settled up before the appointment while I took Nuala for a final walk. I let her drag me into the wild strawberries and blueberry bushes in the lot next to the vet’s office, get full of fluff from the weeds, have a good sniff, and empty herself out. Surprisingly, she still had something in her to empty.

The appointment itself was very respectful and entirely at our pace. Everything was explained and we were given time to spend with Nuala. Our dear little pup had been there so much over the last few years that the staff all knew her.

None of the potentially awful things they warned us of happened. She just sighed twice and settled under our stroking hands.

And it was done.

The rest of the day was spent in a weepy daze. Phil made lunch and invited my mom over. It was surreal.

Slowly, it dawned on me. The shape of our lives had changed.

Our lives had increasingly been structured around Nuala.

Now, we have to shift around her absence.

It’s as simple, and as goddamned hard, as that.

Better days

Better days

Ad Astra 2015 day 2: Cutting contracts and shaking hands

The business basics of writing

Panellists: Greg Wilson, Monica Pacheco, Gail Z. Martin, Leah Bobet

Cutting Contracts Panel

Q: Do I need an agent?

LB: First, you have to ask yourself what you want. What will your career look like?

MP: If you want a Big 5 publishing deal, film rights, foreign rights, etc., you need an agent.

GZM: Can you do your own taxes or do you have an accountant? An agent has specialized knowledge that’s critical in the publishing industry. Their 15% commission is well worth it.

LB: I have to clarify my response: if you want to self-publish, no, you don’t need an agent. If you focus on short fiction, you don’t need an agent.

MP: Short fiction is excluded in publishing contracts.

GW: The stuff that used to be done by acquisition editors in the publishing houses has shifted to agents. There are many ways to achieve the same result. Having an agent can free up more time to write.

GZM: I don’t need an agent for short fiction, but if I notice something hinky with the contract, I can run it by my agent. He gets paid if I get paid, so he’s invested in my success.

LB: Agents aren’t interchangeable. It’s like a marriage. Fortunately, break-ups are rarely acrimonious.

MP: Your agent is also a buffer between you and the editor, you and marketing, etc.

GZM: My agent can play the bad cop.

MP: There’s an imbalance of power.

GW: A bad agent can be worse than no agent at all. You have to believe in what you do. Get the right agent for you.

GZM: I recommend the Guide to Literary Agents.

LB: Don’t take the boiler plate! [Mel’s note: a boiler plate is a standardized contract that frequently offers the worst possible terms for the author.] When it comes to long form contracts, it depends on the publisher, the genre, and the specific rights asked for.

MP: An agent will get a different boiler plate as a starting point for negotiation. Sub-rights depend on whether the agency has a strong film/foreign rights department.

GW: Also look out for audio rights and gaming rights.

GZM: Ebook rights are now a part of the non-negotiable rights a publisher can ask for. It will differ by house. A lot of authors are doing more hybrid work as their careers progress. Your contract determines what you can do (e.g. when rights revert to the author).

LB: Non-compete clauses are something to examine carefully. Looking at the big picture, publishing houses are figuring out how to proceed in the world of epublishing and publishing on demand (POD).

GW: Distribution wars can have an affect on your novel. When Amazon and Hachette were fighting it out, some authors lost out because their books were getting into the stores.

GZM: The sales of your current book will determine how many copies of your next book stores will order.

GW: Titans fight and the peons pay. I self-published and then I got a traditional deal. Publishing and writers are both more flexible. Hybrid will become the norm. You have to have more awareness of the “shape” of the industry.

MP: We used to search WattPad to find the next author. Now, established authors are publishing on WattPad.

LB: I’m interested to see if WattPad will be monetized.

GZM: How does free translate to readers (which translates to income)? Some people read a book a day. They can’t afford their book habit, but if they read and review, they become influencers.

GW: We now have multiple avenues to get our work out there. You can leverage multiple fan bases. The more each author is successful, the more all authors are successful. The rising tide floats all boats.

LB: YA rules are a little different. It’s flush with money. It’s a gold rush. I’m aware of my limits as a writer, though. 18 hour days on an ongoing basis would kill me. Publishing is built on interns. Books are great, but they’re not everything. You have a life outside of books. Your career is your choice.

GZM: Precarious is in the eye of the beholder. I have a life and I do work long days.

GW: Being a college professor is precarious. You have to learn how to work smarter, not harder.

LB: No one knows what the magic button is.

And that was time.

Next week: We move on to DAY 3 (!) and making a living as a writer.