Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 22-28, 2019

The time from Solstice through New Year’s Eve is generally slow for informal writerly learnings. Everyone is (and rightly so) spending time with friends and family, celebrating. Thus, this week will be video heavy, but it’s all writerly goodness 🙂

happy-new-year-2020

Also, happy New Year and new decade, everyone! May it bring us hope and peace and all good things.

Tasha Seegmiller: reflecting and goal-setting for writers. Writers in the Storm

Joanna Penn and Orna Ross reflect on a decade of self-publishing. The Creative Penn

Helen J. Darling offers six tips on working with an editor (post-NaNoWriMo). DIY MFA

Shaelin talks about writing a great first line. Reedsy

Gabe explains how to write backstory. Bookishpixie

And here’s Tim Hickson’s take on flashbacks and backstory. Hello, Future Me

Chris Winkle wants you to tame your exposition. Then, Oren Ashkenazi explains how to tell a story within a story. Mythcreants

Thanks for visiting and I hope something in this mix has given you what you need to progress in your current work in progress.

Until next time, be well!

Tipsday2019

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 15-21, 2019

It’s Boxing Day! I got up early this morning to go shopping (my once annual spree) and am now ensconced for our family get together. Take some time to get your mental corn popping with these thought provoking (or just plain fun) links.

Juli Fraga wants to help you conquer your social anxiety over the holidays. NPR

Lisa Wood Shapiro recounts her quest for clean air. Wired

Andrea Romano explains how long you should take off work to feel productive again. Travel and Leisure

Matthew Gault: the best optical illusion of the year will mess with your head. Vice

Alexandra Ossola: can algae save the planet by changing the way we eat? Quartz

Jaymi Heimbuch shares macro photos of snowflakes that reveal impossibly perfect designs. Treehugger

PBS Space Time considers the validity of cosmological natural selection (i.e. that black holes create new universes).

The fuzzy origins of the giant panda. PBS Eons

Chris Baraniuk: corvids could be the smartest animals other than primates. BBC

Joshua Rapp Learn explains why birds sing to their eggs and how these songs might help their offspring survive climate change. Smithsonian Magazine

Find out all about Leonard, the mudskipper, with Ze Frank.

Thank you for taking time out of the holiday whirlwind to stop by and peruse the offerings.

Until next week, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories 🙂

ThoughtyThursday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 15-21, 2019

It’s Christmas Eve! Time to unwrap your package of informal writerly learnings.

books-wrapped

Erika Liodice suggests a new approach for the New Year: un-resolutions. Vaughn Roycroft: the hygge writer. Dave King goes in search of the story beyond the story. Writer Unboxed

Barbara Linn Probst suggests some visual-spatial tools for mapping—and enhancing—you story. John Peragine: the most difficult conversation for writers. Laura Drake recommends using comparison for power. Writers in the Storm

Is it possible to write an original story? Reedsy

K.M. Weiland shows you how to explore theme through your secondary characters: six important questions to ask. Helping Writers Become Authors

Lucy V. Hay shows you three steps to writing diverse characters. Angela Ackerman wants you to build a roadmap to the author future you want. Writers Helping Writers

Jenna Moreci goes over the pros and cons of past and present tense.

Jeanette the Writer answers an editorial question: how do I use italics? Manuela Williams shares five ways to build your author brand when you’re super busy. DIY MFA

Jami Gold explains how to write a strong resolution.

Chris Winkle: agency is what that sexy lamp is missing. Then Oren Ashkenazi suggests eight holiday presents for the fictional character in your life. Mythcreants

Robert Lee Brewer: should you use e-mail or email? Writer’s Digest

Neil Gaiman on the Tim Ferris show.

Thanks for visiting. I hope you take away something you need for your current work in progress.

Until next time, be well, my writerly friends … and to all, a good night!

Tipsday2019

Review of A Time and a Place by Joe Mahoney

I promised Joe I’d get the review out before the end of the year. I know, I’m cutting it close.

What the publisher says:

Barnabus’ nephew is behaving oddly.

Calling upon Doctor Humphrey for assistance has not been particularly helpful, because the good doctor’s diagnosis of demonic possession is clearly preposterous. Even the demon currently ensconced on the front room couch agrees it’s preposterous. But then, how else to explain the portal to another world through which his nephew and Humphrey have just now disappeared? Barnabus knows their only chance of rescue is for Barnabus J. Wildebear himself to step up and go through that portal.

Thus begins an existential romp across space and time, trampling on Barnabus’ assumptions about causality, freewill, identity, good, and evil. Can Barnabus save his nephew—and incidentally, all of humanity?

My thoughts:

I liked A Time and a Place and there’s a lot to like in Mahoney’s novel. I loved the T’Klee, the race of alien cats (distantly related to felis catus) with opposable thumbs. At one point in his journey, Barnabus inhabits other animals (including a T’Klee) as part of his education and it reminded me of Merlin teaching Wart about the responsibilities of power in T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone.

At another point, Barbabus uses his new ability to time travel in an attempt to save his wife before she died. Replaying the events of the night again and again, Barnabus fails, no matter what he attempts to change. This trope alludes to Groundhog Day and serves to reinforce the hypothesis that the past protects itself from interference. But then, Barnabus discovers that others have successfully messed with the timeline, throwing him and that hypothesis under the bus.

Unfortunately, Barnabus seems pulled through the events of the story by external forces and lacks the level of agency I like to see in a protagonist. Much of the time he comes across as bewildered. I actually thought B. Wildebear a clever bit of wordplay until the author disabused me of the notion.

A Time and a Place is a complex story and an ambitious novel, but I found that the execution wasn’t quite up to the premise. It’s still an entertaining and worthwhile story and I hope you consider giving this Canadian speculative novel a read over the holidays.

My rating:

Three out of five stars.

ATimeandaPlace

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 8-14, 2019

As we slide into the home stretch of the week, please take some time to get your mental corn popping 🙂

Because we’re getting around to that time of year … Sweden’s St. Lucia tradition.

Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney (Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch) dies at age 85. A sad day for all Muppet maniacs. MPR News

ESA shares incredible images of Mars’ Korolev crater. RT

Jenn Granneman declares, I’m an introvert, and this is just my face. Introvert, Dear

Julia Naftulin shares a study on narcissism showing that baby boomers are more sensitive than millennials. Insider

Dr. Becky explains why the speed of light is a constant and the upper limit of the speed we could possibly achieve.

Merrit Kennedy reports on a 44,000-year-old Indonesian cave painting that’s rewriting the history of art. NPR

Emma Taggart shares Anna Speshilova’s charming watercolour illustrations of women and their animal companions. My Modern Met

Old Dog Haven discusses dementia in senior dogs. It’s never easy to say goodbye to a companion, but there’s more than just physical health to consider.

Molly Frommer reports on the sad news that the Wild at Heart wildlife rescue and refuge facility is forced to close its doors. CTV News

Thanks for the visit and I hope you found some inspiration for your next creative project.

Until next tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

ThoughtyThursday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 8-14, 2019

Here are some informal writerly learnings to peruse while you’re preparing for, or celebrating, the holidays.

Lori Freeland says that show, don’t tell, are the three most misunderstood words in a writer’s vocabulary. Then, Colleen M. Story shared seven ways writers can overcome holiday anxiety. Julie Glover is saying no to get to a more important yes. Writers in the Storm

Shaelin shares five of her favourite tropes. Reedsy

Rheea Mukherjee makes notes on writer dreams, gratitude, and the anxiety of authenticity. Jim Dempsey wants you to manipulate your reader’s point of view. Sarah Callender asks, is imitating the greats helpful or harmful? Kathryn Craft is manipulating story time for maximum effect. David Corbett shares a lesson in forgiveness from The Crown. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland critiques: ten ways to write a better first chapter using specific word choices. Helping Writers Become Authors

Roz Morris shares five post-NaNoWriMo ways to use the holidays to keep your new writing habits … without revising too early. Nail Your Novel

Abigail K. Perry digs into James Scott Bell’s signpost scene 13: the final battle. Brenda Joyce Patterson takes a deep dive into the essay. Then, Constance Emmett shares five tips for post-publication survival and success. DIY MFA

Robert Lee Brewer points out the difference between lets and let’s. Writer’s Digest

Nathan Bransford offer the eight essential elements of a story.

Chris Winkle shares five ways to make multiple points of view more engaging. Then, Oren Ashkenazi explains why some dark topics are more sensitive than others. Mythcreants

Tim makes some excellent points about writing power escalation. Hello, Future Me

Heidi Fiedler stops by The Creative Penn: five ways to quiet your inner editor.

Jami Gold asks, what’s your core story?

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you’re leaving with some great resources for your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well!

Tipsday2019

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Dec 1-7, 2019

It’s the first post-NaNo thoughty Thursday and the videos have taken over! Time to get your mental corn popping, people 🙂

Annalee Newitz explores the possible future of public spaces on the internet: nothing lasts forever—not even on the internet. The New York Times

Dr. Becky covers the history of how we discovered what the speed of light was.

Quantum physics simplified. Arvin Ash

Michael Greshko lists the top 20 scientific discoveries of the 2010s. National Geographic

Insulin should be cheap. Here’s why it’s not. Verge Science

SciShow Psych delved into Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.

Global News’ full coverage of the 30th anniversary commemorative ceremony at École Polytecnique.

Christian Yates explains why your dog may be older than you think. Quartz

Nick Dunlop shares the spectacle of the starling and falcon dance. Murmurations aren’t just mesmerizing, they’re defensive strategies, too!

Pets talk about the holidays. Ze Frank

Thank you for visiting. I hope you found something to inspire your next creative project.

Until next tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

ThoughtyThursday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 1-7, 2019

Aaaaand … I’m back with some lovely informal writerly learnings for you 😉

Jael McHenry: writing, verbs, and time. Ray Rhamey extols the fun of pantsing. Donald Maass: un-con redux—operation phoenix. Susan Spann cries, curses—foiled again! Cathy Yardley wants you to play to win. Writer Unboxed

Jenna Moreci digs deep to list her top ten dystopian tropes.

Robert Lee Brewer clears up the confusion around lose, loose, and loosen. Writer’s Digest

Emily Wenstrom offers five tips to set (and keep) an author platforming resolution. And here’s my latest Speculations: five awesome ways NASA’s all-woman spacewalk inspires us. DIY MFA

James Scott Bell answers the question, is it necessary to write EVERY day? Then, Angela Ackerman is mastering show, don’t tell. Writers Helping Writers

Writing anti-heroes with Reedsy.

Spencer Ellsworth says, outlines are for revision (say what?)—a different approach for your process. Fiction University

Ellen Brock shares a simple strategy for novel editing.

Chris Winkle shares lessons from the disingenuous writing of Maximum Ride. Then, Oren Ashkenazi considers what makes an antagonistic group problematic. Mythcreants

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you found something you need to fuel your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well, my friends.

It’s good to be back.

Tipsday2019

The next chapter: October and November 2019 mega update

It’s been a while. Two months, to be precise. Let’s just get right to it 🙂

October in writing

Once more, I was busy with non-productive writing-related tasks. I was prepping for NaNoWriMo and my rewrite of Reality Bomb. Though I think I worked through most of the problematic bits of the story and had a good idea of the reworked outline, with plot points, etc., the writing took me in slightly different directions, as it does. More on that, below.

I continued my reread of Ascension and got half-way through Playing with Fire, book four of the series.

OctoberProgress

Writing-wise, I blogged 4,529 words of my 4,500-word goal, or 101%.

I also wrote 496 words of short fiction of my 2,000-word goal, or 25%.

And that was it for October.

November in writing

I won’t belabor things too much. If you’ve been watching my NaNo updates, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where I landed. I wrote 30,502 words of the revised RB, or 61% of my goal. At this rate, it will likely be the end of January before I’m finished with the rewrite.

The last week of November, during which I was training at work, was appropriately fatiguing, but I cracked 30k, which was a realistic goal I was happy to achieve.

I also wrote my latest Speculations column for DIY MFA. It should be coming out Tuesday. That came in at 1052 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 105%.

I had expected my weekly NaNo updates to be brief and predicted about 250 words each, or 1,000 words overall. I blogged 1,293 words, or 129% of goal.

NovemberProgress

Filling the well

In October, I went to Can-Con in Ottawa, which I first attended three years ago. This year’s attraction was that the Aurora Awards (the Canadian Hugos) were presented there. Well, they were off-site at Christchurch Cathedral, which was a lovely venue. I met up with a few friends from professional organizations and had a genuinely lovely time.

In November, Sudbury’s own Wordstock Literary festival took place and I attended what sessions I could given that I was also beginning NaNoWriMo and my 50th birthday party (!) took place that weekend. Still, I connected with writer friends and bought books (when do I not?).

What I’m watching and reading

On the viewing front, Phil and I finished watching the final season of Preacher. It was mostly satisfying. I read the graphic novels so long ago that I wasn’t able to remember well enough to know if the series was a faithful-ish adaptation. I have the feeling that it wasn’t. There were some significant logic issues that can probably be attributed to the graphic (like how they got the car overseas). Handwavium aside, it was enjoyable.

I finished watching the final season of The Santa Clarita Diet. Meh. I liked the characters and the actors, but the story was lacking.

Phil and I started watching the (third?) season of Ash vs. the Evil Dead and haven’t finished it. As with other shows of its ilk, it was playing the same tropes over and over.

Instead, we took in a delightful animated kids’ show, Three Below, which was created by Guillermo del Toro. We enjoyed the tale of a family of aliens stranded on Earth. There were tie-ins to The Troll Hunters.

We also watched the first season of Happy! It was all kinds of twisted and we just enjoyed the scenery-chewing antics of the cast 🙂

I finished off the last season of The Mortal Instruments. It was okay. I was mostly seeing it through for the sake of completeness.

Finally, Phil and I watched Raising Dion. We enjoyed it, and burned through it, more or less, but there were some problematic storytelling issues we took exception to. The first was that, in an attempt at attaining some realism, the writers gave time to the characters’ daily lives and struggles, even though they had little to nothing to do with the main plot.

**WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS.**

Yes, Nicole deserves a life and interests of her own, but did it need so much screen time? Nicole gave up her dancing career when she was pregnant with Dion. Pertinent, but it’s a fact that can be stated and we can move on with the story. That she gets a job at the same dance theatre is good (‘cause she needs a job to support Dion) but then the job becomes the source of meaningless conflict, in which the owner continually makes Nicole choose between her job and her son’s wellbeing to the point of unreasonableness. And then there’s the potential relationship with hot dancer guy when it’s made abundantly clear that Nicole isn’t over her husband’s death yet. I was waiting for this whole subplot to tie in somehow, but I was disappointed.

Nicole’s sister is a no-nonsense doctor and seems only to be present to remind Nicole of what a failure she is, how delusional she is, and what a poor mother she is. Later in the series, when Nicole’s sister has to take Dion to the hospital because he’s spiking a fever and Nicole’s boss won’t let her leave work, Nicole is finally able to prove to her sister that she’s not crazy and Dion does have powers. But then the sister has to risk her career and medical licence to erase all evidence of Dion from the hospital’s systems. She does help Nicole get Dion away from Pat (see below) but then she drops out of the plot, her usefulness exhausted.

Even Dion’s friends and the bullying he experiences as the new kid in school are, at best, peripherally tied to the plot. But peripheral is better than pointless.

**HERE IT IS. THE BIG SPOILER. READ NO FURTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW.**

And then, there’s Pat. Oh, Pat. I love Jason Ritter as an actor, but damn did the writers give him some shit to portray.

The series begins with Pat being the friend and coworker of Nicole’s dead husband, Mark, and godfather to Dion. They play games together, Dion tells Pat things he can’t tell his mom, and Pat is helpful, though it’s clear he’s crushing on Nicole.

Dion begins to exhibit powers and then he and Nicole witness strange ghosts that appear in a sudden storm, one of them, Dion’s dad. Then a man made of lightning, whom Dion names the crooked man, shows up and sucks all the ghosts back to him before disappearing.

Pat begins to help Nicole and Dion, being Dion’s “superhero mentor” and helping them to investigate Biona, where Pat still works, when Nicole discovers that Mark didn’t trust his employer.

During Dion’s health crisis, Pat even points out the way to save Dion, having learned what Mark discovered about his own changed physiology in the wake of the meteor shower that resulted in his developing powers.

Then, in a reveal so clumsy they had to include a retcon flashback, Pat goes from awkward family friend and geeky investigator to full-on incel and … the crooked man. There was so much WTF, I didn’t know what to do with it.

In the end, Pat/the crooked man is defeated by Nicole and Dion in a tag team effort, and there is a touching, if temporary family reunion, but the crooked man escapes and inhabits another young boy with powers much like Dion. This makes no sense as the crooked man “consumes” those with powers and Pat wanted Dion to heal him (of the crooked man, I assume), which would have killed Dion. There’s no precedent for this outcome in the series. Also, it presents the recurrent villain trope, in which Dion will again have to face the crooked man at the end of next season. Not promising.

I read a lot of books in the last couple of months. I’ll touch on them briefly, here.

I decided to check out Zen and the Art of Writing because it had long been on my TBR list and someone in my critique group mentioned that it was her go-to, feel-good, writing craft book. I liked it and Bradbury’s approach to writing but didn’t feel like I could adopt much of it for my own process.

Having just finished The Handmaid’s Tale in the wake of the series’ third season, I nabbed The Testaments. Atwood made a wise decision in placing the events of The Testaments fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, giving the series room to breathe and become its own thing in between. The narration alternates between Aunt Lydia, at the end of a storied career, Agnes, June’s oldest daughter, raised in Gilead by a Commander and his wife, and Daisy, raised in Toronto, who eventually learns that she is “Baby Nicole,” June’s younger daughter. I won’t give anything away, but I liked The Testaments better than The Handmaid’s Tale. The three narrators, though still unreliable in their own ways, are not as unreliable as Offred/June was in the first book. Their stories, though still traumatic, are revealing in ways that June’s could not be.

Then, I read one of my favourite books of the last two months, Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir. It’s admittedly weird, as only a space opera set in a system with nine planets (ahem), each controlled by a necromantic house in service to the Emperor God necromancer can be. It’s a little off-putting that the main action is basically sword and sorcery—I found myself asking, why set this in space at all?—I’m sure there will be a payoff in the upcoming sequel Harrow the Ninth. It’s a wicked and charming character study, exposed through mystery and puzzle-solving, and the writing is just—forgive me—to die for.

Next, I turned to Cassandra Khaw’s novella, Hammers on Bone, which puts a Cthulian twist on the hard-boiled detective narrative. Interesting and brutal and satisfying.

Eden Robinson’s follow up to Son of a Trickster, Trickster Drift, continues Jared’s story. He travels to Vancouver to attend college, away from his mother’s protection, moves in with his mother’s estranged sister and her haunted apartment, is stalked by his mother’s vicious ex, David, who abused Jared when he was a child, and stalwartly attempts to have a normal life. Things, of course, do not go as planned.

A Brightness Long Ago is Guy Gavriel Kay’s latest alt-historical fantasy and like all his work, is lyrical and touching and nuanced. This is one novel I want you all to read for yourselves, so I’ll just say that I loved it.

The City in the Middle of the Night is Charlie Jane Anders’ second novel. For the most part, I loved it as much as All the Birds in the Sky, but the ending seemed rushed and the novel was ultimately unsatisfying for that reason. On a tidally locked planet, where humans can only survive in the thin band of twilight between the inferno of the light side and the frozen tomb of the dark, the reader follows Sophie, kind, gentle, naïve Sophie, as she learns that no matter where we go or what we do, humans are the absolute worst. At every turn they fail her and each other. It’s no wonder she turns toward the native species of the planet toward the end of the novel.

Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing is heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful. Like Anders’ novel, Bolander’s novella shows us how humans are doomed to make all the wrong choices. Elephants and women are the victims in this case. Why is it that we need a holocaust, or a nuclear bomb to remind us that “never again” is more than just words?

Finally got around to reading Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. While I enjoyed the book, I found, as others have, that Alina, the protagonist, doesn’t have a lot of agency in the novel. From the moment she evidences her grisha powers, Alina is taken, trained, manipulated, enslaved, and though she ultimately manages to win her freedom and the day, it felt that luck had as much a hand in it as Alina.

Next was P Djélì Clark’s Black God’s Drums. This novella is set in an alternate history in which both steam punk elements and African culture. It was entertaining and I loved the protagonist 🙂

Then, I read the third novel in A.M. Dellamonica’s Hidden Sea Tales, The Nature of a Pirate. These novels are basically police procedurals in a post-post-post-apocalyptic future. Sophie Hansa is transported into a world which is more ocean than land. Aside from living on islands, there is an armada/floating nation of ships. There is magic, but it works largely by inscription, which needs specific and often rare materials, and must be worked on a person, whose full name is required for the spell. One person can only be inscribed so much before they reach their individual capacity and then they start to suffer and may even die horribly. The world building is impeccable, the characters are endearing, and the mysteries are engaging.

My other non-fiction read of the month was Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. It’s the tale of an indigenous woman finding her way back to her culture. It’s a beautiful, lyrical book, and because Kimmerer is a botanist, she weaves science in with her teachings. It’s an ecological tour de force.

I read Alyssa Wong’s short story, “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers.” Two sisters destroy the world again and again in an attempt to save one another.

I burned through Maggie Stiefvater’s Call Down the Hawk. I read several awesome books in the last couple of months (Muir’s, Kay’s, Kimmerer’s), but this has to be my absolute favourite. It delves into the lives of the Lynch brothers in the wake of The Raven Cycle. There are other dreamers in the world, and they’re being systematically hunted and killed by an organization that believes one of them will destroy the world. They’re closing in on Ronan, Declan is dating the living dream of another, and Matthew has just realized that he’s just like his mother, Aurora Lynch, and that his existence depends on Ronan. It’s twisted and juicy and everything I wanted. The ending was a little precipitous, but I know this is the beginning of a trilogy, so I’m willing to forgive Stiefvater for that. The cliffhanger, though—!

Finally, I read Chuck Wendig’s short story collection, Irregular Creatures. Some of the stories were endearing. Some of them were downright disturbing. A lot of douchecannoes got what they deserved.

And—whew!—that was the last two months in this writer’s life.

Until next time, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The Next Chapter