Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, March 20-26, 2022

Bid farewell to March by getting your mental corn popping! Fortify yourself for April Fool’s Day and everything that comes after.

Li Zhou: the Stop Asian Hate movement is at a crossroads. Vox

Murray Brewster: the war in Ukraine could force Canada to shed its peacekeeper image. CBC

Stephanie Halasz and George Ramsey report that jailed Kremlin critic, Alexey Navalny found guilty of fraud and sentenced to nine more years in prison. CNN

Celebrity relationships won’t save yours. Khadija Mbowe

Stephanie Vozza wonders which comes first, happiness or success? Fast Company

Harold Jarche says knowledge flows at the speed of trust.

Clark Quinn considers emphasis and effort. Learnlets

Molly Hayes, Elizabeth Renzetti, and Tavia Grant: coercive control can be a life-or-death issue in relationships, but few people know how to recognize it. The Globe and Mail

Imogen West-Knights introduces us to Angela Gallop, the queen of crime-solving. The Guardian

An Alheimer’s drug that doesn’t treat Alheimer’s? SciShow

How evolution beat cancer (in whales, at least). Be Smart

In cosmic milestone, NASA confirms 5,000 exoplanets. Phys.org

Séan McCann – Take off My Armour

Thanks for taking the time to visit, and I hope you found something to inspire a future creative project.

This weekend, I should be posting my next chapter update for March 2022. Until then, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, March 20-26, 2022

It’s the last tipsday of March! Three months of 2022 passed, and … what do I have to show for it? Actually, I have a fair amount. I just have to remind myself that just because my head has been in #revisionhell for the past three months doesn’t mean that I haven’t accomplished anything else (!)

In any case, it’s time to stock up on informal writerly learnings for the last time in March.

Disha Walia wants you to appreciate speculative storytelling elements with these book recommendations. Then, Jeanette the Writer suggests when to stop editing: enough is enough. Gabriela Pereira interviews Brian Leung: writing about difficult subjects with a distinct first-person voice. Later in the week, Jessie Kwak explains how to recapture joy in your writing. Finally, Alexis M. Collazo shares five daily practices to stay happy, healthy, and writing. DIY MFA

Damn, you’re ugly: a Witcher armour review. Jill Bearup

K.M. Weiland poses three questions to make sure you’re not missing out on important scenes. Helping Writers Become Authors

Lisa Norman introduces you to the invisible reader you don’t want to ignore. Then, Lisa Hall-Wilson shares four ways to write the lived experience of trauma. Ellen Buikema is using the sixth sense in writing. Writers in the Storm

Do progressive reboots actually work? Melina Pendulum

Matthew Norman shares what the Beatles taught him about the difficulty of art: a hard day’s work. Then, Erika Liodice lists ten ways to find inspiration in Key West: sunshine and the creative mind. Kelsey Allagood asks, are you an accidental info-dumper? Then, Julia Whelan explains how to write a book without writing a book: what burnout taught her about process. John J. Kelley is rediscovering wonder and wisdom at Planet Word Museum. Writer Unboxed

Know your writing tropes. Reedsy

Tiffany Yates Martin is weaving flashbacks seamlessly into story. Then, Susan DeFreitas shares the secret of successful openings. Jane Friedman

Joanna Penn interviews Nikesh Shukla about Your Story Matters. The Creative Penn

The screwed-up history of English spelling. Otherwords | PBS Storied

Nathan Bransford: writing in times like these (and do click through to Morten Høi Jensen’s Gawker article—it’s excellent).

Inciting incident: how to start a story. Story Grid

A whole dynasty of Bi emperors. Xiran Jay Zhao

Tiffany Yates Martin: what do you do when the worst happens? Again, I recommend clicking through to listen to the podcast Tiffany discusses. Then she tackles the question: how do you write enduring stories? Fox Print Editorial

Kristen Lamb says that SEO is the key to working smarter, not harder.

Becca Puglisi shares nine tension-building elements for character dialogue. Writers Helping Writers

Chris Winkle shares lessons from the empty writing of The Alchemyst. Then, Oren Ashkenazi stages a high fantasy battle royale. Who will win: Name of the Wind, The Fifth Season, or Way of Kings? Mythcreants

Thank you for spending some time with me. I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, March 13-19, 2022

Happy Friday eve! Prep for the weekend by getting your mental corn popping.

Da’Shaun Harrison, Joy James, and Samira Rice wonder why the Department of Justice won’t recognize the vulnerability of Black lives. Scalawag

Hanaa’ Tameez: American journalism’s “racial reckoning” still has a lot of reckoning to do. Nieman Lab

Clout: the new fragrance from late-stage capitalism. Khadija Mbowe

Krishna N. Das: India court upholds hijab ban in schools, could set national precedent. Reuters

Hazel Shearing and Mary O’Connor announce that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori on way home to UK. BBC

Rescuers search for survivors from Mariupol theatre hit by Russian bomb. CBC

Ryan Faughnder reports that Disney LGBTQIA+ employees plan walk-out over Florida “don’t say gay” bill. Los Angeles Times

Julia Métreaux presents the working-class roots of Canadian feminism. JSTOR Daily

Clark Quinn has some further thoughts on working with subject matter experts (SMEs). Learnlets

Long covid and post-infection syndromes: what we know so far. SciShow

David Shepardson reports that US senate approves bill to make daylight savings time permanent. Provincial and federal governments in Canada have long said that they’d only adopt or revoke DST permanently if the US did. This makes me excited for a future with out intentionally inflicted time-lag. Reuters

Scientists giddy as NASA releases image of distant star, galaxies from James Webb Space Telescope. CBC

Liz Tracey: beware the Ides of March. (But why?) JSTOR Daily

Emma Yasinski reveals how a game-changing transplant could treat dying organs. National Geographic

Alys Fowler explains how she learned to love weeds and why we should, too. The Guardian

Mena Davidson wonders why there aren’t more dogs in doctors’ offices. JSTOR Daily

Dala – Carrickfergus

Thank you for taking the time to visit. I hope you took away something to inspire a future creative project.

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

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, March 13-19, 2022

You’ve survived Monday! Reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

Sophie Masson helps you use varied narrative forms in your novel. Then, Dave King wonders if you’re drowning your story in imagery. Barbara Linn Probst wants you to write secondary characters with purpose and pizzaz. Porter Anderson: evil and The Age of Madness. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland: how do you know when you’re a successful author? Helping Writers Become Authors

Ellen Brock explains how to write your novel as an intuitive pantser.

Lori Freeland returns with to comma, or not to comma, part 3. Then, Lynette M. Burrows shares even more things she wishes she knew before she published (also, part 3). Eldred Bird tells a modern writing horror story. Writers in the Storm

Tim Hickson wonders if there’s any hope for Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series. Hello, Future Me

Lori Walker reviews 1984 by George Orwell—in graphic novel form. Then, Stephanie BwaBwa fills your self-publishing toolkit for authorial success with writing tools. Ashley Christiano helps you beat writer’s block and plot your novel with tarot cards. Brittany Capozzi explains five ways the vagus nerve helps writers focus. DIY MFA

Shaelin explains how to write compelling secondary characters. Reedsy

Ashleigh Renard explains how to make money through social media without being an influencer. Then, Caroline Topperman helps you figure out which social media platform is the best. Jessi Rita Hoffman unpacks children’s dialogue: they don’t talk like adults. Jane Friedman

On her own channel, Shaelin shares how she works on multiple projects. Shaelin Writes

Lucy V. Hay helps you figure out if your story is a mystery, thriller, or horror. Then, Becca Puglisi recommends choosing the right job for your character. Writers Helping Writers

Nathan Bransford: writing a book is a time game.

Dr. Moiya McTier explains what constellations mean to different cultures. Fate & Fabled | PBS Storied

Story theme: definition and examples for a controlling idea. Story Grid

Chris Winkle examines six types of downward turning points. Then, Oren Ashkenazi discusses five conflicts with weak turning points, and how to fix them. Mythcreants

Angie Hodapp is zeroing in on comps (part 2). Pub Rants

This story will break your heart—The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Tale Foundry

Anna Russell enters the secret life of Beatrix Potter. The New Yorker

Erin Somers reports how editorial resignations at big houses spark reckoning. Publishers Lunch

Jonah Berger analyzes the science of blockbusters: what makes a good story? University of Pennsylvania, Wharton

Why Game of Thrones already feels dated. The Take

Allegra Hyde considers what makes a great opening line. Literary Hub

Anne Delaney unpacks filler words and floor holders: the sounds our thoughts make. JSTOR Daily

Thanks for spending some time with me, and I hope you found something to support your current work in progress, whatever stage it’s at.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, March 6-12, 2022

The workweek is nearly at its end. Fortify yourself for the weekend by getting your mental corn popping!

Shawna Chen: senate sends anti-lynching bill to Biden’s desk in historic first. Axios

John Oliver unpacks the moral panic over critical race theory. Last Week, Tonight

Erin Blakemore explains why Harriet Tubman risked it all for enslaved Americans. National Geographic

Jessie Yeung reports that, after decades-long fight, the Philippines raises the ages of sexual consent from 12 to 16. CNN

Bill Chappell: Ukraine libraries offer bomb shelters, camouflage classes, and yes, books. NPR

At least 17 injured in Mariupol maternity hospital airstrike. CBC

Matthew Wills: Lviv is open to the world. JSTOR Daily

Clark Quinn considers experts and explanations. Learnlets

Dr. Theresa Regan says if your autism experience has worsened during menopause, you are not alone. Adult and Geriatric Autism

Griffin Shea reports that Shackleton’s lost shipwreck discovered off Antarctica. Phys.org

Edna Bonhomme says women in science should be the norm, not the exception. Al Jazeera

The editors compile a collection of articles on the famous and forgotten women of STEM. JSTOR Daily

Saima Sidik explains why birth control side-effects have eluded science. Undark

Matthew Taylor: six key lifestyle changes can help avert climate crisis. The Guardian

Rina Torchinsky reveals how therapy dogs ease pain in the emergency room. NPR

And, to finish off this curation in style, a couple of Florence + the Machine videos. First: Heaven is Here

Second: My Love

So in love with this new music!

Thanks for spending this time with me. I hope you took away something to inspire a future creative project.

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

Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, Feb 27-March 5, 2022

Happy Friday eve! Fuel the thoughty moving into the weekend by getting your mental corn popping!

Daniella silva reveals that three former officers on federal charges in George Floyd’s killing. NBC News

People should cheat on their taxes. Every “How did we get here,” part 4. The Amber Ruffin Show

Marycarmen Lara Villanueva: in Mexico, erasing Black history fuels anti-Black racism. The Conversation

Liz Tracey annotates Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I have a Dream” speech. JSTOR Daily

Rina Torchinsky reports that in Texas, an unrelenting assault on trans rights takes mental toll. NPR

Yuras Karmanau, Jim Heintz, Vladimir Isachenkov and Dasha Litvinova report that Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert, escalating tensions. Associated Press

The editors provide a background reading list on Ukraine, Russia, and the West. If you want to distract yourselves from the news to get some perspective. JSTOR Daily

Ukrainians won’t be separated from beloved pets as residents shelter from Russian attack with cats and dogs. The Independent

Morgan Godvin: crime wave or moral panic? JSTOR Daily

Crappy hiring practices that have to die, and some new ones we need to adopt. Non-profit AF

Robert R. Raymond says that it’s time to shorten the American workweek. Truthout

Andrew Pulrang highlights ableist narratives that poison disability policy and disabled peoples’ lives. Forbes

Guy Kawasaki interviews Deepa Purushothaman, author of The First, the Few, the Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America. The Remarkable People podcast

Clark Quinn touts the value of examples before practice. Learnlets

Joe finds out what’s actually on the other side of the mirror. Be Smart

James Somers takes a journey to the center of our cells. The New Yorker

Corryn Wetzel: brain scans reveal that our life does flash before our eyes when we die. The Smithsonian Magazine

John Geddie and Joe Brock announce the “biggest green deal since Paris:” UN agrees on plastic treaty roadmap. Reuters

Bobby McFerrin demonstrates the power of the pentatonic scale.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you took away something to inspire a future creative project.

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

Thoughty Thursday: popping your mental corn. www.melaniemarttila.ca

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Feb 27-March 5, 2022

Welcome to tipsday, your opportunity to fill up on informal writerly learnings, every Tuesday (if you want more—moar—check out the archives). Enjoy!

Melissa Haas shares leisure learning links for February 2022. Then, Richelle Lyn shares tales of a solopreneur. Gabriela Pereira interviews Gillian McDunn about neurodiversity, family dynamics and cooking in contemporary middle grade fiction. Dana De Greff helps you open doors in your writing. DIY MFA

Tim Hickson focuses on the most important moment in any story. Hello, Future Me

Kim Bullock introduces us to the little library banned book project. Then, Tiffany Yates Martin reviews some words you’re probably using wrong. Donald Maass: theme vs. meaning. Liza Nash Taylor shares the arc of one author and two book launches in five acts: Freytag’s pandemic. Yuvi Zalkow: storytelling and the Hero’s Journey. Writer Unboxed

The myth of heroic masculine purpose. Like Stories of Old

K.M. Weiland shares five red flags that indicate you might need a break from writing. Helping Writers Become Authors

Tiffany Yates Martin wants you to dig deeper than description for more nuanced characters. Then, James R. Preston wants you to get out from behind the keyboard. Writers in the Storm

How to write your novel’s first chapter. Reedsy

Joanna Penn interviews Johnny B. Truant about pivoting on the creative journey. The Creative Penn

Lisa Poisso recommends best practices for working with an independent editor. Then, Becca Puglisi shares some tips for landing a guest-posting gig. Writers Helping Writers

Nathan Bransford wants you to show your characters getting from point a to point b.

Finding your writing process. Shaelin Writes

Jessica Conoley reveals what your writing is training you for. When you change alongside your book: Q&A with Mansi Shah. Jane Friedman

Chris Winkle explains how to write an unhappy ending. Then, Oren Ashkenazi reveals why sequels don’t erase errors in the first book. Mythcreants

Adze: the shapeshifting firefly from West Africa. Monstrum | PBS Storied

Kristen Lamb is creating dimensional characters with personality traits.

Ashawnta Jackson reveals the short but influential run of Ebony and Topaz. JSTOR Daily

Angelarium: The Book of Angels. Tale Foundry

George Saunders helps you overcome uncertainty in writing. Literary Hub

Priya Sidhar wonders, was Brandon Sanderson’s video about burnout relatable? Medium

Unreliable narrators: why we love to be lied to. The Take

Jonathan Thornton provides a readers’ guide to the Finnish weird in translation. More for my TBR list! Tor.com

Leigh Haber interviews Diana Gabaldon about season six of Outlander. Droughtlander ENDED Sunday! Yay! Oprah Daily online

Thank you for taking the time to visit. I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends!

The next chapter:  February 2022 update

Welcome to my next chapter update for February 2022! In this post, I talk about my month in writing, what I’ve accomplished and what I haven’t; what I’ve done to maintain my physical, mental, spiritual, and creative health; and what I’ve been watching and reading.

February was a good month, I think, but before we get to the progress part of the update, my monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Even though restrictions are being eased in many areas, covid is now endemic. You may get it, even if you’ve been fully vaccinated, and chances are that you will. But if you are fully vaccinated and boosted, you’re more like to have a mild case. I’d still recommend washing your hands more frequently, maintaining physical distance where possible, and masking when it’s not.

On the news yesterday, I saw that there are still anti-masking/anti-vaccine mandate protests going on. Check yourselves people. There are more important things going on in the world, like the Russian invasion of the Ukraine (and now, apparently, Russian troops are amassing in other places, too). Get your heads out of your asses.

That is all.

The month in writing

February is the shortest month of the year and I set my revision goal accordingly. Given that I’d barely managed to revise 5,000 words in January, I thought I’d aim for 15,000. I’d reduce to 10,000 if I have to. BUT I didn’t have to!

I revised 15,822 words of Reality Bomb, or 105% of my goal. Yay!

I blogged 4,842 words, or 97% of my 5,000-word goal.

I even wrote and revised a story (!), which I didn’t anticipate. More on that in filling the well. I made room for a 2,500-word piece of short fiction, but the story only ended up being 1,748 words in the first draft. 70% of my goal is great for a story I didn’t intend to write 🙂 I made room for 250 words of revision, but only revised 148 words, or 58%.

In terms of projects I’m not tracking wordcount for, I worked on my Ascension Masterdoc for the first time in months. I was just settling the last dates into my timeline for book one and am now starting work on book two. At this stage, it’s just structural. Adding or deleting or moving chapters around (in my map).

I received an email regarding edits for the short story that was accepted in January, and—there were none (!) That’s the first time that’s happened. Ever. I’ve now also signed the contract and reviewed the page proofs. Look forward to the cover reveal in coming months.

Filling the well

In terms of writerly events, I signed up for Daisuke Shen’s Speculative Fiction Workshop, run through Authors Publish. The course officially ran January 31st to February 25th, but I’m still working through the last couple of weeks, ‘cause work. It was in this course that I received the prompt that inspired my new story. While there are comments and corrections to make, Daisuke was, overall, very supportive of the story and I hope to receive some suggestions about where to submit it when I send my revised story for her review.

I signed up for a couple of free webinars through WordPress.com. They were informative.

My duty to accommodate (DTA) progresses. My doctor filled out the functional abilities form, and I submitted it to my manager. I have an official, but temporary, DTA agreement in place, subject to review in three months (from the date I initiated the process on January 25th).

I am concerned because I’ve been told that once the agreement is made permanent, I will no longer be able to use my sick leave to support my days off. I’ll be officially cut to part time hours. Although the reduction in income is not significant, I am sole support for my household, and even a small reduction in my income may cause hardship. That’s an additional stress I don’t need.

We’ll see what happens in April.

I met with my therapist and support group the day before I met with my manager to discuss my DTA. In both sessions, I’d praised my employer for being so supportive.

It’s disappointing.

Something I didn’t mention last month is that I’m engaged in an assessment process for my position. I’m hoping that qualifying on another pool will help keep me in the position on a permanent basis. Currently, I’m acting (until November 30, 2022). At any time, I could return to my previous position. It’s not the worst thing that could happen, but I worked hard to get this position and I want to keep it for the remainder of my career.

I had my first round of testing mid-February. Will let you know how it all goes in future updates.

My comfort and solace 🙂

What I’m watching and reading

In February, I finished watching Homeland. This series has always been a little depressing because of Carrie’s ongoing struggles with bipolar disorder and the dire nature of the international crises she faces each season. This eighth and final (so far) season is no exception.

Carrie is still recovering from her months-long detention in Russia during which she was deprived of her medication. She has no idea whether she may have disclosed secret information during this time and neither are her superiors, who continue to interrogate her about her incarceration. Saul, however, needs her in the field, and pulls strings to get her there.

The season’s arc is tragic. Carrie must betray Saul to prevent a war, but she redeems herself in the denouement in a way that offers hope.

Phil and I watched the first season of The Legend of Vox Machina. Helmed by the creators of Critical Role, TLoVM will be a balm to any old school role-players out there. In the opening minute, every high-level group of adventurers is killed by an unseen foe. The kingdom is so desperate, they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel, which is where they find and recruit Vox Machina. I won’t say anything more about the series. You’ll know by the above if you’re TLoVM’s target audience.

So. Much. FUN!!

We also watched the first season of Foundation. I loved it. The general atmosphere and effects were >chef’s kiss.< Neither of us have read the book, though, so I can’t tell you how it stacks up. Shuffling Asimov up in the TBR pile.

To keep things symmetrical, I finished reading three books in February.

The first was Brandon Sanderson’s Cytonic, book three in the Skyward Flight series. At the end of book two, Spensa fled into the Nowhere with M-Bot’s AI (in a cleaning drone) and her pet tanix, Doomslug. The Superiority is in negotiations with the Delvers to have the latter destroy all cytonics and the societies that produce them. Spensa has to find a way to stop that from happening by walking a cryptic path through the floating islands of the Nowhere to find the truth of the Delvers and her own nature.

The first problem she’s presented with is that few people ever leave the Nowhere. She soon discovers the reason: the longer a sentient being stays in the Nowhere, the more they forget of their life in the galaxy outside. The only way to hold onto memories is with something called an icon, which Spensa mysteriously has. When she loses the icon, though, it’s a race against time—and memory—to solve the mystery of the Delvers and save the galaxy.

Then, I finished Apocalypse Nyx a collection of short stories by Kameron Hurley. The stories centre on Nyx, the protagonist of Hurley’s God’s War series. They fill in some of the backstory of the characters in Nyx’s crew and share some of their misadventures.

Finally, I finished Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury. It’s a futuristic science fantasy that involves genetics and witches in a not-too-distant Toronto. Sambury is a Trinidadian-Canadian author (who I think is currently living in northern Ontario?) and I’m following her career with interest.

Voya Thomas comes of age, and in a witch family, that means passing her Calling, a task given by the ancestors. Voya’s task is to destroy her first love, or risk losing her family’s magic forever.

Aaaaaand … that was the month in this writer’s life.

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

Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, Feb 20-26, 2022

It’s time, once again, to get your mental corn popping!

Liz Baker: jury finds Amhaud Arbery’s three killers guilty of federal hate crimes. NPR

David K. Li reports on the sentencing of the officer who killed Daunte Wright. NBC News

Where are the missing Black towns? Every How Did We Get Here, part 3. The Amber Ruffin Show

Sophie Hurwitz: LGBTQ+ Ghanaian refugee faces “cruel” deportation after asylum claim denied in Canada. Xtra*

Olivia B. Waxman and Arpita Aneja reveal the legacy of the Reconstruction Era’s Black political leaders. Time

Cathy Free: she found her father’s segregated schoolhouse decaying in the Virginia woods. Now it’s on its way to being saved. The Washington Post

Vladimir Isachenkov, Yuras Karmenau, Aamer Madhani, and Eric Tucker report that Biden and Putin signal bigger confrontation ahead over Ukraine. CTV News

Alexandru Micu: the Dunning-Kruger Effect, or why the ignorant think they’re experts. ZME Scince

Clark Quinn critiques an article on microlearning: good and bad advice all in one! Learnlets

Maya Wei-Haas: Mars rover takes big steps in its most important mission. National Geographic

Stunning, 360-degree view of Mars from Perseverance Rover.

Rebecca Shedd sheds (sorry, not sorry) light on 15th Century clothing for writers. Then, Shannon Ferretti says it’s like learning to ride a horse. Dan Koboldt

Dominique Potvin considers altruism in birds: magpies outwit scientists by removing each other’s tracking devices. Corvids rule! The Conversation

Florence + the Machine – King

Thanks for spending time with me. I hope you took away something to inspire a future creative project.

This weekend, I should be posting my next chapter update for February.

Until then, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories (now, more than ever)!