Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Aug 21-27, 2022

It’s the last tipsday of August 2022. Where has the time gone?! It was a week jam-packed with informal writerly learnings. Enjoy!

Sara Farmer investigates some celebrity sleuths. Then, Ambre Leffler recommends the right lighting for your writing life. Tammy Lough: and the Nobel Prize in Literature awarded to … artificial intelligence? Susanne Dunlap tells the tale of how she came to write a novel about Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. Later in the week, Dianne C. Braley shares five tips on character development when writing about starting over. DIY MFA

The real history of Partition in India and Pakistan in Ms. Marvel. Historian’s Take | PBS Origins

Vaughn Roycroft considers the power of generational storytelling. Then, Gwen Hernandez helps you create an epub in Scrivener 3. Kelsey Allagood shares some lessons from the climbing wall. Then, Donna Giovinazzo explains how learning another language turned her into a grammar nerd. Natalie Hart wonders, what if you have what you need? Writer Unboxed

How Cthulu transcended its creator H.P. Lovecraft. Monstrum | PBS Storied

K.M. Weiland shares nine signs your story may be too complicated. Helping Writers Become Authors

Tiffany Yates Martin explains how to let readers into your characters’ inner life. Then, Kris Maze helps you fix fluff words — 14 filler words to avoid. Jenny Hansen says your mess is your message (a writing tip). Writers in the Storm

Why kids’ stories should be darker. Tale Foundry

Jim C. Hines makes a point about historical accuracy (in the context of House of the Dragon).

Heidi Ulrichsen announces that works by Sudbury’s 6th poet laureate now up at airport. Sudbury.com

The history of fonts. Struthless

Joni B. Cole says don’t fall for these five writing myths that can set back your writing. Jane Friedman

Tiffany Yates Martin discusses handling rejection (and what rejection letters mean—and don’t mean). Fox Print Editorial

How Freaks and Geeks got geek culture and freak culture. The Take

Angela Ackerman explains how to use conflict to target a character’s soft spots. Writers Helping Writers

Chris Winkle explains why you should theme your world. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five stories with too many characters. Mythcreants

Six signs it’s time to shelve your book. Reedsy

Joshua Hammer wonder was King Arthur a real person? The Smithsonian Magazine

Ed Simon: Mary Sydney and the voice of God. JSTOR Daily

The story behind food names. Otherwords | PBS Storied

Industry news: Jenn Northington wonders what is going on with Barnes & Noble? Book Riot

Thank you for spending some time with me, and I hope you found something to support your current work(s) in progress.

Until Thursday, keep staying safe and well!

Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, Aug 14-20, 2022

I hope everyone is making the time to enjoy summer. Now, it’s time to get your mental corn popping!

Natalia Zinets: blasts hit Russian base in Crimea, Ukraine targets supply lines. Reuters

Nathalie op de Beeck: see Jane use a speculum. JSTOR Daily

Jackson Weaver: Lisa Laflamme blindsided by cancellation of contract with CTV. CBC News

Examining sensitivity online. Khadija Mbowe | You Can Always Change Your Mind

Kaitlyn Tiffany: That’s it. You’re dead to me. Everyone is suddenly “toxic.” The Atlantic

Jessica Stillman reports that a Stanford neuroscientist says this simple breathing exercise in like a kill switch for stress. Inc.

The Next Big Idea Club busts five myths about resilience you need to stop believing so you can cultivate true grit. Fast Company

Jeff Haden: are you a night owl trying to be an early bird? Science says you may (literally) be killing yourself. Inc.

How cameras make you forget. Answer in Progress

Clark Quinn: consumed by consumption? Learnlets

Tiffany Fairly reports that the Artemis I moon rocket arrives at launch pad ahead of historic mission. NASA | Artemis

Davide Castelvecchi says notorious dark matter signal could be due to analysis error. Nature

Ayana Archie reports that the northern lights may move farther south into mainland US this week. NPR

Michelle Codiva: Nadir Crater in West Africa suggests a second impact after the Chicxulub Crater from the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. The Science Times

Bob Yirka: grains of dust from asteroid Ryugu older than out solar system. Phys.org

Stuart Roberts and Dr. James Freeman say do not try this at home: medieval medicine under the spotlight in major new project. The University of Cambridge

Laser archaeology is revealing the Amazon’s urban jungle. SciShow

Sarah Collins reports that floating “artificial leaves” ride the wave of clean fuel production. The University of Cambridge

Craig Welch explains how the historic climate bill will dramatically reduce US emissions. National Geographic

Kevin Simauchi: extreme heat uncovers lost villages, ancient ruins, and shipwrecks. Bloomberg

Gaia Vince explains why we need to prepare for the great upheaval: the century of climate migration. The Guardian

John Timmer reports that de-extinction company sets it’s next (first?) target: the thylacine. Ars Technica

Michael A. Little wonders why do animals have tails? The Conversation

Michelle Megna lists the states with the most spoiled dogs in 2022. Forbes

Thanks for visiting, 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!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Aug 14-20, 2022

Week four of August is here along with your weekly batch of informal writerly learnings! Enjoy!

K.M. Weiland explains how to write emotional scenes (without making them cringey). Helping Writers Become Authors

Lisa Norman reveals how to painlessly generate dozens of blog ideas. Then, Sandy Vaile digs into research: how far will fiction authors go for facts? Laurie Schnebly Campbell wonders how much does genre matter? Writers in the Storm

Joanna Penn interviews Becca Puglisi about writing conflict. The Creative Penn

How to write a plot summary and a synopsis. Reedsy

Roz Morris considers using real people in historical fiction—how much can you invent? Nail Your Novel

Barbara Linn Probst wonders what does “award-winning author” mean—and does it matter? Then, Marcie Geffner discusses aphantasia and writing fiction with no “mind’s eye.” Writer Unboxed

AJ Harper helps you get in front of your readers’ doubts and objections. Jane Friedman

Good characters are overrated. Tale Foundry

Christina Delay: small focus. Big creativity. Becca Puglisi wants you to use your character’s career to support your story’s theme. Writers Helping Writers

Nathan Bransford says don’t outsource your agent search.

Kris Hill considers fairy tales and once upon a time. Manuela Williams: what is the poetry of witness? Then, Daria White proposes an alternative to traditional time management for writers.  Abigail Cutter suggests five ways to get inside your historical characters’ heads. DIY MFA

This fight changed everything … Jill Bearup

Angela Ackerman: does conflict really belong on every page? Jami Gold

Tiffany Yates Martin explains how to write a query letter (without losing your mind). Fox Print Editorial

Kristen Lamb examines the priority parallax: what’s truly important?

Chris Winkle lists ten reasons your characters might stop communicating. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five stories with well-written families. Mythcreants

How to write your first novel. Reedsy

Chris Martin discusses poetry, autism, and the joy of working with neurodiverse writers. Literary Hub

Peter Kafka: the newsletter boom is over. What’s next? Vox

S.L. Huang investigates the ghost of workshops past: how communism, conservatism, and the Cold War still mold our paths to SFF writing. Outstanding essay! Tor.com

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

Until Thursday, keep staying safe and well!

Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, Aug 7-13, 2022

Happy Friday eve! Thoughty Thursday’s here to get your mental corn popping in time for the weekend.

Rich McKay reports that two of Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers get life sentences and the third 35 years. Reuters

Michael Goldberg and Allen G. Breed reveal that Grand Jury declines to indict woman in Emmet Till killing. Associated Press

Lauren Michele Jackson: Josephine Baker was the star France wanted—and the spy it needed. The New Yorker

Pavel Polityuk: Ukraine accuses Russia of using nuclear plant for deadly rocket attack. Reuters

Ista Bhattacharya considers Kolcata and Partition: between remembering and forgetting. JSTOR Daily

Rosa Saba says it’s “paycheque to paycheque.” Inflation is hitting low-income Canadians hard—and its effects are likely to be long-lasting. The Toronto Star

Christopher Zara: MRI brain scans are finally revealing why some people are left-handed. Fast Company

Kaitlyn McInnis explains why the design thinking process is so important. Fast Company

Raven Ishak says crying at work is only stigmatized because offices cater to the male experience. Well + Good

Things we’ve learned working from home. The Verge

Pema Bakshi writes in defense of quiet quitting. Refinery 29

Are we turning away from sex-positive feminism? Khadija Mbowe | You Can Always Change Your Mind

Ione Gamble says being “woman’d” is becoming a depressing inevitability for us all. Refinery 29

Mark Sullivan and Alex Pasternack: small nuclear reactors finally get the nod from regulators, but they still have a lot to prove. Fast Company

Tesla discloses lobbying effort to set up factory in Canada. Reuters

Jason Bittel and Martin Gregus want you to behold the bears of summer … snoozing in flower beds. National Geographic

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found 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, Aug 7-13, 2022

Welcome to another week filled with informal writerly learnings. Enjoy them on your porch or deck with some iced tea or lemonade as you soak in the summer!

Richelle Lyn is acquiring a virtual mentor. Then, Jeanette the Writer is applying the scientific method to writing and editing. Lori Walker interviews Sarah Adlakha about time travel and alternate timelines in historical fiction. Later in the week, Dominique Richardson explores the ins and outs of writing a young adult novel. Finally, Helen Scheuerer shares five tips for writing a successful series. DIY MFA

A procrastinator’s guide to finishing things. Struthless

Sarah Callender enumerates the perks and perils of pursuing approval. Jim Dempsey: writers have a lot too think about. Kathleen McCleary: to tell the truth. Kathryn Craft wants you to fill your writing life. David Corbett wonders what your character is hiding: the power of secrets. Later in the week, Yuvi Zalkow shares the fuzzy secrets to writing a decent novel. Writer Unboxed

Is Siren Head the ultimate modern monster? Monstrum | PBS Storied

Melinda Van Lone considers fantastic fantasy and scintillating science fiction covers. Then, Sarah (Sally) Hamer wonders how many scenes does it take to tell your story? Ellen Buikema offers some important font considerations for writers. Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weiland wonders how perfect does your structural timing need to be? Helping Writers Become Authors

Why villains love contracts. Tale Foundry

C.S. Lakin shares four steps to create perfect plot twists. Live, Write, Thrive

Tiffany Yates Martin explains how suspense and tension work together to increase story impact. Then, Sangeeta Mehta interviews agents Allison Hunter and Jennifer Weltz about how books are adapted for the screen. Jane Friedman

How mountains inspire mythology. Fate & Fabled | PBS Storied

Marissa Graff shares three tricks to reel in your readers with flashbacks. Then, September C. Fawkes explains why a strong plot requires a significant goal. Writers Helping Writers

Tiffany Yates Martin is having fun with query letters (no, seriously). Fox Print Editorial

Nine things to do before starting a novel. Shaelin Writes

Chris Winkle says your story needs tension, not violence. Oren Ashkenazi: Strange New Worlds reveals the danger of a theme-breaking plot. Mythcreants

The content genre: object of desire and values in story. Story Grid

Tim Hickson fixes Legend of Korra season three. Hello, Future Me

Emily Zarevich uncovers the hoax that inspired Mary Shelley. JSTOR Daily

Ada Palmer: the plotter vs. pantser divide has been exaggerated. Tor.com

Shashi Tharoor says the attack on Salman Rushdie is also an attack on freedom of expression. The Quint

Thank you for taking the time to visit, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress, whatever stage it’s at.

Until Thursday, keep staying safe and well, my writerly friends!

Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, July 31-Aug 6, 2022

It is time, my writerly friends, to get your mental corn popping!

Dylan Lovan reports that feds charge four police officers in fatal Breonna Taylor raid. Associated Press

“A specific form of anti-Black racism”: scholars want Canadian apology for slavery on Emancipation Day. CTV News

Saba Aziz: hate crime reports in Canada surged during covid-19 pandemic: StatCan. Global News

Wency Leung wonders, is there a covid-19 endgame still in sight with BA.5 spreading fast? Not with vaccines alone. The Globe and Mail

Natalia Zinets says there’s a glimmer of hope as Ukraine grain ship leaves Odessa port. Reuters

Matthew Lee, Nomaan Merchant, and Aamer Madhani: Biden declares killing of al-Qaida leader is long-sought “justice.” Associated Press

The four things you need to be an expert. Vertasium

Arthur C. Brooks explains how to embrace doing nothing. Like literally. The Atlantic

Tracy Brower: this is how job stress can worsen your health, according to science. Fast Company

Lindsay Kohler explains why boredom at work is more dangerous than burnout. Forbes

Clark Quinn wonders if learning and development (L&D) language is limiting? Learnlets

Harold Jarche is navigating complexity (in personal knowledge management).

How Fahrenheit fails you. Answer in Progress

Ashley Strickland: rare type of galaxy dazzles in new Webb telescope image. CNN

Why is puberty so weird? Be Smart

Ian Sample reports that scientists create world’s first synthetic embryos. It’s more about understanding how organs develop in a fetus and the potential for growing transplants from stem cells like bone marrow for leukemia patients. The Guardian

Jill K. Robinson: in Polynesia, tattoos are more than skin deep. National Geographic

Allyson Chiu says when celebrities use private jets excessively, it’s a climate nightmare. The Washington Post

True facts: the self-sacrificing amoeba. Ze Frank

Thank you for visiting. I hope you took away something to support 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, July 31-Aug 6, 2022

Welcome to tipsday, your opportunity to fill up on informal writerly learnings for the week!

Also, I’m super excited for the launch of Pirating Pups at When Words Collide this coming Friday, August 12, at 3 pm MT, 5 pm EDT. WWC is virtual again this year and registration is FREE. Find out more on their website.

LA Bourgeois: stalk your curiosity. Stephanie BwaBwa suggests some more tools for your self-publishing toolbox. Then, Olivia Fisher is all about middle-grade fiction. Kris Calvin shows you how to use shared themes in your favorite childhood books to write as an adult. Later in the week, Gilbert Bassey lists five must-haves for a great ending. DIY MFA

Multiverses, nihilism, and how it feels to be alive right now. Like Stories of Old

Greer Macallister: the power of surprise. Donald Maass helps you write elusive inner moments. Then, Sarah Penner provides a writer’s guide to breaking the rules. Rheea Mukherjee shares three things she learned going on submission with her first book. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland shares 13 rules to becoming a better beta reader. Helping Writers Become Authors

Characters who never lived. Tale Foundry

Diana Stout points out the relation between the law of abundance and you as a writer. Then, Janice Hardy helps you create stronger characters by giving them roles. Stefan Emunds explains the yin and yang relationship between psychology and storytelling. Writers in the Storm

Elizabeth Spann Craig offers five tips for getting through a tough spot in a project.

Neil Chase pits antagonist vs. villain: what’s the difference? Writers Helping Writers

Shaelin explains why telling and exposition are actually good. Shaelin Writes

Joanna Penn interviews Sacha Black about lessons learned from three years as a full-time author. The Creative Penn

Nathan Bransford: try to make each scene do more than one thing.

Tiffany Yates Martin explains how Joanna Penn revises by measuring what she creates. Fox Print Editorial

Writing exercises for poets. Reedsy

Chris Winkle reveals how to give social justice feedback (in a way that won’t upset the author). Then, Oren Ashkenazi lists the five reasons prequel stories are so difficult. Mythcreants

Hillel Italie says antitrust trial puts publishing industry in the dock. Associated Press

Vittoria Traverso interviews Pablo Olbi about keeping the centuries-old tradition of Venetian bookbinding alive. Atlas Obscura

Ellen Gutoskey lists nine dirty words with appropriate secondary definitions. Mental Floss

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

Until Thursday, keep staying safe and well!

The next chapter: July 2022 update

And … here we are in August. Is the summer really half over? *Gives head a shake. Onward!

Trying something new this month. I opened my template early (around the 6th) and filled things in as the month progressed. We’ll see if this experiment bears fruit 🙂

UPDATE (July 13th): Boy howdy, it’s a bumper crop! With more time to write leisurely, this post is over 2000 words and it’s not even mid-month. I may have to edit (!)

UPDATE (July 30th): I’ve decided not to edit. We’ll see how the new mega-update flies.

Imma stick with it. It makes drafting the update much easier writing as it happens/in bits and pieces. The only reason this one is huge-mongous is that I’ve included my comparative review of Station Eleven now that I’ve finished the book and series (see what I’m watching and reading, below). That was over a thousand words on its own … Sorry/Not sorry.

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until Black, Indigenous, and people of colour lives matter.

Continue to observe public health guidelines (washing hands, maintaining physical distance, masking where you can’t, getting your vaccinations as recommended). They’re saying we’re entering a seventh (!) wave in Ontario. For some of you, the waves probably merge/never end. Covid is endemic and new variants continue to crop up. Take care of yourselves and the people you love.

These protective measures are even more important now as the friggin’ monkeypox threatens to become endemic as well.

Russia’s unprovoked war in the Ukraine continues and continues to be deplorable. I stand with the Ukraine!

I’m filled with hope at the response of US legislators at various levels of government to the reckless revocation of Roe. Reproductive rights are everyone’s fight!

The month in writing

I finished version 6 of Reality Bomb on July 5! I only did my curation and filled in bits of this template the next day. For the rest of the week, I shifted to poetry and short fiction on a casual/as I felt like it basis.

After that first week, I started reviewing RB using my map, which is a breakdown of chapters and scenes in the novel. I incorporated notes I’d taken in my journal, and I think I have a path forward for my final (for now) pass. I also started reading through the second novel in my Ascension series, here and there. It’s not bad 🙂

I thought I might get to freewriting some ideas for my next novel (alt-history/steampunk), but here I am at the end of the month, and I haven’t touched it yet.

My intent is to get back to RB in August, while continuing to plug away at poetry and short fiction and whatever else I dip my fingers into, and then seek out a book coach/editor in the fall. Things have been pushed back. They’ll still get done. And I’m feeling fairly optimistic that I should be back in the query trenches by the end of the year. Not sure that’s something I should be optimistic about, given the current state of the publishing industry, but I can win if I don’t play …

And that’s all the excitement.

Except for this: signed two contracts in one day 🙂 One was for my most recent poem to be published in Polar Borealis 22. The other was for my poetry manuscript. It’s becoming a REAL THING!

Actual publication is a long way away on the poetry collection, but I wanted to share, and I wanted to celebrate all the things. Because all the things are good! And I find that I haven’t been recognizing and celebrating the good things as much as I deserve (I originally wrote “should,” but that’s something I deserve less of—shoulding all over myself!).

I also attended a couple of board meetings for the Canadian Authors Association.

In terms of my writing and revision tracker, here’s how the month broke down:

As I mentioned, I finished this draft of RB on the 5th. That was 2,458 words and I set an arbitrary goal of 2,500 words, so that’s 98%.

I exceeded my blogging goal, writing 5,458 words of my 5,000-word goal, or 109%.

I worked casually on my short fiction. It’s a story that was inspired by an anthology call, but just for me. I wrote 935 words, set my goal for 1,500 words, and managed 62% of goal.

I hoped to write 10 poems this month, actually wrote 9, resulting in 90%.

And that’s it for the month in writing.

Filling the well

I attended Author Accelerator’s “Ready, Set Revise” webinar on the 8th. I signed up for “How to revise like an Editor,” another Jane Friedman webinar presented by Tiffany Yates Martin and watched the replay (theme developing here, but it’s where my head is at). On the 19th, I attended “The Story You Tell Yourself,” presented by Sue Campbell.

I registered for Daniel David Wallace’s “Find Your Reader Summit” over the weekend of July 22nd to 25th.

Finally, I registered for an Authors Publish webinar on revision with Jenn Givhan with the intent of watching the replay.

A couple of months ago, I added several podcasts to my listening … and fell way behind because every time you add a podcast, the app adds the last several episodes. And I can’t not listen to them (!) Darned autistic/completionist urges! Mind you, I have resisted listening to every episode, historically, so that’s a win.

I’m now almost caught up and will get to listen to my music again, which I’ve been dying to do, because Florence + The Machine’s “Dance Fever” is my new jam.

Happy to say that I don’t seem to have caught covid after last month’s exposure. No symptoms presented themselves in the five days I was required to self-isolate, anyway. I could always be asymptomatic, so I continue to mask when I go out in public.

My one physiotherapy appointment in July was my last. I’ve “graduated.” Yay me and all my ritualistic behaviours 🙂

I also saw my massage therapist again. I’m doing well and feeling healthy.

Finally, on the last day of the month, I went to my sister-in-law’s for a barbecue and family get-together. Phil’s helping her renovate her kitchen and though it’s only about half done, the results so far are stunning.

A lovely evening for a barbeque.
One of the cabinets in progress.

What I’m watching and reading

In terms of viewing, Phil and I watched season four of Stranger Things (Netflix) and enjoyed it verra much. While Phil did whinge a bit that they were holding over Venca/Henry for another season, I mentioned that it was a similar situation to Babylon 5, one of his favourite series. It was always intended to be a (four- or) five-season arc. All the “big bads” of prior seasons are linked. Mind you, Phil thinks that the mind flayer is the big boss. Henry may have given it form, but it was clearly in his head from the time he was a child (like Will). I think there’s something to that theory 🙂

Then, I finished watching the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (network TV). I liked it. Maybe even more than Discovery.

When I was a kid, I was more of a Star Wars than Trek fan, though I have watched my share: TNG, DS9, Voyager (but I stopped watching after the first couple of seasons), the movies. I wasn’t turned on by Enterprise and haven’t watched a single episode of Picard, Lower Decks, or Prodigy. But I’m really enjoying Discovery now that they’ve settled in the future, and SNW was good from the start.

Anson Mount is fabulous as Pike (I didn’t recognize he was the same actor who played Black Bolt on the ill-fated Inhumans) and Ethan Peck is capturing young Spock. What I enjoy most? The theme music. It’s the same as ToS, but the composer’s done something, built the chords a bit differently, different instrumentation (def no theremin), something. There’s more tension in the theme, a yearning toward the major, and hope. It choked me up a bit when I first heard it, but music can do that to me.

Next, Phil and I watched The Boys, season 3 (Amazon). Typically bloody, squirm-worthy (for many reasons), and overall, what we’ve come to expect from the series.

Butcher’s used temp V enough that he’s permanently damaged his brain and has 18 months to live (maybe). Hughey’s managed to resist the temptation (ha!) of temp V and is reconciling with Starlight. MM has told his daughter the family history/trauma with Soldier Boy. She tells him that he’s her hero (d’aw). Frenchie’s grown a spine and ain’t takin’ any more shite from Butcher, a newly-repowered Kumiko by his side. Starlight’s gone rogue and exposed Homelander for what he is (uber douche). At the end of the season finale, she officially joins the boys. Maeve sacrificed her powers to put Soldier Boy back in cold storage, but now has a second chance for a more normal life, albeit in the run, with the woman she loves. Homelander killed Black Noir for not telling him Soldier Boy was his dad and has taken poor Ryan under his wing.

I hope they don’t make Ryan Homelander’s mini-me. It was bad enough when Ryan accidentally killed his mom, but to have a kid with powers running around murdering people … I hope the writers don’t go there. I’d rather see the small smile on Ryan’s face as a sign that he’s thought of a way to take Homelander down.

The Deep’s divorced and having sex with sea life (mostly octopi), and A-Train has a second chance to run after receiving the heart of the low-powered superhero he killed (for terrorizing A-Train’s home community and crippling his brother). Victoria Neuman (the head-popper) may be on her way to the White House.

Then, Phil and I watched Ms. Marvel (Disney+). Loved. LOVED! Some mature viewers might steer clear because, ew, teenagers, but we really enjoyed the family dynamic and Kamala’s spirit and the cultural grounding of the show. There were a couple of contrived conflicts resolved by Kamala’s “power of kindness,” but aside from those, it was a solid show. Toronto’s Iman Vellani plays the titular role with a geek’s fervour. And she really is a fan of Marvel comics. The aesthetic was chef’s kiss.* I don’t want to spoil the show. I’ll just encourage you to watch it.

Season 2 of Russian Doll (Netflix) was characteristically confusing. It picks up on the mystery of the missing krugerrands for Nadia, complicated by Ruth’s declining health, and Alan gets his own motherly mystery to solve. Motherhood seems to be the theme for the season. This time around, Nadia and Alan jump around in the past, courtesy of the New York subway, but also into their respective mothers. Nadia breaks time by taking her infant self (whom she, in the body of her mother just gave birth to) into the present. There is a satisfactory resolution to the two main plotlines that doesn’t involve the disintegration of time.

Then, Phil and I watched season 3 of The Umbrella Academy (Netflix). I liked all three seasons for different reasons. Season 3 wasn’t as wacky as the first two, and though the series’ fate hasn’t yet been decided, it felt very much like it could have been the last.

I watched Spiderman: No Way Home (Amazon). Gaaaaah! Aaaaa! More wordless wonder! I loved it so much, I can’t even.

Then, I watched Spiderhead (Netflix). I’d read the short story the movie was based on, George Saunder’s “Escape from Spiderhead,” earlier in the year and was curious to see how it was adapted for the screen.

Very differently, it turns out. The story starts the same way. The protagonist is a convicted murderer who’s volunteered for a drug trial reminiscent of Brave New World. That is, they change your mood, but not just by making you happy/euphoric/languid. The drugs are loaded into an implanted device and administered to the “volunteers” in a series of trials.

In the story, the protagonist’s crime (vehicular manslaughter) isn’t revealed until the end, and he escapes Spiderhead by killing himself, after which he, in ghostly form, visits the survivors of his victims and achieves a post-mortem catharsis.

In the movie, the protagonist’s crime is revealed in bits and pieces throughout. He’s given a love interest in the research facility, with whom he escapes in the end. The antagonist, the head researcher, is actually the inventor of the drugs and owner of the facility. He also takes the drugs himself to alleviate his personal malaise.

In the end, the protagonist conspires with the research assistant to rig the antagonist’s drug supply. He overwhelms the antagonist with conflicting emotions and makes his escape, but in the process, the antagonist’s implant is mashed, and he gets all the drugs all at once. Though he takes off in his float plane, the drugs alter his perceptions to the degree he crashes his plane into Spiderhead island.

I enjoyed the story more than the film, but it was interesting to see Chris Hemsworth play the villain.

Then, I watched Night Raiders (Crave). Sorry, had a few days off and a gap in series to watch with Phil at supper. I substituted movies.

This movie, Indigenous written, Indigenous directed and produced, and with a primarily Indigenous cast, was a refreshing pause to the doom-and-gloom of most post-apocalyptic movies. It begins with a prophecy and by the end of the movie, the prophecy is fulfilled in an unexpected way. There were a couple of uncharacteristic shifts in the protagonist, clearly done for effect, but aside from that, I enjoyed it. The movie ended on a hopeful note, and I appreciated it for that alone.

Moving on to the month’s reading …

I finished reading Station Eleven on July 2nd. While I enjoyed the book, I like the series better. What follows is my comparative review of both, as promised last month.

HERE BE SPOILERS. You have been warned.

Hate to say it, but the book suffered from the disconnection that a lot of “literary” works fall victim to. The novel, however lauded it may be, is a series of “things that happen.” It’s a survival story more than anything else as well as a deeper dive into the characters united (physically or by circumstance) at the time the Georgia Flu decimates the world.

It could be summed up thusly: Arthur Leander died the night the Georgia flu killed most of the people on the planet. Most of the people connected to him survived—except for poor Miranda, who wrote a graphic novel that shaped the world of the survivors—for 20 years. The end.

Maybe not so flip.

Arthur has a fatal heart attack while playing Lear. Jeevan is a former paparazzi (who used to wait outside Arthur’s house for pictures), now paramedic-in-training, who tries to save his life. Kirsten is a young actress who witnesses the event. In the novel, Jeevan sees Kirsten to her “minder,” and then leaves.

The novel then follows Jeevan (for a while) and Kirsten into year 20 of the pandemic while jumping around in Arthur’s past (and therefore Miranda’s) leading up to his death. The other major characters are tied to Arthur in some way. Miranda, who creates the graphic novel that gives the book its name, and Elizabeth, mother of Tyler, the boy who eventually becomes the prophet, are two of Arthur’s former wives. Clark, who creates the Museum of Modern Civilization at the Severn City Airport, is his best friend.

Arthur receives two copies of the graphic novel from Miranda, one of which he gives to Tyler, and a snow globe paperweight from Clark. On the night of his final performance, he gives the other copy of the graphic and snow globe to the minder who then gives them to Kirsten. The graphic becomes a touchstone for Tyler and Kirsten, but in very different ways. The snow globe and graphic become exhibits in the Museum of Modern Civilization.

And that’s it. These thin strands connect the lives of the characters very tentatively. Kirsten eventually kills the prophet on the way to the Museum, where the travelling symphony regroups after being separated, and they perform Shakespeare and concerts for five days before departing to investigate what seems to be a settlement with electric light. Kirsten leaves one of the copies of the graphic in the Museum before she goes as a promise to return.

Like I say, I enjoyed the novel. I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t.

But the series was much better. I appreciated most of the creative decisions they made.

After failing to save Arthur, Jeevan tries to take Kirsten home in the midst of a snowstorm and the first wave of the pandemic (much worse than covid—most people die within a day of contracting it). They end up going to Jeevan’s brother Frank’s apartment, where they stay until a home invasion results in Frank’s death.

This plot point is another difference I appreciated. In the novel, Frank is in a wheelchair and chooses to commit suicide, thus setting Jeevan free to leave. I understand the situation. Without power, utilities, food, mobility, or the proper medications, he doesn’t want to burden Jeevan with his care. It’s a realistic problem that would have to be faced. But it’s a variation on the kill your gays/the Black character dies first/fridging tropes. Disabled Frank dies to motivate/traumatize Jeevan.

To continue with the series, Jeevan and Kirsten travel together until Jeevan is attacked by a wolf and taken in by a group of pregnant women and their doctor who needs help delivering all their babies. Kirsten travels alone until she joins up with the travelling symphony.

Meanwhile, Miranda dies in Malaysia. She can’t find a way out and catches the Georgia flu. Clark, and Elizabeth with Tyler, are both on flights diverted to the Severn City Airport, and after it becomes apparent that there’s no rescue coming, they set up a community there. Tyler “fakes” his death by making his mother and Clark believe he’s in a plane full of Georgia flu victims when he sets it on fire. He runs away in the ensuing panic.

Years later, the prophet visits the symphony and Kirsten tries to kill him to prevent him from taking her young friend Alex, but she doesn’t succeed, and they meet up again as the prophet continues to harass the symphony.

This is one of the decisions made in the series that I wasn’t so fond of. In the novel Tyler/the prophet sets up a bigamist cult in which they abduct young girls for him to marry. In the series he adopts/gathers children and indoctrinates them into becoming suicide bombers for him. I don’t like either scenario, but the child bombers make it really challenging for the reconciliation between Tyler and his mother that happens in the series to feel authentic. Who would forgive a guy who does that?

So, Kirsten takes Tyler captive and brings him to the Museum of Modern Civilization where he reconciles with his mother. And the symphony entertains the community as in the novel.

But their conductor is sick, and they’ve called the local doctor—Jeevan. There’s a little bit of Jeevan and Kirsten narrowly missing each other as they move around the airport, but they finally reunite.

Tyler and Elizabeth depart with the prophet’s remaining children and Alex. Kirsten continues on with the Symphony, with the Airport now on their route, and Jeevan returns to his home, a cottage or resort somewhere in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or cottage country in Ontario, where all the children he helped bring into the world and their mothers live. I think this is the settlement with electric light that Kirsten departs to investigate in the novel.

I haven’t spilled every last drop of tea, but that’s the gist of it. The series left me feeling more hopeful than not. The novel left me hopeful, but unsatisfied. There seemed less rhyme or reason, and I suppose that’s fair, if you’re going for a realistic post-apocalypse. Even with so few people left in the world, coincidences like those in the series wouldn’t happen.

END SPOILERS.

But there you go.

Then, I finished Down Among the Sticks and Bones, the second of the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire. This novel focuses on the backstories of Jack and Jill and what brought them to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. It’s lovely and heart wrenching and depressing and hopeful all at once.

Next, I read Stories of the Raksura, volume 1: The Falling World and Indigo and Cloud by Martha Wells. I haven’t read The Cloud Roads yet, though it’s in my TBR pile. Starting with these stories (there are two more shorts in the collection as well as the two novellas) was a good beginning, as most of these tales pre-date The Cloud Roads and offer context.

Then, I read Ashley Shuttleworth’s A Cruel and Fated Light. I read A Dark and Hollow Star last year and enjoyed it enough that when the next book in the series was released, I snatched it up. This is a YA urban fantasy series and Shuttleworth’s worldbuilding is quite complex. So complex that the times she has to convey essential information to the reader, whether through narrative or internal monologue, can come off as info-dumps. But the information is essential to understanding either what’s going on in the moment, or the context of what’s happened in the past (backstory). I definitely enjoyed it, though, and will probably pick up the next in series.

A little bit of whimsey—a rainbow in my palm.

And that was a very long rambling report of the month in this writer’s life.

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

Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, July 24-30, 2022

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

Amy Forliti reports that the last to ex-cops involved in George Floyd’s murder have been sentenced. Associated Press

Porter Braswell explains the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. Fast Company

Julia Métreaux: how to dismantle systemic ableism, according to disabled people. DAME

Matthew Rodriguez: the House passed the Respect for Marriage Act. 157 republicans voted against it. Them

Tom Yun and Melissa Lopez-Martinez report that Pope Francis issues apology for residential school abuses: “I ask forgiveness.” CTV News

Eric Reguly and Joy Spearchief-Morris: Pope Francis holds second mass amid calls for broader residential school apology. The Globe and Mail

Simon Lewis introduces us to the Ukrainian fighters standing in Russia’s way on the eastern front. Reuters

Helen Regan and Rhea Mogul report that Myanmar junta executes leading democracy activists. CNN

Maria Cheng: WHO declares monkeypox a global emergency; Canada confirms 681 cases. CTV News

Consent … is messy. Khadija Mbowe

Guy Kawasaki interviews Ayelet Fishbach about the art of goals, incentives, and motivation. The Remarkable People Podcast

Ellen Scott wonders, could “quiet quitting” be the answer to burnout? What you need to know. Metro

Darren MacDonald reports that more than $38 million in LU scholarship and bursary money gone, court filing shows. CTV News

Eclipses that don’t eclipse? SciShow Space

Vladimir Isachenkov and Marcia Dunn report that Russia to drop out of International Space Station after 2024. Associated Press

Amelia Soth: gold weights and wind scales in the Asante empire. JSTOR Daily

Willow Defebaugh: burning out. On the intersection of climate change and personal burnout. Atmos

Serge Pellissier wonders, can electric vehicle batteries be recycled? Fast Company

Olivia Box examines the interaction of ecosystems and extreme weather events. JSTOR Daily

Linda Geddes announces that fossil of earliest animal predator named after David Attenborough. The Guardian

Anna Kate Cannon introduces us to the plant of the month: white sage. JSTOR Daily

Vanessa Gera reports that Polish institute classifies cats as invasive alien species. And cats (and cat-lovers) ain’t too pleased. Associated Press

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you took away something to inspire a future creative project.

This weekend, I should have my super-massive July next chapter update posted (trying something new—we’ll see how it flies).

Until then, keep staying safe and well!

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, July 24-30, 2022

Welcome to August! The dog days are here, and so is this week’s batch of informal writerly learnings 🙂

Kim Bullock offers some productivity lessons from a simpler time: praise, criticism, and self-reflection. Then, Elizabeth Huergo shares readings for writers: on writing (and revising) well. Kelsey Allagood is diagnosing writer’s block: symptoms, remedies, and prevention. Then, Julia Whelan hosts a deathmatch between first and second novels. Porter Anderson: just artificial, not intelligence. Writer Unboxed

The surprising origins of vampires (w/ Dr. Emily Zarka of Monstum). PBS Origins

K.M. Weiland explains how to structure a novel with multiple main characters. Helping Writers Become Authors

What is a masterwork? Definition and examples in books and film. Story Grid

Are bilinguals smarter? Otherwords | PBS Storied

Michelle Barker tackles the dreaded synopsis. Then, Dr. Natalie Dale shares three medical mistakes to avoid in your story. Writers Helping Writers

Kris Maze suggests you research your novel on a rambling road trip. Then, Lisa Hall-Wilson explains why first person POV is NOT deep POV. Shirley Jump wants you to use impossible choices to empower your conflict. Writers in the Storm

How the “manipulative victim” trope hurts female presenting people everywhere. The Take

Nathan Bransford says, don’t build your scenes around the information you think you need to impart.

E.J. Wenstrom shares lessons learned from joining a new social media network. Then, Sara Farmer lists her favourite mystery games. Later in the week, Erin La Rosa shares five ways to market your book as a debut author. DIY MFA

On world building death. Hello, Future Me

Wendy Sparrow explains how to make your editing process more efficient. Jami Gold

Sharon Oard Warner shows you how to move between scenes with summary and spacers. Jane Friedman

Tiffany Yates Martin says failure IS an option. Fox Print Editorial

Seven ways to outline your novel. Reedsy

Chris Winkle says a character goal isn’t a story, but it’s close. Then, Oren Ashkenazi (tongue firmly in cheek) lists six more ways to make your writing cinematic. Mythcreants

Livia Gershon: who made that word, and why? JSTOR Daily

Brian Attebery lists his top ten 21st-century fantasy novels. The Guardian

Thanks for spending some time with me! I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, keep staying safe and well, my writerly friends!