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!

I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.