Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, Dec 18-24, 2022

For the last time in 2022, it’s time to get your mental corn popping!

Amy Briggs explains how an ancient revolt sparked the festival of lights. Hanukkah. National Geographic

Dedi Hayoun reports that signs of Salome, said to be nurse to baby Jesus, unearthed in Israel. Reuters 

Christin Bohnke introduces us to the Onna-Bugeisha, the female samurai warriors of feudal Japan. JSTOR Daily

Why do we get embarrassed? Be Smart

Brain circuit that converts spatial goals to escape actions discovered. Sainsbury Wellcome Centre

Eric Berger reports that after a long struggle with Martian dust, NASA’s InSight probe has gone quiet. Ars Technica

In conversation with Dr. Jo Barstow. Dr. Becky

40-year study finds mysterious patterns in temperatures at Jupiter. NASA

Researchers find over 100 new ancient designs in Peru’s Nazca lines. CNN

Bob Yirka reveals a huge, 2,000-year-old Mayan civilization discovered in northern Guatemala. Phys.org

Jill Gralow reports that scientists freeze Great Barrier Reef coral in world-first trial. They’re preserving coral larvae in the hope of future restoration. Reuters

Jules Bernstein is decoding the secret language of photosynthesis. UC Riverside

Thanks for visiting. I hope you found something to inspire a future creative project.

I hope to have my next chapter update and year-end round up posted on the weekend.

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

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Dec 18-24, 2022

I hope your holidays were merry and bright, filled with the love of family and friends.

It’s time to fill up on informal writerly learnings for the last time in 2022 (!) Enjoy.

Stephanie BwaBwa shares six self-publishing principles for a fulfilling authorial career. Then, Olivia Fisher offers six things to focus on when editing the first draft of your kid lit story. Carol Van Den Hende takes a look at book cover trends heading into 2023. Then, A.H. Plotts provides fives steps for turning your story into a film. DIY MFA

Sherlock Holmes isn’t who you think he is. Tale Foundry

Vaughn Roycroft wishes joy to the (writerly) world—post-pub edition. Then, Natalie Hart wants you to be strong like a sphincter. Porter Anderson discusses another diversity. Then, Diana Giovinazzo muses on taking a pause and reconnecting with our creativity. Writer Unboxed

Lisa Norman: welcome to the future, part 3. Then, Lynette M. Burrows helps you put ground under their feet. Ellen Buikema gathers some tips for writing magical realism. Writers in the Storm

Tiffany Yates Martin says give it a rest. Fox Print Editorial

Chris Winkle discovers how Brandon Sanderson’s debut novel holds up. Then, Oren Ashkenazi asks five plot questions that will help you revise your manuscript. Mythcreants

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

Until Thursday, keep staying safe and well!

Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, Dec 11-17, 2022

Merry Christmas (Sunday) and happy Kwanzaa (Monday) for those who celebrate! Prepare yourself for the holiday marathon by getting your mental corn popping.

Elisabeth De Mariaffi explains how period-tracking apps can be weaponized by pro-life activists. The Walrus

Helen Warrell reveals the secret lives of MI6’s top female spies. The Financial Times

Emily Zarevich considers Eleanor of Aquitaine’s “Court of Love.” JSTOR Daily

Nick Paul Taylor: Moderna, Merck & Co. mRNA cancer vaccine slashes melanoma recurrence in Keytruda combo trial. Fierce Biotech

Discovery could explain why women are more likely to get Alzheimer’s. Scripps

Scientists get first ever sound recording of dust devils on Mars. Purdue University

JWST “fingerprints” earliest galaxies. BBC

Four signs of alien life that JWST is looking for. Dr. Becky

Two exoplanets may be mostly water, NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer find. Jet Propulsion Laboratory

ALICE estimates how transparent the Milky Way is to antimatter. interactions.org

Fusion energy “breakthrough” revealed by US scientists. But as my spouse, AKA Mr. Science, who’s read the abstract, advises me, it’s not exactly what media are reporting. CBC

Samanth Subramanian reports on the epic task of shutting down a nuclear site: dismantling Sellafield. The Guardian 

Another nifty resource for historical fiction authors. Find out the weather in the time and setting of your novel … as long as they collected weather data. Historical weather. Weather Underground

Fossil site reveals giant arthropods dominated the seas 470 million years ago. University of Exeter

Laura Baisas reveals that giant wombats the size of small cars once roamed Australia. Popular Science

Rachel Fobar: critics slam USDA’s toothless and “paltry” fines for animal welfare violations. National Geographic

Gena Steffens lets us get a glimpse into the hidden lives of Amazonian manatees. National Geographic

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

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

Tipsday: Informal writerly learnings, Dec 11-17, 2022

Happy Hanukkah (ongoing), and happy solstice (tomorrow) for those who celebrate! Here’s my gift to you: informal writerly learnings. Yeah, I share them every week, and you know what, every week they’re gifts 🙂 Enjoy!

Ann Marie Nieves answers your book PR and marketing questions about what to do on a budget. Then, Kathleen McCleary is facing down fear. Jim Dempsey explains how to make the most of your writing goals. Then, Barbara Linn Probst takes a closer look at how writers use beta readers: who, when, why—and does it help? Writer Unboxed

Can all monsters be traced back to Tiamat? Monstrum | PBS Storied

Lori Freeland offers five tips to boost your professional writing cred. Then, Colleen M. Story explains how to decide what you really want from your writing career. Stefan Emunds helps you tap readers’ subconscious to engage them in your story. Writers in the Storm

Why death magic is evil. Tale Foundry

Beth Kephart presents a quiet manifesto: blurb matters. Then, Allison K. Williams shows you how writing your synopsis can fix your book. Eva Langston shares what she learned from 90 queries. Then, Sangeeta Mehta interviews Susan Chang and Julie Scheina about what you need to know before hiring a developmental editor. Jane Friedman

When the world becomes small. A philosophical turn. Ze Frank

Lucy V. Hay reveals how to use real life to inspire your fiction. Then, Jami Gold explains how and when to use foreshadowing. Writers Helping Writers

On her own site, Jami follows up by explaining the difference between foreshadowing and spoilers

Nathan Bransford shows you how to write a character who’s adrift.

E.J. Wenstrom shares four lessons learned over a decade of author platforming. Then, Sara Farmer shares her favorite mystery shows. Kaira Rouda shows you how to use a setting you know to set your characters free. Later in the week, Monica Cox shares five tips to get unstuck from the murky middle of your manuscript. DIY MFA

The hidden meaning in the humanity of others. Like Stories of Old

Adeena Mignogna exposes common misconceptions about satellite orbits. Science in Science Fiction | Dan Koboldt

Tiffany Yates Martin is showing up for the good stuff. Fox Print Editorial

Angie Hodapp shares seven tips for writing powerful endings. Pub Rants

What to do (and not do) with your NaNoWriMo novel. Reedsy

Chris Winkle unpacks five tropes that require low realism. Then, Oren Ashkenazi explains why the Save the Cat! novel beat sheet won’t help you. Mythcreants

Angela Misri: Vivek Shraya proves kids’ books can help us explore messy truths. The Walrus

Thank you so much for visiting. It’s like your gift to me! And I appreciate it. I hope you found something to support your current work(s) in progress.

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

Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, Dec 4-10, 2022

I know I said I was going to trim down thoughty Thursday, but there were so many interesting non-newsy things to share this week! In any case, it’s tome to get your mental corn popping 🙂

Matthew Wills: kidnappers of color versus the cause of antislavery. JSTOR Daily

Danielle Han discusses grave matters: conflict in reburial and repatriation. JSTOR Daily

From Anne Bonney to Zheng Yi Sao: the notorious women of piracy. PBS Origins

Heidi Ledford reports that severe covid may cause markers of old age in the brain. Nature

The Next Big Idea Club explains how to make the most of the brain you have, according to neuroscience. Fast Company

K.J. Aiello wonders who gets to be mentally ill? The Walrus

Zach Sweger: many genes linked to alcohol and tobacco use are share among diverse ancestries. Penn State University

In conversation with Dr. Jake Taylor. Dr. Becky

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti: JWST spots clouds and even a sea on Saturn’s moon, Titan. IFLS

Beth Miller reports that Marianna Safronova and collaborators say quantum clocks could be used to detect dark matter. University of Delaware Daily

Unusual gamma-ray burst reveals previously undetected hybrid neutron-star merger event. Los Alamos National Laboratory

Researchers use ultrasound waves to move objects. University of Minnesota

A resource for your next apocalyptic science fiction novel: asteroid launcher. Or just have fun lobbing space rocks at Earth. Your choice. neal.fun

And here’s another, scarier app: NukeMap. For fictional purposes, of course … Alex Wellerstein

Hallie Golden reports that an Indigenous reservation has a novel way to grow food—below the earth’s surface. The Guardian

In search of the blackest thing on Earth. Be Smart

Feline genetics help pinpoint first-ever domestication of cats, MU study finds. University of Missouri

The end of year animal awards. Ze Frank

Thanks for stopping by for this week’s mixed bag of edutainment. 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, Dec 4-10, 2022

Welcome to the first full tipsday, post-NaNo 🙂 It’s time to stock up on informal writerly learnings. Enjoy!

LA Bourgeois is dealing with ambiguity. Then, Richelle Lyn recommends planning early for New Year’s success. Lori Walker interviews Deeba Zargarpur about blending family trauma with the supernatural. Then Melanie Bell explains how to write a novel with alternating timelines. DIY MFA

The childless woman trope needs a serious update. The Take

Greer Macallister: on endings and non-endings. Tiffany Yates Martin shares more words you’re probably using wrong. Then, Donald Maass considers the eighth element. David Corbett shares some writing lessons from Jess Walter. Then, Kathryn Craft lists seven ways public readings can help your writing. Writer Unboxed

What kind of fencing club is this, Wednesday? Jill Bearup

Penny C. Sansevieri helps you create bonus content to double your reader engagement. Then, Janice Hardy shares three easy tips to help you revise your novel. Piper Bayard exposes honeypots and the honey trap (writing spies series). Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weiland shares 15 tips to create the perfect writing space. Helping Writers Become Authors

Lisa Poisso exposes three action-reaction misfires that flatten your writing. Writers Helping Writers

How music brings mortals closer to gods. Fate & Fabled | PBS Storied

Nathan Bransford: finding the courage to leap.

Becky Robinson explains how to bridge the gap between online and offline activities. Then, Ariel Curry helps you build your writing self-efficacy. Tiffany Yates Martin answers this question: what if you’re new to writing and don’t know how to fix things? Jane Friedman

Tiffany Yates Martin wonders, what is your Wendy? Fox Print Editorial

Three act structure: writing a showstopping ending. Reedsy

Steven Fritz reveals radiation hazards in space and how to mitigate them. Science in Science Fiction | Dan Koboldt

Chris Winkle lists five common character arc blunders. Then, Oren Ashkenazi explains why Save the Cat! can’t write a novel. Mythcreants

Julianna Kim: a new author tweeted about a low book signing turnout and famous authors commiserated. NPR

Oxford selects its word of the year 2022: goblin mode.

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you found something to support your current work(s) in progress.

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

Thoughty Thursday: Popping your mental corn, Dec 1-3, 2022

Welcome to the return of thoughty Thursday (post-NaNo 2022)! It’s time to get your mental corn popping.

Matthew Wills reveals the origins of child protection. JSTOR Daily

Livia Gershon wonders what fundamentalism is. JSTOR Daily

Alexis Wright considers the inward migration in apocalyptic times. Emergence Magazine

Find your dark why. Struthless

Clémentine Pirlot takes you inside the autistic experience. Code Like a Girl

Elana Spivak: nightmares have plagued humans for millennia—have we finally learned how to tame them? InVerse

The unexpected measure that makes the modern world tick. Be Smart

Nergis Fertina reports that a small tweak to genes may finally enable us to regrow cartilage. Interesting Engineering

Dyani Lewis: ancient skull found in China could be million-year-old homo erectus. Nature

How do you find the Moon’s best picnic spot? SciShow Space

Will Dunham reports that scientists build “baby” wormhole as science fiction moves closer to fact. Reuters

Amelia Soth: Cairo’s Zabbaleen and the secret life of trash. JSTOR Daily

Thank you 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, Dec 1-3, 2022

A short week of informal writerly learnings to get back on track with curation. Enjoy!

Angela Ackerman explains how to write antagonists readers can’t help but like. Writers Helping Writers

Tiffany Yates Martin learns how Vaughn Roycroft revises by redefining success. Fox Print Editorial

Why “female entertainment” still gets written off. The Take

Grace Bialecki explains the power and necessity of sitting with your critiques. Then, Adele Annesi presents an argument for setting aside arc in story development. Jane Friedman

Liza Nash Taylor makes some notes to self on making room to move ahead. Henriette Lazaridis wants to linger, tinker, savor: taking the time to get it right. Writer Unboxed

We might never speak to aliens. Here’s why. Hello, Future Me

James R. Preston offers five tips to manage the book galley journey. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle shows you six places to trim slow prose. Then, Oren Ashkenazi shares what Legends and Lattes teaches us about light stories. Mythcreants

Three act structure: writing a strong first act. Reedsy

Three act structure: writing an engaging middle. Reedsy

A.H. Plotts presents show, don’t tell: your novel as a movie script. DIY MFA

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year 2022 is … gaslighting.

And that was tipsday. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found something to support your current work(s) in progress, whatever stage they’re at.

Until Thursday, keep staying safe and well!

The next chapter: November 2022 update

December is here! Time to trundle out the seasonal decorations 🙂

I’ve been mulling over a few things, and I’ve made a couple of decisions. First, using my current system (template and fill it in as I go in dribs and drabs) I’ll be converting my monthly updates into weekly updates starting in January 2023. This will be in anticipation of converting my updates into a newsletter, down the road. (Perhaps way down the road? Honestly, I’m not sure.)

Second, I’m going to be trimming down thoughty Thursday, cutting out the newsy bits (y’all get enough of all that in the real world) and refocusing on articles and resources that will either a) generate ideas, AKA get your mental corn popping or b) help you in your research, worldbuilding, or other non-writing aspects of craft.

TT has always been the less visited, less liked, and less commented-on curation post.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments if you like the idea of shorter, more frequent updates and smaller TT curations. Or if you don’t. I’m happy to hear from you, either way.

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). Covid is endemic. That means it’s here to stay, like the flu or colds. Take care of yourselves and the people you love.

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

Reproductive rights are everyone’s fight!

The month in writing

It was refreshing to focus on drafting a new novel idea after so long working on revision. For that reason alone, NaNoWriMo 2022 was a win.

Here’s how the month broke down.

Week 1 – 3,378 words on Assignment1/Reality Bomb; 3,469 words on Alice; 1,219 words on the blog; total 8,066 words.

Week 2 – 8,492 words on Alice; 320 words on the blog; total 8,812 words.

Week 3 – 6,548 words on Alice; 380 words on the blog; total 6,928 words.

Week 4 – 7,718 words on Alice; 364 words on the blog; total 8,082 words.

Last three days – 2,072 words on Alice; 1,880 words on the blog; total 3,952 words.

I wrote 28,299 words of the 50k-word goal of Alice in Thunderland, or 57%. It’s definitely going to be a novella, which is something new for me. I usually write long. Like way too long.

There were two curation posts (the last of October) plus a weekly NaNo mini update for each week of November. I also counted whatever words I’d written in this post as of November 30th. This resulted in 4,163 words of my modest 2,500-word goal, or 167%.

Finally, I also counted the assignment I wrote up for my book coach, Suzy. That was 3,378 words.

This adds up to a grand total of 35,840 words for the month, all of which I counted toward my NaNo goal of 50,000 words. That worked out to 71%. So, I didn’t “win” NaNaWriMo 2022, but I made good progress on a new story and got a few other things done.

Filling the well

In writing events, Wordstock Sudbury took place from November 3rd to 5th. I split my time between online events and in-person events. The venue’s just up the road from me, so it’s convenient, but when Torvi sees me (or Phil) walk away without her, she is inconsolable for at least an hour. I didn’t want to inflict her howling on Phil more than I had to.

The solution? I drove to the venue on the main day of the festival. Torvi was just fine.

The sessions were great, both online and in-person. I particularly enjoyed Kathy Friedman’s “Writing Our Lived Experience” workshop and Tanis MacDonald’s “Measure Twice, Cut Once,” all about the editing and revision process. I got to see Danielle Daniel’s workshop on writing across genres and Liselle Sambury in the “YA for Everyone” panel. David Robertson was also in that panel, and I caught him again in the “Tell a Good Story” panel, with Ernie Loutit and Waub Rice.

It was probably the best Wordstock yet. Already looking forward to next year.

Something else that happened at Wordstock: I now have an editor for my poetry collection (!) She won’t have room in her schedule for me until Spring, but I think we’re going to work well together 🙂

I did what I could with the first assignment and submitted it to Suzy. We met to discuss it on the 22nd. It was good, but I rambled on … Things are taking better shape. I now have a second assignment and another meeting on Dec 7th.

I attended the launch of my friend, Kim Fahner’s latest poetry collection, Emptying the Ocean on November 24th. It’s always a grand time. And I got to catch up with another friend from out of twon who’d also come to support Kim.

I attended AugurCon online (November 26 and 27). It was fabulous.

Finally, on November 30th, I attended another webinar by Mary Robinette on short stories. Though I have gotten better at writing these over the years, I can always improve.

Another filling the well thing:

I watch Shaelin Bishop’s YouTube channel, Shaelin Writes. Recently, her vlogs have been a great comfort. Though she writes literary fiction, I find I really relate to her. She was originally a pantser, switched to outlining, and discovered that she preferred pantsing. Which is something I’m learning myself.

She did a great vlog on why telling isn’t a bad thing 🙂 and several about how she thinks of structure in short stories and novels, which have been revelations to me.

More recently, she was lamenting that, after years of revision and editing, she was finding it difficult to get back to writing. In fact, she thought her most recent novel was crap. It wasn’t sparking joy for her like her other novels did. She decided to work on it for NaNoWriMo, not with the intention of “winning,” but with the intention to work on it every day. After the first week, she thought she was going to have to shelve it, but in the second week, the story broke for her, and she decided to stick with it.

It’s so nice when things work out—she was so happy! It gives me hope for similar breakthroughs in my own work.

In non-writing-related events, I celebrated a friend’s retirement on the 19th. Low key. And I celebrated my mom-in-law’s 81st birthday on the 25th. Also, low-key.

Finally, I engaged in some self care with an RMT appointment and a meeting with my support group.

In the health issues department, my semi-annual outbreak of blepharitis has decided to complicate my November. This means four to five sessions of hot compresses a day, and the necessary sacrifice of writing time 😦

What I’m watching and reading

In the viewing department, I have to rewind a bit. Because I wanted to get October’s next chapter update out before the end of the month, I missed out on a couple of October viewings.

The first was that I finished my rewatch of Veronica Mars (Crave). The fourth season ending wasn’t satisfying. The true bomber wasn’t caught. I’m a little disappointed. Though I really like Kristen Bell and the series. Up next, the movie, which takes place between seasons three and four.

Then, on Hallowe’en night, Phil and I watched Altered Carbon: Resleeved (Netflix). There’s a nice set piece that can make the animated movie standalone, but there are also call backs to the series that, if you watched it, will help everything make more sense. Take or leave that caveat as you will. Kovach is resleeved and assigned to protect a tattoo artist for the Yakuza. Lots of blood and violence. Decent story, though.

Phil and I also watched Weird Al, the parody biopic, when it came out on Roku. Hilarious, and we were pressed to identify the actors playing various cameos (and sometimes the cameo characters, like Gallagher).

Then, we watched Enola Holmes 2 (Netflix). I think it was better than the first one. Fun, fourth wall-breaking protagonist, witty banter, and a whole bunch of butt-kicking women.

The Handmaid’s Tale (network) finished its latest season on the 9th. With Commander Fred literally torn apart at the end of the last season, this season focused on June and Serena and issues of motherhood. Both characters vacillate between out-for-revenge bloody-mindedness and motherly solidarity, ending the season on the latter.

The series seems to be diverging from the books (which are, admittedly, bookends to the series), but I’m still interested in seeing how it all works out.

I watched Horns (Amazon). This is a 2013 movie based on a 2010 Joe Hill novel. Ig (Ignatius), the protagonist, has been accused of his girlfriend Merrin’s murder, and everyone believes it’s true except for his best friend and lawyer Lee, his brother Terry, and another of their childhood friends, Glenna.

After a drunken and grief-driven one night stand with Glenna, Ig sprouts horns. After that, everyone is seemingly compelled to share their deepest, darkest secrets with Ig, except Lee. Ig uses this paranormal ability to find out who really killed Merrin.

I watched the ill-fated first (and only) season of Tom Swift (network). It’s considered a spin-off of Nancy Drew, because of the character’s appearance in one episode last year. It wasn’t terrible, but it suffered from the same problem many CW series have, which is characters doing 180s continually (i.e., acting out of character for no discernable reason).

I also watched the first season of Vampire Academy (network). Fairly standard YA fare set against a political backdrop. I was curious to see what Julie Plec would do with it. If Paramount+ renews, I’ll probably watch it.

The first season of The Time Traveller’s Wife was great. I’ve seen the movie but haven’t yet read the book (guess what’s next on my TBR list?).

Moving on to the month in reading, I read Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club Guide to Slaying Vampires. The concept is straightforward. Hendrix imagined what would happen if his mother had to deal with a vampire. It’s set in the 90s, but it read like the 50s. A weird dissonance.

Then, I dove into Maggie Stiefvater’s Greywaren, the third in The Dreamer trilogy. I always feel sad when I finish a Stiefvater book, and then ravenous for the next one, but this was the end. The. End. Epilogue and everything. I read the first book of the Raven Cycle and listened to the rest in audiobook. Will Patton really gets these characters. I’ve decided that next year, I’m going to start rereading and studying my favourite books. I’m starting with The Raven Cycle.

Next, I read Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Spare Man. It’s The Thin Man, in spaaaaaace. If you think you’d enjoy Nick, Nora, and Asta … in space, then read this book. Loved, loved loved! Another book that I was sad to finish. That’s all Ima say.

I finished reading Lauren Beukes’ Shining Girls. I’m also watching the series on Apple +. The two are quite different. I’ll probably finish watching the series next month.

Through a strange series of events, a man in the Depression is drawn to a house, which sends him on a series of quests to murder the girls that shine. The house takes him through time to accomplish his grisly tasks, until one of the shining girls survives and hunts him down. It ended a little abruptly, but I was okay with that.

And that was 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!