Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 11-17, 2019

It’s time to dig into another week’s worth of informal writerly learnings 🙂

Elizabeth A. Harvey is remembering Toni Morrison. Then, Nancy Johnson shows us how Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye offers a masterclass in craft. Porter Anderson: murders she didn’t write, a provocation on writers in the context of real world gun violence. Rheea Mukherjee: negotiating social privilege as a writer. Jim Dempsey wants you to explore the wonders of your character’s world view. Sarah Callender forgets to remember that writing is an act of faith. Writer Unboxed

Jenna Moreci helps you get back into the writing habit after a break.

C.S. Lakin visits Helping Writers Become Authors: how to evoke reader emotions with “surprisingness.” Then, she heads over to Larry Brook’s Storyfix to explain how to effectively “tell” emotions in fiction.

Emily Wenstrom offers three tips for creating your author newsletter before you’re published. And here’s my latest column: find storytelling inspiration with the women of the Kalevala. Constance Emmett shares five tips for surviving rejection. DIY MFA

Lisa Hall-Wilson shares four ways to go deeper with point of view. Then, Laura Drake starts with character first. Writers in the Storm

Michelle Barker wants you to remember that the wand chooses the wizard. Writers Helping Writers

Janice Hardy explains why you want nitpicky critiquers. Fiction University

Robert Lee Brewer explains the difference between slight of hand and sleight of hand. Writer’s Digest

Some reassuring advice from Chris Winkle: why you shouldn’t worry about someone stealing your manuscript. Then, Oren Ashkenazi offers advice on choosing naval tactics for your pre-gunpowder world. Mythcreants

Sam Bleicher offers some unusual writing tips on dealing with facts in science fiction. The Creative Penn

Ferris Jabr: the story of storytelling. Harper’s

Thanks for visiting. Come back on Thursday for some thoughty.

Until then, be well!

Tipsday2019

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Book review of The Calculating Stars

What Amazon says:

TheCalculatingStarsOn a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

My thoughts:

I loved this novel not only for the author’s reimagining of the space program, but for her unflinching examination of gender equality, racism, and mental health, all of which are pivotal to her plot.

Elma York, a calculator and former WASP pilot in the second world war, and her husband, a lead engineer with NACA, witness the meteorite strike that takes out most of the east coast while they are out of town. Their home along with Washington DC and NACA headquarters are destroyed.

The nation’s capital is moved to Kansas where, in the wake of the strike, the first order of business is to convince the newly formed government of the meteorite’s longer-term effects, including rendering Earth inimical to continued human existence. They have to establish colonies off-world to ensure humanity’s survival.

As the new space program, under the oversight of the International Aeronautics Coalition moves forward, forces of opposition in the form of Earth First rise and seek to reallocate all government funding to supporting the meteor refugees and helping to keep Earth sustainable, sometimes violently.

Elma strives to have women included in the space program—the ultimate goal is settlement, is it not?—and inadvertently becomes a celebrity as one of the first “astronettes.” As the Lady Astronaut, she must make public appearances as well as enduring astronaut training while coping with severe social anxiety.

She becomes aware of the discrimination against astronauts of colour and struggles to overcome her embedded prejudices and become an ally for her new friends. The “I” in IAC does stand for international.

Kowal’s characters are complex and flawed, as are the relationships between them. The Yorks are in a committed marriage and their relationship is real and messy and wonderful. The Lindholms have their own different, but no less challenging marriage. Elma’s friendships with the other women astronauts aren’t easy, but they’re stronger for their conflicts. Her relationship with Betty, who is—and always will be—a journalist first, is particularly fraught.

Elma has a complicated history with the lead astronaut, Stetson Parker, who was her CO during the war. He’s misogynist and preyed upon the younger women WASPs. Elma reported him. The fact that he’s once more in a position of authority over her and the rest of the women astronauts causes Elma further problems.

Aside from the initial meteorite hit, there are plane crashes, rocket crashes, natural disasters and action aplenty, just in case you think the above descriptions make The Calculating Stars sound too much like a character study. It’s that, and so much more.

The novel has won the Nebula and Locus awards and tonight, it may win a Hugo.

You don’t have to take my word for it, but I give The Calculating Stars my highest recommendation.

My rating:

Five out of five stars.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Aug 4-10, 2019

It’s that time of week again. Let’s get your mental corn popping!

Jake Cline: internet slang is more sophisticated than it seems. An introduction to Gretchen McCulloch’s new book, Because Internet. Because language 🙂 The Atlantic

Dr. Becky relates the story of the Milky Way.

Rowan Jacobsen dives into SoulBuffalo and their ocean plastic field trip for corporate executives. Outside Online

Veronique Greenwood explains why indoor air quality is important to our bodies and our brains. BBC

Bill Sullivan shares his surprising findings about why we like what we like. National Geographic

Joe tries out human echolocation. It’s okay to be smart

SciShow examines the mammalian dive reflex.

Kate Bueckert reports on a flicker of hope in the insect world: firefly and monarch numbers are up according to Ontario researchers. CBC

And that was thoughty Thursday. Thanks for visiting and I hope you found something you need.

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

ThoughtyThursday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 4-10, 2019

You’ve worked hard this week (so far). Reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings.

Jael McHenry: it’s always in the last place you look. Donald Maass considers persuasion.  Then, Kathryn Craft wants you to give your reader an experience. David Corbett has a conversation with Zoe Quinton about developmental editing. And Kathryn Magendie writes about becoming a rogue planet (when you lose your publisher). Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland shares part two of her five character arcs at a glance series: the three negative arcs. Helping Writers Become Authors

Abigail K. Perry looks at characters in terms of grit, wit, and it. Slush Pile Survivor

C.S. Lakin explains when telling, not showing, emotion is the right choice. Writers Helping Writers

Leanne Sowul: what writing can do for you. DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci lists her top ten worst dystopian tropes.

Sangeeta Mehta interviews Sarah LaPolla and Kim Lionetti for Jane Friedman’s blog.

Chuck Wendig: on writing from a place of fear vs from a place of love. Terribleminds

Reedsy offers a guide to fantasy subgenres.

Chris Winkle: filling in your story’s middle. Then, Oren Ashkenazi relates six common forms of bad writing advice. Mythceants

Jami Gold: when writing advice goes wrong.

Robert Lee Brewer looks at the difference between it’s and its. I know, seems basic. Doesn’t mean I don’t make the mistake from time to time. Reinforcement is always good. Writer’s Digest

Richard Lea and Sian Cain pay tribute to Toni Morrison, who died August 6, at the age of 88. The Guardian

Dwight Garner honours Morrison as a writer of many gifts who bent language to her will. The New York Times

There were so many more tributes, this humble curation would have been huge. I just chose a couple.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found something of value.

Until Thursday, be well, my writerly friends!

Tipsday2019

Book review of Putting the Science in Fiction

Another overdue review.

What Amazon says:

Science and technology have starring roles in a wide range of genres–science fiction, fantasy, thriller, mystery, and more. Unfortunately, many depictions of technical subjects in literature, film, and television are pure fiction. A basic understanding of biology, physics, engineering, and medicine will help you create more realistic stories that satisfy discerning readers.

This book brings together scientists, physicians, engineers, and other experts to help you:

  • Understand the basic principles of science, technology, and medicine that are frequently featured in fiction.
  • Avoid common pitfalls and misconceptions to ensure technical accuracy.
  • Write realistic and compelling scientific elements that will captivate readers.
  • Brainstorm and develop new science- and technology-based story ideas.

Whether writing about mutant monsters, rogue viruses, giant spaceships, or even murders and espionage, Putting the Science in Fiction will have something to help every writer craft better fiction.

Putting the Science in Fiction collects articles from “Science in Sci-fi, Fact in Fantasy,” Dan Koboldt’s popular blog series for authors and fans of speculative fiction (http://dankoboldt.com/science-in-scifi/). Each article discusses an element of sci-fi or fantasy with an expert in that field. Scientists, engineers, medical professionals, and others share their insights in order to debunk the myths, correct the misconceptions, and offer advice on getting the details right.

PuttingTheScienceInFiction

My thoughts:

I subscribe to Dan Koboldt’s newsletter and refer to his site as a resource for research. When I learned that he was putting some of the essays from his site into a book, I had to buy it. Now I have a great reference on my shelf which is a starting point for research.

The book is divided into sections that cover biomedical topics, including death, genetics (Koboldt’s specialization), neuroscience, wildlife biology, artificial intelligence and other computer-based technology, Earth and the planets of our solar system, astronomy and space flight, and, finally, the future of space travel and exoplanets.

Chuck Wendig writes the foreword, on the advice to write what you know and what it really means (do your research). In his signature playful tone, Wendig clarifies the advice and demonstrates how he’s applied it in his own writing life, finishing by calling Putting the Science in Fiction a great launching pad for essential research.

The contributors themselves write with humour—find out why, as a woman working in a lab, you should never wear thong underwear—and draw on their personal expertise for an enjoyable read. In the chapters addressing space travel, they reveal their geek roots, honouring the books, television shows, and movies that inspired them while at the same time pointing out the technical misconceptions such media promote.

Putting the Science in Fiction is a great reference for any writer’s shelf.

My rating:

Four stars out of five.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, July 28-Aug 3, 2019

And now, it’s time to get your mental corn popping.

‘They have become the new religion’: Esther Perel says we expect too much from relationships. “Out in the open” with Piya Chattopadhyay on CBC.

Why the trend of surveilling strangers online proves we are horrible. This ties in to the post I shared by Kim Fahner last week and why we should resist objectifying others for our amusement or sense of superiority. “Spark” with Nora Young on CBC.

Allie Volpe explains why kids invent imaginary friends. Guess us writers just never grew up 😉 The Atlantic

SciShow Psych looks at the differences between men and women who are diagnosed with ADHD.

Ethan Siegal: today is not 24 hours long. Forbes

Dr. Becky observes the cartwheel galaxy. Space is weird

The BBC reports on the discovery of a clay tablet on which the oldest extract of Homer’s Odyssey has been found. Struggled for a while over whether to post this in Tipsday or here on Thoughty Thursday, but the latter won out, because archeology.

Chris Dawson: North Bay unrolls its first accessible beach mat. The Northern Life

Jeffery DelViscio explains how a bionic hand helps amputees “feel” again. Scientific American

Martin Giles wonders, is AI the next big climate change threat? We have no idea. MIT Technology Review

Massive ice melt caused by heatwave over Greenland. CBC

Kent German explores the relationship between redwoods, birds, and microphones in the quest to save an endangered species. CNET

SciShow makes a dog Q&A compilation 🙂

Because tardigrades! Chubby, misunderstood, and not immortal. Journey into the microcosmos

Thanks for visiting and I hope you found some inspirational fuel for your next (or current) creative project.

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

ThoughtyThursday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 28-Aug 3, 2019

And here we are in August! It’s time to change direction and indulge in some informal writerly learnings.

Kathryn Craft: where a writer’s story begins. Laurie Schnebly Campbell asks, where, when, why? Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weiland helps you learn five types of character arc at a glance: the two heroic arcs, part 1 of 2. Helping Writers Become Authors

William R. Leibowitz delves into the challenges of believability in writing science fiction. C. S. Lakin

Allison Winn Scotch is writing in the chaos. Meanwhile, Cathy Yardly is addressing anxiety. Writer Unboxed

How to use and eliminate passive voice. Reedsy

Nathan Bransford explains what it costs to self-publish a book.

Sara Letourneau is identifying themes in poetry. Jeanette the Writer extolls the power of punctuation.  DIY MFA

Jami Gold: do we know what we’re capable of?

Peter Gelfan explains how to craft engaging dialogue exchanges. Writers Helping Writers

How to write a fight scene. Reedsy

Angela Ackerman is depicting characters held back by fear. Then, Oren Ashkenazi teaches authorial endorsement 101. Mythcreants

Robert Lee Brewer explains the difference between a lot and allot (and that alot is NOT a word!). Writer’s Digest

Cecelia Watson recounts the birth of the semi-colon. The Paris Review

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found something helpful.

Until Thursday, be well, my writerly friends!

Tipsday2019

The next chapter: July 2019 update

So … here we are in the dog days of August. The spring may have been a late one but, as it did last year, the temperature rose quickly. We had to use out portable air conditioner a couple of nights in June and a couple more in July. I find myself wondering if the weather will continue hot. It’s interesting (to me) to observe the effects of climate change locally.

The month in writing

July was a quiet month. I continue my review of the Ascension series at a snail’s pace. I’m only up to reviewing the first part of book two at the moment. I blame work, but really, I think I just need a break. I’ve just had five days off and I haven’t looked at it … I may try to turn that around.

JulyProgress

I continue to revise January’s short story. It’s closer, but not quite “there” yet. There’s more work to be done. February’s story waits in the wings. I set myself the goal of writing 2,500 words of short fiction in July and wrote 2,599 words or 104% of my goal.

I blogged 4,695 words of my 2,800-word goal, or 169%. This was largely because I finally got around to writing a book review. I have a backlog of them pending so expect more in the coming weeks. I may have to reconsider my blogging goals accordingly.

Finally, I wrote my latest Speculations column in 1,283 words, or 128% of my 1,000-word goal.

It was a decent month, writing wise, but quiet, as I said.

Filling the well

July 15th marked my 25th wedding anniversary with Phil. I mentioned on social media that it doesn’t seem like that much time has passed and yet I find it difficult to remember life without Phil. That’s not true, I have a lot of pre-Phil memories, but they’ve taken on a surreal quality, like they’re artefacts from someone else’s life.

On the 6th, my sister-in-law threw us a nice, quiet party. Just the Moms and some family friends. It was a lovely day.

The other writerly event I attended was Ad Astra, which was from July 12-14. I went down July 13 and came back July 14, so it was a bit of a whirlwind, but I still attended some great panels and met up with some writerly friends.

What I’m watching and reading

Phil and I watched the last season of Jessica Jones. It was disappointing, but I think that came of trying to turn a non-powered person, Sallinger, into an effective villain who managed to stymie the police, Jessica, Trish, Malcolm and J’s new boyfriend, AKA, headache boy 🙂 Jeri’s sub-plot was all over the place which, in turn, messed up Malcolm’s. Jessica’s reconciliation with Trish was never genuine and it was unsurprising when—SPOILERS!—the newly-minted Hellcat was arrested.

At the end, Jessica’s about to leave New York, dispirited by Trish’s downfall, her adopted mother’s death (following on the heels of her birth mother’s death at Trish’s hands), and her failure to bring Sallinger to justice. She’s broken up with her boyfriend, referred him to Costa as a CI, and handed the key to Alias Investigations to Malcolm.

As she’s purchasing her train ticket to a randomly chosen destination, Killian’s voice tells her how right she is to give up. Jessica’s surrounded by the violet light that is her first nemesis’s signature and she turns away from the ticket counter, smiling, while the camera pans wide and fades to black. Odd choice for a series ending.

We also watched the final season of i, Zombie, which was more satisfying, but a little contrived. I thought that—AGAIN SPOILERS!—Liv and Major’s decision to remain zombie, raising their zombie family and providing a home for all the zombies who couldn’t, or didn’t want to, be cured … odd. Not because they wouldn’t have done it. They would so have sacrificed their human lives to help others, but the reasons for their choosing this life arise so late in the game that it belies their previous and oft-expressed desires to the contrary.

No movies this month.

Reading-wise, I loved Lauren B. Davis’s The Grimoire of Kensington Market. It was a retelling of The Snow Queen but had a feminist flavour and living/mystical stores, which is a trope I’m fond of. I won’t say much more because this is another novel you should really pick up for yourself.

I also read Eden Robinson’s Son of a Trickster and, again, loved it. I find I’m really enjoying indigenous stories these days. I recommend it highly.

I read La Brigantessa, written by writerly friend Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli. This novel was historical fiction set in post-Unification Italy. It focuses on the journey of Gabriella and the event that force her to flee her village to eventually seek sanctuary with the brigands of the Aspromonte mountains.

Then, I read Jim Butchers The Aeronaut’s Windlass, which I enjoyed. I’m looking forward to the next instalment of the Cinder Spires series. While I loved Rowl, I thought it strange that he was the powerful figure in the cat world. Like the great cats, feral populations are generally matriarchies.

I liked the ensemble cast with their unique characteristics and abilities. Bridget’s ability to talk to cats, Benedict’s warrior-born, feline qualities, and the Etherealists’ insanity. This last was fascinating. Every Etherealist is twisted by the etheric forces they work with, but each, in order to control their madness, channels it into one aspect or obsession. Master Ferus needs collections of very specific things, his apprentice Folly can’t speak directly to anyone but her etheric crystals, and Sycorax is obsessed with etiquette and politeness. I’m curious to see more.

Next, I dove into Emma Newman’s Any Other Name, the second in her Split Worlds Series. The first novel left off on an uncomfortable note, with Cathy in an arranged, and forced, marriage. Her mother actually drugs her into acquiescence. The theme continues with Cathy’s new husband alternately trying to convince her to “make a go” of it, and using charms to coerce her into bed so they can a) consummate their marriage before either of their fae lords takes exception and b) conceive the child that is Cathy’s primary obligation in the arrangement.

The fae lords are manipulative in their own ways as are the family patroons. Charmed rings that enforce fidelity, charms that guarantee a boy at conception, and demands that Cathy become duchess of London and to keep up the appearances due her new station.

Meanwhile, Max continues to look into the mystery of the bath chapter’s destruction and Sam grows increasingly concerned about his wife’s promotion and new flat.

I read Story Arcana, by Caroline Donahue, ostensibly about using the major arcana of the tarot as a structure guide for both the novel and the writer’s life. I became aware of Donahue and her book through an interview with Joanna Penn on the Creative Penn podcast. While I found the book useful, it was poorly edited and largely a promotional tool for Donahue’s online course of the same name, site, and podcast. The podcast looks good and I’ll probably tune in. I was just a little disappointed in the presentation.

Finally, I read Joe Mahoney’s A Time and a Place. I enjoyed the story, loved the T’Klee, the novel’s cat-like aliens, and appreciated the parallels to T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone. The execution wasn’t quite up to the premise, though.

Look forward to reviews of most of these books over the coming months.

And that was this month in this writer’s life.

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

The Next Chapter

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, July 21-27, 2019

Since I’m a learning mutt, the stuff that interests me runs the gamut. I hope something here pops you mental corn. They did mine 🙂

This week, a couple of disturbing images were shared online about vulnerable populations in downtown Sudbury. I will not share them. My brave and thoughtful friend, Kim Fahner, was moved to post about it: a reflection on despair, mental health, and being mindful of one another when it’s not always popular to do so. Choose compassion people. There but for the grace of God go I. The Republic of Poetry

A group of young people on Manitoulin Island spent the last month crafting a birch bark canoe like their Anishnaabe ancestors. CBC’s “Up North” with Waubgeshig Rice.

Marina Koren tells the story of JoAnn Morgan, the Apollo engineer who almost want allowed in the control room. The Atlantic

It’s okay to be smart tries to figure out why we haven’t found evidence of other technological civilizations in the galaxy yet.

Physics Girl follows up with how we’re looking for life within our solar system.

Marjan Yazdi invites us to learn about the ancient art of henna-making in modern-day Iran. Ozy

Bob Holmes reveals how archaeologists study the common peoples of the past. Knowledgeable

SciShow Psych looks at the sunk cost fallacy.

Neville Ellis considers hope and mourning in the Anthropocene: understanding ecological grief. The Conversation

It’s okay to be smart considers the wood wide web.

Thank you for stopping by. This weekend, I’ll be composing my next chapter update for July. You’re welcome back if you want to find out what I’ve been up to.

Until then, be well!

ThoughtyThursday2019