Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Sept 8-14, 2019

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

Erika W. Smith reveals the spiritual reason Friday the thirteenth is considered unlucky. Refinery29

Cassie Shortsleeves explains why being near water really does make us happier. Conde Nast Traveler Magazine

Rod McCullom reveals how bullying may shape adolescent brains. UnDark

SciShow Psych looks at the varieties of bipolar disorder.

Sophia Chen: Sean Carroll thinks we all exist on multiple worlds. Nabbed his book, Something Deeply Hidden, on the strength of this article. A little mind-blowing 🙂 Wired

Gabriel Popkin explores soil’s microbial market and the ruthless side of forests. Ties the “wood wide web” to the Gaia hypothesis—awesome stuff. Quanta Magazine

David Gelles: Jane Goodall keeps going, with a lot of hope (and a bit of whiskey). The New York Times

Physics girl looks at the surprising ways Mars is hostile to life.

Dr. Becky answers the question, if the universe is expanding, why do galaxies collide?

Andrew Lasane introduces us to the “Universe of Words” installation by Emmanuelle Moureaux. This is Colossal

Jessica Stewart shares 15 powerful finalists for the 2019 wildlife photograph of the year contest. Warning: though compelling, several of these photos are uncomfortable, if not outright disturbing. My Modern Met

Thanks for visiting. I hope you found something to inspire your current or next creative project.

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

ThoughtyThursday2019

Advertisements

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 8-14, 2019

I present this week’s batch of informal writerly learnings 🙂

Daryl Rothman visits Helping Writers Become Authors: how to write stories that matter with writing’s secret formula.

Jim Dempsey wants you to give useful criticism. Kathryn Craft studies showing through exposition. Juliet Marillier considers publicity and the introvert. David Corbett is turning a terrible truth into compelling fiction. Kathryn Magendie is living the dreamy dreamland. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin explains how to write a scene. Reedsy

Jami Gold considers what’s stopping our characters: avoiding change. Writers Helping Writers

Kris Kennedy returns to Jami Gold’s blog for part three of her avoid infodumping by making backstory essential series.

Nathan Bransford lists seven reasons your characters feel flat. Then, Nathan lays out your options in hybrid publishing.

Manuela Williams explains how to use Pinterest to create an author brand board. DIY MFA

Fae Rowan shares ten more f-words for writers and their characters. Writers in the Storm

Sophia Jeppson explains how to make time travel logical. Oren Ashkenazi considers five ridiculous organizations from popular series. Mythcreants

Robert Lee Brewer explains the difference between prophesy and prophecy. Then, he tackles the difference between allude and elude. Writer’s Digest

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you found the information you need to move forward with your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well, my friends!

Tipsday2019

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Sept 1-7, 2019

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

German Lopez: America’s problem with gun violence, explained. Vox

It’s okay to be smart debunks seven scientific myths.

Peter Coy explains why the periodic table is more important than ever before. Bloomberg

PBS Space Time considers whether Earth’s magnetic poles are flipping.

James Gallagher reports that scientists have identified the gene responsible for left-handedness—which also affects how the brain processes language. BBC

Josh Dzieza follows some storm chasers as they search the clouds for the key to climate change: thunderheads. The Verge

Jessica Stewart showcases the amazing winners of the 2019 bird photographer of the year contest. My Modern Met

Thank you for visiting. I hope you found something to inspire your next creative project.

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

ThoughtyThursday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 1-7, 2019

This week’s batch of informal writerly learnings is a bit more select than usual, but it’s all good stuff 🙂

Greer Macallister is defending (or not) historical fiction. Annie Neugebauer has some advice for writers who are in it. Donald Maass: the anti-arc. Therese Walsh wants you to move beyond two-dimensional character building and capture the real. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland dives deep into creating your character’s inner conflict: want vs. need. Helping Writers Become Authors

James Scott Bell asks, how realistic do your action scenes need to be? Then, Angelica Hartgers recommends using backward design to plan your story. Writers Helping Writers

Helen Darling gives you the lowdown on ISBNs. Rebecca Fish Ewen expounds on the impact of lost words (and decries their loss). DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci explains how to end your story.

Chris Winkle shares six ways to add novelty to your story. Mythcreants

Kris Kennedy’s back on Jami Gold’s blog with part two of her avoid infodumping by making backstory essential series.

Jillian Boehme offers some survival tips for writers who would rather hide. Fiction University

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

Until Thursday, be well!

Tipsday2019

Book review of What the Wind Brings by Matthew Hughes

What the publisher says:

In the mid 1500s shipwrecked African slaves melded with the indigenous peoples of coastal Ecuador and together they fought the Spanish colonial power to a standstill, to remain independent for centuries.  The story of the people of Esmeraldas is told through the eyes of three characters: Alonso, an escaped slave; Expectation, an a-gender shaman; and Alejandro, a priest on the run from the Inquisition.

With its slipstream elements this novel carries a flavour of South American magical realism tradition into a grand historical epic.  Both sweeping and intimate, it is a delight to read from beginning to end, and we are honoured that Matt has decided to entrust his grand work to us.

Pulp Literature

WhatTheWindBrings

My thoughts:

Hughes is not shy about calling What the Wind Brings his magnum opus. It’s a novel that’s been over twenty years in the making, the author not wanting to publish the work until he felt it was ready to meet the public. That time is here, and Hughes has produced a novel worthy of his ambitions for it.

My favourite character was Expectation, the nigua shaman. They’re an outsider because of their vocation, but even more so because of their gender and identity. None of the other characters quite know what to do with or about Expectation or even what to call them. Accordingly, some characters identify Expectation as she, some as he, and some identify them by their vocation, or, pejoratively as a witch.

Expectation doesn’t care. They know who they are and what they need to do, and they find a way to persevere despite the antagonism of Anton and the other Africans who have taken positions of power within the new community after the shipwreck.

Expectation has a spirit guide, who counsels them in their work. They heal sickness in the community and they, in turn, counsel the community’s leaders.

They’re pivotal to the melding of the Africans, the nigua, and the other tribes eventually brought into the larger Esmeraldas community. Expectation also plays an important role in Alonso’s story arc when they recover Alonso’s lost spirit guide, and in Alejandro’s arc, when they trepan the Trinitarian monk’s skull after a severe head injury endangers his life.

What the Wind Brings is, in my opinion, Expectation’s story. They’re the character that does the most to bring the community together and ensure its continued harmonious survival. While Expectation’s shamanism is the source of the novel’s speculative elements, they also display a healthy scientific curiosity, thinking about the nature of illness and contagion. These ponderings enable Expectation to adapt to other ways of thinking and healing and help them to remain relevant in the changing political structure of the Esmeraldas community.

Hughes writes with candour and compassion about the African slaves, the Ecuadorian indigenous peoples, and even the Portuguese and Spanish colonizers. His characters are, first and foremost, people with relatable fears and goals, flaws and better qualities. He does not shy away from the harm his characters do to one another, purposeful or inadvertent. There is great violence in the novel, but also great moments of compassion and love.

Highly recommended.

My rating:

Four out of five stars.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Aug 25-31, 2019

You’ve made it this far through the week. Reward yourself. Get your mental corn popping!

Jennifer Walter explains that, to our brains, it doesn’t matter whether we read or listen. Discover

Gregory Barber: what science fiction can teach computer science about ethics. Wired

SciShow explains how projects for living on Mars can improve life on Earth (from climate change to affordable and recyclable homes).

Deborah Netburn shows you how the world can cut food waste in half. LA Times

Jeff Goodell wonders, can we survive extreme heat? Rolling Stone

Nithin Coca: as the Amazon burns, Indonesia shows the world how to fight forest fires. Ozy

Caroline Riseboro: why we’re losing ground in the fight for gender equality. TEDXDonMills

Dan Nosowitz says, respect the hammock, one of humanity’s greatest creations. Atlas Obscura

Michael Greshko explains how this “unprecedented” skull reveals the face of a human ancestor. National Geographic

Dr. Becky explains the proof of dark matter’s existence.

SciShow Space considers the propulsive potential of the Hall Thruster.

Then, SciShow Space news announces the collision of a black hole and a neutron star detected by LIGO and VIRGO plus, progress on the Europa Clipper mission.

Emma Taggart shows us artistically arranged time slice photos that display the stages of a total solar eclipse. My Modern Met

M.R. O’Connor experiences a day in the life of a tree. The New Yorker

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found some inspiration to feed into your current of next creative project.

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

ThoughtyThursday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 25-31, 2019

Ah. Here we are in September. Back to … all the things. Ease back into your routine with some informal writerly learnings.

Lainey Cameron advises you use a three-tier backup plan. Then Tiffany Yates Martin helps you to reclaim the creative spark in troubled times. Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weiland explains how to use a truth chart to figure out your character’s arc. Helping Writers Become Authors

Julia Munroe Martin wonders, what makes you love your main character? Molly Best Tinsley explains how hearing voice(s) led to order in a previously chaotic manuscript. Barbara O’Neal explains what happens when the book takes over everything. Writer Unboxed

Pathologist Jane Bennett Munro wants to help you explain forensics to readers. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Jeanette the Writer reveals the secret importance of readability. Tess Enterline explains why it’s okay (and sometimes necessary) to step away from our writing.  Constance Emmett shares five tips for writing complex, flesh and blood, LGBTQ+ characters. DIY MFA

Janice Hardy doesn’t want you to create cardboard conflicts. Fiction University

Jami Gold explains how sequels make scenes stronger. Then, Kris Kennedy stops by to explain how to avoid info dumping by making backstory essential.

Chris Winkle: how to turn your fanfic into your original fiction. Then, Oren Ashkenazi answers the question, how do cannon affect your naval combat? Mythcreants

Robert Lee Brewer considers OK vs. Okay vs. O.K. Writer’s Digest

N.K. Jemisin, Jasmine Guillory, and Lauren Wilkinson: publishing’s still owned by white men. The Washington Post

Nick Venable talks to the creators of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance about the challenges of making a puppet series on Netflix. Saw the first episode—love! CinemaBlend

And that was tipsday. I hope you found something to help you progress with your work in progress.

Come back on Thursday for some thoughty goodness 🙂

Tipsday2019

The next chapter: August 2019 update

September. The end of summer; the resumption of everything else. Fall is a favourite season of mine. Cooler days, brilliant colours, and the bittersweet retreat of the light. Fall is a season of gathering, mustering, of rededicating oneself to one’s priorities.

To that end, I’ve taken this long weekend and, with the exception of this blog post, I’m not writing anything, nor am I critiquing anything. I’m just taking some time for myself and to think about the rest of the year in terms of what I want to accomplish.

The goals I set at the start of the year have mostly been laid aside. Now I’m laying aside a few more and narrowing my focus yet again.

Taking stock

While I did finish drafting the final novel in my epic fantasy series around the time that I’d hoped to, my subsequent review of the series has been agonizingly slow. I haven’t yet finished reading through book two and making my notes. I’d hoped to have read through the whole and started on the next round of revisions. I see that it’s going to take significantly more time than I had allotted. At this rate, I’ll be reading through the end of the year, at least, and not getting to revisions until some time next year.

This is okay. I have more learning and more improving to do before I can do justice to the series.

I’d also set the rather lofty goal of trying to write one short story per month. I have one finished and I’m trying to revise that into shape so I can start submitting it. I’ve remembered that I suck at short. Half the stories I come up with are actually novel length, or at least novella length. Still, I’m going to keep working at the one I’ve written and working on the second story idea I came up with. I hope to have two decent stories moving into next year.

I decided to leave off revising my short stories into collections for self-publication. They’ll still be there. I can return to the projects (one genre and one non-genre collection) in the future.

I did assemble my poetry into a collection and I’ve now received some excellent revision notes. I’ll look at preparing that for submission in September. I’ve also written a few new poems and hope to get those published somewhere in the nearish future. I already sent one submission, in fact, and got a rejection the next day. I hope that doesn’t reflect the overall success of this venture. It’s been a few years since I’ve written much poetry and I’m out of touch with the market.

I’ve received some insightful, but difficult-to-hear, critique on the SF novel I put up for my critique group. I’ve decided that I’m going to work on restructuring and revising that novel for the remainder of the year. This includes November.

Yes, for the first year since I’ve participated, I’m going to be a NaNoWriMo rebel and work on revision instead of a new work. I had thought I was going to proceed to one of the other novel series, but I realize that I can’t keep producing new material without dedicating focused time to revising my existing novels.

Something else I must confess: I have yet to figure out revision in a practical way that works for me. The closest I’ve come to true revision is the work I’ve done on the first book of my epic fantasy series. I’ve changed PoV, removed PoV characters, and removed characters entirely. I’ve rewritten chapters, put chapters on index cards, pinned them to my cork board, and reorganized them for more structural integrity. Still, after all that work, the core story has stayed the same.

In subsequent novels, I’ve only reviewed the work, maybe added a few elements, and mapped the structure as it exists without changing it substantially. I’ve grown fearful of revision. I think I just have to put on my mature writer trousers and do the work. Revision is where all my resistance lives these days.

So, I’m going to go back to basics. I’m going to read through the critiques again and let everything settle. I’ve already started to make some notes and I’m thinking about the story all the time. I’m going to take a page from Victoria Mixon’s book and “reverse engineer” the story, work on the character arcs and story structure, and then I’m going to rewrite the story.

I want to focus on this novel because it’s my only standalone right now. I think it will be my best chance at getting representation.

Wish me luck many broken pencils.

The month in writing

This month was a quiet one. My sense of things is that the sea change happening now has been in the works for a long time. It’s probably been trying to make itself heard since my epic burnout, if I’m being honest. I have to find a better way of taking my work from crappy draft to publishable work.

Accordingly, the bulk of my writing this past month has been on this blog. I increased my blogging goal because of the addition of book reviews, which I’m still trying to catch up on. I’m only going back to the books I read this year, otherwise I’d never catch up (!) still, there are a lot of books to catch up on. Still even with the increased goal of 4,800 words, I blogged 5,097 words, or 106%.

I finished the second version of my January short story. It’s now 6,222 words and will likely have to be cut, but I only wrote 602 “new” words on the story in August. After that, it was all cutting and editing, so there wasn’t anything to report, because how do you record a negative word count? Well, I could put a minus sign beside it, but it becomes even more of a challenge when the word count goes up and down several times in a single writing session. Although I probably did write at least 2,000 words on the story, I can only count the 602, which is 24% of my 2,500-word goal for short fiction in the month.

AugustProgress

The third thing I did was continue my review of the Ascension series. As I mentioned, I’m still on book two.

‘Nuff said there.

Filling the well

The two things I have to report here were not events, per se, and there are no pictures or other artefacts to share with you.

The first thing was my meeting with my poet friend to go over my manuscript. That few hours going over what I needed to fix or change and her encouragement to write some new material was refreshing and I came away from the meeting feeling lighter. It helps that she’s one of my best friends and has always liked my poetry. I’ve already written one new poem which has passed muster 😉

The other was a brief note from one of my critique group encouraging me to take stock and not give up on the SF novel. Another said she enjoyed the novel despite its deficiencies. It’s something to move forward with.

Hope is always a good thing.

What I’m watching and reading

August saw the end of a few mid-season shows.

The latest season of The Handmaid’s Tale came to its close with more harrowing trials for poor June. She’s thoroughly mad now and determined to stay in Gilead until her daughter is free. She’s killed one of the commanders, the Commander, in fact, and Gilead is reeling. The Waterfords have basically screwed each other over and are both in American custody. June’s also been shot helping more than fifty children, with their handmaidens and marthas, to escape. She’s managed to stay clear of retribution, so far, but I don’t think that situation can pertain without seriously straining credibility. That June has remained largely unscathed has already strained my credibility to breaking.

But, of course, I’ll be watching the next season to see what happens. I’ll probably pick up The Testaments when it’s released later this month.

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD also finished its, what, sixth season? They continued with the fall out from the time travel shenanigans of last season, searching for and finding Fitz, getting embroiled in Chronicom politics, and a strange plague of beasties that destroys worlds. That plague and its mistress, Izel, are being hunted by a man called Sarge who looks exactly like Coulson and, in fact, turns out to be what’s left of him in some inexplicable (literally, they never do manage to explain it to my satisfaction) cosmic switcheroo. Izel is heading for Earth.

She gets possession of the monoliths, which were apparently hers all along, and Coulson let the alien personality within him, Izel’s partner, take over. Though the team manages to defeat the otherworldly pair and close the portal they opened to their realm, May is dying. Fitz and Simmons, aided by a deus ex machina Enoch, come to the rescue. May is put in stasis and they travel back in time to New York to foil the plans of the other Chronicoms who want to make Earth their new home world and have gone back in time to set in motion the events that will destroy the human race and make the world ready for their occupancy when the time comes.

The next season is supposed to be their last and I’m kind of looking forward to it (the end, that is).

I also watch the latest season of The Good Witch. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine.

Finally, Phil and I watch the first season of The Boys. It was dark and bloody and thoroughly enjoyable.

Reading-wise, I tackled Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Fated Sky, the sequel to The Calculating Stars. Loved.

Then, I read Richard Wagamese’s unfinished last novel, Starlight. It was lovely and touching and I wish he had been able to finish it.

Next, I dove into Emma Newman’s Planetfall series, reading Planetfall, After Atlas, and Before Mars. I enjoyed all three, the third the most, but, as in her Split Worlds series, Newman is drawn to writing isolated and somewhat powerless characters. It’s sometimes difficult to read, but ultimately satisfying.

Finally, I read Ursula K. Le Guin’s Words are My Matter, a collection of some of her speeches, critical introductions, and reviews. Loved.

Again, I’ll be reviewing several of these in coming months.

And that was a month in this writer’s life. Thanks for coming by.

Until tomorrow, 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, Aug 18-24, 2019

It’s time to get your mental corn popping!

Eleanor Cummins: how humans have created color for thousands of years. Popular Science

How nature works as seen in stunning psychedelic illustrations of scientific processes and phenomena in a 19th century French physics textbook. BrainPickings

More researchy goodness. The Ritman Library is making its Hermetic collection available online.

Satellite data reveals a record number of fires in the Brazilian rainforest. BBC

Mary Anne Potts explains what it’s like to swim through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. National Geographic

On a local level, the CBC reports on the Sudbury Conservation Authority’s puzzled reaction to direction and further cuts to funding.

SciShow Psych spelunks the uncanny valley.

David Armstrong shares neurologist Laura Boyle’s struggle back to health: in men, it’s Parkinson’s, but in women, it’s hysteria. ProPublica

SciShow Space news: new hypotheses about Jupiter’s core and estimates of the numbers of Earth-like planets.

More SciShow Space. This time, they’re breaking down the process that could make Mars settlement possible.

Simon Cooper, Charles Kemp, Daniel R. Little, and Duane W. Hamacher discuss: why do different cultures see such similar meanings in the constellations? The Conversation

SciShow wonders why there aren’t cancer-sniffing dogs in service.

I hope you found something to inspire or support your current creative project.

See you on the weekend for my next chapter update.

Until then, be well 🙂

ThoughtyThursday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 18-24, 2019

Ack! We’re in the last week of August! The weather’s still holding though. I, for one, am going to extend summer for as long as I can.

Whether you’re heading back to school or work, take some time to enjoy these informal writerly learnings 🙂

Vaughn Roycroft talks story endings: happy or sad or something else? Kathleen McCleary considers the values of good fiction. Writer Unboxed

Christina Delay extolls the power of the writing tribe. Then, Jenny Hansen covers the writer hierarchy of needs. Margie Lawson wants you to strive for excellence by using what you learn. Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weiland: how to tell if your story has too much plot, not enough character. Helping Writers Become Authors

Joanna Penn interviews Cat Rose about being a creative introvert. The Creative Penn

Roz Morris offers seven swift storytelling hacks for backstory, description, dialogue, exposition, point of view, and plot. Nail Your Novel

Victoria Mixon takes a different approach to character motivation. Then, September C. Fawkes shares four keys to a powerful denouement. Writers Helping Writers

Jenna Moreci compares static and dynamic characters.

Abigail K. Perry delves into James Scott Bell’s eleventh signpost scene: lights out. Brenda Joyce Patterson takes a deep dive into playwriting. Then Bethany Henry offers five tips for creating engaging characters. DIY MFA

Janice Hardy explains how to write a scene (and what qualifies as a scene). Fiction University

Jami Gold hopes you take a leap of faith in fiction and in life.

Oren Ashkenazi analyses seven stories with contrived character conflict. Mythcreants

William R. Leibowitz details his research for his latest novel: using facts as the base of science fiction. Writer’s Digest

Laurie Penny says, we can be heroes: how nerds are reinventing pop culture. A story about stories, fanfic, structure, the hero’s journey, and awesome. Wired

Thanks for visiting. I’ll be back on Thursday with some thoughty links for you.

Until then, be well.

Tipsday2019