Muse-inks: Gittin’ ‘er done

I’m writing again, slowly building back up. I probably won’t write today because the weekend has gotten away from me and the Sudbury Writers’ Guild Newsletter is due. But it feels good to be getting words on the page.

At work, we’re almost at the end of the fiscal year and so somethings have settled down. Our problematic pay system is still problematic, but our employer has agreed to hold off on the collection of overpayments until all underpayments have first been issued. The union fought hard for the concession and I’m grateful, not so much for myself, though I have been affected, but for all the employees less fortunate than me facing huge overpayments or underpayments.

It’s a serious situation. On one hand, some employees haven’t been able to pay their mortgages and loans. Some haven’t been able to pay rent or for day care. On the other hand, employees are delaying retirement, or turning down promotions because they fear that their pay will be stopped, as has happened to other employees.

Progress is being made, but it’s slow, and for some, it’s already too late.

Phil’s work situation hasn’t improved. The promise of help isn’t materializing and he’s still facing a number of deadlines that he can’t meet on his own. It’s just not possible, and though consequences are continually threatened, no one is willing to explain exactly what those consequences are.

We aren’t really in the financial situation to allow Phil to retire, and he’s not willing to take a stress leave, though things are bad enough that he has considered it.

It’s incredibly frustrating and Phil can’t help but bring it all home. Our crazy bout of cold/flu (we’re heading into week three and it’s not just cough and congestion—aches, weakness, and nausea have joined the party) hasn’t helped.

Several my colleagues at work have been stricken. It’s not fun.

Torvi was spayed, chipped, and got her final vaccines this past week. With those procedures done, she’s officially transferred from the rescue’s ownership to ours. She was sent home with three days of Metacam and Trazodone (that’s an anti-anxiety med) to keep her calm. That course of treatment is now complete, and the Torvi-beast is back to her old, pugilistic self.

Dr. Andrews did a fabulous job. The stitches are internal and dissolving. I wasn’t able to get a decent picture of that, but here’s her intravenous site, fully healed. Trust me, her incision looks just as good. And, I took another picture of her in a rare, calm moment.

I’ve signed us up for beginner obedience starting this coming Thursday for ten weeks.

I hope that our Torvi stresses (relatively minor as they are) will soon be at an end.


The orchids continue to cheer me with their bloomage.

And that’s been a week in this writer’s life.

I hope y’all had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day and that the spring equinox brings some light back into your lives.

And now, it’s on to the newsletter!

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



Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, March 4-10, 2018

It’s a very small Thoughty Thursday this week. I blame the travel and the illen. I hope to have a little more brain in coming weeks.

John Pavlovitz: acknowledging our grief anniversaries.

Nikhil Sonnad explains how the “forgetting curve” makes learning difficult. Quartz

Manisha Krishnan: dear white people, please stop pretending reverse racism is real. Vice

Lisa Odjig, hoop dancer. Elle Magazine, the movement.


An awesome resource: Ever wanted to know what indigenous land you’re on? Now you can figure it out. Includes North America and Australia.

I hope that something in this curation got your mental corn popping.

Be well until the weekend!


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 4-10, 2018

Your informal writerly learnings for the week, gentle reader 🙂

Marisa de los Santos is writing through the rough parts. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass expounds on high drama and heroism. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Craft: proving your protagonist has what it takes. Writer Unboxed

Jeanne Kisacky discusses the ups and downs of the supporters in a writer’s life: a well-deserved expression of gratitude. Writer Unboxed

The island of misfit characters. Where intriguing characters go when they’re … not quite right. Kathryn Magendie on Writer Unboxed.

James Scott Bell: garlic breath for writers (AKA bad first pages). Writers Helping Writers

Angela Ackerman explains how to raise the stakes by making is personal. Writers Helping Writers

A.K. Perry begins a new series on signpost scenes with the disturbance. DIY MFA

Elisabeth Kauffman answers a question about character motive in her new series, ask the editor. DIY MFA

Sierra Delarosa lists five grammar mistakes writers should avoid. DIY MFA

Peter Selgin guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: how your story’s opening foreshadows (intentionally or not) what’s to come.

L.L. Barkat, who bid farewell to blogging years ago on Jane Friedman’s blog, returns to explain why blogging may no longer be such a bad thing anymore.

Chuck Wendig responds to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s tweet defining art and entertainment. Terribleminds

Kristen Lamb: how story forges, defines, and refines character.

Julie Glover asks, are you sick and tired of editing your novel? Writers in the Storm

Oren Ashkenazi explains why the term “Mary Sue” should be retired. Mythcreants

Nina Munteanu says, write about what you know.

Sudbury Writers’ Guild member and vice-president Vera Constantineau is interviewed on Morning North about her new fiction collection, Daisy Chained. CBC

Nnedi Okorafor: science fiction that imagines a future Africa. TED Talks

Leah Schnelbach wonders, how could I forget the liberating weirdness of Madeleine L’Engle?

Katy Waldman rereads A Wrinkle in Time after a childhood spent enthralled by Madeleine L’Engle. The New Yorker

Alison Flood reports that Shakespeare may have annotated his own source for Hamlet. The Guardian

Be well until Thursday, my friends!


Muse-inks: Sick away and figuring out where the stirrup is

This past week, I spent most of it out of town at a learning event for work. I carpooled with three of my colleagues, none of whom drive. The rental agency gave me a Ford Expedition, which I appreciated on the winter highways, but not so much in the parking garages of North York and Richmond Hill.

The hotel we stayed at was driving distance and we had to find parking at the office every morning. The mornings weren’t so bad. It was travelling down Tuesday and trying to find parking around noon that was the challenge. I levelled up my large vehicle driving skills, though.

And, as I mentioned last week, I had a cold the whole time. Being sick away is exhausting. I still have the dregs, but I’m in recovery.

Phil was not so lucky. I shared my illen with him prior to my departure and, as he texted me on Tuesday, “the man cold dialled up to eleven.” He’s still quite sick, but he’s determined to go back to work tomorrow because of the difficulties I’ve mentioned in past posts.

Torvi was quite good for him through the week but, because he was sick, Phil shipped her over to my mom’s most days, so he could stay in bed. Torvi destroyed Mom’s welcome mat, two hats, and she’s had to move the hall tree (an antique) into the basement and close the door. Torvi was jumping on it and threatened to tip it over.

Once Torvi is spayed and has her final vaccines, I’m definitely investing in obedience training.

While I was down south, because I was sick and on call for driving duties, I didn’t really have a lot of time to devote to creativity. I generally tackled essential duties, like curation, and went to bed early.

I let things slide Friday night after my return and caught up yesterday, though I was obliged to have not one, but two, naps yesterday. I should be fit to return to work tomorrow as well, though.

I did write a little bit in the last week, however. Sunday and Monday nights, I was able to commit a few words to Playing with Fire, and on Thursday night, I wrote a few more. Yay me 🙂

This is where “figuring out where the stirrup is” comes in. I’m ready to get back on the writing horse again, but the first step is to figure out where the stirrup is. One can’t get back in the saddle until one finds the stirrup. Not everyone has the ability to vault onto the horse and ride bareback 😉

I suppose I could have extended the metaphor to saddling the horse and tightening the girth, but the horse has been saddled and waiting for me since I started to think about PwF again. I think I’ll leave the equine metaphor there for now.

This morning we lost an hour. Daylight savings time is another challenging time of year for me. It usually takes me a week to properly adjust my sleeping and waking habits. I’m hoping my naps yesterday helped. We are creeping closer to the vernal equinox, though, and spring. It’s lighter in the mornings and the quality of the light is changing as the earth shifts on its seasonal axis. My mood is improving.

I also have my follow up appointment with my gynecologist for the ablation this week. So far, I have experienced two very light periods and I have stopped discharging in between. I’m seeing it as a good sign and have stopped taking my iron supplements. I’m going to let my body adjust to its new normal and hope that I don’t get anemic again. The blood tests will tell the tale, though.

I’ve also lost about twenty pounds since last fall. It’s mostly been due to Torvi and my increased level of activity from walking, caring, and playing with her. I weighed the Torvi-beast this morning, BTW … She’s 48 pounds (!)

I have hope that this cold was just a stress thing and that my recovery heralds an overall improvement in my health. There’s still Phil’s uncertain work situation and my ongoing pay difficulties that have to be overcome. Those were the stressors that helped to make both of us vulnerable and until we both have solutions in place, I anticipate that we will continue to face a few challenges.

My critique group has, after a delay due to various members moving and adjusting to life in new time zones, started up. This is another good thing.


And … my orchids are in flowering mode again!

I’m going to be taking some time in the next week to try to refocus and organize my life again. I have been in denial that I could take on pup parenthood and that I could still devote the same kind of time to everything else in my life.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, something’s gotta give. I don’t want that something to be my writing anymore and it can’t be Phil, Torvi, or the rest of my family. Fiscal necessity means it can’t be the day job, at least not in the short term.

What does that leave? That’s where things get interesting and that’s where my efforts will focus for the foreseeable.

All these things are first world problems, though. That is to say, they’re not really weighty problems in the bigger scheme of things. I have to keep things in perspective and hope I’m not whinging too much.

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


Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Feb 25-March 3, 2018

I hope you find something that gets your mental corn popping in this small mixed bag of goodies.

Rachel Giese: why masculinity needs to be the next big conversation in the #metoo movement. Chatelaine

Dr. Brian Goldman interviews women in medicine about their experiences with sexual harassment. CBC’s White Coat, Black Art.

Sarah E. Baires: white settlers buried the truth about the Midwest’s mound cities. The Smithsonian Magazine

Matthew Schuler: why creative people sometimes make no sense. Yeah, it’s from 2013, but it’s interesting, no?

Tom Simonite reports on how an AI is being used to help stroke victims. Time is brain. Wired

Ravens are evolving, but not in the way you’d expect. Mr. Science has always told me that evolution is adaptation, but not necessarily improvement. What may be perceived as a negative, may actually be positive, though. Jason Bittel for National Geographic.

This made me happy-cry: humans reunited with dogs.


And that was Thoughty Thursday for the week.

Be well until the weekend!


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 25-March 3, 2018

Gentle readers, here are your informal writerly learnings for the week:

K.M. Weiland says, don’t write scenes—write images! Helping Writers Become Authors

Christina Delay: the attraction of passion. Writers in the Storm

Lisa Hall-Wilson shares five quick ways to shift description and setting into deep POV. Writers in the Storm

Julia Munroe Martin is getting in touch with the inner magician. Writer Unboxed

Magic cloaks, lucky charms and other writerly superstitions. Sarah McCoy explores writers’ rituals on Writer Unboxed.

Barbara O’Neal wants you to imagine your ideal reader. Writer Unboxed

Sophie Masson examines some of the great last lines of fiction. Writer Unboxed

Kristen Lamb explains how writing a story from the end results in a mind-blowing read.

Janice Hardy warns, over-explaining will kill your novel. Fiction University

Emily Wenstrom tells you how and why to clean your email subscriber list. DIY MFA

Bess Cozby rises to new challenges the DIY MFA way. DIY MFA

Rebecca Monterusso returns to DIY MFA: five reasons it’s time to call an editor.

Chuck Wendig shares three truths about writing and how the writing gets done. Terribleminds

Chris Winkle reveals the one big thing most manuscripts lack. Mythcreants

Jami Gold fills in more blanks in her writing craft master lists: theme development.

Angela Ackerman shares three ways setting can steer your story’s plot. Writers Helping Writers

Mary Robinette Kowal: ask a puppet, episode 4.


Ruth Harris lists eight common mistakes readers hate—and how to fix them. Anne R. Allen’s blog

Nina Munteanu: how art reveals truth in science.

Shoshana Kessock compares the feminism of Black Panther to the feminism of Wonder Woman.

Be well until Thursday!


The next chapter: February 2018 update

February was a short month. Even so, it seemed to fly by.

As I’ve mentioned in my weekly posts, I’m continuing to struggle. Rather, after February 10th, I stopped struggling and recognized the critical fact that I can’t do it all. I can’t work full time, come home and take care of the dog full time, and fit in blogging, newslettering, column writing and still have room left for my WIP (not to mention the rest of my life).

It sucks that, for now, I’ve decided that it’s the WIP that has to go. But, honestly, when I stopped writing, I was just too exhausted to even think about it. A couple of weeks in, my thoughts started to gravitate toward Playing with Fire again, and I see that as a good sign. I’m still going to let it sit for a while longer, to see if the other, more chaotic aspects of my life sort themselves out.

I think I have to simplify my life rather than complicating it.


Not unsurprisingly, I only hit 24% of my 15,000-word writing goal on PwF.

I met my 5,600-word goal for the blog, came in at 72% of my goal for my DIY MFA column, and 140% of my 4,000-word goal for the SWG newsletter.

Overall, that works out to 60% of my writing goal for the month.

I realized, belatedly, that I’d put in short fiction goals for January and February that I didn’t even look at. Again, I didn’t have the energy or attention.

I’m going to wait until the end of March to see how I’ll be moving the goal posts.

In other news

It hasn’t rained/melted significantly since Phil made his initial repairs in the basement, so he hasn’t been able to test them. The spring forecast predicts a warmer than normal March with more rain and snow. Until we can be sure the problem is fixed, the basement is verboten to Torvi, which is sad.

Phil continues to struggle at work. More problems crop up. He deals with them to the best of his ability, but his employer’s solution will still be some time in the implementation. In the meantime, Phil returns home utterly spent and frustrated, and largely unable to deal with anything else.

My training duties at work are done for the time being, but I still have next week’s learning event to travel to and ongoing coaching and mentoring responsibilities. And there are still problems with our pay system which will mean at least one, and likely several, small to negligible pay periods in my future. I’m waiting for that shoe to drop, too.

Post-ablation life is kind of weird, but I’ve been told that ye olde pipes can sputter for three to six months, off and on, before my body finally settles into its new normal. Metaphorical fingers still crossed.

And now, I’m catching a cold 😦

Torvi will be spayed this month, as well as get chipped, and receive her final vaccination (rabies). After that, Phil and I are formally Torvi’s humans and I can feel more confident about taking her on longer walks, to places where she’ll meet other dogs, and to obedience training.

We really need the obedience training.

Honestly, Torvi’s not any more of a devil than any of our other dogs. She’s just so big, she’s super-strong, she doesn’t know her own strength, and her puppy enthusiasm can result in injury.

Here she is, napping with Phil. It’s a good thing we have a king-sized bed. She likes to streeeeetch out 🙂

We’ll see what the next month brings.

Until Tuesday, 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, Feb 18-24, 2018

Here are a few links to get your mental corn popping (making creative connections).

Anna Mehler Paperny begs your attention: no, Canada does not spend more on refugees than on its seniors. It’s a big misunderstanding that needs correction. Global News

Adam Gopnik: four truths about the Florida school shooting. The New Yorker

Ed Brayton says, the problem is toxic masculinity, not mental illness. Patheos

Peter Kruger cribs from The Princess Bride. Why does the NPR station have so much propaganda against Trump? Quora

Elizabeth Chuck reports on women, harassed in medicine, await their #metoo reckoning. NBC News

Olga Khazan examines a paradox: the more gender equality, the fewer women in STEM. The Atlantic

Rachael Stephen describes the cognitive behavioural therapy method in this next instalment of her series on mental health.


Phil Plait: Osiris-X looks home from far, far away. SyFy

An amateur astronomer spots a supernova, right as it begins. Ryan F. Mandelbaum for Gizmodo.

Megan Senseney surveys hygiene practices of the middle ages. Healthy Way

Anna Lovind writes an ode to winter.

Enjoy the evocative work of women artists of the Canadian Inuit. Women Arts Blog

Chris Wright wonders, can you hack coral to save it? Outside

John Vidal: a eureka moment for the planet; we’re finally planting trees again. The Guardian

Andy Coghlan reports how trees have been seen resting their branches while they “sleep.” New Scientist

Ephrat Livni: heart of barkness. Japanese “forest medicine” is the art of using nature to heal yourself, wherever you are. Quartz

Bored Panda shares Grace Gogarty’s hilarious guide to dog breeds.

Be well until the weekend.


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 18-24, 2018

Here are your informal writerly learnings for the week:

Elissa Field dissects Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Writer Unboxed

Vaughn Roycroft explores the power of writing with the intent of giving your readers the feels: on writing and crying. Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb: they put your book down, but don’t take it personally. Writer Unboxed

Sara Letourneau stops by the Writers Helping Writers coaching corner: mapping your story’s setting.

Angela Ackerman says, if you want memorable characters, you should focus on the little things. Writers Helping Writers

Dan Koboldt visits Writer’s Digest: essential tips for crafting a three-book series.

Leanne Sowul asks, do your commitments reflect your priorities? DIY MFA

Brenda Joyce Patterson wants you to build rigor into your writing process. DIY MFA

Danielle Boccelli directs you to five unlikely places to find inspiration. DIY MFA

Margie Lawson helps you get emotion right on the page. Writers in the Storm

Peter Selgin guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog. How to make the best of routine events in your fiction.

Jami Gold fills in the blanks of our writing knowledge.

Chris Winkle explains why you should avoid bigoted heroes who learn better. Mythcreants

Oren Ashkenazi lists six stories with contrived conflict (and tips on how to avoid the same mistakes). Mythcreants

Jenna Moreci: how to write while working full time/going to school/being a mother


Emily Temple presents the opinions of 31 authors on the topic of writing what you know. Literary Hub

Jenna Moreci: diversity in fiction.


Lila Shapiro shares the story of how author Keira Drake revised her YA novel after it was criticized for its racism. Was she successful? We’ll have to wait until the revised version is released in March … The Vulture

Sarah Churchwell says, it’s time for women to rewrite the story. The Guardian

David M. Perry: how will publishing deal with Lemony Snicket amid #metoo? Pacific Standard

Just because I still miss her (and probably will for the rest of my life): Ursula K. Le Guin on ageing and what beauty really means. Brain Pickings

Angela Watercutter: how Ava DuVernay became a creator of worlds. Wired

Maeve lists 21 beautiful Irish words that everyone needs in their lives. Buzzfeed

And that was Tipsday.

Be well until Thursday, when you can return for your weekly dose of thoughty 🙂


Muse-inks: Hanging in there

Another week has passed without a single word being written on my WIP. There. I wrote it down. It must be true.

Things at work continue to be stressful. The latest, poor feedback on the training I did a couple of weeks ago has resulted in an additional workshop, hastily pulled together, which only five of the eleven participants are taking part in. If it was that much of an issue, I’m sure all of them would have signed on.

Admittedly, two of them did withdraw from the mentoring phase of training and returned to their normal duties and one returned to his specialized unit where he had already been doing most of what we were delivering the training on, but still. Eight people should have signed on.

It’s the reactionary nature of my employer, though. So, I’ll do what I’ve been asked to do.

And then, I’m heading out of town for most of a week for an in-person team meeting, leaving Phil and my mom to deal with what I expect to be a very upset Torvi. This will be the first time I’ve been away overnight, or for more than a day.

I don’t think I’m going to be able to get much writing done over the next couple of weeks, either.

Things should ease off after that, though.

I signed up for Jennifer Louden’s Get back to Creating workshop, though, and while I didn’t participate, I did watch the videos and garnered some tips for when I’ll be ready to use them.

And I have been thinking about Playing with Fire in the last week. That’s something.

Phil’s work troubles aren’t quite at an end yet, either. Again, progress is being made, enough for Phil to feel comfortable taking a few days off, but it’s a slow process and new crises seem to pop up on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, Phil took Friday off to deal with a leak in the basement. It’s been warm (above zero degrees Celsius) and rainy in the last week or so. A fair amount of freezing rain as well. He’s waiting for the next deluge to see if his repairs will address the problem. If not, he may be obliged to rent a jackhammer and install some weeping tile inside the basement (below the concrete) to divert the water to the sump pump, which has, interestingly enough, remained dry the whole time.

This has, of course, meant, that while the basement is once more in disarray, it is forbidden to Torvi. Just a week after having opened it up to her, we’ve had to deny her access. It’s been a challenge. She doesn’t understand 😦

Torvi Tales (Tails?)

A couple of things have happened in the last week that have been amusing.

One night, after she’d settled down, Torvi was sleeping on her back, which she still often does, propped against my legs as I worked at my standing desk. Without warning, or my human ears detecting any noise, Torvi flips over with a thump and charges for the front of the house, barking like mad.

It was enough to get Phil up from downstairs.

I think she was dreaming.

With all the freezing rain, just getting Torvi out to do her business is a challenge. The first day, she was sliding down the driveway (her favourite place to do number one) while she peed. The look on her face was priceless.

She hasn’t attempted to pee in the driveway since, though. It’s meant an increase in accidents indoors. With a week of above-zero daytime temperatures and freezing overnight, I don’t anticipate remediation in the short term.

But, she’s our sweetie.

And here she is, challenging Mommy to play.

The current list of Torvi’s nicknames: Torv, the Torvster, Torvina, Torvi-adore (like toreador, and yes, I sometimes hum Tosca to her), turkey-Torvi (cause she can be), sweetie, sweet pea, love/my love/little love, lovey-bum, fuzzy butt, puppy love, wee one (we call all of our dogs that), and Phil has come up with an elaborate one … Torvi Consuela Josephine. Don’t ask me why. He can’t even explain where the impulse came from.

So that is the weekly update.

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