Egad! Where does the time go? I know it’s a thing—that time seems to past faster the older you get—but, come on.
Before we get into the writerly update, my monthly PSAs:
I stand with Ukraine and condemn Putin’s unprovoked war.
All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.
Though restrictions have eased, case counts and hospitalisations are again on the rise. They’re talking about a sixth wave here in Canada. Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, mask when you can’t. Get vaccinated if you haven’t. Get boosted if you haven’t. Sign up for the next booster when it’s available.
The month in writing
March was a good month, I think.
I only have two projects to report on (that I recorded on my Excel tracker).
I set what I though was a reasonable revision goal for Reality Bomb of 20,000 words. And I revised 18,277 words, or 91%. I only have eight chapters left to go. Then I’ll take a short break to work through some revision notes in my map, consolidate the cause and effect between scenes and ensure that every scene has a proper structure. I’m in a good place, though there’s still work to be done. There always will be.
I blogged 5,982 words of my 6,000-word goal. Essentially 100%.
In terms of projects I’m not tracking, I worked on my Ascension series master document and have gotten to the point where I have to reread the existing material before I proceed.
I also submitted a piece of short fiction to an open submission period.
I forgot to mention last month that the story I submitted to an anthology in January was rejected. It’s the life of a professional writer, submission and rejection. It’s an entirely negative-sounding process. Submission—to put yourself, or your work, at someone else’s mercy—and rejection—to be turned away. No wonder most people think writers are crazy 🙂
Filling the well
I attended two writerly events in March. The first was a workshop on planning and outlining your novel with Kate Heartfield, offered through the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. The second was a demonstration on how to use tarot cards to develop a character arc from Margaret McNellis.
I also watched the replay of Finding and Working with the Right Literary Agent with Howard Yoon offered through Jane Friedman.
In the self-care department, I had an appointment with my RMT, my therapist, and my support group. I’m working on identifying thought distortions in the moment. Self-awareness is hard work.
I made a discovery. I don’t need a duty to accommodate. I’ve managed 21 years in the public service without. I just have to monitor my mental health a little more closely and take my sick leave as I need it. In my autistic way, I was so focused on the DTA process and “doing things right” that I completely missed the obvious. I do get hyper-focused from time to time. Fortunately, I caught myself, with the help of my therapist, before I committed to a 30-hour work week and the accompanying cut in pay.
Financial wellbeing supports mental health. As the sole support for my household, a one-fifth cut in my income would have been a blow. And the uncertainty about whether I could pay down our remaining debts before I retire would have weighed heavily. The cut to my pension would not have been welcome, either.
I’m going to see through my “trial period”—just three more weeks—supported by the use of my sick leave. I just have to get a doctor’s note to say that I am capable of working full time, without restrictions, and I won’t pursue a DTA further. It’s a relief, really.
What I’m watching and reading
In terms of viewing, I have a gap to fill from January (!) At the time, I had watched the last episode of the most recent season of Nancy Drew, but the network broadcasting it was advertising its return in March, so I was unaware that it was the last episode.
I’ll fill that gap now by saying that the season was its usual highly supernatural, highly sexually charged stories that I’ve come to expect from Nancy and the Drew Crew. Though she finally has the chance to hook up with Ace, Temperance curses her so that if she ever confesses her love for Ace, he’ll die. Dun, dun, dun!
Back in the March viewing department, Phil and I watched the new Vikings: Valhalla. In tone, it strikes somewhere between the original Vikings and The Last Kingdom. One of the new cast is Leif Erikson (son of Erik the Red). I’m willing to see where it leads, though they do make liberal reference to the original Vikings and the historical inaccuracies therein.
The rest of what I watched was personal viewing. Three series and two movies.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow finished its season in early March. I could just say that the usual wackiness ensued, but there was a little more meat to this season. Gideon becomes human but an uncorrupted version of the Gideon AI exists and creates robot versions of the legends to hunt them down and kill them.
Batwoman ended around the same time and the angst of the season was resolved, Ryan’s back in charge of Wayne Enterprises, her brother is “cured,” and Alice is committed to doing the work of healing.
Discovery was good, but sappy. A first contact situation with traditional Starfleet values all over the place.
I watched Turning Red. I think it was awesome.
And, finally, I watched the new Dune. I appreciated the choices Villeneuve made, but there are still some issues.
I read four books in March.
The first was this has nothing to do with you by Lauren Carter. It was a story about healing from trauma, and very good, but I found it a difficult read because the protagonist’s name was Mel and the fictional city of Norbury is a stand-in for Sudbury. Though the trauma—how to deal when your mother kills your father for having an affair—was nothing I personally relate to, it was nonetheless an uncomfortable read. But Grommet was wonderful.
Then I read Matthew Saleses Craft in the Real World, in which the author makes the case for an alternate version of workshopping/critique within the MFA frame of reference, so that it’s more inclusive of craft from other cultures. Thought provoking. Excellent.
I followed that up with Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin. OMG, so amazing. I have a feeling I’m going to return to it repeatedly.
Finally, I read Jael Richardson’s Gutter Child. Incredible. I’ll leave it there and encourage you all to read it.
And that was the month in this writer’s life.
Until tipsday, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!
And, just like that (and, no; never watched SatC; won’t watch AJLT), the second year of the pandemic ends.
2021 was an … interesting year. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Before we get to my December update, my monthly PSAs:
All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter. We need to keep striving to be good allies and keep the critical issues front and centre.
Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, mask in public, get vaccinated (if you haven’t), and get your booster. Delta and omicron won’t be the only variants to emerge. And let’s be clear. The variants are there. They always have been. It’s just that, as we get better at suppressing the ones we know about, the ones we don’t have a chance to surge. Some may be less virulent, or not virulent at all. Some may be less transmissible or not transmissible at all. Some may not even infect humans. But it’s the ones that are more virulent, more transmissible, and infect humans that we have to watch for. This ain’t over yet.
The month in writing
Following the marathon that is NaNoWriMo, I wanted to take a break from revision. I only intended to rest until December 5th, but work got hectic again, and I ended up revising as I could, which meant not much at all.
Originally, I thought I could, based on my performance in November, revise about 20,000 words of Reality Bomb. Unfortunately, I had to amend that goal mid-month and reduced it first to 10,000 words, then 5,000 words, and ultimately 1,000 words. Of that 1,000-word goal, I revised 853 words, or 85%.
Admittedly, I decided to read through the draft to the point where I left off in NaNo, which was about the midpoint of the novel. So that 853 words represents a bunch of cutting and adding that I chose not to get too granular on.
My only writing goal for the month was the blog and of my 3,500-word goal, I wrote 5,422 words, or 155%.
The writing year in review
I started out 2021 by trying something different. I’d finished the last rewrite of RB by the close of 2020 and decided to focus on short fiction and poetry for the first three months of the year.
This worked out well for me. I wrote, revised, and submitted several short stories and poems, earned several rejections, and then had three poems and a short story accepted for future publication in February.
In March, I entered the SciArt Poetry competition and won the community category. I read my poem on Science North’s YouTube channel at the end of March, and the poem would be published later in the year in Sulphur X, Laurentian University’s literary journal.
I also started to revise RB in March based on my returned critiques.
In April, I had another story accepted for future publication, and the last of my poems accepted in 2020 was published.
Revision was not going well, though.
I was somewhat stymied by the critiques I received back in January and February. I couldn’t figure out how to use the feedback to revise my novel. I had thought a couple of months would be long enough for me to figure out a game plan, but, because I had already started on my journey to autism diagnosis, I was thinking about other things.
I had intended to rewrite/revise between 500 and 1,000 words a day on weekdays and a chapter each day on weekends, and thus be finished my next draft sometime in the summer. At that point, I had hoped to move onto Marushka and prepare that draft, on which I’d also received feedback, for next round revisions in November.
I wrote a new opening chapter and revised from there, dividing chapters into smaller chunks. I was still writing in close third (or trying for it). I revised 28,202 words up to about the middle of July, when I hit the point where my protagonist enters another of the many worlds and is trapped inside her other self.
The challenges of having two people in the same physical body and trying to make then both distinct and identifiable in terms of formatting (italics for one, ? for the other?) made it clear that I had to rewrite the draft in first person. Past or present, though? I opted for present despite my failure to nail the POV on an earlier draft. There would still be some difficulties making the story dynamic enough for first person present (my protagonist is disembodied for three quarters of the novel and thus, largely “in her head”), but I decided that it would be the best fit and returned to the beginning.
From the middle of July through to the end of November, I revised 62,996 words, but some of that was reworking my novel map (chapter and scene breakdown), which I counted only in November. I got to the midpoint … and then decided, as I mentioned above, to take a break.
Since, I’ve been rereading the revised draft to date, making a few more additions and deletions, and thinking of a better way to weave in some of the minor characters throughout the novel so they don’t feel like wasted opportunities.
I’ve even been using tarot to help free my intuitive writer. It’s working out surprisingly well.
About the same time I made my fateful POV decision in July, I realized that if I wanted to work on any other big project this year, it would not be Marushka. But, as it turned out, I haven’t had the spoons to finish my work on RB, let alone start on a new novel …
In November, I made the decision to leave DIY MFA as a regular columnist. I’m trying to conserve my energy for what matters most.
I’m going to have to review my other commitments as well.
I haven’t been active in my critique group since summer. I need to reconnect, but I’m struggling.
Onto the statistics!
In terms of word count, I wrote:
4,146 words of short fiction,
58,061 words on Writerly Goodness,
5,623 words on my Speculations column, and
360 words on a side project.
That’s 68,190 words and 10 poems.
92,048 words on RB (some several times), and
12,023 words of short fiction.
That’s 104,071 words revised.
Some of these goals I didn’t assign numbers to at the beginning of the year. I didn’t know how much I would write or revise on some projects and so just left them blank in terms of goals. The poetry and short fiction (writing and revision) were in this category and so any work done on those projects was bonus.
If you want to zoom in on the relative percentages of the writing and revision goals I did set out for myself, you’re welcome to do so 🙂
There was also the work on my Ascension series masterdoc (like that term so much better than bible) that I didn’t track in terms of word count. Throughout the year, I wrote out and revised the worldbuiding for my world (cosmology, history, peoples, languages, etc.) and character sketches, and I restructured the first book of the series in outline. I’ve had to work out the calendar of events for the last bit of book one. I had a lot of questions marks on my timeline. I’m working it out.
Eventually, I’ll expand the outlines/maps for each book in the series with scenes and sequels as I rewrite.
I’m going to try to finish my rewrite of RB this year. I’m not setting any hard and fast goals, but I’m hoping to do that by the end of June.
I might decide to work with a book coach or editor at that time. So, I’ll probably spend some time in the spring making initial enquiries.
Then, I’ll probably do with the summer what I did with January to March of last year and focus on short fiction and poetry as a break from novelling. I’ll also use that time to revisit my next novel project (partly written as a very long short story) and prepare to begin drafting in the fall.
I have most of my drafted novels included in my 2022 writing and revision tracker, but I’m not committing to them in any way. They’re just there to remind me that I have a lot of things I can work on, if I so choose.
Filling the well
In December, I didn’t attend any literary events live online. I did sign up for a Tiffany Yates-Martin webinar through Jane Friedman, but I watched the replay, ‘cause work.
My small family (me and Phil, his sister and spouse, our moms) got together to celebrate my mom-in-law’s 80th birthday and then again on Boxing Day for Christmas (it was supposed to be Christmas Day, but freezing rain changed our plans).
And aside from therapy, a support group meeting, massage, and a couple of days of leave, that was it for filling the well in December.
The personal year in review
I started 2021 at a low point, feeling like an imposter at both work and creative pursuits. I was also feeling stuck physically, having slowly yo-yo’ed between 170 and 200 pounds since my early 20s.
It being a pandemic and all, I decided that, instead of going it alone, as was my habit, I’d ask for help.
For mental health support, I reached out to my employer’s EAP. For physical health support, I turned to Noom. By May 10th, I’d been diagnosed as autistic, a timeline that I’ve since come to understand is amazingly quick. By the end of July, I cancelled my Noom account, having surpassed my goal of 170 pounds and achieved 150. I continued to lose weight through August, finally settling at 140 pounds, which I’ve since maintained (even during the holidays!).
It’s the lightest I’ve been in my adult life and I’m feeling physically healthy.
In November, I finally connected with a therapist through the Redpath Centre, which specializes in support for autistics. When I met with her for the first time, my therapist referred me to a support group.
I’m currently working toward getting a workplace accommodation, having experienced autistic burnout as the result of a very stressful acting position and project. I struggled again in December because of a similar situation and I’m trying to find a way to manage my stress levels on an ongoing basis, so I don’t need to take additional time off to recover my head.
It’s been a transformative year with regard to my physical and mental health, and I’m ready to shift my focus back to creative pursuits.
What I’m watching and reading
In December, I watched three movies and finished watching three series. That seems nice and symmetrical, to me 😉
First, I watched Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I loved it. Yes, it wasn’t really Shang Chi’s story, and there were a few things that stretched credibility, but I really appreciated the homage to Jackie Chan’s movies (many of which I’ve watched over the years) and fighting style. They even had choreographers from Jackie Chan’s team working on the movie. Wong and Morris rock.
Then, I caught John Wick 3: Parabellum. It filled in the series for me. What can I say? Over the top violence is something I enjoy? In the right circumstances, I guess. Didn’t appreciate the uncharacteristic twist that was JW’s dark moment, but the movie made up for it in the end.
Phil and I watched The Suicide Squad on New Years Eve. So much better than the first movie. Harley Quinn is the best character in the DCEU.
I finished watching the final season of Dear White People. Not sure if I liked the framing device (telling the season from the perspective of the characters in the future) or the whole season being focused on the musical review in their last year as Winchester. It was okay. They tied up all the critical stories in the end.
Watched the latest Dr. Who series, said to be Jodie Whittaker’s last. It was a bit confusing at first, but after a couple of episodes, everything came together. I also was the New Year’s special, thinking that it might offer up a clue to the next regeneration. It didn’t. I can’t not love Jodie Who. I’ll be sad to see her leave.
Finally, Phil and I watched the first season of The Wheel of Time. Neither of us have read the books. I really liked it. More than Phil did, I think. He was put off by all the comparisons to Game of Thrones. WoT is its own thing. I appreciated it as such.
Reading-wise, I only finished reading three books in December.
I read Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I (yes, the book that was the basis for the first season of the Bridgerton series). I’ve read romance in the past, but my preference runs to Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, whose books would probably be classified as “bodice rippers.” The book does treat Daphne’s technical rape of Simon more tactfully, but the story itself was less compelling.
Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson have written several novellas in the Skyward Flight series to bridge the gap between books two and three of the series. I read the first of those, Sunreach, which focuses on the secondary character of FM, the rescue of Minister Kuna, and how the rest of the flight back at Detritus deals with the discovery that Spensa’s pet Doomslug, a Taynix, is a cytonic creature capable of powering a hyperdrive. I really liked it and am now on the second novella, Redawn.
I finished off the year with Sarah Hollowell’s A Dark and Starless Forest. It’s a dark book, and thus was a little challenging to get through. It focuses on a remote house in which abandoned child “alchemists” live under the dubious protection of Frank. It’s clear the young alchemists, including Derry, the protagonist, live in fear of Frank, and it soon becomes clear why. But as Derry’s sisters disappear, one by one, she has to find a way to solve the mystery without arousing Frank’s wrath. Despite its darkness, I really liked the book.
Because of general busy-ness and distraction, I only read 55 books of my 65-book goal in 2021.
I’ve reduced this year’s goal to 60 and hope to attain it, but that will depend, in part, on work.
And that was the month (and year!) in this writer’s life.
Until tipsday, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!
Here we are, in January 2021. While we may have hoped that our situation changed with the dawning of a new year, this is just not so. Despite the slow distribution of vaccines and lockdowns, we still haven’t seen the impact of holiday gatherings and numbers of infections in hot zones continue to rise. Hospitals in those same hot zones are on the verge of overwhelm. Some have already started to ship non-covid patients to hospitals in less affected areas.
Until we have most of our population vaccinated, which may not be until late summer, or early fall this year, we must continue to wear our masks, wash our hands, maintain physical distance, and avoid gathering outside our households.
Institutionalized racism is still a problem. A HUGE problem. We can’t stop learning how to be good allies, fighting the good fight in whatever ways we can, and working to dismantle racist institutions. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter.
The month in writing
All I did in December is give Reality Bomb another pass, and blog.
With respect to RB, my goal was to cut back to 90k words. I would have accepted 100k words, but I didn’t quite manage it. I did cut almost 15k, ending with 101,024 words. I posted it for my critique group on Christmas Day. I don’t know how much of a gift it will be. We’ll see at the end of February, when critiques are due.
I set my revision goal for 90k words, but ended up with 102,105 words, or 113% of my goal, with the addition of the last three days on the initial revision from November.
In the blogging department, I set my goal at 3,500 words and ended up writing 4,527, or 129% of my goal.
Filling the well
I started off the month with the launch of Stellar Evolutions and a reading of my poem on December 1st. I had three more Free Expressions online workshops, the last class of Writing the Other’s Diverse Narrative Structures, and another Jane Friedman webinar on writing your second draft with Allison K Williams.
The holidays have been quiet. Phil and I only got together with my mom (because she lives alone, she’s part of our household) for Christmas and a couple of other meals. No gifts. No parties. Quiet.
What I’ve been watching and reading
In the viewing department, I finished watching the most recent season of Anne with an E. This takes Anne to her departure for Queen’s university and her confession of love to Gilbert Blythe. I wonder what this means for the Black and Indigenous story lines the writers added into this iteration of the tale.
I also watched the last season of The Order. And it was the last season. Netflix has elected not to renew the series. It was okay. Problems from past seasons cropped up in both plot and in the writing. It wasn’t a must-see, but I wanted to watch it to see what would happen and how conflicts would be developed.
I read four books in December.
Emma Donaghue’s Room was brilliant. Jack’s voice grabs your heart right out of your chest. He’s an innocent in the midst of a horrific situation that he can’t understand. His eventual realization that he’s outgrown Room made me weep.
I finished N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Some readers have disliked the mix of second person and first person narratives. I didn’t mind it. In fact, I think the use of second person (you) narratives have frequently been used when the subject has experienced some form or trauma. It is effective.
**SPOILERS**I also figured out that the three main POVs are different parts on one character’s life before it was revealed in the narrative. Again, some readers found this to be a cheat. I enjoyed it. I think The Fifth Season was deserving of its Hugo Award.
Then, I read Sabaa Tahir’s A Sky Beyond the Storm, the finale to her An Ember in the Ashes series. Tahir resolves the seemingly insurmountable problems of her characters cleverly and satisfactorily. It was a good capstone, but I still don’t think it measures up to something like A Song of Fire and Ice (to which An Ember in the Ashes was compared when it debuted).
Finally, I read Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. Like Room, The Lovely Bones is told from the point of view of an unusual narrator. In this case, it’s Suzie, the dead victim of sexual assault and murder. Suzie watches her friends and family from heaven as they come to terms with her never-solved murder and move on with their lives.
Sebold made a bold choice for her resolution. I kept waiting for someone to find the clues that they were standing right next to. I was disappointed in the fate of the serial killer, but I think that was Sebold’s point. Some things in life don’t turn out the way we hope. You have to accept it and move on. It might have been a little too realistic in these pandemic times. I really liked it, but it wasn’t my favourite read.
I did read 62 books of the 60 that I aimed for, though. That’s nice 🙂
The year in review
At the beginning of 2020, I’d set myself some lofty goals. I wanted to finish my rewrite of RB much earlier in the year, rewrite Marushka, and have the first novel of Ascension ready for rewriting in time for NaNoWriMo. I’d wanted to write some short stories. I’d wanted to get my poetry collection out.
Then the pandemic hit, and I had to shift the goal posts.
I let Ascension slide completely. I didn’t finish the initial rewrite of RB until October. I never got to Marushka. I did write a couple new short stories and even submitted them (to no positive response). I did send out my poetry collection.
My year-end summary sheet looks a little skewed because I didn’t adjust all of my goals from the start of the year.
This year, I’m taking a different approach. Because I’ve just posted RB for its second critique, which won’t be due until Feb 28th, I’ve decided to start off the year slowly. I’m going to work on the outline for my rewrite of Marushka, work on some poetry, send out my poetry collection to another publisher, revise a short story each month January to March, and work on revision notes for other short stories.
I’m going to continue work on Ascension as time allows, which may not be much at all, but it’s still there.
March will be devoted to another revision of RB and preparing my query and synopsis in anticipation of querying starting in April.
In April, I’ll start working on the rewrite of Marushka at a reasonable rate. I don’t anticipate being done before mid-September. If this pans out, I hope to post it for critique at that time and get feedback in time to start on revisions in November.
Then, I don’t know if I’m going to plan on tackling anything else in December.
There will be a lot of stuff that I’m not going to track in terms of word count (poetry collection, querying, outlining, revision notes, Ascension), and if I don’t get everything I want done, I’m not going to panic. The pandemic hasn’t gone anywhere, after all.
I’m taking a more casual outlook on planning than I have in the past.
We’ll see how it works out.
And that was the month, and the year, in this writer’s life.
Until tipsday, be well and stay safe, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!
Here we are at the beginning of a new year and a new decade. The possibilities seem endless. I hope you’ve all set reasonable goals and are diving into your work with passion and compassion.
The month in writing
In December, my focus was on continuing to rewrite Reality Bomb. I set my goal at 500 words per day or 15,500 words for the month. I wrote 12,131 words, or 78% of my goal.
The only other thing on my writing plate was this blog. I wrote 4,789 words of my 4,250-word goal, or 113%.
And that’s it.
2019 in review
I started off the year ambitiously, as I always do (more on that in a bit). In addition to finishing drafting book five of my epic fantasy series, Tamisashki, roughly revising RB for presentation to my critique group, blogging, and my bi-monthly Speculations column for DIY MFA, I’d decided to write, revise, and submit one short story per month, revise a poetry collection and two collections of my previously published short fiction.
Add to that my involvement in the critique group, which meant—surprise—critiquing some of my partners’ work, attending Ad Astra, Can-Con, and Wordstock Sudbury, and I had a fuller-than-usual plate. Yes, I was finally over my burnout, but I suspected, even as I set these ambitious goals, that I wasn’t up to accomplishing all of them.
Yeah. While I did revise my poetry collection (and wrote a new poem—yay, me), I only managed to write and revise one short story and start on one more before I realized that the one-story-per-month goal was untenable. I never got to either of the short story collections aside from putting them on my 2019 Writing and Revision Tracker.
I did write one side project, a guest post about writers’ grief for WarpWorld, but that was the only unplanned writing I did.
So, I adjusted my goals. Several times. But what I have on this summary page is what I ended up with.
On the writing side of things, I did rather well. Of my collective 114,150-word goal, I wrote 138,875 words, or 122%.
I revised (or rewrote) 123, 155 words of my 157,110-word goal, or only 78%.
Interestingly, the average of my writing and revision percentages is 100%.
Still, between writing and revising, I produced 262,030 words in 2019. That’s over a quarter of a million words. I’m damned pleased with that.
Filling the well
I relaxed in December. I’m fairly certain that I, like many people in northern Ontario, suffer from some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Self-care is important for me at this time of year. Accordingly, I spent a quiet holiday with family.
Consider me a bear. Winter is my time to hibernate 🙂
What I’m watching and reading
With regard to series, Phil and I watched the new Watchmen series and His Dark Materials in December.
We liked Watchmen because it was consistent with the feeling of the graphic novels and, to some extent, the movie. It was a slow burn to start with, which we don’t mind, particularly in this case, as everything came together in a truly surprising twist. The denouement was satisfying, and the cliffhanger was something that, while I’d be happy to see what happens next, if a second season isn’t in the cards, I would be satisfied with the possibilities it presents without needing a definitive answer.
His Dark Materials was well done, better than the movie, in any case. As in many adaptations, changes were made that would better serve the medium, and I appreciated many of the decisions made for this iteration of Phil Pullman’s novels. I liked the actors and the incorporation of Will’s plotline into this season. A solid season and I hope BBC’s collaboration with HBO will continue.
We started watching Witcher, but it was more of a gap-filler and Phil gave up after the third episode. We didn’t even get through the first episode of the second season of Lost in Space before Phil walked away. I’ll probably pick up both when I’ve made some room on my personal Netflix viewing.
Reading-wise, I grabbed Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea right after Call Down the Hawk. I enjoyed it right up to the ending, which was confusing and unsatisfying for that reason.
Then, I picked up Diana Gabaldon’s collection of novellas, Seven Stones to Stand or Fall. It was a bit of a cheat because I’d read all but two in their individual novella forms. I’m a big Gabaldon fan, though, and I like the way she writes into the gaps in her larger series of books.
Next, I read Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Virtue and Vengeance. It was okay but suffered from many of the same problems as the first book in the series. The characters are all moving between love and hate for themselves and one another so quickly that I got whiplash. I understand that this is YA and the characters are all teenagers, but there were several points at which I felt that the drama was just too much.
Six of Crows was much stronger than Shadow and Bone. Maybe Leigh Bardugo is better at ensemble casts, or heist plots? The characters were stronger and had more agency. They felt more grounded and complex. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed it.
To finish off the year, I returned to a couple of classics. Charles Dickens’ The Chimes, and A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. Dickens has a fondness for ghosts and time travel lessons. Winnie was just charming.
I’d set myself a reading goal for the year of 50 books and ended up reading 71 (!) or 142% of my goal.
What’s up in 2020
I think I’ve finally learned my lesson, writing-wise. I’ve focused in on what I need to do and let my ambitions amuse themselves.
Given my reduced—but still good—production, I’m giving myself until the end of April to finish the rewrite of RB. The core story remains the same, but the content is different enough that it is like writing a new novel. Accordingly, while I counted the work I did in November and December as revision, I’m counting everything in 2020 as writing.
Then, I’m going to begin work on revision/rewriting Marushka. I’d put it up for critique in early 2019 but didn’t feel as strongly about getting back to it as I did about RB. I have to make some decisions about this novel which could entail a significant rewrite … or not. I’ll make those decisions when I review the novel and the critique feedback.
Throughout the year, I’m going to be steadily working on the Ascension series. I should finish my initial reread by the end of January. Then, I’m going to work on the series bible and revision notes on all five novels. By November, I should be ready to tackle revision/rewrites on book one.
I’ll blog, as usual and keep up with my Speculations column. If I can fit it in, I’ll work on some short fiction. I haven’t made any hard and fast goals with respect to the short fiction, though. If it has to go by the wayside, so be it.
The one last thing I’m going to do is shop the poetry collection around, as well as some of my unpublished poems, to see if I can’t do something with them.
I’ll likely attend Ad Astra, Can-Con, and Wordstock again.
So, my plans are much more modest this year. I’m hoping I won’t have to sacrifice much more than the short fiction.
I’ve set my reading goal for 60 books this year, but I’m not sure I’ll achieve it. I put off reading several monster books that I’ll probably tackle in 2020.
By the way, if you like the Writing and Revision Tracker in the screen shots, Jamie Raintree created it. Please do yourself a favour and visit her website to find out more.
That’s it for this update. I generally do them on the first weekend of every month.
Until next time, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.
It’s been a while. Two months, to be precise. Let’s just get right to it 🙂
October in writing
Once more, I was busy with non-productive writing-related tasks. I was prepping for NaNoWriMo and my rewrite of Reality Bomb. Though I think I worked through most of the problematic bits of the story and had a good idea of the reworked outline, with plot points, etc., the writing took me in slightly different directions, as it does. More on that, below.
I continued my reread of Ascension and got half-way through Playing with Fire, book four of the series.
Writing-wise, I blogged 4,529 words of my 4,500-word goal, or 101%.
I also wrote 496 words of short fiction of my 2,000-word goal, or 25%.
And that was it for October.
November in writing
I won’t belabor things too much. If you’ve been watching my NaNo updates, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where I landed. I wrote 30,502 words of the revised RB, or 61% of my goal. At this rate, it will likely be the end of January before I’m finished with the rewrite.
The last week of November, during which I was training at work, was appropriately fatiguing, but I cracked 30k, which was a realistic goal I was happy to achieve.
I also wrote my latest Speculations column for DIY MFA. It should be coming out Tuesday. That came in at 1052 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 105%.
I had expected my weekly NaNo updates to be brief and predicted about 250 words each, or 1,000 words overall. I blogged 1,293 words, or 129% of goal.
Filling the well
In October, I went to Can-Con in Ottawa, which I first attended three years ago. This year’s attraction was that the Aurora Awards (the Canadian Hugos) were presented there. Well, they were off-site at Christchurch Cathedral, which was a lovely venue. I met up with a few friends from professional organizations and had a genuinely lovely time.
In November, Sudbury’s own Wordstock Literary festival took place and I attended what sessions I could given that I was also beginning NaNoWriMo and my 50th birthday party (!) took place that weekend. Still, I connected with writer friends and bought books (when do I not?).
What I’m watching and reading
On the viewing front, Phil and I finished watching the final season of Preacher. It was mostly satisfying. I read the graphic novels so long ago that I wasn’t able to remember well enough to know if the series was a faithful-ish adaptation. I have the feeling that it wasn’t. There were some significant logic issues that can probably be attributed to the graphic (like how they got the car overseas). Handwavium aside, it was enjoyable.
I finished watching the final season of The Santa Clarita Diet. Meh. I liked the characters and the actors, but the story was lacking.
Phil and I started watching the (third?) season of Ash vs. the Evil Dead and haven’t finished it. As with other shows of its ilk, it was playing the same tropes over and over.
Instead, we took in a delightful animated kids’ show, Three Below, which was created by Guillermo del Toro. We enjoyed the tale of a family of aliens stranded on Earth. There were tie-ins to The Troll Hunters.
We also watched the first season of Happy! It was all kinds of twisted and we just enjoyed the scenery-chewing antics of the cast 🙂
I finished off the last season of The Mortal Instruments. It was okay. I was mostly seeing it through for the sake of completeness.
Finally, Phil and I watched Raising Dion. We enjoyed it, and burned through it, more or less, but there were some problematic storytelling issues we took exception to. The first was that, in an attempt at attaining some realism, the writers gave time to the characters’ daily lives and struggles, even though they had little to nothing to do with the main plot.
**WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS.**
Yes, Nicole deserves a life and interests of her own, but did it need so much screen time? Nicole gave up her dancing career when she was pregnant with Dion. Pertinent, but it’s a fact that can be stated and we can move on with the story. That she gets a job at the same dance theatre is good (‘cause she needs a job to support Dion) but then the job becomes the source of meaningless conflict, in which the owner continually makes Nicole choose between her job and her son’s wellbeing to the point of unreasonableness. And then there’s the potential relationship with hot dancer guy when it’s made abundantly clear that Nicole isn’t over her husband’s death yet. I was waiting for this whole subplot to tie in somehow, but I was disappointed.
Nicole’s sister is a no-nonsense doctor and seems only to be present to remind Nicole of what a failure she is, how delusional she is, and what a poor mother she is. Later in the series, when Nicole’s sister has to take Dion to the hospital because he’s spiking a fever and Nicole’s boss won’t let her leave work, Nicole is finally able to prove to her sister that she’s not crazy and Dion does have powers. But then the sister has to risk her career and medical licence to erase all evidence of Dion from the hospital’s systems. She does help Nicole get Dion away from Pat (see below) but then she drops out of the plot, her usefulness exhausted.
Even Dion’s friends and the bullying he experiences as the new kid in school are, at best, peripherally tied to the plot. But peripheral is better than pointless.
**HERE IT IS. THE BIG SPOILER. READ NO FURTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW.**
And then, there’s Pat. Oh, Pat. I love Jason Ritter as an actor, but damn did the writers give him some shit to portray.
The series begins with Pat being the friend and coworker of Nicole’s dead husband, Mark, and godfather to Dion. They play games together, Dion tells Pat things he can’t tell his mom, and Pat is helpful, though it’s clear he’s crushing on Nicole.
Dion begins to exhibit powers and then he and Nicole witness strange ghosts that appear in a sudden storm, one of them, Dion’s dad. Then a man made of lightning, whom Dion names the crooked man, shows up and sucks all the ghosts back to him before disappearing.
Pat begins to help Nicole and Dion, being Dion’s “superhero mentor” and helping them to investigate Biona, where Pat still works, when Nicole discovers that Mark didn’t trust his employer.
During Dion’s health crisis, Pat even points out the way to save Dion, having learned what Mark discovered about his own changed physiology in the wake of the meteor shower that resulted in his developing powers.
Then, in a reveal so clumsy they had to include a retcon flashback, Pat goes from awkward family friend and geeky investigator to full-on incel and … the crooked man. There was so much WTF, I didn’t know what to do with it.
In the end, Pat/the crooked man is defeated by Nicole and Dion in a tag team effort, and there is a touching, if temporary family reunion, but the crooked man escapes and inhabits another young boy with powers much like Dion. This makes no sense as the crooked man “consumes” those with powers and Pat wanted Dion to heal him (of the crooked man, I assume), which would have killed Dion. There’s no precedent for this outcome in the series. Also, it presents the recurrent villain trope, in which Dion will again have to face the crooked man at the end of next season. Not promising.
I read a lot of books in the last couple of months. I’ll touch on them briefly, here.
I decided to check out Zen and the Art of Writing because it had long been on my TBR list and someone in my critique group mentioned that it was her go-to, feel-good, writing craft book. I liked it and Bradbury’s approach to writing but didn’t feel like I could adopt much of it for my own process.
Having just finished The Handmaid’s Tale in the wake of the series’ third season, I nabbed The Testaments. Atwood made a wise decision in placing the events of The Testaments fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, giving the series room to breathe and become its own thing in between. The narration alternates between Aunt Lydia, at the end of a storied career, Agnes, June’s oldest daughter, raised in Gilead by a Commander and his wife, and Daisy, raised in Toronto, who eventually learns that she is “Baby Nicole,” June’s younger daughter. I won’t give anything away, but I liked The Testaments better than The Handmaid’s Tale. The three narrators, though still unreliable in their own ways, are not as unreliable as Offred/June was in the first book. Their stories, though still traumatic, are revealing in ways that June’s could not be.
Then, I read one of my favourite books of the last two months, Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir. It’s admittedly weird, as only a space opera set in a system with nine planets (ahem), each controlled by a necromantic house in service to the Emperor God necromancer can be. It’s a little off-putting that the main action is basically sword and sorcery—I found myself asking, why set this in space at all?—I’m sure there will be a payoff in the upcoming sequel Harrow the Ninth. It’s a wicked and charming character study, exposed through mystery and puzzle-solving, and the writing is just—forgive me—to die for.
Next, I turned to Cassandra Khaw’s novella, Hammers on Bone, which puts a Cthulian twist on the hard-boiled detective narrative. Interesting and brutal and satisfying.
Eden Robinson’s follow up to Son of a Trickster, Trickster Drift, continues Jared’s story. He travels to Vancouver to attend college, away from his mother’s protection, moves in with his mother’s estranged sister and her haunted apartment, is stalked by his mother’s vicious ex, David, who abused Jared when he was a child, and stalwartly attempts to have a normal life. Things, of course, do not go as planned.
A Brightness Long Ago is Guy Gavriel Kay’s latest alt-historical fantasy and like all his work, is lyrical and touching and nuanced. This is one novel I want you all to read for yourselves, so I’ll just say that I loved it.
The City in the Middle of the Night is Charlie Jane Anders’ second novel. For the most part, I loved it as much as All the Birds in the Sky, but the ending seemed rushed and the novel was ultimately unsatisfying for that reason. On a tidally locked planet, where humans can only survive in the thin band of twilight between the inferno of the light side and the frozen tomb of the dark, the reader follows Sophie, kind, gentle, naïve Sophie, as she learns that no matter where we go or what we do, humans are the absolute worst. At every turn they fail her and each other. It’s no wonder she turns toward the native species of the planet toward the end of the novel.
Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing is heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful. Like Anders’ novel, Bolander’s novella shows us how humans are doomed to make all the wrong choices. Elephants and women are the victims in this case. Why is it that we need a holocaust, or a nuclear bomb to remind us that “never again” is more than just words?
Finally got around to reading Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. While I enjoyed the book, I found, as others have, that Alina, the protagonist, doesn’t have a lot of agency in the novel. From the moment she evidences her grisha powers, Alina is taken, trained, manipulated, enslaved, and though she ultimately manages to win her freedom and the day, it felt that luck had as much a hand in it as Alina.
Next was P Djélì Clark’s Black God’s Drums. This novella is set in an alternate history in which both steam punk elements and African culture. It was entertaining and I loved the protagonist 🙂
Then, I read the third novel in A.M. Dellamonica’s Hidden Sea Tales, The Nature of a Pirate. These novels are basically police procedurals in a post-post-post-apocalyptic future. Sophie Hansa is transported into a world which is more ocean than land. Aside from living on islands, there is an armada/floating nation of ships. There is magic, but it works largely by inscription, which needs specific and often rare materials, and must be worked on a person, whose full name is required for the spell. One person can only be inscribed so much before they reach their individual capacity and then they start to suffer and may even die horribly. The world building is impeccable, the characters are endearing, and the mysteries are engaging.
My other non-fiction read of the month was Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. It’s the tale of an indigenous woman finding her way back to her culture. It’s a beautiful, lyrical book, and because Kimmerer is a botanist, she weaves science in with her teachings. It’s an ecological tour de force.
I read Alyssa Wong’s short story, “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers.” Two sisters destroy the world again and again in an attempt to save one another.
I burned through Maggie Stiefvater’s Call Down the Hawk. I read several awesome books in the last couple of months (Muir’s, Kay’s, Kimmerer’s), but this has to be my absolute favourite. It delves into the lives of the Lynch brothers in the wake of The Raven Cycle. There are other dreamers in the world, and they’re being systematically hunted and killed by an organization that believes one of them will destroy the world. They’re closing in on Ronan, Declan is dating the living dream of another, and Matthew has just realized that he’s just like his mother, Aurora Lynch, and that his existence depends on Ronan. It’s twisted and juicy and everything I wanted. The ending was a little precipitous, but I know this is the beginning of a trilogy, so I’m willing to forgive Stiefvater for that. The cliffhanger, though—!
Finally, I read Chuck Wendig’s short story collection, Irregular Creatures. Some of the stories were endearing. Some of them were downright disturbing. A lot of douchecannoes got what they deserved.
And—whew!—that was the last two months in this writer’s life.
Until next time, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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!
Happy July, everyone! The summer weather has finally arrived in my area of the world. I hope you’re enjoying the season, whatever it is where you live.
And now, it’s time for my next chapter update for June 2019.
The month in writing
My “big” project continues to be my reread, restructuring, and preparation for revision of my Ascension series. As with many of my plans or goals, what I hoped to accomplish at the beginning of the year is changing.
To be specific, I had hoped that by the end of June, I’d have read through all five novels and be ready to start revising book one. Here, in July, I’m still reading through book one … As a result, I’ve decided that I’m just going to focus on laying the groundwork for future revisions. I’m going to continue reading through the series through to the end of September. For now.
While I’ve reviewed the various documents that will make up my series bible, I haven’t yet done the work of pulling everything together. This is part of the work I have to do to get ready for revising. I’m not sure if I’ll have this done before I have to shift gears into NaNo prep.
One of the challenges that I’ve been facing is that, since April, as I’ve noted in past updates, the day job has kicked into high gear. I finish most days exhausted and unable to nab even a little time during breaks of lunch to devote to my WIP. In the early months of this year, there was some downtime that I was able to capitalize on.
Also, I’ve been critiquing, which takes up time in the evening that I might otherwise use to work on my series. Accordingly, I’ve adjusted my goal, but what I’ll accomplish by the end of September is a bit up in the air. Sometimes we have to do what we can and live within the uncertainty.
Still it’s important work and I’m doing it, regardless of the pace 🙂
I blogged 4,073 words of my 2,600-word goal, or 157%.
Toward the end of the month, I got back to my short fiction. While I didn’t reach my 1,000-word goal, I wrote 693 words, or 69%. While this is, strictly speaking, revision of my January short story, most or the work is new. I’ve added scenes and switched things up. In the end, I think the story will be closer to 5,000 words than the 2,500 I’d planned on. It’ll be a better story, but I have a feeling that this draft won’t be the end of my work on the piece.
Revision-wise, I got Reality Bomb ready for critique and it is now posted. I had hoped to get the draft up to 80,000 words, but I’m still 1,175 words short of that. Still, 99% is good. It’s not a huge gap and it gives me room to work with. I’m nervous because there’s a lot of material in the novel that I’m not sure works. We’ll see what my critique group thinks.
And that’s all the writing and revision I accomplished this past month.
Filling the well
On June 20th, A couple of poet friends, Kim Fahner and Tom Leduc, held a reading at One Sky they called On the Cusp of the Solstice. After their sets, the evening became an open mic and we got to hear five other local poets share their work. It was a great evening and a lovely, artistic venue.
What I’m watching and reading
I watched the final season of A series of Unfortunate Events. It was okay. I know it adhered fairly closely to the books (which I haven’t read) and I understand the choice not to give the Beaudelaires a happy ending, but it felt unsatisfactory because most of that denouement happened off-screen and the story was given to Lemony and Beatrice the second. In a way, the story was always Lemony’s, but he never did anything to propel the narrative, so it felt like a cheat.
I also finished the most recent season of Homeland released to Netflix. I think they’re a season behind what’s on the network, but I prefer to watch some shows when I want to rather than when the network wants me to. It was dark, as every season of Homeland has been to date. The twist at the end was interesting and promises a climactic next season. We’ll see.
I finally reached the end of season one of Man in the High Castle. I know I’m behind in this one, but I watch multiple series at the same time on both Netflix and Amazon Prime (like, between six and ten at any given time) and I only watch them on the weekends or days off and that means slow progress. I enjoy where the series is going and the characters. It’s interesting to see what they’re doing with another of Dick’s shorter works.
Phil and I devoured Good Omens. We loved it. I know a good deal has been made of focusing the story on Azirophale and Crowley because they are secondary characters. Like Lemony Snicket, above, they don’t really do anything to progress the plot or save the world. They just mess up and luck into every win. Still, I loved seeing David Tennant on screen again and Crowley’s friendship with Azirophale is a beautiful thing.
We also enjoyed Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. I LOLed quite a bit. The movie didn’t take itself seriously and mocked its own tropes. I see why a lot of people consider it one of the best Marvel property movies (even though it was a Sony movie), better even than Endgame. I think comparing the two isn’t something that can be done. They’re both their own beasts.
Valerian remains in limbo, and Phil and I, on the strength of our liking of the original, checked out Reboot: The Guardian Code. One episode and I was, no. So no.
Reading-wise, I finished American Gods, which I liked much more than the Amazon Prime series. Events and gods have been juggled in the series so much that it’s almost unrecognizable. I recommend the book, though I did enjoy the series on its own merits.
For my literary selection, I read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. I know it was probably the author’s intention, but I was alternately depressed and enraged throughout the novel. I still have unsettled feelings about it, and I think it will take some time to come to an understanding.
I read Sarah Negovetich’s Rite of Rejection, her YA dystopian. The story has similarities to books like The Handmaid’s Tale, in that society has doubled down on traditional gender roles and anyone considered divergent is identified through their activities (arrested) or by “the machine” which identifies those with undesirable traits. In both cases, undesirables are sent to camps so that they will never be able to spread dissent or reproduce. It’s another stark book, but I’ll probably read the rest of the series.
Finally, I listened to both volumes of The Outlandish Companion on Audible. It was a great refresh of the series, the Lord John books, and the interstitial shorts along with a lot of fascinating insights into Gabaldon’s process, research, and tasty tidbits about the series. It was a nice palate cleanser 🙂
And that was this month in the writerly life.
Until the next time I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.
Ah … Here we are in June. And it still feels like we’re stuck in May, weather-wise. The pin cherry blossoms are just emerging this weekend. That’s a little over two weeks behind schedule. The pines are candling and the lilacs finally have leaves. Though the temperature is ranging from the mid-teens to low twenties Celsius, I’m still wearing socks most days. We haven’t removed the duvet from the bed, though we have turned off the furnace.
Thank you, global warming, for drawing down all that arctic air 😦
Mind you, we haven’t had it as bad as some with the flooding in the east and the forest fires in the west.
I’ll just be thankful.
Just some of the lovely skies I’ve been graced with in the last month.
The month in writing
I finally finished drafting Tamisashki. It didn’t take me as long as Playing with Fire did last year (I was drafting through September). So, I’m happy with this progress.
It’s not a perfect draft. There are a couple of points where I lost my way, despite knowing the destination. I had to stop at one point and reassess the chapter, then write out, very plainly what needed to happen. This actually affects two chapters and I’ll have to backtrack with the notes.
At one point, I forgot to add in a chapter/POV where I wanted until after I was a few chapters past. I went back and inserted it and then rearranged all the others. I’ll have to rewrite about half of them because events are now out of sequence. I have notes for all of these, too.
There are a lot of question marks and parenthetical notes where I forgot the names of characters (and didn’t think to write them down at the time), place names, and the like. I’ll catch most of these on the reread and add the notes then.
Finally, my final chapter is basically an epilogue as Fer travels around Noreuna, fulfilling promises deferred by the various crises that have occurred throughout the series. I started writing it out and rambled again, so I wrote terse little paragraphs about each location, whose POV it would be in and what would happen there. Again, I’ll fill it out in revision.
I started off with the goal of 5k words and had to keep increasing it as I went. I ended up with a goal of 7,500 words, and I wrote 8,451 words, or 113%. I was supposed to be finished drafting last month. Technically, there shouldn’t have been a goal for drafting at all.
I wrote 3,186 words on this blog, or 114% of my 2,800-word goal.
I wrote 1,592 words for my next Speculations column, or 159% of my 1,000-word goal.
And I added in another goal because I wrote another 174 words on a short story that’s in revision. I set the goal at 250 for a 70% result.
I also finalized the absolute last bits of my poetry collection (a wrote two new poems for a friend) and will be sending it out for review soonish. Then, it will be off to a few small publishers for consideration.
I continue to make slow progress with my critiquing.
I did not write a new story. I did not revise any of my past published short fiction. If you remember last month’s next chapter update, I gave up on those goals as being overly ambitious.
I have started to review the Ascension series, starting with my notes and character sketches and all that. One of the things I aim to do in the next months is to assemble my series “bible.” I’ve also started to review book one, which I’m thinking of renaming. I definitely have to rework Fer’s scenes in the first act and I’m also thinking of adding a couple more chapters from other POV characters to fill in some gaps.
I’ve scheduled myself to be reviewing/revising through to the end of September this year. I don’t know how far I’ll get. I’ll do what I can in the time that I have.
While I didn’t get much work on the short fiction done, I’m going to continue to devote some time to it. I’d really like to have the two pieces finished, revised, and ready to send out somewhere soonish.
I was supposed to start working on spiffing up Reality Bomb for posting to my critique group. Sadly, I didn’t do more than open up the doc in May, but I hope to get to it in June.
And that’s it for the month in writing.
Filling the well
In May, I didn’t attend a poetry reading or a play, I went to Christina’s Coffee House, an annual charity fundraising event held at the Caruso Club.
Cristina Faiella Roque spent countless hours on the road with her family throughout her four-year battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Although there are travel grants available, the costs incurred in lodging, gas and food can be a tremendous strain on families. It was with this in mind that Cristina’s family and friends decided to hold an annual fundraising event in celebration of her giving spirit.
There was music and dance, a 50/50 draw, mystery boxed, silent auction, and other coffee-themed games of chance. Coffee and desserts were free, and supper was a nominal extra fee. I went with a group of friends from work and fun was had by all.
All the proceeds went to the Cristina Care Fund at the Northern Cancer Foundation.
What I’ve been watching and reading
I forgot another one. Magicians finished up in April and I forgot to mention it not because, like Deadly Class, I thought it was mediocre. I think I might have been a wee bit in denial. I know the series has diverged from Grossman’s books (all adaptations have to, to some degree) but I’ve been enjoying the series immensely. Even Phil thinks it’s one of the best things on TV these days 🙂 The season finale gave me the feels. More than that, I won’t say, cause spoilers, and this is one series I think you should all see for yourselves.
In May, most of the network series came to a close. They were all … ok. Supergirl and Arrow worked themselves up to next season’s Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline. The Flash is supposed to be headed there, as well, but I haven’t finished plodding through the season on Netflix. DC’s Legends is doing its own thing, as it has for the past couple of years.
Grey’s Anatomy finished on a down note, but I was unmoved.
I’m still enjoying Killing Eve and was happy with how the season concluded.
And, of course, there was Game of Thrones. I won’t get into my overall critique of the season except to say that I share a lot of concerns that others have expressed. I think the DBs did the best they could with the time and budget they had at their disposal. I’m looking forward to reading the books (whenever George R.R. Martin gets them finished) to see how the character arcs that are similar in the show evolve with more interiority and development over time.
Phil and I watched Blade Runner 2049 and thought is was okay. At least it wasn’t a rehash of the original, but it was hardly necessary. We have a bit of a problem these days with Hollywood’s lack of an original idea.
We started watching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets but haven’t finished it … which should tell you something about what we thought of it.
Reading-wise, I read Emma Newman’s Between Two Thorns and quite enjoyed it. It’s a masquerade/portal fantasy with some interesting worldbuilding. The protagonist is competent but not special. In fact, pains are taken to show just how ordinary she is. Def not a chosen one 🙂 The ending was uncomfortable, but inevitable. There was no way for the protagonist to escape her arranged marriage, the 19th century intrigues of her family, or the fae-touched world she was born into.
I devoured Storm of Locusts, Rebecca Roanhorse’s follow up to Trail of Lightning. If anything, it was even better than the first novel. Highly recommend it. Just read them both. You’re welcome.
Then, I read S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass. Everyone was apologizing to everyone else and faces/gazes were falling everywhere. Aside from those two irritating bits, it was a good story with unexpected twists. I find I’m liking a lot of the non-western tales I’m reading these days.
Finally, I read Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart. I liked the protagonist’s inability to craft a decent pun and the twist on the typical superhero story. Like his Mistborn series, the big bad wins and takes over the world. No one can fight against the epics, but the reckoners manage to take down the world’s most powerful tyrant with a lot of luck and a little something epic of their own.
And that was the past month in this writer’s life.
Until Tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!
Happy Cinco de Mayo! And happy belated Beltane/May Day/Lady Day, if you celebrate such things 🙂
The first four months of this year have disappeared and I’m still wondering where the time went.
The month in review
As anticipated, April was a tough month. The day job kicked into high gear and I found myself struggling to get the words out. When you go from devoting roughly 50 to 75% of your total daily energy to you day job to 100%, it really leaves you running on empty at the end of the day.
I persevered to the degree possible, but I couldn’t finish Tamisashki. I did well, though, considering. Of my 16,260-word goal, I wrote 14,892 words, or 92% of my goal.
I blogged 3,264 words of my 2,800-word goal, or 117%.
And I wrote 975 words for my latest Speculations column for DIY MFA. I aim for around 1,000 words and usually go over, so I’m actually kind of proud of the underwriting in this case.
You will notice that I have dropped the short fiction goal and short fiction anthology goal. I’ve had to admit defeat in this respect. I still have revised/finished/submitted my January story yet and my February story isn’t even half written yet. While I have my poetry collection more or less complete, I’m still formatting and then I’m going to ask some friends to help me organize them more coherently, so that’s kind of ongoing as well.
Needless to say, with the increased pressures at the day job, I don’t anticipate having the time or energy to devote to additional projects for the foreseeable.
This month, I was supposed to move on to the re-read of my entire Ascension series with an eye to revision. I will get to this, but I’m going to finish Tamisashki first, and finish work on the poetry collection (so I can send it to the aforementioned friends), and the two short stories.
I will continue with the usual curation on the blog, I have another Speculations column due at the end of the month, and I also wanted to start spiffing up another draft for my critique group.
Plus, there is ongoing critiquing to conduct for same.
So that’s where I’m at and where I’m headed.
Filling the well
This month, I attended the launch of Kim Fahner’s latest collection of poetry, These Wings. Kim’s launches are events. She’s a born storyteller, a lovely singer, and a wonderful teacher. There’s a story behind every poem she writes and every song she sings. I think that’s the Irish in her 😉
The collection is Kim’s fifth and was published by Pedlar Press in Newfoundland, where she’s heading next week for her East Coast launch. She’s already been to Toronto and Windsor for readings and I want to encourage anyone out there who’s fond of poetry (and even those who aren’t) to head out to your nearest bookstore (or computer) and get this lovely book. It’s awesome.
What I’ve been watching and reading
I’ll start off with an omission from last month’s watching list. I watched the full season of Deadly Class. That I forgot to mention is so soon after it ended should say something about how much (or little) it impressed me. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great, either.
This past month has only seen the end of Star Trek: Discovery. I enjoyed it, as I enjoyed the first season, but the end of it seemed a little too pat. Oh, so this is why we’ve never heard of Discovery or the spore drive before. This is why we don’t know Spock’s adopted sister, Michael. This is why we don’t know anything about Section 31. I guess the rest of Discovery’s story is in the far future?
In movies, Phil and I finally watched Dead Pool 2. It was funny, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as the original.
I also dragged Phil to the cinema to see Avengers: Endgame. I think it’s too soon to get spoilery about it, so I won’t. There was a lot of good in the movie, loose ends tied up appropriately, hope for the future, satisfying conclusion overall. I had the feels. I tend to agree with those who criticize how the women’s stories were handled, however, and Phil (as Mr. Science) was not impressed at the handwavium at work with regard to the time travel MacGuffin.
Reading-wise, I read J.A. Mclachlan’s The Sorrow Stone, a historical novel with fantasy elements. A grieving young mother sells her sorrow in the form of a nail from her child’s coffin and throws in her wedding ring to ensure the deal is struck. In the wake of the transaction, however, the young mother loses not only her sorrow, but also her compassion and many of the memories associated with those emotions. The pedlar with whom she makes the trade inherits her emotions (bad news for his business) and ill luck dogs him until he reaches home to find his youngest child dying of a mysterious illness.
There’s a good portion of mystery in the novel and it added needed tension to what might otherwise have been a tale of two people trying to escape the karma of their bad decisions.
I also read Jane Austen’s Emma. This was one of the classics I held over from my university years. Though I’d read Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice, and enjoyed them both, I just never got around to poor Emma Woodhouse. It’s only confirmed my admiration of Austen.
J.A. Andrews is a member of my critique group and I decided to pick up her series, The Keeper Chronicles. I read the first book in the series, A Threat of Shadows this past month and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed it. It has all the markings of a fairly typical secondary world fantasy with elves, dwarves, and magic, but there are some nice twists and a solid magic system with understandable rules—all of it essential to the plot.
And that was a month in this writer’s life.
Until next time, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.