The next chapter: September 2019 update

Ah, October. My favourite month, mostly ‘cause my birthday 🙂 Yes. I’m a child.

The month in writing

We’re just going to get right to it.

SeptProgress

I made the decision to post only two book reviews this month (though one was of two novellas), and so I was a bit short of my blogging goal. 5,071 words of my 5,600-word goal, or 91%.

I got my latest Speculations written and submitted early because I headed down to Toronto for a day-job learning event. I wrote 1,327 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 133%.

I wrote all of 50 new words on short story number two and revised 41 words on short story number one. Even with a meagre 500-word goal for each, that was 10% and 8% respectively.

I went through the poetry collection again. This one, I decided to track by the number of poems revised. 51 of 51, or 100%. I have one more pass to make before the collection is ready for submission. I hope to get that done this month.

I got my second rejection on my poetry. Will send out more submissions.

In non-tracking projects, the read-through of Ascension continues. I’m almost finished with book three and will move onto book for this month.

I’m also 31 handwritten pages into revision notes for the SF novel that didn’t know what it was. It’s shaping up and I should be ready for my stint as a NaNo rebel next month.

I’ve also critiqued another project for my online critique group and have moved on to another.

One thing I’ve learned in the past few months is that you can still be a working writer, even if you’re not producing a lot of words. Not all writing is writing. Sometimes it’s reading, critiquing, planning, and thinking. You have to make space for all of it.

Filling the well

No writerly events in September, but I did get together with a couple of writer friends for and evening of Thai food and chat. It was just what I needed to refresh and refocus.

No pictures. Sorry.

Here are a few of my random photos from the last month instead 🙂

What I’m watching and reading

This month, Phil and I watched Carnival Row. We enjoyed the gritty, alternate world, the murder mystery wrapped up in a tragic origin story, and cheesy prophecy trope. It was nice how most of the story elements were connected to the main plot and so, as events unfolded, the characters developed and changed accordingly.

The final season of Killjoys came to an end in September as well. I didn’t appreciate all the creative choices that were made in this final season. Several of them felt forced, or worse, contrived. The series has always been more fun than philosophical, though, and things ended well.

I finished watching the first season of The Order. It really didn’t know what it wanted to be. Magical university? Werewolf story? Magical revenge tale? Things were tied together loosely, and the ending was disappointing. The titular order erases the memories of the werewolves and steals all their artefacts and research library. Really, I was left wondering why I should care.

Finally, The OA. The first season kind of ruined me with the second to last episode. When the box of incriminating books was found and everyone basically abandoned Prairie, deciding that she must be crazy/delusional, it completely undermined everything that happened in the final episode. Having broken my credibility, the series could not restore it. I basically went through the motions to finish watching, because I prefer to have a complete picture.

I wasn’t going to watch the second season, but I wanted to see how they could possibly move forward. And, honestly, it wasn’t horrible. The second season suffered from some of the same issues as the first, however. I watched it with a sceptic’s eye, distrusting everything the creators asked me to take on faith. Again, things were building to a climax and then, Pairie/Nina and Hap end up jumping to a universe in which they are Brit Marling and Jason Isaacs on a movie set. Oh, yeah. Though Michelle’s soul was retrieved by detective Karim, there was no real resolution for those left behind in the first universe, or for Homer, who finally remembered who he was but was trapped in the second.

I’m glad there won’t be a season three. At least, that’s the word on the interwebz at the moment.

Reading wise, I finished Mary Robinette Kowal’s Ghost Talkers, in which a corps of mediums help the allies in an alternate WWII. Loved. Kowal has indicated that she would like to revisit the world, but her Lady Astronaut books are demanding her time and creative energy at the moment.

I also finished Matthew Hughes’ What the Wind Brings, which he unabashedly calls his magnum opus. This was historical fiction, and I reviewed it last month.

Sarah Gailey’s A Taste of Marrow was next, and I enjoyed this second novella in her alternate America inspired by a strange-but-true plan to import hippos. This was my second posted book review last month and I looked at both novellas, which have been combined in one volume as American Hippo.

After I finished watching the last season of The Handmaid’s Tale, I finally read the book that inspired the series. I enjoyed the book more than some of Atwood’s others, I have to say, though it does share some of the aspects that I found problematic. June is another unreliable narrator, but why wouldn’t she be? The June of the book is never dependably identified by that name, though there is some speculation in the symposium appended to the end of the novel. She lives in fear, far more fear than Elizabeth Moss portrays in the series. She’s far less empowered. June is, essentially, a slave. It makes for an oddly distanced read.

Finally, I read Sean Carroll’s Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime, which I enjoyed though much of the content was over my head. Frankly, it blew my mind a bit. I read this one for research. It ties into the SF novel I want to revise.

Again, selected reviews will be forthcoming.

And that was September in this writer’s life.

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: August 2019 update

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

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

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

Taking stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck many broken pencils.

The month in writing

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

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

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

AugustProgress

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

‘Nuff said there.

Filling the well

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

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

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

Hope is always a good thing.

What I’m watching and reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: July 2019 update

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

The month in writing

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

JulyProgress

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

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

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

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

Filling the well

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

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

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

What I’m watching and reading

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

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

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

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

No movies this month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: June 2019 update

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.

JuneProgress

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.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: May 2019 update

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.

MayProgress

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!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: April 2019 update

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.

AprilProgress

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.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: March 2019 update

Here we are in April. My mind still boggles at how quickly the time passes. On the other hand, I never have enough time to get everything done that I want to. I seriously need to be more mindful. It might help me in my goal-setting to be more realistic in what I can do.

The month in writing and revision

In March, I continued drafting Tamisashki. My goal was to write 16,802 words and I wrote 16,796 words. Technically, that’s 100%, though I was 6 words short of my goal. (Pthbt!) The big difference is that I ended up writing through the last couple of weekends. I would have fallen far short, otherwise. I missed having my weekend breaks, but I wasn’t producing enough weekdays to give myself that luxury.

As I had mentioned in my 2018 review/2019 planning post, the day job is kicking into high gear now that we’re in April. As I expected, I won’t be able to keep up my drafting pace much longer. More work-related stress equals less energy for my creative pursuits. It is what it is.

I made an interesting discover with regard to my blogging goals. Somehow, at the beginning of my year, I DOUBLED all of my monthly blogging goals. Why the heck did I do that to myself? This means that I’ve actually met and exceeded all of my monthly blogging goals so far this year. This month, my goal was (once I realized my math error—I am numerically illiterate, I guess) 2,600 words. I blogged 3,699 words, or 142% of my goal.

It was my intention to get roughly half of my next Speculations column completed in March. This didn’t happen.

With respect to my short fiction goals, I had wanted to finish January’s story and two more shorter pieces to catch up on my short fiction challenge. I did, finally, finish January’s story and I got another 600 words on a new story, but I also submitted my completed short for critique and got distracted revising January’s story. I wrote 1,801 words and revise 1,547 words … My goal was 2,500 words. So … yay?

Initially, I’d thought I’d be revising around 21 poems for my collection. I only had 4 left that I deem to be publishable. I’m now in the process of transferring the poems into a clean document for submission. I have reconsidered my decision to self-publish, at least immediately. I’m going to try a few small presses before I bite the self-publishing bullet.

MarchProgress

Filling the well

On March 2nd, I went to see the Sudbury production of The Vagina Monologues. A few friends, including Kim Fahner and Liisa Kovala were in the production and another friend, Sarah Gartshore, produced.

It was a charity performance and tailored to the local performance, including some uniquely Canadian euphemisms for vagina, and a very compelling piece on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The proceeds went to SWANS, the Sex Worker Assistance Network of Sudbury. It was a great night.

What I read and watched this month

I followed Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning up with Waubgeshig Rice’s Moon of the Crusted Snow. Like Roanhorse’s novel, Rice’s was set in a post-apocalyptic world, but in MotCS, the apocalypse is recent, and the story is told through the lives and experiences of the Anishnaabe residents of a fictional northern reserve.

It’s a slow burn at the beginning. Having recently secured reliable internet, cable, and cell phone service, the power outage that isolates the reserve is initially unremarkable. They’ve gotten so used to disruptions resulting from poor infrastructure that the chief and council has set aside diesel to run their generators, and most homes have wood stoves or furnaces for heat.

But winter is coming and, as the outage proves permanent, two young men, away at college, return home on snow machines, having escaped the chaos of the modern, white world denied the services we’ve come to rely on. When a white survivalist follows the snow machine tracks, the situation gets interesting, and increasingly dangerous. I loved it.

I finished Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds, about cephalopod intelligence and how it diverged from our own evolution and development.

I read Putting the Science in Fiction, edited (and contributed to) by Dan Koboldt. If you write science fiction and you aren’t a scientist yourself, you really need to pick this book up. It’s the least you should know about science from a number of disciplines.

Finally, I read Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. It’s a young adult fantasy set in a created world based on West African mythology and the Yoruban culture and language. I liked it a lot, though the author couldn’t quite commit to her grimdark premise.

I went to my first theatre movie of the year: Captain Marvel. Like I’d miss that one 🙂 I loved it, even though it didn’t tread a lot of new ground. I’m looking forward to Endgame, now, and will probably drag Phil out to that one, too.

I finally finished season 2 of Wynonna Earp. I missed a lot of the later episodes because of a scheduling conflict and no PVR. It was a little weird, because I managed to catch all of season 3 when it aired. I was literally filling in the missing pieces. It was enjoyable because of the quirky characters and chick power, though the same qualities are also the source of some of my biggest complaints about the storytelling.

The rest of what I/we are watching right now is in progress. I’ve decided that I’ll refrain from commenting on the seasons/series that I haven’t finished watching yet. I tend to be a little slow in this respect, because I only watch Netflix/Amazon Prime on the weekends, and since I typically watch seasons/series as they come out, I often have 6 or 7 of them that I’m cycling through.

And that was March in this writer’s life.

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

The Next Chapter

Muse-inks: A decision and why I’m making it

I hinted on Thursday that I’ve made a decision about the blog, and if you’ve been reading, you might be able to predict what that decision is going to be.

*pauses for dramatic effect*

This will be my last Muse-inks/This writer’s life post for the foreseeable. I’m going to continue with my weekly curation posts and my monthly Next chapter updates, but otherwise, I’m only going to post if something of note is happening, like a DIY MFA column, reading, workshop, or other writerly event.

I’ll roll up the information I’ve been sharing on a weekly basis into my monthly updates.

I’m streamlining. I’m only going to post when I have something to say.

It’ll free up a little more time on the weekends and a few more words for my work-in-progress. It’s a first step in reclaiming my creative life.

Here’s the latest news in this writer’s life until my next monthly update.

In the last week, I’ve been able to write between 300 and 470 words a day. It feels good. I’m almost back to my 500-word-a-day goal.

Unfortunately, the weather up here in northeastern Ontario hasn’t been quite as cooperative. I’d mentioned, in posting a memory on Facebook, that the snow had almost melted. We could see grass! But, last Sunday afternoon, the latest storm blew through and we ended up with this:

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It basically looked like the memory, from four years ago, of a very snowy April day. This week, the grass is exposed in spots again, but, you guessed it, another storm is blowing up. We’re supposed to get between 30 and 50 cm of snow/ice over the next 48 hours. It’s sunny, at the moment, but the precipitation is supposed to start tonight.

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My other orchid has officially joined the bloom party 🙂

A Torvi tale: last week, I told you about the butt hackles 🙂 It turns out that laundry hanging on a line freaks Torvi out. Yes, the butt hackles rise, and she barks. Torvi, like her predecessor, Nuala, is not a barker. It’s so funny to see her out there, barking at the neighbour’s laundry, like, “That’s not supposed to be there! Hey! It’s moving! Did you see that? Look! Look!

We’ve reached the half-way point in our obedience class and, in the last couple of weeks, Torvi has been a star. In class. At home, things have improved, but she’s still having her hell-dog moments. Our house is a more pleasant place, these days.

We’ve been introduced to heeling with the meaty Rollover treat. I pinch a chunk between my left thumb and forefinger, keep my hand open, but slightly curved, and lead Torvi around, allowing her to nip at the treat. When we stop, the hand and treat are raised, and Torvi sits. She’s supposed to follow my pace and direction. We’re working on it.

We’re to practice off-leash in the house and switch to kibbles rather than treats for the basics (sit, down, sit up, stand, sit/stay, down/stay, stand/stay).

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Here’s Torvi in her Halti. She’s still getting used to it and tries to get out of it at every opportunity, but I will say again, the Halti transforms the walking experience. She doesn’t pull. She doesn’t lunge for people or dogs. I’d recommend it, or a Gentle Leader (a similar head collar) for everyone.

Between the Thunder Shirt and the anti-emetic, Torvi hasn’t vomited once. This past week, she basically laid down in the back seat and was quiet the whole way.

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Crash puppy dog on the yoga mat 🙂

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

Muse-inks

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? Tor.com

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!

tipsday2016

The next chapter: January 2018 update

January was a good writing month. Considering my somewhat hectic schedule at the day job, my procedure, and everything else (AKA life), I did well.

I continued to draft Playing with Fire, the fourth book in my Ascension series. I didn’t quite do as much as I’d hoped, but mostly, it was due to Torvi. She still needs supervision/training/attention and Phil’s had his workload doubled at his day job, so all he wants to do when he gets home is sleep or hide.

It all depends on when Torvi decides to settle down. Often, I’m not free to write until after supper. Sometimes, the crazies last longer. She is getting better, but mostly, it’s a matter of patience and persistence. On both our parts.

JanuaryProgress

Reaching 73% of my drafting goal for PwF (10,992 word of 15,000) is respectable.

I blogged 87% of my 5,800-word goal (5,054), which I don’t mind.

I wrote and submitted two DIY MFA articles in January and blew away that goal, writing 3,027 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 303%.

And I’m now tracking my newsletter writing for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. January’s newsletter came in at 4,100 words of my 4,000-word goal, or 103%.

I missed some goals and owned others. It’s always a bit of give and take.

In February, I intend to continue drafting PwF, I have another DIY MFA article due, another newsletter, more blogging, and … I’ve become aware of a couple of short story opportunities that I want to submit to.

In other news

I seem to have had my first period since the ablation. I hadn’t stopped sloughing since the procedure itself, and it just got a little worse. As far as most of my periods go, it’s been a breeze, but since it ‘s happened so soon after the procedure, I don’t anticipate that I’ll be one of the lucky ones who experience complete cessation of menses. I wasn’t counting on it, so I’m good.

As mentioned above, Torvi’s coming along. Things are about what you’d expect for a four-month-old dog, but the problems are exaggerated by her size. It’s more difficult to calm her when she gets excited. It’s more of a challenge to tire her out when she gets playful. But it is what it is.

We’re looking forward to the day she becomes the good girl we know is in there 🙂

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Are we going to Grandma’s yet?

And she’s so beautiful. Golden undercoat, burnt tips. When she cuddles, she’s awesome. You may notice that most of the pictures I take of her are when she’s lying down. That’s the only time she’s not moving (!)

That’s it for January.

I’ll see you on Tipsday.

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

The Next Chapter