The next chapter: August 2021 update

There’s something about the quality of the light in September that I love. The position of the sun in the sky, its later rising as we near the autumnal equinox. They instil peace and evoke memories of happy times in my life. Lying in my bed with the light flooding into my room as a gentle nudge to waking. Sitting on a covered porch in a comfy chair, wrapped in a sweater, with a cup of tea and my journal, writing. Solitary moments when I felt wholly myself.

I hope you find some joy in the season, too.

Before we get to the update, here are my monthly PSA’s:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Keep washing your hands, wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distance, and, if you haven’t been fully vaccinated yet, please get on that, won’t you? Delta’s still raging and new variants are on the horizon.

The month in writing

August started off well, writing-wise, but something happened (more on that in filling the well) that sent my train off the rails. Originally, I’d set myself an ambitious goal (as you do), but around the middle of the month, I realized I wasn’t even going to come close. I adjusted down and still didn’t reach it.

Of my 10,000-word goal, I wrote 6,703 words, or 67%.

I wrote my next Speculations. 1,080 words, or 108% of my 1,000-word goal.

I wrote 5,385 words on this blog. That’s 144% of my 3,750-word goal.

I worked on a couple of pieces of short fiction, trying to get them ready for open calls, but that fell by the wayside after mid-month as well.

Filling the well

The three writerly events I attended in August were closely clustered. I signed up for Fonda Lee’s Revision Boot Camp, on August 12th. It was offered in conjunction with When Words Collide, which was free and ran from August 13th to the 15th. On Saturday the 14th, I also attended Margaret Dunlap’s Demystifying Outlines offered through the Rambo Writing Academy.

It was a packed weekend, and I didn’t get to attend as many WWC sessions as I would have liked, but they will be coming out on their YouTube channel. Eventually.

Torvi on kiltti koira. Yes. I’m still enjoying learning Finnish.

So … the thing that happened.

For the month of August (August 3rd to September 3rd, actually—so five weeks) I was acting for my team lead in instructional design. I was the project manager for everything my team was working on, including a very important and time-sensitive project (henceforth known as the VITSP) that had to be completed. I knew it would be challenging and had booked the last two days of July off, leading into a long weekend, for a nice break to muster my resources.

Unfortunately, in the two working days I was off, the scope of the VITSP changed drastically. Originally, we were to have the learning products published on our learning management system (LMS) on the 9th of September. Now, it was to be published August 27th. That was two weeks cut from our timeline.

The instructions I was left with indicated that we would have to have the validated and translated documents for the self-instructional modules (SIMs) in the week of August 16th, so that we could edit, send for review and approval, convert to PDF documents, and submit them to our technical partners for posting to the LMS in time for the due date.

My first meeting of that first day of my acting made it clear that the SIMs would not be validated and translated until August 25th or 26th. I panicked. But I couldn’t be seen to be panicking. Add to this the fact that my manager was also absent for most of the week, and I was spiralling.

I tried to power through, but I found even thinking difficult. I couldn’t seem to make a decision (a deadly shortcoming in project management), and I certainly couldn’t articulate what was happening to me. My brain literally could not brain.

On the evening of August 12th, the situation had been diffused sufficiently that my brain began to brain again. What I was experiencing was related to my autism. Had I had some kind of meltdown? I did some research over the weekend and learned that what I’d experienced was called autistic burnout. I’ll let you click through if you want to find out more about it.

The best remedy for autistic burnout is rest. Unfortunately, I did not have that option, so I powered through. The brief rest of weekends was insufficient for recovery. I was plagued by insomnia, spent hours ruminating about the mistakes that resulted from my autistic burnout.

Proactive about my mental health as I am, I again reached out to my employer’s employee assistance program (EAP). After two weeks of playing phone tag, however, I gave up on the idea of getting counselling support. People were probably on holidays and demand exceeded supply. I only had one week remaining in my acting assignment, anyway, and the crisis would likely be over by the time we finally connected.

I explained to my manager and critical partners what was happening, and the situation improved. But it was still extremely stressful.

Somehow, I managed to get the VITSP done on time, but not without days of foregoing proper breaks and lunch, working overtime, and shaking like I was standing naked in a snowstorm.

I’m still not fully recovered, but I have a doctor’s appointment on the 13th. I’ll see if I can get some support then. I also have a couple days of leave coming up and will take my overtime as compensatory leave. I’ll make it through, but I’m still feeling foggy.

I tried to persist in writing, because my creative pursuits are one of the things that bring me joy but bullying through wasn’t serving me. The quality of my work was not satisfactory. So, I’ve stepped away from writing, too. I’m trying to be kind to myself.

What I’m watching and reading

Due to the above difficulties, my reading and watching habits have suffered as well. Concentration is hard, right now, so I have less than usual to report for August.

In the watching department, I only finished two series.

First, I watched the series finale of The Good Witch. It’s a positive and uplifting kind of series, and the last season was no exception. Though the writers tried to insert some romantic tension and uncertainty, nearly everyone paired off by the final episode. After a brief disconnect about Sam’s workaholic nature (aside from the season’s big arc of the red haloed moon), he retired and embarked on a world tour with Cassie.

Joy ends up with her girlfriend, Zoey, who was nearly frightened off when she discovered that Joy was a witch. Adam and Stephanie get back together, and even George gets a love interest. But Abigail and Donovan, who were engaged to be married, abruptly call it off. What about her happily ever after? And her flower shop is in danger from a big floral chain that’s moved into town. It seems that there’s more story to tell. Too bad the series was cancelled.

I also watched the end of the first season of Superman and Lois. It was a short season, because pandemic, I suspect, but it was typical DC network fare. Clark and Lois are devoted partners and the parents of two boys. Clark is fired from the Daily Planet and Lois quits because of the new owner of the paper, Morgan Edge. They move to Smallville after Martha dies.

Jonathan and Jordan, their sons, are day and night. Jonathan is the golden boy, popular, QB on the football team, and otherwise typical teen. He adjusts poorly to small town life, having left his girlfriend behind in Metropolis. Jordan is shy and awkward and plagued with social anxiety. It’s a surprise to no one and everyone when Jordan turns out to be the one who inherits Kal-El’s powers.

I really liked John Henry Irons.

I only finished reading three books in August.

The first was We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. The book starts with the origin story of the land of Medio. It establishes the social contract between men and women, as well as the class structure of the island nation. In Medio, every affluent man is married to two women. His Primera manages his household and is his intellectual and political partner. His Segunda is his social partner and bears his children.

Daniella is about to graduate from Medio School for Girls and enter into her marriage contract as a Primera when she is approached by a member of a resistance group who blackmails her into spying on her new husband for them. His price? Silence about her impoverished background and family.

It was definitely a heroine’s journey novel, a la Gail Carriger. Dani has little power throughout the novel, and it’s only her compassion and desire to do right that allows her to prevail. It’s also an enemies to allies to lovers story between Dani and her Segunda. I enjoyed it.

Then, I read Nancy Springer’s The Case of the Missing Marquess. Yes, the novel that inspired the Enola Holmes movie. I attended a literary event back in the spring that featured Springer, and everything she said about the adaptation was true. It was a short, but lovely story, and Enola is much more resourceful in the novel. She has to be. Basilwether is also much younger, so no romance in the book.

Finally, I read P. Djèlí Clark’s A Master of Djinn. Loved! I’ve heard some negative things around the interwebz, but I loved the story. I loved Fatma. I loved the world. Read this book. I will say no more.

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

Until tomorrow, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The next chapter: July 2021 update

Well, I blinked again, and July disappeared … what’s going on with time? Seriously? But it’s August now, and I owe everyone an update.

Before we get to it, your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, please continue to wash your hands, wear a mask in public, and maintain social distance. Delta is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. If you’re not fully vaccinated, get on that, won’t you?

The month in writing

The latest round of revisions on Reality Bomb were going well … until I got past the first plot point. Then, I realize that I needed to start over with a different POV. I had been writing it in third person, but after my protagonist becomes a passenger in her alternate self’s body, trying to format their internal conversations was too much for third to handle.

I’d suspected that I might have to make the shift to first person and even asked my critique group about it. I was advised to try it but chickened out. Now I’m paying the price.

The realization hit about the 15th of the month. I took a few days to mourn the work I’d already done and got back at ‘er. Needless to say, RB is going to take a lot longer to revise that I’d hoped.

I revised my revision goal down to 10,000 words, but still only managed 6,564, or 66%.

Work on short fiction has more or less ground to a halt. I put a few words in, here and there, but that’s all the effort I can afford to put into it these days. I wrote/revised another 508 words in my May (MAY!) short story revision. That’s 51% of my adjusted 1,000-word goal.

I blogged 4,813 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 128%.

I changed the colour of the font when I started over. *weeps

Filling the well

I only attended one writerly event in August, but it was a-MA-zing! It was a Writing the Other workshop on character arcs with Stant Litore on July 17th and 18th. I will only say that I immediately bought his two writing craft books. Working with Olivia Wylie (O.E. Tearmann) and the group on our character arcs was a lot of fun and I got some really good feedback.

I went out to my sister-in-law’s this past Friday. We ordered out this time. Ali Baba’s family style. Everyone had a feast and there was enough left over for everyone to take a share home.

In the work world, I received some good news. My original acting was to end July 31st. At the eleventh hour, I was extended to November 30, 2022 (!) Job security—it’s a thing! I’m also filling in for my team lead while she’s on holidays for the next month. I’m a little intimidated, but I’m sure all will go well.

But … things are a bit hectic at work right now. It’s only a problem because it results in fewer spoons remaining at the end of the day. I’m not reading as much (haven’t been for the last couple of months), writing as much, or feeling like I have much time at all for myself. I’m sure things will level out.

I’ve now broken 150 lbs in my weight loss journey. I’m into a size 10 jean. I have done some shopping. More to come, I suspect. Accordingly, I’ve cancelled my Noom account. I think I can take it from here 🙂

I also received a free three-month trial of Duolinguo. So, I’m learning Finnish. Terve! Minä olen Melanie (Hello! I am Melanie). It’s only about 10 minutes a day and will take over the 10 minutes I’ve been spending on the Noom articles.

A rainbow for you.

What I’m watching and reading

In the solo watching department, I finished the last season of Riverdale. Alien abductions and serial killers and prison breaks. Oh, my! I hear that the next season will be the last.

Invincible was extremely bloody (in the way only an animated series can be), but it was also quite good. [HERE BE SPOILERS] The premise: what if a superhero like Superman was sent to Earth to conquer it and was only pretending to protect humanity by way of garnering good will for their new alien overlords? And what if his half-human son, who finally develops his father’s abilities, sides with the humans?

Charmed was okay. While I appreciate the increased diversity of the cast, they haven’t really gone very far off-script. One of the sisters makes the ultimate sacrifice in the season finale, but the newly bereft sisters are told, in Star Wars fashion, there is another …

I really liked Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. The ending was a little ambiguous, though. I’ll now have to cue up the book in my TBR pile.

With Phil, I watched NOS4A2, based on the Joe Hill novel of the same name. The show was filled with homage to Joe’s dad, Stephen King, and it had a similar feel to King’s adapted work. There were some questions left dangling at the end of season 2, though.

Then, I signed up for Disney+ and we watched WandaVision. I enjoyed it more than Phil. There’s been so much buzz out on the interwebz about it that I don’t think I have to go into details. Suffice it to say, I’m looking forward to future Marvel properties.

And, of course, we watched, and both loved Loki.

I have four books that I finished reading in July (up from three in June—yay?).

The first was Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson. I’d read his second book A Taste of Honey first. By turns literary and grounded. I liked it, but I’m still sitting with what I think about it.

Next was Alechia Dow’s The Sound of Stars. I really liked this one. An alien dissenter and a human rebel team up to overthrow an invasion, the purpose of which is to turn Earth into an alien “all inclusive” resort. The chief attraction? The ability to inhabit humans and live like a native. Of course, the humans can’t have will or intelligence for that to happen.

Then, I read The Hands We’re Given by O.E. Tearmann (and yes, I got the book because I was in Olivia’s workshop group in the WtO class). The book is hard to classify. An LGBTQIA2S+ romantic military science fiction? A post-apocalyptic LGBTQIA2S+ romance? It’s somewhere in there. I quite liked it.

Finally, I read Robert Olen Butler’s From Where You Dream. It’s more of a transcript from one of his classes, than a more traditional writing craft book. I’ve had it on my radar for years because K.M. Weiland refers to it when she talks about dreamzoning. It was a challenge to get my head around Butler’s methodology, for all that he demonstrates it rather than just telling readers what it is. Because it’s not really something that can be told. It has to be experienced.

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.

The next chapter: June 2021 update

Here we are in July, after a strangely introspective and quiet national holiday—on this side of the border, anyway. I won’t speak for my American friends. With the discovery of nearly a thousand unmarked graves near residential schools, I, and many Canadians of colonist descent, have been examining our collective lack of action with respect to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.

If you read the calls to action—and I encourage you to—they’re mostly common sense. Ensure that all Indigenous communities have clean water, solid infrastructure, support for health and mental health needs, and so on. Reuniting Indigenous families, doing whatever we can to identify the occupants of unmarked graves, and demanding accountability from the Catholic church (other protestant denominations and the federal government have already apologized, but no further action has been taken) are the least we can do.

And how do we do it? Personal actions are a start, but we can act most powerfully by lobbying our local members of parliament and through voting. If swift action is not taken by the government in power, then we elect a government who will act.

With that, I’ll segue into my usual PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until all BIPOC lives matter.

Wear your masks, wash your hands, and get fully vaccinated. The delta variant wants to undo all our good work. Don’t let it!

The month in writing

The month started out well. I was making headway with Reality Bomb, and once I got the May next chapter update and my Speculations column dealt with, I even manages some more work on the short story I started … in April.

Then work (several days sacrificed to the meeting gods) and meetings (about 10 hours worth) for the Canadian Authors ramped up and my productivity went down.

I set myself a goal of revising 25,000 words on RB but adjusted it down to 20,000 words around the middle of the month. I’m into another section where I’m rewriting, not just revising, now, and most days, I’m lucky if I can get 250 words written. There’s a lot of resistance around this section of rewrite, which is how I know that it has to be done. It’s just taking more time than I’d like.

But I rewrote/revised 16,330 words in June, or 82% or my amended goal, so I’m happy enough.

In short fiction, I revised 567 words, or 38% of my 1,500-word goal. Again, I’ve gotten to the point where it’s writing and not revising (the story was only part-written before). This is where I return to the old NaNoWriMo saying: every word’s a victory.

I wrote 1,272 words for my Speculations column, or 127% f my 1,000-word goal. And I submitted it on time. Win!

Finally, I blogged 5,458 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 146%.

Of my total writing goal for the month, I achieved 141%, of my total revision goal, I achieved 79%, and overall, I achieved 90% of my combined goals for the month. Not bad 🙂

Of the projects I’m not tracking, I made progress on my Ascension master document (like that much better than bible …), I did brainstorm a new short story, but I didn’t finish the story from two months ago, or start revisions on another story.

You can only do what you can do.

Filling the well

On June 2nd, I attended another Tiffany Yates Martin webinar through Jane Friedman. Always a good investment, those. I also signed up for TORCon June 10-13 and attended a few sessions, but that was it with respect to writing related events.

I had an appointment with my registered massage therapist on the 10th and I don’t know if it was the weight loss or my ASD diagnosis, but I’ve never had a more relaxing, less painful massage.

On June 20th, I went out to my sister-in-law’s for a lovely afternoon of lawn games and BBQ. I didn’t even take pictures. Just relaxed. So much relax.

Had an appointment with my financial advisor to make a couple of small tweaks to our banking and investments.

And … on the 28th, I called first thing to book my second vaccination. In another week, I will be as fully protected as Pfizer allows 🙂 I did have more pain in my shoulder than I did last time, but I got my shot. I done a #goodjab.

I’m down to 154 lbs, but now most of my clothes are too big. Can I say I hate shopping? First world, privileged white woman problems.

What I’m watching and reading

The latest season of Grey’s Anatomy came to an end in June. Same old, same old. What can I say? It’s a guilty pleasure.

Nancy Drew also finished its season. It was okay. Still not sure I like the ghostbusters version of ND. She resolved the major problem of the season only to have more crop up. Par for the course.

Phil and I watched the second volume of Love, Death, and Robots. Some of the shorts were amusing, others grim. Not bad.

The History of Swearing was amusing, though. I hope they do more, though I think they’ll run out before too long.

I also watched two movies.

The first was Monkey Beach, based on an Eden Robinson novel of the same name. I’d been meaning to watch it since I found out about it (about the same time as the Trickster series came out). It was good. Sad, but hopeful.

Wonder Woman 1984 was bad, but not as bad as I was prepared for it to be. Compared to the first movie, though? Meh.

Only three books on the reading radar this month, but they were all great.

I read TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea first. Pure joy. If you haven’t picked it up yet, do it.

Then, I finished Diana Harkness’s The Shadow of Night, to catch up with the series. It’s very interesting to see the differences between the two, and I could really understand the creative decisions behind the adaptation. Doing the book, as written, would not have worked visually. Like them both for different reasons and in their own respects.

Finally, I read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Ohmygodsogood! Just going to leave it there.

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!

The next chapter: April 2021 update

Welcome to May 2021, the pandemic age. It’s been a month and I’m back to share all my writerly shenanigans.

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, wear your masks, don’t go out unless you have to. The new variants mean this pandemic isn’t over yet.

The month in writing

I can’t seem to get my head into this next round of RB revisions. I set a modest goal of 5,000 words and wrote just under half that (48%). 2,408 words, to be more precise. At least I got some writing done on the project? Yay?

Moving on to short fiction, I finished the new short story I barely started last month and started on revisions of another story. So, 2,591 words written of my 2,500-word goal, or 104%, and 1,088 words of my 1,500-word revision goal, or 73%.

I submitted to two anthology calls.

In related news, I received the sweet, sweet news that one of the stories I submitted in February was accepted for future publication, and the editor of one of the anthology calls was in touch to let me know that the story I submitted was accepted for publication as well. It’s been a happy-dancing kind of month.

I’ll let you know more when I’m able.

Finally, I blogged 5,429 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 145%.

I aimed to write 6,250 words and wrote 8,020 words, or 128% of goal. My goal was to revise 6,500 words and I only managed 3,496, or 54%. 91% overall. Not bad.

Filling the well

In April, I signed up for a Roz Morris self-editing workshop offered by Jane Friedman. Excellent investment. It ran for three weeks, April 15, 22, and 29.

I stopped by the Writing Excuses online reunion on April 17th and watched a great interview between Rosanna Deerchild and Eden Robinson on the 24th. Finally, I signed up for a Canadian Authors/SF Canada webinar with Douglas Smith based on his writing craft book of the same name, Playing the Short Game.

But … it was a busy month. 3 EAP appointments, 5 hours of assessment (more on this next month when I get the results), and 8 hours of strategic planning, board meeting, and volunteer recognition event for Canadian Authors. All that plus a full-time job? Woof.

I also signed up for my vaccination with a local pharmacy. Phil hasn’t heard about his, yet, though others of our acquaintance have had their first shots. It’s a wait and see kind of game when you’re in relatively good health.

I ended the month at a tidy 164 lbs. Something I didn’t mention last month was that the 170 lbs that was my goal weight was also what I weighed when I got married. The weight loss has slowed and I’m good with that. My next goal is to try and tighten up all the lose flesh I suddenly have.

I’m trying to take care of myself. So far, it’s working out.  

What I’m watching and reading

In the viewing department, I finished the most recent season of The Crown. It was interesting to get a fictionalized version of the early Diana and Thatcher years. The whole Crown Corporate Complex isn’t painted in a very sympathetic light, though.

Then, it was the second season of Discovery of Witches. YUM! They did some drastic rewriting of the book but most of the critical events are there. Loved.

The Irregulars was something that Phil and I started to watch together, but he tapped out before the second episode ended. It wasn’t bad, but the series’ versions of Holmes and Watson didn’t sit well with me. It’s true that the series wasn’t about them, but the rag-tag band of orphans that helps them. I’ll probably watch the next season. If there is one.

Finally, I got to see the series finale of Wynona Earp. Wacky hijinx ensued, as usual, but everything worked out and all the characters got their respective happy endings.

I read four books and a collection of short stories in April.

First up was The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis. Having watched the series, I wanted to read the book. Interestingly, the one thing that bugged me about the series, that everyone loved Beth, was not true in the book. The book also portrayed Beth in a less sympathetic light, which I liked. In my experience, the book is almost always better than the movie, regardless of which media is consumed first.

Then, I read Sarah Gailey’s The Echo Wife. Loved! Fabulous interweaving of various takes on cloning. A complex, unlikeable protagonist. This was recommended by one of my critique group members for my rewrite of RB. I’ve taken notes but can honestly only hope to be half as good as Gailey. Probably not even.

Next, I read A Dream So Dark, the sequel to A Blade So Black, by L.L. McKinney. Another yummy read. Unlike most YA fantasy authors, McKinney made the bold decision to keep young protagonist Alice’s mother in the picture. There’s a reason most parents are absent or dead. They either become antagonist figures, taking attention from the main conflict, or they rob the protagonist of agency. A little of both happened in the novel, but I think McKinney handled it well.

Of course, I had to follow it up with a reread of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It’s a classic.

Finally, I read Naomi Kritzer’s short fiction collection Cat Pictures, Please and Other Stories. The titular story won the Hugo. The whole collection is amazing.

And that was April in this writer’s life.

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

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 7-13, 2021

We’re half-way through March and heading for the vernal equinox. Reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings.

K.M. Weiland continues her archetypal character arcs series with part five: the king arc. Helping Writers Become Authors

Janice Hardy shows you five places to find your novel’s theme. Then, Janice lists four steps for choosing what details to describe in a scene. Later in the week, Angela Ackerman recommends you do this one thing to write unforgettable characters. Fiction University

Princess Weekes: Lovecraft Country … was just not that good. Melina Pendulum

Lisa Cron returns: still crazy after all these years. Then, Jim Dempsey lists five reasons you need a professional editor. Juliet Marillier celebrates wild women. The Cailleach and Baba Yaga, two of my personal favourites! Later in the week, Kathryn Craft explains how authenticity builds a satisfying author career. Then, David Corbett looks at two approaches to dramatizing character change: Emma vs. Hamlet. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin explains how to convey emotion in your writing. Shaelin Writes

Jane Friedman considers which is better for authors, blogging, or an email newsletter. Then, Lisa Cooper Ellison shares three traps that subvert our ability to receive feedback. Jane Friedman

C.S. Lakin explains how to face down writer fear. Live, Write, Thrive

The ice queen trope, explained. The Take

Kris Maze offers five dialogue quick tips for page-turning fiction. Later in the week, Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes list ten common bedroom object to use as weapons. In a pinch. Writers in the Storm

Jami Gold discusses setting as character. Later in the week, David Duhr wonders, do you focus on the doing or the having? Writing process vs. product. Writers Helping Writers

In defense of basic. What does it meme? The Take

Laura Highcove wonders, why does it feel like you can’t write after a writer’s conference? Then, Manuela Williams explains how to nurture your reader community. Later in the week, Elly Griffiths advises you to follow the feet. Then, Angyne Smith shares five things that saved her novel from oblivion. DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci shares her structuring method.

Lucy V. Hay offers a comprehensive guide of ALL. THE. STORY. STRUCTURES. Informative and somewhat overwhelming. Bang 2 Write

Chris Winkle explains why you should watch out for hindrance characters. Then, Oren Ashkenazi points out five problems with focusing on internal conflicts. Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb extols the art of embracing the suck: commitment matters.

Julian Lucas shows how Octavia Butler reimagines sex and survival. The New Yorker

Stephanie Burt: we live in the world of WandaVision. The New Yorker

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you found resources to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

The next chapter: February 2021 update

Sweet Lord! Why can’t time stand still for a moment? Here we are in March, just days away from the anniversary of the pandemic declaration, weeks away from the onset of my working from home, and … the vernal equinox.

All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. Just want to keep that front and centre.

Pandemic life

Epidemiologists have been warning for weeks now that the variants could open up a third wave. Today, after less than a week of daily case counts in Ontario below 1,000, we’re back up to 1,299. It’s a far cry from the 3,000 to 4,000 cases per day we were seeing back in January, but it’s still concerning.

Locally, there are 181 cases, which is significant because there have only been 784 cases in Sudbury (total) since March of last year. There are two group homes, one seniors’ residence, and seven schools with outbreaks.

Just because vaccines (four of them now, in Canada) are being distributed and administered, we can’t stop implementing public health measures. A vaccine isn’t a cure. It’s a mitigation. Covid can still be contracted by someone who’s been vaccinated. The chances of extreme outcomes (hospitalization, death) are lessened.

Please continue to wash your hands, wear masks, and maintain physical distance. This isn’t over yet.

The month in writing

I worked mostly on short fiction this month, revising 3,683 words of a single story. My goal had been 2,500 words, but the thing kept on growing. It still is. I’m having trouble with the ending. Beginnings and endings always give me trouble. Actually, everything’s giving me trouble these days. So, I revised 147% of my goal, but it’s not necessarily a good thing.

I blogged 5,359 words of my 3,500-word goal, or 153%.

For a low-goal month, it’s been a good one.

Of the projects I’m not tracking (because they’re mostly long hand ramblings on paper), I continued work on the Ascension series document, made revision notes for two more short stories, and submitted more poetry and a piece of short fiction.

Another of my poems was published in Polar Borealis Magazine.

I had a couple more rejections come in, but at least I’m getting my work out there. It’s a win.

Trying to move on

This month, I had intended to move on to next round revisions on Reality Bomb, and I’ve started, but it’s not going well. Mostly because I’m trying to rework the opening of the novel (see my comment above about beginnings and endings).

I’m continuing to revise the one short story and, as I’ve mentioned, am having trouble with the ending.

My confidence is suffering because of the personal crisis I mentioned last month. Things have improved, though. Physically, I’ve lost 13 lbs. There is more daylight and I think some of my SAD symptoms have been alleviated. I’m not suffering the continual heart palpitations I was. I have also received the results of my most recent physical exam and I’m in good health, overall. That’s reassuring.

I’m in a better place mentally, as well. At work, things are getting better. I’m learning more. I’m doing more. I’m getting some validation from my colleagues and manager. The imposter syndrome is lessening there. I am going to look into accessing our employee assistance program (EAP) to investigate mental health and management options.

Creatively, I’m still at sea. I have no idea if the revisions I’m working on are actually improving the story. I’m going to keep working as see where it takes me. It’s all I can do.

Filling the well

I’m cutting back on virtual events, but still managed to attend quite a few in February.

On February 1st, I attended the Grub Street launch of Nancy Johnson’s The Kindest Lie. The last Free Expressions webinar on the Show/Tell Solution was on the 4th. I attended a webinar on MS Word for Writers from the Canadian Authors Association on the 9th (very helpful, even though I’ve been using Word for YEARS).

I attended a watch party for the Perseverance landing on the 18th. There was a one-day world building conference offered by Diana Gunn on the 20th, and I signed up for Pro Writing Aid’s free fantasy conference from the 22nd through the 25th, attending four sessions.

Other than that, I’ve continued to walk Torvi twice a day and took as many pictures of dynamic skies as the weather allowed.

What I’m watching and reading

There are just three series that I saw the ends of in February.

I finished the last (and final) season of 13 Reasons. It was incredibly difficult to watch because of all the anxiety and PTSD. They did a good job of portraying the ongoing consequences of trauma, racism, homophobia, and policing in schools. It was a lot, though. So much that the ending felt rushed. You can’t resolve such serious problems in so little time. And I still wonder why it was necessary to continue the story of Jay Asher’s book for so long.

I also finished The Good Place. This story came to a much more satisfactory ending. In fact, I’d say it was a Mary Poppins ending—practically perfect in every way. Feel good hit, just when I needed it.

Finally, Phil and I watched the fifth season of The Expanse. It was amazing and continues to be one of our favourites. Season six will be the last.

In the reading department, I finished seven books (!) in February.

First was Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Goddesses in Everywoman. I appreciated how she, as a psychologist, interpreted the lives of women in terms of the archetypes of the ancient Greek goddesses, but I found that her overall message was contradictory. After indicating that a woman is not restricted to any one goddess, she later presents exclusionary life paths for each archetype. There was little wiggle room for interweaving. I enjoyed the book, but I’m not sure I’ll actually make use of it in a practical sense.

Next, I read P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout. Loved it. Read it.

Then, I finished Will Do Magic for Small Change by Andrea Hairston. It was a story of stories lovingly interwoven.

Liz Harmer’s The Amateurs was next. It’s an apocalyptic tale about what happens when time travel becomes the next iPhone.

Then, I read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. A bit of a tribute to Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” but darker. The patriarch of the antagonistic family has made a deal with fungoid eldritch terrors, but they need “new blood” to refresh the family line. Enter the protagonist and her cousin, the “new blood” in question.

M.L. Spencer’s Darkmage wasn’t what I’d expected. I’d been warned that it was dark, but I wasn’t prepared for it.

Finally, I read Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby. So good. Not going to say much about it because this is another book you should read for yourselves.

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

Thanks for reading and until tipsday, be well and stay safe, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The next chapter: January 2021 update

I hope everyone had a good January (after the 6th) and that the slowly lengthening days are infusing you with new energy.

I’ve felt better in recent weeks myself and am taking steps to lose the “covid 19” I put on since March. I’ve recruited Phil, who does the shopping and cooking, my mom, and a friend as a support group. I’m already measuring progress.

While the numbers of covid infections have been dropping due to provincial lockdowns and curfews, I think talk of reopening is premature. We need to stay on track long enough for the vaccination supply, distribution, and scheduling gets back on track. Once the manufacturing issues have been resolved, we should be good.

If we can get daily infection numbers to less than 1000 in the worst-affected provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and BC) on a stable basis and have our most vulnerable populations (front-line health care workers, seniors, Indigenous peoples, and other POC) vaccinated, we can reconsider. Yes, it’s inconvenient. Yes, the economy is suffering. But I think public health is more important than the economy at the moment. We’ll recover. We’ll survive. The economy will, too.

Locally, we’ve had outbreaks (defined as two or more cases) in several public and high schools, seniors’ residences and nursing homes, a group home, and the hospital. We’ve even identified cases of the “variants of concern.” Again, cases are going down, overall. All sites report that people are self-isolating, getting tested, and that all outbreaks are considered to be under control at this time.

The month in writing

There wasn’t a lot of writing this month. As I mentioned in my last update, I’ve decided not to dive into another novel right away. I want to give myself time to recover from 2020, solidify learning, and prepare to apply lessons learned to existing and new projects. More on this in a bit.

I wrote eight new poems. I’d planned to write seven, and so achieved 114% of my goal. I also submitted two batches of poems, both of which were not accepted, and I sent a proposal for my poetry collection to another small press.

I revised one short story, which was my goal. I’d allotted 1,500 words but ended up deleting more than I wrote. I wrote 187 new words, or only 12% of my goal. Just now, I realized that I forgot to update the word count on the story before I submitted it, but I did submit it. I’ll call it a win.

I also wrote my latest Speculations column for DIY MFA, which was published last week. The column came in at 768 words, or 77% of my 1,000-word goal.

And I blogged 4,532 words, or 129% of my 3,500-word goal.

Overall, I wrote 107% of my goal and revised 12%.

Other than those projects, I have a number of things I’m working on that I’m not tracking. I’m making revision notes for various pieces of short fiction, continuing work on the Ascension series guide, and making some revision notes for Marushka.

I’m also slowly updating this site and other social media images. Nothing major.

A vulnerable time

Three members of my critique group paused and submitted what they’d reviewed to date and asked me if they wanted me to continue. I completely misunderstood one of these messages, thinking that critique partner had chosen to stop altogether at that point.

I was thrown. I sorted out the misunderstanding and asked them all to continue but had to wonder if I’d given everyone the impression that I was especially fragile.

In reviewing the feedback, however, I felt reactive. I didn’t want to be, though. Maybe I am fragile. How can I learn to improve if I don’t know what the problems are? It’s a battle I’ll have to fight with myself.

Last year, I’d rewritten Reality Bomb, not referring to the earlier draft and then I gave it two passes to cut the word count down. I was trying a new approach to revising, because I have a habit on not making substantial revisions if I’m working in the same document. I may cut too much, though, or the wrong things. I may have focused on all the wrong things in the rewrite. Whatever the situation is, there are still significant problems with the draft.

Maybe I’m too much in my head. I approached the whole rewrite and revision too cerebrally. I can’t seem to get the emotion on the page. But I’m very closed down emotionally, in general. I don’t seem to respond to people like they expect. Maybe I’m neurodiverse. I just paused to take a self-assessment and scored high. Maybe I should get formally assessed.

Ultimately, I’ll need this month to develop my approach to reviewing the feedback and the next round of revisions on my novel. It was my hope to address the revisions in the month of March, but there may be so much to improve that I won’t be able to do that. I have to set that worry aside, though. Until I review all the feedback, I won’t have an idea of how much work there is to be done or how I’ll have to adjust my year’s writing plan and goals.

Add to that the fact that I’m in learning mode at work for the first time in 12 years. I’m feeling stupid and wrong and that this acting won’t be extended because I won’t be able to prove myself or be accepted as a member of my new team (cause I’m socially awkward). I’m doubting myself on all fronts.

I know that they way I’m feeling isn’t based in truth. I’ve won contests. I’ve been published in paying markets. I’ve been validated. I’ve had a successful 20-year career in the public service. When I was offered this acting position, my old team offered me an equivalent promotional position to stay. I do not, objectively, suck.

I’m just struggling at a point in my life when I think I shouldn’t be. It’s a massive case of imposter syndrome.

I’ll let you know how it goes, as always.

Filling the well

With the continuing lockdown, there hasn’t been any getting together with friends or family and, for the first time since I started to work from home in March, I’m feeling the lack of community. I have our household: me and Phil and Mom and Torvi. And I’m with them every day.

And that’s it.

I attended four virtual events in January, two workshops, and two readings. I also attended two board meetings for the Canadian Authors Association.

And that’s it. There are a lot of MS Teams meetings for work and I’m still at my peak zoom saturation level.

I’ve just been walking Torvi twice a day (which I must pause to do right now) and living in my own little world. I have to reach out to some friends …

What I’m watching and reading

The most recent season of His Dark Materials finished in January. I’m quite enjoying the series, particularly the chemistry between the actors who play Lyra and Will. There are some distinct differences between the series and the books, but I appreciate the choices made. For example, introducing Will’s plot in the first season.

Discovery also wrapped up its season in January. Though I like the series overall, this season seemed to find its stride better than some of the others. One reason may be because Michael and the Discovery are now in the distant future. They can, for the first time, write their own stories free of the legacies of other ST series.

I finished watching Warrior Nun on Netflix. It was okay. Confusing. And it took the protagonist seven episodes to get over herself and commit to her role as the halo-bearer. The last three episodes were the best of the season, but they shouldn’t have taken half as long to get there.

Also on Netflix was the first season of Snowpiercer just in time to start season two. I’d seen the movie but hadn’t read the graphic novels and liked that they chose not to do (another) reboot.

Finally, Phil and I caught up on the first half of Supernatural, season 15. We just needed to fill in a few gaps (How did Rowena become the queen of hell? How did Jack come back from the divine dead?) and now we have the full picture.

In January, I read/listened to seven books. The first was an Audible Original, Tanya Talaga’s Seven Truths. Loved it. Seven Indigenous teachings. Seven stories told with an emphasis on reconciliation and what it could be if we open ourselves to the possibility.

Then, I read Cherie Dimaline’s Empire of Wild. Fabulous. What would you do if your soul mate went missing for a year and when you finally found him, he claimed not to know you? Based on Métis tales of the Rogarou.

Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God is a dark, post-apocalyptic novel with an unreliable narrator and a disturbing end. It’s a great book and Erdrich is a master of deep POV. It just leaves you thinking about how horrible people can be and how easily the world could turn into literal hell.

Then, I read Rivers Solomon’s The Deep. It’s the story of how the slaves thrown overboard on Atlantic crossings spawned a race of merpeople whose collective trauma is so deep that they decide to entrust it to one of their number. It’s the story of what happens when that one decides to share the burden.

The next book I listened to was Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. The narrator has striven for most of his life to be a “good butler” but, in the process, has remained uncritical of his employer’s shortcomings, and of the feelings (his and hers) developing between himself and the housekeeper. The series of the butler’s reminiscences are framed by a road trip to see that housekeeper. In the end, he chooses wilful blindness. It’s the easier path.

Then, I read L.L. McKinney’s A Blade So Black. Loved. A retelling of Alice in Wonderland with several twists. I’ve already picked up the second in series.

I finished off the month with another Audible Original (it was a freebie), Mel Robbins’ Take Control of You Life. It’s about listening to your fear and learning how to move past it. You’d think I’d have learned something from this one, eh? It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve come down with this case of imposter syndrome. I’m facing my fear. Maybe I should listen to it again 😉

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

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

The next chapter: November 2020 update

December. The final month of the year (and, oh, what a year it’s been). The onset of winter. The month in which thoughts turn to hibernation and planning for the future.

But before we get there, let’s look back at November 🙂

Black and Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter.

I’m so grateful that Trump did not get re-elected.

Now is the time to heal and to focus on defeating covid.

Pandemic life

Even in Canada, we’re seeing huge numbers of daily infections in three of our ten provinces. The good news is that vaccines are in the process of being approved by various national health organizations and that the initial roll-out of vaccines to long-term care facilities and front-line/essential workers should begin soonish. Exact timeframes are dependent upon approval, as they should.

In Sudbury, we have only five active cases right now. This is not to say that we should ease restrictions. We’ve only done as well as we have because, for the most part, we’ve adhered to public health guidelines. Let’s keep it up!

I’m still happily working from home, though in a new position. I can honestly say that Instructional Designer has been my goal for over ten years now. I’m only one week into the position, but so far, so fabulous 🙂

Wear your masks, maintain physical distance, wash your hands, and get your flu shots as soon as you can.

Mom is doing well. Yesterday, we started letting Torvi visit again. Mom’s missed T and T’s missed Gammie. Phil also made pancakes with blueberry sauce. Things are slowly getting back to normal, though we have made the decision not to get together with the rest of the family for Christmas. It’ll just be the three of us, well four with the dog.

The month in writing

I’ll redirect you to my weekly posts for the specifics: NaNoWriMo 2020 week 1, week 2, week 3, and week 4.

As a summary/reminder, I participated in NaNoWriMo as a NaNo rebel this year, revising the latest draft of Reality Bomb. I hit 50k words revised on Nov 20th and my personal goal of 60K words revised three days later. Though I finished the month off with 79,819 words revised (133% of goal), I didn’t quite finish the draft. Three more days and I crossed the ultimate finish line.

I promised to let you know the overall word count reduction. The draft started out as a sprawling 120,090-word … sprawl. My goal was to cut 30k words off the draft for a lean 90-ish k. That didn’t happen. I only cut 14,225 words, but I have since reviewed where all the plot points fell and have identified where the bulk of the remaining cutting needs to focus. Between the mid-point and the third plot point. We’ll see if I can’t cut the remaining 15,775 this month. Ambitious? Yes. Possible? Again, yes. I’ll settle for 100k, though. No pressure 😉

I only managed 2,932 words of my 5,000-word blogging goal, or 59%, but considering how well I did with RB, I’m good with that.

Filling the well

Despite hitting peak zoom capacity in October at SiWC online, I had already signed up for a number of events and courses in November. It was a rather full month. Again.

On Thursday nights, except for the 26th, I had the ongoing series of lectures from Free Expressions including one by Christopher Vogler on archetypes. I had also registered for a Writing the Other workshop on diverse narrative structures with Henry Lien, which I enjoyed quite a bit. That was for four weeks starting on Nov 4th.

Wordstock Sudbury 2020 followed the trend of conferences moving online and was from the 5th to the 7th. I attended four sessions, including one by Robert J. Sawyer.

While I did attend an online event for Candas Jane Dorsey and her new book, The Adventures of Isabel, and attended another workshop sponsored by Jane Friedman by Tiffany Yates Martin, I registered for but failed to attend three other events. I just did not have the spoons. Plus, I had the Canadian Authors Association AGM to attend which was a conflict.

Other than walking the dog (and taking pictures), visiting Mom in the hospital, and then taking care of her once she was home, there have been no family get togethers, and I only left the house for appointments.

breathless anticipation

What I’ve been watching and reading

In the viewing category, I only have three entries this month.

Phil and I watched the second season of The End of the Fucking World. It wasn’t quite as wackadoo as the first. James, the nascent psychopath, was shot at the end of the first season and is initially paralyzed. He has a long road to recovery and, in the middle of it, Alyssa’s mother shows up and asks James to write Alyssa a dear Jane letter.

Alyssa decides she has nothing better to do except marry a nice chap to get away from her crazy family. Enter Bonnie, who was obsessed with Clive (the actual serial killer that James kills to save Alyssa in season one) to the point that she committed vehicular homicide for him. Upon her release from prison, Bonnie decides to hunt down and kill James and Alyssa for killing her beloved Clive. Hijinx ensue.

We also watch the first season of Truth Seekers. Nick Frost is mild-mannered broadband installer Gus by day, and paranormal investigator by night. Simon Pegg is his slightly weird boss. Malcolm McDowell is his dad (again, slightly weird). It was fun. I recommend.

And then, I watch Trickster, the CBC series based on Eden Robinson’s novel Son of a Trickster. Awesome. There were several deviations from the novel, but adaptation often works like that. All Indigenous cast and crew. They did an amazing job. Because I want you to both read the book and watch the series, I’ll say no more. You can find it on CBC’s streaming service, Gem.

I read four books in November.

The first is S.A. Chakraborty’s The Empire of Gold. A fitting end to the trilogy. Everyone gets their fitting ending, though often, not in they way they envisioned. Loved.

Then I read Your Brain is a Time Machine by Dean Buonomano. It’s about psychology and neuroscience and how our brains perceive time. It does touch on physics, but only peripherally. I think it was a recommendation from Lisa Cron. Interesting, informative, and good research.

Next up was Gail Carriger’s The Heroine’s Journey. Loved. I think Carriger’s take is my favourite so far. It’s helped me understand that what I gravitate toward is a heroine’s journey, which does not entail big heroics and final battles. I think it’s going to help me embrace the stories I want to tell, although I’m not telling them in genres strong in the feminine vibe. It may be problematic, but we’ll see what I make out of it.

Finally, I read Roshani Chokshi’s The Silvered Serpents, the follow up to The Gilded Wolves. It’s another heist novel, but the entire team is dealing with the fallout from Tristan’s death. Though I really enjoyed it, the novel was clearly part of a series and there were a lot of loose ends that weren’t tied up. I don’t mind this, but I do want a sense of some resolution. Some mysteries were answered, but a whole new batch of questions arose, and I was left a little dissatisfied. Still a Chokshi fan, though.

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

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

The next chapter: October 2020 update

October has ended. NaNoWriMo has begun. This year has been temporally bizarre. Covid time moves both slower and faster than normal time. Months have passed at a snail’s pace, and then I blink and the next month is gone.

Black and Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. Marcellis Stinnette and Jonathan Price were killed by police in October. The RCMP has refused to protect Mi’kmaw fishers and their rights.

I’m so afraid for what will happen, not just in the US, but also to countries and economies all over the world if Trump gets in for a second term. Not a little of my anxiety these days is due to this election.

Pandemic Life

Worldwide, we’re in the second wave. Numbers of infections are exceeding those seen in the spring in many countries are increasing restrictions. While I understand that people are tired, if we don’t recommit to reasonable restrictions like wearing masks in public, maintaining physical distance, washing your hands, and getting your flu shot, governments will have no choice but to implement lockdowns again.

It’s not about inconveniencing you. It’s not about violating your civil liberties. It’s about protecting other people. It’s about preventing the spread of disease.

Do your part.

The month in writing

Having finally finished my rewrite of Reality Bomb in September, I’d hoped to map things out and revise by the end of October. Once again, my ambitions exceeded my capabilities.

I didn’t finish mapping the story until October 20th. When I got to work on revisions, it wasn’t too bad. With eleven days left on the month, I set the goal of revising 30,000 words. I managed 24,714 words, or 82%. I’ve not just been cutting words, I’ve been rewriting whole sections again, so this is not bad. This is also the first month I’ve posted substantial revision numbers all year.

For NaNoWriMo this year, I’m doing the rebel thing again and I’m hoping to revise the remaining 60,000 (and a bit) words. I’ve already cut over 2,000 words from the over 120,000-word draft. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to tighten everything up and end up with a 90,000-word story that I can present to my critique group. I’m sure there will be further revisions, but this is my short-term goal.

Thanks in part to these long monthly updates, I once again outstripped my blogging goal by 174%. I wrote 6,532 words of my 3,750-word goal.

I also drafted most of my next Speculation column for DIY MFA. I managed to write 840 word of my 1,000-word goal, or 84%.

Overall, I wrote 155% of my writing goal of 4,750 words.

Also, my poem “Visiting Endymion” was published in Polar Borealis 16.

Filling the well

My family did get together for a low-key Thanksgiving at my Mom’s. Even though there were just five of us, we had more than enough food to send everyone home with leftovers.

For my birthday, Phil ordered sushi, I had wine, and we watched a seasonally appropriate movie (more on that, below). I’m a level 51 human now. I still behave like I’m a kid 😛

Virtual event-wise, I started the month with the launch of Ariel Gordon’s Tree Talk on the 1st. On the second, I attended a Carl Brandon Society lecture by Desi authors called Our Literary Mothers.

On the 6th, I attended a talk with Waubgeshig Rice and Eden Robinson in anticipation of the CBC series Trickster, based on Robinson’s books. It’s awesome. You need to watch it. CBC Gem.

I signed up for a series of webinars from Free Expressions. So far, I’ve attended a couple of Donald Maass lectures/workshops, and a Lisa Cron presentation on story and the brain.

I also registered for Surry International Writers’ Conference (SiWC) online, which combined their usual weekend offering with the Writing Excuses virtual retreat. I have to admit that I hit peak zoom saturation on Saturday night, but the recorded sessions will be available for a month for registered attendees. I’ll catch up.

Almost full/blue/hunter’s moon

What I’ve been watching and reading

In the viewing category, the month started off on a lowish note.

We finished Wizards: Tales of Arcadia. It wasn’t as good as Three Below, but it was okay and a better interpretation of Arthurian legend than Cursed.

Season two of The New Legends of Monkey was fun, but dumb. It doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

We watched The Boys, season two, and it was awesome and bloody and surprising, but Lucy traumatized me.

Lovecraft Country blew my freaking mind. I’ve seen some less than stellar reviews, but Phil and I loved it.

Utopia was good as well. I enjoyed it more than Phil, but I think what got him was the lack of resolution. Every plot line ended on a cliffhanger. I’m more comfortable with this than Phil is.

We also watched two movies. The Old Guard was good, but fairly standard and somewhat predictable. Zombieland Double Tap was as delightful a romp as the first one.

Reading-wise, I finished Jade City by Fonda Lee. I’ve been diversifying my reading and quite enjoyed the Asian-based fantasy world. The characters were fabulous.

Then, I backfilled a gap with Sabriel by Garth Nix. I quite liked the world of the Abhorsen.

I consumed Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir’s follow up to Gideon the Ninth. I went in prepared for the second person narrative, the apparent retconning of many of the events of the first book, and the lack of Gideon’s exquisitely kiss-my-ass voice. There is a point to it. Trust me. The second novel is as much a mystery as the first and part of the delight is trying to figure out what the hell is going on. The pay off is worth it, though the ending still leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Loved.

I also read K.M. Weiland’s Writing Your Story’s Theme. You may have noticed my book review 🙂 Yes, I’m A K.M. fangirl, but her analysis is on the mark and she has a way of making theme accessible to the reader without too much brain twisting.

I finished off the month with Alice Munro’s Runaway. There are only two standalone stories in this collection and the rest are linked in two groups. The title tale is chilling.

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

Just a reminder, I won’t be doing curation for most of the month of November. There is just one each of tipsday and thoughty Thursday, and then I’ll be devoting most of my time to RB revisions/NaNo. Of course, I hope to provide you with a weekly update on my revision progress.

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

The next chapter: August 2020 update

Another month has passed. I am experiencing covid time. Sometimes, it feels like March was only yesterday. At others, the second drag on. Though I’ve made my monthly goals more manageable, and revised my yearly goals every month, I’ve gotten more done than I thought I would.

Before we get to the month in writing, we have to make a brief stop in covid-ville.

Pandemic life

Black and Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous (and indeed, all marginalized or racialized people’s) lives matter. White privilege and white supremacy are real. We must interrogate our biases, listen, learn, and do better.

Tomorrow marks the return to school for students in Ontario. I’m not optimistic, and I can only wait to see how things turn out.

Working from home continues. I finally, after nearly six months, received my work laptop. The process was poorly organized and involved calls to the service desk. My system was still not working properly at the end of Friday and I ended up returning to the virtual desktop so I could get some work done.

I hope that all of my programs will have been downloaded by tomorrow morning and I can finish reconfiguring the laptop the way I want. Because I only have the one desk and no room to set up a second in my office, Phil will be making me a unit to raise my monitors above the level of the laptop, which has to remain on, open, and connected to our network so that updates can be pushed after working hours.

I have one of my monitors set up so that I can switch inputs between the laptop and my computer. It’s funny. When we were told we were going to be getting dual monitors at work, I and most of my colleagues questioned the necessity. Now, it’s difficult to conceive of working without them. We have so many programs, it really is easier to have them spread out over a larger visual area.

These are all first world problems of privilege. I just have to put on my big girl panties and git ‘er done. It’s interesting how little is takes to throw me off in these covid times. I can’t imagine how teachers are dealing with the possibility of turning on a dime and converting their lessons for online delivery in the event of an outbreak, which we’ve been told to expect.

The exciting events of July have not resulted in any news. That’s to be expected. Sometimes these assessment processes take months to sort through, and I believe the unit has been since slammed with other priorities.

Work itself is still frustrating and fraught. ‘Nuff said about that.

The month in writing

The never-ending novel is never-ending. I’m now over 116k words and not yet finished with the story. It’s going to be a hell of an edit. I did achieve 153% of my writing goal on Reality Bomb, however, writing 7,662 words of my 5k-word goal.

I wrote 173% of my 3,500-word blogging goal, writing 6,040 words in August.

I wrote 905 words for my latest Speculations column, which, though only 91% of my 1k-word goal, I count as a win, because I’m forever going over my 1k-word limit 🙂

Finally, I drafted 611 word on a new short story. I had wanted to write 1k words, but I ran out of spoons, or maybe hands, by the end of the month.

Overall, I wrote 15,218 words, or 145% of my 10,500-work goal.

Filling the well

There were just a few virtual events in August.

The first was When Words Collide, from the 14th to the 16th. They opted to provide the entire weekend of programming free this year because they had to cancel the in-person event. I only attended one session live, with Swati Chavda, on burnout. Unfortunately, the unsecured Zoom account WWC borrowed from the Alberta Romance Writers Association meant the intrusion of a Zoom bomber, which was not fun even though the session was great.

Phil and I were invited out to his sister’s backyard paradise for a bubbled day of social fun on the Saturday, so I wasn’t able to take in any further live sessions. I’m waiting for them to be edited and posted to WWC’s YouTube channel. The Aurora Awards were presented on Saturday evening. That’s the only session that’s been posted so far.

On the 16th, I watched Lavie Tidhar and Silvia Moreno-Garcia in conversation.

On the 18th, I started a free online course on short fiction from Steven L. Sears offered in conjunction with the Roswell Awards. This was the impetus for the new short story I started working on. The last of the classes is tomorrow.

On the 19th, I enjoyed Melissa Yuan-Innes’s workshop on How to Build Worlds without Boring your Readers to Death.

Finally, on the 24th, I attended a Penguin Random House Star Talk with Saleema Nawaz about her book Songs for the End of the World, which is now out.

I’m doing a lot more of these virtual events, I find. I’m enjoying them and they’re doing the job of inspiring me to keep on with the keeping on.

What I’m watching and reading

Phil and I watched the second season of Doom Patrol. It seemed to be one of the shows that was interrupted by covid. It ended at episode 9, and in a bit of an odd way. Sure enough, I found confirmation online that they were in the middle of filming episode 9 when production shut down. The cliff-hanger at the end of season one was apparently intentional. The cliff-hanger at the end of season two was not.

It was okay. We like most of the characters, though we both agree that Cliff is useless. The disappointment was that after the whole of season one was spend delving into the personal traumas of the various heroes and the big reveal that the Chief actually caused all of their “accidents” in one way or the other, or took advantage of their circumstances in a kind of hero syndrome on steroids, the whole of season two was more of the same. The heroes made progress, but several of them were still stuck in the mire of their various issues.

We’re hoping for actual progress in season three … please?

The Umbrella Academy season two was admittedly better than season one, but it, too, suffered from many of the same problems. Again, all the heroes struggle with trauma associated with their upbringing by Hargreaves—who is revealed to be an alien in this season—and most of them end up exactly where they started.

At the end of season one, the rest of the team take down Vanya, but fail to stop her from ending the world. Five’s solution is to take them back in time, but his time travel abilities malfunction conveniently, scattering the UA members over several years in the early 60’s. While they do eventually get together again, because, of course, there’s another apocalypse, they’re all as deeply messed up as they ever were.

They deal with Vanya’s overpowered and ill-defined abilities by giving her amnesia, but she’s still nearly the cause of the apocalypse—again. Five’s powers continue to malfunction, until they don’t. And even though he’s trapped in the body of his pre-teen self, he’s actually in his 50s and should know better, especially when the Handler screws him over—again. Allison feels so much guilt over abusing her abilities to manipulate her daughter in the future that she proudly refuses to use her powers. Until she doesn’t and goes on a power trip that includes a “shopping spree” and getting a racist diner owner to scald himself. Luther uses his super strength to win fixed fights for Jack Ruby. Diego is so obsessed with saving the soon-to-be-assassinated Kennedy that he winds up in an asylum. Klaus starts a cult with dead Ben’s help and tries to prevent the man he fell in love with during the Vietnam War from enlisting.

And that’s not mentioning the Swedish assassins, the Handler’s daughter, or Harlan, whom Vanya inadvertently endows with her powers.

At the end, apocalypses apparently dealt with, Five manages to get them back to 2019, except Hargreaves, having met his failed experiments in the 60s, decides to go with a whole different set of enhanced babies (except for Ben), who are now The Sparrow Academy.

I watched the final season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and enjoyed it, though I felt that they had lost their way as far back as the Inhumans storyline … which they resurrected in this final season. In fact, it’s like they picked bits and pieces from all of the previous seasons and brought them together, intending to tie everything up with a nice bow, only to fumble the bow like a three-year-old. No, honey, the rabbit goes into its hole. The show ended in a similar way to iZombie, with the team having a virtual reunion. It was satisfying and there are intimations that there might be some kind of tie in to the MCU/Disney+ (which has thus far ignored everything the networks or Netfix has put out), but we’ll have to wait and see.

Lost in Space wasn’t bad. I was left thinking that the Robot is kind of like the TARDIS, taking the Robinsons where they need to go, despite where they might tell him to go.

Finally, I watched the limited series Unorthodox. It was an interesting window into orthodox Hasidic culture, but it’s nothing like the true story it’s based upon. The writers were not unsympathetic to Esty’s husband, but they didn’t offer any resolution with regard to her aspirations in the music program she’d auditioned for. It was good, and I was riveted, but I was left wanting more.

In the reading department, I read seven books in August.

First, I finished Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself. It was good and definitely an epic fantasy, but something didn’t sit well with me for most of the book. I think it’s that there were only two women characters of note, one with a history of abuse who resorts to alcohol for self-medication and the other a feral warrior who was enslaved and abused in the past.

Ardee West seems to serve no purpose but to provide motivation to the male characters of the novel. To her brother Collem West, she is burden and a source of guilt. To Jezal, she is a potential love interest and borderline obsession. To Sand, she is a bittersweet reminder of what might have been.

Ferro Maljinn is a powerful woman, but she is the ultimate wild card, hating everyone without cause or reason, and bent on her personal quest for revenge even though she understands the bigger issues at stake.

Also, the book was very much the first act of the larger story that is the trilogy. It could never have stood on its own. I was, accordingly, ambivalent.

I read Kai Ashante Wilson’s A Taste of Honey. Though it is the second in series, it was a complete story on its own. At first, I thought that it was an alternate world historical fantasy, but part-way through, there was math and advanced science. So, science fantasy, then? I liked it, regardless, and the first novella is on my TBR list.

Then, I read Bethany C. Morrow’s A Song Below Water. I loved it. Though it was YA, it didn’t suffer from the agonized romantic subplot that most YA novels feature. Instead, it focused on the emotional journeys of its two young Black protagonists. Tavia is a siren living in hiding. Sirens are the most feared of the supernatural peoples because of their ability to rob their victims of their free will. Effie, who’s lived with Tavia’s family since her mother’s death, swims like she was born to the element and plays a mermaid at the annual Renaissance Fair.

Set in Portland, the story explores both girls’ trauma, not only as Black women in a mostly white city, but also as women who must unravel secrets—which their families actively keep from them—in order to become the people they were meant to be. Ultimately, it’s the girls’ friendship that gives them the strength to succeed. Morrow doesn’t shy away from the complexities of racism and intersectionality in various contexts.

Then, I read two Lawrence Hill books. The Illegal tells the story of a runner, Keita Ali, from the fictional country of Zantoroland, where dissidents are held for ransom, tortured, and killed by their corrupt government. Keita escapes to another fictional country, Freedom State, where he attempts to achieve his goal to become a competitive marathoner, when he discovers that his sister has been kidnapped and is being held in Zantoroland. If Keita can’t come up with the ransom, she’ll be killed, and so he runs, not just for his own life, but for that of his sister.

Based on a true story, The Book of Negroes is about Aminata Diallo, stolen from her home in Bayo (in Mali) by other Africans, and sold into the slave trade. She is bought by a cruel indigo plantation owner in South Carolina, her first child is taken from her, and she is subsequently sold to a Jewish man who, though he ensures she has work worthy of her skills and education, nonetheless abuses her after his own fashion. When Aminata discovers that he was responsible for selling her child, Aminata escapes while they’re in New York as the America Revolution begins.

Aminata works for the British during the war and once hostilities cease, becomes scribe, noting the names of the slaves freed through service to the British in the titular book. Pregnant with her second child, she is prevented from joining her husband on their way to Nova Scotia when her previous owners make claim upon her. Though eventually emancipated in truth, by the time Aminata makes it to Nova Scotia, she cannot find her husband and learns that circumstances in Canada are little better than they were in America.

Her second child is abducted during the chaos of a white attack on the Black settlement, and Aminata is once again on her own. Abolitionists come and recruit Nova Scotian Blacks, none of whom have been given the land promised them by the British, to create a free Black settlement in Sierra Leone. Aminata signs up because it has been her dream to return to Africa since she was first stolen from her home.

Again, the repatriated settlers of Sierra Leone are denied land and must endure the continuing slave trade that goes on around them. Aminata travels inland with guides and though she fails to find Bayo, she does find an African village where she stays for a while before eventually returning to Sierra Leone and accepting an offer to travel to England and help the abolitionists end the slave trade.

In a beautiful ending, Aminata is reunited with her daughter May, writes her story for the abolitionists, and helps to end the slave trade, though not slavery itself. This is a novel that everyone should read. Full stop.

Then, I read Danielle Jensen’s The Stolen Songbird. Cécile is kidnapped and magically bonded to the troll prince in the hope of ending a curse that a human witch places on the trolls centuries ago. The bonding does not break the curse and Cécile must navigate troll politics and a rebellion in the attempt to win her freedom. But, of course, she falls in love with the troll prince.

Finally, I marked as read Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon. I didn’t actually read it this month, but I was involved in the beta read last year and was invited to the live streaming of Mary Robinette’s recording of the audiobook this summer.

This is the third in Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series and focuses on Nicole Wargin during Alma York’s journey to Mars (in The Fated Sky). Earth first is sabotaging Artemis Base and Wargin must uncover the plot while dealing with the effects of the sabotage, personal injury, and threats to her husband, the governor of Kansas, on Earth. It was gut-wrenching and wonderful. I won’t say anything more about it. Read.

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

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