The next chapter: July 2020 update

Another month has passed. July was eventful and not in the all the ways I expected.

And yes, this post is late. A week and a day late. You’ll understand.

Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until all Black and Indigenous lives matter. This is a fundamental truth.

The lives of all BIPOC, LGBTQ2A+, disabled, neuro-atypical, and all other racialized or marginalized people matter. We all need to listen, learn, and do better.

That is all.

Pandemic life

So. 24 new confirmed cases of covid-19 have occurred in Sudbury over the last couple of weeks, most of them in people under 30. While there hasn’t been any confirmed written report on the topic, the rumours are that a group of young people went down to a huge party in southern Ontario and brought the virus back with them. Police have also reported breaking up a couple of large parties within the city.

Some people are blaming covid exhaustion. Indeed, it’s taxing for people who haven’t been able to engage in any of their pre-covid social activities, but going from isolation to parties that exceed the safe gathering limits? Travelling to do so? Not smart.

The worrisome part of it all is that we now have community spread in our area and health officials haven’t been able to determine where some of the newly infected might have been exposed.

It’s a drop in the bucket with respect to covid cases nationwide, and we’re faring so much better than other areas of the country. Overall, Canada is doing better than some countries and worse than others. Considering that we had, in total, 68 cases and 2 deaths up until this new rash of infections, though, I think that we may be heading for a second wave. Those 24 new cases represent a 35% bump for our relatively small city. It’s not necessarily going to happen the same way everywhere, but even extrapolating a 15% increase elsewhere means a lot of new infections.

I’m still worried about what’s going to happen when kids return to school. The “plan” we have in Ontario is missing a lot of key details. I think now is not the time to experiment. “Let’s wait and see” is not an acceptable strategy.

Wear your masks, people. Stay safe. Keep your distance when you can. Gather in safe numbers and watch out for your friends and family.

My situation remains status quo with the one key excitement of being invited to write an exam for an internal position I applied for pre-covid. As the position is one that I am very interested in (in many ways, it’s my dream job), I confirmed my participation and awaited next steps.

It turned out the exam was to be written over the course of a week, well, six and a half days, most of which would be while I was working my substantive job. So, evenings and on the weekend, which in this case was the Civic Holiday long weekend.

Then, due to a technical issue, the exam materials, which I was to have received Monday morning, were not issued until that night, but they were sent to my work email (which, admittedly, I had requested because of the technical issue). This means I didn’t even see the email until the next morning when I logged in to my remote desktop. The due date was extended, but only considering the time of issue, not when I would have, in fact, received it. So, I lost any time I could have devoted to the exam on Monday and the due date was now the morning of the Civic Holiday.

It was a lot of work. By Friday, I’d only managed to devote about three or four hours a day to the exam. I determined that I would submit the exam on Sunday night, rather than work through the night to submit the exam in the morning. I know my limits. Going without sleep is not something I can do without consequence. I planned accordingly. I devoted eight hours to the exam on Saturday and 12 on Sunday and I still didn’t have the time to do all I’d wanted to do.

For better or worse, I submitted the exam at 11:57 pm on Sunday.

Because I was catching up on all the work I hadn’t done during the exam week, I didn’t get around to writing this update until today.

The month in writing

Once again, I failed to finish my rewrite of Reality Bomb. I’m closer, but I’m not done yet and the draft is over 108k words. Once I do bring the story to a conclusion, more or less, I’m going to be going over it again and cutting like mad. I have to tighten it up and make sure that the overall story has continuity. I want to reduce the draft to 90k if I can. I’ll settle for 100k, but I want a trim beast to present to my critique group.

I also critiqued a draft for one of my group members.

JulyProgress

I set another modest goal of 5,000 words and wrote 6,628 words, or 133% of my goal.

I blogged 5,448 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 145%.

I planned to write 8,750 words and actually wrote 12,076 words. That’s 138% of my goal.

Filling the well

On July 1st, I attended an online workshop with Roz Morris on backstory, offered through Jane Friedman. Love Roz 🙂

On the 11th, I attended the WXR virtual reunion and the taping of their annual “cruise” portions of the Writing Excuses podcast. The cruise is cancelled this year, and this was a great compensatory virtual get-together.

I also attended the virtual launch of Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon on July 14th. It was fun. The Lady Astronauts Club showed up in period-appropriate/IAC costume, MRK was dressed as her protagonist, Nicole Wargin, and they framed the experience as an orientation session for new lunar colonists at the IAC. There was a lecture on orbital mechanics, a lander simulation (which I managed on the fourth try), and several other entertaining activities. I’ve since received my copy of the novel and an IAC Artemis Base badge.

On July 20th, I attended a virtual lecture by Ibram X. Kendi on how to be an anti-racist broadcast by Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.

Finally, on July 24th, I attended a session on Mythology and Speculative Literature that was sponsored by The Carl Brandon Society. Vida Cruz, Piper J. Drake, Kate Elliot, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Shveta Thakrar discussed the mythological inspiration for their work, problematic or clichéd uses of myth, and other mythic goodness.

A couple of friends from out of town were visiting family and came over for an evening, which we spent on the backyard patio, appropriately distanced. These visits are always too short.

What I’m watching and reading

Phil and I watched all of Penny Dreadful. Though we enjoyed the first two seasons, the third left us scratching our heads. Ethan was taken back to America and Sir Malcolm, recruited by Kaetenay, travelled from Africa to rescue him. Ethan temporarily goes dark side before the resolution to his troubles brings him abruptly back to the light. Then, Kaetenay has a vision that sends them back to London to help Vanessa …

… who has been languishing, abandoned by all her supposed friends and family. At Dr. Lyle’s suggestion, she enters into therapy with Dr. Seward, who looks identical to her witch mentor from the previous season’s flashbacks. She makes progress through hypnosis and ventures out into the world again with Dr. Sweet, who is, in fact, Dracula (dun, dun, dun!).

Frankenstein teams up with an old colleague, Dr. Jeckyll in a subplot that doesn’t really go anywhere.

The creature reunites with his family, only to discover that his wife wants him to take their dying son to Frankenstein for resurrection.

Brona recruits the fallen women of the city and trains them to become her army with Dorian’s help. Her goal: to liberate women everywhere from the power and cruelty of men. Sadly, Dorian bores of the game and delivers Brona into Frankenstein’s hands, where both creator and creation have inexplicable changes of heart. He refuses to use the serum he and Jeckyll developed to tame Brona, and Brona, once freed, knowing that Dorian delivered her into Frankenstein’s captivity, decides not to take her revenge on either of them. She returns to Dorian’s manor and, seeing her disciple dead on the floor at Dorian’s hands, simply leaves. Brona delivers an empowering speech that’s supposed to leave Dorian devastated, but it doesn’t.

Meanwhile, a new friend enters Vanessa’s life, Catriona Hartdegen. Cat knows a lot about vampires and Dracula in particular and together, they figure out that Dr. Sweet is Dracula. Vanessa goes to confront him, intending to defeat him, but—again, inexplicably—decides instead to surrender to him. Darkness and chaos descend upon London.

Ethan, Sir Malcolm, and Kaetenay, newly arrived, team up with Dr. Seward and Cat to save Vanessa. Dracula tells Vanessa that her former friends are coming, and she intimates that she will welcome the opportunity to slay them all. When the battle is joined, however, Vanessa is no where to be seen. Everyone fights valiantly, but it looks like the tide is turning in Dracula’s favour. Ethan breaks away and finds Vanessa isolated in a room where she merely begs him to kill her, which, after some weeping and moaning, he does.

And that was it. I know the series was cancelled while they were in the middle of filming this last season, but in an attempt to compress the story, the writers were unable to set up the appropriate character development that would make the last few episodes feel earned (where have we seen that before, eh, GoT?). Instead, we have uncharacteristic actions/decisions by nearly every character, lose ends, and a lot of lost opportunities. It would have been better if they had changed course and written and ending that made sense, even if it wasn’t the ending they had been writing toward for the whole series.

On TV, I watched the most recent season of The Good Witch. It’s candy and fluff, but sometimes you need a little candy and fluff.

I finally finished Orange is the New Black. They had to do some fancy tap dancing to get everything rolled up and they did leave some loose ends. I’m glad Piper decided to stick with Alex, but I think I would have been just as happy if she’d gone on to have her own life. It was the other stories, Taystee’s, Original Cindy’s, and Gloria’s stories in particular, that grabbed me. Blanca got a happy ending. Pennsatucky’s end was tragic. Maritza and Shani’s deportations were senseless. Aleida and Daya just continued the cycle of violence. Suzanne was left hanging, much as Red and Lorna were. I know it was supposed to be a commentary on the incarceration system, but aside from being largely depressing, I was left with a solid meh.

I watched The Crown’s latest season and it was interesting, but it wasn’t edge-of-your-seat viewing.

13 Reasons, season 3 definitely had me on the edge of my seat, but I kept asking myself why. Why even write a second season? The first season covered Asher’s book and did so well. They just delve deeper and deeper into trauma and its aftereffects to the point that in season four, it’s just painful to watch. That may have more to do with my trauma than anything else, but there you are.

I finished the 2018-19 season of Riverdale, which was already out there (juvenile prison fight rings, a criminal empire based on a D&D analogue, and an organ-harvesting cult) and am trying to catch up on the 2019-20 season.

And I finally finished the 2018-19 season of The Flash. Solid meh. But proceeding with the 2019-20 season, anyway.

Reading-wise, I only have four offerings.

I finished Jenn Lyons’ The Ruin of Kings. I liked it. I wish I could rate a book three and a half stars, but I gave it four. Lyons did play with structure in an admirable way. The book overall is presented as a report to the current empress (a very long report, might I say) and the annotations that appear throughout are not distracting, as you might think, and they do add to the content of the story. Once I learned who the empress was, I had trouble understanding how most of the annotations were necessary and that returned them to the category of authorial intrusion, however.

The first part of the book is told by two narrators, prisoner and jailer (kind of like Black Panther, Red Wolf) but the jailer is a shape-shifter named Talon who has the ability to absorb the memories of the people they imitate. Or come into contact with? Or consume? Really, the process isn’t well-explained. Talon and Khirin (the prisoner/protagonist) use a stone, handed back and forth. It’s a clever conceit that allows Lyons to present other POVs than Talon’s and Khirin’s, by virtue of Talon’s abilities.

Not only that, but Khirin starts telling his story from the point of his enslavement. Talon complains and goes back further, to the point they believe in the true beginning of the story. So, we have a narrative frame within a narrative frame and dual timelines that intersect and the end of part one. That’s another structural oddity. Part two is maybe a fifth of the book.

There was nothing wrong with the story itself and the structural gymnastics were definitely novel, but it made me wonder if Lyons had presented the story chronologically, without the frames and the annotations, if I would have thought differently about the book.

Then, I read The Queen of Katwe. I was hesitant, because the author is a white man (Tim Crothers), but it’s a non-fiction book using a lot of interviews and correspondence and thus presents the book in the words of the people involved. The book was, by turns, depressing and uplifting, but there was no real resolution. It’s an incomplete biography that leaves the reader wondering if Phiona ever achieved her dream of becoming a grandmaster. Wikipedia indicates she holds the title of candidate women’s master, but that’s as far as she got.

Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe was interesting. Rather than starting in this world and entering one of dream, Johnson flips the concept. Vellitt has always lived in the dream world and must travel into our world to recover the favourite granddaughter of one of the gods, who, if he wakes to find his favourite missing, will destroy half the dreamlands. The one thing I wasn’t comfortable with was that the real-world dreamers who travel to the dream world are always men, powerful and ageless. When Vellitt finally reaches our world, she is instantly transformed, has an identity and all the knowledge she might ever need or have gained from living a life in this world, though. Maybe Johnson’s statement is more subtle. Maybe women are the only true dreamers, living lives simultaneously in the dream world and in this? It’s thought-provoking, to be sure.

Finally, I read Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation. What kind of country would America have been if the civil war was interrupted by a plague of zombies? Ireland calls them shamblers and, in her novel they basically make time stand still. In some respects. The protagonist, Jane is biracial, though her skin is not light. She’s at a school for “attendants,” Black girls who are trained to fight shamblers and protect wealthy white women. It’s the best she can hope for in a world in which slavery and indenture still exist and people of colour (Black and American Indian) are seen as biologically inferior. Ireland examines the racism of the world she’s created through the lens of her “finishing school,” the viral shamblers (one plotline involves the development of a vaccine), and the white supremacists who attempt to create their own isolated empire in the midst of the chaos.

Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a letter that Jane has written to her mother and later, after she learns that her correspondence has been intercepted and she comes into possession of them, her mother’s letters to Jane. It’s a good book, but I kept wanting a little more and there were some events that seemed to resolve in the favour of plot convenience rather than where they seemed to be heading. I’ve already nabbed the next in the series, though.

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

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

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Mar 3-9, 2019

I have a lot of informal writerly learnings for you this week.

By the way, a couple weeks ago, I decided to group posts by blog/source. Are you liking this slight rearrangement, or do you find it more difficult to read? Let me know, if you wish, in the comments. I can always change things back. More whitespace on the page can be helpful for readers.

Oren Ashkenazi examines six common mistakes in fight scenes and explains how to avoid them. Bunny explains how to use the uncanny in your writing. Mythcreants

Greer Macallister explains what it means to be a working writer. Sophie Masson outlines the options for planning your book launch (‘cause not every publisher has budget for that anymore). Donald Maass eschews his usual concise and pithy titles in this installment: nasty, menacing, and murderous protagonists and why we love them. Alma Katsu offers tips for complex historical research. David Corbett writes about what it means to sink into the bog. Kathryn Magendie wants to thank those who encourage us to write and dig deeper. Writer Unboxed

Joanna Penn interviews Sacha Black on how to create heroes and villains for the Creative Penn podcast. Then Bharat Krishnan stops by to discuss how to write diversity authentically. The Creative Penn

James Scott Bell visits Writers Helping Writers: does every protagonist need an arc? Spoilers: yes, but it doesn’t have to be a positive or negative change arc. Sometimes … it’s flat (no change). Janice Hardy stops by later in the week to point out three ways writers tell, don’t show and how to fix them.

Abigail K. Perry examines another of James Scott Bell’s signpost scenes. This time, #8: pet the dog. Brenda Joyce Patterson takes a deep dive into flash non-fiction. Gabriela Pereira interviews Anita Sarkeesian and Ebony Adams for DIY MFA radio. Rachel Thompson list five ways to celebrate women and non-binary authors on International Women’s Day. DIY MFA

Fae Rowan wants to write the perfect book. Spoiler: it’s not possible. What to do instead 😉 Then, Julie Glover wonders, have you forgotten to have fun writing? Writers in the Storm

Susan DeFreitas: when your query reveals a story-level problem. Jane Friedman

Self-rejection: what it is, why you do it, and how to chuck its ass out an airlock. Chuck Wendig, Terribleminds.

Ammi-Joan Paquette is taming the synopsis with these four steps. Writer’s Digest

Jami Gold says, what makes a story uplifting is more than a happy ending.

Rosa Saba: authors irritated by “smug” defense of the Vancouver website they say is stealing their work. Readers, shun ebook.bike. SHUN! The Toronto Star

And that is tipsday for this week. Come back on Thursday for some inspiration and research resources.

Until then, be well, my friends!

tipsday2016

Recently in the writerly life

Greetings, all!

Here we are, at my last pre-NaNoWriMo weekend post.

I’m going to recap some of the writerly events I’ve attended in recent weeks and mention a thing or two that will be happening in the nearish future.

First, we’ll be going back in time to September 28 and the Latitude 46 fall launch. One that evening, five authors were reading from their works.

LiisaKovala

Liisa Kovala is a friend from the Sudbury Writers’ Guild and she was launching Surviving Stutthoff, her memoir of her father’s experiences behind the death gate.

Also launching books that night were Sudbury’s Roger Nash, with his nineteenth poetry collection, Whazzat?, Rod Carley from North Bay, Hap Wilson from Rousseau, and Suzanne Charron with the second edition of Wolf Man Joe LaFlamme: Tamer Untamed.

The event was held at Ristorante Verdiccio, and it was a delightful evening.

Last weekend, October 21st, I attended the launch of Kim Fahner’s fourth poetry collection, Some Other Sky, which was held at St. Andrew’s Place in downtown Sudbury.

Kim not only reads, but she also sings, and she usually has The Wild Geese perform Celtic music before, during, and after.

Next weekend, November 2-4, I’ll be attending Wordstock Sudbury.

On Thursday, I’ll be at a poetry reading by Emily Ursuliak, Tanya Neumeyer, Kateri Lanthier, and Kim Fahner at One Sky, followed by the festival opening, and then a dramatic reading of Kim’s play Sparrows Over Slag.

On Saturday, I’ll be attending Merilyn Simonds’ masterclass on The First Page and then Nathan Adler’s masterclass on Writing Speculative Fiction.

Torvi

Phil and I will also be visiting our new puppy, Torvi 🙂 She’s still a few weeks from adoption age, so we’re bringing a blanket and toy out for the pups. When we do adopt, we’ll be able to aid the transition with the smell of momma Mocha and a familiar toy.

Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday will be posted this week, but after that, I’m getting to puppy prep and working on Playing with Fire. I’ll see you after the writerly masochism that is NaNoWriMo!

As ever, be kind, be well, and stay strong, my friends. The world needs your stories!

Sundog Snippets: Renny DeGroot launches Family Business in Sudbury

Renny reading

Renny reading from Family Business

After the Tweet chat and HVC, I shot downtown to catch what I could of Renny’s book launch for her novel Family Business at the Fromagerie Elgin.

I managed to be in time for her reading and to purchase a book and get it signed.

Renny signing a book for a fan

Renny signing a book for a fan

The afternoon also included performances by one of the tenors Renny manages, and a classically trained pianist.

Music feeds the writerly soul.

Artisan cheeses, fruit, and baguettes were provided.

Though smaller than her Toronto launch, the afternoon met Renny’s expectations and generated additional publicity for her novel.

You should really check it out.

 

 

 

 

Here’s what Amazon says:

Family Business

Family Business

Set in the Netherlands against the backdrop of the Great Depression and through World War II, Family Business follows the story of Agatha Meijer and her sons, André and Johan, as they build their textile business, a business Agatha is determined her sons will carry on, regardless of their own desires. Family tension comes to a head when the boys each take a stand, sending all their lives spinning in directions none of them would have ever anticipated, and making each of them question the true meaning of loyalty, love, and freedom.

 

Caturday Quickies: The launch of Spooky Sudbury

Spooked authors :)

Spooked authors 🙂

Barnaby

Barnaby

What was I up to today?

Between 11 am and 1 pm, I went to Chapters to celebrate the launch of Mark Leslie and Jenny Jelen’s Spooky Sudbury: True tales of the eerie and unexplained, which just happens to feature a wee tale from yours truly as well as a number of my friends: Kim Fahner, Mat Del Papa, Charlie Smith, Rob Sacchetto, and a pile of other local contributors.

Upon my arrival, the gracious Mr. Leslie brought me my contributor’s copy and my Spooky

My Spooky Sudbury swag

My Spooky Sudbury swag

Sudbury Swag Bag.  I met Jenny, and hung out with Scott Overton, Kevin Closs, and a crowd of other people.  Really.  It was a crowd.

An hour into their three-hour stint at Chapters, Mark and Jenny were sold out.  Fans were heading down to Costco to buy copies and bring them back for Mark and Jenny to sign.

This afternoon, Mark and Jenny were at Coles in the New Sudbury Centre, and tomorrow morning, from 10 am to 12 pm, they will be at Costco.  This will be your last chance, Sudbury, get your copy of Spooky Sudbury before they’re all sold out and read the true tales of the unexplained through the month of October.

Getting interviewed-yes, the media was there too!

Mind you, you can always go online and order a copy.

Either way, it’s scary stuff, kids (in my best, Count Floyd voice)!

What writerly fun have you been up to this weekend?