Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 21-27, 2021

It’s almost the end of March (!) and time to get your informal writerly learnings on 🙂

Erika Liodice shares some lessons found in a lost year. Heather Webb: your writing process says you’re a failure. Later in the week, John J. Kelley shows you what happens when everything changes—capturing profound character moments. Then, Desmond Hall shares his Desmond’s Drops for March. Writer Unboxed

Jill Bearup analyzes the Max vs. Furiosa fight from Mad Max: Fury Road.

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

In search of absolute beauty. Like Stories of Old

Janice Hardy points out two words that lead to a stronger novel. Then, she explains how to show (and not tell) without raising your word count. OMG, do I ever need this! Fiction University

Shaelin helps you deal with creative slumps, writer’s block, and low motivation. Favourite quote: “That’s the bitch of capitalism, baby!” Shaelin Writes

Lisa Cooper Ellison wants you to beware of chapter-by-chapter critiques. Then, Susan DeFreitas lists three pitfalls when writing from your own life. Later in the week, Sharon Oard Warner helps you find your way to the end. Jane Friedman

Dr. Erica Brozovsky explores the unexpected origins of the word monster (w/ Dr. Zarka). Otherwords | PBS Storied

Elizabeth Spann Craig helps you handle perfectionism. The perfect is the enemy of the good.

Becca Puglisi asks, what is your character’s emotional shielding and why does it matter? Writers Helping Writers

Nathan Bransford explains how to write clear physical description.

Savannah Cordova busts some of the biggest myths in the publishing industry. Then, Marina Barakatt recounts how the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl takes over comics: not just dudes in tights. Later in the week, Gabriela Pereira interviews Simon Stephenson about voice, emotion, and metastory in a “mistopia.” Then, Stephanie Kane wants you to look at the bigger story. Gracie Bialecki shares five ways to have a healthy relationship of your writing group. DIY MFA

The serial killer trope, explained. The Take

Lisa Hall-Wilson shows you two ways to help readers connect emotionally with your characters. Later in the week, Ellen Buikema lists ten ideas for inspiring your writing with music. Writers in the Storm

Cordia Pearson: horses as change agents in fantasy. Dan Koboldt

Chris Winkle explains how to pace your story. Then, Oren Ashkenazi shares six principles for becoming a better worldbuilder. Mythcreants

David Shield: this Saskatchewan college is home to some of the rarest books in the world. CBC

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

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

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: 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!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 24-30, 2021

Welcome to February! Winter is progressing, the light is returning, and we’re beginning to see signs that the lockdown is once again flattening the curve. Yes, there have been problems with the vaccines, but we will see a resolution, sooner rather than later.

You’ve been so good, wearing your mask, maintaining physical distance, washing your hands. Keep it up! This is the way we beat covid-19. Reward yourself for all your good work with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

Barbara Linn Probst takes a closer look at writer time and reader time. Elizabeth Huergo offers some readings for writers: John le Carré and George Orwell. KL Burd: the soul of art. Later in the week, Heather Webb is writing through the pain. Then, Julie Carrick Dalton says, I choose joy, dammit! Kristin Owens says, you asked for it: when it’s time for critique. Writer Unboxed

Why are we so obsessed with characters being redeemed? Melina Pendulum

Janice Hardy wants you to stop being nice to your characters. Fiction University

Tiffany Yates Martin helps you understand third-person point of view: omniscient, limited, and deep. Then, Susan DeFreitas explains the one thing your novel absolutely must do. Jane Friedman

Shaelin shares 8 simple ways to make your writing better | Reedsy

Then, she explains how to write a closer (or more distant!) point of view | Reedsy

K.M. Weiland: story theory and the quest for meaning. Helping Writers Become Authors

Lisa Hall-Wilson shares four ways to write deeper with personification. Kris Maze advises that if your writing’s in a slump, get into the flow! Writers in the Storm

Why The Hunger Games’ Katniss represents all teen girls. The Take

The bombshell trope, explained. The Take

Christina Delay is creating from the familiar. Writers Helping Writers

Gabriela Pereira interviews Julie Carrick Dalton about multiple timelines, climate fiction, and a childhood code of honor. Then, Sara Farmer interviews Sherry Thomas. DIY MFA

Chris Winkle recommends nine jerkass traits that aren’t toxic or abusive. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five emotional arcs that fell flat. Mythcreants

Vigilantes, retribution, and the pursuit of meaningful justice | Like Stories of Old

John Tattrie introduces us to the extraordinary inner world of Charles R. Saunders, father of Black “sword and soul.” CBC

Michael Martin interviewed Cicely Tyson about her new book, Just as I am, prior to her death. NPR

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

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 3-9, 2021

Welcome to tipsday, your chance to top up on informal writerly learnings.

Janice Hardy shares an easy fix for tighter point of view. Hint: nix those filter words! Fiction University

Greer Macallister offers the gift of critique. How to by way of how not to … Sarah Penner encourages you to rethink resolutions and habits as writers in 2021. Donald Maass: the real vs. the unreal. Nancy Johnson compiles this list of published authors sharing wisdom from their debut journeys. David Corbett: what now, storyteller? Writer Unboxed

The female assassin trope, explained. The Take

K.M. Weiland shares seven lessons learned in 2020. Helping Writers Become Authors

Karen DeBonis shares her writing goal for 2021: let go to love more (AKA, how I stopped worrying and learned to love editing). Janice Hardy offers a different approach to writing success this year (i.e. how dumping self-imposed deadlines can increase productivity). Julie Glover: how much of our real life shows up in our fiction? Writers in the Storm

Emily Zarka introduces us to the Kasogonagá: Sky Deity and Absolute Cutie. Monstrum | PBS Storied

Nathan Bransford explains how to set meaningful goals.

Colleen M. Story explains why writers should take more risks this year. Writers Helping Writers

Victoria R. Girmonde: worldview and the MG/YA genre. Story Grid

The wicked stepmother trope, explained. The Take

Sara Farmer interviews Elizabeth Little. Then, Gabriela Pereira wonders, where do we go from here? DIY MFA

Joe Bunting offers definitions and examples of the six shapes of stores. The Write Practice

Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five popular stories with conflicts that are too difficult. Mythcreants

Ron Friedman: rotating spacecraft and artificial gravity. Sci and Sci-fi

Clair Armitstead provides the 31-day literary diet for January 2021. Sure, we’re half-way through the month already, but who says you have to finish it all in January? Be a rebel. Start now and continue your literary snacking into February! The Guardian

Jesse Wente is reframing Indigenous stories in joy. CBC’s Ideas

Why should you read Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”? – Yen Pham TED-Ed

Kritika Agrawal shares seven fascinating facts about Octavia Butler. Mental Floss

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 13-19, 2020

It’s another tipsday, your opportunity to catch up on some informal writerly goodness.

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

And in the midst of the pandemic and ongoing demonstration, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg dies. Such a blow for equality and justice. I hope her last wish can be honoured and her absence on SCOTUS won’t be filled until after the US election.

We’re seeing a bump in infection rates and we’re being told to brace for a second wave. This was something epidemiologists predicted could happen, way back in March. People tend to forget this. Despite what a certain president says, we will not have a vaccine that’s widely available before next year.

Wear your masks. Maintain physical distance when possible. Get your flu shots when they become available. Take care and stay safe.

Onto the curation:

K.M. Weiland: the crucial link between your story’s inciting incident and its climactic moment. Helping Writers Become Authors

C.S. Lakin explains how your premise determines your characters. Live, Write, Thrive

Shaelin has a chat about writing selfishly. Shaelin Writes

Eldred Bird says that a great story is like music to the eyes. Then, Barbara Linn Probst explains why your book matters. Later in the week, Jenny Hansen explains why storytellers are the most powerful people in the world. Writers in the Storm

Lucia Tang promotes the art of the constructive critique. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Meg LaTorre lists 17 things she hates to see in romance. iWriterly

Dave King helps you manage your cast. Then, Barbara Linn Probst shares road, neighbourhood, sky: a three-layer approach to writing a novel. Writer Unboxed

Lucy V. Hay shares awesome writing tips from six famous writers. Writers Helping Writers

Jenna Moreci shares her top ten tips for writing fight scenes.

Lauren J. Sharkey talks dollars and sense. And, my latest Speculations: how the NASA-SpaceX collaboration can inspire your writing. Sara Farmer interviews Adam Smyer. Later in the week, Lynne Golodner shares five tips for narrowing your focus. DIY MFA

Susan DeFreitas shares three common issues with early drafts. Jane Friedman

Chris Winkle lists seven ways jokes can sabotage your story. Then, Oren Ashkenazi sheds light on how Le Guin laid a shaky foundation for Earthsea. Mythcreants

Waubgeshig Rice launches his new column at Open Book: stories of the North.

Thanks for the visit. I hope you found something that will support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends.

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 16-22, 2020

Welcome to another week of informal writerly learnings!

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

The EI ERB and CERB have been extended for the third time and three new transitional benefits are being created to support Canadians in this crisis. It’s resulted in chaos at work, but chaos has been the rule since March 15th.

Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay within your bubbles and avoid crowded events. Take care and stay safe. You don’t know who you could be putting at risk with careless behaviour.

K.M. Weiland shares five exercises for honing your story instincts. Helping Writers Become Authors

Vaughn Roycroft explains why he prefers novels with prologues. Dave King is discussing fiction in the time of plague. Then, Sarah Penner shares the results of a working-from-home survey: navigating changes to our work environments. Later in the week, Porter Anderson discusses emergent voices. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin Bishop shares some of her favourite writing techniques. Shaelin Writes

Tasha Seegmiller: every novel needs a village. Then, Barbara Linn Probst advises us to read like a writer and write like a reader. Later in the week, John Peragine explains the vital importance of your writing community. Writers in the Storm

The muse trope, explained. The Take

Rochelle Melander suggests some tools for revision. Fiction University

Christina Delay uses the lyrics of “Yesterday” to look back at the first act. Writers Helping Writers

Helen J. Darling helps you build your author newsletter list. Then, Pamela Taylor helps you figure out whether you’re writing historical fiction, or something else. Later in the week, Chere Hughes describes the key features of a no-fear critique. DIY MFA

Susan DeFreitas explains what your first 50 pages reveal. Jane Friedman

Nathan Bransford wants you to be very careful with dreams and hallucinations in novels.

Chris Winkle explains why story structures like the Hero’s Journey don’t work. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five stories with anticlimactic endings. Mythcreants

What English can’t do. NativLang

Alexandra Alter: “We’ve already survived an apocalypse”: Indigenous authors are changing science fiction. The New York Times

Thanks for visiting and I hope you’re taking away something that will support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe.

Tipsday2019

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, July 26-Aug 1, 2020

Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. This is not a political statement. It’s a fundamental truth.

22 new confirmed cases of covid-19 have occurred in Sudbury over the last week or so, most of them in people under 30. Just because we’ve entered phase 3 of reopening doesn’t mean we’re back to normal. Wear your masks people. Maintain physical distance.

And now, onto the informal writerly learnings!

The Take traces the development of the interracial relationship onscreen.

K.M. Weiland shares seven misconceptions about being a writer. Helping Writers Become Authors

Bonnie Randall explains how to weave setting into a deep point of view. Later in the week, Bethany Henry shares seven ways to deal with burnout. Fiction University

Sacha Black: what “read more to improve your writing” really means. Writers Helping Writers

Abigail K. Perry offers another Story Grid scene analysis: Something Borrowed. Later in the week, Indiana Lee shares five ways to protect your privacy while promoting your writing online. DIY MFA

Shaelin offers some tips about working with critique partners. Reedsy

Then, she helps you deal with rejection. Key takeaway: NEVER give up. Reedsy

Nathan Bransford shares his thoughts on how to spice up relationships in novels.

Laurie Schnebly Campbell reveals the most important reader question. Then, Kris Maze lists five steps to better writer self-care. Writers in the Storm

Jael R. Bakari visits Jami Gold’s blog to discuss writing process: developing a coherent story.

Aiki Flinthart is creating unique voices for multiple point of view characters—and how to show their emotions. Lisa Hall-Wilson

The universal beauty of LGBT+ love stories. Like Stories of Old

Kim Bullock wants you to use uncertainty to enhance your story. Writer Unboxed

Chris Winkle helps you create a magical atmosphere with this description makeover. Then, Oren Ashkenazi considers five cool storylines that went nowhere.  Mythcreants

John Foxwell explains why many writers say they can hear the voices of their characters. The Conversation

Matt Blake lists the greatest literary groups in history. Penguin

Thanks for visiting. I hope you found something to support your current work in progress (whatever state it’s in).

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends.

Tipsday2019

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 22-28, 2020

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well.

I’m now working from home and only leaving to walk the dog. Phil continues to be our designated shopper. We’re all remaining as isolated as possible given the circumstances.

While you’re at home, you might have the time to catch up on your informal writerly learnings.

Julianna Baggott is creating in the time of quarantine. Liz Michalski: sea glass. Heather Webb says, the beauty is in the words. John J Kelley: for the love of Moira—the arc of a memorable character. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland touts the power of hopeful stories in a stressful time. Helping Writers Become Authors

E.J. Wenstrom explains how authors can build a true community of fans. Later in the week, Savannah Cordova lists five signs your story’s structure needs work. DIY MFA

Shaelin shares six ways to improve your craft. Reedsy

Barbara Linn Probst visit’s Jane Friedman’s blog to explain the when, why, and how of peer critique and professional editing.

Lisa Hall-Wilson explains how to write compelling emotional triggers. Ellen Buikema explores white space on the page. Writers in the Storm

The Take takes on the weird girl trope.

Chris Winkle helps you make the most of your narrative premise. Then, Oren Ashkenazi explains why zombies aren’t a good pandemic parallel. Mythcreants

Meg LaTorre shares ten fantasy tropes she loves. iWriterly

Jami Gold explains how point of view affects dialogue.

Nina Munteanu: dreams and perceptions and “the other.”

Robert Lee Brewer clarifies fable vs. parable vs. allegory. Writer’s Digest

Adrienne Westenfeld recommends the best books for distancing yourself from reality right now. Esquire

Open Culture introduces us to the world’s first author: the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna.

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well!

Tipsday2019