Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 28-Sept 3, 2016

We are once again full of the informal writerly learnings.

K.M. Weiland offers six reasons you need to make way more writing mistakes.* Helping writers become authors

Kate returns later in the week with more lessons from the MCU. This time it’s all about backstory, the number one key to relatable characters.

Ollie, as transcribed by his human, James Stack, prefers to frame rejections as declines.* Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm

Regine Ward shares seven common truths that will help writers handle rejection productively. Live, write, thrive

On the other side of the coin, Pamela Hodges shares six ways to let go of past writing and tackle something new. The Write Practice

Kellie McGann: why we write. The Write Practice

Kassandra Lamb offers four ways to add depth to your stories on Jami Gold’s blog.

Gabriela Pereira interviews Delia Ephron on DIYMFA radio. On Friday, Emily Wenstrom shares her top five takeaways from the Writer’s Digest Conference.

Victoria (V.E.) Schwab: this book is broken and other things I tell myself while writing.*

Anna Elliott shares four ways to recapture the joy of writing.* Writer Unboxed

Last week’s Spark in the summer replay was episode 299, which features an author who live-streamed the writing of a book, and an interview with David Mitchell on how Twitter played a role in the creation of his novel, Slade House. Awesomesauce. CBC

Nora Jemisin (N.K. Jemisin): I would just love to write and not have everything turn into a political battle. David Barnett for The New Statesman.

The Library of America will publish Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Complete Orsinia. David Streitfeld for The New York Times. The actual title of the article is misleading, implying that Le Guin is denying that she’s a science fiction author (something of which she’s accused other writers in the past). Not so. She’s tired of the epithet being used as a reason to exclude writers of excellence from the literary canon. As she says, she won’t be pushed out. Kudos!

Locus interviews Kelly Robson.

And then, THIS: On being a late bloomer.* Kelly Robson in Clarkesworld. Really, I want to give this article ALL THE STARS. I think Kelly single-handedly saved me last week.

Christine Schrum: what growing up in sulphur city taught me about beauty.* Latitude 46  We’re still strange children, by the way.

Julie Czerneda posts on The Black Gate about the challenges of living a #rurallife.

Beth Cato explains why we need more trans heroes in genre fiction. The MarySue

A Writing the Other Roundtable: how to stay in your lane.


John Scalzi asks some special guests to post about writing the other. Whatever

Jim C. Hines says, don’t look away: how we fight sexual harassment in the science fiction and fantasy community. i09

Jo Walton writes about science fiction, innovation, and continuity.

Meir Solovichik gives us some insight into the secret “Jews” of The Hobbit. Carnage and Culture

You have to read this letter Josh Corman wrote when uncomfortable parents asked his school to ban The Handmaid’s Tale. Bookriot

Jessica Stillman reports on more evidence to support the link between reading and empathy. Inc.

Jake Parker: finished, not perfect.*


Another brilliant entertainer, gone 😦 i09’s Germaine Lussier revisits five of Gene Wilder’s defining film roles. Note: If the video isn’t in the frame, scroll back to see it.

Shakespeare and performance. Oxford University Press.


Outlander has cast Lord John Grey. Entertainment Weekly

Netflix announced that they were renewing Stranger Things on Tuesday last week. On Wednesday, the creators shared this first teaser for season two. They had no idea what was in the pipe, no, they didn’t 😉 Katharine Trendacosta for i09.

Tim Stack has additional details about season two on Entertainment Weekly.

Writers Relief celebrated National Dog Day with pictures of these book-loving hounds.

*posts that comforted me this past week.

I hope you’ve found some comfort here as well 🙂

Have an awesome week until Thursday and then come back to fill up on thoughty!

Creative sustenance. It’s what I’m all about.


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Oct 25-31, 2015

The NaNoWriMo posts keep on coming. I think we’re going to be neck deep in them the whole month of November (!)

K.M. Weiland explains how to win NaNo with totally doable daily and weekly writing goals.

Worried that your character isn’t likeable? Katie advises you to try this technique.

Carly Watters explains why perfect characters are a problem.

Angela Ackerman shows how your characters past trauma determines her character flaws. Writers Helping Writers.

Beth Revis explores the book of your heart on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University.

Chadwick Ginther interviews Julie Czerneda about returning to science fiction after a fantasy hiatus.

Then Julie appears on Jim C. Hines’ blog, answering the question, what do I call it?

Delilah S. Dawson (as Lila Bowen) talks about the silly ideas that grow into novels. Barnes & Noble.

Emily Johnson offers a step-by-step guide to home workplace organization on C.S. Lakin’s Live, Write, Thive.

Renovate you sentences with active phrasing. Chris Winkle for Mythcreants.

43 words you should cut from your manuscript immediately. Diana Urban.

David Mitchell is so over the genre wars. Salon.

More David Mitchell: In praise of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea. The Guardian.

If the novel is dead, so are we all. Junot Diaz on BigThink.

Is solarpunk the new cyberpunkpunk? SciFiIdeas.

Charlie Jane Anders reviews Maisy Williams’ guest appearance on Doctor Who. i09.

And then she took a look at Supergirl: dorky cuteness still packs a punch. i09.

Natalie Zutter reviews Supergirl for

Emily Asher-Perrin wonders if Marvel is shying away from a Black Widow movie because they know they’ll never get it right.

A short film offers a vision of post-apocalyptic Earth. Gizmodo.

And that is Tipsday.

Hang tight until next week, my friends.

And for those of you fighting the NaNo fight with me: keep writing.


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 31-June 6, 2015

My god, it’s full of links 🙂

Well, this is distressing. The Writers Union of Canada has released the results of their writing income survey and it seems we’re doing worse than we did in 1998 (!). And we’re working harder for the privilege of earning less.

Some good news for Canadian creatives: The Canada Council for the Arts is revamping its programs.

Locally, a group has been working behind the scenes on their proposal for an arts centre that “transforms.” The Northern Life. We won’t be able to keep our tax freeze if this goes ahead, but it would be an efficient and multi-purpose space. I like the idea, but I don’t know if the municipality can afford it.

And what the hairy fuck is this? The Guardian reports that books about women are less likely to garner awards and critical favour?

Do you know the difference between a reactive protagonist and a passive one? K.M. Weiland uses examples to illustrate that vital difference and explains why a passive protagonist is the kiss of death (!)

Why authors can’t afford to dupe their readers. Kind of goes without saying, but Katie makes her point by expressing some extreme displeasure with Avengers: Age of Ulton for its use of misdirection.

Neal Abbott guest posts on Helping Writers Become Authors with this great post about how Doctor Who can help you become a fantastic writer. (I’m a timelord! I knew it!)

Donald Maass posted this lovely piece on working with third level emotions on Writer Unboxed.

Therese Walsh continues her series on multitasking with part five: Know your nature, nurture your focus. Writer Unboxed.

Jami Gold guides us in the process of formatting a manuscript for printing using MS Word.

Moshin Hamid and James Parker share their thoughts on whether the size of a book suggests significance or not. The New York Times.

David Mitchell says YA SF&F books are like gateway drugs, but in a good way. Bustle.

For the query-weary: 15 SF&F classics that were rejected. i09.

Kind of related: Found this link on an agent’s #MSWL. Kick-ass women in history: Khutulun on Smart Bitches/Trashy Books. She wants a book based on the life of a Mongol Queen!

The Huffington Post Books column shares their list of seven new badass YA heroines you should check out.

CBC Books shares their list of five books they can’t wait to read.

20 words that, when confused, can make you look dumb. LinkedIn.

Lauren Carter shows off her writing space with The New Quarterly.

Cheryl Strayed says, “Write like a motherfucker.” Is she channelling Wendig? BrainPickings. Favourite quote:

“Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”

Ursula K. LeGuin explains why she doesn’t want us buying books from Amazon. Electric Lit.

Mary Robinette Kowal is interviewed on the Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing podcast. Part one. I’ll post part two when it pops up 🙂

Check out the BBC’s Hardtalk podcast, too. I shared the June 1 interview with Colm Toibin.

Show runner Ron Moore shares his thoughts on the pivotal climax of Outlander and why nothing will ever be the same. E! online.

Sam Heughan explains why acting in those harrowing final episodes was a gift. Zap2It.

So that’s your helping of writerly goodness for the week.

See you Thursday!


Mel’s movie madness

Beware! Here be spoilers!

Cloud Atlas

Cover of "Cloud Atlas"

Cover of Cloud Atlas

Last Sunday, I attended the film with my mother, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law.  I was blown away.  Loved it.  Like any good meal, fine beverage, or other work of art, it wants savouring.  It takes time to digest.  And so, here I am, a week later, blogging about it.

First, a word about music.

In a previous life (only about 25 years ago), I was a music major.  Total miscast, that one 🙂  But I learned a few things that have stood me in good stead as a writer.

In my first year, I was introduced to the structure of symphonies.  Like most other art forms, symphonies tell stories.  They’re told in several movements and bound together thematically by the leitmotif.

Think of Bethoven’s Fifth.  The opening bars provide the listener with the motif.  The motif appears throughout the work in its rhythm and interval, but it transforms through key and tonality.

Another example is Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.  The leitmotif appears first as a lilting flute line, reflecting the main character’s beloved.  Through the movements, the motif transforms into a parodic witch’s dance on the main character’s grave and ultimately to the main character’s redemption.

Classical music is a wonderful exercise in structure.  Get into a music appreciation/analysis class sometime and you’ll see.

All kinds of good to be taken away to the writer’s desk.

So back now to Cloud Atlas.

Based on David Mitchell’s novel of the same name, the movie is a masterful symphonic composition.

Six stories play out simultaneously, weaving back and forth between one another and bookended by a seventh.

The movie begins with an old man telling a story around a camp fire under a starry sky.  His face bears markings reminiscent of Maori, or other aboriginal cultures, and he speaks in a form of pidgin English.

Though the movie moves back and forth between the stories constantly, I’ll lay them out in a more or less chronological fashion.

In 1849, lawyer Adam Ewing travels to the Chatham Islands to conclude a business contract for his father in law, Haskell Moore, a man famous for his tracts on the moral rectitude of slavery.  While on the islands, Ewing is horrified by the manner in which the slaves are treated.  He meets Dr. Henry Goose as he digs for evidence of cannibals and subsequently contracts some form of parasite, which Goose promises to treat for him.  One of the slaves stows away on Ewing’s ship and convinces Ewing first to hide him, then advocate for him.  Goose is actually poisoning Ewing in an attempt to steal his gold, and the slave saves Ewing’s life.

In 1936, gay composer Robert Frobisher leaves his lover in Cambridge and becomes amanuensis to famed composer Vyvyan Ayres in Edinburgh.  His goal is to complete his own work and while under the thumb of Ayres, he becomes embroiled in the drama of Ayres’s “Jewess” wife (remember this is pre-WWII), and seeks solace in the travel journal of one Adam Ewing.  He writes letters to his lover, Rufus Sixsmith.  Ayres hears Frobisher’s composition, The Cloud Atlas Sextet, and attempts to take credit for it.  Frobisher shoots Ayres and flees, completes his masterpiece living under the assumed identity of Adam Ewing, and ultimately commits suicide, leaving his work to Sixsmith.

We leap to San Francisco (coincidentally the home of Adam Ewing) 1973, where journalist Luisa Rey bumps into a much older Sixsmith, who is now a nuclear physicist.  Sixsmith wants to disclose something to Rey, but before he can, he is murdered.  As she follows the clues, Luisa discovers Frobisher’s letters to Sixsmith and falls in love with their story.  This leads her to a second hand record store where the proprietor plays The Cloud Atlas Sextet for her.  She determines to solve the mystery of Sixsmith’s murder.  At the reactor where Sixsmith worked, Rey meets Isaac Sachs, who gives her incriminating evidence against the plant’s owner who is purposefully looking to engineer a failure to feed Big Oil interests.  Though Rey becomes a target of the assassin, a war buddy of her father’s helps her out and she survives to write her expose.

In 2012, publisher Timothy Cavanaugh watches one of his authors throw a critic off a balcony in front of a room full of witnesses.  The spendthrift wastes the ensuing windfall and when the author’s criminal family come to claim their share of the profits, Cavanaugh flees to his long suffering brother, who institutionalizes him in a nursing home reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Eventually, in a series of comedic misadventures, Cavanaugh escapes and pens a screenplay of his story which becomes a major motion picture.  He also writes of Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his screenplay.  I believe Rey is one of his other authors.

In dystopian Neo Seoul of 2144, Sonmi-451, a fabricant waitress, comes to the awareness that she is a member of a slave race.  Freed by Hae-Joo Chang, a member of the resistance, she studies Solzhenitsyn and Cavanaugh’s movie as she is inducted into the underground.  Fabricants, told that they are going to ascend, are in fact slaughtered and recycled into the food that feeds them.  As the final battle between Neo Seoul military forces and the rebellion plays out before her and she watches Chang die, Sonmi-451 broadcasts her message of hope and freedom.  When she later tells her tale prior to being executed, she influences the man who interviews her.  He now believes as she does.

Finally, the post-apocalyptic Hawaiian Islands (approximately 2321) form the setting of the final story.  Zachry, a devotee of the goddess Sonmi, is plagued by visions of “Old Georgie,” his tribe’s version of the devil, after failing to save his brother-in-law Adam from the cannibalistic Kona.  A Prescient (the remnants of technological society after “the fall”) named Meronym visits from the mainland.  She is on a mission to save humanity by activating a distress beacon located on the island.  The beacon will send a call to humans who have settled off-world.  Radiation will kill everyone on Earth if they can’t evacuate.  In the process Zachry and Meronym find the recording of Sonmi-451’s broadcast.

We return to the even later, where the old storyteller, Zachry, finishes his epic tale.  His audience is composed of his many grandchildren.  At the end of the tale, Zachry shows one of the children where Earth winks in the sky, then ushers them inside where Meronym waits to embrace him.

While it may seem that I’ve spelled everything out here, I haven’t.  The story, or stories, are much more complex than that.

On Theme

When I first emerged from the movie, in a bit of a daze I must admit, my first thought on its theme was: The truth shall set you free.

While I still think this holds true, there are many themes in Cloud Altlas, just as there are many stories that intertwine throughout the movie.  Slavery appears overtly in Ewing’s story as well as in Sonmi-451’s, but prejudice and the abuse of power go hand in hand with it.

Homophobia and anti-Semitism appear in Frobisher’s story and the abuse of the elderly in Cavanaugh’s story.  Zachry’s tribe lives in ignorance and is victimized by the Kona.  Cannibalism features in Ewing’s tale as well as Sonmi-451’s and Zachry’s.

The abuse of power shows up in all the stories one way or another, from Haskell’s assertion that slavery benefits the enslaved, through Ayres’s attempted appropriation of Frobisher’s work, corporate espionage in Rey’s story, Cavanaugh’s commitment, and the “right” of the Neo Seoul hierarchy to create a slave race to serve society, to the Kona’s slaughter of Zachry’s people and the abuse of secrets withheld from them by the Prescients.

Knowledge is power could also be a theme as well as the enduring power of the creative work.

With regard to the leitmotif, the endurance and influence of the creative work is one.  Each story connects in some way to the next through the creative medium.  Ewing’s travel journal, Frobisher’s letters to Sixsmith and The Cloud Atlas Sextet, Rey’s expose and resulting career as a mystery novelist, Cavanaugh’s screenplay, and Sonmi’s broadcast.

The actors form another set of leitmotif, as most appear in every story.  The make-up and effects are stunning.

If I was still in school, I’d be writing a thesis on this movie 🙂  It is that good.

Best movie I’ve seen this year. It’s the true-true.

Writerly goodness, signing off.