Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Feb 21-27, 2021

Happy Friday eve 🙂 It’s time to get your mental corn popping!

Daniel Prude protest in Rochester ends, but organizers vow to return. Democrat & Chronicle

David K. Li reports that an independent probe accuses police and paramedics of wrongdoing in the death of Elijah McClain. NBC News

Marcus P. Nevius delves into the legacy of racial hatred behind the January 6 insurrection. JSTOR Daily

Malcolm X’s family demands his murder investigation be reopened. BBC

Erin Blakemore: Black women have been writing history for over a century. JSTOR Daily

Katelyn Burns: why police single out trans people for violence. Vox

Stella Chan and Leah Asmelash: Angelo Quinto dies after police kneel on his neck for five minutes. CNN

Meaghan Beatley introduces us to Frida Guerrera, the Mexican detective hunting the men who kill women. The Guardian

Andrea Hill and Ryan Kessler report that the lack of funding for piped water on Saskatchewan First Nations means some of reserves can’t drink from their taps. Global News

Andrea Warner: for decades, Buffy Sainte-Marie has had to navigate systemic barriers to cultivate her art. The Globe and Mail

Robert Reich: Texas freeze reveals chilling truth—that the rich use climate change to divide us. The Guardian

Jennifer Moss says, brain fog is a real thing. CBC

Vignesh Ramachandran: Stanford researchers identify four causes of “Zoom fatigue” and their simple fixes. Stanford News

Chi Luu considers the punk rock linguistics of cottagecore. JSTOR Daily

Percy returns a recording of the wind on Mars. SoundCloud

And here’s video of the landing and some of the first images courtesy of CBC.

Kim Fahner writes a love letter to Laurentian University. The Republic of Poetry

Artist “finger paints” masterpieces in the dust of dirty Moscow trucks. Return to Now

Helena Smith reports that a 20-million-year-old petrified tree is found intact in Lesbos. The Guardian

Molly Blackall: rare Amazonian cactus flowers for the first time in UK. The Guardian

Krista Langlois explains why scientists are starting to care about cultures that talk to whales. The Smithsonian Magazine

Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you found something to inspire your next creative project.

This weekend, I should be putting up my next chapter update.

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

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Feb 7-13, 2021

As you prepare for the coming weekend, don’t forget to get your mental corn popping.

Laila El Mugammar announces that an emotional documentary about Canada’s legendary Black cowboy is streaming free now. Chatelaine

Samantha Kubota reports that the brand formerly known as Aunt Jemima reveals new name. NBC News

Azi Paybarah: KKK member who drove into BLM protesters gets more than three years in prison. The New York Times

Emotional intelligence, racial stereotypes, and the politics of emotional expression | Khadija Mbowe

Michele Debczak: new spacecraft named after Katherine Johnson honors the pioneering NASA mathematician. Mental Floss

How did the Milky Way get its spiral? SciShow Space

WHO says coronavirus unlikely to have leaked from Wuhan lab. CBC

Micheleen Doucleff: extraordinary patient offers surprising clues to coronavirus variants. NPR

Jaclyn Diaz reports that a second person dies of Ebola in the Congo, marking the virus’s return. NPR

Jason Slotkin: tens of thousands rally in Myanmar, protesting military coup. NPR

Eric Levenson, Stephanie Becker, and Dan Simon report that the rise in attacks on elderly Asian Americans in Bay area prompts new special response unit. CNN

Leah Brennan and Josh LaBella report that a Yale graduate student identified as the victim of Saturday’s fatal shooting in New Haven. New Haven Register

Michelle Ghoussoub announces that women’s rights activist Loujain Alhathloul released after 1,001 days in Saudi prison. CBC

Oliver Milman shares that air pollution in US subway systems stuns researchers. The Guardian

Sharon J. Riley explains how a public uprising caused a province built on fossil fuels to reverse course on coal mining. The Narwhal

Sandy Schaeffer compiles all the Joss Whedon abuse and misconduct allegations. #metoo ScreenRant

Deiter Buse: now is the time to ask what you can do for Laurentian. The Sudbury Star

Health Sciences North faces lawsuit over misread breast imaging results. CBC

Why you read slower as you age. SciShow Psych

Brenda Knowles examines imposter syndrome and how it can be a blessing in disguise. Space2Live

Stonehenge may have been first erected in Wales. Aljazeera

Listen to the sweet, soft warble common ravens sing to their partners. Audubon

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you took away something to inspire your next creative project.

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

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Jan 31-Feb 6, 2021

Happy Friday eve. It’s time to get your mental corn popping.

Former Columbus police officer Adam Coy indicted for murder in shooting of Andre’ Hill. Will justice prevail? Time will tell. WTOL 11 News

William Wan reports that coronavirus kills far more Hispanic and Black children than white youths, according to the CDC. Yes, this is from last September, but it speaks to the next article I’ll share. The Washington Post

Yueqi Yang: New York City initial vaccine data show deep race disparity. Bloomberg

Grace Hauck announces that Black Lives Matter nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for carrying forward “a movement of racial justice.” USA Today

Then, Terje Solsvik and Gwladys Fouche announce that US voting rights activist Stacy Abrams also nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. Reuters

David Crary reports that the ACLU elects its first Black president. Associated Press

Canada labels the Proud Boys and other neo-Nazi groups as terrorists. CBC News

Hanna Beech reports that Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi is detained amid coup. Several countries have already spoken out against the move despite Myanmar’s problematic human rights record (read Rohinga genocide). The New York Times

Mohammed Elnaiem: what was the Zanj Rebellion? JSTOR Daily

Jenny Gross and Melena Ryzik reveal that Evan Rachel Wood accuses Marilyn Manson of abuse. #metoo The New York Times

Amy Judd reports that Amanda Todd’s accused cyberbully extradited to Canada to face charges. Global News

Why some people can’t listen to music while they work. SciShow Psych

Heidi Ulrichsen: financially struggling Laurentian says filing for court protection was ‘best path forward’ as it restructures. Sudbury.com

Mary Winston Nicklin: Parisians want to recover legendary river now covered in concrete. National Geographic

Foxes might use magnetic fields to hunt. SciShow

Jan Wesner Childs shares the massive coral colony found in American Samoa. The Weather Channel

True facts about tardigrades. Because TARDIGRADES! Ze Frank

Karen McVeigh reports that sea level rise could be worse than feared. The Guardian

Damian Carrington says that plant-based diets are crucial to saving wildlife globally. Time to consider going vegetarian? The Guardian

Thanks for spending some time with me, and I hope you took away something to inspire your next work in progress.

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

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, May 29-June 4, 2016

A nice variety this week.

Sudbury’s Health Sciences North put boots on the ground to help the people of Attawapiskat. Carol Mulligan for The Sudbury Star.

Laurentian University is now requiring all arts students to take Indigenous Studies courses. Kudos! CBC.

Morris Davis says he’s fine if goldfish have more patience than Millennials 😉 Ontuitive.

How Mark Zuckerberg led Facebook’s war to crush Google Plus. Vanity Fair.

Portland now generates electricity from turbines installed in city water pipes. Rafi Schwartz for Good.

Phil Plait shares footage of the latest SpaceX landing—from the Falcon 9’s perspective 🙂 Slate.

Here’s how the government on Mars will work, according to Elon Musk. Kurt Wagner for Recode.

I just—I can’t even. Apparently Texas representative Louis Gohmert wants to save us from same sex space colonies . . . ? Phil Plait, getting wacky for Slate.

When everyone got the vote. This is Finland.

For the women with balls who do give a fuck. Kate Rose for Elephant Journal.

Research reveals that a three day work week might be better for people over 40. I hope this research gets confirmed, pronto. Simplemost.

Lolly Daskal lists eight tiny habits that will make you happier. Inc.

A neuroscientist points out a benefit to exercise that’s rarely discussed. Quartz.

This is creepy-weird: there’s a mental illness called walking corpse syndrome that makes people think they’re dead. Medical Daily.

King Tut had a knife made from a meteorite. Slate.

Marian Evans explores Rosslyn Chapel’s ancient bee sanctuary. Bee-loved.

And that was your thoughty for this week.

Thoughty Thursday

The next chapter: January 2016 update

First, a note about the non-writing parts of my life

Well, the new year has gotten off to a bit of a shaky start, not with respect to my writing and revision goals, but with respect to other stuff.

In the last week of December, Phil got sick enough he had to go see a doctor. He hadn’t been in a very long time and in the process of diagnosing the illness he went to see the doctor for in the first place, the doctor diagnosed him with two other, fairly serious, illnesses. Three for the price of one. Yay?

I won’t go into the details, because it’s not my story to tell, but he’s on several medications, we’ve had to change our diet (not significantly, but still), and we’ll have to commit to several more lifestyle changes in the coming months. It’s going to be a good thing, ultimately, but I’m a creature of habit. Change is stressful.

Phil’s been told not to tackle everything at once, and so we’re dealing with things one issue, and one day, at a time.

I’ve gotten a cold for the first time in about three years. Since I don’t get them often, I tend to get doozies. I’m also in the process of seeing whether I’m anaemic or not, and my gall bladder is acting up.

I guess this is my reaction to the stress of everything else.

Which includes learning that I’ve been screened out of the consultant process at work. We’ve had a general information session, because many of the over three hundred people who applied were screened out, but I’m still getting an informal discussion of the specific reasons I was screened out. That happens Tuesday.

I’ve really been trying not to get upset. Work is work and I’ve tried to prioritize my creative work over the day job, but having been successful in the last three processes and had four acting assignments in as many years, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been kicked in the teeth. They still have testing and interviews to go, and if the eventual pool ends up being as small at I suspect it will be, there will be another process in the future. I have to question the point of putting myself through the wringer again, though.

My current acting assignment ends next Friday and at that point, so far as I know, I’m heading back to the training and advice & guidance team, but everyone keeps saying that I’m not going back and even managers aren’t including me in the training plan and no one is telling me anything. I’m kind of suffering from mushroom syndrome.

I’m trying to be Zen, but I’m not very good at that, in all honesty. I am a lot more laid back than some people, but I internalize a lot. Hence, the illen.

Now, onto the Writerly Goodness 🙂

I took some time over the holidays to plan out my writing year. Using Jamie Raintree’s amazing new Writing and Revision Tracker, I set writing and revision goals for the year, and for each month.

As I mentioned in my last Next chapter update, 2016 will be the year of revision. As I return to the querying process with Initiate of Stone, I realize I want to have some of my other five finished novels revised and edited and ready to go so that I can keep working toward my dream of a traditional deal.

What I did was to add up the current word totals of all my drafts and divided them up according to what I figure will be my productive months. I also estimated what my blogging totals would be per month and add in my NaNo 2016 writing goals.

What that worked out to was 37,550 words of revision each month (except November and December), between five and seven thousand words of blogging each month (except November), and 50k words drafted in November and December (NaNo this year will be book three of the Ascension series I figure it will take me two months to complete the draft).

So this is what January looked like.

JanuaryProgress

And I even took a few days off (!)

The month started with a couple of days devoted to reading through my draft of Apprentice of Wind, and then I set to. I’ll probably have the first run through done within the next couple of weeks, and then I’m probably going to go through it at least one more time.

So at 9,274 words, I wrote 141% of my writing goal and at 69,774 words, I almost doubled my revision goal (186%).

I also revised and sent out two short stories, and heard that another short story is still under consideration from a submission last year. So that’s awesome.

I also sent out IoS packages to open submission periods for a couple of publishers. As of the end of last year, the three Canadian small publishers I’d pitched last fall had either declined or failed to respond.

We’ll see where all of that gets me.

Other excitement

I’ve attended a few events this past month. The first was Last Stop at the Sudbury Theatre Centre, in which a couple of writer friends had their plays in progress workshopped in front of a live audience (us). It was awesome.

Then, I attended a Skype workshop with Barbara Kyle through the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on adding magic and verve to your first thirty pages. Barbara is an excellent presenter and so knowledgeable about her craft. It’s a pleasure to learn from her.

Finally, I attended a lecture by singer/songwriter Steven Page at Laurentian University on ending the stigma around mental illness. He sang a couple of songs from his new album and discussed his struggles with mental illness.

I’m also currently enrolled in two online courses.

First, I couldn’t resist signing up for Story Genius with Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash. It’s based on Lisa’s new book (of the same name) and is eight weeks long. I’m working on my week four submission this weekend. It’s hard (like, it hurts my poor, tender head hard), especially negotiating the day job and health issues Phil and I are facing right now, but I can see how it’s going to improve my ability to write a novel that will hook readers and keep them reading.

Second, I signed up for Jamie Raintree’s Design a writing career you love workshop. I’m trying to keep one foot in the business side of things. Jamie’s an excellent instructor and I always enjoy her courses.

I’ve booked my hotel for both Ad Astra in April and WorldCon in August and am still waiting for the registration information for The Canadian Writers’ Summit to emerge.

So, I guess it’s no wonder I’m under the weather at the moment.

By and large, though, I love my life. The creative part of it anyway 😉

Next week, the CanCon 2015 reportage continues.

Hope your creative endeavours are moving full steam ahead and that you’re all well on your ways to meeting your goals. Feel free to share your trials and triumphs in the comments below.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: April 2014 update

The Next ChapterIf March was a little weird, April was a whole lot weird.

Lemme ‘splain.

I abandoned the thought of keeping to any kind of “schedule” with regard to my writing. At the end of last month, I had drafts for Apprentice of Wind and Figments completed, or so I thought.

So you’ll understand my surprise when I went to print off Figments, that I hadn’t, in fact, finished it. A few hundred words fixed that up, but boy was I embarrassed.

Then, once I had AoW and Figments printed, I heard Initiate of Stone calling my name. Even though I haven’t heard back from all my betas yet, I needed to do a little work on IoS.

I just finished reading Roz Morris’s first Nail Your Novel, and before that, I read Victoria Mixon’s Art and Craft of Story. I wanted to do a combination approach with each draft, using Roz’s form of beat sheet and Victoria’s holographic structure.

With IoS, I had previously eliminated a POV character. Now I’ve decided to remove her entirely and give the specifics of her plotline to other POV characters. It was something others had recommended and I resisted. I guess I just needed time and space away from the ms to realize the truth.

And it wasn’t half so difficult (read fraught) as I thought it would be.

So I knew that I would not be doing a lot with regard to “new words” in April because I’d mostly be focusing on working with my printed drafts and most of the new work would be on my blog.

Then I edited a couple of stories for submission, but the net new words for that was just over three hundred.

Once again, I find myself surprised.

April's word count

I am still eternally grateful to Jamie Raintree for this fabulous tool

Total word count for the month: 11, 612 (!), 10,930 of that from blogging alone.

Amaze-face.

Mind you, I have been blogging all those juicy sessions from Ad Astra. It’s transcription, but it counts.

Here’s the round up for the year so far:

Month Total Blog Initiate of Stone Apprentice of Wind Figments Gerod and the Lions Short Stories
January 11,532 7,114 0 2,781 207 821 609
February 9,789 6,303 0 47 308 1,296 1,835
March 10,781 8,193 0 333 1,488 312 455
April 11,612 10,930 0 0 381 0 301

So this has been an interesting month, and the next few promise to be as well.

I won’t be actively querying until I have revisions done on IoS, so that’s on hold, again, too.

I did receive my contributors’ copy of Sulphur IV, the literary journal of Laurentian University. I have three poems in there. The CV has been updated.

The Sudbury Writers’ Guild, with its slick new web site, is moving forward with its anthology, so I’ve set aside some work for that.

I made a decision at the end of March. I’d been an associate member of the League of Canadian Poets since 1999, but I’d never gone to its annual conference or AGM. So I decided this year not to renew my membership and instead invest in SF Canada and the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (home of the Auroras).

It’s been interesting so far.

As far as what’s coming up, Baen Books has a short fiction contest, and I’ve just become aware that Lightspeed has an open reading period for Women Destroy Fantasy.

So there you are.

Progress continues to be made.

How is your writing life going?

Great Big Sea in Sudbury Aug 25, 2013

If you’ve followed Writerly Goodness for any length of time, you may have heard me refer to Great Big Sea (GBS).  There was a time, in my years at Laurentian University, that me and my friends, Kim and Yana, were GBS groupies.

The first time I saw them was in the Great Hall during frosh week of my first year.  The Great Hall was also the cafeteria, and was converted for the concert.  Kim and I didn’t use the chairs after the band hit the stage and spent the evening dancing our wee hearts out 🙂

The next year, GBS was one of the headliners at Northern Lights Festival Boreal.  Natalie McMaster opened up for them.  At that time, the Bell Park Amphitheatre was an old wooden structure and the seating was all concrete (and rough on the bum).  Not that I sat for long that time either.

The next year, Yana, Kim, and I went on a road trip to Oakville, where GBS was playing the waterfront music festival there.  We met up with one of her cousins, and after hitting the festival, spent the night wandering Oakville, hit a bar or two, and then ended up at Kim’s cousin’s apartment.

GBS returned to Northern Lights a few years later, but I had just had an operation and couldn’t go.  Yana went, though, and got me a t-shirt 🙂

So yes, we were, and continue to be fans.

Last year, GBS played the Sudbury Arena, and Kim and I caught the show there.  This year, when it was announced that GBS would be playing Summerfest, Kim, now a member of the GBS fan club, got herself, Yana, and I tickets.

They played on Sunday, August 25, which was, incidentally, Yana’s birthday, so I suggested we hit the local Fionn MacCool’s for supper before the performance.

Kim had just returned from her 2 and a half week Pacific odyssey (Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand) on the Friday immediately before and was still heavily jet-lagged.  The weather was stormy and the concert was going to be at Bell Park again, at the recently reconstructed Grace Hartman Amphitheatre.  While the band shell was much improved and equipped to deliver fabulous acoustics, the seating was still in the open.

We were understandably concerned.

Kim was watching the website and Twitter accounts for news, and Alan Doyle posted that the concert would proceed, as scheduled.

At supper, Kim was feeling poorly and Yana and I convinced her to come anyway.  A short stop at the pharmacy for pain relief, and another to pick up the tickets, and we continued out visit until GBS was scheduled to hit the stage.

The rain stopped.

The impromptu book signing

The impromptu book signing

At the concert, two of Kim’s friends from her recent trip, came over and Kim conducted an impromptu book signing for them.

Then, when GBS hit the stage, we were up, dancing and screaming for all we were worth.  A contingent from Newfoundland moved up to the stage and among some of the other fans, forming a Celtic mosh pit.

GBS

Alan Doyle announced that Newfoundlanders have magickal powers and that the band put a stop to the rain.  This was part of their 20th anniversary tour, and the last day of this portion.  On the Monday, they’d be heading back home for a break, and so they were going to leave it all on the stage.

The chief among Kim's secret husbands ;)

The chief among Kim’s secret husbands 😉

Over the next hour and a half, they played many favourites, old, and new, and let us bring them back on stage for an encore.

Sean McCann

Sean McCann

‘Twas a wonderful night spent with old friends, and we were sorry to see it end.

Have you been to any great concerts this summer?  Were you ever a groupie?  How about a concert road trips story?

Share your stories in the comments below.

kthxbye for tonight 🙂

A life sentence with mortal punctuation: part 8

How did what was supposed to be a mere two-part guest post get to be this huge?  I think it’s what project managers call “scope creep.” 🙂  Essentially, the story demanded something more, and as with many of the things I write, it told me the shape it wanted to be in.

Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me through this very personal tale.  If it touches you in any way, I encourage you to like, share, comment, or subscribe as your conscience dictates.

I’ll take the opportunity here to remind everyone that while this story is based on my life, that it is filtered through my frame, and is, no more and no less than anything else I write, a story.

Last week: I discussed some of the things that I do to keep the wolf of my depression from the door, or perhaps invite it in, let it curl up by the hearth, and make itself at home.

This week I’m going to pick up the original thread of the tale where I left it.

Those sixteen years

The years during which I was “growing up,” getting a job, and learning how to deal with my depression were largely fallow ones for me creatively.  I got off to a good start in my undergrad years, both at Guelph and at Laurentian, but faltered during my struggle to achieve my master’s degree.

Though my primary poetic publications, NeoVerse and Battle Chant, emerged around the time that I finally received my graduate degree, I found it difficult to continue writing.  A handful of scattered publications in poetry and a short-lived foray into publishing weren’t enough to validate my still-fragile writer’s ego.

I’ve never had a thick skin.

As I slowly worked through my issues, however, I started to realize that writing wasn’t something I did or didn’t do.  It’s something I am.  My inability to commit to the writing life on a regular basis made me question my calling.  If I couldn’t write, how could I call myself a writer?  Maybe it was time to throw in the towel and commit to a life without magic.

The sheer impossibility of that thought told me that writing was what I was meant to do.  I just had to find my way to it without a map or any orienteering skill whatsoever.

Upon my triumphant return from Windsor and contract jobs interspersed with unemployment, Phil and I decided to get a puppy.  We already had two cats, one a three-legged refugee from my days at the Veterinary Emergency Clinic in Mississauga, the other a sweet-natured black cat that Phil got me for my birthday one year.

Our dependent quadrupeds helped me immensely.  I believe that pets have a lot to teach us about unconditional love and being good people.  My pets are some of the best people I’ve known 😉

I got my full time job with my current employer.  Phil and I got a house and a car.  I made use of my new benefits to get some serious work done on both my body and my mind.  I figured out that medication was not the way to address my feral disease.

My mother was still working, part-time at the local hospital, at home, taking care of my father, who had graduated to a disability pension and therapy, and at the seniors’ residence where my grandfather now lived.

I went out with her to see my grandfather about once a week, and helped her to transport him to his various appointments.  My father began to have issues with his heart, eventually diagnosed as arrhythmia and congestive heart failure.  He got a pace-maker, and a new suite of medications.

Shortly after retiring from the hospital, my mom developed diabetes.  Dad started to fall.  If it happened at home, either Phil or I, or both of us would have to help Mom, because Dad couldn’t get up under his own power and she couldn’t lift him.  If it happened outside home, it generally involved a hospital stay.  Dad was on Cumadin by this time and as a result, even the smallest injury could become serious due to the complications of the medication.

Then my dog died

ZoeIt wasn’t something sudden.  Zoe developed hemangiosarcoma and though we caught it early, the vet wasn’t able to catch it all with surgery and internal lavage.

The issue with this particular type of canine cancer is that it likes vascular areas, that is, places in the body where blood vessels tend to gather, like the spleen and the liver.  Once it takes hold, it disseminates quickly and almost always results in death.

The biopsy taken in the surgery came back malignant.  It would only be a matter of time.  As it turned out, we only bought Zoe a couple of weeks.

At first, it seemed like she was recovering.  Phil and I had taken to sleeping on the futon in the living room so we could be close to her if problems arose.

The morning she woke me at 5 am looking for comfort was her last.

I won’t describe that morning other than to say that I called in sick.  I was devastated.  For the first time, I cried legitimately over the loss of a loved one.

Papa

My maternal grandfather was the only one of my grandparents left alive.  He’d been a hard-core smoker, and alcoholic for most of his life.  When my grandmother passed away, he reacted poorly and within a few months, a fall resulting from TIA, landed him in the hospital.

From there, arrangements were made to move him into a seniors’ residence and for many more years, he lived happily, adjusting to the fact that he couldn’t drive anymore, that he had to go outside the residence to smoke, and that he had to depend on my mother to ration him a few beer on special occasions.

Some irregularities regarding his heart landed him in the hospital and when I got the call at work that I should come to the hospital, I had a bad feeling.  In the time it would take me to get the car, drive to the hospital, find parking, and get to his room, I could walk, so I sped along as quickly as I could, hoping that he would hold on long enough for me to get there.

Turns out he’d already passed away when I got the call.

Papa’s passing wasn’t all that traumatic for me.  He’d lived 94 years despite his addictions and was, so far as I know, happy.  I also felt confident that I had been there for him as much as I could.

I helped Mom settle his estate.  Being able to help her out in that way made another big difference for me.

I received a small inheritance, just enough to invest in my first laptop computer.  That year, I started to get back to my writing and the novel I’d conceived of all those years ago in university.

In another year, Phil and I felt that we could bear the love of another pup.  That was when we got the Nuala-beast.

The butt-in-chair breakthrough

Though I was writing more, I wasn’t writing daily yet.  It wasn’t until Nino Ricci came to town to do a workshop with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild that my head got turned around the right way on that.

It was his sharing of his own guardian tale that helped so much.  Every writer has at least one, that big name, well-established Author who tells you that your work is crap.

The breakthrough was that I could choose not to let the well-meant, but unfortunate words of my guardian keep me from entering the inner sanctum and gaining my prize.

Productive or not, I’ve been writing every day since, and that, as the poet said, has made all the difference.

The diabetic cat

Our little black cat, Thufir (named after the Mentat Thufir Hawat due to his fondness for Thufir Hawat the Mentat Catflashing lights) developed feline diabetes.  Phil and I were surprised because he wasn’t obese or showing any of the other signs, but his blood glucose level didn’t lie.

He was on Metformin for a year and graduated to insulin after that.  I became very adept at taking his blood sugar levels and injecting him daily.  He came to tolerate, if not anticipate his injections, like he knew that they made him feel better.

Once again, however, it was a matter of time.  Eventually, organ failure took out little guy.

I wasn’t sad this loss either.  I’d been the best kitteh-mama I could have been and I knew that I’d done well by him.  I’d kind of made my peace with death by this time.

I’m going to leave things here for now.  The next big event for me was the death of my father, and that’s going to need a post unto itself.

After that, I’m going to delve into my insights into happiness as a result of all I’ve learned and that will be the culmination of the series.

Tomorrow I’m going to be writing the Wordsmith Studio Anniversary post 🙂  What’s that, you ask?  Read and find out, my friends.

Coming soon: I have a few wonderful authors who have agreed to do interviews for little ole me.  Look out in the next few weeks for six questions with fantasy author J. L. Madore, poet Barbara Morrison, and D. J. McIntosh, author of The Witch of Babylon, and the soon-to-be-released The Book of Stolen Tales.

I’m finding all sorts of writerly goodness to share 🙂

A life sentence with mortal punctuation: part 6

Last week: A tumultuous year sets the gears in motion.

This week: Fumbling toward stability

But first …

A recent experience and how it led, in part, to this series

Last year, a co-worker of mine tried to quit smoking by use of a certain, psycho-active cessation medication.  I’d tried it in the past myself and warned him that while my reaction was atypical, that he should be wary.  Initially, he was undeterred, but a few days later, he said he’d had to stop.

He told me that he was in the kitchen, cutting vegetables, and the thought occurred to him how easy it would be to slice his flesh and he had the unsettling desire to find out what that felt like.  That moment frightened him so much he determined to stop taking the medication immediately.

I stood there, listening, and in retrospect my reaction wasn’t what it should have been.  It didn’t even occur to me that other people might not have these thoughts.

Ever since that fateful year when I was seventeen, I’ve never been on a balcony without thinking how easy it would be to climb over it and jump.  I’ve never been on a subway platform without wondering if I could really jump in front of one of the trains.  I think of car accidents (having them or causing them) all the time while I drive.

Often when doing routine tasks like cutting vegetables the unwelcome image of plunging the knife into my stomach—or worse, someone else’s—walks through my head.  I tell these thoughts to keep on walking of course, and to let the door hit their narsty asses on the way out, but the fact is, I have these thoughts so often, I actually thought that they were a normal part of everyone’s mental landscape.

Not so, obviously.

I was never so foolish as to think that my battle with depression was over.  It’s something that will be with me for the rest of my life and these thoughts are a reminder of that.  I’ve learned how to turn them down so they’re just background noise.  I acknowledge them and send them on their various ways.  They have no power over me.  Their work here is done.  Mindfulness restored.

I just got so used to them that I forgot not everyone thinks of self-harm every day.

The fumbling part

It took me until I was 33 or so to really address my depression.  That’s sixteen years.  Some struggle longer, others not so long, and every struggle is different.  This, again, is only my story.

When I left for university, I lucked out and got a room mate who really understood.  She suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), something that she didn’t reveal to me until our second semester together.  She did so by asking me to read a short story.  It was a tactful and creative way of introducing the subject.

After that, we started to communicate through books.  It was a very cool and private way to conduct a friendship, like an exclusive book club.

My roomie saw me through a lot.  She helped me discover my parasomnias (I held conversations, got up, and moved around while asleep), helped me start my first journal to capture these experiences, held me when I broke down recounting my tonsillectomy trauma (there are things that I didn’t and wonn’t share with you), and let me talk until I was hoarse while my second serious relationship disintegrated.

She also helped me to rediscover my passion for writing, something that I will forever be grateful for.

We shared a harrowing ditching of my car on our way up to Elora Mills to visit a friend during a winter snowfall, baked and ate a crust pie (we were crust fans), and opened up our lives to one another.

When I moved away, my roomie told me that she’d started cutting.  On a visit up to Sudbury, I inadvertently broke her OCD with our hectic schedule.  I don’t know if I supported her through either of these transitions.

The Dad detour

In the second summer I was at Guelph, I got myself a job with a video film crew.  The business taped horse shows across Canada and into the US, edited the footage, and sold it to the horsey-set as memento, or training tool.

I was away in Southampton, NY for a couple of weeks and while I was down there, my father had a nervous break-down.  It was set off due to the dismantling of his unit at work and his potential relocation to southern Ontario.

Mom came home from work one day to find him sitting with a knife.

She didn’t tell me any of this when it happened, but only that Dad was fine, in the hospital and that she would fill me in when I visited home in a couple of weeks.

Dad was hospitalized for months and eventually diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder.  From there, he went on long-term disability though his employer’s health plan and eventually applied for Canada Pension Disability.

He never returned to work.

Not quite independence

There was nothing I could do for Mom when I went home.  I was just shocked by the news and returned to Toronto, where I moved in with BF number three and tried to survive.

Though I still saw my old roomie, I was without a constant confidant.  I turned to self-help books in a major way.

I wanted to spank my inner moppet and fast.  I was determined not to end up like Dad.  I feared it might be inevitable though.

Just before Christmas that year, my maternal grandmother passed away.  She’d been on borrowed time since I was a baby when she’d had multiple bypass heart surgery (see: Something I don’t remember).  I was about to start a job, but asked my new employer for a delay in my start date to go home for the funeral and Christmas.

It was surreal.  Once again, I didn’t feel connected to the event.  I couldn’t muster emotion at the appropriate times.  I continued to cry at odd ones, usually when I was alone, which, when you think about it, is the exact wrong time.  It’s like an alcoholic drinking alone, a sign of something wrong.

Really, I was worried about Mom.  She had been primary caregiver for my grandparents for a number of years.  Even though the burden should have been less, it wasn’t really.  She now had Dad to take care of too, and my grandfather was an alcoholic, something kept in check by my grandmother’s presence.

Mom was adamant that I couldn’t do anything to help, though, and so back south I went.

A series of jobs and the crash and burn of my third relationship eventually caused me to re-evaluate my life.  My attempts to find another place to live met with disappointment again and again.  I couldn’t survive alone, working a low-paying job in Toronto, and while I toyed with apprenticeship (masonry was kind of looking interesting for a while), journalism, or radio, or returning to university, my eventual move back to Sudbury decided me on two things:

  1. I was going to complete my degree in English and use that experience to become the best writer I could be, and
  2. I wasn’t going to get into another relationship until I’d sorted my shit out.

Growing up

Of course, I broke my second resolution and was dating Phil (now hubbie) before the summer was out.

Margaret was back in Sudbury too, and with her forever partner by then as well.

I was still not fit partner material, and I don’t know why Phil put up with my neurotic self.  I still became sad and cried often.  I fled from conflict, literally, and on several occasions Phil had to run after me.  If he hadn’t, I’d have retreated completely.

Still, he proposed, I accepted, and we were married the July of my second year at Laurentian.

Things changed again.  Margaret moved to Port Elgin when her husband got a job in the area.  Though I’d made some friends in school, I once more felt bereft.  My roomie from Guelph fell out of touch.  I was still searching.

Academically, I excelled.  Creatively, I was on a roll.  Several prize-winning short stories and poems led to my invitation to write a short story for the first issue of a new magazine.

I graduated cum laude with a concentration in rhetoric, but I still didn’t have any self-confidence.  I decided that I needed a master’s degree before I could be considered a ‘real’ writer.  All of my university friends were moving on to master’s degrees, or teacher’s college.  It just seemed like the thing to do.

Phil was in university now as well, and in order to pursue my degree, we’d have to live apart.  And we did.  For years.

I’ve written about my master’s experience elsewhere.  Here, I will only say that by the end of it, though I achieved my goal, I was beaten down creatively.  Despite having my poetry included in two anthologies and a handful of other journals and publications and despite having completed my thesis, a collection of short stories, I doubted that anything I had to write would have meaning or significance to anyone else.

I returned to Sudbury and a life of contract jobs interspersed with unemployment.  Those were rough years for Phil and I, and I still hadn’t sorted out my issues.  I still lived in fear of becoming like my father, of being as much of a burden to Phil as he was to my mom.

Then, Phil’s sister told me about an opening with her employer, which I applied for and was successful in getting.  Though it is the same employer I continue to work for today, the job was in a much different capacity.  I was working in a call centre.

The work was emotionally draining and I quickly reduced my hours to part-time.  Still, the wage was better than most jobs I could have gotten in Sudbury at the time and the benefits were even better.  Within a year, Phil and I had a house and mortgage, a car and car loan.  We were growing up.

I took advantage of the benefits I had, got a surgery I’d been putting off, braces, and therapy.  The talk therapy was limited by what my plan would pay for.  I hadn’t actually tried to kill myself or anything; I was just trying to figure out how to deal.

I also went on Paxil.

I’ve never been a fan of medication.  I tried all sorts of herbal and vitamin supplements to improve my mood, level of energy, and feeling of well-being.  No combination I’ve tried worked.

The Paxil seemed to work.  It gave me a respite from the anxiety and mood swings, but after a few months, I wanted to get off the drug.  I didn’t want to become dependant.

The withdrawal symptoms were easily the worst I ever experienced and I never want to go through that again.

Though it may not seem like much, it was my decision to get off the Paxil and get in control of my emotional life that was my turning point, not the therapy or the drug itself, nor any of the other, external things I had tried to that point.

I found ways to cope.  I’ll talk about a few of those next week.

The launch of Dead Air, Pontypool, and other Writerly Goodness

Last night was the official launch of my writer friend Scott Overton’s first novel, Dead Air.  I bought my official copy, Scott signed it, officially, I hung out with the other members of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild who came out to support Scott (his official fan club?), and he even got the official CTV interview 🙂

Before I get to particulars, I wanted to share a few more views of the Living with Lakes Centre at Laurentian University where the launch was held.  Yes, that’s the same place that Scott read with John Forrest and Mark Leslie last week for the LUminaries reading series.

I won’t say that I arrived early, but it looked like I had some time to walk around the grounds and I took a couple of pictures of the centre from a different angle, and then another looking out over Lake Ramsey from the centre’s dock.

Upon entering, I immediately gravitated to the huddle of SWG members.  We chatted and caught up a bit before the flurry of purchasing and signing got underway.

There were beverages, but word soon spread that the caterer hadn’t shown up yet.  Ever the consummate showman, Laurence Steven of Your Scrivener Press gathered the crowd and ushered us into the room for the reading.

One of the SWG members had thoughtfully brought cookies and just as Laurie apologized for the lack of provisions, the caterer arrived, the result of an understandable miscommunication.

With that sorted, Laurie made a brief but gracious introduction of Scott and brought him to the podium.

Scott first introduced his wife, Terry-Lynne, to whom his book is dedicated, his co-host for his morning radio show, and then he read three selections from his novel.  Afterward, he opened the floor to questions.

Scott spoke of his inspiration, the process of writing the novel, and the interesting things he learned on the way.  He also spoke about the editing process and how he and Laurie had negotiated that.

Overall, it was a very entertaining evening.

But I got this cold, see?  So when I got home, I crawled into bed like the little illen-filled chicklet I am and settled in for the evening.  In cruising the channels, I came across Pontypool.

In the movie, adapted from Tony Burgess’s novel of the same name, a morning radio host (sound familiar, Scott?) is trapped in his radio station while people in the town around him succumb to a strange virus.

Far from the scads of zombie-related virus movies, Pontypool takes a left turn.  The virus is spread in the form of words, and the infected begin to babble and fixate on a particular word or sound.  Through the timely visit of a doctor to the studio, the protagonist learns that it is the understanding of a word that seems to trigger the infection and that speaking in another language is an effective means of evading the illness.

As everyone around them succumbs, the protagonist and his producer are hiding from the hordes and she (the producer) begins to babble, “kill, kill, kill …”  The morning man, twigged by the words of the visiting doctor, begins to try to break his producer’s loop, telling her that kill isn’t kill, that it’s sun, dress, flower, and finally he settles on kiss.  Kill is kiss.

He knows he’s been successful when she says, “kill me.”

I just found the premise fascinating.  A semiotic virus.

You may have noticed me dropping that academic bomb from time to time on my blog, and the reason for it is that I love semiotics.  It’s the study of meaning, to put it simply.  Ultimately all language is invented and arbitrary.  Language is a series of signs or symbols that we chose to mean things so that we can communicate with others and think about them.

We accept that the letters D O G spell dog and that means a certain class of canine quadrupeds that many of us choose to coexist with, but why is it dog and not cap or tree of bazooka?  Who came up with the word and why did everyone accept that this wee beastie should be called dog (and not tomato)?

Two things: have you ever repeated a word to yourself over and over again until the word loses all meaning and just becomes a sound?  Have you ever written or typed a word that you’ve written or typed thousands (perhaps millions) of times before only to think immediately that the word is somehow wrong?  Have you been so convinced of this illusion that you look the bloody word up in the dictionary just to make sure you’ve not gone insane?

That’s semiotic confusion, or uncertainty and may just lead to the thought that it’s not the experience that’s the illusion, but all language and meaning lumped together.

That’s the kind of mind-blowing awesome of a movie like Pontypool.  Not to mention the eerie serendipity of coming from the launch of my morning radio show host friend Scott, whose novel is about a morning show host who receives what turns out to be a very serious threat and finding a movie about a morning radio show host in the middle of a semiotic virus breakout.

Gave me dreams, man …

One last thing, well two really, but they’re related.

I’ve been so busy guest blogging, hosting guests, blogging events, and interviewing that I forgot to mention that Brian Braden of Underground Book Reviews interviewed me last week!  And this week, as the result of the number of comments and likes, he’s posted an excerpt from Initiate of Stone, my work in progress.  Sure, he may have misspelled my name, but everyone does 🙂  Hazard of being me.

So if you want to find out what my WIP is made of, go read for yourself!

Need to curl up with my dog and some wicked cold meds.