Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Apr 7-13, 2019

I’ve got a bunch of resources here to get your mental corn popping.

Akshat Rathi: how we get to the next big battery breakthrough. Quartz

James Griffiths warns that Welsh and Hawaiian have been saved from extinction, but other languages may not be so lucky. CNN

Sandee LaMotte reports on the 99-year-old woman with all her organs in the wrong places. CNN

Jonathan D. Grinstein reveals a new way to detect Parkinson’s—by smell. Scientific American

Karen Weintraub: the adult brain does grow new neurons, after all. Scientific American

Antonio Regalado reports that doctors plan to test a gene therapy that could prevent Alzheimer’s. MIT Technology Review

It’s okay to be smart … about the AMAZING monarch butterfly.

 

To save the monarch butterfly, scientists are moving a forest 1,000 feet up a mountain. Kate Linthicum for the LA Times.

Before the image was released, Veritasium explains what it will look like and why (damned awesome, ‘cause he’s right on the money).

 

Mary Beth Griggs: see the first ever image of a supermassive black hole. The Verge

Natalie Grontcharova gives us a more complete picture: meet Katie Bouman, the woman behind the first image of a black hole. Refinery 29

After the image was released, Veritasium released a second video:

 

Mary Robinette Kowal: if space is the future, that future needs to include everyone. The Washington Post

Kate Sierzputowski shows us the Utrecht apartment transformed into a three storey tromp l’oeil bookcase. This is Colossal

Thanks for dropping by and I hope you found something to inspire a new creative project.

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

thoughtythursday2016

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Mar 17-23, 2019

Here is your weekly batch of informal writerly learnings. Enjoy 🙂

K.M. Weiland wants you to find your thematic principle. Helping Writers Become Authors

Vaughn Roycroft, inspired by Jo Eberhardt’s last post, writes about layers of antagonism and why you should embrace them. Dave King: the lessons of genre. “In fact, here’s a dirty little secret: literary fiction often behaves like just another genre.” Julie Carrick Dalton looks at novel writing intensives as an alternative to the MA. Stephanie Cowell explores her novelist’s journey: the ghost worlds within me. Writer Unboxed

Chris Winkle: narrating a close point of view. Mythcreants

Chris Winkle produces the next instalment in the goal-oriented storytelling series: novelty. Then, Sara Letourneau has a helpful strategy if you’re struggling with flashbacks: try using the PAST method. Writers Helping Writers

Lisa Cooper Ellison offers a primer on schmoozing for introverts: how to network like a pro. Then, Barbara Linn Probst stops by to talk about beta readers: who, when, why, and so what? Jane Friedman

Mary Robinette Kowal shares some great advice for debut authors: so, you’ve been nominated for an award …  She follows up with another pithy piece on status and hierarchy shifts. Check out the series navigation links. This stuff is GOLD.

Helen J. Darling is helping you build your publishing team: your cover designer. DIY MFA

Alexa Donne muddles through the middle.

 

Janice Hardy digs into her archives for this fun test to check your scene’s narrative drive. Fiction University

Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes (better known as Bayard & Holmes) help you figure out which firearms can’t be silenced. Then, Margie Lawson drops by to discuss creating compelling cadence. Writers in the Storm

Angela Ackerman visits Jami Gold’s blog: creating characters who clash.

Jenna Moreci helps you identify your category (not genre).

 

Bryan E. Robinson, PhD shares eight ways to stay mentally fit and mindful during the writing process. Writer’s Digest

Nina Munteanu: surfing Schumann’s wave and catching the ion spray. Everything in life is vibration.

And that was Tipsday.

Hope you found something that will take your craft to a new level. Come back on Thursday for some thoughty.

Until then, be well!

tipsday2016

The next chapter: October 2018 and #NaNoWriMo week 1 update

Sooo…. I didn’t have the time on Wednesday to prepare this post and schedule it. And then NaNoWriMo started. And then Wordstock Sudbury started.

Accordingly, this will be a very brief update and combined with m week 1 NaNoWriMo check in.

My main project for October was to complete the outline for Tamisashki and I’m happy to say that work was completed Wednesday night.

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Because the outline is written in a notebook, I didn’t count the words. Further, I did a more rambling, draft version for each plot line, so it’s over double the word count of the final product. I’m better prepared to finish NaNo this year, though, and better prepared to finish the draft in the months following.

OctProgress

I wrote 4,528 words on this blog, which is 162% of my 2,800-word goal, and I submitted my DIY MFA column on time at 1,079 words (it’s coming out Tuesday), or 108% of my 1,000-word goal.

While there were no writing-related events in October, Phil and I did attend the 50th birthday celebration for our friend, Mark Kuntsi.

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Timing is everything with NaNo and for the past three years, the Wordstock Sudbury Literary festival has been on the first weekend in November. I do support the event and I make the time to attend, but that means sacrificing NaNo time.

I also signed up for Mary Robinette Kowal’s No-prep NaNoWriMo workshop, which was on Monday night. Though I’ve outlined, I figured having additional tools at my disposal (because I always, ALWAYS diverge from the outline) would be good. I also dig Mary’s strategies. Though I’ve heard many of them before, the reinforcement is always useful.

After the workshop, she stayed online for a group writing session which I didn’t participate in. I’d managed to write 1,758 words already that day and felt good about that progress.

On Friday, I attended Sarah Selecky’s book club about her new novel, Radiant, Shimmering, Light. I’ve been subscribed to her newsletter for years and found the concept—the commodification of self-care and how it affects two women, cousins, who navigate the social media minefield—and bought the book (of course).

Then, I attended a session on telling a good story with Waubgeshik Rice and Lee Maracle, two indigenous writers, moderated by Will Morin.

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I wrote 1,290 words on Friday.

On Saturday, I attended Alternate Realities, a session with Brit Griffin and Elan Mastai, both authors of speculative fiction. the discussion was moderated by CBC‘s Morning North’s host, Marcus Schwabe.

I then personned the Sudbury Writers’ Guild table until 5 pm, helped Dave Wickenden pack up, and went to supper with my dear friend, Kim Fahner, who gifted me with this lovely, lovely, handmade journal.

I managed only 690 words yesterday.

Here’s my book haul…

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Today, I’m off to the launch of Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli’s La Brigantessa, an historical novel set in the aftermath of Italy’s 1861 Unification.

Will update you next week about the launch and my NaNo progress for the week. I’m back to the day job for most of it.

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

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 15-21, 2018

You made it through Monday! Time to reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland: how to write unique themes. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jan O’Hara offers you her guide to hacking the optimal writing environment. Writer Unboxed

Margaret Dilloway shares her thoughts on how to write while the world’s burning down. Writer Unboxed

Andrew Wood shares his five steps to create a perfect fantasy world. Later in the week, Janice Hardy lists four signs that you might be confusing, and not intriguing, your readers in your opening scene. Fiction university

Jeff Vandermeer imparts his best tips for cultivating creativity from the world around you. Writer’s Digest

Lisa Cron says, there will be blood (or your story may be in deep trouble). Writers Helping Writers

Sara Letourneau helps you recognize themes at each stage of the writing process. Later in the week, Lisa E. Betz lists five story blunders and the secrets to avoiding them. DIY MFA

And here’s my latest DIY MFA column on mythic structure: The Virgin’s Promise, part two.

Lisa Hall-Wilson explains how to use deep POV without tying and anchor to your novel’s pace. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle explains why we shouldn’t be fighting over trigger warnings. Then, Oren Ashkenazi reviews five common worldbuilding mistakes. Mythcreants

T.J. Berry talks about her favourite bit of Space Unicorn Blues. Mary Robinette Kowal

And that was Tipsday.

Come back on Thursday for some thoughty.

Until then, be well.

tipsday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 8-14, 2018

Another week, another batch of informal writerly learnings.

K.M. Weiland says, don’t let anyone tell you how to write, or, eight tips for learning responsibly. Helping Writers Become Authors

Greer Macallister tries some reverse psychology: how to write bad characters. Writer Unboxed

Keith Cronin: if I know then what I know now. Writer Unboxed

Juliet Marillier says that the magical formula is setting priorities. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Craft: when perspective is the story. Writer Unboxed

Gwen Hernandez shows you how to compile a docx in Scrivener 3. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie: hey! Let’s all celebrate the madness! Writer Unboxed

Tamar Sloan shares five things writers need to know about characters with mental illness. PsychWriter

Roz Morris has some advice for shy writers: feel the fear and put yourself out there. Nail Your Novel

Sacha Black: how do you lead readers to your theme? Writers Helping Writers

Piper Bayard explains how to nail the character of an espionage hero for your spy novel. Writers Helping Writers

Orly Konig give you three reasons to embrace the prickly synopsis. Writers in the Storm

Ashly Hilst shares five ways to take your novel from good to great. DIY MFA

Oren Ashkenazi engages in some Q&A: what should I consider when creating a fictional economy? Later in the week, Chris Winkle helps you understand character karma. Mythcreants

Chuck Wendig examines the Save the Cat conundrum. Later in the week, T.J. Berry shares five things she learned writing Space Unicorn Blues. Terribleminds

Jenna Moreci lists her ten worst fantasy tropes.

 

Joanna Penn shares seven continuity issues to avoid when writing a series. The Creative Penn

Writer’s Digest interviews three agents about current science fiction trends.

Mary Robinette Kowal geeks out: five really cool things I learned at the NASA’s neutral buoyancy lab. Tor.com

Porter Anderson reports that the European parliament rejected a new copyright directive. What does that mean for copyright on this side of the pond? Porter Anderson Media

Adam O’Fallon Price: on semicolons and the rules of writing. The Millions

Be well until Thursday, when you can come back for your weekly dose of thoughty.

tipsday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 25-March 3, 2018

Gentle readers, here are your informal writerly learnings for the week:

K.M. Weiland says, don’t write scenes—write images! Helping Writers Become Authors

Christina Delay: the attraction of passion. Writers in the Storm

Lisa Hall-Wilson shares five quick ways to shift description and setting into deep POV. Writers in the Storm

Julia Munroe Martin is getting in touch with the inner magician. Writer Unboxed

Magic cloaks, lucky charms and other writerly superstitions. Sarah McCoy explores writers’ rituals on Writer Unboxed.

Barbara O’Neal wants you to imagine your ideal reader. Writer Unboxed

Sophie Masson examines some of the great last lines of fiction. Writer Unboxed

Kristen Lamb explains how writing a story from the end results in a mind-blowing read.

Janice Hardy warns, over-explaining will kill your novel. Fiction University

Emily Wenstrom tells you how and why to clean your email subscriber list. DIY MFA

Bess Cozby rises to new challenges the DIY MFA way. DIY MFA

Rebecca Monterusso returns to DIY MFA: five reasons it’s time to call an editor.

Chuck Wendig shares three truths about writing and how the writing gets done. Terribleminds

Chris Winkle reveals the one big thing most manuscripts lack. Mythcreants

Jami Gold fills in more blanks in her writing craft master lists: theme development.

Angela Ackerman shares three ways setting can steer your story’s plot. Writers Helping Writers

Mary Robinette Kowal: ask a puppet, episode 4.

 

Ruth Harris lists eight common mistakes readers hate—and how to fix them. Anne R. Allen’s blog

Nina Munteanu: how art reveals truth in science.

Shoshana Kessock compares the feminism of Black Panther to the feminism of Wonder Woman.

Be well until Thursday!

tipsday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 4-10, 2018

Here, once again, are your informal writerly learnings!

Jessi Rita Hoffman stops by Jane Friedman’s blog to help you prune hedge words and inflation words from your writing.

K.M. Weiland offers four tips for writing to your right audience. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jael McHenry: on commitments, participation, and the writing community. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass shows you what happens when worlds collide. Writer Unboxed

Nancy Johnson joins the Writer Unboxed team: the question your novel answers.

Gabriela Pereira takes her turn in the Writers Helping Writers coaching corner. Writing by design, part two: pattern and repetition.

Back on DIY MFA radio, Gabriela interviews Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi: understanding the emotional wound.

Kristen Lamb: great stories are addictive by design.

Janice Hardy offers seven tips for creating believable fantasy and science fiction worlds. Fiction University

Fae Rowan shares a simple tip to help get rid of saggy middles. [But … will it work on ma belleh—lol?] Writers in the Storm

Jami Gold looks at the editing process and what every writer needs to know to improve.

Backtracking a bit to give you episode 1 of Ask a Puppet (Mary Robinette Kowal). Seriously hilarious.

 

Mary Robinette Kowal shares her writing process in honor of her birthday.

Roz Morris shares three paradoxes of a slow writing process. Nail Your Novel

Chuck Wendig: yes, you can hiss without sibilance. Terribleminds

Breaking their usual pattern of constructive critique, Oren Ashkenazi reviews five novels with strong throughlines for Mythcreants.

Shane Koyczan – Resolution

 

Jessica Stillman: why you should surround yourself with more books than you’ll ever have time to read. Inc.

E CE Miller shares 21 love letters by authors to inspire you on Valentine’s Day. Bustle

Ryu Spaeth: an education through Earthsea. New Republic

Michael Blanding reports on how plagiarism software unveiled a new source for eleven of Shakespeare’s plays. And no, before the histrionics start, Shakespeare did not plagiarize. The New York Times

Jill Lepore explores the strange and twisted life of Frankenstein. Amazing. Truly. The New Yorker

Krista D. Ball revisits Joanna Russ’s “How to Suppress Women’s Writing” after 35 years. Thought-provoking and anger-inducing. Reddit r/fantasy

Jamil Smith writes about the revolutionary power of Black Panther. Time

I hope your week got off to a great start. Be well until Thursday 🙂

tipsday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 28-Feb 3, 2018

Looking for your informal writerly learnings? Why, they’re right here 🙂

K.M. Weiland shows you four ways to become a better reader. Helping Writers Become Authors

Bryn Greenwood: sometimes it’s just business. Writer Unboxed

Steven James goes from 2000 to 300—why you’re writing too much. I might argue the headline. It’s not that we’re writing too much, but that we’ve lost sight of the reason we’re writing in the first place. The seductive “ding” of gamification has hit writers square in the forehead. Writer Unboxed

Tracy Hahn-Burkett explains what to do when your creativity hits the wall. Writer Unboxed

Catherine McKenzie asks, can I jump on the bandwagon? More importantly, if you can, should you? Writer Unboxed

Cathy Yardley wants you to think about what really matters to your audience. Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt: foreshadowing vs. callbacks. Writer Unboxed

Angela Quarles is evaluating sexual tension on the sentence level. Writers in the Storm

Jenny Hansen shares five writing lessons from Groundhog Day. Writers in the Storm

A.K. Perry helps you write an exciting first chapter. DIY MFA

Angela Ackerman explains the role of emotional wounds within character arc. Writers Helping Writers

Janice Hardy wonders, is your novel all premise and no plot? Fiction University

Kristen Lamb says that goofing off is good for you. Then, she helps you build great stories to endure the ages.

Chris Winkle is creating a compelling romance. Mythcreants

Mary Robinette Kowal’s Ask a Puppet, episode 3.

 

Diana Gabaldon demonstrates how she crafts a sentence.

 

Jerry Jenkins compiles a list of 41 tips experts wish they’d known as beginners.

Neil Gaiman presents the lifetime achievement award to Ursula K. Le Guin at the National Book Awards.

Julie Beck: why we forget most of the books we read. The Atlantic

Alberto Manguel elucidates on the art of unpacking a library. The Paris Review

Annika Burgess introduces us to a new literary map exhibit: charting the geography of classic literature. Atlas Obscura

Alexander Zawacki looks at how a library handles a rare and deadly book of wallpaper samples. Atlas Obscura

20 historical words we might want to revive.

 

Hope you found something that tickled.

See you Thursday for some thoughtiness 🙂

Be well until then.

tipsday2016

WorldCon 75 summary post

It seems we’ve exchanged hurricanes and mass shootings for wildfires and floods. Wherever you are, whatever has come your way, please find safety.


Welcome back to the ongoing tale of my European adventure 🙂

This instalment will be the penultimate one. Next week, I’ll cover my takeaways from the trip.

Since I’d made the decision earlier in the year to stop blogging my session notes … I didn’t take any during the whole of WorldCon (!) It was very freeing. I relaxed and enjoyed.

Something I forgot to mention in my last post is that I also enjoyed the hotel’s Sauna on Tuesday night. I had a nice, naked conversation with some Finnish ladies who were curious about all the Americans in town … but it was helpful for the cruise crud.

Wednesday, August 9, was the first day of WorldCon, and at breakfast that morning, I met up again with the Tracy’s, Heather and Bill, and their mom, Becky, who’d been my roommate on the WXR cruise. Bill was also attending WorldCon, while Heather and Becky did the tourist thing in Helsinki.

After breakfast, I strolled down the pedestrian underpass to the train station, bought my ticket at the kiosk, and caught the train to Pasila.

I want to take a moment here to express just how fabulous the Helsinki trains were. Clean, spacious, and efficient. My registration for the con included a train pass for the week, because they knew most of us would be staying in the downtown area. There are a couple of hotels in Pasila, but they were booked quickly, and blocks of rooms were reserved for those who needed accommodation (or so I understand).

The only other city train I’ve been on that comes close is Vancouver’s, but at the time I travelled on it, the number of passengers made the journey (with luggage) uncomfortable. In Helsinki, there were two main lines, the K and the I (though there were more) that ran north and between the two, one left every ten minutes.

The first day of WorldCon was a bit disappointing, to be honest, because I think the organizers underestimated the interest of casual attendance (day passes). Except for the academic stream session I attended, nearly every room was full and they were very strict about the numbers because fire regulations. I don’t blame the organizers, but it was a frustrating first day.

The convention centre did have a great food court, however, and I ended up meeting a couple of friends of fellow Sudbury Writers’ Guild member Andy Taylor at the cafe. Tim Boerger and Nina Niskanen had both attended Viable Paradise with Andy and he wanted me to connect with them. I’d actually seen Nina at WorldCon last year, but I didn’t know who she was until after her steampunk panel was over 😦

While there, I also met Lara Elena Donnelly, author of Amberlough 🙂

I also saw a number of WXR cruise mates, and fellow member of SF Canada, Su Sokol.

That evening, I met up with a group of Canadian SF fans and writers, including Su, Eric Choi, and Jane Ann McLachlan, to have dinner at Zetor.

Thursday was a more productive day. I attended sessions on the Kalevala (which I was geeky enough to be reading at the time), Nalo Hopkinson’s Guest of Honour interview (I kind of stalked her sessions throughout—I’m a fan), a presentation on the sauna, the live taping of the Coode Street podcast with Kelly Robson and Walter Jon Williams, a panel on secrets in SF that Jane Ann McLachlan was on, how to start a podcast with Howard Tayler, and the live Ditch Diggers taping.

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That night was a meet up with Writing the Other alumni and K. Tempest Bradford. We went to a Nepalese buffet that was only a block or so from the convention centre called Mero-Himal. A number of alumni had also been on the cruise, and so it was a very enjoyable evening.

Friday’s WorldCon line up included a panel on artificial intelligence, one called Building Resistance, on which where Nina Niskanen and Kameron Hurley, one on female friendship in fiction with Navah Wolfe and Amal El-Motar, another Nalo Hopkinson GoH presentation, a panel on Austalian fantasy with Juliet Marillier, more Nalo Hopkinson (I said I was stalking her), a panel on how science really happens with Eric Choi, one on weird fiction with Helen Marshal, and one on alien language in SF with David J. Peterson, creator of the languages for the Game of Thrones series.

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Friday night was the night of the Hugo Awards Ceremonies and, still suffering from cruise crud (it didn’t completely clear until I was back home), I thought I’d catch the ceremonies on YouTube from the comfort of my hotel room. They were supposed to be webcast.

As I headed out on the train, the skies grew ominously dark and by the time the train arrived back in Helsinki, it was a full-on torrential downpour. The forecast had said that the weather would hold until evening … and so I’d left my umbrella in my hotel room.

While I waited some time at the station for the rain to stop, I eventually had to make it back to the hotel and got completely soaked. I got in and changed clothes, waited until the weather cleared a bit, and then strolled around the block—with my umbrella—to a little sushi restaurant for supper.

When it was time for the Hugos webcast … I was unable to connect. When I hopped on social media to see what I could find out, it turned out that there were technical difficulties and the webcast was a no go. I watched the Twitter feed for a while and ended up calling it an early night.

Saturday began with a science panel on planets beyond the Goldilocks zone, a panel on worldbuilding without ableism with Fran Wilde and Nalo Hopkinson (yes, I know), one on maintaining your scientist character’s credibility with Karen Lord, a panel on Octavia Butler (with you-know-who), I checked out the author signings where Mary Robinette Kowal and Margaret Dunlap were at side-by-side tables, a panel on fairy tale retellings with Navah Wolfe and Karen Lord, one on bad-ass female leads in young adult, and one on crafting a fantasy tale from mythology with Juliet Marillier.

I decided to call it an early night because I’d be heading for the airport in the morning for my flight home. I had supper at a sports bar, packed, and got a good night’s sleep.

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My flight left just after 8 am. I watched the sun rise on the train (at—bleargh—5:30 am) and, after a three hour flight to Iceland, watched the sun rise again 😉 Because I was travelling back through time zones, another five and a half hour fight brought me to Toronto before noon (!)

I hung out in Toronto for five more hours as my flight home was delayed, but I was home in time to watch that night’s Game of Thrones episode and then crawl into my own lovely bed.

I spent the next day resting and catching up on the television I’d missed during the trip. I could have used the rest of the week off to resent my internal clock and fully recover from the cruise crud, but it was back to the grind on Tuesday.

And that was how my European adventure ended.

Thanks for hanging with me on this journey!

As I mentioned off the top, next week will be my lessons learned/takeaway post but, because next Saturday is the launch of Kim Fahner’s latest poetry collection, Some Other Sky, I may not get the post up until Sunday. The next week, I’ll probably dedicate some time to writerly events (including the launch) and other happenings in this writer’s life, and then I’ll be on my annual blogging hiatus for NaNoWriMo!

Holy cow! This year is disappearing!

In the meantime, dear friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Writing Excuses Retreat, part 4

Part four of the Writing Excuses Retreat (WXR) begins on the morning of Thursday, August 4, 2017, day six of the cruise.

This was our day in St. Petersburg, Russia, and our third port day in a row. In every other port, the tours ranged from three to five hours and there was always the option to take a taxi and wander around on our own if we wished. In St. Petersburg, the tour was all day. In fact, it was two tours with a brief break in between.

The rules were fairly strict in Russia. Our passports would be checked on the way out and on the way in. We would be issued visitor’s visas for the day. We were not, under any circumstances, to leave the tours, as our visas only covered us for the cruise-related excursions. There would be no wandering around St. Petersburg.

It was also an early-rising day. We’d have to get up, get ready, and eat in time to report for our 8 am (ish) departure.

The morning would be spent at Catherine’s Palace. Sweet lord that place is huge, and we only got to see a relatively small part of it. The sprawling courtyard is bounded on all sides by buildings or iron gates. And all that yellow-painted detail? It will eventually be gilded, like the domes.

 

Catherine’s Palace is part of a city-wide restoration. Scaffolding was erected around several sections of the palace grounds as buildings were repaired and painted, only awaiting the gold leaf.

Inside, it was the same. Every entryway glittered. There were 14 different kinds of wood, imported from all over the world, inlaid in intricate patterns on the floors. And, of course, we had to don booties again to protect the site from plebeian tourist feet.

TheGildening

Just as in the royal reception hall in Copenhagen, each room was designed based on the style in one of the European capitals. There was the Versailles room in red, games rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, studies, art galleries, and lots of cabinets, painted in toile designs.

And there was the legendary Amber Room, which we were forbidden from photographing (though our tour guide did encourage us to take surreptitious photos at the doors, to and from the room—the babushkas were quick to discipline those who tried, though, so I refrained). Amber is one of Russia’s special resources and it’s considered an extravagance to cover an entire room in the petrified resin.

The Amber Room itself is considered a national treasure and that’s one of the reasons we weren’t to take pictures of it. They don’t want cheap replicas of the room appearing elsewhere.

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After the tour, we were taken out into the palace grounds and took the long way back to the tour bus past what looked like a Roman aqueduct, through the gardens and forested grounds, and one of Catherine’s personal outdoor retreats, or bowers.

On the way back to the pier, we stopped for shopping. The cruise crud I’d contracted had (literally) reached a fever pitch, and I availed myself of whatever over-the-counter remedies I could find. Of course, I bought souvenirs and gifts, as well, but coughing until my chest and gut were sore was getting tiring. Immediate comfort was my chief concern.

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Forgive the intruding phone strap at the bottom. I’m a terrible photographer.

The afternoon tour took us into St. Petersburg and to the Spilled Blood Cathedral. The cathedral was built on the site of the murder of Emperor Alexander II as a monument to his greatness, by his son, Emperor Alexander III. It took 24 years to build, which, once you see the mosaics inside, is absolutely mind-boggling.

Every inch of the walls, arches, and domes is covered in mosaics. These few pictures will just give you a taste of its magnificence. Really, there are no words.

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After the cathedral, we did a walking tour of St. Petersburg, during which we saw Senate Square and the Winter Palace.

Peter the Great wanted to build Russia a capital like Venice, a canal city on the Baltic. Really, Russia needed a naval port, and St. Petersburg served that purpose too, but its true purpose was to be the jewel of the Baltic.

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Though there are canals, St. Petersburg never achieved its architect’s dream of becoming a canal city. Every street is lined with grand houses, palaces, though, because all of the Russian nobility moved in and set up house, each family trying to outdo the others in terms of grandeur.

And there was a second shopping stop 🙂

I had time upon my return to devote some time to revision, and then take a cruise crud induced nap.

JasperFforde

That evening, Jasper Fforde delivered his talk on the last 5%, that ineffable quality that most writers lack: magic fairy dust. He promoted a lifestyle of creativity and joie de vivre so that, when we wrote, we couldn’t help but infuse that little something extra into our work. And he was hilarious.

At supper, I sat at Piper and Matthew Drake’s table. They are such an adorable couple, I couldn’t help but do an internal squee. They also had fascinating stories to tell.

Friday was our second day at sea as we sailed at top speed back to Kiel, Germany. The wind became progressively fierce throughout the day, eventually causing the water park and on-deck bar to close. All the deck chairs were stowed and the tables and chairs were crammed up against the rail and Plexiglas wall because the wind was blowing them around the deck. It was our only stormy day and even then, I barely felt the roll of the ship.

At the giant Q&A session, I sought out Thomas Olde Heuvelt, as I’d missed the early part of his presentation, and Emma Newman, because I wanted to get some help with my interminable burnout. Both were extremely helpful.

WXRecords

After lunch, we attended the on-board recording of the Writing Excuses podcasts. The first one featured one of my new friends, Mike Stop Continues.

Then, after another stint of revision, I had to crash. Cruise crud was getting the better of me.

At supper on this final night of the cruise, though I was not scheduled to sit with any of the instructors, there were enough absences, perhaps due to the cruise crud, that I got to sit at Emma and Peter Newman’s table. I think it was my second most enjoyable night (next to dining with the two Sarahs and the two Laurens).

The Newmans gave equal time to everyone at the table and it was the meal at which I learned the most about some of my fellow WXR participants.

Saturday was debarkation day, and so … yes, there was more queuing 😉

Fortunately, the process was handled as efficiently as embarkation and we were back at the Atlantic Hotel in Kiel by noon. Not all the rooms were ready for occupancy, however, and so a group of us gathered out front and His Majesty Dan Wells led us to a local laundromat.

Once everyone got their wash on, we strolled two doors down to a döner restaurant for lunch—yum! The owner had to call in extra staff to help with the crowd (!) Afterward, while we waited for our clothes to dry, Mary and Dan recorded Patreon special episode of the WR podcast. Then, we trouped back to the hotel.

Kiel

After checking in, I spent the afternoon wandering around Kiel’s mall and open market, meeting up with some of my fellow cruisers to head to supper. There was some disagreement over where to go, and we ended up splitting, some choosing a German restaurant, and my group opting for Mexican.

I must say, the German version of Mexican is … interesting.

And that is where my WXR adventure ends.

Next week, my journey to Helsinki, and how I spent my time until WorldCon began.

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