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

Advertisements

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.

nalohopkinson

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.

australianfantasy

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.

secondmorningskyiceland

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.

TheGrounds

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.

SpilledBlood

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.

mosaics3

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.

canal

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!

The Writing Excuses Retreat, part 2

Copenhagen and day at sea

In this instalment, I’m covering days two and three of the Writing Excuses Retreat (WXR) Baltic cruise.

On day two, I was up fairly early, mostly because I hadn’t yet fully adjusted to the time change. Then again, daylight savings messes me up twice a year and the two times I travelled west, I never adjusted to the time change at all. I just got by on a sleep deficit for the week I was in Vancouver and Calgary, respectively.

It was a good thing, though. Day two was our day in Copenhagen and I had a tour to catch.

We went straight to the Little Mermaid. The Little Mermaid has always been one of my favourite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. This is probably due to the 1975 animated version narrated by Richard Chamberlain. It was faithful to the tale Andersen popularized, including the attempted murder of the Prince and suicide of the heroine.

LittleMermaid

Of course, I know it’s a terribly misogynist tale that entrenches some vile stereotypes of feminine agency, or the lack thereof. But it’s still one of my favourites.

Fountain

We then stopped at the Fountain of Gefion, the goddess who created Denmark. The Swedish king Gylfi promised her all the land she could plough in a night. She turned her four sons into oxen and the land she ploughed was thrown into the sea to become Denmark. Next to the fountain was the oldest Anglican Church in Denmark.

Christianborg

From there, we visited the Christianborg Palace courtyard (our tour did not go inside) and saw the opera house, the canal, and the new incinerator. Our tour guide proudly pointed out that Copenhagen imported garbage to incinerate from all over the EU and that 100% of private residences ran on renewable energy.

canal

Interestingly, the new incinerating facility was built like a mountain and the plan is to have a ski hill on its slope. Denmark is a flat land and citizens have to travel elsewhere to ski.

Next, we toured the royal reception hall. Though once the place of all royal business, the hall is now only used to entertain visiting dignitaries.

Some intriguing facts about Queen Margrethe: she’s an artist. Under a pseudonym, she illustrated an edition of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. She designed one of the carpets in the reception hall. For her 50th birthday in 1990, the queen was presented with 17 surrealist tapestries depicting the history of Denmark.

Tapestry

My picture does not do the tapestries justice. They were breathtaking. My favourite room in the reception hall.

Well, I was rather fond of the library, too.

library

The history of the Danish kings (either Christian or Frederick) reads like Game of Thrones. Our tour guide intimated that George R.R. Martin drew inspiration for some aspects of Westeros from Danish history.

The tour returned to the Fantasia just after noon and I had time to grab lunch before John Berlyne’s presentation on the purpose of an agent.

JohnBerlyne

Then, Aliette de Bodard presented Worldbuilding in the Smallest Parts and it was time for dinner.

That night, I was seated with other attendees, but our table was short one. At the table next to us, one lone participant sat. We asked him over, but he was waiting for his spouse, so two of our table went to join him, instead. And it wasn’t too long before another table of two was asked to join us. Yes, it was musical chairs night, but it was one of the best evening meals I had with the two Sarahs and the two Laurens 🙂

Unfortunately, that was also the night my throat got sore, heralding the cold that was to become known as Cruise Crud. I’m still clearing out the trachea, three weeks later … at the time, I thought it was just the wine and the continual gales of laughter.

That night, we once more passed under the Øresund bridge, but I didn’t get another picture.

On day three, we crossed the Baltic heading toward Stockholm, Sweden.

I just want to digress for a moment. I’d never been on a ship the size of the Fantasia before. Sure, I spent many summers on my uncle’s houseboat. Yes, I’ve been on ferries like the Toronto Island ferry and the Chi-cheemaun. I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t be sea sick, but I had no clue.

The truth is, I barely felt the ship’s movement. When we departed or approached a pier, yes. The ship had to employ engines on the sides of the ship. There’s not enough pier to glide in like a smaller ship might. So the ship moves parallel and sidles up. That’s when you feel the chop.

So I’m happy to say my constitution did not let me down. In that respect, anyway.

I got to sleep in a bit on day three. Not that I actually did, but I didn’t really have anything to get up early for. Every morning, the instructors gathered for office hours, but I didn’t have any specific questions to ply them with … yet.

After the breakfast buffet, I headed down to the breakout session. I was group cake, but I’d signed up for the lightning readings in the afternoon and attended Mary Robinette Kowal’s foreshortened How to Present workshop which was squeezed in at the beginning of the breakout session.

MaryRobinetteKowal

Then, I hung out until my one-on-one with Tempest, which was scheduled in the middle of the breakout session. Day three was my first real opportunity to do any writing and the first day I felt like my body had adjusted to being seven hours in the past 😉 I lugged my laptop around with me so I could use what opportunities I could.

WesleyChu

Back to the buffet for lunch, and then it was time for Wesley Chu’s Deep Dive into Action presentation, which was followed by the lightning readings, at which I believe I acquitted myself well.

Afterward, Margaret commented that she wanted to read the novel when it came out. I think I blushed. The reading was from a short story, but I guess that’s just more confirmation that my story ideas tend toward novel-length projects.

There were a lot of interesting pieces and I’m looking forward to reading some of the resulting projects, whether story or novel, as well 🙂

Day three was the evening of the costume contest. I didn’t have room to pack one, but there were some very clever costumes. Ann Tagonist and Professor Tagonist had the pages of a book incorporated into their costumes. One young man was the Excuses Monster, onto which people were invited to write their writing excuses on Post-its and stick them to his cape.

There were a number of flappers and a number of Regency costumes. Waldo and Carmen Santiago made an appearance, as did Nanny Og.

masquerade

That night, I sat at Mary’s table at supper. It was another night of fascinating conversation at which I got to regale the group about my malignant hyperthermia (Google it).

The Cruise Crud was blossoming, so I once again called it a night after supper.

And that’s where I’m going to pause in my tale.

Next weekend, we enter a new month and it will be time for my Next chapter update.

I’ll pick up with our arrival in Stockholm on the weekend of the 9th.

Until my next blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong, my friends 🙂

The Writing Excuses Baltic Cruise, part 1

I’m baaa-aaack!

Did you miss me?

As you might be able to tell from the title of this post, I’ve decided to break up my Writing Excuses Retreat (WXR) experience into parts. There was just too much writerly (and other) goodness going on for me to pack into one post, even in summary.

And that is what I intend to provide for you here: a summary. An event like this really has to be experienced to appreciate the impact it can have on a life. Not just a writer’s life, either. Any life.

I’ve never been outside continental North America before. Simply going to Europe and getting a taste of seven different countries changed me as a person. If you haven’t travelled, I highly recommend it. Even if you think you can’t afford it, save up (preferable), ask for financial assistance, or, if you have the means (i.e. stable employment) and aren’t too far into debt already, commit to some medium term debt and a reasonable strategy for getting out of it. Planning is everything in this last instance.

It was so worth it for me.

As you may remember from my last post, pre-departure, anxiety was having its way with me. I knew once I got in the air, I’d be fine. Once the first plane is boarded, there’s really no turning back. Even my anxiety can’t argue that point.

The journey was nonetheless fraught.

I got up at 5 am, so I could get to the airport by 6:30 and check in to board my flight at 7:30. The usual Skycheck service wasn’t available, but Air Canada checked my baggage (I only had the one, carryon-sized case) at no extra charge.

I arrived at Pearson International at 8:30, retrieved my bag, and had time for a leisurely breakfast. I had time to search out the Iceland Air registration desk and find out when it would open. It turns out that contrary to the general advice to be in the airport three to four hours ahead of your departure time that you can’t even check in or start the security process until two hours before boarding.

Still, I’m glad I gave myself a wide margin. I could have caught the next flight if the first one had been cancelled. I would have had the time to take an Airporter to Pearson, if necessary.

The journey from there was similarly without incident. The eight hour layover in the Reyjavik airport was, if anything, a little boring. I worried a bit about my flight not showing up on the information board until about an hour before departure, but there was no real problem.

KeflavikAt3am

HamburgAirport

When I landed in Hamburg, I wandered around for a while before I found a group of  WXR cruisers and caught the shuttle to Kiel. I made friends right away on the shuttle (virtual hugs to Margaret Dunlap), while I fought the exhaustion of travel. We arrived at the Atlantic Hotel, checked in, and I met my room mate (more hugs to Becky!).

AtlanticHotelinKiel

I did not nap. I kind of got my second wind in the afternoon and made some more friends (waves at Mike, Oliver, and Alex—Strumpwaffle bonding!), met Mary Robinette Kowal again, Kathy Chung who, in addition to being Security Officer for the cruise, is also the Coordinator for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC), and K. Tempest Bradford, with whom I took the spring offering of Writing the Other.

A group of us went to Vapiano, a popular European chain of Italian restaurants, for supper, and then returned to the conference room for the evening orientation session and taping of the Tea and Jeopardy podcast (!) featuring His Majesty, Dan Wells 🙂

At this point, I’d been up for nearly 30 hours, and, after a much-needed shower, I collapsed.

The next morning, after breakfast, there was the embarkation information session, during which we were divided into groups for our first event—a scavenger hunt, we collected our baggage, and prepared to board the MSC Fantasia.

The thing I dislike most about travelling is all the queuing. There are line ups everywhere: to check in, get through security, and to board (for each flight), for the shuttle, and to check in to the hotel. Cruise embarkation was no different.

We were bussed to the pier in shifts, based on our scavenger hunt groups, and, once there, had to relinquish our luggage to the handlers, prepare our boarding documents, and—you guessed it—queue up for embarkation.

It was like an amusement park line. Looooong.

MSCFantasia

But once aboard, I located my stateroom, outside of which my luggage had been left, got unpacked, and got my credit card registered before it was time to gather for the scavenger hunt.

MyStateroom

WXR instructors hid throughout the ship, and each team had to solve riddles to find them, hopefully ending up in the buffet at the end, in time to have lunch. My group was a little late starting out and we missed the final check-in point, but we had fun solving the riddles and did bond over the experience.

There was an afternoon workshop that I ended up choosing to miss, on writing through distraction. My more pressing need at the time was for some food and I acquainted myself with the buffet 🙂

I had time to sign up for a wi-fi package for the trip before muster, which is the emergency drill for the ship, and returned to my stateroom in time for our departure from Kiel.

FearAndWritingEmmaNewman

That evening, I attended Emma Newman’s (yes, she of Tea and Jeopardy) presentation on Fear and Writing. Mary intentionally organized Emma’s presentation for the first evening, as fear is every writer’s worst enemy. It was hoped that Emma’s presentation would allow us to set appropriate goals for the cruise. I’ll just say that it was brilliant, and one of my favourites of the cruise.

SunsetDay1

At supper, I sat at Howard and Sandra Tayler’s table. It was a great first night getting to know a couple of our hosts, and some of my fellow WXR participants.

Normally, for a cruise, the passengers sit at the same table every night and the serving staff is able to develop a relationship with them. For the WXR cruise, we would be assigned different seating each night at supper so that we could get to know one another better. It made for more difficulty for the serving staff, but a better experience for the retreat’s participants.

Supper that first night was a late sitting (9:30) and by the time I got back to my stateroom, I was just in time to watch the ship (it’s huge—18 storeys I was told) pass under the Øresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark. Other cruisers went to the uppermost deck of the ship to take pictures, but I didn’t have time to get up there (!)

UnderTheBridge

And that’s where I will leave my journey for now.

In my next instalment, I hope to cover Copenhagen and Stockholm. After that, it will be time for my Next Chapter combination update for July and August, and then I’ll continue with my adventure through Tallinn and St. Petersburg. Then, I think I’ll write a couple of posts to cover my Finland adventure and WorldCon, before I turn to other topics.

Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday will resume through to NaNoWriMo when my next blogging hiatus takes place.

Recent events in Charlottesville, Barcelona, and Turku have my heart aching. Still, the battered thing goes out to all of those affected by extremism and terrorism. We can resist, heal, and make a better world.

Until next I post, be well, be kind, and stay strong, my friends. The world needs your stories now, more than ever!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 28-June 3, 2017

It’s time for some informal writerly learnings.

The Story Masters workshop James Scott Bell refers to? Yeah. I was there 🙂 Where’s your edge? Writer Unboxed

Cara Black says villains are the architects of your story. Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt shares her experience weaving sub-plots into her story. Writer Unboxed

K.M. Weiland explains how to find your story’s big moments before you outline. Helping Writers Become Authors

Elisabeth Kauffman shares her #1 tip for introverts attending a writing conference. DIY MFA

Laura Highcove: when your why is bigger than your fear. DIY MFA

Christina Delay explains why it’s important to control your survival instinct when it comes to your fiction. Writers in the Storm

Tasha Seegmiller guest posts on Writers in the Storm: enhancing your story through micro and macro setting description.

Writing coach April Bradley says theme is the marrow of your story. Writers Helping Writers

Suzanne Purvis visits Fiction University: how to write a sizzling, scintillating synopsis.

Jami Gold: strong characters come from strong writing.

Kristen Lamb says, when running your race—be content but stay hungry.

Dear writers: a book needs time to cook. Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds.

If you want to write a book, don’t listen to Stephen Hunter. Foz Meadows, Shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows.

And here, for your perusal, is the Stephen Hunter article in question: if you want to write a book, write every day, or quit now. Daily Beast

Creative alchemy: experience transformed by imagination with Ursula K. Le Guin and Kristin Kwan on Terri Windling’s Myth & Moor. And here’s more Ursula: the writer as wizard.

Sangeeta Mehta interviews agents Eric Smith and Saba Sulaiman about diversity on Jane Friedman’s blog.

Oren Ashkenazi lists five plausible scenarios for planetary evacuation. Mythcreants

Mary Robinette Kowal shares the highlights of her visit to the SpaceX CRS-11 Cargo Launch NASA social.

The Sunburst Award Longlist has been announced. Think Canadian Nebulas and you’ll be just fine 😉

Laura Miller examines what happens when literary novelists experiment with science fiction. Found this on Twitter with the tweet, when literary authors write science fiction, yet disavow it. Yeah, right? Slate

Charlie Jane Anders confesses: growing up, Wonder Woman was the hero I really wanted to be. Tor.com

And Megan Garber calls Wonder Woman the heroine of the post-truth age. The Atlantic

This is just fun. Why Wonder Woman’s sword can cut through anything. Because science w/ Kyle Hill.

 

Bryn Elise Sandberg reports the sad news that Sense8 has been cancelled. I gotta go over there and cry, now. The Hollywood Reporter

I hope you found something that you needed.

Come back on Thursday to get a little thoughty in your week.

Be well until then.

tipsday2016