The next chapter: July 2020 update

Another month has passed. July was eventful and not in the all the ways I expected.

And yes, this post is late. A week and a day late. You’ll understand.

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

The lives of all BIPOC, LGBTQ2A+, disabled, neuro-atypical, and all other racialized or marginalized people matter. We all need to listen, learn, and do better.

That is all.

Pandemic life

So. 24 new confirmed cases of covid-19 have occurred in Sudbury over the last couple of weeks, most of them in people under 30. While there hasn’t been any confirmed written report on the topic, the rumours are that a group of young people went down to a huge party in southern Ontario and brought the virus back with them. Police have also reported breaking up a couple of large parties within the city.

Some people are blaming covid exhaustion. Indeed, it’s taxing for people who haven’t been able to engage in any of their pre-covid social activities, but going from isolation to parties that exceed the safe gathering limits? Travelling to do so? Not smart.

The worrisome part of it all is that we now have community spread in our area and health officials haven’t been able to determine where some of the newly infected might have been exposed.

It’s a drop in the bucket with respect to covid cases nationwide, and we’re faring so much better than other areas of the country. Overall, Canada is doing better than some countries and worse than others. Considering that we had, in total, 68 cases and 2 deaths up until this new rash of infections, though, I think that we may be heading for a second wave. Those 24 new cases represent a 35% bump for our relatively small city. It’s not necessarily going to happen the same way everywhere, but even extrapolating a 15% increase elsewhere means a lot of new infections.

I’m still worried about what’s going to happen when kids return to school. The “plan” we have in Ontario is missing a lot of key details. I think now is not the time to experiment. “Let’s wait and see” is not an acceptable strategy.

Wear your masks, people. Stay safe. Keep your distance when you can. Gather in safe numbers and watch out for your friends and family.

My situation remains status quo with the one key excitement of being invited to write an exam for an internal position I applied for pre-covid. As the position is one that I am very interested in (in many ways, it’s my dream job), I confirmed my participation and awaited next steps.

It turned out the exam was to be written over the course of a week, well, six and a half days, most of which would be while I was working my substantive job. So, evenings and on the weekend, which in this case was the Civic Holiday long weekend.

Then, due to a technical issue, the exam materials, which I was to have received Monday morning, were not issued until that night, but they were sent to my work email (which, admittedly, I had requested because of the technical issue). This means I didn’t even see the email until the next morning when I logged in to my remote desktop. The due date was extended, but only considering the time of issue, not when I would have, in fact, received it. So, I lost any time I could have devoted to the exam on Monday and the due date was now the morning of the Civic Holiday.

It was a lot of work. By Friday, I’d only managed to devote about three or four hours a day to the exam. I determined that I would submit the exam on Sunday night, rather than work through the night to submit the exam in the morning. I know my limits. Going without sleep is not something I can do without consequence. I planned accordingly. I devoted eight hours to the exam on Saturday and 12 on Sunday and I still didn’t have the time to do all I’d wanted to do.

For better or worse, I submitted the exam at 11:57 pm on Sunday.

Because I was catching up on all the work I hadn’t done during the exam week, I didn’t get around to writing this update until today.

The month in writing

Once again, I failed to finish my rewrite of Reality Bomb. I’m closer, but I’m not done yet and the draft is over 108k words. Once I do bring the story to a conclusion, more or less, I’m going to be going over it again and cutting like mad. I have to tighten it up and make sure that the overall story has continuity. I want to reduce the draft to 90k if I can. I’ll settle for 100k, but I want a trim beast to present to my critique group.

I also critiqued a draft for one of my group members.

JulyProgress

I set another modest goal of 5,000 words and wrote 6,628 words, or 133% of my goal.

I blogged 5,448 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 145%.

I planned to write 8,750 words and actually wrote 12,076 words. That’s 138% of my goal.

Filling the well

On July 1st, I attended an online workshop with Roz Morris on backstory, offered through Jane Friedman. Love Roz 🙂

On the 11th, I attended the WXR virtual reunion and the taping of their annual “cruise” portions of the Writing Excuses podcast. The cruise is cancelled this year, and this was a great compensatory virtual get-together.

I also attended the virtual launch of Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Relentless Moon on July 14th. It was fun. The Lady Astronauts Club showed up in period-appropriate/IAC costume, MRK was dressed as her protagonist, Nicole Wargin, and they framed the experience as an orientation session for new lunar colonists at the IAC. There was a lecture on orbital mechanics, a lander simulation (which I managed on the fourth try), and several other entertaining activities. I’ve since received my copy of the novel and an IAC Artemis Base badge.

On July 20th, I attended a virtual lecture by Ibram X. Kendi on how to be an anti-racist broadcast by Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.

Finally, on July 24th, I attended a session on Mythology and Speculative Literature that was sponsored by The Carl Brandon Society. Vida Cruz, Piper J. Drake, Kate Elliot, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Shveta Thakrar discussed the mythological inspiration for their work, problematic or clichéd uses of myth, and other mythic goodness.

A couple of friends from out of town were visiting family and came over for an evening, which we spent on the backyard patio, appropriately distanced. These visits are always too short.

What I’m watching and reading

Phil and I watched all of Penny Dreadful. Though we enjoyed the first two seasons, the third left us scratching our heads. Ethan was taken back to America and Sir Malcolm, recruited by Kaetenay, travelled from Africa to rescue him. Ethan temporarily goes dark side before the resolution to his troubles brings him abruptly back to the light. Then, Kaetenay has a vision that sends them back to London to help Vanessa …

… who has been languishing, abandoned by all her supposed friends and family. At Dr. Lyle’s suggestion, she enters into therapy with Dr. Seward, who looks identical to her witch mentor from the previous season’s flashbacks. She makes progress through hypnosis and ventures out into the world again with Dr. Sweet, who is, in fact, Dracula (dun, dun, dun!).

Frankenstein teams up with an old colleague, Dr. Jeckyll in a subplot that doesn’t really go anywhere.

The creature reunites with his family, only to discover that his wife wants him to take their dying son to Frankenstein for resurrection.

Brona recruits the fallen women of the city and trains them to become her army with Dorian’s help. Her goal: to liberate women everywhere from the power and cruelty of men. Sadly, Dorian bores of the game and delivers Brona into Frankenstein’s hands, where both creator and creation have inexplicable changes of heart. He refuses to use the serum he and Jeckyll developed to tame Brona, and Brona, once freed, knowing that Dorian delivered her into Frankenstein’s captivity, decides not to take her revenge on either of them. She returns to Dorian’s manor and, seeing her disciple dead on the floor at Dorian’s hands, simply leaves. Brona delivers an empowering speech that’s supposed to leave Dorian devastated, but it doesn’t.

Meanwhile, a new friend enters Vanessa’s life, Catriona Hartdegen. Cat knows a lot about vampires and Dracula in particular and together, they figure out that Dr. Sweet is Dracula. Vanessa goes to confront him, intending to defeat him, but—again, inexplicably—decides instead to surrender to him. Darkness and chaos descend upon London.

Ethan, Sir Malcolm, and Kaetenay, newly arrived, team up with Dr. Seward and Cat to save Vanessa. Dracula tells Vanessa that her former friends are coming, and she intimates that she will welcome the opportunity to slay them all. When the battle is joined, however, Vanessa is no where to be seen. Everyone fights valiantly, but it looks like the tide is turning in Dracula’s favour. Ethan breaks away and finds Vanessa isolated in a room where she merely begs him to kill her, which, after some weeping and moaning, he does.

And that was it. I know the series was cancelled while they were in the middle of filming this last season, but in an attempt to compress the story, the writers were unable to set up the appropriate character development that would make the last few episodes feel earned (where have we seen that before, eh, GoT?). Instead, we have uncharacteristic actions/decisions by nearly every character, lose ends, and a lot of lost opportunities. It would have been better if they had changed course and written and ending that made sense, even if it wasn’t the ending they had been writing toward for the whole series.

On TV, I watched the most recent season of The Good Witch. It’s candy and fluff, but sometimes you need a little candy and fluff.

I finally finished Orange is the New Black. They had to do some fancy tap dancing to get everything rolled up and they did leave some loose ends. I’m glad Piper decided to stick with Alex, but I think I would have been just as happy if she’d gone on to have her own life. It was the other stories, Taystee’s, Original Cindy’s, and Gloria’s stories in particular, that grabbed me. Blanca got a happy ending. Pennsatucky’s end was tragic. Maritza and Shani’s deportations were senseless. Aleida and Daya just continued the cycle of violence. Suzanne was left hanging, much as Red and Lorna were. I know it was supposed to be a commentary on the incarceration system, but aside from being largely depressing, I was left with a solid meh.

I watched The Crown’s latest season and it was interesting, but it wasn’t edge-of-your-seat viewing.

13 Reasons, season 3 definitely had me on the edge of my seat, but I kept asking myself why. Why even write a second season? The first season covered Asher’s book and did so well. They just delve deeper and deeper into trauma and its aftereffects to the point that in season four, it’s just painful to watch. That may have more to do with my trauma than anything else, but there you are.

I finished the 2018-19 season of Riverdale, which was already out there (juvenile prison fight rings, a criminal empire based on a D&D analogue, and an organ-harvesting cult) and am trying to catch up on the 2019-20 season.

And I finally finished the 2018-19 season of The Flash. Solid meh. But proceeding with the 2019-20 season, anyway.

Reading-wise, I only have four offerings.

I finished Jenn Lyons’ The Ruin of Kings. I liked it. I wish I could rate a book three and a half stars, but I gave it four. Lyons did play with structure in an admirable way. The book overall is presented as a report to the current empress (a very long report, might I say) and the annotations that appear throughout are not distracting, as you might think, and they do add to the content of the story. Once I learned who the empress was, I had trouble understanding how most of the annotations were necessary and that returned them to the category of authorial intrusion, however.

The first part of the book is told by two narrators, prisoner and jailer (kind of like Black Panther, Red Wolf) but the jailer is a shape-shifter named Talon who has the ability to absorb the memories of the people they imitate. Or come into contact with? Or consume? Really, the process isn’t well-explained. Talon and Khirin (the prisoner/protagonist) use a stone, handed back and forth. It’s a clever conceit that allows Lyons to present other POVs than Talon’s and Khirin’s, by virtue of Talon’s abilities.

Not only that, but Khirin starts telling his story from the point of his enslavement. Talon complains and goes back further, to the point they believe in the true beginning of the story. So, we have a narrative frame within a narrative frame and dual timelines that intersect and the end of part one. That’s another structural oddity. Part two is maybe a fifth of the book.

There was nothing wrong with the story itself and the structural gymnastics were definitely novel, but it made me wonder if Lyons had presented the story chronologically, without the frames and the annotations, if I would have thought differently about the book.

Then, I read The Queen of Katwe. I was hesitant, because the author is a white man (Tim Crothers), but it’s a non-fiction book using a lot of interviews and correspondence and thus presents the book in the words of the people involved. The book was, by turns, depressing and uplifting, but there was no real resolution. It’s an incomplete biography that leaves the reader wondering if Phiona ever achieved her dream of becoming a grandmaster. Wikipedia indicates she holds the title of candidate women’s master, but that’s as far as she got.

Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe was interesting. Rather than starting in this world and entering one of dream, Johnson flips the concept. Vellitt has always lived in the dream world and must travel into our world to recover the favourite granddaughter of one of the gods, who, if he wakes to find his favourite missing, will destroy half the dreamlands. The one thing I wasn’t comfortable with was that the real-world dreamers who travel to the dream world are always men, powerful and ageless. When Vellitt finally reaches our world, she is instantly transformed, has an identity and all the knowledge she might ever need or have gained from living a life in this world, though. Maybe Johnson’s statement is more subtle. Maybe women are the only true dreamers, living lives simultaneously in the dream world and in this? It’s thought-provoking, to be sure.

Finally, I read Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation. What kind of country would America have been if the civil war was interrupted by a plague of zombies? Ireland calls them shamblers and, in her novel they basically make time stand still. In some respects. The protagonist, Jane is biracial, though her skin is not light. She’s at a school for “attendants,” Black girls who are trained to fight shamblers and protect wealthy white women. It’s the best she can hope for in a world in which slavery and indenture still exist and people of colour (Black and American Indian) are seen as biologically inferior. Ireland examines the racism of the world she’s created through the lens of her “finishing school,” the viral shamblers (one plotline involves the development of a vaccine), and the white supremacists who attempt to create their own isolated empire in the midst of the chaos.

Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a letter that Jane has written to her mother and later, after she learns that her correspondence has been intercepted and she comes into possession of them, her mother’s letters to Jane. It’s a good book, but I kept wanting a little more and there were some events that seemed to resolve in the favour of plot convenience rather than where they seemed to be heading. I’ve already nabbed the next in the series, though.

And that was a month in this writer’s life.

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

The Next Chapter

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, July 12-18, 2020

Happy Friday eve! Without further delay, it’s time to get your mental corn popping 🙂

An example of how white supremacy privileges things over humans. Black Lives Matter Toronto holds a press conference after three protestors are arrested for “defacing” statues. Don’t even look at the comments on this one if you’re not prepared to be triggered. CTV

Mary Hynes interviews Ijeoma Oluo on Tapestry. CBC

Ashawnta Jackson explains what the first Black-owned bookstore had to do with the underground railroad. JSTOR Daily

Sarah Gilbert: civil rights activist and politician, John Lewis—a life in pictures. The Guardian

Sonia Saraiya interviews Viola Davis: my entire life has been a protest. Vanity Fair

Paul McGuinness reveals the power of protest songs. uDiscover Music


Amy Greer, Nisha Thampi and Ashleigh Tuite: we can get children back to school full time, if we put the right strategy in place. The problem is, no one can agree on what that strategy is … The Globe and Mail

North Bay OPP charge Florida couple with failing to self-isolate. CBC

What happened when we all stopped, narrated by Jane Goodall. TED.Ed


Adam Mann: the universe’s clock might have bigger ticks than we imagine. Scientific American

Mary Robinette Kowal does a dramatic reading of her “peeing in space” Twitter thread for Uncanny Magazine. It is hilarious.

David Szondy: 75 years ago, the Trinity atomic bomb test changed the world forever. New Atlas

Mark Wilson says knock codes were supposed to be more secure than passwords or PINs, but they’re surprisingly easy to hack. Fast Company

Catie Keck shares everything we know about the 2020 Twitter hack (so far). Gizmodo

Nathanael Johnson: the population bomb didn’t detonate, but it turns out there’s a new problem. Grist

Feargus O’Sullivan goes behind the accidentally resilient design of Athens apartments. CityLab

Sophia Smith Galer reveals the accidental invention of the Illuminati conspiracy. BBC

SciShow busts the “alpha dog” theory.

Jimmy Thomson says, one solution to the world’s climate woes is Canada’s natural landscapes. The Narwhal

Alexandra Witze: how humans are altering the tides of the oceans. BBC

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you took away something to inspire a future creative project.

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

ThoughtyThursday2019

The next chapter: June 2020 update

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well. Wear your masks. Abide by your local health authority’s guidelines for physical distancing and safe reopening. If you don’t take action to protect others, particularly the most vulnerable members of your community, how can you expect anyone else to take action to protect you?

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

Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Trans non-binary folk are non-binary folk.

We have a real opportunity here to rebuild a better world, post-covid. I’m worried that we won’t take advantage of that opportunity. I live in hope that we do.

Pandemic life

Not much has changed except that I seem to be rallying/getting used to the new normal. I’m still working from home. Phil’s still doing the running around. We both wear masks when we go out.

With the reopening, my registered massage therapist as resumed taking clients. She pre-screens. Twice. I wear a mask. She completely cleans and sterilizes her workspace between clients. I’m so happy her business has survived. So many small businesses and independent workers have closed because of covid-19.

In terms of my creative life, I have continued to be productive, but I have not been as productive as in past years. I’m being kind to myself. I’m still making headway and I’m recognizing my accomplishments. More on this in the next section.

I made it through my back-to-back virtual training deliveries and am back to my usual duties at work. It’s still surreal, but I’m adapting. Slowly.

I’m actually grateful that most of the series I watch on television are over for the year. I can focus on catching up on my streaming watching 🙂 My reading has slowed a bit.

Phil continues to devote his free time to woodworking.

2020-06-06 18.04.47

The dog gate I mentioned last month.

2020-07-04 11.38.12

And … Phil’s trying his hand at making a cabinet.

It’s been very hot up here in northeastern Ontario. It’s been hovering around 30 degrees Celsius with the humidity driving the temperature up as high as 41. For those of you who only relate to Fahrenheit, that’s between 90 and 105 degrees. Every day. For two weeks. We don’t have central AC, but we do have a portable unit we use in the bedroom so that we can sleep at night. We’ve been feeding Torvi ice cubes and we bought her another kiddie pool—which she has not chewed! She just steps in to wet her feet, but we’re good with that. Dogs cool through their panting and their paws.

The month in writing

I exceeded my modest goals again this month, but I STILL haven’t finished my rewrite of Reality Bomb (!) I’m over 100k on the draft, now. This will mean some MASSIVE cuts. I’ve been making notes, though, and I have a good idea of where I’ll be going, but I HAVE TO FINISH THE GODDAMNED THING FIRST!

I set my goal at 6,969 words and wrote 7,595, or 109% of my goal.

My blogging goal was 3,750 words and I wrote 5,529, or 147%.

Finally, I wrote my latest Speculations column. It came in at 1,012 words, or 101% of my 1,000-word goal.

Overall, my goal was to write 11,719 words on the three projects, and I wrote 14,136 words. That’s 121% of my goal. Not as fabulous as the 161% I achieved last month, but, interestingly, more words written. Go figure.

JuneProgress

Initially, I was intending to have finished with RB back in March and handed it off to my critique group so I could move on to working on revisions of Marushka. Marushka will be another rewrite and so I’m thinking that I’m going to have to set aside my plans to get back to the revisions on my epic fantasy series and focus on Marushka for the remainder of the year.

Though I was working on the series bible and revision notes for Ascension, that work screeched to a halt when covid-19 hit.

So, I just took a few minutes to revisit my goals and figure I’ll continue working on RB through the end of August and then focus on Marushka for the remainder of the year. I’ll pick up work on Ascension in 2021.

So there, ambitious goal-setting brain. So there.

Filling the Well

Lots to report here this month 🙂

First, I attended the Renaissance Press Virtual Con over the weekend of June 5 – 7. It was all on Zoom and all Canadian. I attended sessions on tropes, eco-fiction, bad writing advice, mystery, characterization, and podcasting.

The following weekend, June 11 – 14, I attended TorCon, and took in sessions with Christopher Paolini and Brandon Sanderson, Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, worldbuilding with a group of awesome authors of colour (Tochi Onyebuchi, Bethany C. Morrow, P. Djèli Clark, and Charlotte Nicole Davis), another Panel with Kate Elliot, Andrea Hairston, Alaya Dawn Johnson, and Ryan van Loan, and another fabulous conversation between Cory Doctorow and Nnedi Okorafor. *chef kiss*

I also watched Mary Robinette Kowal record the audiobook for The Relentless Moon. I’m a member of her newsletter community and jumped at the chance to take part, even though I had to view the videos after the fact (‘cause work). From June 16 – 26, I viewed between two and six hours of awesome footage a day, often catching up on the weekends. It was fascinating to watch the process and the bloopers were hilarious.

Finally, on June 20, my lovely sister-in-law invited us out for another family get together in her lovely yard. We’re now allowed to gather in groups of 10 or less and we’ve formed a “bubble group” of six (me and Phil, sis and spouse, and the moms). We played kubb, another yard game that Phil made, and ate burgers and fresh-cut fries.

 

What I’m watching and reading

After last month’s epic end-of-season bonanza, I have amazingly few shows to report on.

Phil and I watched through to the end of Supernatural, season 14. We dreaded the introduction of Jack, the Nephilim, because we knew the destructive potential of an overpowered character. So, of course, Jack loses his powers when Lucifer steals his grace, forcing Dean to let Michael possess him and kill Lucifer. And then, because Jack’s a Nephilim, his grace doesn’t regenerate like any other angel’s would. Then, because he drags down the story without purpose grace, he contracts angelic tuberculosis and dies. And, of course, soft-hearted Sam can let him die and resurrects him with magic that links his soul to his use of power. So, he can’t use his powers without burning up his soul. So … of course, Michael possesses (repossesses?) Dean and then Rowena, killing the team of Apocalypse World hunters, and Jack has to burn off what remains of his soul to kill Michael. At that point, we could see that Jack would be the big bad of the season (we were mostly right and not happy about it). Jack burns Nick alive in front of Mary when Nick tries to use Jack’s blood to resurrect Lucifer, and when Mary tries to tell him what he’s done is wrong, Jack kills her. Through another series of shenanigans, Jack goes rogue and finally, God/Chuck shows up, revealing to Sam and Dean that, after all this time, in all the universes he’s created, Sam and Dean are his favourite “show.” He just loves to watch the drama. Instead of resolving the situation himself by restoring Jack’s soul (Chuck says he can’t) Chuck gives Sam and Dean a Nephilim-killing gun and tells them to kill Jack. Jack is ultimately remorseful and kneels passively, waiting for Dean to kill him. Sam tries to intervene and Chuck eggs Dean on. At the last moment, Dean turns the gun on Chuck and shoots him, so Chuck smites Jack and apparently sets off the final apocalypse.

We were disappointed.

I finished watching The Witcher. Not horrible, but not great. I did not appreciate all the unmarked time travel of the first episodes.

I finished last year’s season of Anne with an E in time for this year’s episodes to cue up. I like the additions they’ve made to the story (Black, LGBTQ+, and Indigenous storylines). I think the creators had to add these elements in order to make the series unlike any other iteration of Anne of Green Gables.

I also finished last year’s run of Homeland. It’s getting a little long in the tooth for me, but I am curious to find out what happens to Carrie now that she’s been incarcerated in Russia for months without proper medication.

I only read three books this month.

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was an interesting mystery along the lines of Russian Doll or Groundhog Day. The concept is too intricate to explain briefly, but it reads well, and the tension is high throughout. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Then, I read Robin LaFever’s Grave Mercy about a sect of assassin nuns in medieval Brittany.

Finally, I read Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance. It’s a sweeping epic set over several tumultuous decades in India’s history. I enjoyed it, but it broke my heart because everyone suffered, no one was happy in the end, and the climactic suicide was senseless. It’s stayed on my mind because I keep trying to make sense of it. I think that may have been the point.

And that brings me to the end of the month in this writer’s life.

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

The Next Chapter

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Feb 2-8, 2020

Happy Friday eve! It’s time to get your mental corn popping to see you through to the weekend.

Philip Moscovitch believes that people with mental illness don’t need more talk. While this is a year old, the message bears repeating. Bell Let’s Talk days is great, but what about the other 364 days of the year? And what about actual change? The Globe and Mail

Jorge Barrera reports that the Robinson-Huron Treaty First Nations demand that Ottawa and Ontario cease land claim talks that affect their rights. CBC

Māori water rights case aims to stop water bottling. RNZ

Zöe Ettinger introduces us to 20 inspiring black women making history in 2020. Insider

Max Read presents five theories about conspiracy theories. Intelligencer

Why did the Vikings have “Allah” embroidered into their clothes? BBC

James Urquhart reveals how yarn made from human skin can be knit into your body. New Scientist

Mary Robinette Kowal: Christina Koch lands on Earth and crosses a threshold for women in space. The New York Times

Rebecca Hill introduces us to the outer space sailing captain. Ozy

Nadia Drake says, the sun is still a burning mystery, but that may be about to change. National Geographic

Are there infinite versions of you? (Mind bendy stuff) PBS Space time

Kristine Mitchell presents the Golden Ratio Colouring Book. My Modern Met

Mayukh Saha: photographer captures the beauty of looking up at trees. Truth Theory

Nina Pullano: first squid MRI study shows brain complexity similar to dogs. Inverse

Truly Mind visits Nepal, where an annual festival thanking dogs for being our friends takes place.

True facts about the skeleton shrimp. Ze Frank

Thank you for visiting, and I hope you’re taking away something to inspire your next creative project.

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

ThoughtyThursday2019

Book review of The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal

What the publisher says:

TheFatedSkyMary Robinette Kowal continues the grand sweep of alternate history begun in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars.

Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, but there’s a lot riding on whoever the International Aerospace Coalition decides to send on this historic—but potentially very dangerous—mission. Could Elma really leave behind her husband and the chance to start a family to spend several years traveling to Mars? And with the Civil Rights movement taking hold all over Earth, will the astronaut pool ever be allowed to catch up, and will these brave men and women of all races be treated equitably when they get there? This gripping look at the real conflicts behind a fantastical space race will put a new spin on our visions of what might have been.

My thoughts:

The Calculating Stars began with the impact of the meteorite. The Fated Sky kicks things into gear with a hostage-taking.

Dr. Elma York, Lady Astronaut and calculator is returning from the moon, a journey that has become routine, when a problem during re-entry sends them off course and into a crash landing. They have to wait for the retrieval crew to find them, but a group of PoC Earth Firsters discover them before the IAC.

Elma manages to diffuse the situation, but the IAC cannot ignore the opportunity to capitalize on the resulting media coverage and places Elma on the first Mars mission, displacing fellow calculator, Helen, who has been training with the rest of the crew for months already.

The rest of the crew resent the substitution and Elma must face the impact her privilege has on the mission. Though she tries to make amends, becoming an ally is not so simple.

Complicating matters, Elma and her husband Nathaniel have to make a decision about their future. If Elma goes to Mars, a round trip that will take years, the chances that they’ll be able to have children upon her return will be greatly reduced. But Mars is Elma’s dream.

Then there’s the Mission’s commander, Stetson Parker, with whom Elma has a complicated history. His misogyny is legendary as is his hatred of Elma. They’ll be in close quarters for the duration of the mission.

And what about Elma’s anxiety? Can she manage it successfully on the journey?

Once they’re underway, though, and beyond the point of return, it becomes apparent that someone is sabotaging the mission.

Kowal has written a wonderful sequel to The Calculating Stars. Her characters continue to be complex and flawed. Even Stetson Parker is not all that he seems. He’s still a horrible person, but he gains dimension. Nathaniel continues to be Elma’s anchor and touchstone and their relationship is an inspiration.

Elma struggles with her limitations and failings, but ultimately, she and her crewmates come together to work the problem and find a solution. Despite the cover, (spoiler warning) Elma doesn’t get to set foot on Mars, but the denouement is no less satisfying for the disappointment.

My rating:

Five out of five stars!

Book review of The Calculating Stars

What Amazon says:

TheCalculatingStarsOn a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

My thoughts:

I loved this novel not only for the author’s reimagining of the space program, but for her unflinching examination of gender equality, racism, and mental health, all of which are pivotal to her plot.

Elma York, a calculator and former WASP pilot in the second world war, and her husband, a lead engineer with NACA, witness the meteorite strike that takes out most of the east coast while they are out of town. Their home along with Washington DC and NACA headquarters are destroyed.

The nation’s capital is moved to Kansas where, in the wake of the strike, the first order of business is to convince the newly formed government of the meteorite’s longer-term effects, including rendering Earth inimical to continued human existence. They have to establish colonies off-world to ensure humanity’s survival.

As the new space program, under the oversight of the International Aeronautics Coalition moves forward, forces of opposition in the form of Earth First rise and seek to reallocate all government funding to supporting the meteor refugees and helping to keep Earth sustainable, sometimes violently.

Elma strives to have women included in the space program—the ultimate goal is settlement, is it not?—and inadvertently becomes a celebrity as one of the first “astronettes.” As the Lady Astronaut, she must make public appearances as well as enduring astronaut training while coping with severe social anxiety.

She becomes aware of the discrimination against astronauts of colour and struggles to overcome her embedded prejudices and become an ally for her new friends. The “I” in IAC does stand for international.

Kowal’s characters are complex and flawed, as are the relationships between them. The Yorks are in a committed marriage and their relationship is real and messy and wonderful. The Lindholms have their own different, but no less challenging marriage. Elma’s friendships with the other women astronauts aren’t easy, but they’re stronger for their conflicts. Her relationship with Betty, who is—and always will be—a journalist first, is particularly fraught.

Elma has a complicated history with the lead astronaut, Stetson Parker, who was her CO during the war. He’s misogynist and preyed upon the younger women WASPs. Elma reported him. The fact that he’s once more in a position of authority over her and the rest of the women astronauts causes Elma further problems.

Aside from the initial meteorite hit, there are plane crashes, rocket crashes, natural disasters and action aplenty, just in case you think the above descriptions make The Calculating Stars sound too much like a character study. It’s that, and so much more.

The novel has won the Nebula and Locus awards and tonight, it may win a Hugo.

You don’t have to take my word for it, but I give The Calculating Stars my highest recommendation.

My rating:

Five out of five stars.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, July 14-20, 2019

It’s time to get your mental corn popping. Let’s get started with some lunacy in honour of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing 🙂

Alexandra Witze says these young scientists will shape moon research for the next 50 years. Nature

Eli Glasner talks to astronauts about which movies have “the right stuff.” CBC

Proof that Sudbury was mentioned on the moon. We live up here

Nicole Mortillaro: Sudbury was a stand-in for the moon and other, little-known (Canadian) things about the Apollo program. CBC

Veritasium looks at why astronauts also trained at a nuclear test site.

Molly Hennessy-Fiske explains how the women of NASA made their mark on the space program. LA Times

And … from Mary Robinette Kowal: to make it to the moon, women have to escape Earth’s gender bias. The New York Times

Alexander Rose wants to make something that lasts 10,000 years. BBC

Mark Gollom report on how Zoe the police dog sniffed out two missing girls in Algonquin Park. CBC

Laura Staugaitis shares the shadowed beauty of DAKU’s “Theory of Time” street installation. This is Colossal

Viktorija Gabulaité and Jonas Grinevičius introduce us to Australia, AKA, the land of nope. Bored Panda

Thank you for taking the time to visit, and I hope you found some inspiration for your next creative project (or a current one).

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

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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.

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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!

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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