The next chapter: June 2022 update

Greetings, my writerly friends. It’s been a bit of a struggle for me recently in terms of productivity, but I think I’m finally rounding the bend, as they say.

Before we get to the month in writing, here are your PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until Black, Indigenous, and people of colour lives matter. We can’t lose sight of the goal despite … (gestures vaguely) everything.

Covid is now endemic. That means following public health recommendations and getting all your vaccinations on an ongoing basis. People are still hospitalized. They’re still dying. Let’s keep everyone healthy.

I can’t believe Russia’s unprovoked war against the Ukraine is ongoing. We can’t normalize this. I stand with the Ukraine and deplore Russia.

The rights of childbearing people to their own bodily autonomy must be protected. SCOTUS has erred egregiously in its reckless revocation of Roe.

The month in writing

June was … a month. Falling behind in April and May meant I had to take some time to catch up. And it landed in June. You may remember that I was late with my last update. That was one thing that pushed other creative pursuits out of the way.

And at work, another project (requiring some overtime) was due and had to get done. I leveraged assistance where I could, but some work fell to me, and I wasn’t going to ask anyone else to do the work that I could do in half the time … but that was done by the 13th.

I also had a Canadian Authors Association board meeting to attend in advance of our annual general meeting on the 18th, but after that, the month began to open up.

With respect to Reality Bomb revisions, I again set what should have been a reasonable goal of revising 15,000 words in June. That should have taken me to the end of the draft and potentially into the next. My plan was to work through my map and figure out where the next round of final-for-now revisions should focus in a strategic manner. My hope was for this work to take a week, maybe two, and that I’d get back to it, so I could then work with an editor or book coach over the summer.

Well, I didn’t get much done in the first part of the month. The above-listed challenges meant more non-revising days than revising days. Ultimately, I revised 9,842 words on RB (66%), and I’m mere pages from the end of the draft (pages, I say!). I hope to finish in the next few days, then focus on poetry, short fiction, and re-reading book two of the Ascension series (gotta get back on that), before rework using the map, and getting back to RB a week or two later.

The only writing I did in the month was on this blog. I blogged 5,467 words of my 5,500-word goal, or 99%.

Filling the well

In June, I attended three online literary events.

The first was a Curtis Chen presentation on query letters that was set up by the Novel Writing Inner Circle of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on the 8th. It was good and I’d recommend it if you see Curtis offering the presentation again in another venue. It gave me something to think about as I’m getting closer to the end of (the so-far endless) revisions to RB. I’ve been mulling over query letter text in my head. I’ll let it percolate a while longer before committing query.

Next, I attended the Progression of Character Arcs workshop presented by Mary Robinette Kowal on June 9th. It was awesome, as usual, and non-Patreon workshops by MRK are rare these days, so I wanted to snap it up while I could.

Then, I attended an Authors Publish webinar on the 21st. It was interesting and about using the paintings of the Dutch masters to tailor our narrative POV.

Then, I watched a couple of Jane Friedman webinar recordings (‘cause work).

First, Dan Blank presented “I hate social media—now what do I do?” Dan’s always good about viewing social media as an opportunity (as opposed to the dumpster fire it can be) to build relationships and readership.

Then, Allison K. Williams and Jane co-presented “Why is my book getting rejected?” They looked at queries and first pages (are we seeing a theme here?). I did submit a query for consideration, but so did a lot of other people. Allison and Jane didn’t have time to tackle them all.

In terms of personal/social events, I attended supper out (at a restaurant!) with a group of friends on the 18th. It was nice to get out again.

Another friend visited on the afternoon of the 20th for a visit on the patio to discuss contracts.

Finally, I attended the Sudbury Writers’ Guild picnic on the 28th. The host put up canopies and it was a good thing because a thunderstorm passed over.

Unfortunately, the next day a member posted that they were showing covid symptoms and had tested positive, so I’m self-isolating for the requisite 10 days, and watching for symptoms. None yet … but we have a pack of test kits on hand thanks to my sister-in-law. Also unfortunate, I visited Mom after the picnic, and she visited a bunch of her friends before I saw the notification up on the SWG’s Facebook page. So now we’re all self-isolating 😦

I’m still walking Torvi but am wearing a mask. And Mom and Phil and I are enjoying short, physically distanced visits under Mom’s carport, so we stay in touch. I visit Mom every day, one way or the other.

In terms of my physical and mental health, I had a physiotherapy appointment on the 7th, after which the time between visits was extended from one week to two. My next appointment was on the 21st, after which my next appointment was scheduled for the 21st of July. My shoulders are in much better shape now.

I also attended the last autism support group meeting before the summer break on the 16th. The topic this time around was accessing education as an autistic and though my school days are long behind me, I was able to offer some of my experience to the younger autistics in the group.

I was able to leverage the aforementioned overtime I had to work to take a day and a half leading up to a weekend after which I had two days of vacation scheduled, turning it into a 5.5-day weekend that I enjoyed very much.

Finally, I took a pre-retirement webinar offered through my union the next weekend on the 25th and 26th. 4.5 hours each day. Though it was informative and beneficial, it felt like I was working through the weekend and made for a tiring last week of June.

The baby snapping turtle who visited us late in the month.

What I’m watching and reading

First, I forgot to mention last month that I finished watching the most recent season of Grey’s Anatomy. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. The first part of the season with Meredith in a coma and hallucinating Derek and other beloved dead (George, Lexi) was tough to watch. The second half, where they did a 180 and “envision a world in which covid 19 has been managed” was back to business as usual. Mer gets an offer to work in a clinic on the other side of the country and has a new BF there. But by the end of the season, half the staff have left, for various reasons, and Mer’s left holding the Grey-Sloan bag.

On streaming, I finished watching two series.

The first, the reboot of Fraggle Rock, was on Apple + and it was a nostalgic joy. The season-long arc focused on environmentalism and friendship.

I also finished watching Station Eleven on Crave. I’m reading the book at the same time, so I’m going to hold off and do a bit of a comparison in next month’s update.

I also finished watching two series on network television.

This was the last season of the Charmed reboot. It felt very much like they got the news of cancellation partway through the season because the last few episodes were rushed and clunky as they tried to resolve various storylines. Harry becomes a necrolighter. Mel recovers/develops her time travel powers and works things out with new flame Roxie. Maggie finally commits to Jordan, and the newbie, Michaela, finds her roots but commits to the sisterhood. The plot involved an old (and I mean old) feud between the original charmed ones and its resolution involved time travel hijinx and some very convenient realizations.

Superman and Lois was better. The super-fam came together and defeated the bizarro-world villain Ally Allston and Superman was able to recharge in the heart of the sun before preventing the merging of the worlds with the help of John Henry Irons, his daughter, the Cushings, and local newspaper owner Chrissy.

I also watch a couple of movies in June.

I caught Ghostbusters (2016 version) on network TV. It was okay, and I definitely liked the all-female take, but the cameos from the original cast felt forced and I felt that Ghostbusters: Afterlife did a much better job overall of telling a related, but new story. In general, I wish Hollywood would resist the urge to reboot series. Get creative. Tell new stories.

Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness started streaming on Disney + and while I enjoyed the story, I did not enjoy how Wanda was treated. It felt too reminiscent of Danerys (and every other powerful woman who just has to be corrupted/go insane). As Wanda herself says to Strange: “That seems unfair, don’t you think?” Particularly since Strange reads the Darkhold with his eidetic memory and is somehow able to resist the corruption. Or not. He does end up with a literal third eye in the end and some viewers speculate that Dark Strange may have taken up residence via dreamwalking.

In terms of books, I read five.

The first was Spirit Walker by David Farland. I’d wanted to read one of his books since I learned of his death earlier in the year. It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t blown away. It’s science fantasy about a world that has been colonized by genetically reconstructed neanderthals (who call themselves pwi) and humans. The story focuses on a half-pwi, half-human who is tapped to become the next spirit walker and defeat an enemy army. It’s the first in a series, but I don’t think I’ll be reading on.

Next, I read Gail Carriger’s (writing as C.L. Carriger) Vixen Ecology. It’s a short story in the San Andreas Shifters series (noted as 3.5). I enjoyed it, but I think reading the earlier books in the series might have helped 🙂

Then, I finished Jade War by Fonda Lee. It felt like a fitting conclusion to the trilogy. I appreciated how not everything worked out for the characters as they would have liked, but it left the Kaul family in a good place, overall.

I also read Peyakow by Darrel McLeod. This was a memoir of McLeod’s life from the time he was a teacher and principal fighting for a more traditional curriculum, through his years working for provincial and federal governments, to his tenure with the Assembly of First Nations. McLeod finally comes to terms with his two-spirit nature late in life and fights addiction along with generational trauma throughout. It ends on a positive note.

Finally, I read the last book in the Kingston trilogy, Soulstar by C.L. Polk. I can’t tell you how much I love Polk’s work. Some readers might find the plot quiet, focusing on political schemes and subterfuge, but Polk’s characters are unfailingly compassionate and there’s plenty of tension and conflict to keep reader’s turning pages. It’s a better world made even better. With love and magic.

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

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

The next chapter:  May 2022 update

First of all, yeah, I’m late. Life got the better of me. I even tried to write little bits of this post through the week.  Didn’t work. As Inigo says, “Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me summarize.” I should probably take those words to heart.

Here we are, halfway through the year. And … what have I accomplished? It doesn’t feel like a lot, though this year has been … kind of awesome. I’m just in a weird place. Is it just imposter syndrome, or am I failing to take the time to recognize and celebrate my wins? I’ll dig in, in a bit.

Before we get to the month in writing, here are your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until Black, Indigenous, and people of colour lives matter.

I’m still washing my hands, maintaining physical distance, and masking in indoor public spaces, and I encourage you to do the same. Covid and its variants are still out there (that’s what endemic means). People are still being hospitalized and dying, though vaccination and the above public health measures are working to keep numbers relatively low. Protect yourself and the people you love.

I can’t believe that the war in the Ukraine has lasted more than 100 days. I deplore Russia’s continued unprovoked aggression.

And now …

The month in writing

May should have been better, productivity-wise, than April. At work, we got one major project put to bed and things haven’t been so stressful.

Having said that, I only revised 5,711 words of Reality Bomb in May. That’s 29% of my 20,000-word goal. Yes, I’ve hit another stretch where it’s more writing than revision, but damn. It’s disappointing. I’m within 30 pages of the end of the novel (and have been there for … a while), over 120,000 words on the draft, and I have no idea if I’ll meet my goal of another pass before July. It feels like it’s not going to happen, right now.

I really wanted to reduce the manuscript to 110,000 words, but that may not happen, either.

I blogged 5,514 words of my 5,000-word goal, or 110%.

I revised a short story and submitted it. Most of it was cutting, but 60 new words got on the board. I put in the “goal” of revising 100 words, but it was going to be what it was going to be, so that 60% isn’t really reflective.

And I wrote three new poems and submitted them. A fabulous poet friend suggested that I try to commit my autistic journey to poetry, but damn is that hard. I’m not really in a place where I understand it yet.

I had a trifecta of good news early in the month. On the 9th, “The Undine’s Voice,” a story that was accepted last year was published in Polar Borealis 21. On the 10th, Tyche Books began promotions for Pirating Pups, in which “Torvi, Viking Queen” will appear. Cover and TOC announcement went out that day, and pictures of pirate pups have been making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Then, on the afternoon of the 10th, I was contacted by a small publisher who’s interested in my poetry collection (!) It was a happy-dancing couple of days 🙂

Filling the well

May 1st to the 7th marked the return of FOLD, the festival of literary diversity. I signed up for the virtual stream and watched most of it after the fact (‘cause work). If you’re interested, replays should be available to watch until June 11th. You can still register and watch if you wish. FOLD has some of the best programming.

I also attended a book club/reading with Xiran Jay Zhao on the 6th, and a reading by Sarah Polley on the 12th.

I attended a staged reading of Kim Fahner’s play, “All the Things I Draw” on Friday the 13th at the Sudbury Theatre Centre. It was great to get out and see something in person again, but it was my first such outing since the pandemic hit and I was a bit overwhelmed.

I attended the retirement party for a co-worker the next day. Shirley and I joke that we’ve been joined at the hip since we started working. We started in the same class, worked in the call centre for six and a half years, were both successful on the same process to move into adjudication, and then became BEAs at the same time. Though I had a few acting positions as a BEC and then moved to the College to become an instructional designer, until the pandemic hit, we’d always worked together and sat in the same area. It was lovely to be able to see Shirley into the next phase of her life.

On the 29th, I went to dine at an actual restaurant (!) with a friend I haven’t seen in forever. It was great catching up.

In the health/self-care arena, I started to see a physiotherapist because of pain in my shoulders. Not wanting it to develop into anything serious or long-term, I asked my doctor for a referral. After a month of weekly visits, I’ve made progress and graduated to bi-weekly appointments. Yay!

May’s therapist appointment will be my last one. For now. We both agreed that I didn’t need her support anymore, though I will continue to attend my support group meetings.

My employer has accepted the discontinuation of my duty to accommodate request, which is a big relief.

It was a good month, all around.

So … this leaves me wondering about my current low mood. I think it’s a combination of lack of progress on RB and having to be more independent again.

Last year, I reached out for help in a number of areas, and I received it. At the time, I needed the support. Now, I need to take responsibility for my wellbeing again, and it’s hard work. Honestly, though, I’ve been doing the work all along. It was just the presence of health care practitioners that made it feel like I wasn’t.

It was nice to be cared for, though. I think I just have to get used to being on my own again. It’ll take a little time. And I have to grieve the end of some productive, supportive relationships.

What I’m watching and reading

Phil and I watched three shows together. The first was Moonknight. I loved it. Phil, not so much. Oscar Isaac did a fabulous job as Mark/Steven/Jake. Tawaret! LOVE! I’m looking forward to what happens next.

Next up was Raising Dion. What a disappointment. I’d hoped that they would have learned some lessons from season one, but all the same problems popped up. Plot holes galore.

Then, we watched Love, Death and Robots, series 3. Bloody violent. It was good but unsettling. And some of it was hard to watch.

On network television, I watched Outlander. I will never not love the show or the books. So, I think expressing an opinion would be disingenuous. I watched some interviews, though, and discovered that the season was cut short due to Catriona Balfe’s pregnancy. But if you read the books and watch the show, it’s a master class in adaptation. You can see the choices made and why they make sense for the medium. I won’t go on. Suffice it to say—loved!

Then, Naomi. In a way, it’s a bit sad that it was cancelled after one season. The show had potential. A young Black female lead, a diverse cast, and an interesting story. Unfortunately, the writers had a habit of playing the same irritating misdirect in several episodes. They’d set things up to make it look like Naomi was doing something irresponsible, go to break, and return with the reveal of a secret plan.

And finally, The Rookie. It’s a consistent show if nothing else. And they do address interesting issues. But I’m still pissed off that they killed Jackson. A “kill your gays” / “the Black character dies first” double suck.

On streaming, I finished watching Arcane. The animation was gorgeous. The story could have been better. Jinx was another female character whose trauma drove her insane and made her incredibly destructive. Kind of tired of the trope.

My non-fiction (kind of) watch of the month was We’re All Gonna Die (Even Jay Baruschel). Amusing. Horrifying. Both!

And … I don’t know how I squeezed them all in, but I watched three movies, too.

The first was The Matrix: Resurrections. Awesome. Very meta.

Then, I watched Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Also awesome. I love a new story in a favourite imaginary world. And Phoebe was autistic-coded!

Finally, I saw The Kingsman. None of the problematic camp that marked the first two films. It was basically a WWI family tragedy/drama. The action scenes couldn’t save it.

I read five books in May.

The first was All Systems Red by Martha Wells. I lurved Murderbot. Who was also autistic-coded. Will read more of this series.

Then, I finished Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone by Diana Gabaldon. Yup, I read the latest book while watching the series 🙂 This is an amazing saga.

Next, I read Wolf’s Bane by Kelley Armstrong. This is the first of her Logan and Kate (the children of her Otherworld werewolves) books. Fun. Ended on a huge cliff hanger. I think the whole story was arbitrarily broken up. Will read more, though.

My non-fiction read was Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. Even though it wasn’t specifically about autistic burnout, this book is a-MA-zing. It’s written for women and woman-presenting people who suffer from “human giver syndrome.” It’s hilarious and affecting. Highly recommend.

Finally, I read Stormsong by C.L. Polk. Fabulous. I love how this woman’s mind works and it’s no wonder the Kingston Cycle is up for best series at the Hugos.

And that, my friends, was 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!

Cover and Table of Contents Announcement

I’m so excited to share the Table of Contents for the upcoming Tyche Books anthology Pirating Pups: Salty Sea-Dogs and Barking Buccaneers!

The anthology is edited by Rhonda Parrish, cover art is by Sarah Dahlinger, and the book will be out in August.

And now for the complete Table of Contents:

The Empress of Marshmallow — Chadwick Ginther

Davy Bones and the Domestication of the Dutchman —Jennifer Lee Rossman

Johnson the Terror — Meghan Beaudry

Ghost Pirate Dognapper — Kristen Brand

Blackbark’s Collar — Richard Lau

Let the Water Drink First — V.F. LeSann

New Tricks — Alice Dryden

Torvi, Viking Queen — Melanie Marttila

Under the Curse of Jupiter — Mathew Austin

The Boomer Bust — JB Riley

What Gold Smells Like — Frances Pauli

Artistic Appropriation — George Jacobs

What Frisky Wrought When the Wheels Fell Off the World — E.C. Bell

You can find out more at the publisher’s page: Tyche Books — Pirating Pups. And even though the anthology won’t be out until August, the pre-order link is up!

I’m so excited!

The next chapter:  April 2022 update

As I write, the sun is shining, the windows are open, and a lovely breeze is flowing through the house. Yes, spring has finally arrived in northeastern Ontario. I’m feeling good.

Before we get to the month in writing, here are your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Even if there are no longer restrictions in your area, please continue to mind public and national health advisories. Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, mask indoors/on public transit, and, if you’re old enough, or immune compromised, please register to get your second booster. Not only is covid endemic now, but these health practices will help you to avoid other viruses, like the flu and even the common cold.

I stand with the Ukraine and deplore Putin’s unprovoked destruction of civilian targets and lives.

The month in writing

April was … not good.

It’s the new fiscal at work and, most days, my spoons ran out before I could devote any time to revision. There were other issues, but I’ll get into those in filling the well.

This month, I resisted the urge to amend my revision goals part-way through the month once I saw they were unattainable, as has been my habit in the past.

So, of my 20,000-word revision goal, I only revised 8,333 words, or 42%.

I wrote 4,866 words of my 5,000-word blogging goal, or 97%.

I revised one short story (which needs more work, but I’m letting it sit). I added 202 words to the draft. My goal was 250 words, which works out to 81%.

I was notified part-way through the month that a piece of short fiction that was accepted in 2021 would be appearing in the next issue of Polar Borealis. The issue has not been posted yet, so I won’t like to it, but it should be available by my next update.

Work on the anthology that accepted my story in January progresses. Cover and TOC reveals should be coming soon. Again, I’ll keep you posted.

I have my eyes on a couple open calls and hope to submit something to them in May.

At the end of January, I had applied to Your Personal Odyssey, the Odyssey Workshop’s new one-on-one mentorship program. I was notified in February that I had not been accepted from the early bird applicants, and in April, I learned that I had not been accepted at all. As with Odyssey, the new program had generated a lot of interest. Thousands of applicants for a handful of seats. While I am disappointed, I know the competition was intense and I was encouraged to try again next year. I will 🙂

Filling the well

On April 4th, I attended “Death to Show, Don’t Tell,” a webinar from Writing the Other. Excellent, as always. On the 13th, I attended the joint CAA/SFCanada webinar “How to Land that Writer’s Grant” presented by A.M. Todd. I’ve been entertaining applying for grants again.

I watched a couple of Jane Friedman webinars, “Maybe it’s not your Plot” presented by Susan DeFreitas, and “Building Better Critique Groups” by Lisa Cooper Ellison.

On the 19th, I started another series with Dan Blank with “Define your Creative Voice.” The second, “Create a Sharing System” was on the 26th. Then, I attended “First Pages” with Emily Colin through Authors Publish on the 20th.

Also, on the 26th was an OAC information session. It was focused more on visual artists, collaborations, and organizational funding, but I still gleaned some good information. Finally, I attended “Outlining for Pantsers” by Henry Lien through the Rambo Academy on April 30th.

There was a lot of writerly learning going on 🙂

The DTA situation is resolved. For now. I think. There may be further repercussions, but I’ll deal with those as they arise. I had to continue the trial accommodation through to the end of April, on labour relations’ insistence. My doctor declined to answer the additional questions LR wanted answered. If they’re not satisfied, they may send me for further evaluation with Health Canada. Whatever. I may have to contact my union representative again.

That uneasiness also put me off my game and the enforced days off only made me feel like I was behind at work. Another stress.

I had another therapy session and meeting with my support group.

When I saw my doctor to have the functional abilities form filled out again, I consulted him about some shoulder pain I’ve been experiencing. He suspects tendinitis. And I’m off to see a physiotherapist next week.

What I’m watching and reading

I watched a lot in April. A side effect of all those days off, I guess.

Phil and I watched the final season of The Last Kingdom. It was good, but it felt rushed. As with many series rushing to their endings, various characters acted out of character, changed their minds or opinions in quick succession, but it turned out all right. Uhtred got Bebbanburg back and secured King Edward’s rule.

I watched the final season of Killing Eve. I enjoyed it right up until the ending. I’ve read a few opinion pieces about it, because apparently, I’m not alone, but none of the reasons cited really sat well with me. Based on the series name, a foreshadowing the series continued to hammer home with a tarot card reading which predicted glory for Villanelle and Death for Eve in the final episode, I would have expected Eve to die. I might not have been happy with it, but it would have made sense. I might even have been okay with Villanelle dying. I was not at all satisfied with how the series did it, though. Carolyn did not deserve the win.

Yes. I get it. The world of spies and assassins is cutthroat. Carolyn was one of the OG Twelve. She’s got it in her. But she’s a traitor twice over. She decided to let Villanelle and Eve (the former more than the latter) take out the twelve for her and I could see that she was going to use Villanelle to get back in with MI6, but it felt unjust for her to succeed. I hoped that when Pam walked away from her offer, that Carolyn might have been scuttled, but really all it did was steel her determination to kill Villanelle. It makes sense. But it was deeply unsatisfying.

I finished off the first season of The Hardy Boys. It was cute. The retro, middle grade entry in the CW’s cadre of reboots.

Then, I finished watching the final season of Lost in Space. A good ending, all in all, but, like so many other series I’ve watched recently, the ending felt rushed.

Season two of The Witcher was ok. I’ll watch the next season. Still haven’t read any of the books, though.

I also watched Get Back. It was interesting to see the Beatles’ process in action even as they were slowly moving toward their breakup. The tension and dissatisfaction were palpable, even through the old footage.

Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart was fabulous, though. Big fan.

Finally, I watched two movies. The first was The Adam Project. It was made by the same team that did Free Guy but wasn’t quite as much fun. I did enjoy it, though.

The Batman wasn’t bad. Given how many reboots the series has had and how many actors have played the role, I was surprised they were able to pull together something original.

In terms of reading, I read another four books in April.

The first was A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders. It’s a great craft book, but I’ve never been that fond of the Russian authors.

Next, I read Victories Greater than Death by Charlie Jane Anders. A bit of a twist on the usual YA SF. A young girl grows up with the knowledge that she’s an alien and that her people are coming back for her when her beacon activates. When the beacon activates, she learns she’s actually the clone of a dead war hero who never wanted to be cloned. She returns in the middle of a galactic war and when the military tries to reinstate her original memories (essential for fighting said galactic war), the procedure fails. And things go downhill from there.

Then, I finished Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. I know the novel won the Booker, but—can I say this? I liked the series better. The novel feels reminiscent (to me) of Moby Dick, but instead of whaling, the narrator (he’s not a protagonist) seeks to ease his troubles in the gold fields of New Zealand and gets wrapped up in the mystery involving Anna Wetherell, Emery Staines, and Crosbie Wells. I appreciated the conceit of astrology, but the central characters of the novel (again, my opinion) are largely absent until the last third of the novel.

Finally, I finished Allaigna’s Song: Overture, by J.M. Landels. I enjoyed it. It’s a quiet, secondary world fantasy, though. More court intrigue and legacy of secrets than action and adventure.

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

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

The next chapter: March 2022 update

Egad! Where does the time go? I know it’s a thing—that time seems to past faster the older you get—but, come on.

Before we get into the writerly update, my monthly PSAs:

I stand with Ukraine and condemn Putin’s unprovoked war.

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Though restrictions have eased, case counts and hospitalisations are again on the rise. They’re talking about a sixth wave here in Canada. Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, mask when you can’t. Get vaccinated if you haven’t. Get boosted if you haven’t. Sign up for the next booster when it’s available.

The month in writing

March was a good month, I think.

I only have two projects to report on (that I recorded on my Excel tracker).

I set what I though was a reasonable revision goal for Reality Bomb of 20,000 words. And I revised 18,277 words, or 91%. I only have eight chapters left to go. Then I’ll take a short break to work through some revision notes in my map, consolidate the cause and effect between scenes and ensure that every scene has a proper structure. I’m in a good place, though there’s still work to be done. There always will be.

I blogged 5,982 words of my 6,000-word goal. Essentially 100%.

In terms of projects I’m not tracking, I worked on my Ascension series master document and have gotten to the point where I have to reread the existing material before I proceed.

I also submitted a piece of short fiction to an open submission period.

I forgot to mention last month that the story I submitted to an anthology in January was rejected. It’s the life of a professional writer, submission and rejection. It’s an entirely negative-sounding process. Submission—to put yourself, or your work, at someone else’s mercy—and rejection—to be turned away. No wonder most people think writers are crazy 🙂

Filling the well

I attended two writerly events in March. The first was a workshop on planning and outlining your novel with Kate Heartfield, offered through the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. The second was a demonstration on how to use tarot cards to develop a character arc from Margaret McNellis.

I also watched the replay of Finding and Working with the Right Literary Agent with Howard Yoon offered through Jane Friedman.

In the self-care department, I had an appointment with my RMT, my therapist, and my support group. I’m working on identifying thought distortions in the moment. Self-awareness is hard work.

I made a discovery. I don’t need a duty to accommodate. I’ve managed 21 years in the public service without. I just have to monitor my mental health a little more closely and take my sick leave as I need it. In my autistic way, I was so focused on the DTA process and “doing things right” that I completely missed the obvious. I do get hyper-focused from time to time. Fortunately, I caught myself, with the help of my therapist, before I committed to a 30-hour work week and the accompanying cut in pay.

Financial wellbeing supports mental health. As the sole support for my household, a one-fifth cut in my income would have been a blow. And the uncertainty about whether I could pay down our remaining debts before I retire would have weighed heavily. The cut to my pension would not have been welcome, either.

I’m going to see through my “trial period”—just three more weeks—supported by the use of my sick leave. I just have to get a doctor’s note to say that I am capable of working full time, without restrictions, and I won’t pursue a DTA further. It’s a relief, really.

What I’m watching and reading

In terms of viewing, I have a gap to fill from January (!) At the time, I had watched the last episode of the most recent season of Nancy Drew, but the network broadcasting it was advertising its return in March, so I was unaware that it was the last episode.

I’ll fill that gap now by saying that the season was its usual highly supernatural, highly sexually charged stories that I’ve come to expect from Nancy and the Drew Crew. Though she finally has the chance to hook up with Ace, Temperance curses her so that if she ever confesses her love for Ace, he’ll die. Dun, dun, dun!

Back in the March viewing department, Phil and I watched the new Vikings: Valhalla. In tone, it strikes somewhere between the original Vikings and The Last Kingdom. One of the new cast is Leif Erikson (son of Erik the Red). I’m willing to see where it leads, though they do make liberal reference to the original Vikings and the historical inaccuracies therein.

The rest of what I watched was personal viewing. Three series and two movies.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow finished its season in early March. I could just say that the usual wackiness ensued, but there was a little more meat to this season. Gideon becomes human but an uncorrupted version of the Gideon AI exists and creates robot versions of the legends to hunt them down and kill them.

Batwoman ended around the same time and the angst of the season was resolved, Ryan’s back in charge of Wayne Enterprises, her brother is “cured,” and Alice is committed to doing the work of healing.

Discovery was good, but sappy. A first contact situation with traditional Starfleet values all over the place.

I watched Turning Red. I think it was awesome.

And, finally, I watched the new Dune. I appreciated the choices Villeneuve made, but there are still some issues.

I read four books in March.

The first was this has nothing to do with you by Lauren Carter. It was a story about healing from trauma, and very good, but I found it a difficult read because the protagonist’s name was Mel and the fictional city of Norbury is a stand-in for Sudbury. Though the trauma—how to deal when your mother kills your father for having an affair—was nothing I personally relate to, it was nonetheless an uncomfortable read. But Grommet was wonderful.

Then I read Matthew Saleses Craft in the Real World, in which the author makes the case for an alternate version of workshopping/critique within the MFA frame of reference, so that it’s more inclusive of craft from other cultures. Thought provoking. Excellent.

I followed that up with Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin. OMG, so amazing. I have a feeling I’m going to return to it repeatedly.

Finally, I read Jael Richardson’s Gutter Child. Incredible. I’ll leave it there and encourage you all to read it.

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

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

The next chapter:  February 2022 update

Welcome to my next chapter update for February 2022! In this post, I talk about my month in writing, what I’ve accomplished and what I haven’t; what I’ve done to maintain my physical, mental, spiritual, and creative health; and what I’ve been watching and reading.

February was a good month, I think, but before we get to the progress part of the update, my monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Even though restrictions are being eased in many areas, covid is now endemic. You may get it, even if you’ve been fully vaccinated, and chances are that you will. But if you are fully vaccinated and boosted, you’re more like to have a mild case. I’d still recommend washing your hands more frequently, maintaining physical distance where possible, and masking when it’s not.

On the news yesterday, I saw that there are still anti-masking/anti-vaccine mandate protests going on. Check yourselves people. There are more important things going on in the world, like the Russian invasion of the Ukraine (and now, apparently, Russian troops are amassing in other places, too). Get your heads out of your asses.

That is all.

The month in writing

February is the shortest month of the year and I set my revision goal accordingly. Given that I’d barely managed to revise 5,000 words in January, I thought I’d aim for 15,000. I’d reduce to 10,000 if I have to. BUT I didn’t have to!

I revised 15,822 words of Reality Bomb, or 105% of my goal. Yay!

I blogged 4,842 words, or 97% of my 5,000-word goal.

I even wrote and revised a story (!), which I didn’t anticipate. More on that in filling the well. I made room for a 2,500-word piece of short fiction, but the story only ended up being 1,748 words in the first draft. 70% of my goal is great for a story I didn’t intend to write 🙂 I made room for 250 words of revision, but only revised 148 words, or 58%.

In terms of projects I’m not tracking wordcount for, I worked on my Ascension Masterdoc for the first time in months. I was just settling the last dates into my timeline for book one and am now starting work on book two. At this stage, it’s just structural. Adding or deleting or moving chapters around (in my map).

I received an email regarding edits for the short story that was accepted in January, and—there were none (!) That’s the first time that’s happened. Ever. I’ve now also signed the contract and reviewed the page proofs. Look forward to the cover reveal in coming months.

Filling the well

In terms of writerly events, I signed up for Daisuke Shen’s Speculative Fiction Workshop, run through Authors Publish. The course officially ran January 31st to February 25th, but I’m still working through the last couple of weeks, ‘cause work. It was in this course that I received the prompt that inspired my new story. While there are comments and corrections to make, Daisuke was, overall, very supportive of the story and I hope to receive some suggestions about where to submit it when I send my revised story for her review.

I signed up for a couple of free webinars through WordPress.com. They were informative.

My duty to accommodate (DTA) progresses. My doctor filled out the functional abilities form, and I submitted it to my manager. I have an official, but temporary, DTA agreement in place, subject to review in three months (from the date I initiated the process on January 25th).

I am concerned because I’ve been told that once the agreement is made permanent, I will no longer be able to use my sick leave to support my days off. I’ll be officially cut to part time hours. Although the reduction in income is not significant, I am sole support for my household, and even a small reduction in my income may cause hardship. That’s an additional stress I don’t need.

We’ll see what happens in April.

I met with my therapist and support group the day before I met with my manager to discuss my DTA. In both sessions, I’d praised my employer for being so supportive.

It’s disappointing.

Something I didn’t mention last month is that I’m engaged in an assessment process for my position. I’m hoping that qualifying on another pool will help keep me in the position on a permanent basis. Currently, I’m acting (until November 30, 2022). At any time, I could return to my previous position. It’s not the worst thing that could happen, but I worked hard to get this position and I want to keep it for the remainder of my career.

I had my first round of testing mid-February. Will let you know how it all goes in future updates.

My comfort and solace 🙂

What I’m watching and reading

In February, I finished watching Homeland. This series has always been a little depressing because of Carrie’s ongoing struggles with bipolar disorder and the dire nature of the international crises she faces each season. This eighth and final (so far) season is no exception.

Carrie is still recovering from her months-long detention in Russia during which she was deprived of her medication. She has no idea whether she may have disclosed secret information during this time and neither are her superiors, who continue to interrogate her about her incarceration. Saul, however, needs her in the field, and pulls strings to get her there.

The season’s arc is tragic. Carrie must betray Saul to prevent a war, but she redeems herself in the denouement in a way that offers hope.

Phil and I watched the first season of The Legend of Vox Machina. Helmed by the creators of Critical Role, TLoVM will be a balm to any old school role-players out there. In the opening minute, every high-level group of adventurers is killed by an unseen foe. The kingdom is so desperate, they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel, which is where they find and recruit Vox Machina. I won’t say anything more about the series. You’ll know by the above if you’re TLoVM’s target audience.

So. Much. FUN!!

We also watched the first season of Foundation. I loved it. The general atmosphere and effects were >chef’s kiss.< Neither of us have read the book, though, so I can’t tell you how it stacks up. Shuffling Asimov up in the TBR pile.

To keep things symmetrical, I finished reading three books in February.

The first was Brandon Sanderson’s Cytonic, book three in the Skyward Flight series. At the end of book two, Spensa fled into the Nowhere with M-Bot’s AI (in a cleaning drone) and her pet tanix, Doomslug. The Superiority is in negotiations with the Delvers to have the latter destroy all cytonics and the societies that produce them. Spensa has to find a way to stop that from happening by walking a cryptic path through the floating islands of the Nowhere to find the truth of the Delvers and her own nature.

The first problem she’s presented with is that few people ever leave the Nowhere. She soon discovers the reason: the longer a sentient being stays in the Nowhere, the more they forget of their life in the galaxy outside. The only way to hold onto memories is with something called an icon, which Spensa mysteriously has. When she loses the icon, though, it’s a race against time—and memory—to solve the mystery of the Delvers and save the galaxy.

Then, I finished Apocalypse Nyx a collection of short stories by Kameron Hurley. The stories centre on Nyx, the protagonist of Hurley’s God’s War series. They fill in some of the backstory of the characters in Nyx’s crew and share some of their misadventures.

Finally, I finished Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury. It’s a futuristic science fantasy that involves genetics and witches in a not-too-distant Toronto. Sambury is a Trinidadian-Canadian author (who I think is currently living in northern Ontario?) and I’m following her career with interest.

Voya Thomas comes of age, and in a witch family, that means passing her Calling, a task given by the ancestors. Voya’s task is to destroy her first love, or risk losing her family’s magic forever.

Aaaaaand … that was the month in this writer’s life.

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

The next chapter: January 2022 update

Blink and the month disappears. Boggle. I think 2022 is off to a reasonable start, though. More on that in a bit.

First, here are your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

As restriction are once again lifted, it’s even more important that ever to stick with basic preventative measures. Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, wear a mask when you can’t, get double vaccinated if you haven’t, and get your booster. Make sure your children are vaccinated and boosted as soon as they become eligible.

And to the “freedom convoys”—just fuck right the hell off.

The month in writing

Revisions to Reality Bomb continue. Slowly. January was still a bit of a struggle, mostly because of work (more on that in filling the well).

Originally, I thought I might be able to get as much as 10,000 words revised on RB (though I suspected that it was a bit optimistic). Part-way through the month, I adjusted that down to 5,000 words. I still fell a bit short of that, revising 4,945 words, or 99% or my adjusted goal.

I wrote 5,390 words of my 5,000-word blogging goal, or 108%.

I revised and submitted another short story. I had thought that there would be more rework involved, but it turns out I only added about 70 words. The rest was all cutting. It’s an experimental piece for me. I tried out 2nd person POV and included footnotes. We’ll see what the editors think. I’ll let you know in a future update.

So, 70 words revised of a 250-word goal, or 28%.

In other writerly news, another of my short stories was accepted to an anthology that should be published later this year. I’ll share more as announcements are made.

And, a year to the day after I submitted a small sample of my poetry to a small press, I received a request for the full manuscript. I spent a few hours sprucing it up and adding one of my new poems published last year … and sent it.

Again, I’ll have to let you know if anything comes of it in a future update.

I’ve been slowly updating my blog and social media to include what I’ve come to think of as my new branding. Writerly Goodness has become Always Looking Up. This comes, in part, from my sky photos, but I’ve come to understand that everything I write has an undertone of hope. I’m also including the #actuallyautistic hashtag to my site and social media. I have to take some updated pictures, include the covers of my more recent publications in my header image, and other stuff like that, but I’m not stressing it. It’ll happen when it happens.

The other big thing I did in January was submit an application to Your Personal Odyssey, Odyssey’s new one-on-one program. The deadline isn’t until April 1st, but I wanted to get my application in sooner than later. I’ll find out if I’m accepted after that date. Crossing fingers.

Filling the well

In terms of writing events, I attended “The Anxiety Talk” from Jane Friedman, “Hosting Accessible Events” with Amanda Leduc of the FOLD, and “How Self-Editing—and Editors—Help You Perfect your Stories” by Dani Alcorn.

I also signed up for “Introduction to Illustration” with Millie Nice through The Guardian Masterclasses. It was something I wanted to do for myself. I used to draw and sketch a lot but haven’t been able to get back to it despite wanting to. Millie’s class was a lovely kickstart. I haven’t had the time to sketch since, but I anticipate that I’ll take some time to do it in the future.

I had another appointment with my therapist, another support group meeting, and an online writers’ meet up, which was nice.

I was boosted on the 11th! Side effects the same as the prior two vaccinations despite receiving Moderna this time. So, I’m a Pfi-Pfi-Mo.

My accommodation request has progressed. I now have Wednesdays off pending the official agreement. I have an appointment with my doctor to get the accommodation form filled out and then it’s back to my employer for next steps.

Again, this seems to be moving a lot faster than I thought it might and my manager has been supportive.

Feeling gratitude.

Rosy dawn and a wee pillar.

What I’m watching and reading

In January, Phil and I watched a couple of series.

First, we finished watching the last season of The Expanse. The feels! It was a great send off for all of the characters.

Then we watched the most recent season of Titans. All I have to say about it is … come on. It was not good.

We also watched The Eternals. I enjoyed it. It’s not your typical Marvel movie, but I appreciated what Zhao tried to do with it. It was more about the relationships between the eternals than big fight scenes.

I watched a couple of movies on my own.

The first was Free Guy. So. Much. Fun!

And then, I watch Encanto. Lovely, low-key family story. Loved.

In the reading department, I finished ReDawn, the second Skyward Flight novella by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson. ReDawn picks up where Sunreach left off with the gang on Detritus. [SPOILERS] Minister Kuna has been rescued, but now, the governing council of Detritus is considering an overture from the Superiority.

Alanik, the POV of this novella, returns to her home only to discover that her people are facing the same problem.

In Evershore, the third Skyward Flight novella, the POV character switches to Jorgen. Though he and the rest of Skyward Flight have helped to save Alanik’s people, Detritus has suffered a devastating blow, losing their governing council, including Jorgen’s parents.

As Jorgen works through his grief and tries to secure Detritus against the Superiority, he also has to solve a cytonic mystery. Spensa’s grandmother and their admiral have gone missing. Alanik was able to confirm that they were not killed with the rest of the council, but she can’t find them.

Then, she picks up a Kitsun transmission that they have some of Spensa’s people to return.

Jorgen’s growing cytonic abilities, affected by his grief, prove problematic as he leads Skyward Flight on a rescue mission in the hope of forging another alliance.

I took a break from Skyward Flight, reading Sarah Penner’s The Lost Apothecary. It’s a lovely piece of women’s fiction with a dual timeline. In the present day, Caroline deals with the disintegration of her marriage and the dreams she abandoned for it. Triggered by the discovery of an old vial, she delves into the never-solved apothecary murders.

In the past, Nella, the apothecary who dispenses poisons to help women escape abusive relationships waits to see her next customer.

Then, I read Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis. Katrell can talk to the dead and makes a little money on the side by writing letters that invite ghosts to talk to their living loved ones. She receives a warning that she chooses not to listen to, because she’s in desperate need of money to support her mother and a string of abusive, deadbeat boyfriends. When the current boyfriend kills her dog, Katrell tries to write a letter to him, only to bring him back from the grave.

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

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

The next chapter: December 2021 update and year-end review

And, just like that (and, no; never watched SatC; won’t watch AJLT), the second year of the pandemic ends.

2021 was an … interesting year. I’ll get to that in a bit.

Before we get to my December update, my monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter. We need to keep striving to be good allies and keep the critical issues front and centre.

Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, mask in public, get vaccinated (if you haven’t), and get your booster. Delta and omicron won’t be the only variants to emerge. And let’s be clear. The variants are there. They always have been. It’s just that, as we get better at suppressing the ones we know about, the ones we don’t have a chance to surge. Some may be less virulent, or not virulent at all. Some may be less transmissible or not transmissible at all. Some may not even infect humans. But it’s the ones that are more virulent, more transmissible, and infect humans that we have to watch for. This ain’t over yet.

The month in writing

Following the marathon that is NaNoWriMo, I wanted to take a break from revision. I only intended to rest until December 5th, but work got hectic again, and I ended up revising as I could, which meant not much at all.

Originally, I thought I could, based on my performance in November, revise about 20,000 words of Reality Bomb. Unfortunately, I had to amend that goal mid-month and reduced it first to 10,000 words, then 5,000 words, and ultimately 1,000 words. Of that 1,000-word goal, I revised 853 words, or 85%.

Admittedly, I decided to read through the draft to the point where I left off in NaNo, which was about the midpoint of the novel. So that 853 words represents a bunch of cutting and adding that I chose not to get too granular on.

My only writing goal for the month was the blog and of my 3,500-word goal, I wrote 5,422 words, or 155%.

The writing year in review

I started out 2021 by trying something different. I’d finished the last rewrite of RB by the close of 2020 and decided to focus on short fiction and poetry for the first three months of the year.

This worked out well for me. I wrote, revised, and submitted several short stories and poems, earned several rejections, and then had three poems and a short story accepted for future publication in February.

In March, I entered the SciArt Poetry competition and won the community category. I read my poem on Science North’s YouTube channel at the end of March, and the poem would be published later in the year in Sulphur X, Laurentian University’s literary journal.

I also started to revise RB in March based on my returned critiques.

In April, I had another story accepted for future publication, and the last of my poems accepted in 2020 was published.

Revision was not going well, though.

I was somewhat stymied by the critiques I received back in January and February. I couldn’t figure out how to use the feedback to revise my novel. I had thought a couple of months would be long enough for me to figure out a game plan, but, because I had already started on my journey to autism diagnosis, I was thinking about other things.

I had intended to rewrite/revise between 500 and 1,000 words a day on weekdays and a chapter each day on weekends, and thus be finished my next draft sometime in the summer. At that point, I had hoped to move onto Marushka and prepare that draft, on which I’d also received feedback, for next round revisions in November.

I wrote a new opening chapter and revised from there, dividing chapters into smaller chunks. I was still writing in close third (or trying for it). I revised 28,202 words up to about the middle of July, when I hit the point where my protagonist enters another of the many worlds and is trapped inside her other self.

The challenges of having two people in the same physical body and trying to make then both distinct and identifiable in terms of formatting (italics for one, ? for the other?) made it clear that I had to rewrite the draft in first person. Past or present, though? I opted for present despite my failure to nail the POV on an earlier draft. There would still be some difficulties making the story dynamic enough for first person present (my protagonist is disembodied for three quarters of the novel and thus, largely “in her head”), but I decided that it would be the best fit and returned to the beginning.

From the middle of July through to the end of November, I revised 62,996 words, but some of that was reworking my novel map (chapter and scene breakdown), which I counted only in November. I got to the midpoint … and then decided, as I mentioned above, to take a break.

Since, I’ve been rereading the revised draft to date, making a few more additions and deletions, and thinking of a better way to weave in some of the minor characters throughout the novel so they don’t feel like wasted opportunities.

I’ve even been using tarot to help free my intuitive writer. It’s working out surprisingly well.

About the same time I made my fateful POV decision in July, I realized that if I wanted to work on any other big project this year, it would not be Marushka. But, as it turned out, I haven’t had the spoons to finish my work on RB, let alone start on a new novel …

In November, I made the decision to leave DIY MFA as a regular columnist. I’m trying to conserve my energy for what matters most.

I’m going to have to review my other commitments as well.

I haven’t been active in my critique group since summer. I need to reconnect, but I’m struggling.

Onto the statistics!

In terms of word count, I wrote:

  • 10 poems,
  • 4,146 words of short fiction,
  • 58,061 words on Writerly Goodness,
  • 5,623 words on my Speculations column, and
  • 360 words on a side project.

That’s 68,190 words and 10 poems.

I revised:

  • 92,048 words on RB (some several times), and
  • 12,023 words of short fiction.

That’s 104,071 words revised.

Some of these goals I didn’t assign numbers to at the beginning of the year. I didn’t know how much I would write or revise on some projects and so just left them blank in terms of goals. The poetry and short fiction (writing and revision) were in this category and so any work done on those projects was bonus.

If you want to zoom in on the relative percentages of the writing and revision goals I did set out for myself, you’re welcome to do so 🙂

There was also the work on my Ascension series masterdoc (like that term so much better than bible) that I didn’t track in terms of word count. Throughout the year, I wrote out and revised the worldbuiding for my world (cosmology, history, peoples, languages, etc.) and character sketches, and I restructured the first book of the series in outline. I’ve had to work out the calendar of events for the last bit of book one. I had a lot of questions marks on my timeline. I’m working it out.

Eventually, I’ll expand the outlines/maps for each book in the series with scenes and sequels as I rewrite.

Looking forward

I’m going to try to finish my rewrite of RB this year. I’m not setting any hard and fast goals, but I’m hoping to do that by the end of June.

I might decide to work with a book coach or editor at that time. So, I’ll probably spend some time in the spring making initial enquiries.

Then, I’ll probably do with the summer what I did with January to March of last year and focus on short fiction and poetry as a break from novelling. I’ll also use that time to revisit my next novel project (partly written as a very long short story) and prepare to begin drafting in the fall.

I have most of my drafted novels included in my 2022 writing and revision tracker, but I’m not committing to them in any way. They’re just there to remind me that I have a lot of things I can work on, if I so choose.

Filling the well

In December, I didn’t attend any literary events live online. I did sign up for a Tiffany Yates-Martin webinar through Jane Friedman, but I watched the replay, ‘cause work.

My small family (me and Phil, his sister and spouse, our moms) got together to celebrate my mom-in-law’s 80th birthday and then again on Boxing Day for Christmas (it was supposed to be Christmas Day, but freezing rain changed our plans).

And aside from therapy, a support group meeting, massage, and a couple of days of leave, that was it for filling the well in December.

For the first year in … forever, I put up the Christmas tree.

The personal year in review

I started 2021 at a low point, feeling like an imposter at both work and creative pursuits. I was also feeling stuck physically, having slowly yo-yo’ed between 170 and 200 pounds since my early 20s.

It being a pandemic and all, I decided that, instead of going it alone, as was my habit, I’d ask for help.

For mental health support, I reached out to my employer’s EAP. For physical health support, I turned to Noom. By May 10th, I’d been diagnosed as autistic, a timeline that I’ve since come to understand is amazingly quick. By the end of July, I cancelled my Noom account, having surpassed my goal of 170 pounds and achieved 150. I continued to lose weight through August, finally settling at 140 pounds, which I’ve since maintained (even during the holidays!).

It’s the lightest I’ve been in my adult life and I’m feeling physically healthy.

In November, I finally connected with a therapist through the Redpath Centre, which specializes in support for autistics. When I met with her for the first time, my therapist referred me to a support group.

I’m currently working toward getting a workplace accommodation, having experienced autistic burnout as the result of a very stressful acting position and project. I struggled again in December because of a similar situation and I’m trying to find a way to manage my stress levels on an ongoing basis, so I don’t need to take additional time off to recover my head.

It’s been a transformative year with regard to my physical and mental health, and I’m ready to shift my focus back to creative pursuits.

What I’m watching and reading

In December, I watched three movies and finished watching three series. That seems nice and symmetrical, to me 😉

First, I watched Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I loved it. Yes, it wasn’t really Shang Chi’s story, and there were a few things that stretched credibility, but I really appreciated the homage to Jackie Chan’s movies (many of which I’ve watched over the years) and fighting style. They even had choreographers from Jackie Chan’s team working on the movie. Wong and Morris rock.

Then, I caught John Wick 3: Parabellum. It filled in the series for me. What can I say? Over the top violence is something I enjoy? In the right circumstances, I guess. Didn’t appreciate the uncharacteristic twist that was JW’s dark moment, but the movie made up for it in the end.

Phil and I watched The Suicide Squad on New Years Eve. So much better than the first movie. Harley Quinn is the best character in the DCEU.

I finished watching the final season of Dear White People. Not sure if I liked the framing device (telling the season from the perspective of the characters in the future) or the whole season being focused on the musical review in their last year as Winchester. It was okay. They tied up all the critical stories in the end.

Watched the latest Dr. Who series, said to be Jodie Whittaker’s last. It was a bit confusing at first, but after a couple of episodes, everything came together. I also was the New Year’s special, thinking that it might offer up a clue to the next regeneration. It didn’t. I can’t not love Jodie Who. I’ll be sad to see her leave.

Finally, Phil and I watched the first season of The Wheel of Time. Neither of us have read the books. I really liked it. More than Phil did, I think. He was put off by all the comparisons to Game of Thrones. WoT is its own thing. I appreciated it as such.

Reading-wise, I only finished reading three books in December.

I read Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I (yes, the book that was the basis for the first season of the Bridgerton series). I’ve read romance in the past, but my preference runs to Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, whose books would probably be classified as “bodice rippers.” The book does treat Daphne’s technical rape of Simon more tactfully, but the story itself was less compelling.

Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson have written several novellas in the Skyward Flight series to bridge the gap between books two and three of the series. I read the first of those, Sunreach, which focuses on the secondary character of FM, the rescue of Minister Kuna, and how the rest of the flight back at Detritus deals with the discovery that Spensa’s pet Doomslug, a Taynix, is a cytonic creature capable of powering a hyperdrive. I really liked it and am now on the second novella, Redawn.

I finished off the year with Sarah Hollowell’s A Dark and Starless Forest. It’s a dark book, and thus was a little challenging to get through. It focuses on a remote house in which abandoned child “alchemists” live under the dubious protection of Frank. It’s clear the young alchemists, including Derry, the protagonist, live in fear of Frank, and it soon becomes clear why. But as Derry’s sisters disappear, one by one, she has to find a way to solve the mystery without arousing Frank’s wrath. Despite its darkness, I really liked the book.

Because of general busy-ness and distraction, I only read 55 books of my 65-book goal in 2021.

I’ve reduced this year’s goal to 60 and hope to attain it, but that will depend, in part, on work.

And that was the month (and year!) in this writer’s life.

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

The next chapter:  October/November 2021 update

Sweet Lord! It feels like forever since I wrote one of these. Forever and a week. And three days. Sorry about that. The last couple of weeks have been hectic at work. Ran out of weekend on the 4th/5th (what with all the Christmas-ing). And I ran out of weekend again on the 11th/12th because it was my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party. Both of those will feature in December’s next chapter update.

The month(s) in writing

 Will start off with October … if I can remember that far back 🙂

The writing was not going well.

I was still recovering from my autistic burnout, still being kind to myself, and still busy at work. There are more days when I did not work on Reality Bomb than days I worked on it. Of my conservative 5,000-word revision goal for the month, I only revised 3,060 words. That’s 61%.

I did work on a piece of short fiction, but it was focused editing to reduce the word count, so there was nothing to record. I submitted the story and the rejection came back two days later.

Aside from RB and the story, I kept up with my curation posts. I wrote 4,811 words of my 3,500-word goal, or 137%.

And that’s all I did in October.

The November update is just going to be summary 🙂 I embarked on NaNoWriMo 2021 with a conservative goal. All I really wanted to do was get back to a regular writing habit, if for no other reason than to prove that I could do it.

I was a NaNo Rebel and titled my project NaNo Rebel Combo. I counted everything I wrote or revised in the month. It helped that I had the first two weeks of November off work, but I sincerely thought my progress would crater after I returned.

Surprisingly, it didn’t.

Words revised on RB and edits to its story map: 44,854

Words written on short fiction: 1,424

Words blogged: 2,138

Words written on (my last) Speculations column: 1,653

Other words written: 360

Total words revised: 44,854

Total words written: 5,575

Grand total: 50,429 words

I submitted the short story I wrote to an anthology call. Will let you know if anything comes of that.

Filling the well

In October, I attended two virtual writerly events. A reading by Wab Kinew, and the combined Writing Excuses/Surrey International Writers’ Conference online. Both were lovely. And WXR/SiWC posted all their sessions for attendee viewing for 30 days after the event, so I was able to watch all the sessions I had to miss because work.

My mom hosted Thanksgiving for our family.

I also tracked down a therapist who specializes in autism and scheduled an appointment with her in early November.

I went in to work on October 29th and retrieved my chair. It was an accommodation request resulting from an ergonomic assessment before we got our adjustable desks at work. At the time, sitting was the issue and standing was the solution. After eight years of standing to work and write, I decided to change things up and try sitting again for a while.

I adjusted the seat pan and back to encourage me to lean back, so I wouldn’t get tense and torque out my neck, back, and shoulders the way I used to. And it’s working. I had some difficulties with the height of the arm rests, but now that I’ve resolved those, I’m golden. I credit my NaNo win, at least in part, to my new, comfortable sitting arrangement.

I made the tough decision to stop writing my column for DIY MFA. They’ve become a kind of family. I’ll miss writing for them, but I have to refocus on myself right now.

In November, aside from NaNo, I attended several virtual sessions from this year’s Wordstock Sudbury and a couple of Jane Friedman webinars.

Home for the Howlidays, with my short story, “The Wolf You Feed,” was launched on November 23rd. It’s available on Amazon if you want some wolfish holiday reads.

I had my first session with my therapist, got a note from my doctor for insurance, and submitted my first claim (which was subsequently paid). I investigated the accommodation process at work. In short, I made progress.

My two weeks of vacation in November, compared to the two weeks of sick leave I took back in September, were truly restorative. September was just about getting my head back. My success in NaNoWriMo cemented for me that I can still write and/or revise daily, that everything I produce is not crap, and that I can still accomplish lofty creative goals if I commit.

But now, there’s another urgent project that needs to be completed at work, and I’m taking another break (not voluntarily). I have to manage my energy levels and health.

And get lots of cuddles!

What I’m watching and reading

Watching first, as has been my pattern of late.

The Black Widow movie wasn’t as bad as I’d been led to believe. It didn’t blow my mind, but it was enjoyable.

I finished watching the last season of Riverdale, for real this time. Not fond of the time jump and the super-clichéd storylines. Betty’s basically Clarice Starling, Jughead’s every substance-abusing writer ever rumoured, Archie’s a veteran now, but all his flashbacks look like WWII (?), Veronica is the vixen of Wall Street … just ugh.

The New Mutants was okay. I always enjoy Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor Joy, but I wasn’t fond of how the latter, as Illyana Rasputin, was framed as a mean girl. It just didn’t fit with my experience of the comics.

The series finale of Supergirl was sappy, as expected. The conflict felt off all season, though. Kara (and everyone, really) made a lot of uncharacteristic decisions, because final season? A little disappointing.

Phil and I watched the second season of Locke & Key. Not bad. Better than season one, I think, but it took a while to kick into gear, and, honestly, it had been so long since the first season, I was unclear on a lot of the plot, even with the season one recap under my metaphorical belt. It came together in the end, though.

The latest season of Doom Patrol was … frustrating more than anything. Excuse my language, but they’re all still fucked up fuckups. You’d think they’d have spanked their inner moppets by now.

Finally, the shining view of the last two months, Reservation Dogs. Loved! That is all. Go watch it now!

In the reading department, I read nine books over the two months. Having said that, I’m currently nine books behind in my 2021 Goodreads challenge. I may not even make last year’s goal (which I surpassed, by the way) of 60 books.

I listened to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, part 1 on Audible. It was a fully produced audioplay, with top actors, and I loved it, despite its meandering story. It was originally a graphic novel, and episodic, so that was to be expected. I’m looking forward to the Netflix series.

Having read and enjoyed P. Djèlí Clark’s Master of Djinn, I thought I should fill in the gap with the novellas that lead up to it. The Haunting of Tram Car 015, was fun and focused on supporting characters from the novel, Hamed and Onsi.

I read Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names as part of a book club my critique group started. It was good, but the protagonist, Winter, doesn’t show up right away. Maybe it’s because the novel is more properly Marcus’s story, but, being a woman, I connected to Winter more. As a result, it was an uneven read. I enjoyed it, and the world building was great, but Marcus was a very traditional protagonist in epic fantasy. I wasn’t as interested in his story and thus didn’t enjoy the novel as much as I might have.

I finished This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar next, though I’d started it before taking up The Thousand Names. It was actually the first novel selected for our book club. I loved the lyrical nature of the book and the largely epistolary structure. Other readers were not as enamoured. El-Mohtar is a poet. So am I (sometimes). I really got into the words, savoured them, rolled them around on my tongue and in my brain. Loved.

Witchmark, by C.L. Polk, was an enchanting (pun intended) read. It was so good I can’t wait to get into the rest of the series 🙂

Alice Payne Rides is Kate Heartfield’s follow up to Alice Payne Arrives. It was interesting reading this so soon after This is How You Lose the Time War. There were enough similarities that I wonder if El-Mohtar might have been influenced by Heartfield’s Alice, at least in part.

Catherine Hernandez’ Crosshairs was a bit of a harrowing read. It’s a dystopia, which takes as its genesis that Canada followed our neighbours to the south in instituting a totalitarian, fundamentalist, and fascist regime. In fact, Hernandez imagines a Canada that goes even farther, instituting workhouses for all “others,” be they people of colour, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2S+, or followers of religions other than Christianity. An excellent novel that challenges everything you think Canada is.

I then listened to Tanya Talaga’s All Our Relations. Excellent. I now want to find out more about the Sami, Scandinavia’s Indigenous people.

Finally, I read Roshani Chokshi’s The Bronzed Beasts, the third book in the trilogy that began with The Gilded Wolves. Yum! Bittersweet ending that in some ways reminded me of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue.

And that was the last two months in this writer’s life.

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

Join me at DIY MFA for my LAST Speculations

Oh, my goodness, writerly friends! It’s the end of an era!

After five years, I’m leaving my DIY MFA family. It’s sad, because I’ve really enjoyed writing Speculations, but, as I mention in the column, I’ve had to honour my reality and make some tough choices.

I have some new priorities in my life right now and they need my attention.

While you’re there, please do check out the other, excellent columnists, and Gabriela’s awesome writer’s resources.

Until next time, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends!