The next chapter: April 2018 update

Hey, all you writerly people 🙂

Here we are in May, Cinco de Mayo, in fact, and it’s time for my next chapter update.

It’s been a weird few weeks since I made my decision to stop posting every weekend. I had one weekend that was fairly restful, caught a flu and was sick for a week, and have spent the last week frantically catching up at work and at home.

I still think it was a good decision, but I’ll likely have to give it more time before I see real results.

I have formally announced my intention to hand off responsibility for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter, but elections (newsletter-er isn’t an elected position, but volunteer positions are filled at the same time as elected ones are voted upon) aren’t until the May meeting at the end of the month. Also, whoever decides to take over for me won’t do so until the beginning of the new SWG year in September. We usually break for the summer, so the June newsletter would be my last.

I’m still on the program committee and one of its sub-committees for the Canadian Authors Association, but my obligations have not been too onerous there. For now. If that changes, I’ll have to bow out.

On another front that I haven’t discussed much, I’m sad to report that my critique group has imploded. Well I’m two parts sad to one part relieved. I’m sad because I had great hopes, and relieved because it’s one less commitment to fulfill.

Several members were in the process of moving (some internationally) in January and February and so we delayed the start of the critiquing year. One submission has been made and I’ve read and critiqued it, but I haven’t heard from anyone else in the group about an online conference to actually discuss the submission, or anything else moving forward. I’m going to read through the submission one more time, finalize my written comments, and return them to the author. And then I’m going to pull the plug.

I may check out the novel critique group that the SWG runs. I need something. Writing in a feedback void isn’t getting me anywhere. I can continue to write and revise, but unless I can get some other eyes on the work, my revisions will lack direction and I’ll take so much longer to get anything ready for an editor, or for submission to agents or small publishers.

I got my taxes wrangled and, for the first time in a number of years, I’ve has absolutely no income to report from my creative work. No workshops. No panelist honoraria. No prize money. No sales of short fiction or even contributor copies. It’s a bit distressing. I’ve never had much income to report, but I’ve generally had something. It just makes me feel like I’ve been falling back, that it’s not just been my burnout, but something more insidious going on with me.

AprilProgress

I have, however, made strides with regard to my writing practice. For April, I set (or reset) the modest goal of 5,000 words written on Playing with Fire. I managed to write more days than not, and wrote 7,568 words, or 151% of my goal.

I also adjusted my writing goal for the blog given that I’m not posting most weekends. Even though I adjusted my blogging goal to 3,600 words, I wrote only 3,086 words, or 86% of my goal.

My DIY MFA post came in at 1,359 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 136%, and the SWG newsletter was 5,333 words of my 4,000-word goal, or 133%. Admittedly, the newsletter is not all my writing. I have submissions from the membership and the contests and inspirational quotes are found online and copied. Still, I have to fill in gaps, edit, format, and cobble all the disparate parts of the newsletter together into a more or less cohesive whole.

Overall, I wrote 128% more in the month than I set out to, and that makes me happy.

Though it was May 1st, I was able to attend one literary event, the staged reading of the latest iteration of Kim Fahner’s play, “Sparrows Over Slag.”

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Here are the actors, Morgan St. Onge, Matthew Heiti, and Sarah Gartshore.

Kim also had an artist talk afterward during which she explained the impetus for the play and its development.

On the Torvi front, we’re one class away from graduating from the beginner obedience class at Skiplyn Kennels, only to jump right into the intermediate class. Torvi is still a challenge. The second biggest problem now is her propensity to get up on counters, tables, desks, grab whatever she can get her teeth on, and run. She also jumps on people. We’ve been persistent with telling her to get off, and pushing her off, but she still hasn’t gotten the message.

The biggest problem is that she’s started peeing in the house again. We thought we had this licked, but no. So now we’re pacing around the yard reciting “do your pee” until she complies. She’s still distracted by everything. Even if she asks to go out, she forgets what she’s there for once she sees a bird, or squirrel, or a truck or a motorcycle goes by.

She’s showing steady improvement in all other areas, but those are the two stubborn problems.

Here’s a comparison: Torvi at seven weeks and Torvi at seven months 🙂

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As for the orchids, it’s all the fuchsia phalaenopsis. The pink has dropped all its blooms now.

And that’s all I have to report for this month. It’s been mostly good and I’m looking forward to better yet to come.

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

The Next Chapter

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 22-28, 2018

Happy Beltane, y’all. It’s May Day!

Never worry, never fear, Underdog your informal writerly learnings are here!

K.M. Weiland continues her ultimate first chapter checklist series with part three: introducing the story. Helping Writers Become Authors

Kathryn Craft wonders if you’re emotionally ready for a developmental edit? Writers in the Storm

Catherine McKenzie: theft by finding. Writer Unboxed

Barbara O’Neal posts about the importance of a private writing habit. Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb is considering good advice, bad advice, and figuring out how to write through the “shoulds.” Writer Unboxed

Erika Liodice helps you find your way back to writing. Writer Unboxed

Dan Koboldt explains how you can level up as a writer with peer critique. Writer’s Digest

Sara Letourneau: how themes are presented in short fiction. DIY MFA

In my latest column for DIY MFA, I delve into the possibilities for future space travel.

Joanna Penn discusses comparisonitis, or “everyone else is better than me” syndrome. The Creative Penn

Nathan Bransford tells you everything you need to know about novel word counts. Later in the week, he explains why writers should perfect their first thirty pages.

Cyndy Etler drops by Jane Friedman’s blog to explain how to become a bestseller through money, luck, or work (mostly work).

Chris Winkle helps you distinguish between structured and unstructured advice. Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb offers some perspective on self-editing your dialogue and characters.

Chris Yogerst explores how Stan Lee became the man behind Marvel. Los Angeles Review of Books

Sarah Laskow invites you to go medieval by attaching a book to your belt. Atlas Obscura

Be well until Thoughty Thursday!

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Muse-inks: A decision and why I’m making it

I hinted on Thursday that I’ve made a decision about the blog, and if you’ve been reading, you might be able to predict what that decision is going to be.

*pauses for dramatic effect*

This will be my last Muse-inks/This writer’s life post for the foreseeable. I’m going to continue with my weekly curation posts and my monthly Next chapter updates, but otherwise, I’m only going to post if something of note is happening, like a DIY MFA column, reading, workshop, or other writerly event.

I’ll roll up the information I’ve been sharing on a weekly basis into my monthly updates.

I’m streamlining. I’m only going to post when I have something to say.

It’ll free up a little more time on the weekends and a few more words for my work-in-progress. It’s a first step in reclaiming my creative life.

Here’s the latest news in this writer’s life until my next monthly update.

In the last week, I’ve been able to write between 300 and 470 words a day. It feels good. I’m almost back to my 500-word-a-day goal.

Unfortunately, the weather up here in northeastern Ontario hasn’t been quite as cooperative. I’d mentioned, in posting a memory on Facebook, that the snow had almost melted. We could see grass! But, last Sunday afternoon, the latest storm blew through and we ended up with this:

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It basically looked like the memory, from four years ago, of a very snowy April day. This week, the grass is exposed in spots again, but, you guessed it, another storm is blowing up. We’re supposed to get between 30 and 50 cm of snow/ice over the next 48 hours. It’s sunny, at the moment, but the precipitation is supposed to start tonight.

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My other orchid has officially joined the bloom party 🙂

A Torvi tale: last week, I told you about the butt hackles 🙂 It turns out that laundry hanging on a line freaks Torvi out. Yes, the butt hackles rise, and she barks. Torvi, like her predecessor, Nuala, is not a barker. It’s so funny to see her out there, barking at the neighbour’s laundry, like, “That’s not supposed to be there! Hey! It’s moving! Did you see that? Look! Look!

We’ve reached the half-way point in our obedience class and, in the last couple of weeks, Torvi has been a star. In class. At home, things have improved, but she’s still having her hell-dog moments. Our house is a more pleasant place, these days.

We’ve been introduced to heeling with the meaty Rollover treat. I pinch a chunk between my left thumb and forefinger, keep my hand open, but slightly curved, and lead Torvi around, allowing her to nip at the treat. When we stop, the hand and treat are raised, and Torvi sits. She’s supposed to follow my pace and direction. We’re working on it.

We’re to practice off-leash in the house and switch to kibbles rather than treats for the basics (sit, down, sit up, stand, sit/stay, down/stay, stand/stay).

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Here’s Torvi in her Halti. She’s still getting used to it and tries to get out of it at every opportunity, but I will say again, the Halti transforms the walking experience. She doesn’t pull. She doesn’t lunge for people or dogs. I’d recommend it, or a Gentle Leader (a similar head collar) for everyone.

Between the Thunder Shirt and the anti-emetic, Torvi hasn’t vomited once. This past week, she basically laid down in the back seat and was quiet the whole way.

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Crash puppy dog on the yoga mat 🙂

Fare thee well! Until the next time I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

Muse-inks

The next chapter: March 2018 update

Hey there, writerly peoples!

March appears to be the month when I got back on track with my writing. I didn’t write more days than I wrote at the beginning of the month, but that eventually changed. Toward the end of the month I wrote more days than I didn’t, but the days I didn’t write were the result of other commitments, namely Torvi’s obedience classes, the newsletter due date, and the necessary days juggling priorities before I could get back to the page.

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I adjusted my goals, given my limited progress in the first couple of months of this year. Still, with respect to my work on Playing with Fire, I fell short. Of my 5,000-word goal, I wrote 3,989 words, or 80% of my goal. Still, it’s close to four thousand words I didn’t have before. I’m pleased.

March was a long month and I estimated 7,400 words written on the blog … of which I only wrote 4,954, or 67%. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m okay with blogging less. It’s been a rough period for me, writing wise, and I’m happy that I can keep it up. Some of my friends have advised me to cut back on the blogging and it’s something I’m considering, but I haven’t committed to it yet, and I don’t know how it might look moving forward.

Once again, the newsletter was my overachiever. I wrote 5,113 words of my 4,000-word goal, or 128%. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I want to move this commitment off my plate as well.

I anticipate that April will be another rough month. My most recent column for DIY MFA was unusually problematic and ended up being a little late. While I wrestled with that, PwF languished again.

I’m trying to get our tax information assembled, but Phil’s employer has announced a third T4 will be issued to correct errors in the other two. So that’s going to take some time away from the writing, too.

I have to compile all my writerly expenses and, this year, for the first time in a number of years, I have absolutely no income. In the past, even if I didn’t have any sales of short stories to declare, I had workshop or panel honoraria that filled in the gap. I’m almost ashamed to send in 2017’s information showing no income at all.

Things in other aspects of my life are sorting themselves out and this helps. Torvi is maturing and with the obedience classes, she’s showing progress. We have a way to go. She’s just six months old and experience tells me that it’ll be a year or two before she settles into the dog she’s destined to be.

Between the Thunder Shirt and the anti-emetic medication, car rides aren’t quite as fraught as they once were. I really hope she grows out of the car sickness. Because we live in an urban area, we have to drive just to give her a good, long walk at the conservation area or go to a dog park.

Funny Torvi fact: she has butt-hackles. It may be because she still wears a harness most of the time, but where most dogs would have hackles rise the length of their spines, Torvi’s hair only lifts on her butt. It’s adorable.

Phil’s work situation is slowly resolving itself and my day job is levelling out, so the household is happier in general, these days.

Finally, my health situation is also settling. My menstrual difficulties have decreased to the point that, if this is as good as it gets, I’m satisfied. The procedure was worth it and if I have to do it again, I will. Yay, ablation.

And that’s about it for this update.

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

The Next Chapter

Muse-inks: Improvements all around

Reader, I bought Torvi a Thunder Shirt. All I have to say is a-MA-zing! I put it on her the day Phil brought it home (last Sunday) and the beast just went into the bedroom, hopped up on the bed, and curled up.

I thought, perhaps, it was an anomaly, but I started putting it on her every afternoon when we got home from work. And she was noticeably calmer.

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Here she is modelling the TS.

Then, on Tuesday, I went to my vet for Torvi’s flea and tic medication and asked about motion sickness meds. I went home with some to try.

On Thursday, Mom also came with me to obedience. Between the TS, the meds, and Mom, Torvi survived class number two without vomiting, or behaving like a twit.

Mellie haz a happy.

I’ve slowly been increasing my writing production, and I revised my goals (again). I’m pleased with my progress. I’m writing most days. Thursdays, of course, are still a write off.

Things have improved for Phil at work. The promised assistance is slow in coming, but the powers that be have eased up on his deadlines and the other demands on his time and expertise. Though not perfect, the situation should return to pre-crisis levels of stress soonish.

There’s a bit of a shake up coming at my employer, though. My manager is moving on to another assignment and my team will once again be headed by actors. We have about 35 people on the team, so we have two managers. The other permanent manager has been off on maternity leave since last fall.

I know my new manager. We’ve actually been colleagues in the past. It should be a good thing. As ever, we’ll have to wait and see.

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One bloom … two blooms … three blooms … four! Four blooms! Ahahahahaha! (My imitation of The Count from Sesame Street.)

The only negative is that, after weeks of melting, we’re getting a dumping of ten centimetres of snow today. I’ll take it. March did come in rather lamb-like. It’s going out lionish. It’s to be expected in northeastern Ontario.

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

Muse-inks

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 18-24, 2018

I give you … your informal writerly learnings for the week. What else?

K.M. Weiland shares five ways to take risks with your writing. Helping Writers Become Authors

Vaughn Roycroft asks, how deep the darkness? Writer Unboxed

Dave King is playing on trust. Writer Unboxed

Margaret Dilloway wonders, should your main character be likeable? Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb considers serendipity, zeitgeist, and the interconnectedness of all things (in writing). Writer Unboxed

Angela Ackerman shares three ways to help quieter protagonists steal the scene. Writers Helping Writers

Jennie Nash: characters in cars, thinking, or, how to deal with the passage of time. Writers Helping Writers

Nathan Bransford offers his take on how to edit your novel.

Gabriela Pereira guest posts on Writer’s Digest: four basic steps to start building your author blog.

Sara Letourneau provides a case study on isolation as a literary theme. DIY MFA

I plumb the depths of the Baba Yaga fairy tale. DIY MFA

Tamar Sloan lists five powerful strategies to build writer’s grit. DIY MFA

Margie Lawson helps you capture “cliché play” power. Writers in the Storm

Jami Gold explains how to create positive themes despite bittersweet endings. Later in the week, she answers the question, what is line editing and what should line editors do?

Nathan Bransford explains how writing changes the world.

Nina Munteanu: the gestalt nature of passion and success.

Oren Ashkenazi lists five common pitfalls of stories with deep ideas. Mythcreants

Farrah Penn tells the tale of Amy Daws, the first writer-in-residence of Tires, Tires, Tires. Buzzfeed

Emily Asher-Perrin looks at Trish Walker’s evolution in the second season of Jessica Jones: I don’t want to be with him; I want to be him. Tor.com

Michael Moreci: Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One is smarter and more insightful than you’ve been told. Tor.com

And that was Tipsday. Be well until Thursday!

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Muse-inks: Obedience begins (disastrously) and baby steps

The news of the week is that Torvi and I started beginner obedience classes with Tammy St. Louis of Skiplyn Kennels.

The church where the classes take place is a 30-minute drive away. Of course, despite Mom taking up her food earlier in the day, Torvi vomited on the way there. She didn’t on the return journey, but the entire back seat was wet with drool. And she howls, she’s so miserable in the car. I felt horrible for her.

So, I’m going to see if I can find her a Thunder Shirt. If that doesn’t work, I’ll move on to the meds our vet said they could dispense.

Once at the class, I remembered that I’d forgotten to buy a 6-foot leash, her collar was too loose, her Halti was too big, and she was declared “chubby.”

We managed to get through the class without a major incident, though. Torvi was absolutely exhausted. She just perked up today.

I’ve showed Mom and Phil the exercises I learned, and we are all working diligently with Torvi. She’s already showing some signs of improvement, though we’re not sure how much of that is from the stress and exhaustion and how much is from the practice. Shrug.

All of the pets we’ve raised have been neurotic, one way or another. I don’t think Torvi will be any different.

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Here she is. That’s actually the beginning of a yawn 🙂

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And here’s a pic of the orchids’ progress. It’s kind of like Pilgrim’s Progress, but with flowers 😀

I didn’t write or work on my curation Thursday night and caught up on my curation on Friday.

Tonight, I attended a friend’s 40th birthday party, stayed for the opening of the gifts and cake, and then came home to finish this post.

I’m also working on my first critique for my group.

I’ll head out on the writing trail again tomorrow. And I’m good with that.

Progress is being made, but in baby steps. Baby steps are still steps. It’s all good.

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

Muse-inks

Muse-inks: Gittin’ ‘er done

I’m writing again, slowly building back up. I probably won’t write today because the weekend has gotten away from me and the Sudbury Writers’ Guild Newsletter is due. But it feels good to be getting words on the page.

At work, we’re almost at the end of the fiscal year and so somethings have settled down. Our problematic pay system is still problematic, but our employer has agreed to hold off on the collection of overpayments until all underpayments have first been issued. The union fought hard for the concession and I’m grateful, not so much for myself, though I have been affected, but for all the employees less fortunate than me facing huge overpayments or underpayments.

It’s a serious situation. On one hand, some employees haven’t been able to pay their mortgages and loans. Some haven’t been able to pay rent or for day care. On the other hand, employees are delaying retirement, or turning down promotions because they fear that their pay will be stopped, as has happened to other employees.

Progress is being made, but it’s slow, and for some, it’s already too late.

Phil’s work situation hasn’t improved. The promise of help isn’t materializing and he’s still facing a number of deadlines that he can’t meet on his own. It’s just not possible, and though consequences are continually threatened, no one is willing to explain exactly what those consequences are.

We aren’t really in the financial situation to allow Phil to retire, and he’s not willing to take a stress leave, though things are bad enough that he has considered it.

It’s incredibly frustrating and Phil can’t help but bring it all home. Our crazy bout of cold/flu (we’re heading into week three and it’s not just cough and congestion—aches, weakness, and nausea have joined the party) hasn’t helped.

Several my colleagues at work have been stricken. It’s not fun.

Torvi was spayed, chipped, and got her final vaccines this past week. With those procedures done, she’s officially transferred from the rescue’s ownership to ours. She was sent home with three days of Metacam and Trazodone (that’s an anti-anxiety med) to keep her calm. That course of treatment is now complete, and the Torvi-beast is back to her old, pugilistic self.

Dr. Andrews did a fabulous job. The stitches are internal and dissolving. I wasn’t able to get a decent picture of that, but here’s her intravenous site, fully healed. Trust me, her incision looks just as good. And, I took another picture of her in a rare, calm moment.

I’ve signed us up for beginner obedience starting this coming Thursday for ten weeks.

I hope that our Torvi stresses (relatively minor as they are) will soon be at an end.

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The orchids continue to cheer me with their bloomage.

And that’s been a week in this writer’s life.

I hope y’all had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day and that the spring equinox brings some light back into your lives.

And now, it’s on to the newsletter!

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

Muse-inks