Join me at DIY MFA for my latest Speculations

This edition of Speculations came out on June 29th. I did not have the spoons at the time to post it in a timely manner.

Still, better late than never 🙂

This time around, Speculations focuses on the works of a handful of AAPI authors of science fiction and fantasy.

While you’re there, please check out the other great columnists and Gabriela’s fabulous resources.

Until tipsday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 27-July 3, 2021

Welcome to another week of informal writerly learnings 🙂 Enjoy!

Erika Liodice explains how to create an authentic setting from a place you’ve never been. Matthew Norman advises, when in doubt, look about. Then, Deanna Cabinian offers some tips from a pregnant lady on deflecting unsolicited writing advice. Nancy Johnson shares three tips for mastering conflict in your novel. Later in the week, Julie Carrick Dalton is crafting climate futures we can survive. Writer Unboxed

Princess Weekes looks at WandaVision and the feminine madness. Melina Pendulum

K.M. Weiland completes her review of the flat archetypal arc with the mentor in part 21 of her archetypal character arcs series. Helping Writers Become Authors

Colleen M. Story lists three reasons writing is a healthy form of escape. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Writing compelling character relationships. Shaelin Writes

James Scott Bell says, act like a professional. Colleen M. Story explains how to tell the difference between procrastination and a true writing crisis. Writers Helping Writers

Princess Weekes loves Octavia E. Butler, the grand dame of science fiction. It’s Lit | PBS Storied

Tasha Seegmiller is exploring a character’s past wound. Then, Julie Glover shares five more quick dialog tips. Writers in the Storm

Emily Zarka looks at the macabre origins of the grim reaper. Monstrum | PBS Storied

My latest speculations: ten AAPI science fiction and fantasy authors to read right now. Later in the week, Lauren Eckhardt shared five ways to catch your golden butterfly. DIY MFA

Why slow adulting is a good thing. The Take

Kristine Kathryn Rusch presents part seven of her fear-based decision-making series: fear and all writers.

Rachelle Shaw lists ten alternative types of short fiction. Fiction University

Jane Friedman breaks down where her money comes from.

The dangerous woman. How we package female sexuality. The Take

Chris Winkle points out what you need to know when planning character arcs. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes six twists that hurt the story. Mythcreants

Nate Berg: stunning new museum brings Hans Christian Andersen’s stories to life. Fast Company

Hank you for taking the time to stop by, and I hope you found something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

The next chapter: June 2021 update

Here we are in July, after a strangely introspective and quiet national holiday—on this side of the border, anyway. I won’t speak for my American friends. With the discovery of nearly a thousand unmarked graves near residential schools, I, and many Canadians of colonist descent, have been examining our collective lack of action with respect to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.

If you read the calls to action—and I encourage you to—they’re mostly common sense. Ensure that all Indigenous communities have clean water, solid infrastructure, support for health and mental health needs, and so on. Reuniting Indigenous families, doing whatever we can to identify the occupants of unmarked graves, and demanding accountability from the Catholic church (other protestant denominations and the federal government have already apologized, but no further action has been taken) are the least we can do.

And how do we do it? Personal actions are a start, but we can act most powerfully by lobbying our local members of parliament and through voting. If swift action is not taken by the government in power, then we elect a government who will act.

With that, I’ll segue into my usual PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until all BIPOC lives matter.

Wear your masks, wash your hands, and get fully vaccinated. The delta variant wants to undo all our good work. Don’t let it!

The month in writing

The month started out well. I was making headway with Reality Bomb, and once I got the May next chapter update and my Speculations column dealt with, I even manages some more work on the short story I started … in April.

Then work (several days sacrificed to the meeting gods) and meetings (about 10 hours worth) for the Canadian Authors ramped up and my productivity went down.

I set myself a goal of revising 25,000 words on RB but adjusted it down to 20,000 words around the middle of the month. I’m into another section where I’m rewriting, not just revising, now, and most days, I’m lucky if I can get 250 words written. There’s a lot of resistance around this section of rewrite, which is how I know that it has to be done. It’s just taking more time than I’d like.

But I rewrote/revised 16,330 words in June, or 82% or my amended goal, so I’m happy enough.

In short fiction, I revised 567 words, or 38% of my 1,500-word goal. Again, I’ve gotten to the point where it’s writing and not revising (the story was only part-written before). This is where I return to the old NaNoWriMo saying: every word’s a victory.

I wrote 1,272 words for my Speculations column, or 127% f my 1,000-word goal. And I submitted it on time. Win!

Finally, I blogged 5,458 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 146%.

Of my total writing goal for the month, I achieved 141%, of my total revision goal, I achieved 79%, and overall, I achieved 90% of my combined goals for the month. Not bad 🙂

Of the projects I’m not tracking, I made progress on my Ascension master document (like that much better than bible …), I did brainstorm a new short story, but I didn’t finish the story from two months ago, or start revisions on another story.

You can only do what you can do.

Filling the well

On June 2nd, I attended another Tiffany Yates Martin webinar through Jane Friedman. Always a good investment, those. I also signed up for TORCon June 10-13 and attended a few sessions, but that was it with respect to writing related events.

I had an appointment with my registered massage therapist on the 10th and I don’t know if it was the weight loss or my ASD diagnosis, but I’ve never had a more relaxing, less painful massage.

On June 20th, I went out to my sister-in-law’s for a lovely afternoon of lawn games and BBQ. I didn’t even take pictures. Just relaxed. So much relax.

Had an appointment with my financial advisor to make a couple of small tweaks to our banking and investments.

And … on the 28th, I called first thing to book my second vaccination. In another week, I will be as fully protected as Pfizer allows 🙂 I did have more pain in my shoulder than I did last time, but I got my shot. I done a #goodjab.

I’m down to 154 lbs, but now most of my clothes are too big. Can I say I hate shopping? First world, privileged white woman problems.

What I’m watching and reading

The latest season of Grey’s Anatomy came to an end in June. Same old, same old. What can I say? It’s a guilty pleasure.

Nancy Drew also finished its season. It was okay. Still not sure I like the ghostbusters version of ND. She resolved the major problem of the season only to have more crop up. Par for the course.

Phil and I watched the second volume of Love, Death, and Robots. Some of the shorts were amusing, others grim. Not bad.

The History of Swearing was amusing, though. I hope they do more, though I think they’ll run out before too long.

I also watched two movies.

The first was Monkey Beach, based on an Eden Robinson novel of the same name. I’d been meaning to watch it since I found out about it (about the same time as the Trickster series came out). It was good. Sad, but hopeful.

Wonder Woman 1984 was bad, but not as bad as I was prepared for it to be. Compared to the first movie, though? Meh.

Only three books on the reading radar this month, but they were all great.

I read TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea first. Pure joy. If you haven’t picked it up yet, do it.

Then, I finished Diana Harkness’s The Shadow of Night, to catch up with the series. It’s very interesting to see the differences between the two, and I could really understand the creative decisions behind the adaptation. Doing the book, as written, would not have worked visually. Like them both for different reasons and in their own respects.

Finally, I read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Ohmygodsogood! Just going to leave it there.

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: May 2021 update

May was an eventful month in this writer’s life (!) I’ll apologize in advance if this post is loooong.

Before I dive into the month in writing, here are your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Even though vaccination is happening, and countries are slowly reopening, there are still “hot spots” and new variants to contend with. Covid 19 isn’t over yet. Please continue to maintain physical distance, mask where required, get both your vaccines (if two are required), and keep washing your hands. These measures will protect you from more than covid. Stay safe, people!

The month in writing

It wasn’t a bad month in the writing and revising department. Despite the fact that my day job has been demanding in the last couple of months, I’m managing to carve out time to do creative work. It’s less than I’d like and less than I used to be able to do, but words are being written (or revised).

I was still stuck on revisions for Reality Bomb. I ended up completely rewriting the first chapter and writing two more. Now I’m into a larger section where the revisions aren’t as significant. Even though I’d hoped to ramp up sooner, before the first week was over, I reduced my revision goal to 5,000 words. Of that, I revised 4,890 words, or 98%.

I finished revising the story I started reworking last month and started revising another … but I didn’t finish it. So, of the 2,500-word revision goal I set for that, I ended up revising 1,930, or 77%.

I blogged 4,111 words of my 3,500-word goal, or 117%.

Of the projects that aren’t on the tracker, I didn’t do any work on the Ascension master document, but I did write some revision notes for one short story and brainstorming notes on another. I’m not fond of the idea of outlining short stories. Even when I outline my novels, the story always finds its own way in the drafting.

The cover reveal and table of contents announcement went out this week for Home for the Howlidays, the anthology including one of my stories. Tyche Books is the publisher and Margaret (M.L.D.) Curelas is the editor. It will be published closer to the holiday season, but promo starts now 🙂

Work also begins. I should be hearing this month about required edits.

Filling the well

In May, I participated in two longer events. The first was the Festival of Literary Diversity, or FOLD, from May 1st to 15th. I couldn’t attend all the sessions, because work, but the organizers, Jael Richardson and Amanda Leduc, recorded all the sessions and made them available until May 31st. The second was an online course by Laurie Schnebly Campbell (with whom you might be familiar from my tipsday curation posts) on Showing Emotion from May 10th to the 21st.

I also watched the replay of Rewriting Tomorrow (more on why in a bit), a Carl Brandon Society Virtual Panel with Tobias Buckell, S.B. Divya, Malka Older, and Tochi Onyebuchi. That was on the 15th, and I watched it later the same day.

Susan Forest offered a great webinar on Backstory Secrets for the Canadian Authors Association on the 19th, and I signed up for a Pro-Writing Aid presentation on 5 principles of a thorough self-editing process on the 20th. So, it was a pretty full month for writing-related events.

In other self-care news, I received my final report for my assessment on the 10th and … I am on the spectrum (!) If the diagnosis was still distinct, I would have Asperger’s. As of the DSM 5, however, I am considered to be on the autism spectrum. High functioning, mild symptoms.

I must say the diagnosis was a relief. I was tempted to run around shouting I AM NEURODIVERGENT at the top of my lungs. It explained a lot of things, among them, why I’m always exhausted. I’d thought at one time that it was due to an iron deficiency (I was anemic for a few years), but it’s really the persistent stress of having to function in a neurotypical world.

I also had my last EAP appointment because, after debriefing my diagnosis, there wasn’t much more my counsellor could do for me. She’s technically keeping my file open in case I need some reinforcement, and I can always begin a new “bank” of EAP appointments if a new issue crops up, but I think I’m in a good place at the moment.

And … I got my first covid vaccination (Pfizer) on the 15th! My second appointment is already scheduled for September 4th, but now that the Ontario government is trying to expedite second doses, I might be fully vaccinated sooner. Here’s crossing fingers.

Weight-wise, I seem to be settling in at 160 lbs. I’ve been wavering between 159 and 161 for most of the last month. I haven’t been this slim in … I can’t remember, honestly. I feel better in my body. I can put socks on without my belly getting in the way.

An issue that I haven’t mentioned in months (maybe years?) was also resolved in May. Back in 2017, when we brought Torvi home, I took a leave with income averaging. The deductions were never made from my pay (I was Phoenixed) and I ended up with a sizable debt to my employer. When it came due, I immediately called the pay centre, told them that I was sole support for my household, and asked if they could place a hold on the debt until I was in a position to pay.

Last fall, our new contract was negotiated, and the retro pay, Phoenix damages monies, and signing bonus subsequently paid were enough to cover the debt with a little left over. Reader, I paid it off. Huge relief for our finances, moving forward.

It was an awesome month for my mental and physical health.

What I’m watching and reading

It was a big month in the viewing department. I finished watching five seasons, finished two with Phil, and watched two movies.

In my personal watching, I finished what appears to be the final season of Black Lightning. There wasn’t as much drama as in past seasons, and a number of plotlines were wrapped up nicely.

I finished Snowpiercer season 2, and I enjoyed it despite its darkness. The conflict with Wilfred was more dynamic and Melanie’s quest to confirm that the eternal winter was beginning to break was tragic, yet hopeful.

I also watched the adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. Loved! The actors were fabulous, and the story was fantastic. Astral twins. Lovely concept, just a step up from soul mates. Watch it, if you have the chance.

Next, I saw The Nevers. I enjoyed everything up to the last episode. I didn’t mind that the story began in the future (yes, weirdness, but also—Claudia Black!). I didn’t even mind that Amalia True wasn’t Amalia True. What didn’t sit well was that True reaches the Galanthi, and … nothing happens. She’s basically told to forget about it, and she goes home. It was a betrayal.

The last series I watched was The Rookie. It was an interesting season, dealing with institutionalized racism and other serious topics. Nolan’s ambitions were scuttled by the fallout from last season’s cliffhanger. Chen gets to go on her first undercover assignment. It was an enjoyable watch. And Nolan wasn’t the focus of the cliffhanger this time 🙂

Phil and I watched Shadow and Bone. I liked how they combined the titular novel with Six of Crows. Kaz and his crew were still the more compelling characters. Alina still lacked agency, but I liked how they tried to up her game. We both enjoyed it.

Then, we watched Jupiter’s Legacy. Phil was watching just to see how the original supers got their powers, and I think that was intentional. I don’t think what was supposed to be the main plotline would have held our attention without that past timeline mystery.

The two movies I watched were both DCEU offerings.

First, I watched the Snyder cut of Justice League. I had to watch it in four parts … ‘cause long, but I appreciated the storytelling that went into it in comparison to the original. I think DC realized that fans weren’t happy with the movie as it was released.

Then, I watched Man of Steel. Meh. Like Cavill and all, but I’ve seen Superman’s origin story so many times it was hard to be invested.

I read four books in May.

The first was A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown. It was dark and angsty. Malik’s hatred/love/hatred for Karina felt a little contrived, but I liked it despite that.

Next, I read Pierce Brown’s Red Rising. The premise was interesting, but I didn’t buy the worldbuilding. Why would Martian civilization revert to a Roman governance model based on colours and metals (red, black, silver, brass, gold, etc.)? It was okay.

I read The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, my literary pick of the month. It was an examination of race and “passing.” The story begins with twins, Desirée and Stella. After their father is murdered in front of them, Desirée wants nothing more than to run away. She’s tired of their small-minded town that values light-coloured skin above all else.

But it’s Stella who truly runs away, passing as white, marrying a white man, and effectively disappearing from her family’s lives. Desirée marries a dark-skinned man who abuses her. She runs back home to hide and falls in love with man her husband sends to find her.

A generation later, Desirée’s daughter Jade, an aspiring doctor in love with a transgender man, meets Stella’s daughter Kennedy, a struggling actress. He two become “frenemies” until Jade sees Stella at a party and realizes that Kennedy is her cousin.

I really liked it.

Finally, I read Mister Impossible, the second book in the Dreamer trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater. It came out on the 18th and I nabbed it right away. The book continues the story of the Lynch brothers, Declan, Ronan, and Matthew. At the end of the last book, Ronan and Hennessey had finally found Bride, only to be surrounded by the Moderators, whose job it is to kill dreamers.

They escape off-screen (which I wasn’t all that pleased about) and begin Bride’s “great work” of restoring the ley lines. Declan and Jordan, Hennessy’s last remaining dreamt twin, discover something called a “sweet metal,” an object, most often a painting, that can keep dreamed people awake without their dreamers.

Meanwhile, Carmen, one of the Moderators, and her visionary Lilianna, go rogue and try to save the world in their own way. There are some great twists at the end. Loved.

And that was a 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: April 2021 update

Welcome to May 2021, the pandemic age. It’s been a month and I’m back to share all my writerly shenanigans.

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, wear your masks, don’t go out unless you have to. The new variants mean this pandemic isn’t over yet.

The month in writing

I can’t seem to get my head into this next round of RB revisions. I set a modest goal of 5,000 words and wrote just under half that (48%). 2,408 words, to be more precise. At least I got some writing done on the project? Yay?

Moving on to short fiction, I finished the new short story I barely started last month and started on revisions of another story. So, 2,591 words written of my 2,500-word goal, or 104%, and 1,088 words of my 1,500-word revision goal, or 73%.

I submitted to two anthology calls.

In related news, I received the sweet, sweet news that one of the stories I submitted in February was accepted for future publication, and the editor of one of the anthology calls was in touch to let me know that the story I submitted was accepted for publication as well. It’s been a happy-dancing kind of month.

I’ll let you know more when I’m able.

Finally, I blogged 5,429 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 145%.

I aimed to write 6,250 words and wrote 8,020 words, or 128% of goal. My goal was to revise 6,500 words and I only managed 3,496, or 54%. 91% overall. Not bad.

Filling the well

In April, I signed up for a Roz Morris self-editing workshop offered by Jane Friedman. Excellent investment. It ran for three weeks, April 15, 22, and 29.

I stopped by the Writing Excuses online reunion on April 17th and watched a great interview between Rosanna Deerchild and Eden Robinson on the 24th. Finally, I signed up for a Canadian Authors/SF Canada webinar with Douglas Smith based on his writing craft book of the same name, Playing the Short Game.

But … it was a busy month. 3 EAP appointments, 5 hours of assessment (more on this next month when I get the results), and 8 hours of strategic planning, board meeting, and volunteer recognition event for Canadian Authors. All that plus a full-time job? Woof.

I also signed up for my vaccination with a local pharmacy. Phil hasn’t heard about his, yet, though others of our acquaintance have had their first shots. It’s a wait and see kind of game when you’re in relatively good health.

I ended the month at a tidy 164 lbs. Something I didn’t mention last month was that the 170 lbs that was my goal weight was also what I weighed when I got married. The weight loss has slowed and I’m good with that. My next goal is to try and tighten up all the lose flesh I suddenly have.

I’m trying to take care of myself. So far, it’s working out.  

What I’m watching and reading

In the viewing department, I finished the most recent season of The Crown. It was interesting to get a fictionalized version of the early Diana and Thatcher years. The whole Crown Corporate Complex isn’t painted in a very sympathetic light, though.

Then, it was the second season of Discovery of Witches. YUM! They did some drastic rewriting of the book but most of the critical events are there. Loved.

The Irregulars was something that Phil and I started to watch together, but he tapped out before the second episode ended. It wasn’t bad, but the series’ versions of Holmes and Watson didn’t sit well with me. It’s true that the series wasn’t about them, but the rag-tag band of orphans that helps them. I’ll probably watch the next season. If there is one.

Finally, I got to see the series finale of Wynona Earp. Wacky hijinx ensued, as usual, but everything worked out and all the characters got their respective happy endings.

I read four books and a collection of short stories in April.

First up was The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis. Having watched the series, I wanted to read the book. Interestingly, the one thing that bugged me about the series, that everyone loved Beth, was not true in the book. The book also portrayed Beth in a less sympathetic light, which I liked. In my experience, the book is almost always better than the movie, regardless of which media is consumed first.

Then, I read Sarah Gailey’s The Echo Wife. Loved! Fabulous interweaving of various takes on cloning. A complex, unlikeable protagonist. This was recommended by one of my critique group members for my rewrite of RB. I’ve taken notes but can honestly only hope to be half as good as Gailey. Probably not even.

Next, I read A Dream So Dark, the sequel to A Blade So Black, by L.L. McKinney. Another yummy read. Unlike most YA fantasy authors, McKinney made the bold decision to keep young protagonist Alice’s mother in the picture. There’s a reason most parents are absent or dead. They either become antagonist figures, taking attention from the main conflict, or they rob the protagonist of agency. A little of both happened in the novel, but I think McKinney handled it well.

Of course, I had to follow it up with a reread of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It’s a classic.

Finally, I read Naomi Kritzer’s short fiction collection Cat Pictures, Please and Other Stories. The titular story won the Hugo. The whole collection is amazing.

And that was April in this writer’s life.

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

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 11-17, 2021

Ah, Tuesday! The day when you get to catch up on your informal writerly learnings of the previous week.

Janice Hardy explains how the wrap up works in a novel. #storystructure Fiction University

K.M. Weiland continues her archetypal character arc series by introducing us to the hero’s shadow archetypes. Helping Writers Become Authors

Wonder Woman 1984: gravity would like a word … Jill Bearup

Kathleen Marple Kalb explains how to navigate a book launch through social media. Then, Sharon Oard Warner wonders which comes first: character or plot? Jane Friedman

Shaelin explains how to write science fiction. Reedsy

Then, she covers sci-fi tropes to avoid or embrace. Reedsy

Nicole Souza shares some tips for creating strong female characters. Elizabeth Spann Craig

Alli Sinclair wants to help you use your fiction skills to earn money. Writers Helping Writers

Jim Dempsey tells you how to cut the cost of a professional editor. Then, Kathleen McCleary explains how regrets reveal and forge character. Later in the week, Porter Anderson is suiting up for serialization. Kelsey Allagood: writer, know thyself. Writer Unboxed

Erica Brozovsky: what’s the longest word? Otherwords | PBS Storied

My latest Speculations column went live on April 13: celebrating Perseverance. DIY MFA

Brannan Sirratt defines nonfiction and fiction dimensions. Story Grid

Queer coding, explained. The Take

Piper Bayard lists 10 common kitchen items to use as weapons. Writers in the Storm

Chris Winkle explains how to teach world terms without confusing readers. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five stories with unsatisfying endings. Mythcreants

The sympathetic villain. The Take

Kristen Lamb: how to write stories that grip readers and don’t let go.

Thom Dunn explains why it’s harder for neurodivergent people to break into publishing. Boing Boing

Julia Skinner: libraries and pandemics, past and present. JSTOR Daily

And that was tipsday for this week. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Join me at DIY MFA for my latest Speculations

This time on Speculations, it’s all about the Perseverance Rover (AKA Percy).

The mission is producing lots of cool science and media that can help you write you next SFnal story.

While your there, take some time to check out the other, excellent columns, and Gabriela’s fabulous supports and resources for writers.

Until tipsday, be well and stay safe!

The next chapter: March 2021 update

It’s April. For the last couple of months, it felt like a time warp. I blinked and the month just disappeared. March slowed down the pace a bit, but a lot happened, most of it good.

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. This is front and centre in my mind as I watch the coverage of Chauvin’s trial.

Wash your hands, wear your masks, keep physical distance, and stay home as much as you can. The moms have both received their first vaccinations and are scheduled for their seconds. Phil’s registered for the Astra-Zeneca vaccine when we receive our supply. But this pandemic still ain’t over. Variants of concern are on the rise. Be careful out there.

The month in writing

I was supposed to start working on next round revisions of Reality Bomb. And I did start, but I didn’t get far.

At the outset of the year, I was thinking positively. I had worked hard on rewriting and improving RB in 2020. I hoped that the critiques would validate the work. They did. In part. But they also reflected that I had a lot more work ahead of me, and the prospect of that work, in February, when the first critiques came back, felt daunting.

As I mentioned last month, I suffered a crisis of confidence in February (and in January before that). I was feeling like a fraud. In March, I turned a corner, though. More on the specifics in the next section of this update.

I started working on a new first chapter, which I already had an idea I would have to do. Beginnings and endings are very difficult for me. I never know how to identify the right place to start or finish. Part-way through March, another critique came in and it did two things. First, it opened my eyes to several of my weaknesses in a gentle way that broke through my resistance. Second, it gave me a very concrete path forward.

Then, I put on my big girl pants and asked a question of the critique group. The discussion gave me a place to start. The place to start, in fact. So, I’ve started working on RB more diligently.

With respect to my optimistic goal, I had originally hoped to revise the whole MS in March—lol! I knew that wasn’t going to happen at the first of the month and set a much lower goal of 1,500 words. I wrote 1,330 words on the new beginning, not all of which will go to waste. So, 89% of my revised goal.

I wrote two new poems for the Laurentian University SciArt Poetry Competition and … won the community category with “Encoded”! I read the poem online at the SciArt Gala (you can watch it on the Science North YouTube channel, if you wish) and it will be published in the Fall issue of LU’s literary journal, Sulphur.

Just to keep the poetry news together, I was informed on March 31st that two more poems were accepted for future publication. I’ll offer further details when they’re published.

I wrote my next Speculations column for DIY MFA. It came in at 850 words, or 85% of my 1,000-word goal. I’ll put up my referral post when the post is live.

In short fiction, I finished revising the story I was working on last month and revised a second. I’d aimed to revise 2,500 words and revised 3,978. 159% of goal. Less impressive was my attempt to write a new short. I only managed 131 words of my 1,500-word goal, or 9%. The anthology call that I was hoping to submit to was due March 31st. When I checked the site, just to be sure, I saw (with joy) that the call had been extended to April 15th. I’m hoping to finish the story this month.

I blogged 5,302 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 141%.

It was a productive month, but a bit of a mixed bag for all that. I met my overall writing goal (101%) and exceeded my revision goal (133%).

I’m going to have to amend my annual goals. And I’ve decided not to work on Marushka after all and change focus to another standalone novel idea. I’ll have to think about what a reasonable writing goal should be while working full time. I also have a lot of committee work I have to do for the Canadian Authors Association (CAA). It’s becoming a burden, but I don’t want to leave the board at this critical juncture. Leaving would be the better choice for me and my wellbeing, but I made a commitment, for better or worse, and I need to see it through.

Filling the well

With respect to online events, I had four in March. A reading by Asian speculative fiction authors, including Melissa Yuan Innes/Melissa Yi, on March 4th, A Writer’s Guide to the Genre Universe with DIY MFA instigator Gabriela Pereira on the 12th, Lisa Cooper Ellison’s workshop on how to get better critiques, another Jane Friedman offering, on March 24th, which, because it was during the day, I caught on the replay, and the aforementioned SciArt poetry reading on March 30th.

I’m enjoying a more reasonable pace to my online learning and entertainment these days instead of signing up for everything that comes across my inbox in some frantic need to … do what, exactly? Yeah. I’m starting to learn some lessons.

My mom wanted to prearrange her cremation and interment, so I accompanied her to the appointment as her only child and executor. After her health scare back in November, she wanted to get this last piece of her end-of-life planning in place. I wouldn’t say this was necessarily a “fun” thing to have done, but it was reassuring for both of us.

I also had a DIY MFA columnist call, and then a finance committee meeting, an email “meeting” of the board, a fundraising and sponsorship meeting, and a special general meeting to attend for the CAA all in the space of a week. It was an exhausting week. I am not a financial whiz.

In other, more personal, news, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor, and I am in good health. All of my tests came back, either negative (breast screening and gynecological exam) or in the acceptable range (bloodwork, blood pressure). I broached the topic of counselling and he suggested I start with my employer’s EAP (which I expected) but gave me a referral for psychological assessment should I need it.

I had my first appointment with my counsellor and, though the worst of my anxiety had passed by the time I spoke with her, it was good to have a safe space to “get it all off of my chest.” She also suggested a few organizations that could help me if I wanted to proceed with an autism/Asperger’s assessment. She has several family members who are on the spectrum, both child and adult.

She listened patiently to the reasons I suspected I was on the spectrum and confirmed that my situation met many of the criteria. I’m going to continue in counselling and enquiring about an assessment and will update you in the future about any progress in this area.

I’ve also lost my “covid 19” breaking my goal of 170 lbs. at the end of March. I’m going to stick with my new psychologically informed and reinforced way of eating (thanks to Noom—pandemic struggles require additional support) and see where my body finally settles.

I’ve decided to put health/mental health progress in the filling the well section of my updates because self-care encompasses more than just my efforts to continue my education as a creative soul.

What I’m watching and reading

Phil and I watched what will be the last season of the troubled American Gods series. We enjoyed it. This season tried to bring the series back into line with the book and did a reasonable job in that respect. Apparently, the Gaiman wants to finish the story with a limited series or movie, or possibly find a new home and continue the series. We’ll see how that works out.

I finished watching four series, three on Netflix and one on Amazon Prime.

The first was The Queen’s Gambit. I really liked it, despite the limited series’ tendency toward “everyone loves Beth.”

The latest season of The Alienist was dark, focusing on child abduction perpetrated by a troubled woman. I enjoyed it despite the darkness, but I disliked the crazy woman villain trope. They really need to give it a rest.

I finally finished The Man in the High Castle. The final episodes had to wrap things up quickly and there were a number of contrivances, but most plotlines worked out satisfactorily. It was good.

The last season I finished was Bridgerton. I liked the way Shondaland envisioned the book but agree with some critics that their attempts to address race issues was on the weak sauce side. I enjoy a fake relationship to true love trope, but Daphne’s violation of Simon’s consent (rather than talking things out rationally, or even arguing ferociously) broke me out of the story. It seemed something too damaging to overcome in three episodes. Yes, Simon was being a bit of a stubborn twit about his vengeful vow to Daddy, but people in a relationship worth its salt respect each other.

I read four books (well, three books and a short story) in March.

The first was Emily Tesh’s Silver in the Wood. I really liked the twists on the Green Man legends and the incorporation of eldritch terrors.

Next was Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. The story was good, and the protagonist’s plight was compelling, but I got the same gut-twisting distaste from this novel that I did from reading Crime and Punishment. A lot of (in my opinion) needless chest thumping and dissipation. I figured out the twist before it was laid out on the page and I didn’t feel sorry for the protagonist. The betrayal felt like just desserts. And yet the guy trusts his traitorous “friend” who then drags him through seven kinds of hell in as many days including murder, only to do what the hapless protagonist told him to in the first place? Gah! So … I both liked it and didn’t?

I gave myself a palate-cleanser by reading Marcy Kennedy’s short story “Three Wishes,” the prologue to Cursed Wishes. Sad and desperate, but good all the same.

Finally, I read Return of the Trickster, the third book in Eden Robinson’s Trickster trilogy. It was fabulous. Love! Jared’s not your typical hero. He’s been repeatedly traumatized by his aunt (the trickster Weegit’s sister), who’s turned into an ogress because of her ambition and lust for power. He’s wounded and weak and not smart in the ways the people around him need him to be. But he’s unfailingly kind. He’s not going to be the same kind of trickster as his father was, that’s for sure. You have to read this one. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

And that brings me to the end of this very long post recounting a month in this writer’s life.

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

The next chapter: February 2021 update

Sweet Lord! Why can’t time stand still for a moment? Here we are in March, just days away from the anniversary of the pandemic declaration, weeks away from the onset of my working from home, and … the vernal equinox.

All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. Just want to keep that front and centre.

Pandemic life

Epidemiologists have been warning for weeks now that the variants could open up a third wave. Today, after less than a week of daily case counts in Ontario below 1,000, we’re back up to 1,299. It’s a far cry from the 3,000 to 4,000 cases per day we were seeing back in January, but it’s still concerning.

Locally, there are 181 cases, which is significant because there have only been 784 cases in Sudbury (total) since March of last year. There are two group homes, one seniors’ residence, and seven schools with outbreaks.

Just because vaccines (four of them now, in Canada) are being distributed and administered, we can’t stop implementing public health measures. A vaccine isn’t a cure. It’s a mitigation. Covid can still be contracted by someone who’s been vaccinated. The chances of extreme outcomes (hospitalization, death) are lessened.

Please continue to wash your hands, wear masks, and maintain physical distance. This isn’t over yet.

The month in writing

I worked mostly on short fiction this month, revising 3,683 words of a single story. My goal had been 2,500 words, but the thing kept on growing. It still is. I’m having trouble with the ending. Beginnings and endings always give me trouble. Actually, everything’s giving me trouble these days. So, I revised 147% of my goal, but it’s not necessarily a good thing.

I blogged 5,359 words of my 3,500-word goal, or 153%.

For a low-goal month, it’s been a good one.

Of the projects I’m not tracking (because they’re mostly long hand ramblings on paper), I continued work on the Ascension series document, made revision notes for two more short stories, and submitted more poetry and a piece of short fiction.

Another of my poems was published in Polar Borealis Magazine.

I had a couple more rejections come in, but at least I’m getting my work out there. It’s a win.

Trying to move on

This month, I had intended to move on to next round revisions on Reality Bomb, and I’ve started, but it’s not going well. Mostly because I’m trying to rework the opening of the novel (see my comment above about beginnings and endings).

I’m continuing to revise the one short story and, as I’ve mentioned, am having trouble with the ending.

My confidence is suffering because of the personal crisis I mentioned last month. Things have improved, though. Physically, I’ve lost 13 lbs. There is more daylight and I think some of my SAD symptoms have been alleviated. I’m not suffering the continual heart palpitations I was. I have also received the results of my most recent physical exam and I’m in good health, overall. That’s reassuring.

I’m in a better place mentally, as well. At work, things are getting better. I’m learning more. I’m doing more. I’m getting some validation from my colleagues and manager. The imposter syndrome is lessening there. I am going to look into accessing our employee assistance program (EAP) to investigate mental health and management options.

Creatively, I’m still at sea. I have no idea if the revisions I’m working on are actually improving the story. I’m going to keep working as see where it takes me. It’s all I can do.

Filling the well

I’m cutting back on virtual events, but still managed to attend quite a few in February.

On February 1st, I attended the Grub Street launch of Nancy Johnson’s The Kindest Lie. The last Free Expressions webinar on the Show/Tell Solution was on the 4th. I attended a webinar on MS Word for Writers from the Canadian Authors Association on the 9th (very helpful, even though I’ve been using Word for YEARS).

I attended a watch party for the Perseverance landing on the 18th. There was a one-day world building conference offered by Diana Gunn on the 20th, and I signed up for Pro Writing Aid’s free fantasy conference from the 22nd through the 25th, attending four sessions.

Other than that, I’ve continued to walk Torvi twice a day and took as many pictures of dynamic skies as the weather allowed.

What I’m watching and reading

There are just three series that I saw the ends of in February.

I finished the last (and final) season of 13 Reasons. It was incredibly difficult to watch because of all the anxiety and PTSD. They did a good job of portraying the ongoing consequences of trauma, racism, homophobia, and policing in schools. It was a lot, though. So much that the ending felt rushed. You can’t resolve such serious problems in so little time. And I still wonder why it was necessary to continue the story of Jay Asher’s book for so long.

I also finished The Good Place. This story came to a much more satisfactory ending. In fact, I’d say it was a Mary Poppins ending—practically perfect in every way. Feel good hit, just when I needed it.

Finally, Phil and I watched the fifth season of The Expanse. It was amazing and continues to be one of our favourites. Season six will be the last.

In the reading department, I finished seven books (!) in February.

First was Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Goddesses in Everywoman. I appreciated how she, as a psychologist, interpreted the lives of women in terms of the archetypes of the ancient Greek goddesses, but I found that her overall message was contradictory. After indicating that a woman is not restricted to any one goddess, she later presents exclusionary life paths for each archetype. There was little wiggle room for interweaving. I enjoyed the book, but I’m not sure I’ll actually make use of it in a practical sense.

Next, I read P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout. Loved it. Read it.

Then, I finished Will Do Magic for Small Change by Andrea Hairston. It was a story of stories lovingly interwoven.

Liz Harmer’s The Amateurs was next. It’s an apocalyptic tale about what happens when time travel becomes the next iPhone.

Then, I read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. A bit of a tribute to Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” but darker. The patriarch of the antagonistic family has made a deal with fungoid eldritch terrors, but they need “new blood” to refresh the family line. Enter the protagonist and her cousin, the “new blood” in question.

M.L. Spencer’s Darkmage wasn’t what I’d expected. I’d been warned that it was dark, but I wasn’t prepared for it.

Finally, I read Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby. So good. Not going to say much about it because this is another book you should read for yourselves.

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

Thanks for reading and until tipsday, be well and stay safe, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 31-Feb 6, 2021

You’ve made it through Monday. Wednesday/humpday is just around the corner. Fortify yourselves with some informal writerly learnings.

Lauren J. Sharkey shares her experience with the negative balance of writing. And here’s my latest Speculations: The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger.  DIY MFA

The fabulous and flirty fight of The Mask of Zorro. Jill Bearup

Greer Macallister bemoans all the things she doesn’t know (about publishing). Sophie Masson explains how to celebrate new releases. Donald Maass wants you to consider hopes and fears in fiction. Later in the week, Rheea Mukherjee is writing real. Writer Unboxed

Race-baiting, queer-baiting, colorism, featurism, and performative diversity in Bridgerton. | Khadija Mbowe

K.M. Weiland offers an introduction to archetypal stories. Helping Writers Become Authors

J.D. Lasica: do stories have a universal shape? Jane Friedman

Emily Zarka introduces us to the werehyena, the terrifying shapeshifters of African Lore. Monstrum | PBS Storied

September C. Fawkes lists the eight points of progress. Then, Becca Puglisi provides an author’s guide to redeeming villains. Writers Helping Writers

The Take explains why we root for Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne.

Janice Hardy shares three steps to grounding your reader in your story world. Later in the week, Janice explains how the opening scene works in a novel. Fiction University

The hipster trope, explained. The Take

Kris Maze helps you sort fact from fiction: “flow” improves the writing life. Writers in the Storm

The magic of childhood in My Neighbour Totoro. Tale Foundry

Chris Winkle explains how to get readers to feel those emotional twists. Then, Kellie Doherty lists six ways to make fantasy travel more interesting. Mythcreants

Thank you for stopping by. I hope you found something to help with your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!